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Definition of the terms Cant and Saint
CHAP. VII. § 2. 8vo. edit. p. 357.
Practical hints to various descriptions of Persons-Advice to some
WILLIAM WILBERFORCE ESQ.
HAVING accidentally seen advertised, in a newspaper of 1829, a work entitled "A Practical View of the prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians in the higher and middle Classes of this Country, contrasted with real Christianity, by William Wilberforce, Esq.," curiosity prompted me to send for the book, which I then found was in its seventeenth edition. This certainly makes it rather late for me to remark upon its contents, especially as I have let slip the moment1 following this last edition. But as I am unable to hear of any body having undertaken the task, I must venture to come forward, even thus late, in vindication of
1 Although I bought the book in 1829, the idea of noticing it never occurred to me until the summer of 1830.
that portion of the Church of England, to which I profess myself as sincerely attached as you can be to that minority, whose cause you so sedulously advocate throughout your work. My vindication, Sir, cannot, alas! be of that of which in most instances you actually do accuse us-imperfection of practice this were vain! But my vindication is of that of which you profess to accuse us-opinion; for this is what you profess to treat of.
Whenever any sect of any religion is large enough to comprise a national Church, the actual general practice of that body of people, must, in the nature of things, be very defective, when contrasted with the strict literal precepts of the religion they profess; and the imperfection of their practice can never form a fair argument against that religion, but when contrasted with other bodies of people of different tenets, under the same circumstances. Upon such wide scale we may judge with some degree of fairness of two systems that vary in their foundation, or essentially in the superstructure built upon the same foundation. We may contrast the spurious and evanescent civilization produced by Mahommedanism, with the more solid and permanent civilization of Christianity. We may contrast the intolerance and exclusiveness of the Church of Rome, with the professed and actual greater tolerance of Protestantism in general,
as the effects of the doctrines peculiar to these Churches. But if we see a drunken Mahommedan or a robber Christian, we must not charge these things as errors upon their respective creeds. If the Persian attributed the drunkenness of the Turk to his different opinion of who was first Caliph, or the Protestant the rapine of a Papist to his deification of the Virgin, we should laugh at him. Whether in the Koran or the Gospel, these things are forbidden alike to all sects of their followers. you, Sir, have not scrupled to collect and enumerate every possible crime and imperfection that can be rife among any body of Christians, in disobedience alike to the tenets of every sect but one that ever called themselves Christians, and to charge them upon our tenets. Your complaint against which, all the while, is, that they are not sufficiently assimilated to the one exception I have alluded to, those you, in the course of your work, describe as abusing the doctrines of grace. Do not let me be misunderstood; I do not mean to deny that all the evils you describe exist, nay, are more or less tolerated amongst us. But what I do deny is, that they are the effect of ignorance or misconception of our religion. This may seem like pleading guilty to more than we are accused of. Be it so! Let us be guilty of that of which we are guilty, but not of that of which we are not guilty.