« PrécédentContinuer »
their minds are shocked at the fearful discord, and every good feeling is banished from the heart to make room for lurking suspicion, or to wake from their slumbers the devouring fires of passion.
Now under whatever forms this spirit, so hostile to truth, virtue, and religion, may show itself, whether it aims to devour the body and substance, or blast the character, it equally behooves every friend of the public good and of true christianity to be on his guard against it. When the Chief Justice sentenced Emlyn to imprisonment and fine for no other offence, than that of conscientious opinion, he represented to him the mercy of this sentence, by telling him, that if he had been in Portugal or Spain, his mildest punishment would have been burning. Persecution may always use this argument. Unhappily, examples will not be wanting to sanction any enormity. Let the examples be forgotten, or cast off as a reproach to the history of man ; let this presumption, which assumes authority over another's faith, be resisted, till it shall no longer have the power, if it have the will, to meddle, usurp, and oppress; let every christian feel, that he has no dearer right than the liberty of conscience, and let him be at least as ready to show the purity of his faith, by the convincing argument of a good life, as by the tenacity with which he holds to the dark, intricate, and unintelligible dogmas of a long and ancient creed, woven in the web of a semibarbarous philosophy and perverted metaphysics, when
For dubious meanings learn’d polemics strove,
And holy wrath inflam'd a sinful world.' Bishop Hoadly's remarks in reference to the case of Emlyn, written ten or twelve years after the event, may with propriety be quoted here. They are contained in his ironical Dedication to the Pope, which was prefixed to Sir Richard Steele’s Account of the State of the Roman Catholic Religion. Hoadly tells the Pope, with what facility the protestants could manage to set up a prosecution of their brethren, who differ from them, notwithstanding they have abjured the authority exercised by his holiness' church in passing judgment on others in matters of faith ; and this, he adds, is not confined to the national church of England, but is equally the delight of dissenters, when a proper occasion offers. He then goes on to say,
“ This hath been experienced, particularly in Ireland, by one who could not see exactly what they saw about the nature of Christ, before his appearance in the world. For, as with you, a man had better blaspheme Almighty God, than not magnify the blessed virgin, so with many of us, it is much more innocent and less hazardous to take from the glory of the Father, than of his Son. Nay, to bring down the Father to a level with his own Son is a commendable work, and the applauded labour of many learned men of
· but to place the Son below his own Father
in any degree of real perfection, this is an unpardonable error; so unpardonable that all hands were united against that unhappy man; and he found, at length, that he had much better have violated all God's commandments, than have interpreted some passages of Scripture differently from his brethren. The Nonconformists accused him, the Conformists condemned him, the Secular Power was called in, and the cause ended in an imprisonment and a very great fine; two methods of conviction about which the Gospel is silent.”*
The writings of Emlyn were collected and published in three volumes octavo, a fourth edition of which appeared in the year 1746. The first volume contains a memoir of the life of the author, written by Sollom Emlyn, to which is added an appendix comprising Emlyn's own narrative of the proceedings against him at Dublin. In this volume are also found the Humble Inquiry, five other Tracts chiefly of a controversial nature in reply to Mr Boyse, Dr Waterland, Dr Sherlock, Dr Willis, and others, and also a treatise on Baptism. In the second volume are the remarks on Leslie's writings against Unitarians, an inquiry into the authenticity of the celebrated text of the three heavenly witnesses in John, together with an answer to Mr Martin's dissertation on this subject, and also four other tracts, and a brief memoir of the life and sentiments of Dr Samuel Clarke. The third volume is composed wholly of sermons.
* See the whole of this ingenious Dedication in the first volume of the present Collection of Essays and Tracts, p. 255. In the life of Emlyn, prefixed to his works, this Dedication is ascribed to Sir Richard Steele; but this is a mistake, the cause of which may be earnt by consulting the volume here referred to , p. 247,
The Humble Inquiry, selected for publication in the present work, is a fair specimen of Mr Emlyn's mode of thinking, his powers of reasoning, and style of composition. To explain and convince is in every part the obvious purpose of the author, and his main effort is to come to the argument with the fewest words, and by the shortest course. A clearer exposition of his opinions, and a more natural and connected chain of reasoning to support them, could not well be imagined.
His examination of Leslie's dialogue relating to the Satisfaction of Jesus Christ, is one of the best treatises on this subject, which has been written. The difficulties of the satisfaction scheme are set forth in their proper dimensions, and pressed with a powerful weight of argument drawn from the nature of rewards and punishments, the Scriptures, and the character of the Supreme Being.
The Inquiry into the Original Authority of the Text, 1 John v. 7, concerning the three heavenly witnesses, is a performance of very great merit, considering the time in which it was produced. It was among the first which appeared on that side of the question, for although Sir Isaac Newton's great argument had been written, and sent in manuscript to Le Clerc in Holland some time before, yet it was not known to the public till nearly thirty years afterwards. Emlyn proves himself thoroughly master of the sub- · ject, as far as the means of knowledge were then within his reach, and although he does not discover the same profound logic as Sir Isaac Newton, nor the same astonishing compass of learning and exuberance of wit as the gigantic Porson in his reply to Travis, yet he selects and combines his materials with a skilful hand, and reasons closely and conclusively. Mr Martin, minister of the French church at Utrecht, wrote in defence of the Text, and a controversy ensued between him and Mr Emlyn.
The Sermons of our author are chiefly remarkable for their plainness of style, vigour of thought and expression, clearness of method, directness of manner, and their strictly practical tendency.
One sermon in the volume, entitled Funeral Consolations, written immediately after the death of his wife in Dublin, has been often commended as one of the rarest examples of this species of composition in the language, showing the happy union of deep feeling at a most afflictive loss, with the calm resignation of a firm and pious mind to the will of Providence.
The other tracts in these volumes are of more or less value, according to the subjects on which they treat. Some of them had a temporary object, and consequently a temporary interest; but there are very