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other things in that Act. And it is worth your knowledge, that so great was the zeal in carrying on this church-affair, and so blind was the obedience required, that if you compare the time of passing the Act with the time allowed for the clergy to subscribe the book of Common-prayer thereby established, you shall plainly find, it could not be printed and distributed so as one man in forty could have seen and read the book they did so perfectly assent and consent to.—But this matter was not compleat until the Five-mile-act passed at Oxford.Thus our church became triumphant, and continued so for' divers years; 'the Protestant Dissenters being the only ene- . mies, and therefore only persecuted; while the Papists remained undisturbed, being by the court thought loyal, and by our great bishops not dangerous, they differing only in doctrines and fundamentals; but as to the Government of the church, that was, in their religion, in its highest exaltation."
A late writer, however, has represented the ejected ministers as destitute both of learning and sense * Having censured the method of instruction from the pulpit from the time of Henry VIII. to that of Charles I. he proceeds as follows: “ Upon the downfall of episcopacy in the latter end of this reign, came in an unlettered tribe, who did not mend the matter at all. They did not indeed (for a very obvious reason) weary the audience with Latin and Greek quotations from the Fathers, but what they could they did; they ransacked the Bible from one end to the other for proofs and illustrations, which was an inexhaustible fund for ekeing out an extemporary effusion to any given length ; and an hourglass was placed by them, whereby to estimate the quantity of their labour. Their discourses were divided and subdivided, &c. and this indeed was the case, in a great measure, of their more learned
* Preface to Miscellany Sermons of several divines of the church of England in the last century, in 4 vols. 8vo.
decessors.—Those twelve years of usurpation, so far as one can judge from the printed discourses of those times, did not produce one rational preacher.”— These illiberal and unjust reflections, being thrown out by a dignitary of the church of England, and one distinguished as a writer in another capacity, ought not to pass unnoticed.
It is true, some illiterate men came into the church on the downfall of episcopacy, but it is unjust to style the body of them an unlettered tribe, or the sequestered clergy their more learned predecessors. It is certain that many who went out of the church, at the time referred to, were as illiterate as any
that came in ; and with respect to divinity, (the grand branch of pulpit-learning) abundantly more so ; for many of them could not make a sermon. It is also certain that many who came in were, in respect to every branch of literature, upon a full equality with any who went out, as were the generality of the Nonconformists who had always been in the church.s And why should it be thought otherwise ? They had the same advantages, being educated in the same universities, and their capacities and application to study were no way inferior. So that if they “ did not weary their audience with Latin and Greek quotations,” it was not for that reason which Dr. Burn
* So the Editor was stiled in the advertisements of the work, which is commonly ascribed to Dr. Burn, author of the Justice of Peace, &c.See Monthly Review for Dec. 1773, where the above passage is commended. A circumstance somewhat singular, as those writers have been generally disposed to chastize such high-church prejudice.
$ It ought to be remembered, (hut by many is unknown or forgotten) That the ministers ejected after the Restoration, were not all of them such as came in during the usurpation : far from it. Considerable numbers of them had been in the church long before; had been educated in the universities, and several had received episcopal ordination. Many of them also were averse to the usurpation, and had warmly espoused the royal cause. Some had even suffered for it, and were among the most zealous for the Restoration. This may serve as a sufficient answer to a letter, severely reflecting on the ejected ministers as having no right to be in the church and therefore justly expelled ; signed J. Watkins, which first appeared in The Churchman's Magazine, No. 4, and was reprinted in The Gentleman's Mag. for August 1801.
thinks very obvious, but because they were more solicitous to answer the great ends of preaching, than to display their learning. That they could have done this in the manner it is said their predecessors did, sufficiently appears from their writings, which as much abound with Latin and Greek quotations as those of any in their times; and many of them give sufficient evidence of their general acquaintance with the Oriental languages.
That“ they ransacked the Bible for proofs and il lustrations" of what they advanced, does not seem greatly to their dishonour; therein they acted, at least, as much in character as those preachers who ransack heathen moralists, or more commonly English
poets and stage-plays, and who scorn to quote a scripture-passage after they have read their text. If some of these ministers preached ertempore, they did what many of their successors could not do; and they were full as pardonable as those that never preached at all, but were obliged only to read a Homily. The assertion however is not generally true. Many of them carefully composed their sermons, of which numbers were printed from their notes; though they preached memoriter, as most foreign divines do.' And others had their minds so well stored with ideas on divine subjects, and took such prevãous pains to digest them, that they could produce discourses equally worthy the pulpit, with those of the majority of their later successors, whether they deliver their own compositions, or adopt the kind provision made for them by a Trusler, an Enfield,
§ No reflection was here intended on Dr. Enfield, whose superior abilities as a sermonizer are well known. But that gentleman, who was then a Reviewer, was so much offended with having his name introduced in this connection (though he had lately printed sermons with the same design as the other two) that he thought proper to chastize the editor by giving a very disparaging account of tbe Nonconformist's Memorial, in the Monthly Review. This
information was received from late candid Dr. Kippis, hinself then a writer in that journal, who meutioned the fact in the strongest terms of disapprobation. It ought bow
or a Burn. It should also be remembered that Whichcote, and other episcopal clergymen, preached without notes, though not without study; which certainly is no disparagement of any one, but more worthy a christian minister than the mere reading a sermon like a school-boy: a custom which in many foreign churches, buth popish and protestant, would not be tolerated. Many discourses taken in shorthand, after both Presbyterians and Episcopalians of that period, have long since been printed ; and those of the former * will bear a comparison with those of the latter.—As to the length of their sermons, and the number of divisions in them, the Dr. himself acknowledges this was a fault common to both parties. If the use of an Hour-glass was a crime, it was not peculiar to the puritanical clergy; and it was used in many country churches long afterwards.
This learned writer's closing reflection deserves peculiar animadversion.—“ Those twelve years
of usurpation, says he, so far as one can judge “ from the printed discourses of those times, did not “ produce one rational preacher.” If he uses the term rational in that irrational sense in which some have used it, the truth of the assertion will be admitted ; but this can hardly be supposed, from the complexion of the discourses which he has republished. If by a rational preacher he means a solid, judicious preacher, his impartial readers will think, either that party-zeal has perverted his judgment, or that he has never seen the principal of the printed sermons of these authors. The censure indeed extends farther than the writer meant it should. Does not Dr. Burn know, that many of the preachers, and some who were even promoted, in the time of
ever to be added here, that the variance which this affair occasioned between Dr. Enfield and the Editor, bad subsided long before that respectable gentleman's lamented death; and the circumstance would not now have been mentioned, had it not been to shew what caution should be exercised in relying upon the decisions of Reviewers. * See particularly. Howe's Sermons published by Evans and Fletcher.
the usurpation, were such as afterwards made a distinguished figure in the church of England, and were among those who (as he expresses it) “ laid a foundation for a glorious superstructure in the sticceeding period ?" viz. such men as Reynolds, Wilkins, Lightfoot, Cudworth, Wallis, Tillotson, &c. Will he not allow these to have been rational preachers ? The discourses of some of these very men appear his own Miscellanymor will he say they became rational after the usurpation ceased? But the blow was aimed at the Presbyterians and Independents. And will this writer seriously maintain, that there was not one rational preacher among these? Did he never hear of a Bates or a Hore? Their works have been esteemed by “dignitaries of the church of England,” as both rational and learned. And it is well known that they, with several others of their brethren, (after “ the twelve years of usurpation,") had the offer of high preferment in the established church. Their being so conscientious as to refuse it, is surely no proof that they were unlearned or irrational. Dr. Burn differs very widely in opinion from some of those very clergymen whose works he has reprinted, who expressed
a high idea of the abilities, as well as the piety of these men, and whose own strain of preaching much resembled theirs. Had the Dr. fairly read, as he professes to have done,” the printed discourses of those times,” he had spared his illiberal reflections. It would be no difficult matter to select four volumes of discourses from the writings of the Nonconformists, which should discover as many marks of learning and rationality, as those contained in his miscellaneous collection.
Dr. § It is readily confessed, that there were many preachers and writers greatly inferior to those referred to above; and doubtless some miserable trash may be found among the publications of those times, which Dr. Burn may probably have met with. But is it equitable to form an estimate of all the rest from these speciinens? May not some equally contemptible performances be picked up among the writers on his own side?