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respective disputants, than on the amount of truth which may be elicited by their discussion. For the future, I propose that each number shall contain a well-digested summary of the events of the past month, religious, political, and social, with such comments thereon as may be deemed necessary; and I hope, occasionally, to furnish the subscribers with carefully translated extracts from such works of foreign authors as may not be within the reach of ordinary readers, and appear calculated to serve the cause to whose interests the 'Eclectic' is devoted. I also hope to enlarge the department usually assigned to 'Brief Notices, in order that a more prompt attention may be given to all valuable works which may be forwarded for criticism.
In conclusion, I can only say that my dearest object, my holiest ambition, in connexion with my labours as a writer, is to vindicate the divine claims of Christianity, and hasten on its emancipation from the bondage of the State,—to assert the claims of humanity, whether those claims assume a political or a social form,—to defend our old landmarks of faith against the encroachments of a philosophy falsely so called,' -in fine, to do my humble part in assailing error in theology, -in maintaining right and truth in politics,—and imparting vigour, manliness, and heroism to Nonconformity! Such are my objects; and may He 'without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy,' qualify me for my work.
THE PROPRIETOR AND EDITOR OF THE ECLECTIC.
ART. I.- Protestant Nonconformity; a Sketch of its General History,
fc. By John Angell James. London: Hamilton, Adams,
and Co. This work will be perused with the deepest interest by all wellwishers to the sacred cause of Nonconformity—that cause which has educated for noblest labours some of earth's noblest sonswhose history beams with the records of a heroism the memory of which can never die. The main object of the author has been to trace the rise and progress of Nonconformity in the town of Birmingham, and he has accomplished his task admirably, whether we refer to the amount of information which the work contains, or to the impartial and generous spirit in which he refers to sects whose opinions are at variance with his own.
The 'Sketch of the General History of Nonconformity,' which forms the first part of the work, though very brief, and, of course, a mere outline, will supply the reader who has but little time to master volumes, with a true idea of the means by which a dead conformity was superseded by a living nonconformity, and men were baptized in the fire of that heroism, preparing them to become the martyrs of their age, rather than its hypocrites and slaves. Nonconformity has produced its crop of heroes, who imparted to the cause of spiritual freedom its power and dignity, and bequeathed the principle consecrated by their self-devotion untainted to the future. And it is well that
the young mind of dissent should be familiarized with those chronicles in which the memory of their brave and truthful ancestors is embalmed, for the lives of such men are the true teachers and inspiration of their successors they dictate a kindred heroism to the soul of posterity-from the record of their struggles and sacrifices peals forth the imperious command, •Go thou and do likewise.'
Nothing can be vainer than the supposition that the manliness and unbending consistency which men honour in the world's martyrs, are purely eccentric qualities, demanded and developed by the exigencies of stormy times. The man who in times of comparative peace, when the din of battle is hushed, and the sword of the persecutor is exchanged for seductions of patronage, and acts of toleration—the Nonconformist who believes that because the advancement of generations has broken the old weapons of sacerdotal despotism, and the meeting-house is no longer the ante-court of the gaol, there is, consequently, no call for energy, courage, and self-devotion--that martyrdom has become a purely traditionary thing, and that active persecution can only be regarded as the horrid scourge of days gone bysuch a man lays to his soul a flattering unction which must rob his influence of vigour and beneficence, undermine his moral power as an asserter of the spirituality of the Redeemer's kingdom, and render Dissent, so far as his character is concerned, a mere amiable nonentity, a kind of lifeless negation, having no real connexion with the progress of principles, the triumph of which is essential to the purity and ascendency of the gospel over the devices and corruptions of unregenerated humanity.
The spirit of which martyrdom was the sublime offspring is a necessary element of EVERY age, for without it a leaden formalism, and blind reverence for lifeless conventionalities of thought and action, take the place of that firm-hearted individuality, which renders each man 'a living soul,' in the highest sense in which the inspired language can be interpreted, and qualifies him to play the part of a Christian missionary, asserting truth and assailing falsehood in his own sphere of action, however small or humble such sphere may be. Conformity to the demands of fashion, dislike of all active antagonism to reigning evils -trimming, tampering, smoothing down, or passing over obnoxious points of abstract principle-carelessness in reference to the views of truth which some see reason to pronounce extreme-these are the symptoms of the moral complacency, the indolent, timid, compromising spirit of hosts of men who venerate martyrs, as their blood-stained images rise one by one amid the mists of the past, but who ignore the claims of the spirit of martyrdom which appeals to themselves and their
contemporaries, and sounds its call to courage and energy at their own doors.
We are inclined to believe that the energy and heroism of the present must depend for influence and reality on a due appreciation of the character and principles of the self-devoted teachers of the past. The great man who played his part in ruder and more critical times, can influence for good but few of the present day, if he is to be admired and wondered at as a phenomenon, instead of being followed lovingly as an exemplar. Not that monuments may be piled, and epitaphs written—not merely that a wordy praise may be chaunted, and their names inserted in the nomenclature of the good and true, does God send forth heroes on their eccentric mission. It is that their heroism may create heroes for the elevation of those after times in whose memory their achievements are embalmed; it is that truth and right may be championed by their successors with a power, energy, and courage, akin in majesty to their own ; it is that others may catch from their characters the impulses of courage, and the aspirations of philanthropy, and carry on vigorously and efficiently their unfinished work.
For these reasons we rejoice at every attempt made by our modern teachers of Dissent to keep green in the soul of Dissenters the memory of times when danger raged around the pathway of the sincere, and Nonconformity was synonymous with sacrifice, difficulty, and persecution. Dissenters need, of a truth, the inspiration of the brave old Nonconformist spirit in these times of compromise and policy-worship; for there does seem much danger of their losing sight of the truth that passivity is not the legitimate attitude of Nonconformity ; that in the presence of ecclesiastical establishments, which uncrown religion, and rob Jesus of his supremacy, there is a call, and such call is armed with Heaven's own authority, for the energy, courage, and self-devotion of Dissent. It is not enough that men quit the pale of State Churches, and worship God according to the dictates of their consciences at the altar of some sect whose doctrines and church polity may win their approval. The act of leaving the Establishment we regard as nothing more than the first in a series of acts on behalf of the emancipation of religion from a bondage which degrades and corrupts it. The camp of the enemy, so to speak, has been quitted, but the enemy remains unsubdued, and the overthrow of those antagonistic forces becomes henceforth the peculiar mission of the Dissenter. It is quite true that the very position of the Nonconformist-his refusal to conform to the requirements of State Churchism, is in itself a silent protest against Church Establishments, and a passive resistance of their demands. Influenced by this conviction,