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have to do with the Scriptures ? What a pity it is that the Bible is not locked up in the Vatican! But letting that pass, we find that learning to expound the Scriptures, is no part of the employment of the students :---six young men being expelled the University for reading and expounding the Scriptures.
What added to their guilt was, that they carried their religion to a private house. But what can private people have to do with religion ? Ought not they to do as their forefathers did ; namely, give up their consciences and understandings to the guidance of their venerable priests? Is it not enough that gentlemen in black know and understand religion, but every private person must be dabbling in it, contrary to the sense of this University? I wot, my beloved, that the clergy cannot thrive as they do, if every private house must become a worshipping temple; but it is thought there is little reason to fear this, seeing our text informs us, that the doctors of the University are determined to do what they can to prevent it; for six young men were expelled the University, for being religious in a private house.
VII. Another part of their crime was, that they held Methodistical tenets. The name Methodist, my beloved, is a cramp word, gathered out of old books, by men of reverence and learning, and applied to such who pray, read, expound the Scriptures, and sing hymns in private houses---a people never to be tolerated by the clergy. You'll observe that this same hard word which the nation has long rung with, first of all was given to the sons of Esculapius, as a name of honour, and about thirty years ago was, by learned men, raised up, as the witch of Endor (who seems to have been a clergywoman too) raised the ghost of old Samuel.
Those same sons of Esculapius were physicians, surgeons, and apothecaries in their day; but then they were quite immethodical, like the greater part of the old women in black prunella and white cambric. For instance, they had not the method of wearing large wigs, gold-headed canes, and of wheeling about the streets in their chariots. And with respect to their physic and surgery, they were guided chiefly by the dictates of nature, without the abstruse methods of art. At last, there arose a great man, and his name was Galen, a mighty man for dissecting of apes; for it ought to be observed, that in his days, in Pagan lands, there were very few criminals who deserved death, and fewer still who were given to the surgeons. Well, what should he do, think you? Why, my beloved, being blessed with better stars at his nativity than his predecessors, he took their confused and immethodical practices, and reduced them into method, i.e. form and order. Well, this great man being principal of the College of Physicians, he taught his pupils to observe orderly Tales, otherwise method, from whence his disciples were in
honour called Methodists. So much for learning; now for doctrine.
Then, my beloved, the case stands thus : Amongst the clergy, there always have been a great number who did not love praying, singing of hymns, reading and expounding the Scriptures; the like may be said of the students. What they aimed at, was a good living without much work; and as one in a certain place says, Those men care not if the devil take the flock, provided they have but the fleece.---On the other hand, there have been some who loved to pray, to sing hymns, to read, and expound the Scriptures; who, if they were not permitted to do it in public houses or churches, would do it in private houses, to the no small disgrace of the other gentlemen. Well, my beloved, these are they who have been called Methodists, fanatics, and enthusiasts. Now a word or two about their tenets, and then I dismiss this head : for really their tenets, being destructive of priestcraft, must by no means be encouraged.
First, and foremost, they think that a man ought to attest no article of faith, but what he believes to be true.
2. They think that a man ought not to profess to my Lord Bishop, that he believes all the thirty-nine articles of the established church to be the true faith of the gospel, when he secretly believes in bis heart that they are false and methodistical.
3. They think that a man should not profess to his lordship, that he is moved by.the Holy Ghost to desire the office of a deacon, when he is, in fact, moved with the hopes of a benefice, and considers it in his heart as a delusion and enthusiasm, for any man to pretend to be moved by the Holy Ghost in these days.
4. They think that after a man has subscribed to the thirtynine articles, and solemnly swore that he believes them, that he should not go and preach doctrines directly opposite to the said articles.
5. They think that no man ought to be permitted to enter the pulpit, whose life and conversation is dissolute.
These, with a great many tenets besides, equally ridiculous to maintain, and therefore, though tolerated by the king and parliament, the Heads of Houses will never endure them in the University. VIII. The
defended their doctrine by the thirty-nine articles of the established church.
I wot, I fear me much, that this doctor is himself tinctured with methodistical tenets; for nobody, nowa-day, besides Methodists, considers these thirty-nine articles of the established church as any test of doctrine: as for the clergy, it is well known that they are mostly dissenters from the doctrine of the articles and prayer-book. Ah! beloved, if the truth was known,
it would be found that this same doctor Dixon prays to Goa, and reads his Bible; or how else should he take part with those young men, whom the Heads of Houses expelled the University, for praying, reading, and expounding the Scriptures? Besides, he would not have spoken so highly of their piety and the exemplariness of their lives, as the text tells us he did, seeing the sense of the University was, that their praying, reading, &c. was vicious. I fear me, my beloved, that if the Heads of Houses do not keep a good look out after this same doctor, it will be difficult for them to keep the University clear from such as pray, and read and expound the Scriptures; but his motion was over-ruled. What is one Methodist amongst a host of divines?
IX. Dr., one of the Heads of Houses present, observed, that as these six gentlemen were expelled for having too much religion, it would be very proper to enquire into the conduct of some who had too little. From this part of our text, it appears, that the several crimes alleged against them, amounted in the aggregate to a being righteous over-much; which the learned Dr. Trap, of crabbed memory, has very piously shewn to be an evil, almost unpardonable. According to the Rev. Dr. Nowel's learned answer to that profane son of our Alma Mater, called Pietas Oxoniensis, it is evidently much more safe, and less impious, to ridicule the miracles of Moses and of Christ, than to pray in private houses without book. The eloquent orator of the University gives a full account of the case of Mr. W-----ng, a friend of his oratorship's, who was charged upon oath with the above said contempt of the Scriptures, and ridicule of the miracles of Moses and Christ. The proofs were so point blank against the said Rev. Mr. W-----ng, that his Reverence could not deny the charge. Well then, what was the issue? Was he expelled? No, my beloved: he was not expelled. Q. Why was he not expelled? Ans. His Reverence pleaded his being drunk when he uttered those contemptful words against the miracles of Moses and of Christ; i. e. The CANDIDATE for holy orders WAS DRUNK when he ridiculed revealed religion; and yet he got into orders. and yet he continues a member of the University! There is : vulgar proverb, indeed, which says, What a man thinks when he is sober, he speaks out when he is drunk.' Whether this is applicable to parson W-----ng, we pretend not to say; but this we are certain of, had the six Methodists ventured to pray to God when they were drunk, they had been expelled for it when they were sober.
But the sweet-spirited V---e C-----r, received Mr. W-----ng's penance favourably; and good reason why, for he was never charged by any body with the heinous crime of praying to God off book in private houses; or that would have ruffled the V---e Cr's spirit to the ejection of parson W------ng.
In the same affair, related by the Rev. Dr. Nowel, it is plain
that private religious assemblies, alias conventicles, are in much less esteem at Oxford, than tap-houses and taverns; for the six Methodists were expelled for praying in a conventicle, but the Rev. Mr. W-----ng could get drunk in a tap-house, and yet continued a member of the University. Nor can this be denied, unless the public orator should eat his words; otherwise shew from good and authentic records, that members of that learned body do occasionally get drunk within their own peculiar districts.
But let us pass on to the absurdity of this doctor's proposals, • To inquire into the conduct of those who had too little religion ; as if that should be deemed a crime ! Would this doctor have the colleges to stand empty, think you? But we learn that this motion was over-ruled; the V---e C-----r and Heads of Houses did not think proper to come into it; from which, after-ages will have a very respectable idea of the present piety of that learned body.
Thus, my beloved, I have gone through the first part of my plan, and shall proceed to the second.
II. Namely, to rise a notable point of doctrine from it; which is this, viz. That the conduct of the Heads of Houses in expelling the six young men for praying, reading, and expounding the Scriptures, is defensible, from the conduct of the clergy of all ages and countries, whatsoever snarling parsons may say.
To clear this, I shall produce four instances; most of which I shall take out of that old antiquated book, called the Scriptures; a book, which sets forth the true spirit of the University doctors to the
life. The first of these instances we have in the book of Daniel, chap iii, wherein some transactions of the doctors of the established church at Babylon are recorded ; concerning which I would make the following notes.
I. That the religion, by law established, was the religion of the golden image which Nebuchadnezzar, at the request of the clergy, made and set up in the plains of Dura. A place, my beloved, which, if we may give credit to travellers, very much resembles the plains of Oxford.
II. The clergy, who you know have always been very fond of a golden god, would by no means suffer an act of toleration to be passed in favour of methodists and dissenters; but on the contrary, got an act of parliament on their own side, enjoining the strictest uniformity in religion, and threatening death to all dissenters. It seems this prince was too easy; and like some of our former princes in England, was so much afraid of the clergy, that he was obliged to conform, and so espoused an act of uniformity, which the clergy hoped would bring good grist to their mill, verse 6.
III. This law established, the clergy were very impatient to
have the subjects of this great king brought to the test; which they thought best to do by appointing a public feast, on which it is required that every man and mother's son should fall down before, and worship this golden god set up by the king, as the tool of the
parsons. IV. That there were four degrees of learned men, whom, I suppose, dwelt in the University at Babylon. First, there were magicians with them, the same as doctors of divinity are with us in our Universities here: secondly, there were astrologers, or men of learned sciences, much the same with our Masters of Arts : thirdly, there were sorcerers, who, I suppose, were either Fellows of the College, or Bachelors of Arts, appointed to be tithe gatherers : and, fourthly, there were Chaldeans, or Students of their Divinity, and other fine arts :---And,
V. That all those gentry were very vigilant in discovering and informing against dissenters, verse 8. "Wherefore at that time
certain Chaldeans came near and accused the Jews. That is to say, certain young Students, being spurred on to it by their tutors, who cared not to appear in such a dirty affair themselves, and so forth, by which they appear to have been rather more honourable than the reverend tutor of E----d Hall.
VI. Strict as the law was, there were some who took upon them to pray to God, like those six young gentlemen who were expelled the University for praying. But what were they, think vou? why truly, they were dissenters and methodists; for they would not conform to the Babylonish prayer-book, and other forms of worship by law established, therefore were dissenters : and they were methodists, if praying to God, and refusing to pin his faith on the sleeve of the parson's gown, denominates a man a methodist. But what followed, trow ye? Why, as soon as they were found out to be non-conformists, the clergy accused them of rebellion; and had the king been as fond of burning dissenters, as their Reverences were, these men had in a trice been executed, without having another chance for their lives. But he was not quite so fiery, but gave them another trial, and strove to bring ihem over to the church by gentleness, intermixed with severity; the gentleness was his, and the severity belonged to their Reverences. But the methodists continued obstinate, and at last overcome the parsons. If you'll read the chapter through, you'll see the upshot of it, and how the doctors of the University were confounded, and the dissenters re-admitted to the king's favour; for God did work for them.
I pass on to the days of Darius, a prince who had a praying nobleman for his first minister of state, and, for ought I know to the contrary, he might be first lord of the treasury, as well as chancellor of the empire. His name was Daniel, and by birth a Jew. Well, my beloved, being so very great, he was grievously envied by the inferior placemen, though they kept it secret, and