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The Right Reverend writer goes on in a most confused strain upon the subject of faith, of which he gives the following account-which we quote only to shew how strangely he transposes the order of the Christian graces. Other theologians speak of " repentance, whereby we forsake sin; and faith, whereby we believe the promises of God made to us in the Gospel;" but our author reverses this order, and makes faith precede repentance :
"Faith is the effect of inquiry, and implies a just humility, and a conviction of sin, leading to repentance, and encouraging virtue and reliance on the Divine Word." p. 26.
The Bishop is unjust-inadvertently so, we are sure-in representing the Methodists as "neglecting practical virtues," nay, deliberately undervaluing them; and this on account of the alleged unscriptural preaching of their teachers on the relationship between faith and good works. On the contrary, the Methodist preachers are proverbially "practical," as it is called, in their exhortations, and their whole system of discipline is such that an immoral man is not likely long to remain in their communion.
The Bishop's cure for Methodism is "to listen to sober and deliberate authority." Thus he says:
"It is of great importance in the explication of doctrines, to listen to sober and deliberate authority, since there is no end to the fancies and misconceptions of individuals; as has been fully seen indeed from the variety of opinions which have been adopted by different Methodistical preachers; who, though they have scarcely yet existed a century, have fluctuated with various changes, ever learning, but never able to come to the knowledge of truth;' filling God's temple with vain idols, of their own imagination; departing more and more from the sincerity of the faith; and multiplying into numerous subdivisions and sects, who seem to agree in no principle, but in that of departure from the Established Church, and of preaching delusions more or less mischievous to society." p. 28.
This passage is not historically correct; for the Methodists, though not exempt from considerable changes, have upon the whole been more steady in their views, and united in their communion, than almost any body of Christians of equal number during as long a period.
In the next passage his Lordship recurs to his unaccountably mistaken view of the tenets of the Methodists; accusing them of " affixing the stamp of reprobation by a horrible decree;" teaching that "some can by no exertions be saved, and others by no transgressions condemned;" that ' every man's doom is irrevocably fixed by an immutable decree, which neither virtue nor vice can cancel;" and adding, that
"Their notions of an impossibility of falling from grace, and of a salvation already finished to the elect, by the imputed righteousness of Christ, would countenance sinners, though stained with the spots of adultery and murder." p. 30.
The complaint against the Methodists, of keeping the Christian Sabbath too strictly, is much to their honour; and we only wish that all who call themselves Churchmen would imitate their example. The charge of their being too austere in their observance we account mere surplusage, to make out the argument.—
"Methodist. But, sir, the Methodists observe the Sabbath with more sanctity than do the members of the Church.
"Churchman. I cannot consider that as a proper observance of the Sabbath, which promotes a separation from the Established Church, and leads men to frequent conventicles, for the purpose of listening to teachers who are self-commissioned, and who propagate error and enthusiasm. I do not think that the austerity which is professed by the Methodists on that day, and which exhibits religion under a gloom foreign to its true character, and repulsive to the generality of mankind, is at all serviceable to Christianity: on the contrary, the rigid and puritanical formality which they assume, as it recalls the appearance of the hypocritical fanatics, who, with the Scripture always in their mouths, overturned the Church and State in the last century, is extremely injurious; bringing the imputation of deceit on sincere Christians, and exciting suspicion and disgust in sober and considerate minds. I wish it were remembered, by those who pride themselves on trivial observances, and bind heavy burdens on the disciples of Him, whose 'yoke was light, and easy to be borne,
that unless their righteousness exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, they shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven.'" p. 31.
We regret that the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge should encourage such representations, which will be eagerly laid hold of by those who violate the Lord's-day, to the great grief of those who wish for its better observance.
But enough, and we fear too much, of our remarks and quotations; though every page would furnish new matter, if it were necessary, and our limits allowed. In closing the tract upon which we have remarked, we are reminded that we have utterly forgotten Mr. Stanley's "travelling companion" to it. But, in truth, our argument with his Lordship and the Society has been as fellow-Churchmen, and not with reference to the particular views of the Methodists or Dissenters: we should equally object to the doctrines in this tract, were there not a Methodist or a Dissenter in the world. We are ever ready to maintain, against the opposers of our Church, of whatever class, her doctrines, her orders, and her formularies; we account her the glory of the Protestant Reformation, and not the least honoured among the branches of the church of Christ; but we cannot refuse to see that many advocates for her communion do not truly set forth her principles: nor ought we to defend what is indefensible because one portion of the litigants is within and the other without our own immediate pale. We have not been vindicating Methodists, or Methodism, but simply those doctrines which are the common property of the whole Christian community; and which, if Methodists hold, they do not hold as Methodists, but as Christians. Lest, however, we should do injustice to Mr. Stanley and the Methodist body, we will transcribe a few passages of his Letter in refutation of some of the charges brought against them in the Christian Knowledge tract. Upon points of fact relative to the tenets and practices of the Methodists, they themselves must be the best judges, and Mr. Stanley warmly complains that their sentiments are misrepresented; and he, of course, very naturally carries his weapons with him beyond the frontier, and turns his defence into an attack. We should readily meet him at any time as regards the Church of England; but the only question now before us is the character of one particular tract, as illustrating the quality of many of the other publications in the Catalogue of the Society. As the object of the tract was to convince the Methodists of their errors, it is but right to ascertain what is the actual impression which it has made upon them, so far as it may have attracted their attention. Mr. Stanley's pamphlet leads to the conclusion that the effect has not been so happy as the Society doubtless hoped and expected; and this conclusion will, we trust, lead to the inquiry, Whether it is desirable for the Society to circulate tracts of this unhappy character, and whether it ought not at once to revise the whole of its Catalogue, as many of the tracts are similarly circumstanced.
The following are among Mr. Stanley's remarks. They are but a specimen, given in a detached form, and without comment. We shall endeavour to avoid as much as possible those of a directly personal character, as well as those which proceed beyond the matter of the tract, to an attack upon the Church of England.
"To the dialogue form which your Lordship has chosen, I have no objection..... But it is a form which is liable to great abuse, and which your Lordship, I hope unintentionally, has not a little abused in the present work. You have put language into the mouth of your Methodist, which I will venture to say no Methodist ever uttered, for the purpose of making the Methodists appear a very weak and foolish people. After all, your Lordship has acted with a considerable degree of impartiality, for you make your Churchman say many more foolish things than are uttered by the Methodist." Stanley, p. 4.
"Methodist preachers, according to your Lordship, have neither call nor qualification for the work of the Christian Ministry. Methodist preachers have the call of
the church to which they are united, and by whom they are known; but this call is not given till they have satisfactory evidence of their qualifications for the work of the ministry. And as your Lordship, though you have written a dialogue about Methodism and Methodist preachers, is most grossly ignorant of both, it will be gratifying to you to learn what these qualifications are. First, They must be strictly moral. Any deviation from truth, or honesty, or temperance, or sobriety, would effectually close the door against them. Secondly, They must be decidedly pious, and must give habitual evidence that they are such by the purity of their lives, by abstaining not only from the grosser vices, but from all the sinful and demoralizing amusements of the age; and by strict attention to all the ordinances of religion. Thirdly, They must possess Christian zeal, manifesting itself in reproving sin, in instructing the ignorant, in visiting the beds of the afflicted and the dying, and in labouring to make religious impressions upon a world which lieth in the wicked one. Fourthly, They must understand Christianity, and have such knowledge of the Scriptures as will enable them not only to shew the way of salvation, but to defend the truths of the Gospel against assailants. Fifthly, They must be able to preach the Gospel, not to 'read what they never wrote,' but to deliver, with clearness and energy, discourses which both instruct the understanding and affect the heart. All these qualifications, my Lord, the candidate must possess, before he can be admitted into the Methodist ministry. Yea more: not only must the society and congregations, who are acquainted with his going out and coming in, be satisfied on these points, but previous to his being received as a probationer in that ministry, he must undergo rigid examination upon each of them by a large number of respectable preachers, assembled in the Annual District Meeting. And after having for four years given full proof of his ministry, before he is admitted into full connexion as a minister among the Methodists, he has to undergo a full and minute examination on his Christian experience; his soundness in Christian doctrine; his talents for the Christian ministry; and the motives by which he is influenced in entering into it: which examination is conducted in the presence of between three and four hundred ministers. If he pass the ordeal, he then receives an appropriate address in their presence, and in the presence of the congregation, which is usually exceedingly large; after which a few of the senior ministers set him apart to the work of the ministry by solemn prayer and supplication. Such are the preachers, my Lord, whom your Lordship represents as having neither call, nor qualification, for the work of the ministry." Ibid. pp. 15, 16.
"Why you, my Lord, should select the Methodists as examples of hostility to tithes I was at a loss to conceive, well knowing that no class of persons, not even zealous Churchmen themselves, have more peaceably submitted to the tax, till on reading a little further I found that you are perfectly ignorant of the Methodists. According to your Lordship, Methodists are rank Predestinarians, and the zealous propagators of all the peculiar doctrines of Calvinism. Unconditional election and reprobation, and unconditional final perseverance, are all filiated upon them. My Lord, how is this? Such ignorance in the curate of an obscure parish would have been unpardonable: what then is it in you, a dignitary-a bishop? And how is it that a society, calling itself a Society for promoting Christian Knowledge,' should disgrace itself by giving circulation to such transparent misrepresentation? Christian Knowledge forsooth! Methodists, who have been some of the most enlightened and able opponents of the peculiar doctrines of Calvinism,-witness the works of Wesley, Fletcher, Oliver, Clarke, and Watson, and many others,-are deliberately set forth as the propagators of Calvinism, by your Lordship; and this precious specimen of sheer ignorance is circulated through the land with Christian knowledge' stamped on its forehead." Ibid. pp. 18, 19.
"With you, my Lord, I believe that Jesus tasted death for every man; that through him every man may be saved; and that man's perdition is entirely of himself. So far we are agreed. But on the subjects of regeneration, Divine influence, faith, and justification, we are not so agreed, supposing that I understand you; but of this I am not absolutely certain." Ibid. p. 19.
"You make your Methodist say, I have the feeling of the Spirit, and perceive its influence constraining me to sanctification.' My Lord, I have known the Methodists for nearly half a century, but I never heard one thus speak. This is to me an additional evidence that your Lordship knows nothing about them. But I quote the Methodist, that I may introduce his instructor. You reply, The effects of the Spirit are not perceptible by any sensible impulse, or irresistible control.' And to prove this, you quote our Lord's words, The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, or whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.' My Lord, was ever proof more unfortunate? The effects of the Spirit, you say, ' are not perceptible by any sensible impulse;' and to prove it, you introduce the blowing of the wind. Though, my Lord, you may not fully understand the philosophy of the wind, and where it originates and CHRIST. OBSERV. No. 381. 4 C
terminates, yet surely you do not mean to say that you never perceived it by any sensible impulse. I have travelled both by land and by water, and have sometimes perceived and felt the effects of the wind very sensibly, especially once in a storm at sea." Ibid. pp. 20, 21.
"After all, my Lord, in the next page you admit that, what you strangely call the 'effects of the Spirit,' are perceptible. The Scriptures, you say, 'look for a voluntary acquiescence with the suggestions and guidance of the Spirit.' But can we acquiesce with a suggestion without a consciousness of that suggestion? Or can we follow a guide, without knowing that we have one?
"What you say of faith too is equally strange. 'Faith,' you say, page 26, is the result of the exercise of our own reason.' Let us test this definition of faith by what the Scriptures say of it. Through faith,' that is, according to your Lordship, through the result of the exercise of our own reason, we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God;' which is in direct opposition to 1 Cor. i. 21: The world by wisdom knew not God.' And if they knew not God, how could their reason lead to such results as that he framed the world, and that he did this by his word? Take another example: By faith,' that is, through the result of the exercise of his own reason, Enoch was translated!' How could his reason result either in making such a discovery, or in producing such an effect? His faith was the simple belief of the Divine testimony. Take a third instance: By faith,' that is, by the result of the exercise of his own reason, Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house.' Was it by the exercise of his own reason that Noah knew the world was to be drowned? Does your Lordship really think that his belief in an approaching deluge had its foundation in his own reasonings? was it not rather a simple credence to a Divine revelation? Take a fourth example: By faith,' that is, by the result of the exercise of his own reason, 'Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed.' Would Abraham's reason, think you, my Lord, ever have led him to such a conclusion as that there was a large estate in some part of the world, he knew not where, and that though he knew not where it was, nor the way to it, yet if he would only leave his home, and his friends, and his possessions, he would be sure to find it? Were a man thus to act in the present day, and to say this was the result of the exercise of his own reason,' we should much pity him, and fear that in a little time confinement and a strait-waistcoat would be necessary. Further, to shew the absurdity of the definition, it is only necessary to quote a few passages in which faith occurs. Being justified by' the result of the exercise of our own reason, 'we have peace with God.' Rom. v. 1. 'Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through the result of the exercise of our own reason, in his blood.' Rom. iii. 25. The Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by ' the result of the exercise of our own reason of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But, before' the result of the exercise of our own reason came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the result of the exercise of our own reason which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the Law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by' the result of the exercise of our own reason. 'But after that' the result of the exercise of our own reason is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by the result of the exercise of your own reason in Christ Jesus.' Gal. iii. from verse 22 to verse 26, inclusive. By grace ye are saved, through' the result of the exercise of your own reason, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God,' and we walk by the result of the exercise of our own reason, not by sight.' Faith, my Lord, has its foundation not in reason, but in Divine revelation. It is the cordial belief of what God reveals. And is this the result of the exercise of the reason of a clergyman-a dignitary-a Bishop! And is this CHRISTIAN KNOWLEDGE, and circulated by a society of clergymen for the instruction of their people! My Lord, if the humblest local preacher, or leader, in Methodism, could not more accurately define faith, he would at once be removed from his office." Ibid. pp. 21-23.
"The outward correctness of their conduct you also admit, with an, if they do not swear or intoxicate themselves, they are certainly much to be commended.' But then you insinuate they are guilty of other vices, which are traceable to the doctrines which they are taught. That there have been, and probably are, members of the Methodist Society who are not Christians, will not be controverted; but as soon as their iniquity is discovered they are reproved and admonished, and if not immediately put away, they are removed from society. What more can be done? Is this the course pursued by you, my Lord? But that the doctrines taught by the Methodists can generate vice of any kind is impossible, for they habitually enjoin repentance towards God, implying the utter renunciation of all sin; and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, implying not only a firm reliance on the merits of Christ for salvation, but also the entire subjection of the mind, and heart, and life, to the dominion of Christ.
Such are the doctrines taught by the Methodists and unless it is in the nature of doctrines to produce their opposites, holiness, and not vice, must be the result.
"Allow me, in conclusion, my Lord, to express my astonishment that your Lordship, and the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge, should so offensively interfere with the Methodists. Is it not a fact that they have been the best allies your Church has ever had in the land? Who assisted you more zealously in opposing Catholic Emancipation, in which your Church felt deeply interested? And whilst others have been zealous for the entire overthrow of the Church Establishment, the Methodists have either expressed themselves in favour of it, or they have been silent. Is it politic to make them your enemies, and especially now, when a feeling unfriendly to the Establishment is rapidly spreading through the land? Suppose they should join in the cry, Down with the Church, and let her rich revenues be appropriated to the payment of the National Debt; and let her ministers be supported by their people as other ministers are;' would there be nothing to be apprehended? An addition of nearly half a million of signatures, to the immense multitude of Dissenters of the various denominations, could hardly fail to make a powerful impression on the nation.
"After all, should your Lordship, or the Christian Knowledge gentlemen, think the Methodists in error, you have an undoubted right to endeavour to convince them of their error, and for which effort they will thank you: only, my Lord, you should make yourself better acquainted with them, and not commit so many egregious blunders as you have done in your Dialogue." Ibid. pp. 23, 24.
But enough we fear too much-of this. We only ask, whether we have not shewn ample cause for grave inquiry into the character of the Christian Knowledge publications; for if a tract written by so highly respected a clergyman and prelate as Bishop Gray, is thus liable to objection, it will not be invidious to say that many others are not exempt.
For the present we quit the subject; but we have not done with it, and intend to resume it. We most earnestly desire a thorough improvement of a Society of such pre-eminent importance, and which, by the blessing of God, might be made one of the most powerful auxiliaries of our Church, our Clergy, and the cause of true Religion in the land.
It has frequently occurred to us, in the course of the preceding remarks, that considerable inconveniences arise from attaching the names of living writers to the publications of the Society. Why might not every tract be anonymous, except in the case of deceased authors, or the adoption of works already known to the public, and which, by the general approbation of wise and good men, have earned the honour of being admitted into the Society's list? Of such works there are great numbers extant, from which a large quantity of judicious selections might be made, so as to supersede vast quantities of those which are offered in manuscript to the Society's notice; and which in general, even though they should be unexceptionable in doctrine, and written in a good spirit, are not likely to be, upon the average, so peculiarly striking, attractive, and impressive, as to render them appropriate to the Society's object. But, not to enter upon this topic at present, we merely recur to our remark, that inconvenience may arise from the name of the author being prefixed to a production on the Society's list, as it may in some cases interfere with the unshrinking exercise of that sound discretion which ought not to be remitted. We can judge from the extreme pain with which we have offered the preceding remarks upon the particular tract now before us, how very difficult it must be for referees in some instances to give an impartial opinion upon publications submitted for their judgment; or for the Society to reject manuscripts offered to them under the sanction of eminent names, either as authors or recommenders. If the "Dialogue with a Methodist" had been the production of an unknown or deceased author, we incline to think that the committee of revision would have scarcely thought it desirable to retain it on the Society's list; but the course is more difficult where the writer is a much-esteemed individual of high station and character. The Society's path of duty is, however, very plain, though arduous; and