Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

the consequence of the blessing of Heaven upon the assiduity and faithfulness of the preacher and the ingenuousness of the hearers!

At the half-yearly assembly of the Protestant Dissenting ministers of Devon and Cornwall, at Exeter, May 7, 1788, Mr. Kenrick delivered a discourse, which, at the request of the respectable body of men to whom it was principally addressed, he afterwards made public: it is entitled, "An inquiry into the best method of communicating religious knowledge to young men;" and the preacher soon began to carry into effect, within the circle of his own connections, those plans of systematic and regular instruction the necessity and importance of which he had ably illustrated in his sermon. The assistance and patronage which he experienced in these efforts for the advantage of the rising generation his own words will clearly describe. Speaking of the interval between May 1788, and November 1794, of two courses of lectures, which he had delivered, within that time, upon the plan stated in his discourse, and of the concurrence of Mr. Manning, one of his colleagues, with him in these views and labours, he adds †,

"The good effects which I have seen to arise "from these few trials have confirmed me in the

* Acts xvii. 11, 12. + Preface to Address to young men, &c. p. 4.

C

"persuasion I before entertained that it is the most "convenient and efficacious method of communicating the fundamental principles of religion to "that class of persons for whose use it was in"tended; and encourage me to pursue it."

[ocr errors]

Nor can we be surprised that he met with progressive countenance in this beneficial undertaking. Diligent, punctual, familiar and perspicuous as a lecturer, he secured the attention and esteem of his classes, and was essentially instrumental to their improvement in the knowledge and spirit of religion. By means of his influence and exertions a congregational library was provided for their use; and they constantly gave proofs of their attachment and gratitude to their affectionate instructor. Of the materials and reasonings of some of his lectures a judgment may be formed from a few of them which have a place in the second volume of his Dis courses*.

Early in 1792 he published a sermon which had been delivered on the preceding fifth of November, and which he entitled, "The spirit of persecutors exemplified; and the conduct to be observed towards their descendants." This subject and his application of it had evidently been suggested to him by those memorials of bigotry and intolerance which he had recently perceived at Birmingham.

Nos. xxvii. xxxiv.

Accordingly, in the preface he makes some just and ánimated strictures on the riots which have fixed upon the name of that town an almost indelible disgrace: and in the discourse itself he paints the guilt and evils of persecution in lively but faithful colours. Some extracts from this sermon, which has now become scarce, will enable the reader to judge concerning its reasoning and spirit.

*

"In what manner," asks our author, " are we "to act towards those who practise or encourage "persecution,-who are guilty of calumny, robbery, ❝ murder, and of every species of cruelty, or insti66 gate others to these actions, under pretence of "serving the interests of religion? Shall we praise "their conduct as deserving the name of a becom"ing zeal for God? This would be to make our"selves partners in their guilt. To be silent only " in such a case is to be criminal.-To suffer men "to be guilty of all kinds of violence, without "public censure, through fear of incurring their dis"pleasure, is to abandon the world to the un"controuled tyranny of the wicked, for the sake "of our own personal security. It is they who "practise, not they who condemn, persecution, "who are to be regarded as the disturbers of the "public peace: the exertions of the latter are the "effort of virtue against vice, of justice against " oppression, of a generous philanthropy in behalf " of the rights and happiness of the human race, in

pp. 22, &c.

"opposition to those who have leagued together to destroy them. Such endeavours deserve to be "commended and encouraged by all the friends of peace, virtue and religion-We cannot be too "watchful in guarding mankind against the odious spirit of persecution, nor express ourselves too "strongly of its evil tendency. Those who regard "it as a light evil, undeserving of notice, are utter "strangers to the history of the Christian church. "The genius of persecution is a savage monster, "that has devoured millions of the human race; "if but the print of his feet are seen again, it is "time to sound the alarm, and to call upon all who "value the peace of society and the credit of the "Christian religion, to unite their endeavours for "his destruction; and blessed is that hand which "God shall furnish with strength to give him a deadly wound. To behold his ravages upon "others with unconcern, and not to attempt to stop them, least we should irritate him to attack "ourselves, discovers a degree of timidity and "weakness which is not only highly dishonourable, "but which may likewise prove fatal to us, and "become the cause of those evils we are endeavour"ing to avert; for as this monster possesses not a

very discerning spirit, if he be suffered to roam "without molestation, he may at length vent his fury upon those who have studied to avoid pro"vocation by the most pusillanimous submission."

The following sentiments are not only extremely

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

just and important in themselves, but strikingly applicable to the state of things at the present

crisis:

"Our next inquiry is, how we ought to behave "towards the Roman Catholics of the present day. "Not, surely, by inflicting upon them the evils "which their ancestors occasioned: By injuring "them in their persons or property, or depriving "them of any of their civil rights: That would "be to return evil for evil, which the precepts of "the Christian religion prohibit. Guilt is a per"sonal thing, which cannot be transferred from "one to another. Every one is answerable for his "own offences alone, and not for the offences of "those over whom he has no influence, whether

they be his ancestors or descendants. For this "reason, all those laws which render any class of "citizens subject to severe penalties from one ge"neration to another, for the crimes of their pre«decessors, are unjust: since they proceed upon "this principle that the sentiments and dispositions "of the mind are hereditary, descending from fa"ther to son, and that they must remain unchange"able in every succession of men; a supposition "which is evidently contradicted both by experi"ence and observation. Where individuals or a "body of people have been guilty of any crime, "let them be punished for it; but let not that "punishment extend to their children, who may "be entirely innocent, The propriety of this li

« VorigeDoorgaan »