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ON THE PERFECTION OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE.
(To the Editor of the Wesleyan-Methodist Magazine.)
(Continued from page 45.) In connexion with the view that Parker, and the Bishops who had has been taken of the treatise, by been exiles at Strasbourgh and Thomas Aquinas, on “the Perfec- Zurich in the days of Mary, found tion of the spiritual Life,” its two in Elizabeth a Sovereign who knew leading faults have been pointed nothing of spiritual religion; and out: the first, an absolute omission who, though by circumstances she of reference to the proper means of was compelled to be a Protestant, obtaining such ripeness and estab- did not love that faithful preaching lishment of evangelical blessing ; of the truth which all true Protestthe second, some absolutely inis ant Reformers considered to be the taken, and even dangerous, recom great instrument of the salvation of mendations, under the guise of men; and she did love that ritual counsel. Some further observations splendour with which Popery had on these subjects will now be laid sought to garnish those sepulchres before the reader,-partly with the of the dead, into which it had transintention of illustrating the provi. formed the churches that were dedential character of that leading signed to be the abodes and nurseries which was vouchsafed to the first of the living. And she was surroundFounder of the Wesleyan societies, ed by hungry courtiers, who, with a and by which his theological system clamorous craving, were perpetually becaine so admirably balanced, and seeking to enrich themselves by the self-consistent, and thus eminently spoils of the Church. They cared calculated to further the great work not for the spiritual destitution of the to which his whole life was devoted; parishes, so that the fruits of the and partly, indeed chiefly, with re benefice might be made over to ference to the personal improvement themselves. Whether ignorant, unof those who may attend to them. preaching men were inducted, or
About the middle of the seven whether pulpits were vacant, was teenth century, some sixty or seventy nothing to them. The Bishops who years before Mr. Wesley entered have been mentioned, and who may upon his evangelical labours, seve be termed the conforming Prelates, ral Divines in the Anglican Estab saw these evils, and bitterly lamentlishment published some valuable ed them. Their writings, now in tai statements on Christian holiness, course of publication, * are full of us de considered as resulting from the in- complaints on the subject,-com- ang fluence of Christian truth. Which- plaints couched in language which cot may perhaps be taken, if not as proves that they groaned under the the founder, yet as the type, of this burden which was imposed on them; school of Divines. But, perhaps, and to which, we believe, they had in none of the writers in the Church only submitted as hoping that its is the effect more visible of the sin continuance would be but for a of which the leaders of the Church time. There were some, however, had been guilty at the time of the who refused to submit, who were Reformation, and especially in the afterwards called Puritans. By these days of Elizabeth, in yielding' 80 a principle was seen to be involved much to a dominant and irreligious in the imposition which they believed secular power, than in the writers to whom reference is now made.
* By the Parker Society,
to be in direct opposition to the will conformity because of the strong of Christ, and to the rights of his convictions which they cherished church, and to the spiritual profit of that religion was personal in its his people. They therefore refused obligations, and personal in its to conform. Parker and his friends blessings; and that, in the order repeatedly declare that they con. of God, evangelical preaching was, forbed, not as approving the impo- above all things, necessary to call siuons, (lkey strongly condemned men to the enjoyment of evangelical téza,) but as believing it would be blessings, by the fulfilment of evanwrong to refuse to accept office on gelical obligations. Their writings this ground. Of two admitted evils bring them before us as the men they chose what they thought was who, in that day, laid most stress the least. Justice requires that on what all true Protestants allowed their conduct should be considered to be the great doctrines of the Gosin this its true light. It is now evi. pel, in what they regarded as their dent that they were greatly mis- personal and proper application. taken. Sabsequent history shows They preached the necessity of a that they selected the greatest, not work of grace in the soul ; that this the least, evil. The consequences was the work of the Spirit of God; demand statement. The evils to and that, ordinarily, it was which they submitted not only be- nected with the faithful preaching cute permanent, but, in process of of those truths which referred to tume, became the marks of true human guilt and sinfulness, to Charchism. The Tractarians of the God's mercy in Christ, to personal present day admit, that it was not justification by faith in Christ's metill the days of Laud that the evil rits, followed by personal regeneralearen of the Protestant Reforma- tion and sanctification effected in tion was entirely removed, and the soul by the power of the Holy Church principles raised to active Ghost, the Lord and the Life-Giver. supremacy. Parker, Sandys, Grin- They who conformed could not, from dal, and sueh men, were evangelical, their position, lay the same stress as well as Conformists; but power on these subjects. They first justiwas altogether in favour of un fied their conformity on the ground evangelical conformity; the Church that, though they approved not cerbecame increasingly outward and tain regulations respecting vestritual; evangelical preaching was ments, ceremonies, and other matmore and more discountenanced; ters, yet it was better to submit, and Pastors were introduced who than not accept their ministry, It Deither experienced, nor even knew, is too late to ask, What would have those doctrines which had shaken been the result of their firm and Popery to its centre, because they continued refusal ? This was not were mighty through God,”-be- the path they chose. Only, let it cause they belonged to that system be recollected, while they submitted, of truth which is, in itself, by the they disapproved. To ask, What adaptation given to it by divine wis- would have resulted ? would now dom, and by its ordained association be useless speculation. But let not with the living might of the Holy what they confessed to be a grievous Ghost, “ the power of God unto sale burden, be now defended as an exvation.”
cellence. And yet that soon became But this is not all. It is possible one result of their conformity : and that separate Churches may co-exist it continues to this day. The in peace. But when separation takes Church is often defended, as though place, in connexion with argumenta- what they reluctantly submitted to tion and contention, such is human had been what they cordially apnature that human passion is sure proved and fully sanctioned. The to be mingled with divine zeal; and Parker Conformists complained as the efects of human passion will be deeply of the impositions of Elizaapparent in the increasing works of beth, and the conduct of her greedy, the flesh. The Puritans refused avaricious courtiers, as the Puritan
Nonconformists. Here was the dif- the Puritans yet more Calvinistic: 37 ference, just here,-that the first and Calvinism became so wrought thought that by submission they up with evangelism, that, in a later could ultimately secure their re age, about the period of the Removal ; the latter, that this could storation, the more pious of the r. only be done by refusal. Truth de- Clergy, many of whom had seen so mands that this justice be paid to much of sectarian violence in the both. History shows whose judg- time of the civil wars and common ment was most correct. The evils wealth, while they sought to introwere not removed ; and, by the days duce more of the truth which, as of James, they had begun to be they thought, would tend to proregarded as excellences.
duce and promote a divine life But there was another result. among the people, were not able One unhappy effect of party is, sufficiently to distinguish truth from entire defence, and entire opposition. error, and rejected much that was The Conformists first defended their evangelical, believing that they only conduct, and soon began to defend rejected Calvinism. They had been the very things to which at first defeated; and they viewed their they had only submitted. And, in triumphant opponents under the inopposing their antagonists, they gra- fluence of feelings which defeat bad dually passed to a similar proceed- occasioned. During the Commoning. Along with much good, the wealth, no doubt, there had been Puritans mixed something-some of much real enthusiasm and fanatithem much-that was
cism. Many had pushed the pecuBut it was not long before Puritan- liarities of Calvin into ism was attacked in its altogether- quences which he always repudiated. ness ; in its truths, as well as in its But all preached not thus. Unhapmistakes. And, by the time that pily, the triumphant Church-party, Laud became Patriarch of England, first, taking the mere sectarians as the broad distinction between Puri- the model of the whole; and, setans and Churchmen was found to condly, justifying this by showing, be here,--that the former preached as they believed, that such and such evangelical doctrines in connexion were the logical consequences of Cal. 157 with the necessity of a personal ex. vin's peculiar doctrines ; regarded perience of the Spirit's work, and Puritanism as though it were a mere that the latter did not. The former, developement of the doctrines of it is true, sometimes mixed with election and reprobation; and cartheir preaching some of the stronger ried their opposition so far, as that statements of Calvinism; and the they are frequently found arguing latter, along with much that went to against doctrines which Arminius confirm the rising notions of church held as soundly as Calvin did. and sacramental salvation, some Of course, so far as opposition to times presented instances of evan the distinctive peculiarities of Cal
. gelical statement. But still,-look- vinism is concerned, we think they ing only at the general features of were right; but we cannot overlook the case,—when Charles I. came to two facts : first, that the Puritansthe throne, the Puritans were Cal. men like Baxter, Owen, Howe, vinistic, and practically evangelical: Alleine-preached evangelism as well the Clergy, even where evangelical, as Calvinism, the work of grace in had begun to defend what the man in reference to justification and Parker Conformists condemned regeneration ; and, secondly, that while they submitted ; and the bulk even the more pious of the Reof them, who possessed any influ- storation Clergy, while they took ence, had embraced Arminianism those views of the disputed doconly so far as opposed to the pecu trines which Arminius had taken, liarities of Calvinism ; and were, in did, in opposing the Calvinism of point of fact, what would be called, their opponents, likewise oppose, to at the present day, Tractarians.
a greater or less extent,-sometimes Such Arminianism naturally made to a very great extent,-their evan
geiss also. The consequence was, regeneration. They who are in the that their preaching was, to a me external administration of the cove. lancholy extent, ineffectual. Some Dant, and walk in the light of its of Whichcot's discourses, for in- instruction, must still be told,-let stance, contain beautiful develope. the language of the Homily express ments of shat may be termed the it,—“The First coming to God philosophy of the influence of divine 18 BY faith.” They must be exe truth oa mao. But there is not horted to this. They must come only the omission of right state. for a personal acceptance with God, Dents respecting the justification implying the pardon of all past sin, and regeneration of a sinner, but and adoption into the number of there are such arguments against the true children of God. This is what were supposed to be the errors the great relative change in their of the Puritans,- for here is one state of which faith is the instru. fearful result of party, (a result so ment; and to describe this, the term fearful, as to mark the deepest cha- regeneration is never used in Scripracters of guilt on the actual perpe- ture. This refers to the real change trators of division,) that not the real, which takes place in their heart as the but the supposed, opinions of the direct result of the other. Sanctifi. adversary are chiefly assailed, -that cation follows justification. He who their bearers would be completely comes to God by penitent faith in set against their doctrines; and even, Christ, and is accepted as righteous if ever they met with them, would only for Christ's merits, receives take them, not as they truly were, the Spirit of God as he never expebat as they had been described. rienced his influence before. BeBeautiful, therefore, as were many fore, he was the striving, awakenof the staternents of men like Which. ing, sin-reproving Spirit, -the Spirit cos; true as were portions of their working upon the heart, -Christ descriptions of the life of God in the standing at the door, and knocksoul of man; cogent as were some ing; but, “ because ye are sons," of their arguments in favour of and, therefore, at once on your beGod's willingness to save from all coming such, -"God bath sent sin; beautiful as they were, and forth into your hearts the Spirit of profitable as their perusal might be, his Son,” “the Spirit of adoption ;” io those in whom there was, for a who, shedding abroad in the heart foundation, a right understanding, God's pardoning love, kindles man's and a sound experience, of the work love to God in return; and thus of Christ as justifier, and of the effects the glorious work of regeneSpirit as Comforter and Sanctifier; ration, the commencement of that -get, as their hearers for the most work of inward sanctification by part were, it was preaching philo- which man is made meet to be a sophy to the dead. They no more “partaker of the inheritance of the promoted inward religion by their saints in light.” preaching, than did their successors This is the life of God in the soul promote true morals by theirs. The of man,—the true spiritual life, the progress of corruption was not at life of love. It flows from the mercy all stayed. Men must be called to of God in Christ Jesus, exercised receive justification, actual, personal through the blood of sprinkling. pardon, by faith i they must be It is produced by the Spirit of God, called to receive the promise of the as operating in the wondrous ecoSpirit by faith : and then only is nomy of redemption, as the Spirit the Gospel preached, when these of Christ, the Spirit of adoption. calls are addressed to men.
And without this life, man's soul is Methodism, as it is called, began incapable of the exercises which conwith calling men to spiritual life; stitute active holiness. As a sinner, and where spiritual life is not, it is viewed only in reference to his guilt vain to exhort men to its maturity. and its consequences, he is dead in All such exhortations should sup. trespasses and sins. Even repentpose their personal justification and ance, indeed, implies his
influence. Where he is not, there by faith accepts remission of sins, is nothing but fallen, though intel- the removal of the guilt which con. lectual, human nature. Wherever demned him to die, he receives the Christ is preached, he is present to Spirit of life ; but that Spirit is the apply the truth, to strive with man, Spirit of love. Love to God, through to move him to repentance. But be our Lord Jesus, is the great law is the Spirit of regeneration when of the spiritual life. And as what“the love of God is shed abroad in ever grieves the Holy Spirit of God our hearts by the Holy Ghost which must weaken both love and life, is given to us,” being justified by they who would have spiritual faith.
growth and establishment must, for All exhortations to spiritual pro- that very reason, avoid all that gress and establishment must as. would grieve that Holy Spirit of God. sume this existence of the spiritual And whatever means may be in. life. And they who desire to be strumentally useful, and by divine "holy in all manner of conversa appointment even necessary, for the tion,' must seek holiness thus. establishment of the divine life, it is They may see the glory and beauty plain that they must be subordinate of the divine law; its adaptation to to the influences of the Holy Spirit. man, individually and socially; and That we might truly love God, it thus its admirable fitness to declare was necessary that the love of God the holy benevolence of the Sove towards us should be “shed abroad reign, by promoting the well-being in our hearts by the Holy Ghost of his subjects. But, while they given unto us.” If, therefore, we thus delight in the law of the Lord, would perfectly love God,-so love after the inner man, and try, un him, as that his love should be the saved by the blood and Spirit of absolutely commanding affection of Christ, to fulfil its high requires our soul, supreme not in its nature ments, they only find that they are only, (where it is genuine, it is “carnal, sold under sin.” They always thus,) but in act and govern. have neither PEACE
ment,-60 that every faculty and And the struggle will continue thus affection shall be entirely influenced fruitlessly painful, till they either and moved by love to God, such a give up the contest in despair, or state must be the work of the same learn the simple, the God-honouring Spirit of life and love. And if we method revealed in the Gospel, and are warranted in looking for such a which is emphatically the power of work, it must be by the promises of God unto salvation,-the method of the covenant of love; and the bless. coming to God, by faith, for free ings of promise are to be sought by pardon, and receiving, with pardon, faith. The great law of the Gospel the Lord and the Giver of life, even —“By grace ye are saved through the Holy Ghost the Comforter. faith” – holds good throughout. Then the great change truly begins: Salvation continued, salvation ma“Being made free from sin, and be- tured, as salvation first given,-all come servants to God, ye have your salvation is by grace, through faith. fruit unto holiness, and the end, There are subordinate instrumentaleverlasting life.”
ities, that human sincerity may be The author of the spiritual life is tested, human obedience tried and the Spirit, thus given through shown. But the life of grace, that Christ. His great work is to bring it may be felt and declared to be us to love God; and in that love to such, -that God in all things may preserve us. There is a strict rela- be glorified,-is a life of faith, of tion between spiritual life, and the faith in the Son of God, (to quote law of God. The first and great the appropriating language of the commandment is love; the first and Apostle,) “who loved me, and gave leading exercise of the soul, as now himself for me.” The life of spirittruly alive, is love. Had man never ual crucifixion is maintained by faith sinned, the spiritual life would have in Christ, as having loved and given been love. When man returns, and himself for us.