John Harrison Mills.

The Christian examiner and theological review, Volume 2 online

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fully was I satisfied that war, and consequently my profession,
was perfectly consonant with the precepts of Chrbtianity. About
the time I have mentioned, owmg to circumstances which I need
not state, I beg^ to entertain doubts on this subject. These
doubts graduaUy gained strength ; and early in the year 1822, I
^me to the resolution to investigate the subject more closely
than I had hitherto done ; and if, after such investigation, it
should appear to me that my profession was irreconcilable with
the precepts of Christ, I determined to resign my naval rank and
half-pay, although I placed a high value upon the former, and
the latter forms a large portion of a very limited income ; and I
was thereby subjecting myself, and not myself alone, to a very
considerable change in my mode of living, and this at an advanced
period of life, when its comforts and conveniences are most

' To take a step so highly important to me in many points of
view, but particularly in a religious one, upon the first impression
of my mind, would have been highly improper ; for even the best
informed persons frequently change their opinions, and see the
same transaction in different points of view at different periods of
time. From the very novel nature of the act I contemplated, I
thought it possible that this might happen to myself; and that
in my ardour to do what I deemed an act of religious duty, I
might hastDy take a step of which I might hereauer see just
cause to repent, and when repentance could not avail me. I was
also aware, that what I proposed doing, being so much at vari-
ance with established custom, might be attributed to vanity or an
affectation of singularity — motives by which, as far as I know
myself, I have never been greatly influenced. Added to these
considerations, I felt much difficulty as to the manner in which I
should withdraw myself from my profession. It appeared to me

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384 Copt. Thrush's Letter to the Kir^,

(thoagh it may savour of vanity thus to express myself,) that the
measure I contemplated was one of very great importance both
in a political and religious point of view.

' Under these perplexing circumstances, I came to the resolu-
tion to retain my half-pay three years longer, should my life be
so long spared, and to dedicate that time to serious inquiry on a
subject constantly pressing upon my mind. This delay i consid-
ered as likely to cure me of any fidse notions that either igno-
rance, fanaticism, or vanity might generate. It has pleased the
divine Disposer of events to grant me these years ; and ( hope
they have not been passed unprofitably. After every inquiry and
consideration on one of the most important subjects that can oc-
cupy the human mind, as far as my abilities and opportunities

. have enabled me, and after frequent and earnest fn-ayer to that
Being who alone has power over the minds of men, that I might
do nothing dishonourable to Christianity nor injurious to society,
I have seen no reason to regret the resolution I then formed
Some may blame me, and with seeming justice, for taking so long

. a time for consideration, on what I now speak of as so very clear
a point. I do not however regret this delay, as it has effectually
convinced me that I have acted not only from pure motives, but
also on correct princi^es ; and I feel the fullest confidence that
I shall never repent of the step that conscience hat dictated'
pp. 18, 20.

These motives and feelings are highly honorable. We ap-
plaud that lofty spirit and firmness, which is capable of making
important sacrifices of interest, ease, and temporary popularity,
t# a sense of duty. Such examples ought to be recorded for
the benefit of humanity. They are full of valuable instnictioD.

The foUowing extract relates to the same subject as the

' To one friend only has my intention been known from the
first ; and I have the happiness to know that this friend (who
will be a fellow-sufferer from the act) most cordially approves
what I have done. Nor have I, till very near the time of sending
these pages to the press, read any of the valuable publications of
Peace Societies in this and other countries. The recent perusal
of some of their works has afforded me the most henrtfelt s.ttis-
faction, together with the pleasure of knowing, that though these
pages may excite feelings of pity and contempt in many, yet that
they are in accordance with the opinions of numbers of pious
Christians of distinguished rank and literary attainments in differ-
ent parts of the world. Believing that the publications of the
Peace Societies have not only a tendency to annihilate war, but

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on resigning his Commission. 885

&ko to promote religion, and with it obedience to soTereigns, I
sincerely wish they may be more extensively read than they have
hitherto been. p. 23.

Capt. Thrush had» it appears, sometime pretidusly to the
surrender of his commission, retired from actual service on
half pay.

' This pay, I have been led to believe, is not only considered as
a reward for past services, bat also as a retaining fee for future
exertions. Being unwilling to comply with the terms, I feel that
I am not entitled to the fee ; and that I ought not to receive it.
Did I, on the other hand, reg^ard my half pay as exclusively a
reward for past services ; having earned it by what I now con*
sider as a transgression of Christian duty, or as a desertion of
my allegiance to God, it appears to me, in receiving it, that I
virtually renew, or continue, my disobedience.' p. 10.

In thus relinquishing, on the approach of age, the emoluments
to which his past services entitled him, emoluments which hb
limited fortune rendered by no means a matter of indifference,
Capt. Thrush has given proof of sincerity and a strong regard
to duty, which must command the respect of those who do not
assent to the views he has been led to adopt.

Capt. Thrush has appropriated several pages of hb letter to
observations on the inconipatibility of War, with the general strain
of the language of the Bible.

* The prophecies of the Old Testament^ when taken in connex*
ion with the precepts of the 'Gospel, appear decisive against the
practice of war, uiuier the Christian dispensation. To this evi-
dence I appeal with tbe more satisfaction, as it affords, at the
same time, the pleasing and sure testimony, that the degrading
and sanguinary scenes of past and present times are not to endure,
but, on the contrary, that they will be succeeded by ages of
p^manent peace and happiness.' p. 11.

He quotes some prophecies at length, (Isaiah ii, 3—4, and
xi, 1 . 5 — 9,^ to the fulfilment of which be looks forward as to
a time of umversal peace, when men shall heat their swords
into ploughshares^ <md their spears into pruning hooks. He
afterwards enumerates several precepts of Christianity incul-
eating forbearance, meekness, compassion, for^veness and
the kindred virtues, and adds ;

'What a strange anomaly would be exhibited, were* these
truly noble and characteristic precepts of the Christian religion
placed at the head of every naval ot military officer's commission,


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$86 TitmerU Sermons.

and at the head of erer j warlike order issued from the Admiralt j
or War Office, or at the head of every regimental orderly-book !
No incongruity could appear greater than such a mixture of war
and Gospel ; no impossibility more evident than the impossibility
of obedience in both cases ; no truth more clear than that war
and Christianity are utterly irreconcilable. When the Christian
and military duties are thus contrasted, the discrepance is so
glaring, that it has rather the appearance of burlesque than of
sober truth. But surely this striking contrariety affords no mean
argument, that the duties of a Christian and a warrior can never
be faithfully discharged by the same individual* p 16.

The general strain of sentiraeDt breathed frora this letter, is
of a manly and Christian character, equally honourable to the
understanding and heart of the author. i

Art. XVn. — Sermorti, selected from the Papers of the late
R^v. Henry Turner, and published ai the Request of the
youn^r Members of the Church of Unitarian Christians ui
the ERgh Pavement^ Nottingham. To which are added^ a
few occasional Addresses. Newcastle. 1822. 8vo. pp.
368. [Second Edition, 1825.]

We have learned that a second edition of this volume has
been published within the last year ; a circumstance which marks
the esteem in which it is regarded by our brethren abroad, and
which the work itself well deserves. These are the sermons
of a young man of worth and promise, who died at the age of
thirty, after having been four years settled at Bradford, and
five years at Nottingham. A short account is given in the
preface of his labours in these places, which prove him to have
been an industHous and useful minister — making himself a
pastor as well as a preacher, and so gaining the attachment
and confidence of his flock. His attention appears to have
been given in an exemplary degree to the young. At Not-
tingham he was indefatigable in his supervision of the parish
school, and he so thoroughly reformed, that be is said to have ^ re-
created,' the Sunday Schoob in that place. He mstituted a week-
1;^ meeting among die young men of the place < for the discus-
sion of moral and relinous subjects, which was carried on with
great satisfaction.' He encouraged also, in connexion with bis

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Tumer^s Sermotu. 387

coUetgue, a deFodoaal meeting oq Sunday evening, ' in tlie
girls' school room, and often himself addressed it. These meet-
ings, it is remarked, * being chiefly auended by young persons,
not yet settled in &milies, were found productive of much
benefit. It may be doubted, however,^ adds the writer,
^ whether those who are become heads of families, can be bet*
ter employed on the evenings of the Lord's day, than in mak*
ing their own homes agreeable and profitable, while they train
up their children, and also, as far as circumstances permit, their
other dependants]^ in the principles of virtue and true religion.'
The interest which their young minister evinced in their
welfare by these and other means, produced corresponding
effects. The attendants of both the weekly meetings have pubK
lished affectionate testimonies to his zeal and piety, his talents
and kindness, and valuable labours, and the younger members of
the society solicited the publication of this volume of his Ser-
mons, by a letter addressed to his widowin the following terms.

* To Mrs Henry Turner.
* Dear Madam, — The younger members of the High Pave-
ment congregation, strongly desirous of shewing some mark of
respect and affection, which they have always entertained for
their departed friend, had raised a subscription among thenip
sehes for the purpose of erecting in the Chapel, a Tablet to his
memory ; but, upon reflection, they thought that no tablet would
perpetuate his memory so delightfully, and so udefully, as his
own Sermons. Will you consent to their earnest wish, that the
sum they have collected may be applied towards defraying the
publication of a selection of them; that thus his excellent and
pious exhortations may still cbntinue to be their guide, as his
pure and holy life will always be held up before them as their
example ?

Signed on behalf of Mr Henry Turner's
numerous young friends,

W. Needham.*

No writings can make their appearance in print under greater
disadvantages than posthumous sermons. They are necessarily
hasty and unfinished compositions — hurried upon paper, one
every week and perhaps more. The preacher leaves to be
inferred from his emphasis and tone, those shades of meaning
and nicities of expression, which the deliberate author would
convey by carefully selected language. Great allowances are.

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388 jTumfr'^ Sermons. *

therefore, alwajrs necessary to be made ^ the critical reader.
To him who remembers the preacher and associates widi
his image, and voice, and character, the pages which he reads,
they may have as great a charm as any more perfect memo*
rial. To him who reads solely for his own personal improve^
ment in virtue and reUgion, they may be as edifying as more
finished compositions. But the stranger and the critic, who
look upon them with cooler eye, will be dissatisfied with blem-
ishes to which more partial or more devout readers are insensi-
ble. It is therefore, no small praise to the sermons before us,
that they evince a justness of thought and expression, which
renders unnecessary any apology from the reasons we have
mentioned. The merest critic will find nothing to ofiend, while
the serious Christian will approve, be pleased, and be in-
structed. ^ *

The sermons are twenty two in number, upon topics for the
most part altogether practical, and deeply imbued with the
serious, devout, afifectionate spirit, which ought to characterise
the exhortations of the pulpit. There is nothing like effi>rts at
fine writing, or high eloquence ; no bursts of passion, no awaken-
ing vehemence, no tawdry serttimentality, no rant, cant, bom-
bast, or afi^tation ; but all is quiet common sense, * the words
of soberness and truth.' Mr Turner seems to have thou^t
it the business of a sermon to do good, and not to display its
author ; and therefore he uses great jdainness as well as pro-
priety of speech, and having said what he had to say, has left it
to make its impression, without seeking to gain applause to
himself by the skill and elegance with which be has arrayed it
The general tone is that of a pious, afl^tionate, serious, fiiend,
bent upon doing good ; and as such it pleases us. It shows
that the writer is in earnest ; and we would much prefer auiet
earnestness at Nottingham, to vociferous declamation at Hat-
ton Garden. *

The first discourse, which is on ReU^iaus Conversatum,
ofier« some extracts which present very fair specimens of the
general tone of the volume.

< For how seldom, if we consider what passes in society, does
religion find a pkce amongst the topics of conversation ! How
cautiously, if we reflect on the variety of occasions when it
Blight naturaUy present itself, does it seem to be avoided ! and
when it chances to obtrude itself, how quickly is it dismissed in
fiMfur of any ordinary subject ! Now, if we judged of the gene*

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Tumer^s Sermom. 389

ral torn and purpose of the mind, from the customary complex- '
ion of the discourse, how unfavourable a conclusion would hence
be suggested ! When we have been much in a person's company, '
and have never heard him say a word on poetry, or philosophy, or
mechanics, we naturally conclude that he has no interest in such
subjects ; but should we be correct if, following the same rule,
we judged that religion occupied as small a share of the thoughts,
as it ordinarily does of the conversation 1 I trust not ; I trust,
that this holy, elevating subject engages the silent meditation of
many a mind, that never betrays it to any but the closest observer ;
and that many a passing conviction is quietly, but firmly, esta-
blished, to be the permanent, though unseen, motive of conduct.
But why is this 1 Why should men seem, by a studied reserve,
to disown the sentiments which they esteem and cherish as of
the utmost importance to their welfare 1 Were it only the noto-
riously wicked that denied to religion a place amongst the ordi-
nary concerns of life, it would be 'no wonder. But do we not
find in the number the cultivated, the well informed, the re-
fined, persons who are lifted far ^bove the baseness of mere
sensual propensities, and have a good discernment of what i»
truly noble, and worthy to occupy the soul of man ; nay, do we
not find amongst the number many, whom it would be the height
of uncharitableness to accuse of irreligionl Indeed it is so
general, that it may be considered as a remarkable feature of our
national manners ; and considered as in some degree characteris-
tic of the age. we live in. pp. 3, 4.

* To be silent on the things that relate to salvation and im-
' mortality, when there are so many ignorant, sinful, despairing,
f^hless men around you, is, as if you were in a ship, which had
long sailed in unknown regions of the sea, and which, after hav-
ing been tossed about by storms, driven from its course by winds,
rocked by swelling waves, and shattered by continued tempests,
at length approached its haven, and you, being on the mast, saw
the fau' summits of a green and. fertile land, and forbore to tell
your discovery, to cheer the feeble heartsick mariners below.
Yea, though you could but give the heavenly message in fault-
ering accents, — ^though, ip your diffidence, you should appre-
hend that much of its dignity and persuasive eloquence would be
lost, when you undertake the mighty theme, (and even the de-
vout Moses entertained such thoughts, )-^yet, when you reflect on
the wickedness and ignorance that is in the world, you will feef
that *' necessity is laid upon you," to proclaim the glad tidings
brought by JesUs Christ. You that are " called out of dkrknesi
into the marvellous light" of God, will ye remain unmoved 1 Will
ye acknowledge none of the sublime emotions which the W^

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390 T\amer^s Serwumt.

covery of the regions of immortality awaken 1 Will ye own none of
the fears which agitate you, in behalf of the multitudes of
thoughtless sinners, whom you see around you ? Will ye not
give utterance to one expression of pitying remonstrance, when you
see them on the very verge of a state of awful retribution V p. 14.

The next sermon, on the Love of God, is introduced with a
passage of more than the author's ordinary elevation and
Deau^, which we pass by ibr the sake of quoting from the
plain and direct discourse on Reasons for not being ashamed
of the Gospel.

* My friends, I tremble for you, if your love of truth and value
for the hopes and privileges of religion cannot support you in the
presence of men, who deserve only your pity and forgiveness.

* Do you, on such an occasion, retire within yourselves, and feel
terrified lest some unguarded word should have betrayed the un-
fortunate fact, that you are a Christian 1 A most melancholy weak-
ness, to which, however, the young and inexperienced are but too
liable ; and which has gained more proselytes to the cause of in-
fidelity, than could easily be imagined. How many men have
there been possessed of so little fortitude, that, when exposed to
the taunt of the unbeliever, they have been eager to make their
timely escape by a quick adoption of the opinions of him, whom
they so unworthily dread. Or, if not moved to this act of des-
peration, how anxiously do they decline the contest, as one in
which they have no concern ; and refer it to professional men,
whose business it is to defend their religion. Professional men!
What, do we live in a Pi^testant country, and have we yet to
learn that Christianity is every one's profession ; that no man can
be a Christian by proxy ; and that none will be asked, in the
great day of account, what his priest, or his minister believed,
but what he himself believed; and still more, how his beha-
viour corresponded with his belief? It is, without doubt, the
duty of every man to be able to give a reason for the faith which
is in him. Christianity is so deep a subject of investigation, and so
widely connected with the most important truths, that it would be
presumptuous in any one to suppose himself safe, in resting his
decision on the sole strength of his individual arguments in its
favour; yet it possesses such a perfect character of truth and genu-
ineness, that it would say little for the care and assiduity, with
which any one professing himself a Christian had studied it ; if he
could not feel a perfect and rational confidence in its Divine au-
thority. In truth, the unbeliever is not, in general, a person to
be feared by any sincere Christian, who has sought for religious
knowledge, where alone it can be found in native purity ; for

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Turner's Sermons. 391

even, if he has not read the satisfactory confutations, which have
repeatedly been afforded of a few captions objections, still these
will not induce him to disregard that body of truth contained in
the narration, preaching, and doctrines of the Scriptures, which
speaks home to his heart, and is acknowledged by every generous
principle of his nature, pp. 161 — 163.

From the discourse on the Duty and Efficacy of Prayer ^ we
make our next extract, not only as a specimen of the work,
but as containing a thought, which deserves to be carefully pon-
dered and ap;)lied.

' I know it has been said, that the important practical tendency
of the exercise of prayer will, of itself, operate as a sufficient
motive for engaging in it. Our prayers, it is said, for support
under affliction, or of virtue in temptation, though they do not
induce God to bestow more of His supporting grace, than by His
inherent goodness He is ever disposed to bestow, have a most
beneficial effect upon our own temper, and serve to impress upon
us a sense of our constant dependence upon the Almighty, for
everything which makes our lives happy. In like manner, our
intercessions in behalf of our feUow creatures, though they can-
not have any direct influence in promoting their welfare, produce,
indirectly, the most important results, by engaging us, in a solemn
and impressive manner, to the performance of charitable and
benevolent duties. But I think 1 may safely appeal to the good
sense and experience of every religious person, whether these are
the reasons which have ever led, or ever would lead, to that
spontaneous and sincere devotion, from which alone these good
effects would flow 1 Nay, whether they would even consider it as
justifiable to use the forms of devotion, under such impressions 1
Could the form of petition be used with propriety by those, who
do not believe that the Divine Being regards the prayers of men 1
Might it not appear even impious, to address the Almighty in
language, which we considered as expressing false and unfound-
ed notions 1 For surely no apparent advantages can justify us,
in acting upon fictitious principles. And in religion especially,
where everything should breathe simplicity and godly sincerity,
it cannot be warrantable to act comformably with ideas, whidi
we believe to be erroneous ; to connect the venerable name of
God with a supposed falsehood, merely because we imagine
good effects wQl be produced on our own minds, by sxkdti a
practice. But it is altogether a fallacy ; no such prayer was
ever presented ; and the valuable tendency of the exercise must
entirely cease, as soon as the worshipper believes, that nature
and religion hold out to him no hope of obtaining a favourable an-
swer to his sincerest prayer, under his greatest afflictions.' p. 310.

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393 InteUigence.

' Some of the other important topics are, Trust in God, Ne-

fleet of Public Worship, Necessity of Repentance, Love to
/hrist, iTncharitable Judgment, the Proper Objects of a Chris-
tian's Pursuits, Means of securing the Love of Christ, and the
Neve Year. These are followed by several addresses at the
Communion, and an Office for Public Worship. The extracts
which we have given render it unnecessary to add further re-
marks m commendation.


Lord Liverpool on Bible Meetings. — ^The following speech was
lately made by the Earl of Liverpool, at a Meeting of the Kings-
ton Auxiliary Bible Society.

' Ladies and Gentlemen, — ^I cannot return thanks for the honour
you have just done me, without troubling you with a few remarks.
It is now ten years since I first attended a meeting of a Bible So-
ciety in another part of the country ; and I can traly say, that
the effects of the Society ever since that time, have confirmed
me in the opinion I then formed, that it was calculated, in an
omipent degree, to promote the interests of religion and virtue.
The character pecaliar to it is universality. It confines itself not
to one country alone, but extends to every country in the four
quarters of the globe, and to every region, however remote ;
and how could we go to foreign countries, and to people of different
religious persuasions, how could we go to the Lutheran, to the
Calvinist, to the Greek, or to the Roman Catholic, without first
laying it down as our foundation at home, that we admit all our

Online LibraryJohn Harrison MillsThe Christian examiner and theological review, Volume 2 → online text (page 40 of 49)