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it was enhanced by the fact, that I was not long to enjoy his intercourse. But for two precious years I did enjoy it. I was employed as teacher of the school in my native village, and lived and studied in the house of
my birth. I was my parent's companion at home, and in his visits abroad. I read with him the most important books in my preparatory studies, and we conversed familiarly on all topics of theology and morals. Happy and profitable were those days! when I was permitted to cheer the declining path of him who gave me birth, at the same time that I was drawing from bim treasures of ministerial experience, to guide me after he should be departed!
(To be Continued.)
Dr. Chalmers on the Progress of Infidelity and Heresy.
[We have been requested to insert the following letter in the Christian Pioneer. It appeared lately in “ The Scotsman” Newspaper. Dr. Chalmers bas for some time past, been playing the knight-errant in behalf of doctrines and practices which are alien to the spirit of the times. His former statement, when south of the Tweed, that on the stability of the Church of England, depended the existence of Christianity among the people, and that if she were despoiled of her wealth or her power, religion would be swept from the land, was not more strange for a Presbyterian to utter respecting a system, which he once characterised as “ black Prelacy,”—than his assertion at the Edinburgh Presbytery, that “ heresy” « would disown the Great God in his ascendancy over the management of human affairs," is opposed to reason and to fact.—Edit.] SIR,-In your
Dr. Chalmers is reported to have said at a Presbytery meeting, in discussing a motion for a general fast, that "it was not the burnings in Kent it was not the disturbances in Ireland-it was not the beavings abroad, that foreboded judgments on the land; but it was the fearful symptoms of rapid infidelity reaching to our high places—it was the rapid march of irreligion and heresy which would disown the great God in his ascendancy over the management of human affairs.” If this report of Dr. Chalmers' speech be correct, I would ask whether the Doctor has considered the nature of the
charge which he has brought against men in high places; the magnitude of it, and the inferences which the enemies of religion may have it in their power to draw from it? It is difficult to suppose that he has done so; and as his authority is high with men of all ranks and persuasions, it becomes important to point out the real import and tendency of his accusation.
It has been the fashion with vulgar theologians, and with men who care nothing for religion, but who hate freedom and reform, to represent the founders of the London University, the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, and every individual who advocates the necessity of instructing the mass of the people in human science, as infidels, and promoters of infidelity. Does Dr. Chalmers mean to countenance this disgraceful prejudice, by speaking of “infidelity reaching to high places?" Or does be refer to the “ laugh" excited in the House of Commons by Mr. Percival's proposal of a general fast as a remedy for the distresses of the country, and on it found a charge of infidelity against that august assembly? It cannot be true, that men of high talent, of great attainments in knowledge, of active philanthropy, of wealth, and political influence, who, by these combined advantages, have reached to high places, have there displayed themselves to be infidels, otherwise the conclusion would naturally suggest itself, that the National Creed must be defective, when it is not in harmony
with minds so gifted and cultivated-an inference which Dr. Chalmers and the friends of the Church will be the last to admit.
This is the real result of the charge; for the infidelity of such men, if admitted to exist, would indicate either that the creed which they have deserted is unsound, or that high natural endowments assiduously cultivated by the study of the works of creation, tend to set the mind in opposition to true religion-a doctrine which, although advocated by some theologians, will be disavowed by all practical Christians and men of sense. If it were true that men in high places are really infidels, Dr. Chalmers should not lose a day in moving for a committee of the General Assembly, to inquire and report in what points the National Creed has fallen behind the spirit of the age, and of what amendments and corrections it stands in need. The fact which he announces, if founded in truth, will by most men be received as conclusive evidence of its deficiences. I bave been told that a motion of this kind was actually contemplated in the time of Robertson and Blair, but deferred on account of the breaking out of the French Revolution. It ought not now to be delayed a day.
Farther, if it be true that “infidelity has reached to our high places,” it is in vain for Dr. Chalmers to expect to keep it out of low places; for if knowledge has made infidels of statesmen and philosophers, which he insinuates, but which is not admitted, it will soon produce the same effect on the people, for it is rapidly extending itself among them.
These conclusions are probably the opposite of those which Dr. Chalmers would wish to be drawn, but they appear to follow inevitably from his premises.
In Spain and Austria there are comparatively few infidels; but there is also little knowledge. In France and the United States, and, according to Dr. Chalmers, in Britain also, infidelity abounds, and these countries are the most enlightened in the world. Knowledge and faith thus appear to exist in an inverse ratio to each other; but in the former countries the religious creeds of the people are notoriously disfigured by error and absurdity of human invention, and if Dr. Chalmers' assertion were supposed to be correct, I would fear imperfection in ours also.
Another point deserving the serious attention of Dr. Chalmers, is, that on every sound principle of reason, the clergy are chargeable with every falling off in the people from the truth. The clergy have for ages enjoyed the advantage of infusing their precepts authoritatively into the minds of the young. Their doctrines have been upheld not only by all the weight of revelation and reason which could be adduced in their support, but by positive legislative enactment, for they have been declared to be part and parcel of the law of the land. They have been protected also by penal statutes from all rude assaults from the press. They have been fostered by the countenance of government, and the moral influence of the opulent classes of the community. Finally, the clergy have been endowed with independence and uninterrupted leisure, and, aided by all these advantages, their great duty bas been to maintain their creed, and lead the people by means of it, to happiness and virtue. If they themselves seriously announce that infidelity is widely spreading, and that it has seized on the highest members of society, I see no alternative but to conclude, either that the doctrines are not suited to an advanced state of knowledge and civilization, and cannot be supported by any talents or influence, which none will admit, or that the clergy have grossly neglected their duty, in permitting a true creed, thus fortified and supported, to be endangered by error and infidelity. There is no other example in the history of the world, of truth, so assisted, falling before error.
These remarks proceed on the assumption, that Dr. Chalmers is correct in stating, that infidelity has reached, or is rapidly reaching to high places. If this is not the case, the Doctor committed a most serious mistake in making the charge, for the effect of it will be to excite prejudice in the minds of the pious and well-disposed portion of the community against philosophers, and against the diffusion of knowledge, as leading to infidelity; and this will widen the breach between the different classes of the people, and tend to produce the very anarchy which he so anxiously deprecates.
The views which I have stated, form the current topics of conversation in society at present. I have observed, that many persons who express them warmly among laymen, are less open in their remarks in presence of the clergy. This is wrong, because if the sentiments are generally circulated, it is a dereliction of duty to the clergy to conceal from them their existence. He who warns a man when danger is approaching, is a true friend; and it is in this spirit that I have written, and now request you to publish this letter.
I am, &c.
The celebrated lexicographer, Dr. Samuel Johnson, was a member of the Church of England. He was not more distinguished for his learning than for his bigotry. His conduct towards a young female, who, from having belonged to the Establishment, joined the Society of Friends, presents as fearful an instance of infatuated intolerance as can be conceived. No one could question ber sincerity, for her father on being acquainted with her changed faith, informed her, that she might choose between an hundred thousand pounds and his favour, or two thousand pounds and bis renunciation, as she continued a Church woman or commenced a Quaker;" and nobly resolved to obey God rather than man, she chose comparative poverty rather than violate her conscience. Many were the reproaches and mortifications she had to endure, and amongst the greatest, was that of Dr. Johnson's displeasure. The following conversation points most clearly the contrast between the spirit cherished by Church Establishments, and that inculcated by pure and undefiled religion. Rejoiced should we be, could we believe that that exclusive and antichristian spirit had died with Dr. Johnson. But it still exists, obstructing the interchange of the kind offices of social intercourse, converting the smile of friendship into the scowl of enmity, and marring the aspect of religion by the sternness and rancour of fanaticism. Our readers will recognise, in the following conversation, an example of bigotry too similar to those by which many of them bave been assailed, to doubt for a moment that it really occurred. They will learn from it, as well as from their own past experience, the duty of exerting all their efforts to uproot the doctrines and the institutions, which encourage such outrages on that charity which is the end of the commandment, whilst, at the same time, they pity the victims of superstition, and manifest their sympathy in their melancholy condition, by showing in their own lives and conversation, that they follow a more excellent way. We take the conversation from Miss Seward's letters:
It commenced with Mrs. Knowles saying, “I am to ask thy indulgence, Doctor, towards a gentle female to whom thou usedst to be kind, and who is uneasy in the loss of that kindness. Jenny Harry weeps at the consciousness that thou wilt not speak to her."
“ Madam, I hate the odious wench, and desire you will not talk to me about her.” “ Yet what is her crime, Doctor?”
“ Apostacy, Madam; apostacy from the community in which she was educated.”
“Surely the quitting one community for another cannot be a crime, if it is done from motives of conscience. Hadst thou been educated in the Romish Church, I must suppose that thou wouldst have abjured its errors, and there would bave been merit in the abjuration.”
“ Madam, if I bad been educated in the Roman Catholic faith, I believe I should have questioned my right