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The general result is briefly told. According to the rites of the Established Church, there were celebrated, during the year embraced in these returns, 107,201 marriages; while the number of dissenting marriages, embracing those of Jews, was only 4,280; being in the proportion of about 1 to 25. On these facts we wish to fix attention, for we are satisfied that they are more significant than some of our friends admit. It would, of course, be preposterous to allege, that the numbers here exhibited are indicative of the proportion of Dissenters to Churchmen. The hardihood of our enemies, though equal to most assertions, has not ventured so far as this ; at least no statement of the kind has fallen under our notice. The novelty of the system must no doubt be taken into account. The old mode of marriage was well known, while the machinery of the new system was very imperfectly understood. Moreover, there had grown up an undefined feeling which identified marriage—the legal and civil rite —with going to Church, and the performance within its walls of a certain round of religious services. This had been so long customary, and the influence of association is so powerful over the mass of mankind, that it required some effort, some special act of thought, to dissociate the two, and to feel assured that the integrity of the one was preserved, while the other was neglected. There was more of sentiment than of intellect in this. It had no reference to religious creeds, or to ecclesiastical platforms, but was the growth of association, acting on an unreflecting multitude. It was one of those impalpable impressions which men do not analyse, but under which they act, till some circumstance occurs to call thought into existence, and the spell is then instantly gone. Now this cause has had, we doubt not, extensive though imperceptible influence in swelling the number of Church marriages, and in diminishing proportionably those of Dissenters. But its operation can only be temporary. It is dependent entirely on the circumstances out of which it has grown; and, as these are giving place to a new class of facts, we may look for the speedy emancipation of the public mind from a thraldom, as discreditable to its intellectual pretensions, as it is incompatible with the real nature of the marriage contract.
The sixth section of the Act for Marriage, which requires the publication of banns at the weekly meetings of the Board of Guardians of the Poor, has also operated to diminish the number of dissenting marriages. We always regretted the determination of government to retain this provision of their statute, as tending to irritate and annoy where conciliation alone was designed. It gave the aspect of degradation and insult to that which was offered as a boon, and has led many sensitive men to spurn
concession which was made to their righteous demands. We think Dissenters unwise in having permitted such feelings to operate.
It has given an air of irritation, of mortified vanity, to their conduct, which ought to have been calm, dignified, and religiously consistent. The great object which they sought in their reiterated and urgent appeals to the legislature, was relief from the occasional conformity to the Established Church to which the old marriage law compelled them. This plea was ever foremost in their petitions, and was urged with signal ability by their advocates. Consistency therefore required—it was due to themselves, to the professions they had made, to the prayers they had uttered, to the high-minded men whose eloquence had pleaded their cause—that they should at once, and gladly, have availed themselves of the relief offered, however repugnant to their feelings the mode prescribed for its attainment. It should have sufficed to determine their preference, that another concession had been wrung from the hard hand of clerical intolerance—that another fetter by which dissenters were bound to the state church was broken-that the sacredness of conscience had been again proclaimed, and the freedom of religion, its spontaneity and heavenly character, been recognized in the statute-book of the land. Every man who had urged the plea of conscience in petitions to the legislature had but one course before him; and we regret that many have been diverted from it by pique, resentment, or other equally unworthy motives. The scruples of conscience are too sacred and imperative to be overruled by the suggestions of party pride, or of personal vanity.
It is due to Mr. Lister to remark, that he has done all in his power to render the working of the new Act consonant to the feelings of his Dissenting countrymen. This is shown in the circular addressed to superintendent-registrars, (Appendix F,) in which a spirit of kindness and consideration is evidenced that ought to have been promptly and thankfully met. •The Registrar of Marriages,' it is observed, ' will act almost exclusively in connection with persons who do not conform to the Church of England. It is proper that this circumstance should be borne ‘in mind in carrying into effect the provisions of the aforesaid • Act; and I therefore recommend, that in your selection of fit 6 persons for the office of Registrar of Marriages, you carefully consider whether they will be likely to conform to the spirit of the statute, and to conduct themselves in a manner acceptable to those with whom they will be brought into contact, at the same • time that they perform their duties with fidelity and care; and 6 that you shall not select persons whose acts or declared opinions
may reasonably cause them to be regarded with unfavorable • feelings by those at whose ordinances it will be their duty to attend.'
We should not, however, perform the part of frank and honest journalists, if we did not, before closing our remarks, admit that
much thoughtlessness, and consequent indifference, exist amongst
We have been so long habituated to the past state of things, it has interwoven itself so dexterously with our earliest associations, has gathered to itself with such inimitable skill the force of sympathy, and the venerableness of age, that but few of us are duly apprised of the poisonous influences which it has spread through all the ramifications of English society. We permit ourselves in consequence to lend to the system the occasional sanction of our support. Our opposition is reserved for its more avowedly religious aspects. Here, dissenters are firm, unswerving, and high minded; but, in the thousand other cases which occur, we suffer our judgments to be harassed by an unscriptural charity, the impulses of pride, or a disgraceful love of ease. We want minds of a larger growth, and of a wider range of thought -- intellects, that will trace the latent influences of systems, and find in their pernicious fruits evidence of their impiety and wrong. Let such men abound-we could name a few such—and let their influence fairly tell upon the dissenting public, and a mighty change will take place among us. The puerility and halfheartedness now frequently met with, and commonly mistaken for charity, will give place to a far-searching intelligence, combined with a strength and determination of purpose, which will know no limits, and admit of no rest, short of an entire emancipation of the church from its present degraded and corrupting alliance with the politics of this world. Then shall the sweet odour of the returning gospel imbathe our soul with the fragrancy of heaven. Charity, so long misunderstood, so seldom practised, shall obtain a dwelling in every human heart, and the reign of righteousness and peace dawn upon our apostate world. Come,
therefore, O thou that hast the seven stars in thy right hand, 'appoint thy chosen priests according to their orders and courses
of old, to minister before thee, and duly to press and pour out ' the consecrated oil into thy holy and ever-burning lamps. Thou
hast sent out the spirit of prayer upon thy servants over all the • land to this effect, and stirred up their vows as the sound of many waters about thy throne. O perfect and accomplish thy glorious acts ! For men may leave their works unfinished; but thou art a God, thy nature is perfection. Shouldst thou bring us thus far onward from Egypt to destroy us in the wilderness, though we deserve; yet thy great name would suffer in the re‘joicing of thine enemies, and the deluded hope of all thy servants. . . . . Come forth out of thy royal chambers, O Prince of all the kings of the earth! put on the visible robes of thy ma* jesty; take up that unlimited sceptre which thy Almighty Father
hath bequeathed thee; for now the voice of thy bride calls thee, ' and all creatures sigh to be renewed.” *
• Milton's Animadversions upon the Remonstrants' Defence.
Art. II. An Apostolical Harmony of the Gospels, &c. &c., with Dis
sertations, Notes, and Maps. Second edit. By LANT CARPEN
TER, LL.D. Longman, Orme, and Co. London: 1839. IT
ductions which come forth from Dr. Carpenter's school; not because we regard them with contempt, but because the serious difference between the tenets of Unitarians and those to the support of which this Review is dedicated, would ordinarily involve us in undesirable controversy. In the present case, however, we are happy to be able to put aside all topics of dispute. The ground which has been taken is here entirely neutral, so that Mr. Hartwell Horne and Dr. Carpenter, Mr. Norton and Bishop Marsh, can amicably debate the questions which come forward. There are barely two or three texts, in which Dr. C. will be said by some to have betrayed his theological bias; although, in fact, he is able even in such to quote Trinitarian divines who take the same view of them as himself. We are happy to add, that the general tone of the whole book is that of a man deeply impressed with reverence for things sacred, and with devout veneration for his heavenly teacher Jesus; nor will any approach be found to the levity or hardness of mind which those who have a slight acquaintance with the works of Belsham and Priestley are apt to expect in all Unitarians. Having said thus much in the outset, our readers must now consent, with ourselves, to lose sight entirely of the author's known sentiments, and attend solely to the subject matter of his work, and the views advanced by him concerning the evangelical narratives.
We believe that some persons are altogether prejudiced against “ Harmonies” of the four gospels; for which reason a few introductory remarks on this subject may not be misplaced. The holy Scriptures will be read differently according as we seek on the one hand for immediate edification; (that is, the immediate calling forth of devout affections,) or on the other, the more general object of instruction. It is most certain, that in the latter case, it is very possible so to occupy ourselves in critical inquiry, that the affections may be nearly as unimpressed as though we were reading the Koran; and that divines who have been able critics, have given us no reason to suppose that their hearts were much concerned with religion at all. Hence superficial persons too readily infer, that the latter method is not edifying. Because they do not reap their harvest in the same half hour in which they sow the seed, they imagine that no harvest will come. They have no patience to wait till the due time arrives; and are naturally apt to mistake momentary excitement for “ building up” in the faith. It surely is not so, if Christianity be a reasonable religion, which is to act on the affections by means of the intellect. Were
it a religion of mere ceremonies, or mere dogmatic precept, or passionate, unguided feeling, it might afford to make light of the cultivation and careful use of the mental faculties; but because it appeals to the enlightened judgment, it cannot be independent of those faculties; but is liable to degradation, whenever they are feeble or are misused. It is not possible for a Christian to contract any vice of the intellect—be it incoherence, indistinctness of thought, incautious inference, resting on vague analogies or allegories, or any other--without being liable to practical mischief just in the same proportion as he studies the Scripture with an independent mind. Truth, when received from the lips of an instructor, is cheaply had, assuredly, if really we can trust it as truth. But, however the contrary may be asserted, we firmly believe that truth is not ascertained by independent investigation without anxious searching, and such deep ponderings as its value deserves; no, not even when the volume of Scripture is spread open before us.
ward teaching of the Spirit gives a valuable and indispensable clue for understanding what is more immediately spiritual; but does not and cannot supersede the actings of the moral and intellectual judgment. The history of the minds of holy men abundantly convicts as an enthusiastic error, the notion that we have only to pray for the Spirit heartily, and God will teach us what his word means : else how is it that Luther and Calvin, Wesley and Whitfield, read it not alike? We may add, that the dogmatic tone uniformly generated in persons who believe they are thus infallibly taught, of itself proclaims this notion to be an error. In fact, no intellectual powers are thrown away in the interpretation of the Scriptures. The deeper our research, the more solid is our instruction, and the more true our ultimate edification. An honest impartial exegesis of sacred writ, will often deprive us of cherished associations, and special applications of texts; (which too often are mere conceits ;) it may overturn our favourite opinions, and lessen the number of the propositions which we regard as established truth; but it will undoubtedly strengthen all that is primarily important, give brilliancy and power to the true meaning, and set our feet as on a rock. Moreover, nothing else can tend to extinguish the endless controversies which vex even Bible Christians. It avails not that we profess that book to be our standard of truth ; it avails not that we pray for the Spirit of wisdom and revelation ;-while we indulge careless methods of explaining and quoting texts, hasty and unwarranted principles of reasoning from them, we must expect much jangling, much misapprehension. It is only in proportion as persons cautiously and critically adhere to sober, continuous exposition of the books of Scripture, that they approximate to unity of judgment concerning their meaning.
Let us apply this peculiarly to the four gospels. There is