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might expose the absurdity of those unrealities, of which, had they attended to John, the advanced rays of Divine light would already have shewn them the futility.
Once more, Sir, be comforted as to your, believe me, very unnecessary fears for Christianity. Its influence is "extensively diffused," varying perhaps in form and language, but "not varying matter of substance," from that which you yourself would preach.
To Mr. WILBerforce.
CHAP. VII. § 1. 8vo. edit. p. 328.
Practical hints to various descriptions of Persons.
It is with pain and reluctance that, following you thus from page to page, as the style of your book compels me to do, I find myself under the absolute necessity of adopting a tone of recriminative remonstrance so uncongenial to the subject of Christianity, and so apparently improper from a younger man of no religious pretensions whatsoever, towards an elder so justly celebrated as yourself. But I have undertaken the task, and must do my duty, fighting you with the weapons of your own choosing; and, if I err in the using of them, I trust every candid reader will admit, that my error is rather on the side of moderation.
You commence your seventh chapter in a tone so extremely arrogant and offensive, and at the same time so absurdly unjust, that it is scarcely
possible to answer you with civility. Be it remembered, that these professed Christians you are speaking of, comprise, at least, four-fifths of the upper classes of the Church of England, clergy as well as laity, indeed, though not ostensibly; yet the main brunt of your insinuations throughout the book, are directed against that large majority of the clergy who do not conform to what you are pleased to term, par excellence, real Christianity; but which, at best, can only amount to your opinion of the manner in which they should understand, preach, and practise Christianity. I must begin by negativing each of your assumptions as you put them, leaving our respective assertions to be judged of from your book, and my remarks upon it in the foregoing Letters.
I affirm, that whatever defects you may have pointed one in our practice, a task unfortunately far from a difficult one, you have proved none in our religious system, nor have you proved that we have other religious system than that of the Church of England itself. You have not proved us to entertain any "low idea of the importance of Christianity in general," nor any "inadequate conceptions of all, or any, of its leading doctrines;" nor that the laxity of our observance of its practical system is the effect of any such inadequate conception. Neither, "more than all," have you proved
upon us any "grand fundamental misconception of the genius and essential nature of Christianity." The difference between us (a majority of the Church of England) and "true believers," is, therefore, nothing. The difference between us and other true believers, can be no other than trifling, as to be a true believer implies believing in essentials. It can then only be a difference of forms and speculative opinions, and cannot be, and is not, " of the very substance of religion." Our Christianity is Christianity, neither " wanting radical principle," nor" deficient in any grand constituent." It is yourself, Sir, who are deceived by names and high-sounding words, the meaning of which you think it sinful to investigate. Take the beam of prejudice from your own eye, and you may see more clearly to remove whatever may encumber our sight.
You now give us some pages of very good preachment upon self-examination for certain individuals, in accordance with the title of the section. individuals as you allude to are certainly to be found, and will do well to attend to your excellent advice. Here you stick to your business, and I have little or no objection to make. But I must say I think you are a little over severe in making it, as you do, a sort of crime to approve of any degree of amendment whatsoever: (p. 333). If
more is expected of elder than of younger people, and more is found, surely, though it may be no great merit, and I wish not to put it forward as any, yet still it is amendment, and, as far as it goes, must be so far good. As for your favourite plan again hinted at here, of requiring society to act the inquisitor upon the belief and secret practice of each and every of its members, where outward decency is observed, I cannot think it desirable; and you yourself, after a long discussion, admitted as much in a former part of your book. I do not mean that the clergy should not warn generally in their sermons, as indeed they do, or privately, where occasion requires, and opportunity offers, of doing so effectually; nor that parents should not look to their children, as for the most part they do. But that in society, we should judge charitably of our neighbour, and remain satisfied, at all events, with external decency, because, were we to do otherwise, the ill effects of such inquisition would speedily outweigh the good.
What you say of the actual practice of society, (p. 335), although doubtless it might be proved against too many individuals, is altogether unfair as against society in general, either as a direct charge, or as a representation of its opinions. Parents among us, in general, neither do neglect, nor are indifferent about the morals and religion