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Whether fuch circumspection is at all times observed, is highly questionable. Certain however it is, that the charge itself has been of late, and is at present, perpetually advanced against a great majority of the ministers of the Church of England. Some of our own brethren in the miniftry, who are attached to certain peculiar tenets, and who in consequence claim the appellation of Evangelical or Gospel preachers, thereby exclude, by implication at least, if not expressly, from a share in that appellation those of their fellow-labourers, whose opinions and style of preaching do not correspond with their own. It is no lefs notorious, that a large body of men, who have risen to be, according to their own imaginations, ministers of the Gospel, (how legitimately it is not my prefent purpose to inquire ;) and multitudes besides, who refort to them in search of that fpiritual improvement, which, as they allege, they despair of procuring at the mouth of a regularly ordained priesthood ; make no fcruple of pronouncing, in the broadest and most unequivocal language,
that the Guspel is not preached in our Church,
Upon this pretext Methodism arose and hath been maintained. In avowed opposition to the parochial Clergy, and the authorized rulers of the established Church, to “ heathenish
“ priests and mitred infidels,” (for in the language of censure the Methodists have not been distinguished for their temperance,) the founders and abettors of the schisin have gone forth, “ to dispel the gross darkness of ignorance and “ ungodliness ; and to spread the light of the “ Gospel over a benighted land." The national Clergy, as a body, have been, and continue to be, ftigmatized, as “ignorant of evan“ gelical truth ;” as preachers of “ Popish and “ Socinian tenets ;" as “ fubftituting a hea" thenish morality for the doctrine of Scrip“ ture;" and as “ corrupting, fophifticating, “ and mutilating the truth of God.” In the vocabulary of these modern reformers, Methodism and the Gospel are synonymous termss. And so exclusively do they assume the appellation of Preachers of the Gospel, and so arrogantly do they withhold it from others, that no ministerial qualification will exempt a man from this awful charge, unless his views of Scripture should happen to coincide with their
“ I have seen it afferted in print,” faith a learned prelate, “ by one of these self-sent
apostles, that the Gospel *was first preached
6 See the works of Wesley, Whiteheld, and other Methodists, throughout. See also “Sermons and Extracts by “ Edmund Outram, D.D. Public Orator of Cambridge," containing a useful collection of extracts from the works of Arminian and Calviniftic Methodists.
“ on a certain day in a parish, where, to my “ own certain knowledge, every duty of a “ minister of the Gospel has been regularly “ performed by a diligent conscientious cler“ gyman .
By this sentence it is evident, that the matter of the discourses, delivered by the ministers of the Church of England in general, is the mark at which their accusers aim. And it is either intended to be alleged against them, that they renounce, and are apoftates, from the Gospel, instead of which they substitute a style of preaching of a different character; a charge, which is pregnant with that “wo,” denounced by the Apostle in my text; or it is intended to be alleged, that the Gospel is corrupted and perverted in their hands; an accusation, no less than the other, of a must alarming and tremendous nature, if we call to mind the warning of the same Apostle, that such persons are to be held “ accursed." We
may however cherish the hope, that our preaching is not obnoxious to so grievous a charge as that which is here lerelled against
And without calling in question the purity of our accusers' motives, and without putting upon their opposition any harsher construction than charity must allow, we may admit a belief, that their zeal, whencefoever it may originate, and to whatever end it may be directed, is at least “ not according to know“ ledge.” With this persuasion, a love of truth and of justice will fecond a becoming regard to our own characters and welfare, if we endeavour to maintain our ground against the assaults of our opponents; and should we, in repelling from ourselves the awful charge, that we preach not the Gospel, be driven to advance what may appear like recrimination, Christian charity, we trust, will authorize a measure, which is not prompted by a spirit of wanton hostility ; but is provoked by unmerited aggression, and rendered neceffary by self-defence.
Bihop Randolph's Charge at Bangor, 1808. p. 15.
An inquiry into the justice of the charge, that the great body of the national Clergy do not preach the Gospel, is proposed for the fubject of these discourses. Consistent, as I trust it is, with the express intention of the Founder of this lecture, and worthy of the ftričleft attention of those, for whose benefit the lecture appears to have been more imme. diately designed, it is at the fame time anquestionably a subject of very great and general concern. May it please Almighty God for Christ's fake to give us the help of his Holy Spirit, and prosper the inquiry, if it be honeftly directed to the promotion of the Gospel of his Son !
1 Rom. X. 2.
On all matters of religious controversy, and on this, in common with others of the fame nature, appeal must be made to the sacred writings, as the only authentic records of the truth. These are the source, from which our arguments must principally be derived ; and these are the test, to which all our reasonings must ultimately be referred. Holy Scrip“ ture,” as our Church expresses it, “ contain“eth all things necessary to salvation; so that “ whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be “ proved thereby, is not to be required of any “ man that it should be believed, as an article “ of the faith, or be thought requisite or ne“ cessary to falvation k.”
But whilst we regard the Scriptures as the only infallible criterion of found doctrine, I would add a falutary and seasonable caution, as to the use and application of them. It is the duty of every Christian, and it is the privilege of every Protestant, to “ search the Scrip
tures ;' for in them we read our title to eternal life, and they are they which testify of Christ: but it is not every man, who is duly qualified, at least on controverted points, to
* Art. vi.