Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

a

6

But, instead of endeavouring to give an analysis of this second and concluding volume of Mr. Grant's

work on "The Religious Tendencies of the Times,” we deem it better, as we have done on several former occasions in reviewing his works, to present our readers with the preface to the volume, of which it will furnish our readers with a good idea.

"In bringing before the public," Mr. Grant says, “my second and concluding volume of The Religious Tendencies of the Times,' my first duty is to express my grateful appreciation of the gratifying reception which the first volume has met with. In saying this, I do not so much refer to the fact of an edition of a thousand copies having been exhausted in a few months, as to the way in which it has been received by the religious public. It is to me a pleasant thing to be able to say, that not one of the many grave statements which I have preferred of deadly error being entertained by many of our leading divines, has been disproved, nor indeed even specifically denied. The second edition, therefore, is now in the hands of the public, without any alteration whatever in its contents.

“It is also a remarkable fact, that, as none of the more serious charges of fatal errors which I have preferred against particular parties have been denied, much less disproved, so, in no instance, with a single exception, has an attempt been made to answer my arguments in favour of eternal punishments. The only exception was in the case of the Spectator. Its answer was brief, but it is evident that it thought it a conclusive answer. It is in substance this : Mr. Grant maintains that only a portion of the human race will be saved. The Apostle Paul says, that the whole of mankind will be saved. · All Israel,' he says, 'will be saved.' A sentence or two will dispose of this argument in favour of Universalism. Even supposing that all Israel were destined to be saved, that would not prove the salvation of the entire human family. Israel, or the Jews, have never formed even a three-hundredth part of the race. But it would have been well for the Spectator if it had remembered that the same Apostle, speaking in relation to the same Jews, says that only 'a remnant shall be saved.'

“With regard to what I have said in my previous volume, in relation to the astounding rapidity with which the doctrines of Universalism and Annihilation are spreading, proofs are accumulating every day. The Rev. Mr. Minton states in a leaflet which he has circulated in thousands, that he has received a great number of letters from clergymen of the Church of England, stating that they fully share his views in opposition to the doctrine of eternal misery; while with respect to the professedly evangelical Congregationalists, I have just learnt that at a comparatively recent period, it was proposed at a meeting of the members of the Congregational Union, that a minister who has for years been perhaps the most ultrà of all the opponents of the doctrine of eternal punishments, should be admitted into that body. He was elected. But by what majority, it may be asked ? By no less a majority than about a hundred to one! It is believed that there were no fewer than four hundred present, and only four persons were found to be opposed to his election.

“Mr. Joshua Wilson, who, next to Mr. Morley, M.P., is the man of most note among the Congregationalists, has lately published an appendix to a third edition of his little work, entitled, “The Power of the Pulpit.' In this appendix Mr. Wilson expresses his concurrence in part of what I have said respecting the progress which the belief in the non-eternity of punishments in the world to come is making in the Congregational body,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

6

to which he belongs; but he thinks, or rather, perhaps, I should say, hopes, that matters are not so bad as I represent them to be.

But before I make any observations on what Mr. Wilson says, it is due to him to give his own words. After quoting both from the preface and the body of my first volume, that gentleman proceeds to say : Mr. Grant, I admit, is correct in reference to the “ Religious Tendencies of the Times,” but I must avow my own conviction, that although his representations as to the holding and preaching by Congregational ministers of Rationalistic opinions on the great fundamental doctrines of Christianity may to a very limited extent be correct, those opinions are not held by the majority of our ministers, or preached in most of our pulpits. On the contrary, I believe that those who are justly amenable to the charge are a very small minority ; but erroneous opinions, like leaven, once admitted, are apt to diffuse themselves through a religious community. respect to the non-eternity of future punishment, there are, I believe, few, if any, Nonconformist pulpits in which it is “ dogmatically preached," although it may be held as an opinion by some Nonconformist ministers.'

“Mr. Joshua Wilson misconceives, on some essential points, my most important statements. I still adhere with all confidence to what I have said in my previous volume, with respect to the extent to which the Congregationalists hold Rationalistic opinions, and also to the extent to which they do not believe in the eternity of future punishments. But I did not say that they dogmatically preached' these semi-infidel opinions. On the contrary, it was with me a great aggravation of their grave culpability, that they do not preach dogmatically,' nor, indeed, preach at all, the contrary opinions, though nominally professing to entertain them. I charged them, too, and renew the charge more emphatically than before, with practising dishonesty of the worst kind, because the matter is one which involves the salvation of souls, in concealing their Universalist or Annihilationist views,--of which, since the publication of my first volume, we have had a most painful proof in the case of the Rev. Dr. Leask.

“Within a few weeks of this expression of Mr. Joshua Wilson's opinion or hope, there comes a statement, never contradicted, from the Pall Mall Gazette, to the effect that the question of eternal punishments is hereafter to be made an open question in the Congregational body. And the statement is accompanied by the announcement, that the most magnificent Congregational chapel in the country had been opened at Halifax the previous week, and that in the trust-deed of that chapel the minister was to be allowed either to preach or not to preach, just as he pleased, the doctrine of eternal misery in a future state, as the doom of those dying in their sins.

“What a change on this point has come o'er the spirit of Congregationalism within the last twenty years! Any Congregationalist proved not to believe in the eternity of future punishments would then have been at once excommunicated. Of course, the Pall Mall Gazette, with its views of religion, exults in the fact that the eternity of future punishments is henceforth to be an open question among the Congregationalists. This, surely, will satisfy Mr. Wilson that he is grievously

mistaken, when he expresses his conviction that the doctrine of the non-eternity of future punishments is only held by a few of the ministers in the Nonconformist denomination. It is due to him to say, that towards the end of his · Appendix' he makes the admission that a latitudinarian spirit is rapidly spreading among Non conformists.' He says : ‘I am very apprehensive that unless some

a

6

6

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

6

6

strenuous effort be speedily made to repel, if not the incursions of error, at least the spread of a latitudinarian spirit, in respect both to doctrine and discipline, we shall ere long be deprived of all that has hitherto constituted both our glory and our defence.' This is an important admission from Mr. Joshua Wilson, a gentleman who, as I have said, occupies, with the single exception of Mr. Samuel Morley, a higher position among the Congregational body than any one else belonging to it.

“The first portion of the present volume is devoted to a correspondence which I have had in relation to my first volume with the Rev. Samuel Minton, the Rev. Dr. Leask, the Dean of Carlisle, the Rev. Andrew Jukes, and the Rev. T. R. Birks.

“With regard to my correspondence with Mr. Minton, I feel assured that no one who has read my former volume will hesitate to admit that he has not answered a single one of my arguments in opposition to the views on eternal misery which he has advocated in his work, The Glory of Christ in the Creation and Reconciliation of all Things.'

"I regret to learn that, notwithstanding the vehemence with which the doctrine of everlasting punishments is denounced by him, as 'horrible, 'monstrous,' revolting,' and so forth, he still continues to make a practical profession of His faith in it, by reading that part of the Litany in which the prayer occurs, that God would be pleased to deliver those using the

prayer from everlasting damnation. The prayer stands thus— From Thy wrath and everlasting damnation, good Lord, deliver us,'—the latter four words of response being said by all the congregation. To me there is something inexpressibly awful in the fact that any man holding up, both in the pulpit and through the press, the doctrine of eternal punishments as one which is absolutely frightful, and deeply dishonourable to God, could bring himself to proclaim publicly, Sunday after Sunday, his belief in that dreadful doctrine,' by praying himself, and asking his people to pray for deliverance from everlasting damnation.'

With regard to my correspondence with Dr. Leask, it is calculated to inspire mingled emotions,—emotions of sorrow and emotions of joy. It is truly lamentable to think that a minister of the Gospel should, for more than a quarter of a century, have been statedly preaching, and often publishing books on evangelical subjects, and yet, during all that long period, have so carefully concealed the fact that he did not believe in eternal punishments, that not even his most intimate friends ever for a moment suspected that he did not unreservedly believe in the everlasting misery of the lost, which he solemnly declared he did at the time of his ordination. But one's sorrow at this fearful dishonesty, for more than twenty years, is, to my mind, much diminished by the fact, that I have, as will be seen from the correspondence between us, effectually torn the mask from off Dr. Leask's face, and that he now stands before the religious world in his true colours. He not only openly avows himself an Annihilationist, but has converted the Rainbow—a monthly magazine established for the sole purpose of advocating Millenarianism into the organ of Annihilation; and Annihilation, too, in its most revolting form, namely, that those who perish in their sins, will, for an indefinite period, it may be for millions on millions of years, be subjected to most terrible torments in a future state, and then be annihilated for

6

ever.

“To the advocacy of this frightful doctrine Dr. Leask is hereafter

6

80.

mainly to devote the Rainbow. It is much to be regretted that some one who has the requisite talents and leisure to conduct such a periodical does not forth with establish a sixpenny monthly magazine, expressly for dealing with The Deadly Errors of the Day' Were it not that my professional duties are of so onerous and unremitting a nature as to preclude the possibility of my undertaking such a task, I would willingly do

Should, however, any one else adopt the suggestion I have thus thrown out, I would gladly give him any assistance in my power. I regard the establishing of such a periodical, whereby to expose and combat the pernicious errors on vital points which are now so prevalent and still spreading, as one of the most urgent religious necessities of the day.

“In the meantime, it becomes a serious question for the consideration of those who hold Millenarian views, and have been subscribers to the Rainbow, solely on account of its being established as the organ of Millenarianism,--how far Millenarianism, and, indeed, themselves individually, are compromised by this sudden avowal of Annihilationism on the part of Dr. Leask, and his declared intention to make the Rainbow the medium of propagating Annihilationist views. It was thought by many persons who were not so conversant with the facts of the case as myself, that in mentioning, in the preface to my last volume, that no inconsiderable number of Millenarians disbelieved in the doctrine of eternal punishments,—I had done injustice to those who hold Millenarian views. If some steps are not taken to prevent it, the conviction, now that their recognized organ has been turned into an avowed organ of Annihilationism, will become general, that there is a closer connexion between Millenarianism and a disbelief in the non-eternity of future punishments than any of us ever before suspected. Though I cannot see eye to eye with the Millenarians on the question of the personal reign of Christ on earth, it is my happiness to be on terms of the closest personal friendship with

many of the most eminent men amongst them; and my esteem for them is so great, that I should indeed be grieved if they, as a body, or any large number of them, should suffer injury through this deplorable step on the part of Dr. Leask.

To return to other matters connected with the “Religious Tendencies of the Times.' It is not, to use their own language, in the mere 'progress of opinion' that the Nonconformists of the present day are setting aside all Scriptural authority. There is a want of even outward reverence-I might use a stronger word-for the house of God, which painfully contrasts with the hallowed feelings with which it was formerly regarded. All sorts of secular meetings are now held in many of our Dissenting Banctuaries. I look on the want of reverence for a house especially built for, and professedly devoted to, the service of God, as one of the worst signs of the times. As a natural consequence of this desecration of the sanctuary, comes the prostitution of the pulpit to secular purposes. This is already a prevalent evil, and is still rapidly growing. Not long ago I chanced to hear sermon in one of the most popular Nonconformist chapels in the City of London, which not only did not contain one atom of Christianity in it, to say nothing of evangelical religion, but which might have been delivered to a congregation of Secularists. Emigration, the poor laws, colonization, population, and other kindred subjects, were the sole topics discussed. I could not have conceived a more shocking desecration of the Sabbath, the sanctuary, or the pulpit, than occurred on this occasion. Nor, it is right to add, is this prostitution of the pulpit,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

this violation of the sanctity of the Sabbath, confined to the Nonconformists. We see the same thing in our Churches of England. Indeed, among the Rationalistic or Broad Church party in the Establishment, it is developing itself into a system. In the months of September and October last, eight clergymen of the Church of England delivered a course of lectures on Sunday evenings in a church in Whitechapel, on purely political questions, all of which were advertised in the public journals.

The same sort of thing, I regret to see, is going on in New York, under the auspices of the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, the most popular preacher in America; and on that account, one who, with his views, which are rapidly approaching those of the late Theodore Parker, is calculated to do all the greater mischief. The following paragraph from the New York Independent, professedly an organ of the Evangelical Nonconformists in the United States, refers to this fact: Dr. Willard Parker, of this city, by request of Mr. Beecher, has consented to deliver a course of Sunday evening lectures, at the Plymouth Bethel, in Brooklyn, upon anatomy and physiology. The first lecture was delivered last Sunday evening. Many people will shake their heads sadly in view of what they will regard as a violation of the law of the Sabbath ; but we believe that the

managers of the Bethel Mission, in view of all the circumstances, will be sustained by the Christian public. “It is lawful to do well on the Sabbath-day.”'

“And the English Independent, the organ of the Congregational body in this country, quotes this paragraph approvingly,--at least, if approbation may be inferred from the absence of a siug e word in the way of censure.

"Even in Oxford, whose University is traditionally the buttress of Christianity, the rankest blasphemy is to be found in association with Atheism, in its most hideous forms. A weekly journal, only a month ago, gave the following extract from a work, · Essays on Robert Browning's Poems,' by J. Nettlethorp. Speaking of Christ, this author bursts out into this blasphemous exclamation, And, oh, maddest and sweetest of dreams, He dreamed that He was the Son of God, and He set Himself to make the world believe it!' On the subject of prayer, this same writer pens this piece of unmitigated Atheism : This is a quality which, when it possesses a man, makes him create for himself more or less distinctly and personally, and in the teeth of his reason, a God to whom he can cry; and makes, and has made, all existing ideas of God. Further, the spirit of prayer imperiously desires its possessor to spend his whole force in doing, or getting something far beyond his reach. It so drives him till he falls nerveless to the ground, " and then tells him that in the darkness stands a formless thing, a shrouded power, his God in fact, who will now, or hereafter, do, or get for him, the thing he desires."

“This is bad enough; but what will be thought of the fact which is publicly stated in several journals, that a work containing such blended blasphemy and Atheism should be found exposed publicly for sale on the counter of the publisher of the University ? The paper from which I quote gives it as a report-and reports of this nature are generally correct—that the work is actually to be met with in the rooms of some of the Oxford teachers.

“But, probably, of all the melancholy and astounding things which we see and hear, in relation to the progress of Infidelity and Atheism among us, there is none which can equal the fact that within the last few months an organization has been formed for the systematic teaching of Atheism in its most revolting forms. One of the instrumentalities to be employed for

6

« PoprzedniaDalej »