Page images

We cannot compliment Mr. Scott upon his critical skill. The conjunction and does not necessarily indicate that two words are related in the nature of cause and effect: it is not so in the present case, and we purposely wrote 'unsatisfactory and meagre,' because we had, unfortunately, many reasons for dissatisfaction with his information besides its meagreness; the first expression was a general complaint; the second a more specific one. The phraseology of our expression, ‘One would hardly have imagined that Rollin would have been referred to as an authority, also displeases Mr. Scott. "Rigidly accurate and elegant English scholarship’ he says, 'would have led the critic to write, that reference would have been made to Rollin.” Our readers have the two expressions before them; they can determine which is the better. Ours, we believe, to be more idiomatic, and more in accordance with the best writers of the English language. Mr. Scott belongs, we presume, to that class of English grammarians, who tell us that the preposition should never come at the end of a sentence. The expression of Julius Charles Hare, The first school I was at,' would doubtless be condemned by Mr. Scott, and we should be told that rigidly accurate and elegant English scholarship, would have led him to write, 'the first school at which I was; or, probably, on the principle that a sentence should not end with the verb to be, the first school at which I was placed. We are afraid that Mr. Scott's English scholarship needs a little revision as well as his classical.

In conclusion, we beg to assure Mr. Scott, that we are actuated by no personal feelings against him in the observations we have felt it our duty to make. He has necessitated the remarks which we have reluctantly offered, and we confidently leave it to our readers to decide between us. We believe that he possesses an amount of biblical and theological knowledge, which would enable him to render eminent service to the church; and we deeply regret that he should have selected a subject, which has exhibited his deficiencies rather than his attainments.

Art. VIII. Minutes of the Conference of Protestant Dissenters, held at

Crosby Hall, London, on the 20th and 21st of May. 2. Debate on the third reading of the Maynooth Endowment Bill.

Times,' May the 20th, 21st, and 22nd. The Maynooth Endowment Bill continues to agitate the country. It is the one subject about which a large portion of the people think and talk. It has awakened deeper feelings, has led to more ominous trains of thought, and is clearly destined to work a greater change in the convictions and public course of the more reflecting portion of the community, than any other event which has happened for many years.

The excitement it has engendered is not ephemeral. It is not a passing tempest, which will speedily leave the heavens unclouded and serene, but is fraught with the elements of change in the sentiments and institutions of society. One great benefit resulting from it is already beginning to appear. It is testing men's spirits and principles, is separating the discordant materials of which various bodies are composed, and rendering obvious who are the intelligent and consistent expounders of those primary laws on which the constitution and government of the church of Christ are based. Union is, undoubtedly a good, but it must be real, and not apparent, the thing itself, and not the mere semblance and affectation. Where this veritable oneness is wanting, the appearance of union is positively pernicious, deluding good men, and allowing bad ones the best opportunity they could desire of carrying on their schemes. Sagacious men see through the cheat, and pity the folly or despise the want of principle, which leads to it. Next, therefore, to the accomplishment of that union for which christianity leads us to hope, we place, the detection of its absence; the clear and forcible exhibition of the fact that it does not exist, and that the materials essential to it are not yet in being. This is absolutely needful as preliminary to the thing itself, and will sweep away many fallacies which weaken and impede the truth.

With these views we cannot but rejoice in the process which is going on, and anticipate from it a result which, whatever sacrifices and struggles may be involved, will be replete with the largest benefits to mankind. Our readers are aware that we have never affected to belong to the moderate class. Even in days when this sort of thing was more fashionable than it is at present, we eschewed it, regarding it as the mark of feeblemindedness, a proof of partial information, or an act of treachery to the truth. We may have been wise or foolish in this, but no other course was open to us. Our sense of duty, the deep impression we had of the enormous wrong done to religion, left us no alternative but to protest in the most practical form possible, or to lose our self-respect. We have no notion of believing a system to be dishonouring to God, and full of peril to the souls of men, and yet to refrain from denounc ng it as the opprobrium and curse of Christendom. Such has been our conviction, and our course as public journalis's has been in keeping with it. The times which are passing over us, are compelling men to take up their ground on one or the other of the two extreme sides. The necessity for decision is daily becoming more apparent, and the medium men are, in consequence, passing to the right or to the left ; to find their refuge within the precincts of the hierarchy, or to become the zealous advocates of aggressive nonconformity. Several have adopted the former alternative: and whatever a short-sighted and timid policy may allege, we rejoice in their decision, and confidently abide the issue of the struggle. The present crisis is favourable to this separation, by bringing out distinctly the complexion and tendency of our principles. It has been too much the habit to refer to these in vague and general terms, which have utterly failed to leave on the popular mind an adequate impression of the light in which we regard the state-church system of our country. But the discussions now afloat are correcting much of this, and we may safely leave it to the common sense of our countrymen to determine, who are the most consistent and faithful expounders of nonconformist principles. The simple and broad ground of opposition, taken up by most of the dissenting body, is intelligible to all; while the uncertain sounds which some few are disposed to atter, awaken mistrust, and, in popular judgment, are referrible to selfishness or to the bitterness of theological strife.

The opposition waged against the Maynooth College Bill, on the ground of its being an endowment of popery, is a virtual surrender of our anti-state-church principles, and involves our whole procedure in distrust and misconception. We have never been backward in expressing our unqualified disapproval of popery, and in counselling the nonconformist ministry to acquaint themselves more thoroughly with its dogmas and history. On all suitable occasions, we shall be at our post to reiterate such counsels; for we have no truce with error, whether religious or ecclesiastical. But we have now to do with political men. Our duty is to resist a measure in the Commons House, and consistency requires that we should abstain from any course which, even by implication, admits the competency of our rulers to judge between truth and error in matters of religion. We are as opposed to their dealing with the former as with the latter; and should, therefore, restrict ourselves to a direct and earnest protest against their tampering with religion at all.

The course of events, since we last addressed our readers, has been much as we anticipated. The ministry has persisted in its measure, the constituencies have been in communication with their members, and in many cases have given them notice to quit; the feeling of the country is deepening, and becoming more practical; in some parts the initiative has been taken towards the formation of electoral committees, with a view of securing the future representation, in the Commons' House, of the principles and feelings of British dissenterism. Two conferences have been held in London, one convened by the Central Anti-Maynooth committee, and the other by a committee of dissenters, appointed at a public meeting held in Salters' Hall Chapel, London, on the 2nd of May. Of the former of these conferences, it does not consist with our present object to say more, than that it was composed of a large number of delegates from four hundred and eleven places, and was characterized by an earnest feeling of opposition to the pending measure. The ground taken, was much too narrow to realize the views, or to do justice to the principles of the dissenting members of the assembly; and, it was in consequence felt to be incumbent on them to convene another conference, in which, the freest and fullest expression might be given to the views on which the opponents of state churches resist the ministerial measure. The summons to this latter conference, was not issued till the 6th of May, and, though it came subsequently to the other, and did not assemble till after the third reading had commenced, nearly eight hundred delegates met at Crosby Hall, on the 20th. Such an assembly, convened under such circumstances, was a remarkable and unprecedented indication, of deep practical earnestness, which our legislators may well regard as a significant sign of the times.

The spirit of the assembly was equal to the zeal by which it had been constituted. There was perfect freedom both of speech and action. Men said whatever they thought, and proposed amendments or recommended the withdrawal of resolutions, as their judgments dictated. No forcē was put on the expression of opinion. All were invited to speak freely, and the differences which were elicited bespoke their acceptance of the invitation. The best possible temper was preserved throughout; indeed we have never seen this equalled, save in the Anti-State Church Conference of last year. All were intent on the work for which they came together, and were too earnest and too singleminded in its pursuit to have time or energy for other things. We augur much from this. It is full of meaning. It characterizes the men of the movement, and betokens the depth and religious temper of their convictions.

The first resolution adopted was 'expressive of the principles on which the parties represented in the conference base their opposition to the Maynooth Endowment Bill. It was at once definite and comprehensive, susceptible of one interpretation only, and accurately guarded against a misconception to which the principle embodied might possibly have been otherwise exposed. Regarding it as a manifesto of dissenting principle, the attentive perusal of which can scarcely fail to disabuse even men as prejudiced as Mr. Shiel, we transfer it to our pages as worthy of permanent record.

Resolved, -That this Conference view, with serious apprehen. sion and unqualified disapproval, the bill for the permanent endow. ment of Maynooth College, recently submitted to parliament by her Majesty's government, and now proposed for a third reading in the House of Commons; that, differing widely, as they are well known to do, in religious faith and worship from those of their fellow-subjects whom this measure is professedly framed to conciliate, and attaching to such difference the highest importance, they feel it the more incumbent upon them to declare that they would not, on this account, withhold from others a single advantage which they could justly claim or accept for themselves at the hands of the Imperial Legislature : that, looking to the circumstances which obviously suggested the bill, and to the avowed opinion of many of its warmest supporters, they are compelled to regard it as a cautious but deliberate approach towards the establishment of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland: that, in their judgment, the alliance of the civil power with any form or forms of religion, and, as the fruit of that alliance, the support, by compulsory exactions, of religious teachers of any denomination, are dangerous to the liberty of the subject, subversive of the rights of conscience, prejudicial to the cause of Christianity, and offensive to God : that, under this conviction, they record their solemn protest against the Protestant Church Establishments already existing in these realms, as well as against every grant of public money for ecclesiastical purposes; and that, seeing in the Maynooth Endowment Bill a further extension of a principle every embodiment of which they hold to be detrimental to the best interests of the empire, they pledge themselves to make every legitimate effort to prevent its being passed into a law.'

This resolution was subsequently embodied in a petition, and having received, in the morning sitting of the conference, the signatures of 538 ministers and delegates, was presented to the House of Commons by Mr. Bright, on the evening of the same day. Subsequent resolutions committed the conference to a practical application of the principles thus enunciated. It is well known that the energies of dissenters have, till recently, been directed to the redress of practical grievances. They have contended against the church system in detail, endeavouring in some cases to conceal, and uniformly shrinking from the enforcement of their radical principle. On the propriety of such a course, there was much difference of opinion throughout the country, but the majority of our leaders approved it, and it was therefore pursued. Hence, arose dissatisfaction and mistrust. The more earnest, and, as we think, more enlightened men, who had special respect to the religious obligations of their position, protested against it, and their labours have at length happily effected an entire and healthful change. Against the practical grievance-policy, we formerly protested as unworthy of our posi

« PreviousContinue »