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REV. ANDREW MARSHALL'S LETTER
REV. ANDREW THOMSON, D.D.
MINISTER OF ST. GEORGE'S CHURCH, EDINBURGH.
BY THE REVIEWER.
"Such as openly reprove supposed disorders, are taken for men that carry singular freedom of mind. Under thi fair and plausible colour, whatsoever they utter passeth for good and current. That which wanteth in the weight oi their speech, is supplied by the aptness of men's minds to accept and believe it. Whereas, on the other side, if w maintain things that are established, we have to strive with a number of heavy prejudices, deeply rooted in the hearts of men, who think that herein we serve the times." Hooker.
PUBLISHED BY WILLIAM WHYTE & CO.,
AND SOLD BY JAMES BRASH & CO, M. OGLE, AND W. COLLINS, GLAS-
PERTH, DUNDEE, AND CUPAR; J. FINLAY, NEWCASTLE;
ADAMS, & CO. LONDON.
It has usually been esteemed the safest policy for the friends of existing establishments, to discountenance too narrow an inquiry into the grounds of their peculiar privileges. Their wisdom, it is conceived, lies rather in evading, than provoking discussion; in suffering the zeal of opposers to waste itself in silence, and to die out like a flame unfed. If this policy deserve the name of prudence, it is at best a suspicious prudence. It has its origin in fear, and seems to dread investigation from an apprehension of its results. We like not this creeping and pusillanimous wisdom. What we dare possess, we are ready to defend, and shew the title-deeds of our possession; persuaded that this is not an age of the world in which institutions which have lost their support in truth and reason, will long survive on the precarious footing of prescription and
Of this truth, Mr Marshall is well aware when he represents our establishment as "an abuse, sanctified by prejudice and time," as "a system of Antichristianism, that forges chains for the understandings and consciences of men." These indeed are weighty charges; and if the bill of enditement be made good, his end is gained. He is right in conceiving the world to be too old to sanction abuses on the plea of their antiquity; or that the spirit of popery can shew itself in this country without being instantly ejected. So far we commend the skill of Mr Marshall in the management of his argument. His zeal, however, has overshot itself. He ought to have reflected, that charges so extravagant are in danger of being altogether neglected, or of refuting themselves; and that it is the worst possible tactics in the management of a cause, to choose too high a position for its defence. A man who brings an action of damages against his neighbour for twenty thousand pounds, and by the verdict of an honest jury, is awarded one farthing, justly exposes himself by the loftiness of his pretensions, to the ridicule of the court. We are told by Miss Edgeworth, in her Essay on Irish Bulls, that it is not uncommon with her countrymen to appear before the sitting magistrate in the county town, and lay a complaint before his honour of having been quite kilt the last night in some quarrel with their companions, which killing, however, on examination, proves to have been only the infliction of a few blows, or a gentle castigation with a shillalo. Such hyperboles may be good strokes in Irish oratory, but they are bulls in argument.
But this is not the only blunder into which Mr
Marshall has fallen. After these exaggerated charges, he thinks it necessary to caution the friends of establishments, not to be irritated by his accusations, but to "hide and repress the fiercer and less honourable passions," and to abstain from "crying out," as he supposes we cannot fail to do, " against his attempt as a wicked one, dictated by envy, ing of impiety." Never was author more mistaken in his power of exciting passion, or more needlessly alarmed lest he should bring upon himself the honours of persecution. Truth, when unwelcome, may provoke opposition, for when it is against a man, a man is likely to be against it. But what offence can be taken at an author who tells us that our establishment is "a system of antichristianism," and that it forges chains for the understandings and consciences of men." The man talks loose and fancifully, and entertains us by fictions so wide of the truth, that we only admire the aptness of his imagination which can trace, in the simple presbyterian establishment of Scotland, the pollutions of Antichrist, and the forged chains of the inquisition. We may be sickened by the nonsense of such representations, or pleased, if in the humour, by their oddity and extravagance; but assuredly, they have no power to stir the fiercer and less honourable passions. We might pity the man who had so strange a fancy, as to see a volcano in the curling smoke of every chimney, or a viper in every creeping insect that lay along his road, or who started at the sight of every quadruped, as if a lion and a tiger had passed before him, or who trembled to touch a ribbon in a lady's hand, lest it should prove a forged chain to bind him; we might pity such a man, or