« AnteriorContinuar »
verted into the absurd and idolatrous sacrifice of
The invocation of the Holy Spirit has nothing in common with popery, and appears not only so harmless, but so solemn, so appropriate, and so truly primitive, that its omission is much to be lamented.
The Non-jurors were so far from holding sentiments in common with the Romanists, that they were its most powerful opponents, by taking away the authority of antiquity and tradition, upon which the Romish church rests it pretensions; and it will ever remain a proof of their inflexible firmness and sincerity, that they who continued to profess allegiance to an exiled monarch, and to maintain opinions which were branded with the odious appellation of popery, were the same who had stood forth to oppose the encroachments of popery and arbitrary power, when that monarch, in the full possession of authority, sought to exercise the one and establish the other.
The opinions which have caused divisions and separations in the church pass away after a time, and are forgotten, while the essential doctrines of the Gospel remain unshaken. But the names of the principal Non-jurors were too eminent to be easily lost, and the opinions which they asserted are so interwoven with the principles of our church, and the nature of our constitution, that they deserve not only to be remembered, but to be carefully studied. Those with whom the name took
its rise lived at one of the most important periods of our history; and the questions on which they were called upon to decide were of that difficult and delicate nature which demanded great knowledge of fundamental principles, great accuracy of discrimination, and great foresight as to their practical consequences. They had to distinguish, and to establish by their conduct the distinction, between the allegiance which was due to the sovereign, and the higher authority of Him by whom kings reign. It was their business, also, to guard the throne from dangers arising from the claims made by the subjects; and, whatever might be the character of him who at that time possessed kingly authority, to take care that the authority itself suffered no injury. With respect to religion, they were to steer cautiously a middle course between opposite extremes, the extremes of the Romanist and the Dissenter; of a superstitious attention to forms and tradition on the one side, and a disregard for all ecclesiastical authority' on the other. They had to direct the public mind, as far as lay within their sphere, not only to general principles, but to the various shades and differences which continually arose; and it must be observed, that a period like that in which they lived is the season in which opinion is likely to be set loose, and to form new inventions. Many and great were the difficulties which were to be encountered, and among those who were put forward upon this occasion, were persons of uncommon ability, learning, and piety. If such men fell into errors, they were errors which deserve to be attentively weighed; for the best principles with regard to church and state, may be involved in them; they were not the errors of the enthusiast or the deceiver, nor the errors of such as broach new opinions, or of such as consent to follow blindly in some long established course. These were men of unquestionable learning and unimpeachable integrity, of exalted piety, and sound loyalty, and distinguished for all the charities of life ; of courage to oppose the arbitrary will of the sovereign, and the equally arbitrary desires of the people ; discriminating carefully between that authority which, under the form of an established church, the government of a country can bestow, and that which they had received according to the appointment of God. But the circumstance peculiarly worthy of remark is, that the principles which they held were fundamental principles of our church and constitution ; they professed obedience to a king governing according to law, and denied the mischievous opinion of the right of resistance in a subject. In respect of religion, they looked to Scripture as the rule of faith, and to the primitive church as its best interpreter; and upon that church and our own reformers, they kept a steady eye, for direction in the controversies which arose, and in those many and various points
of discipline, and of rites and ceremonies, which our great Head has left to his church to decide. Whatever may be thought of the conduct of the Non-jurors in particular instances, or of the manner in which they applied the principles which they maintained (points upon which there may
be much variety of opinion), the principles themselves will be had in honour by all sound members of the church of England ; and at this distance of time, when the controversies which then took place are regarded with considerable interest, and with greater impartiality, their names and opinions have, perhaps, acquired increased respect.
By the death of the excellent person, the mention of whom has occasioned these remarks, the succession of the Non-juring clergy, by English ordination, was brought to a close. The death of Prince Charles, in 1788, put an end to political differences; and the points in debate on religious topics were not of sufficient importance to prevent an union, where the validity of the ordinations in the established church was not disputed. There were very few, therefore, who continued in a state of separation after this time. Mr. Bowdler, one of whose leading maxims through life was contained in the word moderation, while he admired the principles of the Non-jurors, and held their memory in great veneration, was never disposed to follow them to the extent to which some of them carried those principles : be communicated conscientiously with the established church, and continued through life devoted to its service; but he retained through life a solemn feeling of regard for the memory of those whom he had loved and honoured; he exercised charity towards some poor members of Mr. Gordon's congregation; and his regard for the English Non-jurors had no small influence in producing the strong interest which he afterwards took in behalf of those who were similarly situated in Scotland.
The spring of the year 1784 brought with it the decease of Mr. Bowdler's eldest sister. A volume of poems and essays, printed after her death, has made her name so well known, that a short account of her may not, perhaps, be uninteresting. She was born on the 14th of February, 1743. Her countenance, which was always pleasing, had, in her childhood, some pretensions to beauty, which were much injured, at the age of sixteen, by the small-pox. Her disposition was gentle and sedate, and the turn of her mind was thoughtful. Both in her family, and in society, she was inclined to be retired and silent; yet cheerful, obliging, and willing to be obliged. In her younger years she displayed no remarkable talents, unless they were an unusual portion of good sense, and a facility in acquiring languages. The season of adversity, according to the merciful dispensation of Providence, exercised and displayed those powers which otherwise, perhaps, had, in a great measure, lain concealed, even