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PROTESTANT SOCIETY FOR THE PROTECTION OF RELIGIOUS LIBERTY.

[Continued from page 195.]

The following Resolutions were moved and seconded by the Rev. Mr. Smith; Rev. Mark Wilks; Mr. Young; Mr. Fcrner; Rev. Wm. Ecclcs; Rev. J. Hunt: Rev. Mr. Townsend; Rev. Mr. Dunn; Mr. Walker: Mr. Townsend; Rev. Mr. Reynolds; Mr. Evans; Mr. R. H. Martin; Rev. Mr. Gilbert; Rev. Mr. Russell; and Rev. Mr. Curwen.

I. That this Society, composed of members of the Established Church, as well as hundreds of congregations of Protestant Dissenters, again express their unabated uevotedness to the cause of religious freedom in England, and throughout the world; and again declare, that they esteem the right publicly to worship God, according to the conscience, to be a right which the sincere and wise never can concede, and which it is nnjust, impolitic, and impious to infringe.

II. That every new demonstration of the importance and utility of " The Protestant Society for the Protection of Religious Liberty," occasions regret and gratitude; and, that while this Meeting annually celebrates the success of the Committee, in exposing or resisting wrongs, they deplore the intolerant spirit whence those wrongs originate, by which such unabating efforts are required. That they now lament the continuance of attempts to assess places of religious worship to the poor: to extort turnpike tolls that have been repealed; to disturb by offensive j"iots, religious worship protected by the jaw; to withhold the rites of interment from the dead; to enforce assessed taxes that are not payable, and to deprive the < onscientions poor of all relief.

HI. That this meeting regard the Test and Corporation Acts as laws which no necessity could originally justify, and for which no practical necessity now.exists, and as measures producing disgust and •grief to pious churchmen, and degrading to millions of Britons, equal to any of their countrymen in cultivated talent, in public virtue, in patriotic zeal, and philanthropic usefulness, and therefore earnestly desire their speedy abrogation: and that whilst this meeting approve the conduct of their Committee, in declining to concur in any application to Parliament during the remainder of the Session, they would invite liberal Episcopalians and Dissenters of all denominations, and the Wesleyan Methodists, to prepare, by temperate, but firm and simultaneous efforts (as soon as a new parliament shall be elected), to obtain their total and long needed appeal.

IV. That this meeting lament the rejection of the Unitarian Marriage Bill, not only as a refusal of just relief, but as an indication of the existence, amongst high authorities of a potent spirit, hostile to liberal principles—a spirit hopeless to propitiate, and difficult to overcome. But that their regret is mitigated by their perception, that this spirit does not influence persons in such elevated situations as the Right Rev. the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and the Bishop of London, and the Right Hon. the Earl of Liverpool: and that to those distinguished personages, as well as to the noble Whig supporters of the Bill, this Meeting offer, for their more enlightened and more liberal conduct, their public and most cordial thanks.

V. That this meeting are deeply affected by recent events in the British Colonies, especially such as are connected with the loss of the Missionary, Mr. Smith, all circumstances relating to whom they are anxious to see earnestly and thoroughly investigated; that they are assured ofthe vast individual, local, and national advantages that have resulted from the disinterested and holy labours of Missionaries in those distant regions; and that, by experience, they are apprehensive thaf ecclesiastical establishments may discourage those labours, may retard improvement, and may impede the progress of civilization and Christian truth; and that they therefore approve the purpose of the Committee to petition Parliament against all needless restrictions on religious worship in the West Indian Isles; and direct their Committee to watch, with the greatestcaution, every measure by which the interests of Protestant Dissenters, and the cause of religious freedom, may be assailed in any part of the British Empire, now widespreading over so many realms, and so many millions of the human race.

VI. That this meeting desire that some measnres be speedily adopted, whereby the baptismal registers of Protestant Dissenters and Methodists shall be rendered as availing as the parochial registers of the Established Church, and whereby their numerous Baptist brethren should have some valid register of births, and be no longer subject to those peculiar oppressions to which they have been so long and cruelly exposed.

VII. That although this Society have not hitherto opposed grants of public money for the erection of new churches connected with the Established Church; yet, as they are convinced that the vast wealth of that Church supplies resources sufficient for all such purposes, as such buildings are frequently erected without necessity, and converted into means of individual gain; as themselves, at their own charges, erect and uphold all their religious edifices, and support their ministers, and jet contribute equally with their countrymen to tithes, church-rate, and all the charges of the Established Church; and as Episcopalians, would freely erect such edifices if the privilege of presenting their own Ministers was not withheld. This Society now specially instruct their Committee to oppose any further grants for those purposes, and pledge themselves strenuously to co-operate lor the prevention of the Increase of burdens which ought not to be imposed.

Mil. That the judicious, energetic, and well-directed exertions of the Committee for this Society, during the past year, merit continued confidence and unabating praise, and that they be requested to form the Committee for the ensuing year.

IX. That to Robert Steven, Esq. their Treasurer, the meeting present their sincere as well as accustomed thanks, and that he be requested to continue bis efforts

'for religious freedom, by those useful labours for the improvement of Ireland, which tend to the greatest usefulness, and have been rewarded by great success.

X. That this Meeting cannot adequately express their high estimation of the indefatigable, intelligent, and disinterested labours of Thomas Pellatt, Esq. and John Wilks, Esq. the Honorary Secretaries to this Society, and that they be respectfully invited to continue their labours through another year.

XI. That this meeting cannot separate without renewing their warmest assurances of sincere attachment to the Right Hon. Lord Holland, their noble Chairman, and

.that they rejoice in another opportunity to declare, that his uniform attachment to .civil and religions liberty, and his wise, liberal, and consistent conduct have obtained, as they have well deserved, their grateful confidence and profound respect. Lord Holland rose, and spoke nearly tp the following effect:—Gentlemen, the Reverend Gentleman who moved the last resolution, of which you have been pleased .thus to signify your approval, assured you that he did not propose it merely pro forma. I do not take, let me hope, too much vanity to myself, in believing that, from the manner in which you received it, you wish to convey not a mere ordinary acknowledg■mentj but the expression of your sincere satisfaction. Permit me to assure you in return, that the satisfaction and gratification with which I preside here to-day are not mere words of course. It is not in words of course I express delight at the sentiments I have this day heard, and in the association of the men who now surround me. I am not so insensible of taste, of the display of genius, and of the beauties of composition, as not to have heard with pleasure and delight the speech which he delivered, and to have felt the force and justice of the principles which he inculcated on the minds of the meeting; but,1 Gentlemen, whilst I express my delight at what I have seen and heard, it was not,

let me assure you, either the prospect of good speeches, or the gratify ine expression of vour good opinion towards me, that induced my attendance here to-day. No; it is because I feel this Society to be of the greatest importance—it is because, as the friend of civil and religious liberty, I approve of the principle ofits foundation. It is more particularly from the signs of the times, from what is passing abroad and at home, as well as both in and out of Parliament, that it strikes me as peculiarly incumbent on the friends of civil ana religious liberty, to unite in firm aray, and form into compact and resolute coubinarion. I will not detain you long. I will then proceed, and advert to the objections which I have elsewhere heard against meetings such as the present, it has been objected to such a meeting as the present, that although it induces pathetic statements—although it developes inter esting facts, yet for what purpose are those facts and statements made aud adduced? They are treated as petty vexations, as little arrogances, as jealousies arising from the suspicion and envy of one sect against another, and not as real cases of persecution. It is said that they are not sufficient causes for us to unite; but to those who speak thus I say, in the first instance, " let them come here and hear." Secondly, I'say that they who are not persecuted themselves, nor in a situation to suffer persecution, are not the moat competent judges to determine how far the persecution of opinion is or is not persecution. True it is, that we do not now. as formerly, hear of imprisonments, and burnings, and torture, in punishment of opinions. And why is it not so? Because Englishmen meet and discuss. It is to our vigilance in little things that we owe our exemption from persecution in great; from our resistance to oppression in every form, that we are not visited with it in its worst and most formidable shapes. This Society had its origin in an attempt to interfere with the Toleration Act. That Act is liable to many objections -} it was not founded on the broad basis of the code ■ laid down by Bishop Wilkins. However, it attempted some good; it conferred at least some practical benefit; and a successful opposition to the interference with that Act is among the {jood consequences that flowed from the institution of this Society. Though that Act gave somethioi;, it did not give sufficient; it was said to confer practical religious liberty, but that was a term of which I do profess I do not understand the exact import. By practical liberty, I presume, is meant not the full possession of freedom, but the enjoyment of liberty by sufferance, and that is a liberty with which, I am sure, no man wit be content and satisfied. Liberty is that which a man possesses by his own right: he does not claim it from, or owe it to toe indulgence of another; and of all specif' of liberty, the right of private judgment is that to which a man is most entitled, anfl with which it is most a crime tp interfere,

PROTESTANT SOCIETY—LORD HOLLANDS SPEECH.

225

it is, of all points of public and political consideration, the peculiar one in which facb individual in society should enjoy that full and perfect freedom which Mr. Locke oppropriately terms "Just, equal, and absolute liberty." We should continue to persevere in the course in which we are now engaged, until the triumph of that principle be achieved; until the recognition of it be attained; all is not attained with which you ought to rest satisfied. It is not that I would recommend you to be insensible to the advantages which you have already arrived at. They are many, and the Toleration Act which secures them is not an Act with which we should be too anxious and ready in picking and taking exceptions to; on tlie contrary, it is my opinion, that much gratitude is due fori that Act, and to the men who succeeded in carrying it, for it was carried at a time when the difficulties were great and nnmerous, and at a time too not very favourable to acts of liberal policy. But though the Toleration Act did much, yet it aid not accomplish all, and the freedom of opinion was not yet complete. It was necessary to pass an Act of Indemnity for those who differed in opinion from the doctrines of the Established Church; this made free opinion, not the enjoyment of a fight, but the exemption from punishment. The cases of the churchman (I am a churchman myself) and the Dissenter were widely different. The churchman had 1ms opinions protected and defended try law he had a positive right to entertain them: not so the Dissenter, he did not hold and avow his principles by the right of opinion, but by a pardon in his pocket; he was told he was disentitled to think for himself, and that he owed the privilege of entertaining his own conscientious conviction to the clemency and the kindness ■a if cnurcnrrian> and that to him he was indebted for exemption from condign punishment. Was it nothing that a man should be thus taunted for his opinions? Was it nothing that a man should be thus graded for believing and entertaining those doctrines and principles from which *»• mind could not but revolt? Wasitnothing '"at a man should be lowered in the scale °t national estimation, for a line of conduct which deserved not the dis-esteem, but which claimed the admiration, the honour, and the praise of mankind. It was not a sufficient excuse to say, that acts of outrageous oppression are not now committed. It should be remembered how nearly oppression was allied to insult. Shakspeare, the great master of human passions, next to

** The oppressor's wrong," in the classification of words, ills, and human calamities, had placed

** The proud man's contumely." —And sorry am 1 to perceive the Church of England seek, as a means of defence, to place Dissenters in a degraded situation, or adopt as a mode of security, against those who may differ from her doctrines, a .denial of natural rights. It is because I Vol. x.

am anxious for the security of the Church of England, that 1 think this degradation of others most impolitic and unwise. It is with these sentiments that I readily accepted the invitation which I received at the end of last week, to attend this meeting, with a view of testifying my approval of its principles; principles which I feel to be honourable to the best sympathies, and inseparable from the dearest rights of Englishmen. I agree with my honourable friend, Mr. Wilks, that there is a power somewhere which overcomes the opinions of Right Reverend Prelates, and of Ministers, and even of leaving the Prime Minister (Lord Liverpool,) even where a Prime Minister is very seldom to be found—in a minority. For the Prime Minister of England I have a very sincere and high respect: I stand with him on terms of private friendship; and although at variance with him on political questions, I must admit that he brings great abilities, great information, and great force of argument to the description of the question. Perhaps, on the occasion to which I Hlude, I maybe of opinion that he was more eminent ia the contribution of these resources than he usually is from the very rare and singular circumstance of my agreeing with him. I valued his co-operation much, not only on account of the talent he possesses, but also on account of the majority which usually declares in favour of the side on which they are exercised; and without meaning any thing unhandsome of the Noble Lord, I must say, that on a national benefit I w ould prefer to have the majority on my side than even his talents. However, on the question of Unitarian Marriages, it was my fortune to have my preference reversed, and to have lost the former, although I bad the advantage and support of the latter. Let not, however, a partial discomfiture induce this Society to abate in their efforts for the accomplishment of the wise and useful purposes they have in view; and I repeat, that there are in the aspect of affairs, both abroad and at home, renewed and augmented inducements for the steady maintenance and support of the principles which distinguish and characterize this Institution. Men will and ought only be contented with the full enjoyment of freedom of opinion in religious matters. I do not approve of the fine-drawn distinctions which sonic persons make between Iiolitical power ana persecution; the absoute and unrestricted possession of political power is not to be recognised; the real possession of power alone is to be valued— but circumscribed with conditions, and encumbered with restriction, itdegenerates into persecution. If the persecution be for religion, it is aggravated in a tenfold degree, for it becomes a persecutiop of conscience. I will advert to one topic more into which I am the more induced to enter, as none of the Reverend Gentlemen who preceded me dwelt upon it—the stability of the Established Church. This, to be sure, is a topic to tvhich I am not at all 1 surprised they have not adverted, for it is 2 G

not their business to look, after it. But as I am myself deeply interested and anxious tor its stability, I may be permitted to say, that in my opinion its stability is best guaranteed and provided for by the diminution of the restrictions which it plates on other communities—for in proportion as those restrictions are found necessary, in the same proportion will people be persuaded that an endowed Church is altogether unnecessary. For 'tis clear to a demonstration, that inasmuch as any institution relies not on its own merits and services, but fences itself round with penalties, and restrictions, and exclusive privileges, in the same degree will the support of public opinion be withdrawn ffom it, in the same degree will its claims to respect be questioned and doubted; and as the hardships it imposes for its security increase, so will a confidence in its benefits diminish. In supporting this Institution, I am not, and cannot be understood to be the espouser of any particular opinions, or the approver of the tenets of one set of men or another, but simply to be the advocate of the broad principle of the right of every person to judge for himself in matters of religion. The extent to which I may carry this principle may exceed that to which others may go—at least we would all extend it to all classes of professing Christians, and by Christians I would understand all those who make the Sacred Writings the rule of their faith, and the regulation of their conduct. How those should be dealt with who denied the Sacred Writings altogether, is a question beside the purposes of the present meeting, and one into the consi/ deration of which I shall not therefore enter. But all those who believe and acknowledge the Sacred Writings should be embraced and regarded within the pale of Christianity. It is not religion, nor charity, but blasphemy against the very nature of religion, for man to persecute his fellow-man for worshipping his God according to the suggestions or his heart, and the dictates of his understanding. It is not piety, but presumptuous arrogance, that prompts those who interfere between man, and the dispensation of his Creator's mercy'towards him. I see many here today who differ with me, and who differ from each other on very important points of religions belief; and if such difference should be the cause of mortal enmity between us, what security can there be for human happiness? If a want of accordance in opinion constitute a ground of persecution of nature, the best and dearest bond of society must be dissolved and rent asunder. What right has anv State to control the opinions of its subjects? The State unquestionably possesses a right to judge of men by their conduct, and of opinions by their truits; but it has no rational right to infer criminality, or impose penalties, for the mere entertainment of opinions which are locked up in the breast of a man, and cannot be forced from thence, because those opinions may or may not happen to be in exact accordance with the

majority who compose the State itself This is a state of freedom which we should have long since reached, but to which we have not yet arrived. Until we shall have arrived at this perfection of freedom, every means should be resorted to, and every constitutional combination be encouraged, that can contribute to the accomplishment of an object so just, politic, and needful.—The Noble Lord then bowed to the meeting, and retired.

At these meetings no collections are made. By the request of the Committee we state, that donations are needed, and may be transmitted by post to the Treasurer, Robert Steven, Esq. Upper Thames Street, or to either of the Secretaries, Thomas Pellatt, Esq. Ironmonger Hall, or John Wilks, Esq. Finslmry Square, to the latter of whom applications should be addressed. From each congregation in England the annual contribution expected is two pounds, and from each in Wales one pound. The subscription became due at Lady-day last. Country ministers or their friends will always be received with pleasure by the Committee at their meetings, at Batson's Coffee House, Cornhill, at half-past six in the evening precisely, on the last Monday in every month.

CONTINENTAL SOCIETY.

The A nniversary Meeting of this Institution was held at the Crown and Anchor. Before twelve o'clock the Great Room was completely filled, chiefly with Ladies. At a few minutes after twelve Sir Thomas Baring, M.P. was called to the Chair. The Hon. Baronet said, that before he called upon the Secretary to read the Report, he would take the liberty of saying a few words with respect to the character and nature of this Society. He was happy to see so numerous and respectable an assembly, because it was a most convincine proof of the augmentation of the cause, and the increasing good opinion of Christians at large. In this Metropolis there was more of happiness and misery, more of real vital religion, and vice and profligacy, than in any other city in the world. It was therefore, natural, that those who were on the Lord's side, should, feel excited to promote spiritual welfare among others: it was owing to (his feeling that various Institutions had been formed for the promulgation of the Gospel at home and abroad; but among them all, there were but few of more importance than the present—none had had more difficulties than this Society, and none had done more in so sbort a period and with such slender means. It had been originally formed bv a small band of followers of Christ, who, though of different denominations, yet were enlisted under one commander, the Chief Captain of our salvation. If it be praiseworthy to foliow the foe into the most d istant regions, they should take care not to leave the enemy in the rear, but to attack the great

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enemy of mankind in this strong hold on the Continent, where human learning was at its height, while spiritual knowledge had nearly sunk to its lowestebb. It had been the object of the Society to do this, and the Report would relate to the Meeting how satisfactorily.

The Sixth Annual Report was tl^en read to the Assembly. It stated that they were universally successful on the Continent—in the Netherlands their teacher was succeeding in his efforts, and the Peasants were * thankful to this Institution for its exertions —in the North of France likewise they were going on prosperously—in Paris, though there were no public preaching, yet the Society had it in contemplation to purchase a house for an evangelical rallying point—at Bayonne the Gospel had been preached both to French and Spaniards, and several works had been translated into the Spanish language—in Germany there had been an extensive success, particularly in Berlin and along the Northern frontiers of Upper Germany—at Geneva and Berne, in Switzerland, iri spite of the persecution established, there were some hopes of prosperity. The Society employed on the Continent 2G Ministers and Agents, and at Hamburgh, where one of their Agents was placed, he informed them, that though his audience at first had been but six, it now amounted to 250, and he had not room for all that were willing to come. Their expenditure had unfortunately exceeded their income, but they did not despair of not only clearing themselves, but of being enabled, by the subscriptions offered in a good cause, to carry on their exertions. Mr. Scott, the Treasurer, then proceeded to read a statement of the accounts: from England had been received £881 5s. 9d.; from Scotland, £761.8s.7d. ; from Ireland, £100; from Spencer Pcrcival, Esq. £25., making a total of £l,7GT 14s. 4ds., while their expenditure had been £1,902 Is. 4d.

Mr. Drummoml had been requested to move—" That the Report now read be received, adopted anil printed under the direction of the Committee." He was happily enabled to bring forward the testimony of a Gentleman, more informed than himself, in witness of the accurracy of the Ret port. The Gentleman to whom he alluded was Mr. Daniel Wilson, in whose published letters he had been struck with the following accounts. Previous to reading which he would beg to observe, that Protestantism and Catholicism on the Continent were very different from the same terms here. In the course of this work he observes, that" A human philosophy applied rashly and presumptuously to religion is the poison of German Divinity among the Protestants; endless refinements,imaginations, corruptions of the faith, tending to scepticismorarhesim. Thingsaremending, but it is incredible what daring impieties are currently received: thus unbelief stands more fatally opposed to the Faith of Christ than even superstition." And further on, he continues. " I am sure we have little idea in England pf the state of things

abroad. We amazingly overstate the comparative amount of good effected by our Societies; the world is dead in trespasses and sins—vast tracts of barren Protestantism, or unfilled and fruitless Popery stretch all around us." In speaking of Zurich, he says, " I am quite grieved to say that my impression of the present state of real religion in this Canton is not so favourable as its former celebrity would lead one to expect. The clergy of the town, meeting the magistrates and gentlemen at a club once a week to smoke and talk politics; these are not promising symptoms." With respect to Guers, an agent of this society, he observes, " with immense difficulty I have found a translator well skilled in English, accustomed to literary occupation, master of a good style, and of the same sentiments with my author." And further on of the same person,'* I have been threeor four hours with my chief translator. He is eminently an amiable, pious, sensible, scholar-like young man; but dejected, feeble in health, and of a tender and perhaps somewhat scrupulous mind." Qf the necessity of Continental Societies he thus speaks, " Speaking of Van Ess, let us pray that many, many such Catholic professors may he raised up in every part of the Continent, and the traditions of men will fall away of themselves-" There is one class of persons in Catholic countries whom I compassionate from my heart. They are not sunk in superstition, nor have they imbibed the piety of true disciples of Christ; but having been educated during the Revolution, having acquired a general boldness and liberality of sentiment, see through much of the mummery of Popery, detest the spirit and aims of a worldlyminded priesthood, are disgusted at the revival of the Jesuits, the opposition to the Bible Society, the resistance to education, the disturbance and removal of the most pious and worthy pastors and professors, the persecution of the Protestants, &c. And yet they are not in earnest enough about religion to take a decided part; the objections of infidels dwell upon their minds, the fear of reproach prevents their quitting the Roman communion; there is nothing in the Protestanism they are acquainted with to shew them a more excellent way. Thus1 they gilde down the fatal stream with others, dissatisfied and unconverted. These are persons to be won by the friendly conversations of true Christians, to be invited to read suitable br.oks on the evidences and nature of true Christianity, and to follow and obey the truth." With respect to the agents of the Society, he knew that many of them had been blamed for their imprudence, but it should be remembered under what very difficult circumstances they were placed : we sent Missionaries indeed further; but even in those distant countries they did not meet with half the difficulties that were to be found on the Continent: the agents, he had no doubt, were most strenuous in their exertions for the interests of the Society, and it was not for the Meeting to cavil a,t

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