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They have devoted themselves to a seducing philosophy, and left religion, thus disfigured, to the gross vulgar, whom they erroneously conceived were naturally attached to the horrors of a cruel and gloomy, as well as a filly, superstition.
Is it not desirable to vindicate Christianity from such dishonour ? to show that her most important doctrine, the doctrine of divine energy, leads to every difpofition that is gentle, amiable, and beneficent; that it exalts, refines, and mollifies the human bofom; and while it kindles a lively and ardent hope of future felicity, improves every real enjoyment of the present life? Such a representation, and it certainly is a just one, must invite every man, who feels, as he ought, for himself or others, within the Christian pale.
The Spirit is a spirit of truth, and therefore must be adverse to all affectation of sanctity, all studied severity of aspect and demeanour, intended only to excite external respect, and to impress on the spectators, often for the sake of interest, as well as from vanity, an idea of spiritual pre-emi
The Spirit is a loving fpirit, and therefore very unlike that of the four, cenforious pretenders, who condemn all innocent amusements, and think none capable of divine favour but themselves, and those who entertain their sentiments on points perfectly indifferent in the fight of God, and of every reasonable man. The Spirit is a spirit of wisdom, which implies a due degree of knowledge and ability for every undertaking we voluntarily engage in, and therefore cannot approve the preaching of illiterate persons, who are unacquainted, not only with the languages in which the scriptures were written, but often with their own; who are fitter to be catechumens than catechists; to fit at the
feet of Gamaliel, than to usurp his chair. Learning may not be requisite in the pious hearer, but is certainly so in every one who affumes the office of an instructor. He is not an honest man, who professes and is paid to instruct others, without having exerted himself to the utmost to procure a competent store of knowledge. The operations of the Holy Spirit, accompanying his endeavours, may
make a good Christian in his private capacity; may give him faith and knowledge fufficient for his falvation ; but they do not, since the time of the apostles, bestow a knowledge of languages, or qualify Alone, without the aids of human learning, for a TEACHER of theology *.
The annals of suicide, if any such there were, and the registers of Bedlam, might bear witness to the mischiefs caused by fanatical mechanics, with strong passions and imaginations, but of fee. ble and narrow intellects, wildly haranguing weak and aged men and women on their loft ftate, on their danger of eternal damnation, and a thousand other most awful matters, which at once puzzle the understandings, and dismay the hearts of the deluded multitude. True Christianity shudders at the sufferings of well-meaning devotees, wantonly inflicted by ignorant zealots, seeking self-importance, and gratifying the pride of their hearts, as leaders of a wretched tribe, whom noise and high pretensions collect easily in every populous city, and in every poor neighbourhood, where the necessity of constant manual employment for the means of fubsistence, precludes all contemplation, and the improvement of judgment that might result from it.
*“ Miniftring grace confits not in a self-appointment and desig. « nation ; for no man taketh this bonour to himself but he ebat is called “ of God." Heb. v. 4, 5:-" A promiscuous ministry and intrusion “ into it without coll or mission, is a facrilegious attempt on the grace of “ God, but is no gift of the Holy Ghost." GLOUCESTER RIDLEY.
In compassion to these people, who deserve every assistance, because they certainly intend every thing that is good, though they do and suffer great evil, through defect of judgment, I wish the regular clergy, both of the established and dissenting church, to feed them with the food in which they delight-the heavenly manna, the doctrine of grace. There is no doubt but that many of them do fo occasionally; but I submit it to them whether grace ought not to be a leading and principal topic in every discourse inculcating morality. I beg leave to suggest that EVANGELICAL preaching, in which the doctrine of divine energy must always make a very considerable part, would keep their congregations from wandering after men, who have no other qualification for preaching but zeal, real or pretended *; zeal without knowledge, or a knowledge confined, superficial, and unaccompanied with general charity or found discretion. With all their defects, they do, however, preach the doctrine of grace. The people know this to be the genuine doctrine of the gospel, and therefore they flock by tens of thousands to hear it, regardless of the barbarism of the self-appointed orator, who leaves the loom and the last for the pulpit.
The pearl of great price, the common people, especially the methodists, estimate highly, however rudely it may be set ; but how much more would they prize it, if it were fet, adequately to
* “ They procure attention,” says Mr. Herbert, “ by earnest. “ ness of speech; it being natural to men to think that where there “ is much earneftness, there is something worth hearing."
Their nonsense is generally dressed up in Scripture phrase, which gives it an air of sanctity and solemnity. It is the ass in the lion's skin.
its immense value, in the purest gold, by the hand of a master? If men of sound and extensive learning, of true taste and eloquence, were to recommend it, in a dignified, decorous manner, and with all the beauties of proper language, the fieldpreacher would rant in folitude, and the tabernacle * would be as empty as most of the parish churches in London. To the parish churches in London I refer the inquirer, who wishes to know how little the most decent and studied discourses on morality, or practical religion, for they are usually confounded, avail to attract the people. Let him leave a while his books and library, and read the volume of real life. We have had enough of
When one sees the multitudes that throng certain tabernacles, where very weak men hold forth with scarcely any apparent recommendation but effrontery, one is almost tempted to say on the occa. sion, “ God hath chosen the foolish things of this world to confound 66 the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to “s confound the mighty, that no Aesh might glory in his presence." 1 Cor. i. 27
These things, says the haughty court divine, are calculated for the meridian of the vulgar. But let us hear Erasmus : “ Hæc, in
quam, PLEBEIA, si prastarent pro fua forte principes, fi in concionibus “ inculcarent sacerdotes, ji pueris inftillarent ludimagiftri, potius quam ERUDITA ILLA***
*; non fic perpetuis pene bellis tumultuaretur un. “ dique res Christiana, non tam insano studio per fas nefasque congerendi “ divitias ferverent omnia ; non tot litibus ubique perftreperent facra “ pariter ac profana. Denique non titulo tantum et ceremoniis differemus * ab his qui Christi Philosophiam non profitentur.”—But VULGAR as these things are, if men in high stations gave an example of them, as far as their stations admit, in their lives and conversations; if the clergy inculcated them in their sermons ; if schoolmasters instilled them into the minds of their boys, in preference to those HIGHLY LEARNED MATTERS, with which they make such a parade;-then Christendom would not be disturbed by WARs almost without an interval of cessation; then men would not every where be hurried on with the mad desire of heaping up riches without regard to right or wrong ;-then all things, both sacred and profane, would not be every where involved in ftrife and confusion :-in a word, then we tould be distinguished in something more essential than the mere name of Christians, and the ceremonies of the church, from those who openly and honestly avow themselves not to be profeflors of CHRISTIAN PHILOSOPHY."
words, enough of systems, enough of controversy; let us study and teach what attracts the erring multitude, what is really and efficiently useful to the mass of the people, what improves human nature, renders life as comfortable as the condition of humanity will admit, and opens a pleasing profpect, when life must be relinquished, beyond the grave.
Bishop Lavington's, Opinion respecting the Extrava
gancies and Follies of fanatical Preachers, and Pretenders to the Spirit.—Calmness of Temper recommended to religious Persons.--Sobriety, Moderation, and the ferene Composure of a well regulated Mind.
N of I
I pedient to represent fanaticism, in its proper
shape and colours, which are truly hideous. I cannot do this more effectually than in the words of Bishop Lavington, who, while a strenuous defender of the true doctrine of grace, wrote a very able treatise on purpose to explode those absurdities which were advanced in the strange journals of Whitfield and Westley; both of them men of great abilities, and one a man of learning 3 but both intoxicated at one time by the flattery of multitudes, who followed in their train with a submission approaching to idolatry.
" Wherever,” says the bishop, “ I find great “ stress laid upon some imaginary, insignificant, “ or unintelligible peculiarities; the word of God “ turned into a conjuring-book; the divine ordi