페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

of Chirnside, gave in a complaint against the book, (its author was then unknown,) and the bookseller by whom it was published, to the Presbytery of Edinburgh, praying that reverend judicature to call before them the bookseller, in order to his giving up the author, that the Presbytery might pronounce against him such censure as the writing and publishing so wicked a book might seem to deserve. Very able legal answers were given in to this complaint by the counsel for the bookseller, Mr, afterwards Sir John, Dalrymple, and Mr Ferguson of Pitfour; and a pamphlet was written in the author's defence, and in his name, but generally supposed to be the production of Dr Hugh Blair. In both, the natural tendency of Lord Kames's work was contended to be altogether the reverse of what the complaint supposed;. and for the particular doctrines laid down in the tract, the counsel for the bookseller, and the writer of the pamphlet in behalf of the author, produced very high authority, in numberless quotations from the fathers of the church, and the most eminent as well as orthodox divines. To these defences, Mr Anderson gave in a reply, under the title of " The Complaint Verified." On the 28th January, 1757, the Presbytery pronounced its sentence in the following terms: "The Presbytery, having resumed the consideration of Mr Anderson's complaint, the majority came to the resolution of dismissing it, on the

ground of the author's having, in his explanatory pamphlet, explained and accounted for the unguarded expressions in his Essays, and expressed his regard for religion ; and to prevent the Presbytery's entering into so abstruse and metaphysical a question."

It is a singular enough coincidence with some church proceedings, about fifty years after, that Dr Blair, in defence of his friend's Essays, expressly states, that one purpose of those Essays was to controvert what appeared to him to be a very dangerous doctrine, held by the author of certain other Essays, then recently published, (Mr David Hume,) that, by no principle in human nature, can we discover any real connexion between cause and effect. According to Dr Blair, the object of one of Lord Kames's Essays is to shew, that though such connexion is not discoverable by reason, and by a process of argumentative induction, there is, nevertheless, a real and obvious connexion which every one intuitively perceives between an effect and its cause. We feel and acknowledge, that every effect implies a cause ; that nothing can begin to exist without a cause of its existence. "We are not left," says the author of the Vindication, " to gather our belief of a Deity, from inferences and conclusions deduced through intermediate steps, many or few. How unhappy would it be, for the great bulk of mankind, if this were necessary! The Deity has dis

played himself to all men by an internal sense common to all, the ignorant as well as the learned; we have the same intuitive perception of Him that we have of our own existence."

In such a temper of the public mind, it was not wonderful if the appearance of a tragedy, written by a Presbyterian clergyman, should scandalize and provoke the Church of Scotland. That party, opposed to Mr Home and his friends, were excited to the severity of their proceedings on this occasion, not only by the conscientious objections which they entertained to such compositions, but perhaps a little by the opposition which then prevailed so keenly between the different parties in the church, and in the supreme judicature of the church, the General Assembly.

The Presbytery of Edinburgh published a solemn admonition on the subject, beginning with expressions of deep regret at the growing irreligion of the times, particularly the neglect of the Sablath ;*• but calculated chiefly to warn all persons within their bounds, especially the young, and those who had the charge of youth, against the danger 4 of frequenting stage-plays and theatrical entertainments, of which the Presbytery set forth the / immoral and pernicious tendency, at considerable length.

* Yet at that time in Edinburgh there was much more regard to the sacredness of Sunday than now. I was then a boy, and I well remember the reverential silence of the streets, and the tip-toe kind of fear with which, when any accident prevented my attendance on church, I used to pass through them. What would the Presbytery have said now, when, in the time of public worship on a Sunday, not only are the public walks crowded, but idle and blackguard boys bawl through the streets, and splash us with their games there ?—an indecency of which, though no friend to puritanical preciseness, and still less to religious persecution, I rather think the police ought to take cognizance.

This step of the Presbytery, like all other overstrained proceedings of that nature, provoked resistance and ridicule on the part of the public. The wags poured forth parodies, epigrams, and songs. These were, in general, not remarkable for their wit or pleasantry, though some of them were the productions of young men, afterwards eminent in letters or in station.

While the Church was taking public general measures on this occasion, it did not neglect to notice what it conceived to be an outrage against its purity and dignity, by instituting proceedings against the individuals of its own body, who had witnessed or countenanced the representation of / Douglas. Mr Home himself escaped the censure and punishment, which would certainly have reached him, by an abdication of the ministerial function, having resigned his living at Athelstaneford, J in June, 1757. Mr Home's intimate friends and acquaintance, who had been present at the representation of his tragedy, were censured or punished, according to the degree of their supposed misconduct. Mr White, the minister of Libberton, was suspended for a month, a mitigated sentence, in consideration of his apology for a conduct into which he had been unwarily led; "that he attended the representation only once, and endeavoured to conceal himself in a corner, to avoid giving offence." Messrs Carlyle, Home of Polwarth, Scott at Westruther, Cupples at Swinton, and Steel at Stairs, underwent different degrees of censure; and several other Presbyteries adopted and enforced the language of that of Edinburgh, with regard to the baneful and immoral effects of stage-plays, pernicious at all times, but doubly improper and sinful at a period of great dearth and distress among the poor, and of national degradation and calamity. This was at the commencement of the Seven Years' War, when Byng had failed of relieving Minorca, and Braddock had been defeated in America.

Such was then the prevailing opinion of the Church of Scotland, with regard to the impropriety and immorality of attending theatrical representations, especially by clergymen, though, indeed, the overture of one Synod, and the language of most of them, expressed that opinion with regard to all persons whatsoever. The difference between

« 이전계속 »