Page images
PDF
EPUB

ternal persuasions but by his own external acts? That is what you have to shew, and not what he knew of other persons' internal persuasions; and I defy you to shew that the Apostle ever judges of his own state by his own acts.

Thus these Editors labour to persuade their readers that they do not know whether they are hot or cold, hungry or thirsty, believe or disbelieve any thing, think or do not think upon any one given subject, unless they have followed up this sensation and thought by some second and consequent operation.

It is quite true, however, that it is only by outward signs that we can judge of the inward sentiments of others; and thus it is by the opinions set forth by these Editors that we perceive their incompetence to be teachers of religion. They may at bottom have a better creed than they know how to enunciate, and be truly excellent and pious men: we are not called upon to excommunicate them from the fellowship of the saints, because they are ignorant; but we are called upon to say, upon theological, as upon all other subjects, that ignorant men are pot fit

to be teachers. When Kett wrote his Elements of Useful Knowledge, Mr. Davison did not call upon the University of Oxford to expel him, but only shewed that he was too ignorant a person to be a tutor and teacher of others. It is not on the score of piety that these editors challenge our deference and our homage, but on the score of their theological and literary attainments : and they do this not by the high and honourable method of writing better than others, but by calling names; by attacking individuals, and saying that one is “not entitled to public confidence;” and by drawing a comparison between themselves and another, as to which “pastor is to be most esteemed,” like the veriest empiric that ever advertised for custom by depreciating the merits of a successful rival.

This, not being a casual slip of the pen, but the theology which the editors mean intentionally to teach, it is manifest that they are exceedingly illiterate men ; and, consequently, incompetent to the task which they have arrogated to themselves. If this ignorance were found in an old woman in a garret, and if the old woman manifested by other signs that her heart was right with God, and she was at peace with him, by resting on the alone true Foundation, it would not be worth while either to enlighten or expose her. If, however, she were unhappy in her mind from this confusion in her creed, it would be an act of charity to clear it up for her ; but if she were to take upon berself to teach such nonsense, it would become requisite to unmask her folly, not with the vain expectation either of convincing or of silencing her, but in order to prevent her injuring the creeds of others. On the same principle the works of these Editors must be exposed ; not that they will be either silenced or con vinced, but that the church may perceive the wretched trash that is taught her under the name of Evangelical religion.

Although they are probably unaware of the fact, it follows, from the doctrines they inculcate on this point, that the Editors are in error on that of justification by faith ; that they are still under the law; and that they make a great confusion in the work of the Spirit, for they make it to consist in bringing the believer back under that law from which Christ has delivered him. Dr. Malan sees plainly that this is the state of their theology, and he has therefore most laudably set himself to work to counteract its baneful tendency. But, to the shame of some be it spoken, that there are those who are perfectly aware of the low, wretched, and spurious Christianity which is promulgated by these writers, but who, instead of honestly reproving and separating from them, still encourage the circulation of that and similar magazines, because they form the bonds, and are the organs, of the parties to which they belong. In worldly matters, “party is the madness of the many for the gain of the few;” but in religious matters, it is nothing but gross dishonesty, and preferring the applause of the little circle which constitutes their “ world,” to the truth of God and the spiritual health of men's souls.

We must not dismiss the subject of Dr. Malan, however, without observing that he has testified the sincerity and power of his principles in a way that entitles him to our warmest sympathy and affection. There is no man now living in Europe who has suffered more for the cause of the Lord Jesus than he has. No wonder then that they, who find religion a thriving trade, should hold those principles cheap which bring a man into such very different circumstances. In former times, the more a Christian suffered for the truth, the more he was honoured by those who professed the same faith. There is no surer test to this hour; and wherever we see the men who have sacrificed time, fame, wealth, or power, for Christ's sake, lightly esteemed by those who have gained much and sacrificed nothing, we shall justly think the contempt they shew for a suffering Chris. tian a stronger proof of a carnal and unsanctified heart, than day evidence they may offer can be of an opposite character.

As if, however, to furnish a superabundance of evidence of incompetency, a third review follows, which is that of Mr. Erskine's work on the Freeness of the Gospel. Mr. Erskine in this essay has fairly turned the ideas of these Editors upside down. He has taken the great truths of revelation out of the slang phraseology of the Meeting-house, and written of them in ordinary terms. The consequence is, that they, whose knowledge is limited to the words and phrases of their school, can scarcely comprehend a single sentence of them. One example of this may suffice. Mr. Erskine wishes to state this highly important fact-namely, that "by the incarnation of the second Person in the Trinity, the whole creation (i. e. limiting the word creation to this planet and the beings who inhabit it) is become beneficially interested in the work of Christ.” This fact he expresses by saying, that the world is pardoned by the incarnation of Christ: upon which the Editors observe, we do maintain that for his doctrine of universal pardon there is not an atom of evidence in the sacred volume. Had he maintained universal * redemption, that Christ died an actual sacrifice for all, there migbt have been a possibility of wresting the Scriptures to bolster up the absurd position. But to affirm that God has really pardoned all men, and that even believers themselves acquire nothing more than the sense of that blessing, appears to us to be something so monstrous, that we can find no passage in Holy Writ capable of being so far tortured, even as to throw around it an air of consistency.”—The Editors have heard of criminals in prison being pardoned by the king: they hear now of the world being pardoned: they suppose the cases to be exactly parallel, and never seem in their lives to have analysed the ideas belonging to these two different categories. When the king pardons a criminal, there is, first, the grace of the king ; secondly, the promulgation of that grace; thirdly, its revelation to the culprit; fourthly, its acceptance by the culprit. In ordinary cases, all these four acts are signified in the single term of “ pardon,” though sometimes instances have occurred of the process being impeded in the third stage, so that it has arrived too late to stay execution of the original sentence. But in the other category the case is very dissimilar. The first act, indeed, has taken place-namely, the grace of the King in pardoning the world ; the second also, inasmuch as its promulgation has gone forth ; but, thirdly, there are great numbers of culprits to whom it has never been declared ; and, fourthly, the majority of those to whom it has been offered reject it. Since, however, in the case of the earthly king the criminals do almost invariably accept the offer, (though some instances have occurred, particularly in foreign courts-martial, where they have refused it, and preferred to be executed, so that the word pardon necessarily includes the act of their acceptance, although there are at least three preceding and distinct operations besides, these Editors have jumbled the whole in their heads together, and cannot perceive that this state of things in the former case is not transferable to the other. It is true then, that, as far as the

* Here the Editors shew that they are ignorant, even of the terms of their trade ; for they do not mean universal, but general, redemption.

as

grace of the King is concerned, the world is pardoned by the work of Christ. But there the analogy ceases : its application to each separate individual belongs to another Functionary in the mighty scheme ; namely, immediately to the Holy Ghost; ultimately indeed from the Father, and mediately through the Son.

If these Editors are really pious men; if they are truly anxious about the realities of eternity, and not quarrellers only about words; if they wish that the church should be instructed, whether the instruction should bring grist to their mill or not, they ought most sincerely to rejoice in the publication of Mr. Erskine's work. In this intellectual age they must know that the nomenclature of Calvinism is easily learned most correctly, and that there is nothing of more vital importance than to multiply the means for each individual to examine himself as to his principles, separated from the terms by which he may have imbibed them. We have never met with any work that takes vital religion out of the technicology of the conventicle so completely as this; and therefore, as far as it goes, it is a valuable work. We

far as it say

goes,

because it would have been better if it had taken in another branch of the subject, and shewn that the pardon of the Almighty Sovereign, as treasured up in the work of Messiah, was still useless to every individual but by a further special act of the Father in sending to each the Holy Spirit.

Here also, as in the case of Dr. Malan, we are not prepared to contend that the expression “ pardon” is the best which could possibly have been chosen to express the idea which Mr. Erskine wished to convey: but we are quite prepared to maintain the idea which we have above stated-namely, that by the incarnation, &c. of the second Person in the Trinity the whole creation has been brought into such a state that the Father can, without any violation of the most rigid justice, take any individual whom he wills to eternal glory, sending the Holy Spirit to him, to cause him to lay hold of and appropriate to himself the efficacy of the Son's work : as it is admirably expressed by the Church of England, where she teaches her catechumen to say, “I believe in God the Son, who hath redeemed me and all mankind; and in God the Holy Ghost, who sanctifieth me and all the elect people of God.” This is the positive idea which we wish to convey; and in order to make it more clear by setting out the negative, which we wish to oppose, it is that shopkeeping divinity which would set a limit to the value of the work of Immanuel, and make it merely an equivalent for the sins of the elect.

The great importance of separating vital truth from the cant of " a large proportion of writers of sermons and other religious. works," is well set forth by Dr. Whately, in his work 'on

Rhetoric. For,says he, “it will often be found that what is received with great approbation is yet, even if, strictly speaking, understood, but very little attended to, or impressed upon the minds of the bearers. Terms and phrases which have been long familiar to them, and have certain vague and indistinct notions associated with them, men often suppose themselves to understand much more fully than they do, and still oftenet give a sort of indolent assent to what is said, without making any effort of thought. It is justly observed by Mr. Foster (Essay iv.) when treating on this subject, that, ' with regard to a considerable proportion of Christian readers and hearers, a reformed language would be excessively strange to them ;' but that its being so strange to them would be a proof of the necessity of adopting it, at least in part and by degrees. For the manner in which some of them would receive this altered diction, would prove that the customary phraseology had scarcely given them any clear ideas. It would be found that the peculiar phrases had been not so much the vehicles of ideas, as the substitutes for them. These readers and hearers (Query, why not preachers ?) have been accustomed to chime to the sound, without apprehending the sense ; insomuch that if they hear the very ideas which these phrases signify, expressed ever so simply, in other language, they do not recognise them.”” p. 223.

The observations made on the Evangelical, belong, with equal propriety, to the Congregational and Eclectic Magazines. If it be replied, that amongst the Dissenters, with which body the conductors of these Magazines are specially connected, are to be found some men as exemplary for their piety, faith, and benevolence, as the records of fallen humanity can produce, we grant it to the fullest extent. But if these shall continue to countenance those of their own body who make a mock in private of the truths which they declare in public; will denounce the faults of some of the clergy of the Established Church, and take occasion from thence to reiterate abuse upon the whole ecclesiastical authorities of the land, while they do not repudiate the same vices in their own colleagues ; if they will associate with any one, however profligate in morals or bankrupt in character, provided only he can write a smart article in their Magazine, and draw a crowd to their chapel; if they will sanction the deceptions which are practised by means of the exaggerated reports of societies, and give simulated salaries to secretaries and agents, under the false pretences of travelling and incidental expenses ; if they will prefer their sect to their God, and will sacrifice religion and morality to the fame of their denomination, they have no right to complain that they are not distinguished from the herd from which they will not separate themselves, even as Lot himself could not have been preserved unless he had

« PreviousContinue »