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Milner's Practical Sermons, Vol. III.
Mollien's Travels in the Republic of Columbia
Newman's Manual for Church Members
Statement by the Committee of the Edinburgh Bible Society relative to the
FOR JULY, 1825.
Art. I. 1. Proceedings of a General Court Martial assembled at Malta, March 1, 1824, together with subsequent Proceedings respecting the Trial of Lieut. George Francis Dawson of the Royal Artillery, for hesitating to comply with an Order by which he was required to assist and participate in the Ceremonies of the Romish Church. 8vo. pp. 108. Price 2s. 6d. London. 1825.
2 Appendix to the Report of the Trial of Lieutenant Dawson, &c. being an Appeal to the Lords Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and to the Lord Bishop of London, relative to the Continuance of similar Usages and Orders to those in which that Trial originated. 8vo.
E deem it an imperious duty which we owe to ourselves, our country, and the cause of religion, to draw the attention of our readers to the case of those gallant and meritorious officers who have been dismissed from the army, and thus turned adrift upon the world, to seek for the means even of subsistence, for no other than the alleged crime of having refused to participate in one of the idolatrous ceremonies of the Church of Rome. A solitary instance of undeserved hardship or oppression, although not of an order calculated to prove important in its results, would, under any circumstances, awake the sympathy and indignation of every liberal mind. But the present case is one which calls for the most serious attention, not so much for the sake of the individuals who have suffered, as for the sake of the principles which, in their persons, have been so signally violated: it is not the cause of an individual or of a party, but the common cause of every Briton and every Protestant, whether churchman or dissenter, by whom the privileges of Englishmen or the rights of conscience are held in veneration. It might appear scarcely credible, that British officers could have been placed in such a situation as to be exposed to the temptation of violating the dictates of conscience in complying with the superstitious observances of the Romish Church. But, among the many VOL. XXIV. N.S. B
lasting obligations under which we are placed to the two officers in question, for the noble stand they have made for the cause of Truth, this is not the least; that they have drawn the attention of the British public to the extraordinary fact, that, not at Malta only, but in various parts of the world, are Protestant officers compelled to degrade themselves, their country, and their religion, in the eyes of Roman Catholics, by a direct participation in the mummeries and idolatry of Papal perstition.
But, before proceeding further, it is necessary to remark, that the facts of the case under review, have been very widely and essentially mistaken. Most of our readers were, in common with ourselves, some time ago informed by the Gazette, that two British officers, Captain Atchison and Lieutenant Dawson, had been cashiered for disobedience of orders, in refusing to fire a salute upon a saint's day at Malta. Now we confess, that, from the ex parte statements contained in the public newspapers, we were at first disposed to draw a conclusion unfavourable to the judgement and prudence of the officers concerned. True, we were compelled to do homage to that manly independence and religious sense of duty which had led them to brave the frown of power and the derision of the ungodly,-to forego their professional prospects, and submit to "the loss of all things," rather than violate the demands of conscience. But we were inclined to imagine that they had been misled by a mistaken sense of duty; and we conceived that, if their conscience had in this instance been as enlightened as it was undoubtedly upright and pure, they would have seen the propriety of complying with the ob noxious order, leaving the responsibility that might attach to it, to those with whom it originated. In taking this view, we believed that a simple order had been issued to fire a salute, and that Captain Atchison and Lieutenant Dawson had assumed the privilege of inquiring into the reason of the order, and, finding that it was in honour of St. Lorenzo, had thought themselves bound as Christians and as Protestants to adopt the line of conduct for which they were cashiered. Now, although we were well aware that this view of the matter did not in the smallest degree remove the load of responsibility which lay upon those higher authorities who lent their sanction to the miserable delusions of Papacy, yet, we felt, that if the principle were to be admitted, that it is competent for soldiers to scrutinize the grounds upon which a simple order, not in itself unlawful, has been issued, there would be an end of all military discipline and subordination.
But, upon inquiry, we found-what indeed might well have
been presumed that these gallant officers had not exposed themselves to obloquy, disgrace, and ruin from any groundless or unnecessary scruples of conscience, but that they had been placed in a situation in which they were bound, in the language of the earliest confessors of Christianity, to inquire Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto men more than unto God, judge ye," and in which, as it appears to us, a Christian had no alternative, but to follow the obvious and distinct, though rugged and narrow path of duty.
In detailing the circumstances which occasioned the trial of Lieutenant Dawson, we feel that we cannot do better than quote an extract from his Letter to the Bishops. Like his printed defence, it is written in a manly, energetic style, and displays all that uncompromising steadiness of principle, tempered with the mild persuasiveness of Christian humility, which distinguishes this valiant soldier of the cross.
'Placed, my Lords,' says Mr. D. in the course of duty, amidst a people who are sunk in the grossest superstition, and for whom Popery has done its worst to debase the mind, enslave the will, and delude the understanding, I beheld with horror the iniquitous absurdities of their idolatrous rites, among which rites none are more con. spicuous than the gorgeous procession of images to which they render the same worship and adoration paid to their idols by the Heathen. To these processions, my Lord, I knew the utmost importance to be attached by the native inhabitants, as being considered a necessary part of the worship due to their protecting saints. I knew also, that they are esteemed incomplete, unless accompanied by salutes and tolling of bells, which being conducted, sometimes by the inferior priests, at others by British soldiers, are simultaneous with the procession and public parade of the image, when it takes place, and are viewed as a direct act of homage to the same.
It was, my Lord, THE IMAGE OF ST. LORENZO THE TUTELAR SAINT OF THE CITY, which was thus to be honoured, together with him, in pursuance of the order of August, 1823, upon the anniversary of his Festival;-a day, my Lord, of no small importance to the Maltese, by whom he is worshipped as devoutly as the idol Juggernaut by any Hindoo. His image is then brought out from his temple; and at the moment of his removal, amidst the applause of the multitude, the firing and tolling is expected to commence in the fort, the priesthood performing the same process at their church as they did upon August 9th.
Upon the receipt, my Lord, of the order, (which pointedly apprized me, that it had been issued at the requisition of the Ecclesiastical authorities,) I felt conscious of the inconsistency of ordering Protestant soldiers to perform that which Papists consider a necessary part of the homage due to their saints; and reflection confirmed the impossibility under which I found myself of reconciling such a course
with my duties as a Protestant. It appeared to me that, by compliance, I, as a Protestant and Christian, should give encouragement and sanction to practices which, in either character, I had been taught to abhor.-The matter stood simply thus:-God has repeatedly expressed his great abhorrence of idolatry, and forbidden any act of homage to be given to images, any worship to be paid to any other being than himself:-but the deluded people around me are blindly, are blasphemously attached to these their false gods,-their saints, their images; they consider the acts I am required to execute, (viz. firing and tolling,) as deeds of homage due to their honour and praise. Personally responsible to the Almighty Tribunal for my personal acts, can I, in violation of all my principles and conscientious feelings, consent to disgrace my character, and require others to relinquish theirs, by performing the part of a popish priest? Will any fancied responsibility upon the part of my superiors relieve me from the condemnation incurred by a breach of the second commandment? Reason says, no;—revelation confirms the voice: "the soul that sinneth it shall die." I cannot be the willing agent in paying this act of homage to a senseless block, and the conscious instrument of deluding others to do the same! As a CHRISTIAN, I cannot;—as a PROTESTANT, I cannot;—and as a BRITISH SUBJECT, I may expect protection in my principles;-for these principles are at the very foundation of the Established Church, they are the principles of the Reformation.' Appendix, pp. 115, 16.
Such were the feelings, such the reflections of Mr. Dawson, when he received the order which expressly desired him to fire salutes' and to toll a bell during the procession [of the. image] from St. Angelo,' on the 9th and 10th instant, ́ being the eve and anniversary of St. Lorenzo, the Tutelar Saint of Vittoriosa.' In obedience, therefore, to the dictates of conscience, he addressed a respectful letter to his commandant, Major Addams, requesting that he might be exonerated from the execution of the order, in consequence of the difficulty in which he felt himself placed, in issuing orders to that effect to the men under his command; conceiving that he should thereby become a party to an idolatrous act of worship com• mitted by those assembled to worship the image of St. Lo"renzo.' After some further correspondence, in the course of which Mr. Dawson reiterated with the utmost deference these objections, Captain Atchison was, on the 9th of August, ordered to fire a salute, although he had a short time before expressed to Major Addams, in the course of a friendly conversation, his concurrence in Mr. Dawson's scruples. Indeed, the refusal of Captain Atchison seems to have been taken for granted, as the Major himself came to the fort, and, contrary to all military etiquette, ordered the salutes to be fired by a serjeant just as Captain A. was about to despatch a letter,