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It is with no common pleasure that we receive this most timely work. To say that it should be on the library shelves of every 'political Dissenter,' is inadequate. The contents of the book should have a place in the memory, and there should be aptitude in drawing on its stores. Our young men, especially, should regard it as a text book, which they will certainly need during the conflict evidently before them. Zeal without knowledge, in such a matter as this, will prove to be folly. The mouths of ill-informed calumniators must be stopped by statements which cannot be gainsayed, and by logic which will toss the Church property fallacies of the
Defence Associations into the air. That work achieved, the friends of voluntaryism may then apply their undivided energies to the graver, but more acceptable, duty of arguing the question of Establishments, with reference only to considerations of Christian duty, and of no less Christian expediency.
TOPICS OF THE MONTH.
THE SURRENDER OF THE CONFEDERATE COMMISSIONERS vindicates the sovereignty of public law over force in an age when the authority of law was never more needed to repress the passions of mankind; it prevents, at the expense of a river of ink, the effusion of an ocean of blood ; it procures, at the expense of four millions sterling, the continuance of our tranquility; and, alas, it leaves the two divisions of the American States to tear one another to pieces at their leisure. Some considerable objection has been taken, by the 'Standard’ and other opposition journals, to the mode in which the liberation of Messrs. Slidell and Mason has been brought about. It
appears that three weeks after the outrage on the Trent, Mr. Seward, writing on the 30th Nov., used these words in a despatch to Mr. Adams, the American minister in London.
"Captain Wilkes, in the steamer San Jacinto, has boarded a British colonial steamer, and taken from her deck two insurgents, who were proceeding to Europe on an errand of treason against their own country. This is a new incident, unknown to and unforseen, at least in its circumstances, by Lord Palmerston. It is to be met and disposed of by the two Governments, if possible, in the spirit to which I have adverted. ["I infer from Lord Palmerston's remarks, that the British Government is now awake to the importance of averting possible conflicts, and disposed to confer and act with earnestness to that end, If so, we are disposed to meet them in the same spirit, as a nation chiefly of British lineage, sentiments, and sympathies, a civilized and humane nation, Christian people," —An
Extract from a former part of the despatch.] Lord Lyons has prudently refrained from opening the subject to me, as, I presume,
waiting instructions from home. We have done nothing on the subject to anticipate the discussion, and we have not furnished you with any explanations. Weadhere to that course now, because we think it more prudent that the ground takenby the British Government should be first made known to us here, and that the discussion, if there must be one, shall be had here. It is proper, however, that you should know one fact in the case, without indicating that we attach importance to it, namely, that in the capture of Messrs. Mason and Slidell on board a British vessel, Captain Wilkes having acted without any instructions from the Government, the subject is therefore free from the embarrassment which might have resulted if the act had been specially directed by us.'
The despatch whence these words are taken, was read to Earl Russell soon after its arrival in this country, probably just before the death of Prince Albert, on the 14th December. The question arises, How is it that the Government, with this assurance on the part of Mr. Seward that the outrage on the Trent was not premeditated by the President, and that the subject would be treated in a reasonable spirit by the American authorities, continued to urge on the naval armaments of England, and kept back from the country all knowledge of the disposition of the aggressors ? Had Mr. Seward's despatch to Mr. Adams been made known, is it not certain that much irritating language would have been prevented, and a vast expense saved to the country by lessening the demand for bellicose preparations. We do not purpose to follow in the train of the Standard,' by a hasty conclusion to the disadvantage of the Ministry. The motives for withholding Mr. Seward's despatch, suggested by that journal, are too puerile to allow of their admission for a moment. The charge is, that the Government was anxious for war, or was delighted with the possession of a secret unknown to the public. A safer solution of the difficulty will probably be found in the consi. derations,-1, that although Mr. Seward declared that the seizure of the commissioners was not the result of special direction, be accepted the rebel emissaries as prisoners, and thus sanctioned the outrage. 2. That the same mail which brought Mr. Seward's despatch to Mr. Adams, with its fine promises of reasonable treatment of the question, brought aleo abundant evidence that the whole American public were in a far different mood, and were rejoicing in a spirit of reckless defiance over the 'adroit' achievement of their Commo. dore; and that this tone of speech and writing augured anything rather than a cheerful surrender of the booty. 3. That Congress itself hasted to approve the deed of Captain Wilkes, and one of the great officers of the Government, the head of the Navy Department, gave a sanction to it, which almost involved the sanction of the President. Under such circumstances, Earl Russell would have been guilty of too much simplicity had he certainly reckoned on the American people's adhesion to the view of their Government (though, indeed, that view was not yet clearly pronounced in favour of surrender), except under the urgent pressure of fear of a rupture
with Great Britain. Accordingly, the general promise of Mr. Seward to deal with the matter reasonably, was taken for what it was worth; meantime, the British Government used no offensive language; they presented their demand in courteous terms, indeed in the language of a drawing-room, and they made ready their armaments which should ultimately enforce the law, in case the American people resolved on rejecting the arbitrated award of Europe, and on maintaining their hold on the prisoners. It is too clear that it was the fear of these armaments, and not the spirit of justice and kindness, which finally directed or assisted the reasonings of Mr. Seward and the general community to the happy conclusion which preserves the peace of Great Britain. The whole transaction is in the highest degree honourable to Great Britain, and humiliating to America; and it is to be hoped that as the result of our own expenditure, we shall experience more straightforward treatment for the future.
THE SECOND WEEK IN JANUARY was observed very widely through England, as well as in other countries, as a season of united prayer, and thanksgiving, and religious discourse. Some there are whose judgment and piety entitle their opinion to consideration, who deprecate such 'special' times of prayer, under the notion that prayer is always ascending to God from the altar of the Church Catholic, and ought always to ascend, so that no human appointment can add any real value to the sacrifice ou any particular occasions. Whoever prays during one week in a special manner, shews thereby that during the fifty-one other weeks of the year, he does not pray at all.' This seems to be an example of riding a good principle over a precipice. Theoretically, indeed, all Christians ought always to be living at the highest, and “setting the Lord always before them ;' to be abounding in prayer and thanksgiving at all times, and not depending on the influence of any particular 'hour of prayer,' be it the third,' or the ninth,' or any other. Practically, it is found that those who do not observe hours of prayer in their private devotions, seldom pray at all. The observation of days, and months, and times, and years,' is a fatal delusion when the practice is made a ground of hope before God; but it is a decided assistance to piety to notice religiously the specialities of the calendar. A man without a calendar scarcely belongs to this world. All nature leads us to note' time and seasons.' The earth and sky alike combine to distinguish the successive portions of time. While the spirit of a Christian is in the body, it is subject to the conditions of the visible creation. It will be time enough to rise above specialities of time and place when it is absorbed into the Infinite. On the same ground, therefore, that we urge on all men hours of daily
prayer, it seems that the practice of new year's celebrations may be amply defended. When is it more likely that minds shall
be impressed profitably with divine things than when courses of action are commencing anew? If it be said, the repetition from year to year deprives such reference of its speciality, we reply, that it is not the term 'special' that is contended for, but an annual reality of thought at the gates of the New Year. And some continuity of assembling is an undoubted assistance to this end. Any break into the weekly course of hearing truth at fixed hours is likely to awaken attention. Accordingly, we find that such assemblies are welcome to the thoughtful, when they are not rendered burdensome by too great frequency, or by being protracted to too late an hour.
We lay as much stress on the discourse as on the prayer. It is an opportunity for rousing Christians to a fresh sense of their responsibility. If the light in a lighthouse be suffered to go out, wrecks may be occasioned at any hour. A Christian is a lighthouse, and souls around are like vessels on the dark sea, depending on that light for guidance. Is it not well worth the labour to renew most urgently the warning at the opening year,— Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.'
THE TRIALS OF MR. W. AND DR. W. have dragged their slow length along the whole month of January. The former is an application of the chief judicial wisdom of England to determine whether a young man is a madman or a fool, or a combination of both. The other is an endeavour on the part of ecclesiastical luminaries to ascertain how far church traditions and precedents may be permitted to make void” the common rules of morality with respect to the truthful employment of language. The two trials have more in common than a superficial observer might imagine. The one gentleman wishes to know whether he may not behave as if mad, yet be accounted a rational being; the other wishes to know whether he may not behave like a sharper, yet be reckoned a very good saint, and a sufficient minister of the English Church. If we had the vocation of sitting on the jury in one case, or on the bench in the other, we should assuredly incline to an adverse decision in both trials alike. In the history of Mr. W. we have, some may think, an example of the law that the sensual is ever descending to the devilish, and that eactreme vice is akin to madness. The diapovia of the Gospel history being spirits of evil, produce on their victims the effects of lunacy, and if Mr. W. be only mad in the sense of being extremely wicked, it will be a due reward of his deeds should he be mulcted of his property, just as if he were an idiot. In the case of Dr. Williams, we shall probably discover another example of the power of the Church authorities to stretch the Church standards so as to suit any parties who may arise in the Established Church. The Privy Council decision which rendered legal the po
sition of Mr. Gorham and the Evangelical clergy, is surely_basis ample enough to furnish a precedent for justifying the seven Essayists in retaining their livings. A church which finds no difficulty in ordaining that when a priest in baptism gives thanks to God that it hath pleased Him to regenerate this child by His Holy Spirit,' that priest may freely deny the plain meaning of these words, and mentally believe that no such spiritual regeneration has taken place, such a church ought to find no difficulty in ordaining that a man may mentally deny any and every proposition to which he gives vocal utterance, or to which he has set his hand and seal. Once depart from the plain grammatical sense of words, and admit precedents of interpretation, so that the Articles become merely conditious of peace,' and you will be obliged to tolerate every heresy which is strong enough to make a stand within your inclosure. And this will probably be the issue of an appeal to the Privy Council
. If the question be asked, How can religious men be accessory to so much verbal equivocation? how can they bring themselves to present such an example of duplicity before a nation of traders ? We answer, first, because there are many religious men who are not good men ; as there are lovers of doctrine who are not lovers of morality outside the Church of England, so are there similar characters within it. Secondly, because some, who are good, are, like Peter, ‘ carried away' by a crowd of high-church formalists into a dissimulation which calls for rebuke in flames of fire.' Thirdly, because men will do in association actions which they dare not do as individuals
. Fourthly, because the stake of worldly position and worldly pelf is so enormous—the alternative being the outer darkness of honest nonconformity, that only martyrs to God are strong enough to be faithful and true. Fifthly, because they practice all the arts of self-delusion by which they persuade themselves that a few falsehoods may be safely risked, under lawful authority, in order to gain a fine position for telling a great many truths. And, Sixthly, because notwithstanding the dreadful things generally professed concerning judgment to come, but few there are who believe that the words are true, 'that ALL LIARS,' that is all who use words falsely, shall have their part in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone, which is THE SECOND DEATH.' But, indeed, it is just such ‘spiritual wickedness in high places' as this which always brings down the seven last plagues' on a condemned civilization. Alas, that England should be so beautiful outwardly,' yet ecclesiastically so full of dead men's bones, and all uncleanness. Ye Nonconformists of England, suffer the word of exhortation ; if ye turn from that faithful testimony of your fathers, for which they endured untold persecution and loss, you will deserve the doom of those who betray the martyrs. When religion ceases to be the very spirit of truthfulness in a land, the 'salt has lost its savour,' and is