« PreviousContinue »
of the reception of the Gospel by the world must help us to solve this enigma; and we know that there are thousands of who will acknowledge themselves sinners in general, who will, nevertheless, stoutly defend every action of their lives in detail. Thus, in a few pages afterwards, the consistent censurer of Mr. Irving says, there is a large increase of Evangelical preachers and pastors in the Established Church-the doctrines of the New Testament were never preached with stricter orthodoxy than by the present generation of Dissenting ministersnew chapels are building in all directions-scriptural knowledge and piety have very considerably increased-evangelical sentiments never prevailed to a greater extent—there has taken place a great abatement of sectarian animosities—more visible union, more actual co-operation, between Christians of different communions, than this country has ever exhibited--a real increase of Christian charity-religious liberty has gained a signal triumph—the sufficiency and exclusive authority of the Scripture is now almost universally admitted amongst us—the principle has been re-discovered, the moral lever which can move the world, and the base found on which to place it. In the unexampled spread of evangelical truth the increase of Christian unity, the extension of religious liberty, the extraordinary awakening of a spirit of generous zeal and liberality, and the diffusion and triumph of liberal and scriptural opinions, we have most unequivocal signs of an improved and of an improving condition of society at home.”
It is really very difficult to ascertain what opinion is meant to be expressed by these two opposite statements; whether, in short, we are to believe that the world is become better, or worse? Our own opinion is, that the form of godliness has increased, and that the power has diminished : that there is a very considerably larger number of professors of an orthodox creed; and that the outward decencies of civilized society are better preserved ; that there is a larger quantity of idle, selfish good-nature, that wishes well to every body, but which will not give itself much personal trouble to promote it: whilst, at the same time, there is less stern, unbending, conscientious principle, both in the world and in the church, than at any former period of the history of man.
We think that the great delusion of the day is unsanctified benevolence; and we are the more earnest in contending against it, because we were deeply ensnared in it ourselves. We can therefore sympathise with those who are in it
And although the error perceived in the system excited a latent suspicion that all was not right, it was only by that attentive study of the Scriptures, which the unfulfilled parts of them have excited, that we were enabled fully to appreciate the cha
racter of the times in which we live as depicted by the inspired penmen, and so little like the portrait which is drawn of them by the hand of man.
The case between Mr. Irving and his opponents may be briefly summed up as follows :He maintains, that last days mean last days; not only with reference to all days, but especially with reference to latter days, inasmuch as last comes after latter;—That in these present days he perceives, in that party which calls itself, by way of distinction, the religious world, all the characteristics foretold by the Apostle to Timothy as about to be found in the last days in those who should have a form of godliness ;—That the religious world does withstand all who would lead the people out of the bondage of the spirit into the freedom of the Gospel, or out of the bondage of the body into the reign of Christ; calling them, for doing the first, Antinomians; and heaping upon them, for the latter, all manner of abuse ;-That the peril of the days consists in these characters being found, not in the openly profane, but amongst the greatest professors in the church.
The opponents maintain, That last days mean first days, because Timothy is required to oppose the evils pointed out by the Apostle, which he could not have done if they were not to arise for 1800 years afterwards ;-That last days mean any period during the whole Christian dispensation ;--That the whole tenor of prophecy describes the last days to be good, in reference to all former days; and therefore the evil days, described by the Apostle, cannot be these days; That, so far from any of the characteristics described by the Apostle being to be found in the religious world now, not one is to be found there; for that there never was so much scriptural knowledge, orthodox preaching, active missionaries, large subscriptions, &c. &c.; and no former days were ever so good as these days.
The opponents, therefore, wrap themselves up in that which Hannah More so happily calls “ a geographical security;” and since they suppose these things were apparent in the time of Timothy, they cannot belong to themselves now. The Religious Magazines have no objection to lay those charges on men of former days, but only insist that they are not applicable to us now. This is the mode by which the Papists get rid of the other apostasy, of which the Apostle prophesied in the preceding Epistle : they say, the charges do not belong to holy mother church, but to the wicked Encratitæ and Tatians and Manichæans of the first ages; and write a great deal of quibbling to shew the difference between themselves and these old heretics. The Reviewers bring forward Calvin, to prove that last days mean the whole Christian dispensation ; which, though the expression does so mean in some places, Calvin is wrong in giving so
VOL. I.-NO, I.
indefinite a meaning to it here. But, still, this authority will not answer the purpose of the editor of the Eclectic, in proving that these are not the days spoken of, because they are evil days and these days are good days, and that “the whole tenor of prophecy” describes the last days as good days: for Calvin holds directly the opposite, and says, that although the term does mean the whole Christian dispensation,“ potius qualis futura sit regni Christi conditio, docet. Multi enim imaginabantur beatam nescio quam pacem, et immunem omni molestia.' We maintain most unequivocally, that, search for the fulfilment of the prediction when and where you please, the interpretation is not the true one which does not find it, not amongst heretics, but amongst the religious of the day, be it when it may In this opinion also Calvin agrees : “ Notandum est de quibus loquatur; neque enim externos hostes, qui ex professo Christi nomen oppugnant, sed domesticos perstringit, qui censeri volunt inter ecclesiæ membra. Nam eousque suam ecclesiam exercere vult Deus, ut intus tales pestes in sinu suo gerat, etiamsi eos fovere horreat." We conclude our extract with his caution, “nostrum est aperire oculos, ut cernamus qui digito monstrentur.'
We need scarcely say, that we strongly recommend this volume of Mr. Irving to the attentive perusal of all; not only on account of the merits of the work itself, but because we know of no other from whence the same information can be derived : those, therefore, who want to know the true character of the best part of the world at the present time, or who desire an able commentary on a portion of prophecy to which the Holy Ghost has called our attention with very peculiar earnestness, we strongly advise to peruse this volume. We have not noticed any of the misrepresentations which the religious magazines have made of the doctrines it contains, because we did not wish to discuss subjects of such importance in an incomplete manner; but we must say upon this point, that there is a wilful perversion of Mr. Irving's direct and published sentiments, which it is impossible to reconcile with honesty or with veracity. We know not in what manner to treat persons capable of such conduct: but this we know, that the men who can wilfully sit down, month after month, to write what cannot be mistakes, but are intentional falsehoods, respecting the creed of a minister of God's word, have no more right or title to be called or treated as Christians, than men living in open uncleanness, drunkenness, or any other abomination : and we hold it a distinctive feature of the present day, not that theologians are coarse in their language, but that men shall be esteemed Christians because they follow the fashion of the profane world in abstaining from sensual pleasures of the lowest kind, while they
continue in the indulgence of slander and malevolence : and this we assert to be the case of those magazines which hold up Mr. Irving to public execration as teaching a reprobation distinct from the punishment of human guilt ; that God is, in a moral as well as in a physical sense, the author of evil; and that his theology has come upon him, not in the ordinary way of study and research, but by distinct revelation. Evan. Mag. p. 599.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE MORNING WATCH. Mr. Editor-I cannot refrain from addressing a few lines to you, to express the cordial satisfaction with which I hail the annunciation of a work like yours, devoted to the candid and impartial discussion of subjects connected with the Prophetical Scriptures. If ever there was a time when the Prophecies of Holy Writ ought to be humbly studied and deeply considered, it is assuredly the present; and if ever there was a time when such a work as yours was called for, it is now. It is the desideratum of the day in which we live. It is an doubted and a most lamentable fact, that, amidst the numerous Reviews, Magazines, and other periodical works which abound in this country, there is not one, with which I am acquainted *, that is disposed to set before its readers the subject of Prophetical interpretation in a fair and impartial manner. The Editors and Reviewers in these publications impose their own ipse dixit on their readers, instead of presenting them with a fair statement of the arguments used on each side of the important question at issue.
That, however, I may not seem to deal in general charges without proof, I will call your attention to the manner in which certain publications on Prophecy were treated in “ the Christian Guardian” for the month of December last. At the head of the article stands the following list of books to be reviewed :“ The Rev. A. Keith's Evidence of the Truth of Religion 'derived from the
literal Fulfilment of Prophecy." “ Mr. Faber's Sacred Calendar of Prophecy.”. “ Ben Ezra's Coming of Messiah in Glory and Majesty.”
Dialogues on Prophecy.”. “ Hon. and Rev. G. Noel's Inquiry into the Prospects of the Christian
Church." “ Dr. Hamilton's Defence of the Scriptural Doctrine of the Second Advent of
Christ, &c.” “ Papers read before the Society for the Investigation of Prophecy." Now, in the above list there are two works which decidedly take one side of the question now at issue before the Church on the subject of the Millennium, and four which advocate and argue for the other. What, then, might a reader, anxious to gain information on the subject, bave reasonably expected ? Assuredly that a fair statement of the arguments used by the respective authors would be given, and fair extracts made from their works, that the reader might form some judgment of their several merits. But what is the actual fact? Copious extracts are given from the works of Mr. Faber and Dr. Hamilton, and stamped with the reviewer's approbation, while the old rule of audi alteram partem has been entirely forgotten. The writer merely observes, that he will briefly advert to the other publications; and then, enumerating all but Mr. Noel's, he adds, that the time spent in reading them has been very ill em.
* The Jewish Expositor is by far the best in this respect.
ployed; and so shuts them up. To Mr. Noel's work a few separate remarks are devoted, for the purpose of offering some empty compliment on his amiable spirit, and of adverting to his interpretation of our Lord's words to the thief on the cross (which have nothing, in fact, to do with the main question); and so his book is dismissed, like the rest, without a single quotation. Now I ask, Is this fair, impartial, Christian? What are we to infer from this method of proceeding? Why, either that the Reviewer never read the works in question, which I shrewdly suspect (notwithstanding his whining over his lost time); or else, that, having read them, he was afraid to give an honest statement of their contents. But what is an anonymous reviewer, that the Christian Church is to pin its faith on his opinion on such a momentous subject as this?
I would earnestly entreat the readers of every Review or Magazine which thus partially and unfairly deals with writers on unfulfilled Prophecy, to free themselves from the miserable bondage, and to read the works alluded to for themselves, and weigh well the arguments they contain, together with the writings of those who take an opposite view; and then to search the Scriptures with humility, teachableness, and prayer, to see which authors speak most according to the word and to the testimony.
I am most thankful to you that in the work which you have announced we have the prospect of one in which this great question will be fairly treated. Truth can only be elicited by an open and candid discussion, conducted in a Christian spirit. Those who are really desirous of ascertaining the truth, and of adopting it when it is ascertained, will never be averse to such an investigation. May the God of truth guide and bless your proposed publication, and make it conducive to enlighten and edify His church? This is the sincere prayer of one who hopes (if spared) to be Your constant Reader,
TO CORRESPONDENTS. Some articles for which we have not had room, will appear in our next Number. We return thanks to the Rev. J. J. Holmes, and Rev. A. Addis, and shall take
early occasion of noticing their communications. Miscalculations, incident to a new undertaking, have disturbed the proportion
between the several departments of our first Number. It is our intention to notice scarce old books on Prophetical subjects ; and we
shall be obliged by extracts from rare works, especially on the Apocalypse. We request our Correspondents to send their papers six weeks, at the least,
before the day of publication, that we may have time to examine them; and we beg that they would give us permission to publish their names.