« PoprzedniaDalej »
hot-headed vindicator of reprobation and eternal justification blow the trumpet, and put himself at their head: but let it not be you, who believe with me that we are moral agents; that God is love; that Jesus tasted death for every man; and that the Holy Spirit shall not always strive with sinners. If you do not regard my reputation, consider at least your own; and expose me not as a heretic for advancing propositions, the substance of which you have avowed before the sun.""
But had those propositions at length appeared to you unsound, yea, and had you never maintained them yourself, should you not, as a Christian and a brother, have written to him, acquainted him with your objections, and desired him to solve them and explain himself, or you should be obliged publicly to expose him?
Was this condescension more than was due from you, sir, and our other friends, to a gray-headed minister of Christ; an old general in the armies of Emmanuel; a father who has children capable of instructing even masters in Israel; and one whom God made the first and principal instrument of the late revival of internal religion in our Church?
Instead of this friendly method, as if you was a Barak, “commanded by the Lord God of Israel, you call together the children of Naphtali and Zebulun:" you convene, from England and Wales, clergy and laity, Churchmen and Dissenters, to meet you at Bristol, where they are, it seems, to be entertained in good and free quarters. And for what grand expedition? Why, on a day appointed you are to march up "in a body," not to attack Sisera and his iron chariots, but an old Caleb, who, without meddling with you, quietly goes on to the conquest of Canaan; not to desire in a friendly manner, after a fair debate of every proposition that appears dangerous, and upon previous conviction that what is exceptionable may be given up, but to do what I think was never done by nominal, much less by "real Protestants"O let it not be told in Rome, lest the sons of the inquisition rejoice! This mixed, this formidable body, is to "insist upon" Mr. Wesley, and the preachers in his connection, "formally recanting" their Minutes, as appearing "injurious to the very fundamental principles of Christianity, and being dreadfully heretical." And this, (astonishing!) without the least inquiry made into their meaning and design-without a shadow of authority from our superiors in Church or state-without an appeal to "the law and to the testimony"-without form of process-without judge or jury-without so much as allowing the poor "heretics," (who are condemned six weeks before they can possibly be heard,) to answer for themselves!
As I was fortunate enough to stop, some months ago, such rash proceedings in Wales, permit me, sir, to bear my testimony against them in England, and to tell you they exceed the late transactions in Edmund Hall. The six students, against whom wrath was gone forth, were allowed to say what they could in their own defence before they were sentenced, as unfit members of a literary society. Likewise the vice-chancellor had the statutes of the university of Oxford, seeming to countenance his proceedings: but what statute of the university of Jesus can you produce, even to save appearances? Surely not that which the Papists made use of, "Compel them to come in;" for I am persuaded, that although clergy and laity, Churchmen and Dissenters,
are convened to go in a body to Mr. Wesley's conference, you mean no external compulsion. Much less are you authorized to "insist" upon his owning himself "a heretic," by these words of the apostle, "As much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men, and esteem ministers highly in love for their works' sake." Neither by his command, "A heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject," &c; for you have neither proved Mr. Wesley a heretic, nor once admonished him as such.
Surely our Lord will not smile upon your undertaking; for he has left his sentiments upon record, the reverse of your practice. He had said, "Whosoever shall receive," not provoke, "one of such children in my name, receiveth me. But John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us. Forbid him not," said Jesus, "for there is no man who can do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me." Festus himself, though a poor heathen, will disapprove of such a step: "It is not the manner of the Romans," says he, "to deliver any man to die," (or to insist on his publicly giving up his reputation, which in some cases is worse than death,) "before that he who is accused have the accusers face to face, and have license to answer for himself concerning the crime laid against him." The lordliness of your procedure even exceeds, in one respect, the severity of the Council of Constance, where poor Jerome of Prague had leave to plead his own cause before he was obliged to acknowledge himself a heretic; and make "a formal recantation" of the propositions he had advanced.
Beside, how could you suppose, sir, that Mr. Wesley, and the preachers who shall assemble with him, are such weak men as tamely to acknowledge themselves heretics upon your ipse dixit? Suppose Mr. Wesley took it in his head to convene all the divines that disapprove the extract of Zanchius, to go with him in a body to Mr. Toplady's chapel, and demand a formal recantation of that performance, as heretical; yea, to insist upon it, before they had "measured swords, or broken a pike together;" would not the translator of Zanchius, from the ramparts of common sense, deservedly laugh at him, and ask whether he thought to frighten him by his protests, and bully him into orthodoxy?
O sir, have we not fightings enough without to employ all our time and strength? Must we also declare war and promote fightings within? Must we catch at every opportunity to stab one another, because the livery of truth which we wear is not turned up in the same manner? What can be more cruel than this? What can be more cutting to an old minister of Christ, than to be traduced as "a dreadful heretic,” in printed letters sent to the best men in the land, yea, through all England and Scotland, and signed by a person of your rank and piety; to have things that he knows not, that he never meant, laid to his charge, and dispersed far and near? While he is gone to a neighbouring kingdom to preach Jesus Christ, to have his friends prejudiced, his foes elevated, and the fruit of his extensive ministry at the point of being blasted! Put yourself in his place, sir, and you will see that the wound is deep, and reaches the very heart. I can apologize for the other
"real Protestants." Some are utter strangers to polemic divinity; others are biassed by high Calvinism; and one, whose name is used, never saw your circular letter till it was in print. But what can I say for you, sir? Against hope I must believe in hope, that an unaccountable panic influenced your mind, and deprived you for a time of the calmness and candour which adorn your natural temper. If this is the case, may you act with less precipitancy for the future! And may the charity" that hopeth all things, believeth all things, does not provoke, and is not provoked," rule in our hearts and lives! So shall the heathen world drop their just objections against our unhappy divisions, and once more be forced to cry out, "See how these Christians love!" And so shall we give over trying to disturb, or pull down a part of the Church of Christ, because we dislike the colour of the stones with which it is built; or because our fellow builders cannot pronounce Shibboleth just as we do.
One word more about Mr. Wesley, and I have done. Of the two greatest and most useful ministers I ever knew, one is no more. The other, after amazing labours, flies still with unwearied diligence through the three kingdoms, calling sinners to repentance, and to the healing fountain of Jesus' blood. Though oppressed with the weight of near seventy years, and the care of near thirty thousand souls, he shames still, by his unabated zeal and immense labours, all the young ministers in England, perhaps in Christendom. He has generally blown the Gospel trump, and rode twenty miles, before most of the professors, who despise his labours, have left their downy pillow. As he begins the day, the week, the year, so he concludes them, still intent upon extensive services for the glory of the Redeemer, and the good of souls. And shall we lightly lift up our pens, our tongues, our hands against him? No, let them rather forget their cunning! If we will quarrel, can we find nobody to fall out with but the minister upon whom God puts the greatest honour?
Our Elijah has lately been translated to heaven. Gray-headed Elisha is yet awhile continued upon earth. And shall we make a hurry and noise, to bring in railing accusations against him with more success? While we pretend to a peculiar zeal for Christ's glory, shall the very same spirit be found in us, which made his persecutors say, "He hath spoken blasphemy," (or heresy,) " what need we any farther witnesses?" Shall the sons of the prophets, shall even children in grace and knowledge, openly traduce the venerable seer and his abundant labours? When they see him run upon his Lord's errands, shall they cry, not, "Go up, thou bald head," but, "Go up, thou heretic?" O Jesus of Nazareth, thou rejected of men, thou who wast once called "a deceiver of the people," suffer it not! lest the raging bear of persecution come suddenly out of the wood upon those sons of discord, and tear them in pieces.
And suppose a Noah, an old preacher of righteousness, should have really nodded under the influence of an honest mistake, shall we act a worse part than that of Canaan? Shall we make sport of the nakedness which, we say, he has disclosed, when we have boldly uncovered it ourselves? O God, do not thou permit it, lest a curse of pride, self sufficiency, bigotry, Antinomianism, and bitter zeal, come upon us;
and lest the children, begotten by our unkind preaching and unloving example, walk in our steps and inherit our propagated punishment!
Rather may the blessing of peace makers be ours. May the meek, loving Spirit of Jesus fill our hearts! May streams, not of the bitter waters which cause the curse, but of the living water which gladdens the city of God, flow from our catholic breasts, and put out the fire of wild zeal and persecuting malice! May we know when Sion is really in danger; and when the accuser of the brethren gives a false alarm to disturb the peace of the Church, and turn the stream of undefiled, lovely, and loving religion, into the miry channel of obstinate prejudice, imperious bigotry, and noisy vain jangling. And may we at last unanimously worship together in the temple of peace, instead of striving for the mastery in the house of discord!
Should this public attempt to stop the war which has been publicly declared be in any degree successful,-should it check a little the forwardness that has lately appeared to stir up contention, under pretence of opposing heresy,—should it make warm men willing to let the light of their moderation shine before the world, and to "keep a conscience void of offence" toward their neighbours, instead of openly opposing their liberty of conscience, should it cause the good that is in an eminent servant of Christ to be less evil spoken of,-and above all, should it convince any of the great impropriety of exposing precious truths as "dreadful heresies;" and of preferring the gospel of Dr. Crisp to "the truth as it is in Jesus,"I shall be less grieved at having been obliged to expostulate with you, sir, in this public manner.
In hopes this will be the case, and with a heart full of ardent wishes that all our unhappy divisions may end in a greater union, I remain, Hon. and Rev. sir, your obedient servant in the peaceable Gospel of Jesus Christ,
July 29, 1771.
SECOND CHECK TO ANTINOMIANISM;
OCCASIONED BY A LATE NARRATIVE.
IN THREE LETTERS
TO THE HON. AND REV. MR. SHIRLEY.
BY THE VINDICATOR OF THE REV. MR. WESLEY'S MINUTES.
Reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and (Scriptural) doctrine; for the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, 2 Tim. iv, 2, 3.
Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith. But let brotherly love continue, Tit. i, 13; Heb. xiii, 1.