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this means becomes" exalted, diffused, and extended." (Jervis). By "a happy contagion" doubts vanish in a moment, and give way to sincere and cordial feeling" (Barbauld, p. 42). "Feuds and animosities are composed" -general and enlarged benevolence established (Pope, p.20). The rich and the poor meet on equal terms; benevolence pursues the latter to their cottages, till poverty exists only as "a sober shade in the picture of life: the humble ranks find themselves in company with the higher orders, and learn that they are of the same species;" the poor man "rises from his knees and feels himself a man." Writers have, indeed, bordered on sedition in describing the effects of this practice. Every time social worship is celebrated it includes
a virtual declaration of THE RIGHts of man." (Barbauld, p. 46.) In reply to all this high wrought description, we can only appeal to facts. Social prayer has now, for many centuries past, been fully and fairly tried--has it produced the effects here attributed to it? It is now, and for some centuries has been, established by law, and in practice throughout every civilized country in the world;—have the diffusion and extension of piety been consequent on this practice? Are feuds composed? Is general benevolence established? On the contrary-have not wars without number, and persecution of every kind existed; and that, not only concurrently with the practice of social prayer-but supported-and mainly supported too-by the very priests who administer it? Has social prayer created a feeling of equality between the rich and the poor? Has it proclaimed THE RIGHTS OF MAN? On the contrary-has it not been most practised and most zealously defended in those very countries where there were the grossest inequalities of rank, and where, by the united aid of priests and princes, the rights of man" have never been proclaimed? We are speaking of the effects of social prayer-not of what theoretically may be -but of what practically have been the effects-either of social prayer, or of THAT PERNICIOUS AND ANTI-CHRISTIAN SYS
TEM OF PRIESTCRAFT OF WHICH IT FORMS A PROMINENT AND ESSENTIAL PART. Neither let it be said that it is the abuse of social prayer which is thus pernicious. Public social prayer is in itself and essentially an abuse;--it is the abuse of prayer -private and individual being the use or proper mode of praying.
Public social prayer is a ceremony: it teaches men to rest on the forms of religion instead of the substance. It compels them to depend on the intercession of the priest,
in lieu of depending on their own character and virtue. It creates too a necessity for a hireling body, whose interest it is to keep mankind in ignorance. It is a specious and an easy mode of satisfying the conscience and imposing on the world. As practised in our churches and chapels, it totally excludes all the principles of Christian fellowship. It raises one man high above his fellows, who alone has the privilege of thinking or of speaking, or of addressing himself to his Maker; it seals the lips of the rest, or only allows them to repeat a set form of words. It totally supersedes and excludes the duties of mutual exhortation and admonition. It has a direct and inevitable tendency to create spiritual pride and hypocrisy; it is essentially, by its very nature, ostentatious and inconsistent with a really devout spirit; if the mind were only as well fitted for prayer in private as in public, still, for various reasons, prayer to God ought to be private; but the mind is evidently better fitted for prayer in private than in public. Public prayer to an all-seeing God who knows the thoughts of our hearts is evidently unnecessary; social prayer, when our wants are different, our feelings different, and our states of mind different, is an evident absurdity. Social prayer must, in a great majority of cases, be presumptuous, and even blasphemous; for it compels all men, and all alike, to adopt the language of piety; it puts into the lips of all the same confession, the same expression of penitence, the same faith, the same ardour, the same love of God, the same dependence on his mercies. It pre-supposes that all have the same petitions to offer,—when the desires of men differ; and it assumes that all have agreed to a form-which either they have never heard before, or which, if they have heard and disapprove, they are not allowed to alter or amend. The pernicious effects of social prayer might be painted in yet stronger colours, for they are mixed up with all the evils and all the abuses which have been entailed by priestcraft upon Christianity. But to the believer in revelation we say every thing, when we say→→ that social prayer has never received the sanction of heaven; that it was never commanded or practised by the patriarchs, by Moses, or by Jesus; that it is inconsistent with the mental and retiring principles of Christianity, and (inasmuch as to be social it must be public) opposed by the express command of Jesus. In condemning the practice of public. social prayer, let it not be supposed that we oppose the use of prayer. Prayer is not the duty, but the highest and the most valuable privilege of the Christian. It is the permitted
intercourse of man with the great Author of his being; but it should be private, for it calls for the whole and exclusive devotion of the mind to that one object; it should be individual-for with what propriety, or what effect, can others join in the out-pourings of the mind when addressed to the invisible but all-seeing Maker of the universe; it should be personal-for how can such feelings be conveyed by substitute, or expressed by delegation; and, finally, it should be offered up in the manner which God himself has deigned by his messenger to prescribe, or how can we venture to hope that it will be effectual? We cannot, therefore, better conclude these essays, intended to disprove the scripture authority of public social prayer, than by again repeating the command of our master Jesus to his disciples: "But thou, when thou prayest, ENTER INTO THY 'દ CLOSET, AND WHEN THOU HAST SHUT THE DOOR, pray IN SECRET to thy Father; and thy Father which seeth in "secret, shall reward thee openly."
(Supplemental Article, see p.313.)
THE article under the above title, in the present number, was in the press, when W. Smith, the member for Norwich, brought a bill into the House of Commons, for the relief of Unitarian dissenters from the marriage ceremony, similar in principle to the one introduced into the House of Lords, the preceding session, by the Marquis of Lansdown. We have the pleasing task of recording the triumphant progress of the bill through the lower house of parliament. The debate on the second reading of this bill took place March 25, 1825, A Mr. Robertson appears to have laid himself out, upon this occasion, as the determined opponent of concession to the claims of conscience, the undivided honours of which oppo sition it would be injustice to deny him, seeing that not a single member in the House of Commons was to be found to support his objections, or to second the amendment by which he sought to defeat the bill. Dr. Lushington advocated the measure for relief with his usual ability; and-as
tending to evidence the progress which this question has made, from the practice of the Freethinking Christians in protesting at the altar of the established church against the marriage ceremony-we refer the reader to the following extract from his speech as reported in the Morning Chronicle:
"He would ask-could it be consistent with true piety, that a man should Bé obliged to utter with his mouth at the altar that which he abhorred in his heart? Nothing could be more disgraceful than the scenes which had taken place at the marriages of dissenters. Nothing could be more injurious to the character of the established church, or to the feelings of its ministers, than to re compelled to receive the protests of dissenters to the established form of marriage. If it were not trespassing upon the patience of the house, he could state four or five instances where protests had been made in the face of the church, and at the moment when the marriage ceremony had been about to be solemnized. Parties had openly avowed- We come here by compulsion, and we repeat a form which in our conscience we repudiate and reject: this form is &violation of our conscience, and we submit to it only, because without it, we daunot enjoy a civil right which ought to be common to all. How preposterous was this when from this country we had but to cross the Tweed, and throw ourselves on the mercy of a blacksmith, or a methodist; and when we came back, we had a good and valid marriage, giving our children all the benefits of inheritance, legitimacy, &c., the same as if the marriage had taken place according to the most solemn rites of the church of England."
The whole speech of Dr. Lushington, who had evidently read the article on Dissenters Marriages, in the third number of our Register, was well calculated to inform the House of the merits of this question, but as it contained nothing that can prove new to our readers, we content ourselves with the above extract. On the 29th of March, upon W. Smith moving the order of the day for the committal of the Dissenters' Marriage Bill, Mr. Robertson moved that the bill be committed that day six months. This motion was negatived without a division. On the 2nd of May, when it was moved that the House should take into further consideration the report of the committee on the Dissenters' Marriage Bill, the same gentleman moved, as an amendment, that the report should be considered that day six months :-no one seconding the amendment, the original motion was put and agreed to. The speech of the honourable gentleman, in moving this amendment, was clearly worthy of the cause -we subjoin the following brief report from the Chronicle:-
"Mr Robertson said the protestant (Unitarian) dissenters were not so nearly allied to the church of England, nor so much Christians, as the Mahomedans. The honourable gentleman supported his opinion by reading various passages from the Koran. He even thought the dissenters were as bad as the Jews, for both equally denied the divinity of Christ.”.
The ignorance-the palpable ignorance-of these observations it were needless to expose; but, assuming the concluding observation to be true, that Unitarian dissenters are as bad -that is, we presume, as unbelieving-as the Jews, would that be a reason for denying them their civil rights?— clearly not, for the very right in question, the legality of marriage, without submission to the church ceremony, is conceded to the Jews! The honourable gentleman, in his allusion to the Jews, meant only to be illiberal, but he was so unlucky in the display of his illiberality, as by his own illustration, to destroy his own argument! The Unitarian dissenters will, however, readily pardon Mr. Robertson's opposition to their claims, either as Christians or as citizens, as it would be difficult for them to decide, whether they would most prefer that the bill for their relief should have passed the House of Commons without opposition, or that it should have been opposed only by the arguments ofMr. Robertson.
The House of Commons, then, have sanctioned the bill, enabling Unitarian dissenters to contract marriage without submission to the forms and creed of the established church; they have done this, not as they so recently sanctioned the bill for Catholic emancipation, by a trial of strength, and the efforts of a party, securing to the measure at last, only a feeble majority-but as the unanimous and recorded sense of the Commons House of Parliament, was the bill for the relief of Unitarians sent up to the House of Lords. Great is our consolation in placing this circum stance upon record, for great is the tribute which it affords to the enlightenment of the age, to the rights of conscience, and to the justice of that cause, which we have so long and so consistently maintained!
We proceed briefly to notice the fate of the bill in the House of Lords. On the 3d of June, the Marquis of Lansdown moved its second reading, upon which an important and animated discussion ensued. The bill being supported by the Marquis of Lansdown, Lord Liverpool, Lord Calthorpe, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of Litchfield and Coventry; and opposed by the Lord Chancellor, Lord Redesdale, the Bishop of Bath and Wells, and the Bishop of Chester, when, upon a division, there appeared for the second reading