« PreviousContinue »
were a judge, that word, indulgence' should never issue from my lips. My Lord, you have no indulgence to show; you are bound to be just, and to be just is, to do that which is ordered.'
Chief Justice Eyre, a model of judicial urbanity, still allowed him the seat merely as an indulgence, on the ground of his infirm health. Once admitted to the bar-table, he made free use of their privilege to inflict the bastinado with his tongue. On the question of adjournment, he told the Court, in a tone of triumph, that if the jury went unshaved and unshirted, so must the judges; but he offered to shorten a probable trial of two hundred hours, by admitting every thing he had ever said, written, or done. As a set-off against the abuse of king and lords in pamphlets, he was ready to produce an abuse of himself printed on earthenware. With regard to the treasonable songs, he would have one of them sung in court to see if there was any seditious, Ca Ira-like, or resembling the Marsellois Hymn, in the tune. Refreshing himself with a pinch of Strasburgh, he would often bandy law points with the judge, and, if worsted, apologise by saying that he was only a student of forty years' standing. But he not unfrequently rose a winner. Having objected to a particular piece of evidence, he was reminded by the Court that, if there were two or three links in the chain, they must go to one first, and then to another, and see whether they amounted to evidence. Horne Tooke demurred to this:
I beg your pardon, my Lord, but is not a chain composed of links, and may I not disjoin each link, and do not I thereby destroy the chain?'
'Eyre, C. J.- I rather think not, till the links are put together, and form the chain.'
Horne Tooke.-'I rather think I may, because it is my business to prevent the forming of that chain!''
As the trial proceeded, his strong sense of humour seemed to gather point and pungency from the dangerous novelty of his position. It was proved that the society had expressed approbation of certain proceedings in the National Assembly, ergo it was Republican. Egad,' said Tooke, 'it is lucky we did not say there were some good things in the Koran, or we should have been charged with Mahometanism!''-vol. ii. pp. 24-26.
On the acquittal of the third prisoner, Erskine's cup was full. Injured innocence,' he exclaimed, in his address to the populace, who had drawn him home in triumph, 'still obtains protection from a British jury, and, I am sure, in the honest effusions of your heart you will retire in peace, and bless God.'
This, we may readily believe, was the proudest and happiest epoch of his life. Greedy of popular applause, faithful to his party and political principles, eager for professional fame, rejoicing in the triumph of the verdict, not superior to the pleasure of mortifying the haughty, disparaging, Pitt, he drained the cup of mental intoxi
cation at the close of these trials. Day by day he had stood almost alone, from early morn to midnight—
'With darkness and with dangers compassed round-'
unexhausted, contending for a great principle, the guardian of untold numbers-cheered by the presence of admiring senators, and an applauding people-winning, almost against their will, the sympathies of the jury, and combating always fearlessly, often successfully with the court. He had proved to the scoffers of the House of Commons the might of his arm in his own proper field, had caught encouragement from the looks of Fox and his little band; the most supercilious and jealous of which (even Grey and Sheridan), must now own him for at least their equal. He had done more for freedom than any lawyer since Somers, and had gained a series of victories unexampled in their importance to the cause of consti. tutional law. Even among those most opposed to him in politics might be numbered many who approved his positions, and rejoiced in the verdict The dark and ensanguined mass of clouds which loomed over the horizon at the end of the year 1794 had been dispelled by his breath.'-ib. 34.
We need scarcely add, that the volumes before us are admirably adapted for general reading, while the professional student will find them an excellent introduction to that knowledge of his illustrious predecessors at which he should steadily aim.
Art. IX.-1. German Reformation of the Nineteenth Century; or, a Sketch of the Rise, Progress, and present Position of those who have recently separated themselves from the Church of Rome; with a short Notice of the State of Protestantism in Prussia, Austria, Bavaria, and the Prussian Baltic Provinces. By the German correspondent of the Continental Echo.' John Snow, London, 1846.
2. The Continental Echo. Nos. I.-XXI.
THESE publications are valuable repositories of authentic information respecting the progress of evangelism on the Continent. We have therefore turned to them for materials to help us to form an opinion on John Czerski and his procedure. Though the best face is put on the business by his friends, the fact is, that during his recent visit to London, the evangelical circles on the whole received him coldly and suspiciously. Anonymous letters appeared in journals making high pretensions to piety, in which zealous and orthodox pens assumed
to themselves the right to declare his creed for him, and assured readers more credulous than charitable, that he was not sound in the faith. Fearful whispers were more plentiful than the breezes in the hot August air of London, to the effect that he was an unsound and immoral man. Anglicanus,' without waiting to ask Czerski himself what his views were, and what his conduct had been, must needs announce in a public journal his loss of all hope in him and his followers. This hope is, alas lost to us.' The Rev. J. Mayers, of Norfolk, wrote a letter proclaiming that the whole German movement had 'taken a decidedly rationalistic tendency and direction.' After perusing some of these letters, we felt very sure that of nothing rationalistic in tone, temper, or thought, were their writers ever likely to be accused. In private, reverend personages were found who seemed to make it their business to expose the moral and doctrinal obliquities of John Czerski. The result was, that this interesting man was met with the cold shoulder.'
Averse though we be to the conceited shallowness of what is called rationalistic theology, we wish to be decidedly rationalistic in dealing with the characters of others. For newspaper correspondents to take upon themselves to proclaim a man's views for him seems to be a dishonesty more grievous than the theft of a purse, by just as much as spiritual liberty, and the rights of the soul and religious character, are more valuable than the contents of a purse. Czerski had a property in the right to express his own views in his own way, of which he could be deprived only by a most pernicious kind of larceny. With respect to his moral character, this was a still more serious invasion of his rights. The principles on which men receive each other into Christian fellowship in churches in certain denominations,- accordance in their creeds and consistency of conduct with them-are very different from the principles on which men combine in societies and meet together in private circles. All that can be done practically in the regulation of the latter sort of intercourse is to believe that men mean what they say, and treat them according as they are accredited by introductions from known individuals, or enjoy the sanction of public bodies. For such intercourse and cooperation, investigations with respect to the peculiarities of creed and privacies of conduct are unnecessary and impossible. With how a man married his wife such bodies have nothing to do. They go out of the way when they require what he did with the money sent him to build churches. The investigation of these things belongs to the churches with which he is in communion. If four, not to say forty, Christian communities sanction, by choosing him as their pastor, his way of disposing of funds and
of marrying his wife, public associations owe to him the deference due to the man accredited by the sanction and invested with the approbation of such communities.
Of the thousands of Christian gentlemen who meet each other in societies, scarcely one is ever subjected to any treatment not founded on these considerations. But an exception was made in the case of the Rev. John Czerski. It is a curious exception. Surveying the clergy of all denominations in this country, it is impossible to deny that their position is not proof of any remarkable degree of virtue on their part. On worldly grounds, their profession is just the best one open to men of their scholarly tastes. Most of them have not had the means of going to the bar. The ablest of them would find it hard to make a living by literature. In reference to purely selfish considerations most of them could not have bettered themselves. But John Czerski is a man whose position is a proof of remarkable virtue. By devoting himself to the service of the church in which he was brought up, he might have ascended a splendid ladder of ecclesiastical ambition. The conventions of the priests where he lived would have sanctioned his living with many mistresses; a devotion to the interests of Rome would have opened higher and still higher offices for his acceptance, and with his years might have grown his honours, his wealth, renown, and power. Professing religious convictions as the reason of his conduct, John Czerski rejects the splendours which Rome holds forth to ecclesiastical ambition, and becomes the pastor of four congregations for a yearly stipend of twentytwo pounds odd. Mobbed by the populace, stoned by young ladies, shot at by grown men, his abduction attempted, his character slandered, his feelings lacerated, and a yearly income gained by him of five pound ten a quarter,—these are the rewards of John Czerski. This was the man who was coldly received in London by the religious circles, in August 1846. Strange is the suspicion of untried men, of the Christian virtue of a man who has been tried and found to be noble. Czerski was criticised by excellent and well-beneficed clergymen for vacillation.' The parson in his serene rectory, with a steady income and a calm scene, is conscious of no vacillation.
'Ye clergymen of England,
Who live at home at ease,
How little do ye know
Of the dangers of the seas.'
The very lustre of their celebrity makes conspicuous all the incidents of the lives of distinguished men. The faults of obscure men are hidden by the obscurity of their lives. Such
were some of the considerations which sprung up in our mind on hearing of the reception of John Czerski in London.
We attended his public appearances in London with much interest. He is a slightly made man, of the middle height, with sallow plebeian features, dressed like a priest, with a round, broad, German head, a broad chin, a long upper lip, a short sharp nose, intelligent black eyes, and brown hair smoothed down the sides of a good forehead, with nervous sensibility and self-reliance displayed in the workings of his features. In age he appears to be between thirty and forty, but worn by study and anxiety. His look flashes conviction of his sincerity into the observer. His voice is sweet and earnest. His style and manner show a degree of culture considerably above the average of the clerical profession.
Of course, the private investigations which were made into the character, creed, and conduct of Czerski issued in his complete vindication. After being suspected unjustly, and treated accordingly, attempts were made to efface the impression on his feelings by breakfasts, meetings, and 'the right hand of fellowship.' But it is impossible to convince any one who saw Czerski on his first and on his last appearance in London, that the interval had not been filled up with much suffering, unwarrantably and needlessly inflicted. Of some of the leaders of the Evangelical Alliance this is true;-they did not protect a noble foreigner from pain, but they are understood to be zealous for getting a picture painted of themselves in solemn conclave!
'Alas; for the rarity
Czerski was the first to form a church separate from Rome in that part of Germany, which has been the scene of his labours and those of Rongé.
'To Czerski,' says the author of the German Reformation of the Nineteenth Century,' the modest, retiring man, to whose individual character every approach to leadership, or publicity, is foreign, belongs the merit, not only.of having first entertained the idea of the formation of a Catholic church, independent of, and separate from, Rome; but of being the first, likewise, to carry this idea into practice. And this bold step brought what had long lain dark and inert in the wishes of thousands, at once to distinctive clearness; and the thought of their hearts took form and substance. In March, 1844, Czerski was appointed assistant to probst Busse, in Schneidemühl, whose failing health had induced him to apply for a co-pastor. And here he found many parishioners, whose thoughts and feelings coincided with his own. For, in beautiful illustration of the manner in which God so often prepares a people for himself in the midst of