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Memoir relative yo John Burnett, Esqef. Den hans!, it must be acknowledged that to be understood, which they that are men's minds have been so much unlearned and unstable wresi, as they engaged by war, and politics, whose do also the other Scriptures, unto their influence is far from being auspicious own destruction." to the cultivation of rational piety, that Mr. Burnett's scrimiles evinced that they have had little leisure, and; per- he was a conscientious believer, and haps, less inclination, to attend to the an anxious inquirer after truth. I great concerns of Religion. Her voice, have, already, pointed out one erronehowever, must, and will be heard, at QUS conclusion which, at a certain last, if not in the calm tone of argu- period, they led him to adopt. But, ment, or in the mild and affectionate even this was sincerely erroneolls, and language of admonition, at least, in it appears that his mind, afterwards, the thunder of general calamity. embraced a juster view of the subject,

Mr. Burnett's opinion, relative to in respect to which he erred. It is the effect that the conviction of a Deity only persons of some discernment, and kas in leading, men to a lelief of the of upright hearts, that ever entertain truth of Revelation, will appear per- religious scruples

. The profligate, the fectly just to every person who under- indifferent, the ligot, the enthusiast, stands, and refiects on the subject, and the hypocrite, never have their In fact, Infidelity and Alheism, in some minds perplexed in this manner. The form or other, are more intimately profligute apd the indifferent are utterly connected than may be generally sup- regardless whether the whole, or any posed. It will be found that the part of the :cligious systeni, which is greater part of modern infidels have professed, be true, or false. The ligot had, and still have, no religious prin- and the enthusiast adopt, without ciple at all. Christianity adinits, examination, any set of opinions, and establishes, and expands all the just neither entertain doubts themselves, principles of Natural, Religion, and nor suffer others to entertain them, enforces them by sanctions which no with regard to their professed creed. huinan authority could pretend to The hypocrite pretends to believe whatenact. To reject Christianity is, there ever is subservient to his temporal fore, to reject Natural Religion herself, interests. The honest inquiet will, invested with her fairest, most en- sometimes, experience doubts, with gaging, and most' venerable aspect. respect to certain points, and, ever The truth is, that by far the greater open to conviction, will be ausious to part, of infidels never give themselves obtain their solution. the trouble to make any inquiry con- The preceding narrative, and the cerning, religious subjects. Under the quotations with which it is inimpression of certain vague, indefinite, erspersed, evince the subject of it to and hastily assumed notions, they have been a character of no ordinary discard, the Christian faith, by reason stamp, in regard whether to his intel. of a secret aversion from its purity lectual, to his moral qualities. of principle, and exalted moral comit- Though assiduously occupied in busiplezion.

ness, he, nevertheless, directed his The peculiar nature of Mr. Bur mind to the most important an nett's religious scruples has not been noblest objects that can fix the atten.

It is evident, however, tion of man. . Though employed in that they could not relate to the funda- merchandise, and attentive to its chief mental articles of Christianity. For, aim -- the acquisition of wealth-he of these he not only, professes, in his expanded his heart to the most will, his firm belief, but also his deep generous and comprehensive impresa sense of the inexpressible love of the sions of benevolence, and, in the Lord Jesus and of the invaluable lene- midst of an increasing fortune, was fits which mankind receive by him. That constantly mindful of the indigent; there are difficulties in Revelation itself in the enjoyment of ease and comfort, no rational divine will deny. But, felt for ihe distresses of those who these affect neither the essential doc- " had none to help them."? Active tripes, such as they exist in the Sacred in the discharge of the duties of his Scriptures, nor the moral precepts of Christianity: The Apostle Peter says, that, in the Epistles of his beloved

2 Pet, iii, 16. þrother, Paul, are some things hard

+ Job xxix. 12.

or

443

Memoir relative to Jolin Burnett, Esg of Ders. terrestrial sphere, he raised his views the character of goodness by their easy to heaven, and, as the best preparation sacrifice of the interests of rirtne anů for its happiness, praçlişed' those vir- truth. On this account, they fretues, in tho completion of which this quently do inore mischief than, the happiness inust chiefly consist; made openly profane and profligati, who are provision for the elucidation and hated, or despised, and cannot, thereextension of the fundamental principles fore, produce any effect extensively of religion, which conforts man' by pernicious. The good mail

, as he is the prospects of eternity; and, as far styled, who, for the sake of what he as lay in his power, endeavoured to terms peace, saying, in the words of sooth the earthly sorrows, and to supply the Prophet, “ Peace, peace, , when the present necessities of his brethren.

there is no peace,

**' is always preThe admiration of mankind is com- pared to make concessions, and io monly excited by the splendour of surrender, to deceit, or to violence, some talen', or by the celebrity of cxploit. important cause, induces mankind, They seein to pay little regard to the misled By his specious appearances, objects for which the former has been' to suppose that the distinction between displayed, or the latter performed. virtue and vice is very small, and that, Understanding, skill, and courage, even on account of the former, no effort when mind is applauded, engross their ought to be made, and no hardship attention, while the will, and the endured. affections, which are the springs of Real probity, then, enlightened by human action, are commonly over. c!carness

" of judgment, and supported looked, or disregarded, as of no by tħe energy of courage, constitutes a moment. It is, however, the principle very uncommon character, and is, that imparts any, real value to every therefore, on this ground, entitled to exertion of the human raculues, and the highest commendation. if the original view be erroneous, or This high-loned prolity bears a ricious, the whole conduct, which it; strongd resemblance to genius, than dictates must be proportionably is commonly apprehended, and ought,

vitiated, and debased. If'isdom con- on the ground on which genius is so sists in the selection of the lest ends,, much admired, to obtain proporand of the adoption of the best means tionable degree of admiration. "Genius of their attainment. If the end he is the gift of heaven, and seems to pos absurd, or wicked, all the means for sess" ar species of inspiration. Those, its prosecution, however effectual they therefore, who are endowed with it, may be, ought " deeper regret, or the stronger reproba- the favourites of the Deity; although, tion. That Mr. Burnett's views were like other favourites, they often abuse virtuous and noble, will not be con- their pre-eminence. Exalted prolily tested, nor can it be denied that he may surely, with a far better title devised very effectual means for their title sanctioned by Scripture-referits execution. Tried, then, by this equi- origin to Heaven. It is that wisdom, table standard, he is certainly entitled which is from above, and is first to no common portion of applause. piire, then peaceable, gentle, and easy

Mankind generally admire what is to be intreated, full of mercy and good mente posterevalencethat

Genuine prolily, fruits, without partiality, and without soundness of judgment, are, I hesitate is, in some minds, an inherent natural not to affirm, as uncommon as genius, propensity to virtuous sentiments and and acuteness of intellect. By prolity conduct, a certain suscrptilility of I understand not merely the will

, the generous, affectionate, and noble iminclination, the desire to act a virtuous" pressions, by which they are distinpart, but also the right apprehension guished from the ordinary, and morally of what a virtuous purt implies ; and, groreling herd of their species. This when it has been clearly apprehended, seems to depend, in a great 'ineasure, the courage to adopt and to maintain on the peculiar complexion of the it, without fear of detriment, or of imagination; and this circumstance profligate ridicule. For, it often hap

pens that those, who are called good men, are weak, uninformed, and compliant personages, and have obtained

+ James iii. 17.

a

Jer. vi. 14.

Origin and History of Bencfit of Clergy. chiefly asserts its analogy to genius. species. This is so much the case, Some minds, even from their most that, were it not for those virtuous early years, dwell, with peculiar plea- individuals, whom divine Providence sure, on descriptions of nolile characters, supporting truth and virtue, has in and image them with delight. They every age, stationed in different parts will, hence, be prompted to imitate, of the world, human corruption would and, if possible, io surpass thein, in proceed with such accumulated agorathe moral qualities which they most vation, that the condition of our admire. To such impressions the species would be desperate. It is to generality of mankind are totally the wisdom, the beneficence, and the insensible, and are wholly engrossed perseverance of such men, that the hy self interest, or ignoble ambition, and world is indebted for every, salutary hug themselves in the conceit of their plan which has been adopted, and for prudence, and their policy. They can- cvery good institution which has ever not discover, with their feeble' eyes, heen established. Notwithstanding that region, in which the man, who the opposition with which they have is really virtuous, dwells, and, although had to struggle, the noblest title that they were translated into it, the purity any mortal can obtain, is that of being of its atmosphere would be too keen the friend of God, and the benefactor for their asthmatic lungs.

of mankind. There is another point of resem-, Let those who pervert their power blance between genius and high probity. for the purposes of oppressive pride, or As the former embraces objects of a lavish their wealth in dissipation, in character, raised above ordinary life ; sensuality, in frivolous amusement, and so, it cannot always stoop to the in all that degrades the individual, minute consideration of these, and is and injures society; let such institute liable to be deceived by that low, aud a fair comparison between themselves

, microscopical cunning, whose attention and Mr. Burnett, and learn to acknowis exclusively devoted to such objects, ledge that, in spite of their ostentaThe case is the same with distinguished latious assumption, and ridiculous Probity. She can, with difficulty, vanity, they sink into utter insig; conceive the mean and contemptible nisicance, and ought to be satisfied if arts, the complete degradation of moral they are allowed to pass, with silent character, to which Improbity often contempt. As soon as their bodies descends; and she is, thus, some- are consigned to the grave, their names times, for a short time, deceived by are either buried in oblivion-their these ignoble and reptile devices. This most fortunate posthumous conditionleads the race, who practise them, to or are mentioned' with derision, or value themselves on their childish disgust. His is recorded, as that of sagacity: But, no man of genius, or the patron of exalted and salutary of real worth, will envy them their science, as the reliever of indigence, as creeping distinction.

the comforter of distress ; and will be It were much to be wished that transmitted, with undiminished apthese, and similar, considerations, had, plause, to remote posterity. To him op mankind, their due influence. If may be justly applied Pope's beautiful they possessed it, admiration and ap- lines, in which he describes the chaplause would not be exclusively appro- racter of the Man of Ross. priated to brilliancy of genius, or to

W. L. BROWN. grandeur of achievement ; but, genuine moral eacellence would obtain its legitimate share.

Genius often Aatters Origin and History of Benefit powerful and opulent Vice, or, by the Clergy, from Chitty's display of metaphysical acumen, distorts Treatise on the Criminal Law." "I. truth, and recommends.error. Heroism, 667. canh with blood, and laid waste the By far the most important circum

stance intervening between conhabitations of men. Moral excel- viction and judginent, is the claim lence is “the salt of the earth,"* which and allowance of the benefit of dergy, prevents the putrefaction of the human in those cases where it is by law to be

granted. It is of course claimed

immediately before judgment at the * Matt. X. 18.

assizes. This is one of the most

Pracho?

Origin and History of Benefit of Clergy.

445 singular relics of old superstition, and liabilities, and declared themselves certainly the most important. That, responsible only to ihe pope and his by a mere form, without the shadow ecclesiastical ministers. They erectof existing reason to support it, the ed themselves into an independent severity of the common law should be community, and even laid the temtempered, may seem strange to those poral authorities under subjection. who have been accustoined to regard Nobles were intimidated into vast our criminal law as a regular fabric, pecuniary benefactions, and princes not only attaining great practical trembled at the terrors of spiritual benefit, but built upon solid and con- denunciation. In England, however, sistent principles.' The benefit of this authority was always comparaclergy is, no doubt, of great practical tively feeble. The complete exempadvantage, compared to the dreadful tion of the clergy from secular punishlist of offences which would otherwisements, though often claimed, was be punished as capital ; but it would never universally admitted. || For be well worthy of an enlightened age repeated oljections were made to the to forsake such a subterfuge, and at demand of the bishop and ordinary once, without resorting to it, to ap- to have the clerks remitted to them as portion the degree of suffering to the soon as they were indicted. At atrocity and the danger of the crime..* length, however, it was finally settled

The history of this singular inode of in the reign of Henry VI. ihat the pardon, if so it can be terinel, is prisoner should first be arraigned, and both curious and instructive. In the might then claim the benefit of clergy early periods of European civilization, as an excuse for pleading, or might deafter the final destruction of the mand it after conviction : and the latRoman empirę, the church obtained ter of these courses has been almost an influence in the political affairs of invariably adopted to allow the prisonnations, which threw a peculiar er the chance of a verdict of acquittal. colouring over their original institu- But if the privileges of the church tions. Monarchs who were desirous were less dangerous in England than of atoning for atrocious offences, or on the continent, they soon became of obtaining the sanction of heaven more extensive. They not only einto their projects of ambition, were braced every order of clergymen, but easily persuaded to confer inimunities were claimed for every subordinate on the clergy, whom they regarded as officer of religious houses, with the the vicegerents of heaven. Presuming numerous classes of their retainers. on these favours, that aspiring body And so liberal was the application of soon began to claim as a right what these dangerous benefits, that, at had been originally conferred as a length, every one who in those days boon, and to found their deinand to of ignorance was able to read, though civil exemptions on a divine and in- not even initiated in holy orders, hedefeasible charter, derived from the came entitled to demand them, such text of Scripture, “ touch not mine reading being deemed evidence of his anointed and do my prophets no clerical profession.** The privileges harın."7 It need excite no surprise of the clergy were recognized and conthat they were anxious to take advan- firmed by statute in the reign of tage of their dominion over the con- Edward the Third.tt It was then science, to exempt themselves froin enacted, that all manner of clerks, the usual consequences of crime, To secular as well as religious, should the priests impunity was a privilege enjoy the privileges of holy church of no inconsideratle value. And for all treasons or felonies except thout so siccessful was the pious zeal to immediately affecting his Majesty. To shield those who were dedicated to religion, from the consequences of any

1 2 Hale, 824. 4 Bla. Com. 866. breach of temporal enactments, that Burn, J. Clergy, H. Williams, J. Foin several countries they obtained a lony, 'v. complete exeinption from all civil

§ 2 Hale, 324.

! Keilw. 180. 2 Hale, 372, 377.

4 Bla. Com. 366. * See Observations, Fost. C. L. 303, I 2 Hale, 377. 4 Bla. Com. 366. 306.

2 Hale, 372. + Keilw. 181. P. S. 105, 15.

++ 25 Edw. III. c. 4, VOL. XI.

3M

**

446

Origin and History of Benefit of Clergy. the advantage of this provision all who him, and in what manner the power could read were admitted. * But as of the church in this respect was learning became more common, this ultimately destroyed. It appears that extensive interpretation was found so after a layman was burnt in the hand, injurious to the security of social life, a clerk discharged on reading, or a that the legislature, notwithstanding peer without either burning or penalty, the opposition of the church, were he was delivered to the ordinary to be compelled to afford a partial remedy. dealt with according to the ecclesiastiIn the reign of Henry the Seventh,'t cal canons. ** Upon this, the cleria distinction was drawn between per- cal authorities instituted a kind of sons actually in holy orders, and those purgation, the real object of which 'who, in other respeots, secular, were was to make him appear innocent, able to read, by which the latter were who had been already shown to be only allowed the benefit of their leam- guilty, and to restore him to all those ing once, and on receiving it to be capacities of which his conviction bad branded in the left thumb with a hot deprived him.tt To effect this the iron, in order to afford evidence party himself was required to make against them on any future occasion. Oath of his innocence, though before The church seems to have lost ground he might have confessed himself

in the succeeding reign, probably in guilty. Then twelve compurgators : consequence of the separation of Eng- were called 10 testify their belief in the

land from the sway of the Roman falsehood of the charges. Afterwards : Pontift; for all persons, though ac- he brought forward witnesses com- sually in orders, were rendered liable pletely to establish that innocence of

to be branded, in the same way as which he had induced so weighty a the learned class of laymen... But, presumption. Finally, it was the in the time of Edward the Sixth, the office of the jury to acquit þim; and clergy were restored to all the rights they seldom failed in their duty.it If, of which they were deprived by his however, from any singular circumpredecessor, except as to certain 'atro- stance they agreed in the justice of the cious crimes which it became neces- conviction, the culprit was degraded sary more uniformly to punish. § At and compelled to do penance. SS As the same time, some of the more this seldom occurred, and the most enormous evils attendant on this daring perjuries were thus perpetually general impunity were done away. committed, the courts of common law Murder, poisoning, burglary, high- were soon aroused to abridge the way robbery, and sacrilege, were ex- power of these clerical tribunals. cepted from all that privilege which They, therefore, sometimes delivered was confirmed as to inferior offences. Il over the privileged of felony, when But peers of the realm for the first his guilt was very atrocious, without offence were to be discharged in every allowing bim to make purgation ; the case, except murder and poisoning, effect of which proceedings was his even though unable to read,

perpetual iniprisoninent and incapacity But here we must pause before to acquire personal or to enjoy real we proceed to follow the gradual estate, unless released by his Majesty's improvement of this privilege, to pardon. But the severity of this enquire what was originally done proceeding almost rendered it useless ; with an offender to whom it was and it became absolutely necessary

allowed, by those ecclesiastical autho- for the legislature to interfere in order sities who claimed the right of judging to prevent the contemptible perjuries

which this absurd ceremony produced

under the sanction and pretence of * 2 Hale, 272, 3. Kel. 100, 101, religion. This desirable object was 102. Hawk. b. 2. c. 83, s. 5. Williams, J. Felony, V. Sec Mode of Admission of Defendant convicted of Manslanghter. 1

## Hob. 291. 4 Ela, Com. 368. Salk. 61.

++ Hob. 291. 3 P. Wms. 447, 8. po 4 Hen. VII. c. 13.

4 Bla. Com. 368. + 28 Hen. VIII. c. 1. $. 7. 82 Hen. 11 Hob. 291. 3 Pr. Wms. 447, 8. VIII. e. 8.' s. 8.

Bla. Com. 364. g i Edw. VI. c. 12. S. 10.

88 Hob. 289. 4 Bla. Com. 364. II Id. Ibid. .

!! ll 3 Pr. Wing. 448, 9. 4 Bla. Com. Edw. VI. c. 12. $. 14.

868.

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