Page images
PDF
EPUB

(6

gland Magazine” cited some passages from Dr. Hamilton's work also: found no fault with its coarse language, which it called "pungent:” swallowed, like his Dissenting colleague, the heresy, as a venial offence in any Evangelical doctor who would attack the Millenarians : never discovered the blunders in history, or in the quotations from the Fathers; but eulogized the whole work as valuable ;” and so fulfilled his self-assumed office of guarding the Christianity of the Church of England. Before dismissing this journal, one other instance of the Editor's incompetence must be pointed out, from his review of Mr. Faber's recent work. This work contains a systematic interpretation of the symbolical prophecies of Daniel and St. John: in order, therefore, to make it complete, the learned author was obliged to go through the whole of them; in doing which he has availed himself, avowedly, of the writings of his predecessors, to whose opinions he has added some original and valuable remarks of his own. But, so great is the ignorance of the Editor upon every thing that has been written upon the subject, that he has transcribed as original from Mr. Faber that which has been published before, and which is well known to every novice in the study of unfulfilled prophecy, and omitted much that is really original and important in this new work of Mr. Faber's.

But, to return to his brother guardians of Evangelical Religion amongst the Dissenters.

The Editors, therefore, having refused to debate the subject like scholars, like gentlemen, or like Christians, have chosen their own ground-namely, that of personal claim to public confidence—and into that arena of their own selecting we must descend after them.

In this nation bouticaire, where every thing, moral, intellectual, and physical, has its price, few trades amongst the middling classes of society are more thriving than the profession of Evangelical religion; provided it be carried on with“ prudence," and that the trader takes care to “ do nothing to mar his usefulness;” persecution for the Gospel's sake being confined to the lower class of dependent labourers; or to the higher classes, with whom piety is invariably associated with ideas of vulgarity. Amidst the various ramifications of this calling, some ministers sell themselves to supply a periodical portion of letter-press for the particular Magazine of the sect to which they belong. Being obliged to furnish_this portion at all hazards, they perform it, tant mal que bien. Thus they leave themselves little time to read, and still less to meditate: so that the instruction they convey to their flocks consists in a repetition of the same scholastic terms which they brought with them from their academies. In the mean while-by attacks upon the reputation of their brother ministers of the Gospel, not only in Magazines, under pretence of reviewing their works, but also often from their pulpits ; by publicly (e. g. at the meetings of the Three Denominations, &c.) calling the priests of Socinianism, that God-denying apostasy, their Christian brethren-they have, unintentionally, but effectually, lowered the dignity of the pastoral office, as an institution of Christ, in the opinions of their congregations : and by joining with infidels, in their encouragement of wild, irreligious liberalism, they have still further loosened the already too slender bonds which held Dissenting churches together; and have applauded a “march of intellect” in their hearers, whilst their own divinity has remained as crude as it was the first day they mounted a pulpit.

To a people so prepared, the writings of the Students of Prophecy have shewn that there is a large body of matter in God's word (whether they were right or wrong in their interpretation of it), not only relating to the second advent of Messiah, but to many other subjects, about which these ministers never discoursed at all, and on which, if they were consulted in private, they were found in entire ignorance.

As the Popish (and all other) priests do in similar circumstances, they fulminated anathemas, from their pulpits and from their magazines, against all who should dare to go to hear any of their brother ministers preach upon these subjects, or should venture to read any of the works which they included in their index expurgatorius. The effect which has followed such attempts of Popery in other places, followed here also: the works on Prophecy have sold in exact proportion as they were preached against. One article in the Congregational Magazine alone nearly doubled the demand amongst its readers, who were previously indisposed to look into the subject. One bookseller observed, that a stranger came into his shop, and said, “ I was not much inclined to take up the subject of prophecy, for I thought the writers all in the wrong ; but I am so confident of the nature of that spirit which dictated this article” (pointing to it in the Congregational) “ that I have determined now to read, and judge for myself.”

What was now to be done? The profitable trade of Evangelical preaching was likely to suffer. These Demetriuses, therefore, took counsel with the workmen of like occupation (Acts xix. 24); and, seeing that not alone in the Church of Scotland, but almost throughout all England, this Irving hath persuaded and turned away much people from their present meagre theology, so that not only the craft of the said Demetriuses is in danger to be set at nought, but also that the expediency of the great societies should be despised, and their magnificent wealth diminished, which all Evangelicals do worship, it was determined to write down the men, and denounce thein as persons whose opinions were heretical, and therefore not“ entitled to public confidence.”

It may be said, that the dishonesty and incompetency of these magazines in questions of unfulfilled prophecy is no proof that the same charge can be justly made against them upon other subjects: let us therefore proceed to analyse another review, in the same number of the Evangelical Magazine that contains the wholesale approbation of the Pelagianism and Monothelite heresies of Dr, Hamilton-namely, that of a little tract, called

Theogenes,” by Dr. Malan of Geneva. The two first columns of this review are entirely filled with an account of “ his conversion,” and private matter respecting him, as an individual, wholly irrelevant to the subject of the tract. The editors then proceed to descant upon the private friends whom Dr. M. pleases to admit into his own private house. There can be no act of baseness greater than that of prying into the conversations which take place between individuals within the sacred precincts of a man's own house, and making these conversations, surreptitiously obtained, the grounds of public accusation. This is a species of tyranny which is almost the peculiar attribute of the dregs of the people, whenever, for the curse of mankind, they obtain possession of power; and which history shews us scarcely any examples of being exercised by aristocratic tyrants, with the exception of the great ear of Syracuse : but wherever mob-power gets the ascendancy, there this is pre-eminent. Thus, during the bloodiest times of Robespierre the reputed private conversations of the victims with their intimate friends and nearest relations were almost the only ground of accusation : and this same form of tyranny is that which the lowest and meanest of the Popish priests (for priests of every creed with secular affections are always base) exercise through the confessional. The same cause that has made some of the Millenarians

personally odious to the class to which the proprietors of these Magazines belong, has made Dr. Malan odious also. He has not pursued Evangelicalism as a trade. He does not sell himself to write he cares not what, so long as it will bring money: if he writes, he writes to instruct; and therefore he, of course, selects such points as the church most requires to be enlightened upon. He will not become dependent upon the Religious Societies of England : nor, whilst cast out for his Master's sake from the national church of his country (which is no Christian church, but a synagoge of Satan), does he rail against her wealth, in such terms as to prove that there is more jealousy .than conscience in his separation. His uncompromising consistency is wormwood to a trading Evangelical ; and he must be denounced, as having something in his mode of thinking which indicated a want of solidity, a readiness to embrace new and captivating theories, a disposition rather to draw upon his own most scanty stock of theological materials than to avail himself of that assistance which intercourse with men and books might have supplied :” no doubt, meaning such men and such books 'as the writers in and the English Religious Magazines themselves. They say,

“We shall select from these Dialogues (Theogenes) a few of those sentiments which we consider to be of unscriptural character and injurious tendency, and shall leave our readers to judge for themselves, whether Dr. Malan has any pretension whatever to dictate to the Christian people of this country, or whether there is any reason why they should think meanly of their own pastors !” (ah! the craft of the Demetriuses again endangered !) “in comparison with their continential visitor.”

There cannot be a more decided criterion of a true or false shepherd, than the manner in which he inculcates the lessons that he teaches to his flock. The Apostles invariably referred to the Scriptures, and called on their hearers to judge out of them : the Popish priests as invariably call on the people to trust, to their dictation, and not to judge for themselves: the worldly-minded clergy of the Church of England are greatly opposed to the people judging their doctrines out of the Scriptures-for which opposition the Dissenters omit no opportunity of finding fault with Popish priests, and with the venal clergy of the Established Church ; alleging, most justly, that the conduct of these persons in this particular is an undeniable proof of conscious false doctrine. But here we have leading Dissenters promulgating in the face of day, and reiterating two several times, in one number of their Magazine, that the people must not judge of what these said Dissenting pastors say; and neither read the works of the Millenarians, nor listen to their sermons, nor think meanly of their own pastors in comparison with their continental visitor.” Here we have a direct appeal to human authority, instead of the Scriptures, as the ultima ratio : a call to lean upon a fallible man, instead of leaning upon the infallible Word of God.

The question at issue between the Reviewer and Dr. Malan is this : “ How is any one to know that he is a child of God?” Dr. Malan says, “ By faith.” The Editors of the Magazine say, " By faith and works.” It is true, that the word “worksis not admissible in this part of the Calvinistic creed ; and therefore, as the Editors' trade is Calvinism, they must get rid of the word “ works,” and say that “ the believer must try his faith by its fruits :" so that the word “fruits” conveys the idea

SO.

of these Calvinistic Dissenters, just as the word "works" conveys the idea of the Arminian Tomlines in the Church of England. “ Faith and works,” says Bishop Tomline;"Faith and fruits,” say the Magazines. “ Faith, without works, fruits, or any thing else,” says St. Paul (Rom. xi. 6); for Christ, and Christ alone, without faith, works, fruits, or any thing else, separate or combined, says the Gospel ; and whoever can find any other mode of laying hold of Him but by faith, let him do

Dr. Malan has not, we confess, stated the question clearly and well : but the Editors are not objecting to his mode of stating a truth ; on the contrary, they rejoice at the badness of the mode, because it affords them an easier attack on the truth. We regret the mode, because we feel it difficult to defend the truth by it, and are therefore compelled to condemn it. The question has been argued, and re-argued, again and again, so well by many writers, especially Fisher, Boston, Leighton, Witsius, Hervey, Sandeman, Haldane, Erskine, &c. that it must be useless to re-state it. But it is not a question of theology, nor ought ever to be so treated : it is one of common sense and clearness of head; and whoever cannot understand it as such, is not only unfit to be a teacher of religion, but of every other branch of knowledge. Let us, therefore, take the question out of theology into common life, and it is thus:

Dr. M. I am cold.
R. You cannot tell that unless you go to the fire.

Dr. M. You may not believe that I am sincere in saying so, unless you see me shew my sensation of cold by that natural consequent action ; but still I maintain that I do know, and therefore can tell, that I am cold, whether I move towards the fire or not.

R. You may deceive yourself in this matter: if a man thinks himself to be cold, when he is warm, he deceiveth himself; to err in the present case may not be fatal, but if you were to carry such a notion into religion, it would be very dangerous.

Dr. M. I can see no danger in applying universally an universally self-evident proposition--namely, that, instead of moving to the fire in order to know whether I am cold, I must first not only know, but be sure, that I am cold, before I shall move to the fire.

R. How unlike this dangerous doctrine of yours is the Apostle’s dealing with the Thessalonians: he argued their principles (i. 4-10) from their having become examples to others, and not from their own internal persuasions.

Dr. M. The Apostle could know nothing of their internal persuasions, but as they exhibited them by external acts. But you puzzle the question : did the Apostle not know his own in

VOL. I.NO. II.

2 L

« PreviousContinue »