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Title: A letter to a country clergyman, occasioned by his address to Lord Teignmouth
Author: Owen, John
Language: English
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OCCASIONED BY HIS ADDRESS TO LORD TEIGNMOUTH***


Transcribed from the 1805 J. Hatchard edition by David Price, email
ccx074@pglaf.org, using scans from the British Library.

                        [Picture: Pamphlet cover]



                                    A
                                  LETTER
                                   TO A
                           _COUNTRY CLERGYMAN_,
                              OCCASIONED BY
                               HIS ADDRESS
                                    TO
                            _LORD TEIGNMOUTH_,
                   PRESIDENT OF THE BRITISH AND FOREIGN
                              BIBLE SOCIETY.


                                * * * * *

                                    BY
                         _A SUB-URBAN CLERGYMAN_.

                                * * * * *

        “Unum gestit interdum, ne _ignorata_ damnetur.”—TERTULL. APOL.

                                * * * * *

                                 LONDON:
           PRINTED FOR J. HATCHARD, BOOKSELLER TO HER MAJESTY,
               NO. 190, OPPOSITE ALBANY HOUSE, PICCADILLY.

                                  1805.

                                * * * * *



A LETTER, &c.


REV. SIR,

ONE of those good-natured friends with which the world abounds, took an
early opportunity of conveying to my hands a copy of your Address to Lord
Teignmouth as President of the British and Foreign Bible Society; and I
can really assume you, that its effect upon my nerves was almost as great
as that which his Lordship’s circular letter produced upon yours.  “The
emotions of my mind,” too, “upon the receipt of it, were such as I am not
inclined, for several reasons, to describe.” {1}

You must know, Sir, that it had been my fortune to fall into the same
ugly snare as the worthy Nobleman whose eyes you have so graciously
endeavoured to open.  I too had been drawn into the horrid Bible-plot,
without dreaming that there was any plot in the business; and, to tell
you the honest truth, before your pamphlet reached me, I had actually
lent all the name I possessed, and all the money I could spare, in order
to assist in carrying its designs into execution.

Judge then, Sir, what must have been my feelings upon learning from you,
that our Noble President, instead of being, as I thought, most loyally,
usefully, and religiously employed, had “bestowed his patronage and
protection upon every description of the church’s enemies;” that he had
deserted “the cause of sound religion;” and that he was actually
“confederating with persons openly labouring the destruction of all that
is sober and established.” {2}

The inference was too much against me to leave me at rest.  I called to
my recollection, how prone the world is to say, “like master, like man;”
and in the first paroxysms of my fear, had half a mind to send a line to
the Secretary, and request that my name might be withdrawn.  This seemed,
however, too strong a measure to be adopted in so early a stage of the
business; besides, though I could not wholly suppress my alarms, yet I
had some little scruple about proclaiming them publicly to the world.  In
these moments of irresolution, it occurred to my mind, that you might
perhaps, without any malicious design, have overstated the mischief; that
the evils which you predicted as likely to follow from this unhallowed
project, might in reality have nothing to do with it; and that, at all
events, your frightful statement exhibited only _one side_ of the case.
Perhaps, thought I, some “liberal-basis’d” {3a} gentleman will overthrow
this high-church reasoning, and try to bring this bilious Country Priest
to a better temper: I may then be inclined to wish, that I had paid less
homage to that ex-parte evidence by which he sought to discredit a noble
cause.

Unluckily for me, the printers had scarcely struck off the large
impression of your Address, when they came to a resolution to print
nothing further. {3b}  Now though I did not suspect any confederacy in
the business, yet I could not help thinking that _you_ were much obliged
to them.  However that may be, it was evidently in vain to wait for
Replies: if fifty had been written (and I suppose that at least as many
were expected), not one could find its way before the public.  At length
I hit upon a project; and what do you think it was?  But _you_ would be
the last to guess.  It was that of _reading your pamphlet over again_.  I
had observed that the birds in my garden who were scared away by the
first sight of my man-of-straw, would, after a second view, pursue their
instinctive robberies with as much composure as if they had really
discovered how little mischief he could do them.  I was pleased with the
thought, and anticipated much the same consequences.  Well, Sir, I made
the experiment; and the event, I assure you, exceeded my highest
expectation.  I rose from the _second_ reading of your Address with
feelings so different from those of conviction or alarm, that if I did
not think it would ruffle a temper so irritable as yours, I could almost
find it in my heart to tell you what they were.  However, as I shall have
occasion to speak my mind pretty freely in the course of this Letter, you
will have no difficulty in discovering what I ultimately thought both of
you and your performance.

But now, Sir, to business.  You open your Address to Lord Teignmouth with
a preamble, which sets forth, that you are “not inclined, for several
reasons, to describe the emotions of your mind upon the receipt of his
Lordship’s Address, as President of the British and Foreign Bible
Society.”  There is an air of mystery in these words, which recommended
them strongly to my notice; and if you do me the favour to turn back to
my first page, you will find that I have employed them as you have done,
_in fronte operis_.  I am, however, upon reflection, inclined to think
that “there is,” to use your own words upon another occasion, “more of
sound than sense” in this affectation of reserve on both sides.  For, to
say the truth, I have already revealed _my_ emotions, and I am sure you
have taken no pains to conceal _yours_: and yet it must be manifest that
if each of us had not been _inclined_ to do it, neither of us would have
done it.  However, the preamble has its use; for it invites the reader to
believe, that we are both of us men of peace and charity, and very
unwilling to injure the feelings and reputation of our neighbour: an
assumption which, in your case, it was the more necessary to make; as
otherwise the reader of your pages might, innocently enough, have
concluded the reverse.

This brief exordium dispatched, you enter, pell-mell, upon the matter of
your indictment, and prefer your charges against the Noble Lord with as
little ceremony, as if you had borrowed the robes of his Majesty’s
Attorney General, and were prosecuting the Noble delinquent at the suit
of the Crown.  But let us hear the accusation opened.  His Lordship (you
say), by taking the presidency of the Bible Society, has “bestowed his
patronage and protection upon every description of the church’s enemies.”
Now here I doubt the accuracy of your representation: I am strongly
inclined to think that you do not mean to affirm quite so much as you
say.  The church’s enemies are so numerous, and some of them so little
known, that I think it very probable many descriptions could be
mentioned, which have never obtained a place in your enumeration.  I have
_your_ authority for setting down all the individuals who dissent from
the church’s communion as her decided enemies, for they wish to a man to
blow up the national establishment, “clergy and all:” you know they
do—“_one_ of them said” so.  Such evidence as this, to be sure, must not
for a moment be questioned; though I should have thought better of it, if
your informer had shown his instructions for saying so much in the name
of the rest.  But if I concede to you that _these_ are the church’s
enemies, I cannot admit, what I suspect you wish to imply, that these are
the _only_ enemies with which she has to contend.  What think you of
“those men of influence and consideration, who continue to revile the
church, and still think proper to remain nominal members of her
community?” {6a}  Into what class do you throw those “men of the world,
who, in their sober moments, think it more creditable to be accounted
members of our venerable church, than a subscriber to the meeting-house?”
{6b}  And lastly, where do you place those partisans, whether priests or
laymen, who, while they contend for the church as the “chaste spouse of
Christ,” {6c} confound most unwittingly both her pretensions and her
character, with those by which that spiritual harlot is known, who has
committed fornication with the kings of the earth? {6d}  For my part, I
recognise among such _false friends_ as the two first descriptions, and
such _injudicious __advocates_ as the last, some of those enemies, from
which the church has most to fear.  But I think I do you no injustice
when I say, that it does not seem to have been your intention to include
such characters as these within those “descriptions of the church’s
enemies,” upon which his Lordship is blameable for having bestowed his
patronage and protection.

But, waiving these considerations, let me ask the Country Clergyman,
wherein he designs to make the Noble President’s guilt consist.  It
cannot be in the _bare and simple act_ of bestowing his patronage and
protection upon every description of “the church’s enemies.”  For such an
_act_ his Lordship has the highest precedent, and the least questionable
authority.  For every time the several denominations of Christians meet
to worship God according to their various rites (and they may meet just
as often as they will), they enjoy the patronage and protection of that
exalted Personage, who, as the guardian of the constitution, is present
wherever there are rights to protect, and laws to protect them.  Upon
this point, therefore, no controversy can arise: and the main question
between us will be, whether the _object_ for which this patronage and
protection are bestowed be of a nature to favour the assumed hostilities
of the different denominations of Christians against the established
church.  Now that object, as defined by his Lordship, is, “to promote the
circulation of the Scriptures at home and abroad;” and this you admit “is
an object in which every one, who professes the religion of Christ, must
feel a deep interest.”  I am glad to find you admitting as much as this;
and I hope I do not misunderstand you.  Indeed I am so desirous of
tracing an agreement between us, wherever I can find a ground for doing
it, that I will endeavour to persuade myself, though the delusion should
prove never so short, that the circulation of the Scriptures is not among
the points on which we differ.  But you question whether _this_ be the
object; since “the object of a society is not to be known from its public
declaration in print;” {8} and yet, shrewd as this remark appears, I
cannot but think that “the declaration in print,” of a large body of men,
subscribed with their names, is rather better authority for judging of
their specific object, than _the insinuation in print_ of an anonymous
individual: and I believe that most of the world will be of the same
opinion.  I know indeed that declarations in print are not to be credited
merely because they are _made_: but yet I cannot think that the mere act
of _making_ them is a reason why they should be discredited.  For, if the
rule were established for interpreting every “declaration in print” into
its opposite, I should be justified at once in concluding that _your
object_ is to become a member of this obnoxious Association; _merely_
because you declare in print, “I cannot join myself to your Bible
Society.” {9a}

Surely, Sir, as a Country Clergyman, you must have heard of the vaccine
inoculation.  Now there is an association in the metropolis to which that
ingenious invention has given birth, and which is publicly known as the
_Jennerian Society_.  I see no reason why it might not as properly be
called “the British and Foreign Vaccine Society,” since its object is “to
promote the circulation of vaccine matter at home and abroad.”  Now
indulge yourself for a moment with the supposition, that when this
Society had printed their “object, their principles, and their reasons,”
and solicited the countenance and support of the faculty and persons of
every denomination, some country physician had stepped from his
obscurity, and opened a smart attack upon them.  Suppose him to have
contended with all the gravity in the world, “that the object of a
Society is not to be known from its public declaration in print;” {9b}
that Societies which afterwards found their way “to the Old Bailey, or
the Maidstone assizes,” had announced themselves to the world by “printed
declarations of their reasons, objects, and principles;” {9c} and that
for his own part, though he saw in their President a nobleman, “for whose
head and heart he had the highest respect,” and among their supporters
“many respectable names, with which he should be happy to place his own;”
{10a} yet because they received guineas from quacks and empirics, as well
as from regulars and licentiates in medicine, he considered the whole
Society as a dangerous combination against the health of the community,
and a conspiracy for effecting the diabolical design of poisoning his
Majesty’s subjects.  What, Sir, would you think of such a worthy
gentleman?  You would not question his sincerity, for no man who was not
“horribly afraid” {10b} would intimate suspicions for which he was likely
to gain so little credit among mankind: but I think you would feel
yourself at liberty to question something about him, which if it did not
provoke your resentment, might deservedly enough excite your compassion.

I am glad to find, as I advance farther into your pages, that things are
not quite so bad as I had apprehended.  “Far be it from me to say,” you
tell his Lordship, “that you preside over an association of men combined
for designs altogether bad; that you patronize and protect a Society,
whose objects and principles are wilfully nefarious.” {10c}  Now though
this apology for insinuations which might as well have been withheld, is
not wholly purged from bile, yet I confess it gives me pleasure to see it
made at all; because it delivers _me_ from the logical difficulty of
proving a negative, and _you_ from the logical disgrace of requiring it.

At present then it seems, that the majority of this Society, though weak
and deceivable, are not Jacobinical or designing men.  It is not within
their _present_ intention to “pursue an object of an evil tendency in a
close and clandestine manner, under favour of a public declaration of
different, and” even “a contrary character.” {11a}  Nay, so little are
they suspected of being _as yet_ “wilfully nefarious,” that if his
Lordship can give you such a security as you require, for the maintenance
of its original intentions, you think the Society “will be what it
proposes,” and you “shall be proud to rank” your “name, and make exertion
under his protection.” {11b}

I do assure you, Sir, that my jealousies on this particular are quite as
much alive as yours can be.  I know how apt Societies are to depart from
the principles upon which their original association was formed; and I am
half inclined to think, that in this and other parts of your pamphlet you
are reading a lesson to some Societies in the metropolis, that I could
name.  However, I do not absolutely affirm that such is your intention;
for though I might take advantage of your own axiom, and suspect your
“declaration in print” to be _one_ thing and your real object _another_,
yet I should think it scarcely decorous to say so.  Besides, it is very
possible after all, that the whole may have been the result of accident;
and that you had no design whatever of publishing the _actual_ state of
one Society, when you were merely predicting the _future_ state of
another.

But, Sir, let me ask you now, in the best humour in the world, what
security you would require for the maintenance of an original object
which the Bible Society has not already given you.  I grant, if you had
been invited to join a Society, whose object was the promotion of
Christianity, the reformation of manners, or the suppression of vice, you
might reasonably enough have doubted whether the nature of the object
sufficiently explained the views of the associators, and gave you any
competent pledge for the purity of those measures which they might in
process of time adopt.  You might then have argued with some show of
plausibility, that “the _real object_ will take its colour from the
opinions and pursuits of those _effective members_, who shall contrive,
either by an actual majority, or an _assiduity and activity equivalent in
force to the power of a majority_, to give direction to the energy of the
association;” {12} and the event, in certain cases, would have proved,
that you were not very greatly mistaken.  But in the case under
consideration, the object is definite.  For the Bible (_which_ and which
_alone_ constitutes that object) is specific; and is further secured, by
its authorized translation into all the languages of the United Kingdom,
against the possibility of losing its specific character.  Now since the
Society are bound, by a law of their constitution, to circulate the
_authorized_ version of the Scriptures, and that _alone_, their object
must remain so uniform and determinate, that no deviation from it can
occur, without a perceivable, an obvious, a felonious sacrifice of
justice, honor, and good faith.  Of such departure therefore, if ever it
should be attempted, the public will most infallibly be apprized.  For
those respectable characters _at least_, with whom you would be proud to
rank your name, will be the witnesses, the opposers, and (if unsuccessful
in their opposition) the reporters of such apostacy; and I hardly need
remind you that the efficiency of their exertions under all these
characters, will be diminished in the same proportion, in which you may
contrive to reduce their numbers, and discredit their association.

So much for that security which the object of the Society affords.  But
let us hear what sort of security you, in the exercise of your
moderation, are disposed to require.  “If Lord T. will pledge himself
that the six hundred members of his Society are, like himself, honourable
and upright men, who speak what they mean, and practise what they
profess, who abhor duplicity and deceit, and know no discordance between
the object they _profess_ and the object they _pursue_—if Lord T. can
assure me this, I shall be proud to rank my name, and make exertion under
his protection.” {14a}

And are these really, Sir, the lowest terms upon which the benefit of
your name can be obtained for the British and Foreign Bible Society?  If
they are, I must fairly own, humiliating as the confession may appear, I
have no hope of hearing that the Secretary has been called upon “to
insert your name and accept your donation.” {14b}  No Sir; his Lordship
cannot go such lengths as you require.  I dare say he would do every
thing in his power to satisfy you; but I think I may venture to say,
without consulting him, that this exceeds his power.  His Lordship is a
student of human nature, and the situations which he has filled, have
afforded him opportunities of pursuing his favorite study.  How he has
employed those opportunities, and what fruit he has derived from them, I
need not tell you.  I dare say you have not lost your respect for the
biographer of Sir William Jones, in your resentment against the President
of the Bible Society.  But, with all his powers of discrimination, his
Lordship has his limits as well as _other_ men; and I hope you would not
wish him to vouch _for_ or _against_ a large class of individuals, as you
may have found some people inclined to do, merely on account of certain
peculiar specimens which he has seen, or some indistinct reports which he
has heard.

But surely, Sir, I may be excused for doubting whether you “be in jest or
earnest,” {15} when you meet his Lordship’s proposition with such
exorbitant demands.  Did you ever know a President who could engage for
quite so much as you require?  Or did you ever see “six hundred” names
together, that stood for nothing less than so many “honorable and upright
men?”  I am sure I venerate every useful Society throughout the kingdom,
from the Society for _promoting Christian Knowledge_, down to the Society
for _superseding the Necessity of Climbing Boys_; and yet I should not be
surprised if their respective Presidents should decline bearing their
testimony to the individual characters of the first _six hundred_ members
of those several Societies upon which I might choose to lay my hand.
Besides, Sir, consider—a rule for _one_, in such a case is a rule for
_all_.  What you require _before_ you subscribe your name, others may
think themselves justified in requiring _after_ you have subscribed it.
And what will be the consequence?—His Lordship will next be called upon
to pledge himself for _you_; and though I dare say he could do it with
perfect safety, yet I think he might have reasons for wishing to be
excused.

The object of this extravagant demand at length comes out; and it seems I
was perfectly justified in doubting whether you were in jest or earnest
when you advanced it.  “All (you say) that I here assert” (and questions
of a certain description are the strongest of all assertions) “is this;
that your Lordship, for whose head and heart I have the highest respect,
appears to have undertaken the patronage of you know not whom or what.”
{16}  Now, Sir, there is but one portion of this _assertion_ to which I
have any objection.  His Lordship certainly does know _what_ he has
undertaken to patronize; for to the circulation of the Scriptures, the
Scriptures as printed by authority, the Scriptures without any addition,
deduction, or variation, both his patronage and that of the truly
venerable characters associated with him, are restrained.  The rest of
the assertion is perfectly harmless.  His Lordship has undertaken the
patronage of he _knows not whom_: this is strictly true; nor would it be
less so, if his Lordship filled the chair of any other Society, or if the
Country Clergyman and his friends occupied the place of the six hundred
members over whom his Lordship _actually does_ preside.

It seems, however, that if his Lordship does not know over _whom_ he
presides, the Country Clergyman can tell him.  Lord T. does not know “the
men and their communication” to whom he has joined himself; but you, it
should seem, can explain them both.  No sooner do you cast your eye over
the List of Subscribers which his Lordship has sent you, than you see “a
very large proportion” of persons “with which, as an honest man,” you
“can have nothing to do;” men of whose company you “have hitherto always
been horribly afraid, being frightened at the idea of having the national
establishment blown up, as one of them said, clergy and all;”—“wolves,”
who design to worry your “poor sheep;”—“crafty beasts;” and, finally,
“those who openly and fairly avow that their object is to eat up both
sheep and shepherd.” {17}  This is indeed, Sir, a very alarming
discovery; and I could almost wish, for the honor of the Society, it had
never been made.  However, though I love the Society much, I love truth
more; and therefore, whatever sacrifice it may cost me, I trust it will
always prevail.

But now, Sir, though I make no doubt you believe every thing you say,
what ground have you for expecting that I should?  If you tell me you
have seen a ghost, and that he frightened you out of your wits, I may
have the best reasons in the world for believing that you have seen a
ghost; and yet I may doubt all the time whether there were a ghost to be
seen.  In like manner, though I dare say you are a devout believer in the
threats of these incendiaries, the howlings of these wolves, and the
voracious declarations of these cannibals; yet, I may after all have
liberty to doubt, whether such stories are entitled to a moment’s regard.
Travellers, you know, Sir, with the best intentions in the world, often
play a trick upon us; and I think it very possible, that a Country
Clergyman, with no worse intentions, may be led to do the same.  When
Bruce described the Abyssinian as cutting a steak from the rump of a
living animal, and then driving him on as if nothing had happened, the
world smiled at the easy credulity of the honest traveller, and did not
believe one particle of the matter: I am inclined to think that the
marvellous tales of the Country Clergyman will scarcely meet with a
better fate.

But let me, Sir, expostulate with you for a moment.  I know how
unreasonable a passion fear is, and I think it is always worth while to
take every honest method of getting rid of it.

As a Country Clergyman, I dare say, you are a pretty good horseman; and
though I do not suspect you of appearing upon a race-course, or galloping
after the hounds, yet I suppose you are no enemy to a pleasant ride.  Now
it must have happened to you, at least once in your life, as well as to
inferior horsemen, to be in imminent danger of breaking your neck by the
sudden and unaccountable starting of your horse.  Irritable and
overbearing men will, you know, under such circumstances, make a furious
application of the whip and the spur to the back and sides of the
terrified animal.  The consequence is, that if he was afraid of the
object at first, he will be “horribly afraid” of it ever after.  You and
I know a better way; and that is, to lead the animal up to the object
which occasioned his alarm, and to give him an opportunity of forming a
more correct judgment of it.  I cannot help thinking, that if you had
adopted some such steps, under your first impressions of alarm at the
Subscribers to the Bible Society; if, without _venturing yourself_ “into
the company of men of whom you have hitherto been always horribly
afraid,” you had yet _ventured yourself_ near enough to them, to see
whether they were likely men to blow you up in the air, or bury you in
their stomachs; you would have been saved from the humiliating necessity
of soliciting “the charity of the Noble President to pity your weakness
and excuse your unconquerable fears.” {19}

But let me tell you a story—A friend of mine (who by the way is a Country
Clergyman as well as yourself) was lately invited to dine with a Mohawk
Chief, of whose visit to this country the provincial papers have
doubtless informed you.  My friend was very much in your situation.  His
head was full of stories against this “denomination” of people.  He had
been credibly assured, that they were “the enemies of all that is sober
or established;” that they enjoyed nothing so much as pulling men’s
scalps over their ears, and eating them up, _clothes and all_.  He could
not therefore, for some time, be induced to _venture himself_ “into the
company of men of whom he had hitherto been always horribly afraid.”  At
length, however, he was prevailed upon to accept the invitation; not
without some apprehensions on his own part, that he “should feel uneasy,
and be illiberally, perhaps, looking towards the door.” {20}  How he
actually behaved, I am not told; but what do you think was the event of
his visit?—Why, he returned from the interview, with his flesh upon his
bones, his scalp upon his head, and not a single mark of the tomahawk all
over his body.  Add to this, he received so favorable an impression of
this “denomination” of people, that he resolved hereafter to consider
them as _brethren_, and to co-operate with them in every object which
might promise to promote their common welfare, without interfering with
their separate, local, and independent interests.  I leave the Country
Clergyman to use his discretion about trying such experiments as these;
but, whether he try them or not, I make no question, that, in many cases,
they would be attended with similar success.

It seems, however, that such Associations are forbidden by that least
forbidding of all the Christian graces, _Charity_.  “Christian charity
(you tell us) no where recommends associations of discordant principles,
combinations of men professedly at variance and in hostility with each
other: but Christian charity enjoins that which renders all these
elaborate societies useless; it teaches and _obliges_ Christians to be
_like-minded_, to have one faith, one baptism, one speech, and one hope
of their calling.” {21a}  Now, Sir, though I am far from thinking that
you are singular in your notion of Christian charity; for the church of
Rome entertained the same opinions, and does, I dare say, entertain them
to this day—yet I think you will have a difficulty in turning this notion
to any important use.  The fact is, that Christian Charity, much as she
may _enjoin_ an uniformity of opinion upon questions of a controvertible
nature, cannot succeed in effecting it without the aid of those
_compelling_ means, of which she has been so long deprived.  From the
time that some prototype of Lord T. prevailed upon the church “to throw
away that natural defence” of whips, and screws, and faggots, “which God
Almighty had given her,” {21b} Christian Charity has assumed a new
character, and taken up an employment the very opposite to that in which
she had been for ages before engaged.  Her attention is now turned from
the _heads_ to the _hearts_ of men; and when she cannot succeed in making
them _like-minded_, she tries to make them _love one another_.  She is
said to have actually disclaimed all the sentiments and measures which
were ascribed to her during her alliance with the Holy Father.  The
account which is given of the matter, is plausible enough; and as it does
not appear to have reached your ears, I will give it you just as I
received it.

Somewhere about the time when the churches of the West came under the
dominion of the Holy See, the successor of St. Peter was observed to cool
in his regard for _Charity_, and to withdraw his affections very sensibly
from _her_.  The cause of this decline in his attachment was at length
discovered.  A rival, not unknown for many ages before, had now acquired
a very formidable ascendancy in the breast of the Holy Pontiff; and the
new attachment was not a little cherished by the leading members of the
subjugated church.  The influence of the favorite rapidly increased, and
that of _Charity_ proportionably declined; till at length, matters went
so far that the latter was deposed and imprisoned, and the former
enthroned in her place.  The name of _Bigotry_ (for so she had been
called from her birth) was against her, and so was her countenance.  The
first of these difficulties she got over by assuming the name of her
disgraced predecessor; the latter, it is said, remains a difficulty to
this very day.  In the mean time, _Charity_ continued immured in the
closest confinement; and when the monasteries were pulled down at the
Reformation, this queen of all the virtues was found pale and almost
lifeless in a subterraneous cell.  Her health had been so much impaired
by confinement, and her character misrepresented by the artifices of her
rival, that it took her a great deal of time to regain her strength and
make herself properly known.  In both these respects she has now to a
great degree succeeded: and though the Pope denies her rights, and many
persons, who ought to know better, continue to question them, yet her
countenance and temper most clearly identify her with that heavenly
original, whose office it is to sanctify the confidence of faith and the
fervor of hope; and to make them the instruments of promoting glory to
God in the highest, and peace and good-will among men.

Now though this looks very much like an allegorical account of the
matter, yet I think it accords so well with the fact, that I trust both
you and I shall be the better for the moral of it.  I am sure if I
thought that uniformity of opinion upon the details of Christianity,
could be brought about among those who agree in the fundamentals of it, I
should rejoice to contribute my proportion to the advancement of so
desirable an event.  But I do not expect, what in the present
constitution of human nature I believe to be impossible.  I think that
the nearest advances to such uniformity may be made by resolving to unite
as far as we are _like-minded_, and to be reciprocally forbearing where
we are _not_, and thus to fulfil our Saviour’s commandment of loving one
another.  I am sure that if every Country Clergyman will substitute this
species of Charity for the adulterous idol which you have set up (and I
have little doubt but they will), the church will then maintain herself
in vigour, usefulness, and beauty; “and the gates of nonconformity” {24a}
will not prevail against her.

I have hitherto been reasoning upon the presumption, that circulating the
Holy Scriptures was an act upon the excellence of which no question could
arise between us; but it seems that I have been mistaken: for his
Lordship is cautioned (and every member of the Society through him) not
to be “deceived with the notion, that the _bare act of distributing
Bibles_, _is the act of disseminating truth_.” {24b}

This species of caution, and the reasons by which it is supported, have
acquired so much the air of novelty by having been shut up for more than
two hundred years, that I confess I was not a little struck with them;
and I dare say, the feelings of most of your readers will be in unison
with mine.  But I will give the passage at length:

    “Be not then deceived, my Lord, with the notion that the _bare act of
    distributing Bibles is the __act of disseminating the sacred truth_.
    The word of God in itself is pure, and perfect, and more to be
    desired than much fine gold; but as the finest gold may be turned to
    base purposes, so may the Scriptures.  For, alas! through the lusts
    of men and the covetousness of the world, the precious book of life
    is made the instrument of error as well as of truth; of much evil as
    well as of infinite good.  When it is remembered that to the
    Scriptures, not only the true church of Christ appeals for
    confirmation of its divine doctrine; but likewise that every sect and
    heresy, by which it ever was defaced, has regularly pretended
    likewise to produce its error; when we observe the Papist, and
    Puritan, the Socinian, and Calvinist, the Baptist, and Quaker, all
    appealing to the Bible for the truth of their principles, and
    pretending to prove them thereby;—it will not be maintained, I think,
    that the _mere distribution of Bibles_ under the present
    circumstances of the times, is likely to spread the truth.  On the
    contrary, it is to be expected that each member of your heterogeneous
    Society will draw his portion of books for the promotion of his
    particular opinion; for it is easily seen, that a Bible given away by
    a Papist, will be productive of Popery.  The Socinian will make his
    Bible speak, and spread Socinianism; while the Calvinist, the
    Baptist, and the Quaker, will teach the opinions peculiar to their
    sects.  Supply these men with Bibles (I speak as to a true
    churchman), and you supply them with arms against yourself.” {26}

Really, Sir, in reading over this extraordinary morceau, which I do
assure you I have done again and again, I have found my astonishment
continually increase, and am now as much at a loss as ever, to account
for your raising up again those notions, which have been buried by public
authority for so many ages.  An old parishioner of mine, who scarcely
reads any books but the Bible and Fox’s Martyrology, was ready to swoon
when she came to this part of your pamphlet; and I could not, for the
life of me, prevail upon her to go any farther.  She was utterly
astonished at my being able to smile at what she was pleased to call, the
_rankest Popery she had_ ever read.  I told her, it could not be Popery;
for it was written by a Country Clergyman: she said, the whole was a
trick; and that the Papists abounded in such tricks.  It was in vain that
I repeated to her my conviction, that the author was a Protestant
Clergyman, and that, I feared, he was not singular in holding these
opinions: I could not get her to believe one syllable of either.  She
persisted in her declaration, that, whatever you might call yourself, you
were some Romish Priest in the interest of the Catholics; and that you
only wanted to prepare the people for parting with their Bibles.

Now, Sir, though I by no means go the same lengths as my orthodox
parishioner, yet I am free to confess, that I agree with her in the main.
I dare believe, that you have no more intention of bringing back the Pope
than I have; and yet I do not know how you could have written more to the
purpose, if you had wished to accomplish such a measure.  The dangers
which you point out as accompanying the perusal of the Holy Scriptures by
the unlearned, were matters of constant anxiety to his Papal bosom all
the time that he acted as visible head of the English church; and many a
Country Clergyman was employed, under his direction, to enforce upon
Lords and Commoners that prudent caution against _distributing Bibles_,
which you so earnestly press upon the Noble President of the British and
Foreign Bible Society.  Our forefathers, however, were too much of his
Lordship’s way of thinking to yield to such considerations: having
derived so much benefit from reading the Bible themselves, they would not
endure the thought of refusing it to others; and they were, therefore,
among the foremost “to promote the circulation of the Scriptures at home
and abroad.”

I lament with you that “the Holy Book is made a nose of wax;” I, too, am
“_sadly_ experiencing” this, “daily before my eyes;” {27} and, the
strange interpretation which you have given of “Christian Charity,” is
another proof of the _sad_ extent to which this practice has spread.  But
I could not consent on that account to deprive _you_ of your Bible, nor
even to refuse you another if you wanted it.  Indeed, Sir, the conduct
which you blame, and of which you have condescended to become an example,
is a grievous evil: but the remedy which you propose, and which the
Council of Trent proposed before you, is abundantly worse than the
disease.

By the way, Sir, I wonder you were not a little afraid of venturing such
sentiments abroad, without first consulting those of your friends who are
better acquainted with the principles of the Reformation than you appear
to be.  You talk of _the church_, in the same language, with the same
pride of appropriation, and with the same prerogative of limiting the
course and interpretation of Scripture, as if you had never heard that
the church of Rome disputes all these things with you, or as if you had
never heard of a separation from her.  Had no such separation taken
place, your observations would have been perfectly in order.  You might
then have followed them up too with this precautionary proposition, that
Bibles should be suppressed; and that every subject of the empire should
engage (in the language of the Douay Catechism) to “believe whatsoever
the Catholic church proposes to be believed.”  This would certainly (if
it could have been carried into effect) have rendered “all such elaborate
Societies” as confine themselves to “the _bare act of distributing
Bibles_, useless;” and consequently the growth of _heresy_, _error_, and
_delusion_, impossible.

But, Sir, you and I must take things as we find them: and it does so
happen, that things _are not_, in the church established in these realms,
as they _once were_.  Whether it be a wise or an unwise measure to open
the Scriptures to the people at large, it is now too late to dispute: to
the people at large they _are_ opened; and their distribution is
legitimated both by canon and precedent, as an act of the strictest
justice, and the purest benevolence.

Indeed I must take upon myself to tell you, that your fears for the
church, from “the circulation of the Scriptures,” are not calculated to
do her any honor in the world.  She either does not think with you, that,
in supplying the different denominations of Christians with Bibles, she
is really supplying them “with arms against herself;” or if she does, she
has the magnanimity to promote their salvation, though it were at her own
expense.  I dare say you will set me down for no “true churchman,” when I
say this; but I will give you an authority to this effect, which has much
weight with me, and which _you_ will scarcely venture to dispute.  In a
little tract, called “Questions and Answers concerning the respective
Tenets of the Church of England and the Church of Rome,” I find the
following passage:

    “Question.  Why do you find fault with the church of ROME for not
    suffering the common people _to read the Bible_?

    “Answer. 1.  Because in so doing they act contrary to the command
    Christ gives to _all_, ‘Search the Scriptures,’ John, v. 39.

    “2.  Because what they forbid, the Apostles commend, as we see in the
    example of the Bereans, who are _commended_ for reading the
    Scriptures, Acts, xvii. 11.

    “3.  It is contrary to the practice of the primitive church, in which
    the fathers _earnestly exhorted_ the people to an assiduous and
    diligent reading of the Scriptures.

    “4.  It agrees not with St. Paul’s counsel and exhortation, 1 Thess.
    v. 7.  ‘_I charge you_ that this Epistle be read to all the holy
    brethren.’

    “5.  It was a duty of the Jews to have the law in their houses, and
    to read it to their children, Deut. vi. 7, and therefore must be much
    more the duty of Christians to read or peruse the Gospel, as being a
    people living under a greater and richer economy.

    “6.  Whereas it is pretended that the Scriptures are obscure, and
    that this prohibition is _to prevent heresies_: _we_ answer, that the
    Scriptures are not so obscure, in places relating to things necessary
    to salvation, but that they may be understood by the laity: and as to
    the plea of _preventing heresies_, that is only a pretence, no
    argument, since _they __might as well forbid people to eat and
    drink_, _for_, _fear they should abuse that liberty_.”

Now, as this tract is issued by the Society for promoting Christian
Knowledge, I cannot but think it a misfortune, that, as a _Country
Clergyman_, you should not have seen it before you wrote your Address to
Lord T.: you would scarcely then have challenged the Noble Lord to show
that he was “a true churchman,” by fearing and restraining the
circulation of the Scriptures.  As it is, you can scarcely, I should
think, expect to escape rebuke.  Like that “officer of the Society,” {31}
whose secret history you seem to have studied so well, you have stepped a
little out of your regular line, and, like him too, have been guilty of
some “indecorum towards the church and its spiritual superiors.”

But supposing, Sir, that I could admit your dubious proposition, that the
dissemination of truth did not depend upon the _Bible_ which was given,
but upon the _hand_ which might give it; a proposition, which, if true to
the extent of your statement, would prove equally, that the effect of
your pamphlet upon the interests of the Bible Society will depend less
upon the merits of your work, than upon the hands through which it may
pass;—what expedient would you propose, in the exercise of your sagacity,
for providing against the consequences you fear?  I am aware of your
answer—“_Dissolve the Bible Society_.”  Suppose that done; though there
would, I think, be difficulties in the way of doing it: still the tares
are sowing in a thousand directions, and the business of prevention is
scarcely yet begun.  Your expedient must provide for putting Bibles into
the hands of churchmen _only_, or of those who will _infallibly_ become
churchmen by reading them; or it will never succeed.  But what will you
do with those wholesale Bible-mongers, the universities of Oxford and
Cambridge, and his Majesty’s Printer, and all their subordinate agents
and instruments, the book and Bible sellers throughout the country?
While such merchants as these may dispose of Bibles _ad libitum_ as an
article of trade, and such bodies as the Society for promoting Christian
Knowledge, and others of the same description, will continue to favor the
traffic, I cannot see how you will contrive to dam up the waters of life
to any orthodox purpose; or to prevent their irrigating those lands that
are alienated from the established church.

Perhaps it might forward your purpose to put the printing and
distributing of Bibles under some new and more definite limitation.  As
the members of the church of England do not exceed four fifths of the
population of the country, and the chance of converting a sectary is
scarcely worth the risk of supplying him with “arms against yourself,”
what think you of a petition to the Legislature against uselessly and
dangerously multiplying copies of the Holy Scriptures?  I will suppose
your application successful, and that only four Bibles are printed for
every five individuals upon the records of the population.  I will also
suppose, which is quite as necessary, that these Bibles, when printed,
are consigned to an ecclesiastical depot, of which the whole and sole
custody shall be vested in the Country Clergyman; and that not a single
copy of the Bible shall be issued but under his direction.  And now, Sir,
do you really think, that, “old as you are in the business,” you would be
able to detect all _the dogs_ that, under various disguises, would be
seeking _the children’s meat_?  If you find in the little range of your
own parish such “hard work with these crafty beasts,” how much would your
work be increased, and your difficulties multiplied, by the daily care of
all the churches?

But you must go farther, Sir, or else you had better not have begun.—You
must interdict the free circulation of all “Apologies for the Bible,” all
dissertations upon its authenticity and evidence, and particularly all
discourses upon its excellence and usefulness.  You must prevail upon the
many venerable prelates, archdeacons’, and priests, of the present day,
who have done themselves so much honor by advocating the cause of
Christianity, to expunge from their writings all unguarded commendations
of the Holy Scriptures; or to provide for their works, if they know how,
an exclusive circulation in ecclesiastical channels.  Nor is this all:
you must invite, solicit, and (if you can find the means) compel, all the
different denominations of Christians, to deliver up forthwith the Bibles
they possess into the hands of the nearest parish priest.  When all this
is accomplished (and until it is, your end will be very imperfectly
obtained) it will only remain for those well-meaning Societies, in
connexion with the established church, to ask a bill of indemnity for the
degree in which they have contributed to the propagation of error, by
their incautious distribution of Bibles; and to bind themselves over to
commit no more such acts of ecclesiastical suicide.  Your business, it
shall be supposed, is now accomplished; and what is the result?—Why, you
may now congratulate yourself upon having withdrawn the _antidote_ and
left the _poison_ in circulation; for the different denominations of
Christians are still in possession of the privilege of multiplying
_tracts_ ad infinitum, and you have deprived their readers of the only
means of detecting the _heresy_ they contain.

But really, Sir, to be serious—“I feel very strong objections to the
whole plan, not indeed the simple, pure object of” securing the
Scriptures from perversion; “the mischief lies in the _manner_ and
means,” which must at all events be employed for “carrying that object
into effect.” {34}

The word of God, which is a savour of life unto life, _may_ also, I know,
become a savour of death unto death.  I am sorry for it: but to restrain
the circulation of it, in order to provide against this _contingent_
evil, would, I continue to think, with the authority before cited, be at
once as unreasonable and unjust, as to “forbid people to eat or drink,
for fear they should abuse that liberty.”

I am really sorry, Sir, you were so much at a loss to interpret the
meaning of that “liberal basis,” upon which his Lordship recommended the
Society to your notice.  The terms “broad bottom,” {35a} which you
substitute in their place, would have expressed well enough his
Lordship’s intention; but as he was writing to a _Country Clergyman_, and
not to “a preaching blacksmith,” he would not “fail in the respect” that
is due to “a gentleman and a Christian.” {35b}—“Those who are used to
good company (you say) know how to behave.” {35c}  What then is his
Lordship to think of _you_, when you tell him, that you have “not been
educated on liberal-basis’d or broad-bottomed principles,” {35d} but that
either you have not put on your prettiest behaviour, or that you would
“feel” less “uneasy,” than you pretend, in that class of company to
which, as a member of the Bible Society, you would expect to be
introduced?

But were there no other authorities to which you could have recourse,
when the lexicographer failed you, than the mouths of the “_vulgar_?”
{36}  I have an authority before me, which throws so much more light upon
his Lordship’s “liberal basis,” than either the synonyms of the
“lexicographer,” the slang of the “vulgar,” or the etymological quirks of
the “Country Clergyman,” that I shall make no apology for producing it:

    “Give us all grace, to put away from us all rancour of religious
    dissension, that they who agree in the essentials of our most holy
    faith, and look for pardon through the merits and intercession of the
    Saviour, may, notwithstanding the differences upon points of doubtful
    opinion, and in the forms of external worship, still be united in the
    bonds of Christian charity, and fulfil thy blessed Son’s commandment,
    of loving one another as he hath loved them.”—_Form of Prayer for the
    Fast_, _October_ 19, 1803.

Now here, Sir, I found that “liberal basis” upon which the Society is
erected, and I am surprised you did not think of looking for it in the
same place.  But perhaps the liberal basis of the prayer, like that of
the Society, “has no charms for” _you_.  I will not presume such a fact;
but if you were to affirm that it is so, I should have very little
difficulty in believing you.

You do not however intend “to deny the possibility of any _sort or
degree_ of union among certain descriptions of persons composing the
Society.” {37a}  You are “perfectly aware that all the various and
discordant tribes of dissenters from the church of England may unite from
the Papist down to the Quaker; for they frequently have, and frequently
do unite _against_ the church.” {37b}—“But when (say you) was it ever
known that they have united _with_ the church?  Show me the history, lay
your finger on the page, and say, my Lord, _when_, _where_, and upon what
_occasion_, did they ever unite _with_ the church for any important and
righteous design.  I must be satisfied on this point; I must request some
fair example and precedent, to prove that the thing is neither impossible
nor improbable, before it can be even prudent to listen to your
Lordship’s proposal.” {37c}

Now here, Sir, you throw out a challenge, which, with his Lordship’s
permission, I am willing to accept.  I will show you the history of such
union as you indirectly deny: I will lay my finger on the page, and say,
_when_, and _where_, and upon what _occasion_ the different tribes of
Dissenters _did_ unite with the church for an important and righteous
design.  The _history_ then to which I refer is that portion of our
country’s annals which commenced with the autumn of 1803, and which is
not yet completed.  The _page_ upon which I lay my finger is that which
displays the voluntary creation of a national force; in which, if one
feature was more illustrious than another, it was the magnanimity with
which the subjects of the same government agreed “to put away all rancour
of religious dissension,” and to unite in the prosecution of that
_righteous_ and _important_ design in which they had embarked,
“notwithstanding their differences upon points of doubtful opinion, and
in the forms of external worship.”  Let the Country Clergyman peruse this
awful yet luminous page of our history; let him weigh well the danger
which threatened the throne, the church, and the nation; let him read in
those discourses, which gratitude will not allow us to forget, how that
danger was proclaimed by preachers of every denomination; let him walk
through the land, in the length of it and the breadth of it, and see how
many myriads were added to the national force by those powerful and
seasonable appeals to the feelings, the conscience, and the spirit of
Britons; and he will want, I think, no other “example and precedent” to
prove that an union of the various tribes of Dissenters WITH the church
of England, for an important and righteous design, “is neither impossible
nor improbable.”

With such a recent portion of history before your eyes, I cannot see, I
confess, either the justice or the policy of your travelling back over a
century and half of ground in order to find matter of accusation against
those of our fellow-subjects, with whom a sense of common danger has
united us, and with whom it is as important now as it was two years ago,
that we should continue united.  The politico-religious strife which
subsisted between our ancestors and theirs is not a sacred inheritance.
I trust the various denominations of Christians of the present day would
think themselves as much disgraced by the events of “the grand
rebellion,” {39a} as the modern members of the establishment would by the
revenge with which it was followed.  “The church” has, I know, “her sores
and scars;” and so, I lament to say, have those who dissented from her.
Let us own the truth—“the heavenly dove” {39b} has been sometimes
encouraged to make a little too free with “the wings and feathers” of the
smaller birds, and it must not therefore be wondered if her own have
suffered.  Let her but act up to the sweetness of her nature, and allow
the other tenants of the air to have their note; she then may plume her
golden breast without annoyance, and bear her grateful blessings on
outstretched wings to every nation under heaven.

Your zeal for extending the boundaries of that church in which you
minister, is both natural and just: I participate in it with all the
feelings of my heart.  It is an object which has my prayers, and shall,
by God’s assistance, through life command my services.  But I will not
set her up as the entire and only spouse of Christ: for how can I then
curse those whom God hath not cursed?—Away with those superannuated
fears, that she must grow barren because her younger sisters are
fruitful.  I have no doubt but both she and they have “borne many an
illustrious child of God” {40a} to their heavenly bridegroom, and will
continue to bear many more.  I lament with you, that they prefer their
_Gerizim_ to our _Zion_: but I must not therefore refuse to have any
dealings {40b} with them, or to entertain any charity for them.  If they
worship God in spirit and truth, if with the heart they believe on the
Lord Jesus unto righteousness, if they “agree in the essentials of our
most holy faith, and look for pardon through the merits and intercession
of the Saviour,” I cannot, I dare not, I will not put them out of the
covenant of grace and mercy and peace.  Aliens from our external
commonwealth, they are yet fellow-citizens with the saints: and though
the earthly Jerusalem disclaim them, they will hereafter be acknowledged
by the Jerusalem above—the mother of us all. {40c}

But the treason can no longer be dissembled; the eleventh article of the
Society’s constitution proclaims it: that article purports, that “the
committee (which is to conduct the business of the Society, appoint all
officers except the treasurer, have power to call special meetings, and
are charged with procuring for the Society suitable patronage) shall
consist of thirty-six laymen; of whom, twenty-four, who shall have most
frequently attended, shall be eligible for re-election for the ensuing
year; six shall be foreigners resident in London or its vicinity; half
the remainder shall be members of the church of England, and the other
half members of other denominations of Christians!!!”

“_We have here_ (say you) _a standing majority against the church_!” and
then, after declaiming, with all the art of the buskin, upon this
“death-warrant of the established church,” and with all the prescience of
the seer upon the return of the “halcyon days of 1648,” you surround
yourself with the imaginary ruins of “our” demolished “Zion,” and make
your exit “weeping.” {41}  I thought indeed when you played such awkward
antics upon “his Lordship’s liberal basis,” that every thing was not
right.  I could not but regard the laugh in which you indulged, as a
symptom of something very different from humour; and I have not been
deceived.  It was, I perceive, a _moody laugh_, and has ended, as all
such hysterical affections do, in _a flood of tears_.  As the fit is now
over, we may examine this treasonable article, with a better chance of
coming to a mutual understanding upon it.

I will then indulge you for a moment with the full benefit of your
assertion, that there is in this committee “_a standing majority against
the church_;” and what will you gain by such a concession?  The object,
you must now bear in mind, is specific—the circulation of the Scriptures;
that object, you must also recollect, is limited, within the kingdom, to
the _authorized_, versions in use among us.  The same sort of limitation
is not resorted to in case of foreign versions, for the best of all
reasons; that it _cannot_ in the nature of things be applied.  The
different Protestant churches on the European continent have their
authorized versions, and _there_ the line of proceeding is direct: but
where the church of Rome, or, as she calls herself _the church_,
prevails; _there_, the Country Clergyman would scarcely wish the rule for
circulating the _authorized_ version to be observed.  As for those
languages into which translations remain to be made, they are for the
most part so remote from the ordinary sphere of study and commerce, that
the office of executing such translations, and judging of their merits,
must generally be consigned to foreigners; who probably neither
understand the distinctions to which we annex importance, nor could be
made to understand them.  No questions, therefore, can arise in this
committee, which might bring into discussion the points of disagreement
between the church of England and Dissenters: so that if there should be
in such committee, a standing majority of members _out of_ the church,
that will by no means constitute a Standing majority _against_ her.

But let us see whether your _hypothesis_ does not assume rather too much.
The Society is denominated _British_ and _Foreign_.  In the constitution
of its committee, it was but just to pay respect to both parts of its
designation: nor does it appear extravagant to have assigned a sixth part
of that committee to the members of those foreign churches, with which
the Society sought a friendly co-operation, and with which, I understand,
she _is_ actually co-operating to a very considerable extent.  Now these
foreigners cannot be identified with the Dissenters from the established
church, without as much violence to speech as makes a _solecism_, and to
the rights of hospitality, as constitutes a _calumny_.  Neither these men
have sinned, nor their parents, in the way which the Country Clergyman
_supposes_: they brought their religion with them, as they did their
language; and they might as truly be said to have dissented from a
language which they never spake, as from a mode of religious worship
which neither they nor their fathers ever professed.  They are, it should
be observed, for the most part members of sister churches, from which the
Society for promoting Christian Knowledge has obtained some of its most
laborious missionaries, and the established church of this country has
derived, and must continue to derive, her nursing mothers. {44}  On many
grounds, these foreigners would feel the ties which bind them to the
established church; and she may therefore fairly reckon upon their
_neutrality_, if she may not promise herself their _support_.

Let these _neutrals_ (for such _at least_ I am privileged to call them)
be withdrawn, and there remain fifteen members to support the church’s
interests, and fifteen, as it is supposed by the Country Clergyman, to
impugn them.  The former will naturally be links of the same chain;
common interest, and pledges of a peculiar nature, dictate to them an
uniformity of reciprocal support, from which they may not be expected to
depart.  They may therefore be reckoned upon to the extent of their
number.  But will you, Sir, who seem to know something of the world, will
you allow yourself to believe, that the same uniformity of co-operation
may be expected from the fifteen members who are to fight the battles of
_dissent_?  Some among them are advocates for _infant_ baptism, some for
_adult_ baptism, and some for _no_ baptism at all.  Some hold the tenets
of Calvin, some of Arminius, and some of neither.  Their sentiments upon
church government are also scarcely less various, than their opinions
upon matters of faith: so that, widely as they may seem to dissent from
the church of England, many of them would be found, if controverted
questions could arise, to differ still more widely from each other.  Yet
all these discordant members must harmonize together; and the foreigners,
who probably differ from them all, must harmonize with them; or else _the
standing majority against the church_ must remain a mere _standing_
bugbear, to scare the Country Clergyman, and terrify those who choose to
participate his alarms.

I am, however, no enemy to strong improbabilities where a pleasant
argument is concerned.  The fifteen members of all denominations of
British Christians _shall_ unite together; the six members of foreign
churches shall do the same: and then, like the miraculous pieces of St.
Peter’s chain {45} (of which _the church_ makes such notable mention),
these two parties shall form a junction; _a majority_ shall thus be
created _against_ the church.  What then?  Are not the presidents,
vice-presidents, and treasurer, by virtue of their respective offices,
members of the committee?  Suppose then for a moment, that the committee
should entertain so foul a proposition as that for “blowing up the
establishment, clergy and all;” suppose, that the Quakers should consent
to renounce, _pro hâc vice_, their objections to the employment of
gunpowder; suppose further that the foreigners should concur, nobody
knows why, in voting for such a measure; the terrified minority would not
be without a remedy.  It would still be in their power, by the accession
of these honorary members, to outnumber their dissenting adversaries at
the ensuing meeting; and, by objecting to the confirmation of the
minutes, prevent the explosion of this nefarious plot.  But indeed there
is no end of remedies.  Every clergyman subscribing a guinea a year, is a
_member of the committee_. (Art. 12.)  Every subscriber of five guineas a
year, is a _member of the committee_. (Art. 5 and 7.)  Every subscriber
of 50_l._ at one time, is a _member of the committee_. (Art. 6.)  And
lastly, every executor paying a bequest of 100_l._ is a _member of the
committee_. (Art. 8 and 7.)  Now, Sir, supposing the members of the
church of England to be (upon your own estimate) to those of other
denominations as four to one, _whose_ fault do you think it will be, if
the balance of influence in the committee of the Bible Society should be
against her?  Will _you_ be wholly innocent?—“Oh, Sir, how could you join
in such a plot?  What could induce you to lend your” professional “name
to such a business as this?  And why should you think so basely of the
clergy as to tempt them by your example,” and the presumption of your
fair reputation, to believe, that, in strengthening the hands of their
ecclesiastical brethren, they would “sign the death-warrant of the
established church, and the instrument of their own ruin?” {47a}  Do,
Sir, lose no time in writing your palinodia.  I will not ask you to alter
your opinion of the Society, or to part with one of your suspicions of
its mischievous designs.  You shall still be at liberty to talk, as
freely as ever, of “preaching blacksmiths and fanatical ranters in holy
orders;” and of such “doves,” as you and your friends, becoming “a
luscious and inviting morsel to all the several hungry denominations of
Christians;” provided you do but seek to multiply the number of our
ecclesiastical subscribers, as much as you have hitherto laboured to
diminish it.  I will not promise, in return, that your “liberality will
be sounded forth by every gospel-preacher in the church, and every
twanging teacher in the conventicle;” {47b} but I may then venture to
promise you, what I should think would afford you quite as much
pleasure—the satisfaction of having converted a standing majority
_against_ the church into a standing majority _in her favor_.

I will not dispute with you, whether the established church will be a
gainer by this new connexion on the score of _dignity_ and fashion.  I am
told, indeed, that there are among the nonconformists those who can wear
as gay a coat, play as good a hand at whist, and give as modish an
account of an opera or a play, as “those men of the world” among us, who
“think it more creditable to be accounted members of our venerable
church, than a subscriber to the meeting-house:” but I cannot say how
many there may be of this description among the subscribers to the Bible
Society.  However, though “few men of opulence, and fewer still of rank,
frequent the meeting-house or conventicle,” there is “influence and
consideration” {48a} enough among the members of our communion to give
respectability to both.  I grant, indeed, that “the presence of _a
nobleman_ cannot make the company which he honours with his presence
either creditable or polite,” yet surely the presence of a _number_ will
go a great way towards doing it: but then I admit with you, that they
must not be “wandering stars,” {48b} which shed a momentary lustre, but
luminaries which keep a _fixed_ position, and dispense a _certain_ light.

You expect, as the result of this new association, that all will become
unity, and charity, and Christian benevolence, and that you shall see
“realized the pretty hand-in-hand frontispiece to the Christian Ladies
Pocket-Book 1803.” {48c}  Now though I am not so sanguine in my
expectations as you are, yet I trust you will not be wholly disappointed.
And, in my opinion, a Protestant clergy will be not acting less out of
their character by promoting “unity, charity, and Christian benevolence,”
than by disturbing them: nor can Christian prelates be quite so much
disgraced by shaking the hands of Dissenting ministers in the
frontispiece of a pocket-book, {49} as they would be if represented as
drawing those hands through the holes of a pillory.

Your fears are awakened for the _purity_ of the church:—I am certainly
more tender of her _purity_ than I am of her _dignity_; and that because
I have been taught to regard her _white raiment_ as her truest _glory_.
But what defilement has she to apprehend from a co-operation with persons
differing from her, in an object upon which they are agreed?  If
Socinians are to be feared, if Calvinists are to be shunned, I question
whether the Bible Society will furnish dangers nearly so great as those
which the established church incurs from members of her own communion.
Socinians are not remarkable for their zeal in promoting the circulation
of the Scriptures; and I question whether half a dozen of them have
subscribed their names as members of the Bible Society.  As for the
Calvinists, they constitute, it must be remembered, only a proportion of
those denominations which are represented in the committee.  The Wesleian
Methodists are not _Calvinists_; many of the Presbyterians are not
_Calvinists_; the Quakers are not _Calvinists_; the Lutherans are not
_Calvinists_; and individuals of other persuasions, which might be named,
are not _Calvinists_.  Besides, though “scratchings and fightings” may be
“usual with the parties when on the outside of the tavern walls,” {50}
that is not a reason for there being theological wranglings within.  The
line of business is, with few exceptions, as direct at the Bible
Committee as it is at Lloyd’s; and there is as little reason to expect
the peculiar tenets of Calvin or Socinus to enter into a debate for
dispersing an edition of the Scriptures, as there would be if the same
men were met to underwrite a policy of insurance.  But why may it not be
hoped that churchmen will not be the only losers by this connexion?  What
if some of _us_ should grow less proud and phlegmatic, may not some of
_them_ become less snarlish and fanatical?  The friction which takes off
our asperities will assuredly do the same by theirs.  It is therefore
highly probable, that we may severally bring away with us our faith, our
hope, and our charity, which are all we wish to save; and leave nothing
behind us but that “bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and
evil-speaking, and malice,” {51a} which can very well be spared.

You ask, “what concord hath a mitre with a meeting-house?”  The Pharisees
of old were fond of asking questions of the same sort—“Why eateth your
Master with publicans and sinners?”  The Pharisees were very little
satisfied with the answer they received; and, I dare say, any answer that
could be given to the Country Clergyman would satisfy him as little.  I
must therefore leave him to doubt whether _any concord_ can subsist
between kindred souls, pursuing the same object under different forms,
and in unequal stations, till he shall see how near the spirits of an
Usher and a Baxter, of a Taylor and a Henry, of a Tillotson and a Watts,
of a Seeker and a Doddridge, will _venture_ to approach each other, in
the new heaven and new earth wherein dwelleth _righteousness_.

And pray what are we to understand by your merry question about the
_unequal yoke_?  “Why (you ask) should a clergyman of the church of
England be unequally yoked with a lovely sister of the conventicle?”  And
then you desire “a certain officer of the Society” {51b} to be consulted.
What sort of an answer that “officer” might think proper to give, it
belongs to himself to determine; but I confess I see nothing in the
question which I should be afraid to meet.  I am at a loss to see what
harm “a lovely sister of the conventicle” can do to any man.  I am sure
there is every probability that such an “unequal yoke” would do the
Country Clergyman’s temper a great deal of good.  But I cannot give him
any great encouragement, if he should _venture himself_ upon such a
speculation, _into the company of those of whom he has always hitherto
been horribly afraid_.  The sectaries, on whom he has laid such heavy
blows, will keep (I fear) their “lovely sisters” for priests of a gentler
nature and better breeding; and leave the Country Clergyman to whisper
his tale of love into some high-church ear, and to be as “equally yoked”
as Richard Hooker, {52} or any other country clergyman ever was before
him.

But though I can pardon in this “certain officer of the Society,” his
_hymeneal_ error (for matches, you know, Sir, are made in heaven), yet I
have no such allowance to make for those other transgressions, in which
he is, or ought to be, a freer agent.  “Perhaps (you say) he can resolve
us, how a clergyman of the church can attend the meeting-house, without
danger to his principles, or gross indecorum towards the church and its
spiritual superior.  He perhaps can show us too, how a clergyman of the
church can securely, and without breach of trust, take his pupils to hear
the harangues of those who daily revile her.  This, to common
understandings, does not appear to be the likely way ‘to banish and drive
away all erroneous and strange doctrines, contrary to God’s word,’ which
every clergyman at his ordination solemnly promises to do.  It wants some
clearing up.” {53}

There is really, Sir, no accounting for the fancies of some of our order.
Dean Swift was fond of vulgar manners, and therefore he would take his
dinner in a cellar; some clergymen love the sports of the field, and
therefore join the hounds at a fox-chase: I suppose this “certain officer
of the Society” has a sort of ear for public speaking, and has sometimes
stepped a little out of his way in order to gratify it.  But then (as you
might naturally say) are not the _theatres_ open for him, as well as for
his brethren; and if he wants a slice of good oratory, cannot he give six
shillings to a box-keeper, and take it like a gentleman?  _He_ may
perhaps have a doubt (for he seems to hold opinions of his own) “how a
clergyman of the church can attend” _the theatre_, “without danger to his
principles, or gross indecorum towards the church and its spiritual
superior.”  Perhaps also he may entertain a doubt “how a clergyman of the
church can, securely, and without breach of trust, take his pupils to
hear the harangues of those” dramatic characters, “which,” as Archbishop
Tillotson says, “do most notoriously minister to infidelity and vice.”
{54a}  Possibly “this,” to his understanding, may “not appear to be the
likely way ‘to frame and fashion himself and his family according to the
doctrine of Christ, and to make both himself and them, as much as in him
lieth, wholesome examples and patterns to the flock of Christ,’ {54b}
which every clergyman at his ordination solemnly promises to do.”  But I
think with you, that the whole of this matter “wants clearing up.”  I
have, I confess, some difficulty about conceiving how this priest can
execute either such, or so many duties as he is said to do, of a
parochial and domestic nature; and yet find either time to conduct his
pupils to hear the church reviled, or pupils tractable enough to be
conducted by him.  But, as I said before, the whole matter “wants
clearing up;” and if you should be found to have aimed a blow at his
professional character, which he has not quite deserved, you have nothing
to do but to say, as the Roman assassins are reported to do when they
stab the wrong man in the dark, “_Padrone è un sbaglio_,”—“I beg your
pardon, it was _a mistake_.”

Your last objection respects “the purity of the Holy Scriptures,” which,
you think, will be endangered “if the translation and edition of the
Sacred Book are to be intrusted to all the different denominations of
Christians.” {55}  The greater part of this objection has been
anticipated.  It has been already stated that the Society is restrained
to editing and distributing the versions, _printed by authority_,
throughout the united kingdom.  In supplying the different parts of the
European continent, the Society will find the versions already in
circulation among the Protestant churches; and its proceedings in these
cases will be chiefly directed by those Lutheran prelates and ministers,
with whom a confidential communication has, I understand, been already
opened, through the medium of its foreign secretary.  Nor can there be
any danger of the Bible Society intrusting “either the translating or the
editing the Holy Scriptures to the care of that denomination of
Christians called Papists;” {56a} for, besides the _improbability_ of
“that denomination of Christians” joining the Bible Society, there is the
absolute _certainty_, that there would always be in the committee a
_standing majority against them_.  With regard to _new_ translations,
they relate, as has been already observed, to languages, over which the
jurisdiction of the church of England would be as nugatory as that of any
other denomination of Christians.  The manner of conducting these must be
almost, if not entirely, matter of discretion; and such a committee as
the Bible Society has been shown to possess, affords the best security
that such discretion will never be wanted.  So far as the influence of
the church in these cases is of importance, she has it, by the natural
constitution of the committee; and if a preponderating influence be
desirable, the doors are opened for obtaining it by proportional
subscription.  Should she adopt this measure, as I trust she will, “you
see the consequences as well as I can.”  The Society will then contain,
beyond all question, _a standing majority in favor of the church_; and
there will be no room for apprehending that “our present pure English
Bible will be thrust aside to make way for others:” but while “every
different party has its doctrine and its interpretation,” all parties
will have but ONE BIBLE. {56b}

But, it seems, you have got possession of a fact which strengthens all
your fears: you have been “credibly informed that the British and Foreign
Bible Society are at this time preparing an edition of the Holy
Scriptures in the Welsh language, in which such liberties are taken in
the translation as are by no means warrantable.”  You are right in saying
you give this “merely as a _report_;” however, I cannot help suspecting
that, where the Bible Society, or any of its _officers_, are likely to
suffer by it, you have no particular objection to publishing what are
“merely _reports_.”  Others before you have charged upon the Society the
nefarious crime of taking “unwarrantable liberties with the
_translation_” and they had just as good authority for saying so as you
have.  The fact is, that _the original informer_ never imputed to the
Society the guilt of altering the _translation_, but the _orthography_ of
the text; and he, it must be observed, had never seen any portion of the
corrected copy.  But before your pamphlet left the press—perhaps before
it went there; the parties, to whom the information had been originally
conveyed, were in possession of another sort of _report_—a Report from
the Committee of the British and Foreign Bible Society; in which the
corrections that had occasioned this alarm, were shown to have been made
(whether right or wrong, _judicent periti_), upon a collation of the
orthographical variations, in the several _authorized editions only_.
However, the question between the parties is in a train of arbitration,
under the direction of the syndics of the Cambridge University-press;
_who_, and _not the Committee of the Bible Society_, are to be the
printers of the Welsh impression.

But lest the Welsh rumour should subside before the Society is
overthrown, you have another little story to keep up the public prejudice
against it.  “The author (you say) has likewise been _told_, that the
distribution of tracts as well as Bibles, was in the original plan of
some of the first projectors of this scheme, one of whom is known to be a
zealous adversary of the establishment.” {58a}  Now, Sir, it is very
possible that the original projector of this Society, and his project
too, may have been very exceptionable, and yet the present institution be
entitled to a very honorable character.  I have never thought the worse
of the Reformation, because I could not for the life of me think well of
Henry the Eighth and his “original plan.”  The “Philanthropic Society” is
founded upon a supposition, which I think a very just one, that something
may be made of the _offspring_, when nothing can be made of the _parent_;
{58b} and I suppose the Country Clergyman would rather have his pamphlet
judged from the _fair copy_ which he sent to the press, than from any one
of those “original plans” of it, which were projected by his busy and
inquisitive _reporters_.  The question is, whether the _actual_ plan of
the Society comprehends or excludes the distribution of _tracts_.  The
answer to this is, that the _first article_ of the constitution
peremptorily _excludes_ them.  After such a declaration, it is as
unreasonable to dispute the _present_ object of the Bible Society, by a
reference to any _antecedent_ designs; as it would be to question whether
the Paradise Lost be an _epic poem_, merely because it stood as a _drama_
in Milton’s “original plan.”

But I have done.—My business was not to proclaim the _excellence_ of the
Bible Society; but only to rescue it from _reproach_.  I have therefore
confined my remarks to those specific objections with which you have
opposed it.

What _further_ objections you could have produced (and, it seems, you
have nine times as many in reserve) {59} I shall not concern myself to
inquire: if they resemble those, which have been already considered, I
rejoice that you have had the grace to conceal them.  You have already
condescended enough “to do the enemy’s work:” and deserved sufficiently
well of those who seek the church’s degradation.  If this be _really_ the
object of the several denominations of Christians, they are abundantly
more indebted to the hostility of the _cassock_ than to the friendship of
the _mitre_.  _Yours_, Sir, is the description of services upon which
they will set the most value: and, if they do you justice, “not a single
nonconformist, Papist, Socinian, or Quaker, will be silent in your
praise.”—“Ungrateful wretches would they be, were they to pass by
unnoticed and un-eulogized so great a friend to their cause.” {60a}  But
I trust you have mistaken _them_, as much as you have dishonored _us_:
_they_ will hope to get to heaven, though they should not have pulled
down the church in their way; and _we_ shall hope to get there too,
though we should not have _compelled_ them “to be like-minded,” nor
refused them the free use of Bibles, and the offices of brotherly love.

And now, Sir, before I take my leave (a ceremony to which we are
hastening with mutual impatience), let me challenge your acknowledgment
of that courteousness and suavity with which I have treated you.  It was
natural for you to expect revilings and reproaches; you esteem them an
“honor;” you “have enjoyed them before;” {60b} and I must do you the
justice to say, that you take some pains to deserve them.  However, in
the present instance, you have been disappointed.  I have neither reviled
nor reproached you: I have not once called you “Beelzebub,” through the
whole of my letter: I have never once insinuated that you were a wolf in
sheep’s clothing: I have never once pried into the table of your
alliances, nor dodged you from your house to your favorite places of
amusement, nor pretended to know any more of your private history, than
was strictly consistent with “a gentleman and a Christian.”

I owe this self-government to “those liberal-basis’d and broad-bottomed
principles,” to which you appear so profound a stranger: and I trust,
this consideration will do a great deal towards recommending them to your
favor.  They are, Sir, be assured, the genuine principles of
Christianity, as well as those of the British constitution.  They are
calculated to reflect honor on the church, and to promote harmony through
the nation.  On them the British and Foreign Bible Society has been
erected; and from such an institution, resting upon such “a basis,” the
happiest events may, under God, be expected, to the country—to Europe—and
to the habitable world.

                             I am, Rev. Sir,

                                                      Your humble Servant.

                                * * * * *

                                * * * * *

                                 THE END.

                                * * * * *

                                * * * * *

                                * * * * *

                S. GOSNELL, Printer, Little Queen Street.



FOOTNOTES.


{1}  Address, p. 1.

{2}  Address, p. 1 and 2.

{3a}  Address, p. 16.

{3b}  This resolution was occasioned by the combination of the journeymen
printers, &c. against their masters.

{6a}  Address, p. 28.

{6b}  Ibid.

{6c}  P. 21.

{6d}  “History proves that none but _the church_ have enjoyed the
_splendour and favour of princes_.”  Address, p. 27.

{8}  Address, p. 5.

{9a}  Address, p. 32.

{9b}  P. 5.

{9c}  P. 6.

{10a}  Address, p.8.

{10b}  P. 9.

{10c}  P. 8.

{11a}  Address, p. 5.

{11b}  P. 7.

{12}  Address, p. 5.

{14a}  Address, p. 7.

{14b}  P. 10.

{15}  Address, p. 8.

{16}  Address, p. 8.

{17}  Address, p. 8, 9.

{19}  Address, p. 9.

{20}  Address, p. 16.

{21a}  Address, p. 11.

{21b}  P. 26.

{24a}  Address, p. 21.

{24b}  P. 12.

{26}  Address, p. 18.

{27}  Address, p. 13.

{31}  Address, p. 32.

{34}  Address, p. 11.

{35a}  Address, p. 16.

{35b}  P. 2.

{35c}  P. 16.

{35d}  Ibid.

{36}  It struck me suddenly at last, that your Lordship must intend by
these classical words, only what the vulgar would call “broad bottom.”
Address, p. 16.

{37a}  Address, p. 17.

{37b}  Ibid.

{37c}  P. 18.

{39a}  Address, p. 21.

{39b}  “Whose delight,” speaking of the Dissenters, “has always been to
clip the silver wings of the heavenly dove, and to pluck her golden
feathers from her breast.”  Address, p. 20.

{40a}  Address, p. 21.

{40b}  John, iv. 9.

{40c}  Gal. iv. 26.

{41} Address, p. 25.

{44}  It need scarcely be observed, that our virtuous Queen, and the
wives of her royal sons, were of the Lutheran church.

{45}  A church at Rome, called _San Pietro in Vincolis_, is said to have
been built in consequence of such a miraculous event.

{47a}  Address, p. 23.

{47b}  P. 24.

{48a}  Address, p. 28.

{48b}  P. 27.

{48c}  Ibid.

{49}  The reader, who is not acquainted with this part of ecclesiastical
history, must be told, that a bookseller, desirous, it is presumed, of
reconciling all “denominations of Christians” to the purchase of his
Christian “Ladies’ Pocket-book, for 1803,” took the liberty of
representing three ministers, respectively of the Presbyterian, Baptist,
and Independent denominations of Protestant Dissenters, and a prelate of
the established church, together with an union of hands, in the
frontispiece of his work.

{50}  Address, p. 22.

{51a}  Ephes. iv. 3.

{51b}  Address, p. 32.

{52}  Richard Hooker was prevailed upon by Mrs. _Churchman_, the wife of
“a draper of good note,” as honest Isaac Walton calls him, to let her
choose a wife for him.  “Now,” continues the pleasant biographer, “the
wife provided for him was her daughter Joan, who brought him neither
beauty nor portion; and for her conditions, they were too like that
wife’s, which is by Solomon compared to a dripping house: so that he had
no reason to _rejoice in the wife of his youth_, but rather to say with
the holy prophet, ‘_Wo is me_, _that I am constrained to have my
habitation in the tents of Kedar_’.”  Walton’s Life of Hooker.

{53}  Address, p. 32.

{54a}  Vide Archbishop Tillotson on the Stage (as quoted by Law).

{54b}  Vide Ordination Service.

{55}  Address, p. 32.

{56a}  Address, p. 33.

{56b}  P. 34.

{58a}  Address, p. 36.

{58b}  This Society provides for educating the _children of felons_.

{59}  “I have mentioned not a tenth part.”  Address, p. 35.

{60a}  Address, p. 24.

{60b}  P. 4.





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