« PreviousContinue »
corn, cotton, coals, hops, &c., observes, that the only sure ground of judging of the truth or falsehood of any of their statements consists in their unanimity; so that, says he, whenever they are all agreed in one story, we may be quite sure it is false. This same rule seemed to be equally applicable to the Magazines; and so upon closer examination it was found to be, in more instances than one-as, for example, the Apocryphal controversy, involving the question of the inspiration of Scripture; on which they all, with the single exception of the Edinburgh Christian Instructor, which is the organ of no particular party, promulgated the most novel and unblushing heresies with perfect unanimity.
The first charge-namely, the novelty of the prophetical opinions advanced-is a question of bare fact; and the secondnamely, the orthodoxy-is more a question of opinion. The first charge-namely, their novelty-excited considerable surprise in all who knew any thing of Ecclesiastical History, of the writings of the Fathers, or of the most learned commentators on the Scriptures. It was therefore easily refuted. But the refutation involved, as a necessary consequence, the religious and literary and moral characters of the Magazines: for since their charge was triumphantly rebutted by reference to the Fathers, Ecclesiastical History, and the Commentators, it could only be made from wilful falsehood, or from most illiterate ignorance. They are wholly exculpated from the first imputation, which is moral, but arraigned on the latter, which is in itself only literary: but, in either case, these writers stand self-convicted of incompetence as teachers of others. No answer whatever has been made to the subjects advanced; but since they have been attempted to be run down, through personal attacks upon the individuals who hold them, it is obvious that there is no method left to obtain for them a candid investigation, but to break the spell by which the Christian public is bound, and to shew the real merits of those writers who have presumed to anathematize all who do not kneel before them.
If any one suppose that the question at issue is one of merely speculative theology, and which may be entertained as an episode in his scheme of Christianity, and be received or rejected without any detriment to his soul's health and safety, he is most egregiously mistaken. If it were indeed as he supposes, it would be a very idle disputation. The point at issue is neither more nor less than what God has revealed to be his chief end in creation and redemption; to which end all other acts of God in providence are only subordinate: the great importance of which subject has been well shewn by President Edwards. The object of all doctrines is to bring us to know and to enjoy Go; and unless they do this, they are nothing but puerile subtleties, fit
only for the amusement of the idle schoolmen of the dark ages. It cannot be too often inculcated and borne in mind, that the knowledge of God is not the knowledge of an invisible metaphysical abstraction, but the knowledge of an acting God; "in whom "-that is, in whose acts—“ we" ourselves "live and move and have our being;" of an AGENT, who is only to be known by his acts; and which acts can only be admired as they are perceived to be conducing to some proposed end. So that the point at issue contains the sum and substance of all religion, as the greater includes all its subordinates.
However lightly they may treat the matter, it is nevertheless one of the highest importance; nor will we deny the conclusion to which, if we are wrong, they may justly drive us, of being under a fearful delusion, and perverting a large portion of Scripture. On the other hand, if we are right, they are infidel to nine-tenths of what God has said: and between these extremes there is no middle course, in all that respects our hope, our watchfulness, our prayers, and our brotherly love. We are expecting the Seed of the woman, the Son of Abraham, the Son' of David, the Son of Mary, to drive Satan out of this earth; to take possession of the promised land; to sit upon David's throne in Zion; to govern the world in righteousness and true holiness; and to produce the happiness of the whole race: They are expecting Him never to come, but for twenty-four hours, to burn up the globe: Wherefore the object of our hope is essentially different. We are of opinion that Christendom is full of infidelity; that the time is arrived to punish the nations for their apostasy (whether Papal, Greek, or Mohammedan), and to repay all the cruelties which they have committed on the Jews for eighteen hundred years; that the modern religious societies, however useful they may have been in calling out God's elect to the ark of Christ's church, are nevertheless full of selfrighteousness and Pharisaism, and tend much faster to ripen the world for judgments than to convert it; and that Christ is just at hand to destroy suddenly all Protestant nations and churches, as well as the Papal: They are of opinion that the societies are to go on getting more money, and sending out more books and preachers, till the whole world is gradually converted by them, without any judgments at all: Therefore, either we are groundless alarmists, or they are lulling men to certain perdition, and crying Peace, peace, whilst sudden destruction is at the door; and thus our watchfulness, both in the thing to be watched for and in the necessity for it, are essentially different. We believe that the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah are both to be reunited under one King, even Christ, in their own land; and that they will then produce the conversion of the world: They believe that neither of the kingdoms is ever to return to its own land;
and that they are just like Heathens, Mohammedans, or other unconverted men, and to be prayed for with the same end: Therefore, the object of our prayers touching the Jews and the world is different. We believe that they who deny these things are infidels to the greater part of God's word: They believe that we are under delusion, and are perverting God's word: Therefore, our brotherly love for each other is much disturbed.
A small volume has lately appeared from the pen of Dr. Hamilton, professing to be against the views of the Millenarians. It contains shreds of sentences dragged from their contexts in various writers, and placed in such juxta-position as to shew the opinions of the said writers to be contradictory to each other; an attack upon the politics and sentiments of some writers, that have no connection whatever with the subject; a few misquotations from the Fathers; mistakes in ecclesiastical history; a string of coarse epithets applied to his opponents; and two awful passages of heresy (awful, considering they come from the pen of an Evangelical Doctor in the Church of Scotland!), one of which is flagrant Pelagianism, and the other denies the mortality of the human nature of our Lord. As soon as this extraordinary performance appeared, the Evangelical Magazine, under the false pretext of reviewing it, pronounced a panegyric upon the whole Work-scurrili y, misquotations, heresy, and allgave no analysis of its arguments, or of the opinions which it was written to assail; but applauded the whole, because it was calculated to shew "how little the Millenarians are entitled to public confidence; " in furtherance of which laudable object heresy itself is no offence in the eyes of the Reverend Evangelical conductors of this Magazine.
It would not be just, however, to include the Christian. Observer in the strictures which have been made upon the other magazines; for, although the standard of its theology is the lowest that is possible within the verge of orthodoxy, and although it is one of the foremost in proclaiming an approaching Millennium by means of Bible and Missionary Societies and Infidel Universities, yet it has never attempted to crush all inquiry into the present subject: on the contrary, some very wellwritten papers have appeared in its columns on both sides of the question; and in the style of its criticisms, on those points on which it differed most widely from us, it formed a perfect contrast to the coarseness of some of its contemporaries.
The Baptist Magazine has also endeavoured to discuss the subject, although with remarks on private individuals perfectly unjustifiable. Whether it has examined the question well or ill, is not now the point: it has not attempted, at least, to put its veto upon all who should presume to differ from it.
The Editor of "the Christian Guardian and Church-of-En
gland Magazine" cited some passages from Dr. Hamilton's work also found no fault with its coarse language, which it called 66 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