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Art? V. An Historical Inquiry concerning the Principles, Opinions, and Usages of the English Presbyterians; chiefly from the Restoration of Charles the Second to the Death of Queen Anne. By Joshua Wilson, Esq. 8vo, pp. 256. London, 1835.

'T'HE rapid conversion of English Presbyterianism into that ambiguous and skulking heresy, Modern Unitarianism, is a

Ehenomenon which deserves a more attentive examination than it has yet received. It is true, that Independency has gained the ground which Orthodox Presbyterianism has lost; and the Author of "Spiritual Despotism" tells us, in language which seems to bemoan the calamity, that 'the English Dissenters have fallen 'from Presbyterianism to Congregationalism;' that is, they have fallen upwards, and expanded from a decaying sect into an energetic and powerful body. But there is one part of Presbyterianism,—an external part, indeed, yet essential to its existence, for it has never been able to stand its ground without it,—which has not shared in this transformation; and that is, its endowments. These remain as a monument of the Presbyterian faith and piety of former centuries; and so long as they survive, the name of Presbyterianism is immortal. It is true, the original family line is extinct, but the name goes with the estate; and Unitarianism is, for all the purposes of trusts and endowments, as orthodox as the Assembly's Catechism or the Thirty-nine Articles can make it. We all know that there are titles dependent upon feudal tenure: in like manner, so long as any parties hold Presbyterian property, can there be a reasonable doubt that they are thereby constituted Presbyterians?

But certain parties, not content with this undeniable proof of their title to the name of Presbyterians, wish to make us believe that they hold substantially the same creed as their pious predecessors, and that 'the two bodies of Presbyterian and Congre'gational Dissenters were, at the beginning of the last century, 'opposed to each other on the same essential points' on which modern Independents and Unitarians are now opposed. The truth or falsehood of this statement can be determined only by an appeal to existing documents. Accordingly, Mr. Joshua Wilson, to whose zealous and indefatigable labours the Dissenting public are under numerous obligations, has here presented to us the result of a careful examination of books and pamphlets written by eminent English Presbyterian divines, during the period in question, which seem to place beyond all reasonable doubt the fact, 'that the English Presbyterians, from the Revolution to 'the death of Queen Anne, adhered, from conviction, to the or'thodox faith professed by their predecessors during the Long 'Parliament.'

Apart from all litigation respecting the rightful claim to trusts and charities, this inquiry is one of deep interest, as it affects the memory of the venerable founders of that once flourishing community of Christian Professors, and as it bears upon the religious history of our own country. Mr. Wilson's Inquiry is prosecuted by the patient labour of citation from a mass of documents. The most numerous extracts are from the works of Richard Baxter and Dr. Daniel Williams, both of whom took a prominent part in the affairs of the Presbyterian body. But various public declarations of faith, and the Heads of Agreement assented to by the United Ministers of the two denominations, in 1691, are adduced to disprove the representation, that the doctrinal sentiments of the Presbyterians were at that time at all approaching to those of Modern Unitarians. The assertion that they held 'a modified Arminianism,' Mr. Wilson thus meets.

'I shall now produce a passage from 'A Defence of the Doctrine and Discipline of the Church of England,' containing also an attack on Dissenters, by Dr. William Nichols, published in 1715:—"If we consider the different phrase and method of their prayers, some being Calvinistical, others Arminian; though we could think the Holy Spirit would descend to the singularities of these theologists, yet we must not charge him with such contrarieties and clashings as they are guilty of." The learned James Peirce, in his Vindication of the Dissenters, published in answer to the work from which the above is taken, thus animadverts on this vituperative passage: "Who, I pray, are those Armenians amongst us? Our author, perhaps, here meant the Quakers, or some of the Anabaptists. But if we will speak the truth, the Arminians themselves are hardly Arminiaus in offering up their prayers to God."

'Can any person suppose for a moment, after reading this passage, that the Presbyterians, any more than the Independents, or those called "Particular Baptists," were at that time Arminians?

• But to place the matter beyond the possibility of doubt, I will quote a passage from Dr. Calamy's "Brief but True Account of the Protestant Dissenters in England," first printed at the end of a sermon, published in 1717=—

'" But notwithstanding these, and some other such differences among themselves [on the mode of Church Government and Baptism] they generally agree in the doctrinal Articles of the Church of England, (which they subscribe,) the Confession of Faith, and larger and smaller Catechisms, compiled by the Assembly of Divines at Westminster, and the judgment of the British Divines at the Synod of Dort, about the Quinquarticular Controversies." '—p. 101.

One of the earliest avowed Arminians among the Presbyterians, was the celebrated Dr. George Benson, who was ordained at Abingdon in 1723. It must be recollected, that Arminianism had long been fashionable within the Establishment; and that Dissent received the infection both of that system and of Socinian

ism from the Episcopal Church. A Mr. Thomas Newman, who became assistant to Dr. Wright, at Carter Lane, Doctor's Commons, in 1718, and was afterwards pastor till his death in l758, ‘was probably,' Mr. Wilson states, 'the first Dissenting minis‘ter who defended the doctrine generally indicated by the phrase, 'the innocence of mental error, which had been broached in 'this country by Dr. Sykes, a clergyman of the Church of Eng‘land in 1715.' We cannot attempt any abstract of the mass of materials which Mr. Wilson has here brought together. The pamphlet is not deficient in either perspicuity or arrangement; but it would have been far more readable, had Mr. Wilson divided it into sections, and indicated, by head lines, the points which the citations are meant to substantiate. It would have been worth while, also, to have furnished an Index or Table of Contents. He has amply made out his case; but the reader, after going through the whole, will still find it difficult to tax his memory with the details, and will feel at a loss for want of a judicious summing up of the main features of the evidence.


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*,* This publication is intended to disprove the assertions contained in several pamphlets relating to Lady Hewley's case.


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