Images de page

with which it has examined candidates and watched over their operations, has upheld the character of Scripture-readers throughout Ireland. No man is employed by the Readers' Society, that has not undergone a personal examination by a Committee of truly Christian intelligent persons, so that I can say, that during the many years they have been sending forth readers, I have scarcely ever heard an imputation thrown out against the piety or prudence of any of those employed by them. Hence, though the Reformation Society has employed readers, there is no proof of the existence of a necessity for their doing so-but there is one very striking difference between the mode of operation of the two Societies. As I have stated, the Scripture-readers' Society never appoint a reader but on strict personal examination. The Reformation Society requires no examination by known respectable characters, but grants a salary on the certificate of three clergymen. It is obvious how very inferior this class of readers may be, and how much reason there is to apprehend that they may lower the character and diminish the usefulness of the whole body.

Your readers will perceive, that I only denied the necessity of the Reformation Societies, with regard to objects carried on by other Societies. I admitted their value, if their exertions were directed to objects not as yet undertaken, and were carried on by suitable agents in a right spirit. I wished to see them in their proper place, not swallowing up other Societies, or looked to as if they were to do the whole work now wanted in Ireland, and I wished them on account of the peculiarly delicate state of the country to be framed with peculiar care, and cautiously guarded against the dangers to which they were more especially exposed.

Your correspondent "Knox," broadly asserts, that "the position laid down, that many would rally round the standard of the Reformation Society, who would not countenance a meeting of the Bible Society, or would not promote Scriptural education, is directly contradicted by experience." This is an assertion, in which I can by no means acquiesce. The meetings held in Ireland have exhibited persons coming forward to join the ranks of the Reformation, who were never known to show any interest upon any spiritual objects before. This happened in a greater degree in the Societies first formed, than in those last instituted, because the opposition given on that ground, and the loud remonstrances made by very many spiritual persons has forced upon the active agents of the Society in later instances, a more cautious conduct than they at first contemplated; but we must wait for more facts before we can conceive Knox justified in his statement, especially as recent occurrences wouldseem to present strong objections against it.

I must now call your attention to one out of many extraordinary assertions; I cannot conceive what your correspondent was thinking of when he made it: he states it as a "fact, that a considerable share of the expense, and exertion which is embarked in the Scriptural education of the rising generation, is borne by those very persons," . e. those who have objections to the Bible Society. And he asks-" shall we be told that the man who is exerting himself

[ocr errors]

to promote the Scriptural education of the child, is unfit to take a part in the Scriptural reformation of the parent ?" I would ask, who are these objectors to the Bible Society, who bear a considerable share of the expense and exertion which is embarked in the Scriptural education of the rising generation? Will not all your informed readers attest the very contrary to be the fact, that a very inconsiderable share of the expense and exertion which is embarked in the Scriptural education of the rising generation is borne by persons who have objections to the Bible Society. Let the Sunday School Society, Kildare-place Society, London Hibernian Society, Irish Society, and a large number of the subscribers to the Association for Discountenancing Vice speak to this fact. But indeed the strange assertion of your correspondent, and his question as to the propriety of a person who is exerting himself to promote the Scriptural education of the child, taking a part in the Scriptural reformation of the parent, are quite uncalled for, as I had only objected to those who would not countenance a meeting of a Bible Society, or would not promote Scriptural education. Now if there exist such a class of persons as your Correspondent speaks of as a matter of fact,-who, though opposed to the Bible Society, bear a considerable share of the expense and exertion which is embarked in the Scriptural education of the rising generation,-there is nothing in my former paper intimating the slightest objection to their being members of a Reformation Society.

But let us for a moment consider what is the state of Ireland, to which Reformation Societies would apply their remedy, that we may the better be able to judge what proportion of the work can be done by them, and what proportion must still be left in the hands of other Societies, with less imposing names.

When we survey the mass of the Irish population, we see prevailing to a frightful degree, ignorance and error; but a much larger quantity of total darkness and ignorance, than, if I may use the expression, of intelligent error. There is a far greater number of the people in the situation applied by the prophet to Israel,— "Darkness covers the land, and gross darkness the people," than in the state applied by the apostle to the heathen,-" The world by wisdom knew not God." It is not their wisdom and knowledge that hath perverted the people of Ireland, but their total incapacity, through ignorance, to form an opinion for themselves, that puts them into a situation of blind submission to spiritual guides, who appear to them to have a prescriptive right to lead them.

Upon this blind, ignorant, inert population, Reformation Societies, in the legitimate use of means not employed by other Societies, can effect little or nothing. Their influence can be only upon the intelligent, but erroneous part of the people, which are, alas infinitely the fewest. The great work must be performed by those societies which will undertake the A. B. C. of religious instruction. When St. Paul was in the learned and worldly-wise city of Corinth, we hear of his disputing or holding controversial discussions daily in the school of one Tyrannus, and if the people of Ireland were generally a well educated, well informed people

in error upon matters of doctrine, we should effect immense and general good from such discussions; but as far as they are an ignorant and uneducated people, discussion cannot be relied upon for doing so much for the cause of truth as might be expected under other circumstances. And the less imposing duties of Scriptural education, distribution of the Bible, and preaching of the Gospel, &c. remain as the great means that are to overcome ignorance, even more than error, and bring about the illumination and reformation of Ireland..

When we look at things in this point of view, we can account for circumstances which have perplexed many persons, namely, the great numbers of Roman Catholics who, toward the end of 1826, and the beginning of 1827, publicly renounced Popery, and the decreasing number who have since conformed. When different circumstances produced a great enquiry on the points at issue between the two Churches, those persons came forward in many places who had long had their minds exercised on the subjectthose whose total ignorance had been in a great degree removed, and whose intelligence had been excited and aroused; and thus the crop that had been rearing during many years, was reaped and gathered within as many months; whereas the comparatively small number that have conformed during the last ten months may be considered the crop and the produce of that period. Reformation Societies encreased, but Reformation diminished, because the people had not intelligence and information to enable them to form a judgment on the topics which were brought before them. Reformation Societies did not produce the effects which their promoters expected and promised, because they were met by stupid ignorance rather than by intelligent error; and perhaps if we could see their more secret effects upon the population, we might discover that they had rather for a time impeded the work, by turning the ignorant people still more from those means which had been silently operating on their ignorance.

In another way might Reformation Societies impede the good work, if Christian men were led, by relying too much upon them, to lessen their exertions in those labours which the situation of the country requires, and which God has blessed; or if the affluent should consider that by supporting them they were doing all that was necessary for the country, and so should suffer the existing societies to languish for want of friends ;-if Reformation Societies should thus engross more than their fair proportion, either of active exertion or of pecuniary contribution, they would in the end prove far from a blessing to Ireland. But should they be formed of pure materials—be worked by spiritual hands, and confined to légitimate objects; supplying the deficiencies, and not interfering with the operations of other societies; should they be estimated no higher than their real value; should they be supported in their fair proportion-not to the injury of more necessary institutions, then may they be expected to prosper, and lend their aid to that consummation which all the friends of truth look and pray for. R. D.

[blocks in formation]


TO THE EDITOR OF THE CHRISTIAN EXAMINER. SIR-In looking over one of the earlier Numbers. of your Magazine, I chanced upon a learned and interesting review of a Tract by the Bishop of St. David's on the Creed of the Council of Antioch, held early in the fourth century. This Creed, which is ascribed by Fleury to St. Lucian, certainly affords strong evidence that the disputed text in 1 John v. 7. is genuine; but it is not to the reasoning of the Tract or the Review, I would call your attention, but to the translation of a clause in the Creed, as given in the latter. The Creed says of the Trinity, ὡς εἶναι τῇ μεν ὑποστασει τρια, τη de ouμpwrią, Ev; which the Reviewer translates, "So that they are three in SUBSTANCE, and one in consent." If this be not an error of the press, it is a serious mistake in the meaning of the Creed, which intended to express, that they are three in personal subsistence, not in substance. The observations in the note at the close of your Review of Dr. Drummond's pamphlet, will shew your readers the necessity of making this correction, which I suggest with great respect for the intelligent author of the article in question.



Aids to Reflection in the Formation of a Manly Character, on the several grounds of Prudence, Morality, and Religion; illustrated by select passages from our elder Divines, especially from Archbishop Leighton, By S. T. Coleridge.-London, 1925.

This volume has been now before the public for many months. An unaffected conviction of his inability to discuss as they deserve the important subjects of which it treats, and the natural unwillingness to exhibit an imperfect outline of a work which requires, and which will reward the most serious attention, has hitherto prevented the writer, who now holds the pen of the Christian Examiner, from drawing up any notice of its contents; and it is his earnest hope, that the value of the extracts here given may lead some person qualified for the task to review the whole series of Mr. Coleridge's prose writings. A more valuable service could not be done to the public;-from the whole compass of our language it would not be possible to select passages of more true eloquence, and devoted more entirely to the best interests of man, than the neglected volumes of this great and good man present. The conduct of the professional critics of England and Scotland towards these works is wholly inexplicable: the name of the writer, and

*So it is translated by Fleury and the Bishop.

reference to his opinions frequently occur of the works themselves, no account has ever been given, unless, perhaps, we are to notice, as an exception, an attack on one of the Lay Sermons in the Edinburgh Review.


One cause that has retarded the popularity of Mr. Coleridge's writings is, their real difficulty. We are in them presented not merely with the results of thought, but the labour of thinking is exacted from us; not merely is attention to the author's chain of reasoning required, but the mind is demanded to recollect and repeat past states of being, to render that reasoning intelligible; and few will voluntarily submit to so severe a discipline. And the very accuracy of his language (too subtle to be duly estimated) has somehow or other the effect of making the writer seem too fond of refining." The prejudice against the German metaphysicians, too, was extended to their disciple. And in his "Literary Life," the language, perhaps, too frequently exhibited his love of writers, who can never be valued justly, except by a few secluded students, industrious enough to make themselves masters of the literature of a foreign country, and who possess the more rare talent for moral and metaphysical investigation. The student of Mr. Coleridge's works sees him thinking; and this, which renders his works invaluable to a young man, has unfortunately the effect of diminishing his popularity even among students.

Subjects, such as Mr. Coleridge has discussed, and seemed to decide, in his former works, are in themselves little likely to be popular: the advocate who assumes or patronises either side of a question-the witness who relates a narrative, the effects of which he does not foresee, is more certain of our sympathy than the judge who, with low and unimpassioned voice,-deliberately, and as it were, doubtingly-re-states that argument separating from it all that was intended or calculated to deceive-repeats that evidence, omitting or removing all that was accidental or indifferent, giving to each particle its due weight; and trembling the more, because he fears lest the unsteadiness of his hands should derange the balance he endeavours to adjust.-Little sympathy can he hope from any, least of all from the eager and irritated parties in the suit, while he refers to the solemn and recorded judgments of the court, and endeavours to exhibit the law, or principle, of which the present decision is to afford an illustration-not without frequent allusions to the opinions, and doubts, and sayings of "the wise of elder days;" and by this very reverence for antiquity, rendered more jealously and scrupulously attentive to the rights and claims of terity; because he knows that the same feeling will, in future days, affect with the same influence other men, to whom his determination will remain a landmark or an obstacle-a resting-place or an impediment. It would be detraction to speak of his popularity: he can seldom hope to make the grounds of his decision intelligible, unless to a few prepared by long and patient study-the "viginti annorum lucubrationes" of which the lawyers tell us so contentedly, -the only popular judge we have ever heard of, was that serious gentleman who decided each case by throwing dice (cogitatio, quasi coagitatio;) and his decisions, still less his modes of reason


« PrécédentContinuer »