Explanation of the Reasons and Motives for the Advice Given on a Late Occasion.
By Francis Hollingsworth.
Baltimore: no publisher, 1815.
TO THE PUBLIC.
I understand the public expects me to offer some reasons for the advice given Mr. Worthington in consequence of my being informed of the unhappy circumstances which have caused so much anguish of mind to our families, and which, I believe, it was always his wish to conceal from the world. It has also been intimated to me, that certain good people, whom I ought to respect, have said if I was now the man I once was, I would not permit family interests and family feelings to place me against one who has so nobly stood forward in defence of gospel truth. I shall gratify the public; and reply to the suggestions of those who have mistaken my motives.
And here I must beg the public to understand, that what I advance is not intended in any way whatever to implicate the honour of the gentlemen of St. Peter's, or the virtue and propriety of behaviour of the ladies, as ladies: I merely give the sentiments of a religious professor respecting others professing religion, to shew, my apprehension of the wretched mistake of the pastor and some of the members of that Church in their conceptions of what religion really is. And I also beg it may be recollected, that my opinions, whether iI am or am not mistaken in them, have no relation to the real merits of the case brought before the publick by Mr. Worthington; he cannot be advantaged by their truth; nor the truth of the Circular be established by their incorrectness.
I would not willingly offend, yet in saying what I say, I may raise my hand against every man; and shall not therefore complain if every man's hand is raised against me: be it so: but for others, I never should have noticed blind leaders of the blind in religion or politicks. I shall say no more; and answer nothing: hereafter, my Master's command shall be my rule—I shall let them alone.
 After I had made a profession of religion myself, my visits at Mr. Dashiell's were in no way edifying. I frequently saw, what, before I was not in a situation to observe—I saw him but too often surrounded by the elements of ruin. I saw him beset by a bevy of gossiping, idolizing females, as fond as they were foolish; anxious enough, it would seem, to prattle their way to heaven, but giving slender evidence, to my mind, of their willingess, as women professing godliness, to bear the cross of self-denying holiness on their journey; of which, indeed, their reverend guide gave, I thought, an equally slender example. Mr. Dashiell was too m uch in company with husbands who were only sanctified by a believing wife, and were content. In such society, it is evident, the conversation of the hour must have been too much about Mr. Dashiell, and too little about meekness, and temperance and charity. How, indeed, might a man of his temperament resist the seductions which thus tended to lead him from the path of duty, only, in his case more especially, to be kept by meditation and watchfulness unto prayer? I thought I perceived that the religion of Mr. Dashiell was a mere profession of that which he once, doubtless, enjoyed. Indeed the sad effects of the perversion of the self-esteem which may be useful, to the vanity which must be gratified, can now be seen in the city frowning over the mantle piece of many a room; unless, indeed, the "answer to the Circular of St. Peter's," has already rid the indignant walls of their offensive exhibitions.
To shew that my opinion of the Vestry, and certain of the congregation of St. Peter's was probably correct, I have to offer the following reasons:
The public will recollect, the circumstances under which St. Peter's was established. Certain persons attached to the Episcopal Church wished to have evangelical truth preached to them by a pastor of that Church. Mr. Dashiell certainly did thus preach the gospel; but he too frequently preached Christ of contention—his violence offended every body, and compelled the Vestry and his friends, always to stand in his defence, and thus identify themselves and the interests of the Church with his existence as its pastor. In this way are many good natured people influenced. The fact is, that St. Peter's was a Church of party; and when people feel disposed hastily to censure the members of the Vestry, let them pause and reflect upon the full import of that awful word.
What but the spirit of party, for instance, can justify the false-hearted profession which some have made of reverencing the precepts of the great political prophet of their country, whilst in flat contradition to his best advice, they have shewn strong dispositions to divide the country by distracting its consels, and unnerving its arm in the day of peril—and what, but such a spirit, could have supported other people, of other opinions, in the solemn mockery of building the tomb of this prophet, whom, whilst alive, [4/5]
they would have more than politically killed? Even in this city, in a case of blood, the record of which our children will believe with astonishment, what could have made that parallelism which exists in that case and the one brought before the public by the Vestry of St. Peter's, in the trial and acquittal by men acting under the solemn obligation of an oath, but the spirit of a party?—What but this bewildering spirit could, in th emind of any man who has brains in his head, sanctify the folly of those, whose imprudence, threatening in its aspect their enemies and hostile to the safety of their friends, produced the lamentable consequences to which I allude? We have just seen sorrowfully commemorated the devotion of those brave citizens who fell in the defence of their country; the solemnity was accompanied by all that could well express the gratitude of the survivors, and its conclusion honoured, as it would seem, by descending tears from the sympathizing heavens. But if the enquiring mind, well possessed of the history of this city for the last five years, should, in the fear of God, trace the links which connect the death of those patriots with the murder of the patriot of other times, it will see a modern instance of perverseness, inviting the retribution which mingles the blood of the sacrificers and the sacrifice on the same altar. Pity it is that the innocent should suffer for the guilty; pity it is, that lives so precious should have been lost in opposing a disgraceful foe, who does not always plunder, because he is sometimes compelled to fight; and whilst we thus feel, we may justly lament the sad effects of party spirit.
However disagreeable it may be to awaken public attention to such reminiscences, and to preach such truths, it is evident that I do it not to flatter any particular body of men; no—the concern is too general: from the religious Society greatest in numbers, (sainted spirit of my father forgive me a truth which, foretold thee whilst living, thou wouldst not have believed!) down to the least, there is not one in the city whcih has not had well known actors or applauders in the scene of civile outrage and blood to which I refer. I repeat it, I have no wish to offend, where offence would do no good; on the contrary, I declare, that I consider those who struck, and those who only whispered strike! to be equally honorable men. What I have said is brought to strengthen my justification of opinions as to the course the Vestry of St. Peter's would pursue when any attempts were made against their church, by shewing the terrible effects of this spirit, manifested in every system it pervades. I write in my own defence, and may be permitted, I hope, to make my case good by all kinds of truth. Mr. Worthington is out of the question here; confident of its justice, I have, without fear, entrusted his cause, to the redeeming virtue of Baltimore—that virtue which in '95 made her a city of refuge to the strangers of other lands and other tongues, who were fed and clothed and comforted—which has made her winters as [5/6] active in charities, as her summers are in industry—which, exhibited in daring enterprize, in valour, and in patriotism, has created and justified her proud boast of being the envy of the envious of the welfare of their country.
Many people who have no courage to make the sacrifices religion requires, are yet afraid to remove from the preaching of the truth; it is too much like giving up the thing entirely; which is rather alarming to those who have once had serious impressions; such as these of his congregation will hate to see Mr. Dashiell driven away.
I am much afraid that Mr. Dashiell and some of his friends live upon the reciprocated flattery of each other; and I need hardly say, that no cement is so strong as this, to keep your would-be religious folks together. Am I asked—are there no really religious people in the congregation of St. Peter's—I answer, yes—doubtless there are—some whom I know; and some I have not the happiness of knowing.
To the suggestion of the worthy characters who have questioned my motives for the part I have taken in Mrs. Worthington's disagreement with the Rector of St. Peter's, I have but a short answer to make: I hope they will believe me, when I assure them, I have not changed my course—No; I have only shamefully loitered on the road. How much religion I now possess, I may look inward and tremble to inquire; but, of my unfaithfulness, I hope and believe, God and my own heart are the only witnesses. I owe it to the Gracious Being who made me—to the Saviour who agnozed, and bled, and died for my redemption—to the Holy Spirit to whom I am indebted for the little light I have, and the comfort I enjoy—I owe it to the memory of my honored father who lived in obedience to its requisitions, and died in the triumph of its faith, to declare, that I am not ashamed of the Gospel Mr. Dashiell has preached; because it is the Gospel of Christ; and has been made, I doubt not, the power of God to many sincere souls in St. Peter's Church.
I beseech the public to believe that I am by no means, indifferent to what has happened in that church. I am well aware of the injury done to the interests of vital religion by the apostacy of its clerical professors. The irreligious of the more profligate kind, and the confident and cold formalist who cannot suffer loss because he has nothing to lose, will unite in their triumph over such defection. Godliness is made the sneer of the proud, and the laugh of the foolish. All those who eat the flesh, and drink the blood of the son of God, and who yet, by the daily neglect or violation of his precepts crucify him afresh and put him to an open shame, hate him who preaches the necessity of a holy preparation for his table by a constant and humble obedience and prayer; these will be glad to find such a preacher as unfaithful as themselves. All those who have had the spirit of the Living God for witness of their solemn [6/7] dedication in infancy, and in riper years confirmed, and who yet fondly cherish the pomps and vanities they promised to renounce, will rejoice to hear that the common disturber of the slumbering and sleeping virgins will no longer be permitted to cry aloud the distressing truths, that without repentance all shall likewise perish, and that without holiness none shall see the Lord. Of these bad effects, I am sorrowfully aware.
I sympathize with the old and true believers of St. Peter's: I grieve in the grief of the young converts who have only begun to totter on the path of salvation; for well I know, that steep is the ascent, and afflictive is the way. Had their pastor remained faithful, they might have enjoyed the privilege, not always enough prized by christians, of being still directed by him who first taught them how to advance; and as they journeyed onward through the dim vista of life together, they would have been cheered by his brighter light, and animated by his holy example.—Let them trust in God—HE will never leave them nor forsake them.
I do sincerely pity the family of Mr. Dashiell. And professing as I do, may I not lament that he who, by the providence of God, seemed set for the defence of the Gospel in the Episcopal church of Maryland, should bring upon himself merited reproach instead of the reproach of Christ, the crown of rejoicing to the marty of persecution who can justly rejoice that he is counted worthy to suffer shame for his name—may I not feel for the man who was entrusted with such powers of mind to improve the grace given, and who yet, more faithless than the slothful servant who hid his Lord's money, has beaten out his talents into the thing disguise of sanctified appearance to veil tempers by no means meek, and desires not always holy—may I not compassionate the favorite who once stood so high, surrounded by constant friends, and incensed by daily gratulations, and who is now threatened by contempt, and bareness, and desolation? I do indeed pity him.—May he learn to abhor himself and repent in dust and ashes—may God for Christ's sake, forgive him—may he yet live the Gospel he has so boldly and eloquently preached!