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MAGAZINE AND REVIEW,
FOR JANUARY, 1803,
Fear God and the King, and meddle not with them that are given to
Proverbs, xxiv. 21. We serve a wise and UNCHANGEABLE God; and we desire to do it by a
Religion, and in á CHURCH (as like Him as may be), without Changes or Alterations.
THE LIFE OF ROBERT NELSON, ESQ. ROBERT NELSON, generally and most justly distinguished by the
appellation of the pious Nelson," was born June 22, 1656, in London, where his father was an eminent Turkey merchant, but did not live long to enjoy the happiness of this son, whom, at his death, he left an infant two years old, with a handsome fortune, committing him to the care of his mother and her brother, Sir Gabriel Roberts. This gentleman, who was also a Turkey merchant, soon became extremely fond of his nephew, who in a few years discovered an excellent understanding, cnlivened with a sprightly genius, which, being seen in a very handsome person, was still made more engaging by the fingular sweetness of his temper. At a proper age he was sent to St. Paul's school ; but, after some time spent there, was taken home out of fondness by his mother, who, being feated at Dryfield, near Cirencester, in Gloucestershire, procured the learned Mr, afterwards Bishop Bull, to instrnet him at her own house ; after which he was sent to Trinity College, Cambridge. All those endearing qualities which disclosed themselves early in his youth ripened into the most amiable character in his manhood. From being the hope and darling of his family, he soon became the delight of all the serious and thinking part of the world. As business or other occasions frequently called him to London, it was not long before he came to be known to Dr. Tillotson, with whom his uncle, Sir Gabriel Roberts, was intimately acquainted. A congenial worth in Mr. Nelson presently obtained him a principal place in the friendship of that great man, which death alone disfolved. In 1680 Mr. Nelson was chosen Fellow of the Royal Society, and having laid a proper foundation at home for making the best advantage of travelling abroad, he set out for Paris the same year. After staying in that city a few months, he set out on what was called the grand tour, and reVol. IV. Churchm. Mag. Jan. 1808. А
turned home in August, 1682. During his travels he fell into the company of Lady Theophila Lucy, widow of Sir Kingsmill Lucy, of Broxborne, in Hertfordihire, Bart. and second daughter of George, Earl of Berkeley ; and this intimacy foon ripening into affection, a marriage was concluded between them shortly after their arrival in England. Not long after this union, the lady professed herself a Roman Catholic, which proved a great grief to her husband, who endeavoured, both by himself aird his friends, especially. Dr. Tillotson, to bring her off from that delufion. But though all these attempts were ineffectual, this in no degree weakened either his attachment to his lady, or his stability in the Protestant Religion. This is the more observable, as the lady was a woman of uncommion parts, and no ordinary zeal for her new faith, which she even defended in print, at the time that the controversy between Papists and Protestants was carried to a great height, Mr. Nelson on that occasion also drew his pen, and published a piece, entitled, Transubstantiation contrary to Scripture; or, The Protestant's An/wer to the Seekers' Request, 4to, 1687. About the same time he accompanied his lady to Aix la Chapelle, for the benefit of her health ; and from thence they passed through France into Italy. At the end of 1691 Mr. Nelson returned to England, entirely difsatisfied with the new change in the government; for, though he was a resolved Protestant, he could not reconcile it to his conscience to transfer his allegiance from one soyereign to another while the former was living. As he resided in or near London, a perfect friendship grew up between him and that worthy divine Mr. John Kettlewell, who lost his preferment for refusing the oaths ; but, notwithstanding this connection, he continued attached to his old friends, particularly Abp. Tillotson, who died in his arms. Mr. Kettlewell left him his fole executor and trustee, in pursuance of which charge, he published, soon after, the posthumous works of that excellent man. This friend had likewise prevailed upon Mr. Nelson to write in the service of practical piety and devotion, as being more likely to do good when coming from a lay-gentleman. In that view he accordingly published that valuable book, A Companion for the Festivals and Fasts of the Church of England, 8vo, 1704. This was followed by the Great Duty of frequenting the Christian Sacrifice, in 1707, 8vo; and The Practice of true Devotion, in relation to the End, as well as the Means of Religion, with an Office for the Holy Commuion, in 1708, 8vo. At the same time he engaged zealously in every public scheme for advancing the honour and interest of Christianity, not only at home but abroad; as the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in foreign parts ; that for the Reformation of Manners at home; several proposals for building, repairing, or endowing Churches, and particularly to Charity Schools. He had hitherto adhered to the communion of the deprived bishops, but on the death of Dr. William Lloyd, Bishop of Norwich, at the end of 1709, he returned to the public service of the Church as established. In 1713 he published the life of that great prelate Bishop Bull; and the following year appeared, The Scripture Doctrine of the most holy and undivided Trinity rindicated from the Misrepresentations of Dr. Clarke ; to which he prefixed, A Letter written by himself to that reverend Divine, with whom he had before held a conference on that subject. But, though Dr. Clarke replied to this piece, yet the controversy was managed with abundant good temper 'on both sides ; nor did this difference in the least degree break the intimacy between them. From this time the dangerous distemper under which he
had long laboured, an asthma, and dropsy in the breast, increasing to a dangerous degree, he retired to Kensington, where it put an end to his valuable life, on the 16th of January, 1714-15, at the house of his cousin, Mrs. Wolf, daughter of Sir Gabriel Roberts, and then a widow. His remains were interred in the new burying-ground belonging to the chapel now St. George's, Bloomibury, being the first who was buried in that cemetery. Besides the works already mentioned, Mr. Nelson wrote, 1. A Letter on Church Government, in answer to a pamphlet, entitled, The Principles of the Protestant Reformation, 1705. 2. An Address to Persons of Quality and Eftate; to which is added, an Appendix, of some Original Papers, 1715, 8vo. 3. The Whole Duty of a Christian, by way of question and answer, designed for the use of the charity schools in and about London. He likewise published, Thomas a Kempis's Christian Exercise ; the Archbishop of Cambray's Pastoral Letter ; with some posthumous pieces of Bishop Bull; and several Letters written to himself, which thew how much he was known and respected by princes, noblemen, and others, in the parts where he had travelled.
ироп the Poption--" That to judge of what are the Doctrines of the Church of ENGLAND, we must have recourse to (what is called) the Original Constitution, and not learn it from the Opinion of the PRESENT Members.” By the Rev. W. LUDLAM. F the question be, what is now the doctrine of the Church of Engand homilies, as generally understood and interpreted by her present members ; and this is as much the character of what church doctrine is now, as the general opinion and the received interpretation of those articles two hundred years ago was the characteristic of the church doctrine then, or as the generally received Popish doctrines were the characteristic of the church doctrine two hundred years before that time. They who subscribe the articles, if they believe them in their generally received sense, are as far from dishonesty, as he is from lying, who, calling himself your humble servant, should decline carrying your portmanteau.
We judge by a similar rule with respect to the constitution of the state : the generally received opinions of the great lawyers is the standard of what is common law at this day. Nor is there any reason why the generally received opinions of learned churchmen should not also be the standard of what church doctrine is at this day. I see no difference between ecclefiastical and civil society. I consider the Church of England as a temporal fociety—a society of human, not of divine institution. The church of Christ is indeed a spiritual body; but the church of Christ has no other articles, except the Scriptures
* It is not, we presume, the intention of the writer altogether to deny that the Church of England, considered as a society or political body, is of divine institution, but merely, that it is no otherwise of divine institution than as all well-constituted ecclefiaftical societies are. This proposition is true ; otherwise no defence could be found for any Christian Church which at all differs in discipline from that of England. The human authority, indeed, which is employed in the formation of an ecclefiaftical society, is bound to take all poffible care, that it has all possible resemblance to that form which is marked out by Christ and his Apostles ; and our opinion is, that the Church of England, as by law established, has the felicity of poffefling that resemblance.
Now in the state, when a man swears true allegiance to the chief maa gistrate, to the King suppose, is it that allegiance which is by law now due, or that which was due in the time of Elizabeth ? May not a man say those words, which the present bench of judges would deem harmless, though the judges of the time of Elizabeth would have called them treason. able, and have hanged the man for speaking them ?
It is not many years since general warrants were iffiied frequently, and obedience was always paid to them, such warrants being at that time held Valid by the great lawyers; this, then, was at that time law, and difobedience to luch warrants finful. The courts of law have now given another determination : common law has undergone one more change ; and disobedience is not now sinful. You may obey if you please ; and you may understand the article in its primitive sense if
you please. But in this instance, you will say, a formal decision has changed the law. There are innumerable instances, where custom not only accidentally, but fraudulently introduced, has changed the law. Thus ::-a recovery is a sham law-suit: it was originally a trickish oņe, devised by some crafty lawyer to defeat an entail. Time and custom have purged away the roguery, and it is become an honest transaction : it has been fanctioned by the constant allowance of the judges. This, indeed, has made a change in the common law. Entails, in the cases where you can now suffer a recovery, are in fact forbidden by law; that they are forbidden is plain, for the legerdemain of a recovery makes them void *. Just in the same way interpretations of articles, originally bold, perhaps forced, may, by being received and generally admitted, become the Church's sense of those articles.
You will say, perhaps, this is a contemptible Church, and such are useless articles, if their sense can thus vary ; but is civil government contemptible, or the law of the land useless, which varies full as much as Church Articles ?
To be sure, to say this is to maintain that there is a considerable latitude in the sense which may fairly be put upon the articles; and no method of interpretation can be devised which will not admit of some. If such, or a greater latitude is allowed by the governors of the Church, they who subIcribe under that allowed liberty cannot be blamed if they make use of it. Whether it be proper to allow that, or any liberty at all, is a very different consideration.
In all other societies, the generally received opinions of the members constitute the opinion of the society; and why does not the interpretation of the articles generally received by Churchmen constitute the Churchsense of the articles ? How can it be otherwise ? Just as the sense of a word is that only in which it is now understood, whatever sense it may once have had. A knave formerly meant only a fervant (whatever it may now mean); and in some translations of the New Testament we findPaul the knave of Jesus Christ."
This TRICĶ was originally connived at by the judges for very wife purposes, viz. to check the holding of lands in mortmain, and thereby to enlarge civil liberty, in an age when it was impossible to obtain a formal law to prevent this evil, on account of the temper, that is, the religious folly of the times; for violent religious zeal has always been tainted with folly, or something worle, from those to the present days.