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abuse, and consequently, criminal. We condemn all "impiety," and abhor " a cold insensibility to opportunities of diffusing happiness," as the worst of impiety. Your next accusation is, that, "even if we acknowledge these excesses and abuses as criminal, we do not condemn them as irreligious." We do so condemn them if the question is asked of us; but our language on this head is not so properly referable to our insensibility to their religious guilt, as to the cautions given us not to judge others with whom we have no special concern, with reference to religion. Every one feels himself guilty, more or less; and hence, all language, of the nature you would have us use, has, by a sort of tacit consent, been laid aside as improper and unsafe.
To Mr. WILBERFORCE.
CHAP. IV. § 2. 8vo. edit. p. 144.
Prevailing inadequate Conceptions of practical Christianity— Further Effects of Religion degraded into a set of Statutes.
HAVING assumed, like a true partisan officer, that our resistance to the exactions of your party, in the name of religion, is treasonable resistance to Religion herself, you naturally enough proceed to proclaim our disaffection, accusing us of "robbing her of her best energies, and degrading her into a set of statutes, which we look upon as abridging our natural liberty," (p. 145). You have made an argument for us as usual! Three out of the six
pleas, however, we would beg to decline as not ours, did we not thereby afford you a seeming advantage. Of the three last, one, of relaxation in practice, I have already explained in my last Letter; the other two are simple truisms, which neither of us would wish to deny until something is at
tempted to be founded upon them by the other. When you talk of dishonest shifts, you of course suppose insincerity, and insincerity I am not defending. I have a right to my interpretation of Scripture, as well as you have to yours. We may differ, but it does not follow that I therefore am wrong or you right. Look at the sect called Quakers. They interpret literally many injunctions in which you allow greater latitude. Who is right? How is the thing to be decided? You must say both are right, provided only both are sincere! If a Quaker were to write a book against you, putting into your mouth such arguments as you have assigned to us, and call it "dishonest shifts," should you allow yourself to be fairly dealt with? The most important enactments are defined and positive, but they generally apply directly, only to principals. Reason, however, bids us include in the spirit, all that in any way contributes to the action. He who commits a crime is condemned by the letter; he who abets it, by the spirit. You accuse us of, at one time standing out for the letter of an injunction, without admitting the spirit; at another, of admitting the spirit of it only, (p. 146). Of the first, I cannot call to mind one single example. Of the second, you might cite perhaps six out of ten of the injunctions of the New Testament. It is a pity you have not
given examples to define the charge you really contemplate. I suspect, however, that it would resolve itself into this, that where you seek to nail us with the letter, we contend for the spirit; and that where you drop the letter, and preach to us the spirit, we differ from you as to what is the spirit, and refer you to the letter, to shew, not that there is no spirit, but that the interpretation you would impose, is not fairly deducible. But to re
turn to our neglected pleas, (p. 145). The two first assertions you have made for us, viz. " Whatever is not expressly forbidden, cannot be very criminal;" and, "Whatever is not positively enjoined, cannot be indispensably necessary;" depend chiefly upon the value to be given to the words, expressly and positively. If these are to be understood to imply in "totidem verbis," certainly, whoever used them, was wrong, as I believe, in this sense, the abetting of any crime would not be "expressly forbidden." For the second, I must also meddle with the word "indispensably;" for the proposition being a sort of converse of the former, if you bind me to the indispensably, I can only answer by the converse, namely, the abstaining from abetting, or from any other crime, not expressly inserted in the Scripture catalogue. Allow me to modify the indispensably, and I may cite numerous particulars of charity, and other virtues, included
under general heads, and to which you certainly would not object. The third plea, (p. 145), " if we do not offend against the laws, what more can be expected from us?" I am constrained to reject altogether; it is saying, that Christianity commands no active virtues,-which not being our creed, this consequently cannot be our plea.
The next speech you do us the honour to make for us, (p. 146), is evidently the language of one deprecating what he thinks over-severe censure, but of what, you do not inform us. Although your begging your reader (p. 147) not to mistake this language for that of Christian humiliation, would imply sins of a graver order. If you mean us, in this extenuation, to be answering to a charge of that which is not "harmless and innocent," to extenuate adultery, drunkenness, swearing, and obscenity, as I suspect you do, we deny the fact of our designating them under the terms you put into our mouths! At all events, however, the wrong, whatever it be, is admitted, not defended! The question, however, of our degrading religion into a set of statutes, being assumed, you properly enough descant upon the evils arising from such degradation. But surely you are bound to prove so grave a charge! Let it not be forgotten, that you are here throwing this charge upon a large majority of the Church of England, clergy as well