« PoprzedniaDalej »
the blood of any, man, if he omitted in his preaching the vain attempt to fathom the depths of the divine decrees, to dwell upon those things wliich, St. Peter says, are hard to be understood, and have been wrested to the destruction of souls. He would not consider it as incumbent upon him to announce, as " the ambassador of Christ," the limitation of the glad tidings to a selet few, and the irreversible exclusion of the rest of the Christian world. He would long hesitate before he took upon himself the awful responsibility of inculcating, as indisputable truths, doctrines, which are not only mysterious to the understanding, but contradictory to natural feeling: doctrines, which, if true, must derive the sole proof of their truth from scripture, but which according to the earliest and most legitimnate interpretations of scripture, have no such proof. Even though his own opinion should lean to a belief in such doctrines, he would be cautious how he opened them to his Rock, recollecting that they would perhaps adopt them on his authority, without weighing the arguments on which they are founded ; that they would embrace them as part of that faith, without which there is no salvation, and apply them to that purpose to which all religious instruction should be directed, the regulation of their principles and the conduct of their lives. He would perhaps admit, that, if it be true, that some baptized persons are elect, and cannot fall away, and others reprobate and out of the reach of grace, 'yet that such a truth can hardly be an indispensible subject of public instruction, unless he could suppose that St. Paul, under the superintendance of the Holy Spirit, in his precept to his first bishops, contracted the scale of gospel doctrine, and thus withheld a portion of those spiritual riches, of which he was the appointed steward and dispenser. And again, contemplating the possibility, at least, that these doctrines may make no part of the truth, as it is in Christ Jesus, he would suffer the consideration of their hazardous or dubious effects to have its due weight, in inducing him to keep them within the class of speculative opinions ; he would confine the subjects of his teaching within the ample range, which the text assigns to the gospel.
“ Such is the matter and style of preaching, which the scrip tures, carefully examined, appear to recommend , by their stande ard our work must be tried ; and other gospel than that which the evangelists and apostles delivered, we should be most cautious not to inculcate.”
Having thus laid down and enforced the apostolical rule, the author recommends to the clergy to “attend to those opinions on the subject of preaching which have been deliv. ered by the fathers of the primitive church, and by the founders of our own, and which both have exemplified by their pra&tice." . iii..
Among the fathers, Clement [of Rome] occupies the
principal principal place, and next to him are Cyprian and Chryfof. tom, all of whose doctrines are shewn to be opposed to the scheme of Calvin. The character of Augustin is neatly but accurately drawn :
6 Eminent as that father was for his genius and piety, the accuracy and solidity of his judgment has been called in question with much appearance of reason. Much seeming inconsistency is to be met with in his writings, where he treats of free-will on the one hand, and predestination on the other. This defect may perhaps be accounted for by the heat of his controversy with the Pelagians, against whom he not only wrote treatises, but preached sermons.”
Of our reformers Mr. Ryder thus speaks :
66 They were well qualified to estimate, and not likely to overrate the authority of the fathers, on whom the church, which they opposed, rested its chief support. Above all, they were mighty in the scriptures : to the word of God they referred, as the only just standard of doctrine; to the word of God they had recourse for rules and examples of instruction. Anxious to secure the benefit of scriptural discourses to their fellow churchimen, they set forth the books of homilies; books, which, though they may sometimes dwell upon subjects more particularly applicable to the times in which they were written, yet have been confessed by all of us 6 to contain godly and wholesome doctrines," (v. Art. 35) and must be considered as the authorised model of preaching with respect to essential and general topics in the church of England. And what line of conduct do they hold out for our imitatian? They set out with the most absolute Jeference to the word of God, and profess to draw from it all the main subjects of edification which it supplies. They reduce the pride of human nature, by enlarging on the fall of man; they raise the hopes of fallen man, by representing his recovery and salvation; they repress all selfrighteous confidence, by shewing that this salvation is accomplish. ed through the merits of Christ alone, and that no individual can share in it, or be justified but through faith ; they cut off all ex cuse for antinomian supineness, by proving, that justifying faith must be active and fruitful of good works. These fruits and evidence of a true and lively faith form the superstructure of their edifice, of which Jesus Christ is the corner-stone. By devoting an homily to almost every Christian grace, the authors do not seem to think that they injured the spiritual nature of the gospel, but would rather have considered their system as defective, if they had not thus endeavoured to excite a particular repentance in the breast of every sinner, and to render the “man of God perfect, thoroughly furnished unto every good work." But do they admi. nister the balm of comfort and security, by suggesting the idea of irrespective predestination, or strike terror by raising the spectre of reprobation? Far from it. They truly s preach the gospel to
every creature." * Discussion on those's curious” subjects they wholly pass over, and, on the contrary, encourage every penitent, by hope in the universal redemption of Christ Jesus, and warn even “ the chosen vineyard of God" to bewart, lest they finally fall away.
56 From this examination, therefore of the opinions of those, whom we cannot but regard as our masters in Israel, we can hardly fail to rise convinced, that, if we preach the gospel as ex. hibited in the text, we preach it not only as it appears to have been delivered and explained by the apostles, but as it has been prac. tically understood by such of their followers, as have been most capable of discerning and most desirous of following their example."
From the extracts we have given, our readers will perceive that this is a sermon of very superior merit, and one that adds to the reputation acquired by those formerly published by the reverend author.
A Second Letter to. Samuel IVhitbread, Esq. M. P. contain-
In the present letter this indefatigable and able writer purfues'the same course with unabated vigour, and mainiains the cause of religious and social order with a well-tempered zeal and judgment. On the alliance between the Church and State, the advantages thence resulting, and the neceffity of bringing youth up in the national religion, it is observed ;
: “ The
* Vide Necessary Doctrine. “All fantastical imagination, curious reasoning, and vain trust of predestination, is to be laid apart.” And afterwards, " We are not to assure ourselves that we be elected any otherwise than by feeling of scriptural motions in our heart, and by the toķens of a good and virtuous life, in fol. lowing the grace of God, and persevering in the same to the end." *. " The true ground on which the Church claims the protection of the legislature, is, not its own intrinsic and substantive excel. lence, but the alliance it has formed with the state an alliance, the dissolution of which must prove fatal to the constitution. And it should not be forgotten, that the advantage of that alliance is by no means on the side of the Church, which, considered as a spiritual institution, , is apt to receive from it somewhat of a secular alloy, extremely unfavourable to its spiritual perfection. But the stare derives from the connexion benefits, which are at once unalloyed and inestimable. It is preserved thereby from that neglect of the public forms and exterior habits of devotion, which would lead to religious indifference, and thence to moral depravity, with its inseparable attendant, social insecurity; it obtains a kind of consecration, which imparts dignity, purity, and vigour, to civil authority; and it is secured against those dreadful convulsions, to which, unless religion cease almost to excite any interest, it must otherwise be exposed by religious differences.
One would think it impossible for any reflecting mind to avoid seeing, how greatly this alliance of the state with the Church conduces to the peace and order of society, by preserving it from the injurious effects which, if not prevented by religious apathy, would otherwise result from religious divisions. That such divisions tend to political disunion and weakness, is a truth most clearly pointed out by reason, and most wofully confirmed by experience. Happy, therefore, would it be for the state, if all its members were of one mind with regard to religious matters; if - they all professed one faith, and united in one form of worship.
Nothing could conduce more than such a coincidence to its do mestic harmony, and consequently to its aggregate strength. But as so happy a coincidence is not likely to occur, the thing next to be desired is, that the national Church should be strong in the multitude of its adherents. The strength of that Church is the strength of its constitutional ally. The latter ought, therefore, for its own sake, to use all fair and reasonable means, that is to say, all means that are consistent with the rights of conscience, whichi ought ever to be inviolate, to, promotë uniformity of worship, under the sacred auspices of its established Church. Among the most efficacious of such-means is education, by the powerful influence of which the tender mind is generally impressed with those sentiments, that form the character, and maintain an ascendancy even to the close of life. As far, therefore, as the state interferes in this great concern, it should, with a view to its own quiet and security, make education subservient to the diffusion of the national religion. Nay, so desirable is it, in a political view, for the youth of the country to be brought up in that religion, that this object alone is of sufficient importance to induce its interference in the business of education, as far as may be consistent with parental righis. It is a fact but too notorious, that the lower classes in general are destitute both of inclination and ability, to give their offspring a suitable education ; and without a
suitable suitable education, no individual can be properly qualified to sus. tain his character as a member of suciety, in that station which is allotted him by Providence.' Surely a fair opportunity is hereby afforded, without the least encroachment on any right, an opportunity which it would be a reproach to the sense and feeling of our rulers to neglect, for the state to step in and supply so lamentable a deficiency, and, by means of a national system of education, to bring up the children of such parents in the national Church ; securing thereby, to its own establishment, the early respect and attachment of that part of the population, which might otherwise be left, without any religious instruction, to become the Jupes and victims of fanaticism and fraud.”
Mr. Bowles proceeds to consider the plan brought for. ward by Mr. Whitbread, and though he allows it to have emanated from an upright intension, he condemns it “ as a bungling measure, as it fails to supply the means which can alone enable it to answer its purpose; nay, the very meanswhich it proposes are calculated, in the manner in which they are to be applied, to frustrate the design they are intended to promote.”
" It is truly astonishing,” says Mr. Bowles, “ that enlightened minds should fall into errors, which are at once so palpable and so dangerous, especially when a plain, a safe, and a direct path lay immediately before them. lf, as you seem to be fully aware, the true object of education be to promote religion and morality, what can be so obvious as that, in order to effectuate this its de. sign, a religious education should be bestowed? By such an education, if properly conducted, youth would be taught their duties to God and man. They would thus be guarded against the snares to which they must otherwise be exposed, in consequence even of the moderate degree of literary instruction of which they are susceptible. In thus neglecting to provide the means which are exclusively calculated to promote the end which you professedly had in view, you are shut out from all excuse, since those means were repeatedly pointed out to your notice, and pressed upon your consideration. One member (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) expressed his firm conviction, that by a religious education alone the people could be made good subjects, and their happi. ness be established. And another member (Mr. Pole Carew) moved that the word religious should be inserted in the preamble of your Bill, before the word instruction. To this proposal you objected, on the ground that the word instruction, as applied to children, implied, in common acceptation, religious and moral instruction. This is an undoubted truth, but it is a truth of which you, Sir, are not entitled to avail yourself. On the contrary, it places the defectiveness of your system in a still more conspicuous view. That the word instruction, as applied to children, gene. rally implies religious and moral instruction, is owing to the care