sought a pretext for objection. Not only, it seems, must we not write ordinary letters on the Sunday, this is agreed; not only must we not send them to the post, but we must not put them in on such a day that they would have, according to the present arrangements of the Post-office, to travel any part of their route on the Sabbath. For instance, I must not write to a son at Cambridge on Friday, because from the place where I write he would receive my letter on Sunday. I must not write on Saturday, because my letter would be travelling on Sunday. And on Sunday I am of course not to write. Thus three days are cut off out of seven. To a person somewhat further distant, a fourth day would be cut off. And beyond a certain distance by sea or land all correspondence would be wholly prohibited.

My own practice has been to open such letters as were brought me on a Sunday ; if I found them to be letters of business, then to lay them aside till the next day; if otherwise, to read them. And I do think I have found my mind less diverted from the duties of the Sabbath by this course, than it would have been by a different one.



To the Editor of the Christian Observer. You could hardly fail to expect that the strictures of A Watchman, upon what he denominates “ the enthusiasm of the Wesleyan Methodists,” would excite some degree of attention amongst that body of Christians; neither was it to be looked for that they should be admitted without some further investigation of the matters to which they relate. The present writer agrees with your correspondent, that such discussions should not be conducted in such a manner as “ to stir up angry controversy :" the exhortation of the Apostle furnishes a much more pertinent direction to our thoughts and feelings : “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” Assuredly, these are not times when serious Christians should act in a manner calculated to repel each other to a greater distance ; especially those amongst whose leading principles there are many points of substantive agreement.

The first remark which suggests itself, on a view of Watchman's communication, is the abruptness with which he introduces his matter of animadversion. Instead of furnishing your readers with a proper view of the origin, in that part of Cornwall, of the state of deep religious impression which gave rise to the facts he censures, and the great results of the whole; he extracts some minor details, and dwells exclusively upon mere circumstances, which neither Mr. Wesley, nor the leaders of the Methodist body in subsequent times, have ever considered as essential to the work of God. It is proper, therefore, to intimate to your readers the rise of the whole affair, in order that they may be duly prepared to form a just estimate of the case.—The superintendant of the Penzance circuit, Mr. Hobson, states, that in the autumn of 1831 “ the congregations greatly increased, and the most fixed and devout attention was visible.” From hence arose pleasing expectations of a gracious outpouring of the Holy Spirit, which the friends resolved to look for only in the scriptural use of the Divinely appointed ordinances.” The leaders of the classes were therefore affectionately urged to enforce on their members a conscientious observance of all the means of grace, together with deep personal and family religion. Your readers will judge whether these were not the proper modes of waiting for the effusion of the Spirit, and the powerful operations of Divine grace. And let Watchman himself say whether it is any thing new or surprising in the history of the church, that those who thus waited for the gracious presence of their Lord should be signally favoured with it.

It would appear, again, from the language employed by your correspondent, that he takes very serious exceptions against the precise views in which the blessings of Christianity are exhibited amongst the Methodists, as he does against the “over-stimulation ” of the scenes to which his quotations refer. In each of these points, therefore, you will candidly admit the inquiries and explanations which his strictures demand.

First: The Wesleyan-Methodist preachers stand charged with inculcating crude, overstated, and unscriptural notions, amounting on the whole to extravagancies of doctrine, “quite inconsistent with sober-mindedness.” And, in these terms of censure, your correspondent particularly refers to a sense of the pardoning love of God, and to the tenet of entire sanctification. This is not the occasion for entering into doctrinal controversies, or even very lengthened definitions : the Methodists, however, are not conscious of deviating, in their views on these points, from the evident principles of the Church of England. They find that your worshippers are taught to pray for such an inward work of the Holy Spirit as should“ cleanse the thoughts of their hearts,” and establish there the perfect love of God; and they mean no more by the blessing, as they term it, of “entire sanctification.” And as for a sense of the pardoning love of God, they certainly mean no more by it than is expressed in the third part of the Homily on Salvation, where the “ right and true Christian faithis defined to be " a sure trust and confidence in God, that by the merits of Christ his sins be forgiven, and he reconciled to the favour of God." The importance, indeed, which the Church attaches to a sense of the pardoning love of God appears from the whole of her services, which strongly recommend or imply it. Thus, in the rubric pertaining to the Visitation of the Sick, the curate is enjoined to instruct the sick man, “ that if he do truly repent him of his sins, and stedfastly believe that Jesus Christ hath suffered death upon the cross for his redemption, he doth eat and drink the body and blood of our Saviour Christ profitably, to his soul's health, although he do not receive the sacrament with his mouth.” To the writer of these remarks, indeed, it strongly appears, that the founders of the Reformed Anglican Church had very different views, on these points, to the most even of her present evangelic ministers. But be this as it may—and even granting that, by the exercise of considerable ingenuity and niceness of distinction, Watchman might succeed in establishing some shades of difference between the authorized principles of his Church and the tenets of the Wesleyan Methodists-it is difficult to conceive that he could succeed in extracting from the acknowledged standards of Methodist doctrine, such “extravagancies and heresies as no pious or judicious Churchman would wish to introduce within her

[ocr errors]

Again : The circumstances to which this revival gave rise are treated by Watchman with marks of disapprobation perhaps still more severe. Let these matters, then, be calmly looked at; that it may be ascertained whether, after all, they contain any thing at which a sober-minded Christian must needs be so exceedingly shocked. The principal account contained in Watchman's extract relates to a young woman, who professed to have obtained the blessing of the pardoning love of God-be it observed, not in a public revival meeting, but in her own house. Such was her happiness, that she went over to her friends, at some distance from her own abode, to “tell them how great things the Lord had done for her, and had mercy on her.” They were wrought upon by her communication, and stimulated to seek-and not in vain—for similar blessings. But what is there surprising, or justly exceptionable, in all this? When, to use the language of your very next correspondent, M. G. H., “ the Holy Spirit works within by producing holy emotions, removing an evil heart of unbelief, and shewing the way of access to the Father; when the love of God is shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost, and the inestimable treasures of the Almighty become spiritually visible,” is it surprising that considerable feeling should be exhibited, and that an exuberant joy, the newly manifested joy of God's salvation, should produce great temporary effects upon the frame of the body? The strongly censured case of this young woman is quite in point as an illustration. Through great emotion, the natural effect of a supernatural cause, the lame literally leaped for joy. There is some reason to complain of the manner in which Watchman treats these circumstances. He speaks of " feeding young and ignorant persons with stories of lame persons throwing away their crutches, and miraculously leaping for joy.” It is obvious that Mr. Hobson's language, legitimately interpreted, carries with it no such meaning; but the opportunity of connecting the Wesleyan Methodists with Irvingite miracles, at least in sound of words, appears to have been too tempting for your correspondent to let it entirely pass by. As to prayer-meetings on the sea shore by moonlight, so far from their being worthy of censure, it were devoutly to be wished that they were more frequent on all the coasts of the island; so long as they grew out of really deep and serious feeling. But the Wesleyan Methodists are wont to view all such matters as of a very subordinate nature. Their influence for good or evil must be judged of by considerations only capable of being duly appreciated on the spot, and by persons disposed to deal tenderly with what is conceived to be the work of God. It has frequently been found, in that community of Christians, that where the substance of a work (so called) or a deep and powerful interest respecting Divine things, has been unquestionably from God, yet certain of the modes in which graciously excited feelings have tended to manifest themselves, especially on the part of ardent and previously ignorant persons, have been by no means such as to meet with the approbation of the elders of the church. What these, however, are principally concerned about is, that there should be genuine contrition for sin, and lively faith in Christ our Saviour; producing peace with God, through the reception of the atonement, together with real holiness of heart and life, as the fruit of this faith. And when there is reason to believe that the Holy Spirit is graciously poured out for the communication of these blessings, there is much in the mode of expressing powerful emo. tions, that it seems the part of a truly enlightened wisdom to bear with, rather than, for the time being, vehemently to oppose. Had Watchman looked on to the very next article in the Wesleyan Methodist Magazine for May last, purporting to be an Account of the Work of God in the Bacup Circuit, he would have seen that the official persons in the Methodist Societies are always on the alert to take precautions against abuses, and seriously hurtful misdirections, even of right feelings. “The overwhelming distress," says Mr. Watenough, “ which pervaded the minds of many in almost all our assemblies, and the uncommon excitement produced, called for this [constant superintendence), to prevent, on the one hand, the occurrence of wildness and extravagance, into which we were in danger at times of being thrown; and on the other hand to find out, as fully and accurately as we could, every thing truly and properly good, that we might cherish its growth, and cause it to redound to the glory of God.” If, by the leaders of the Methodist body, your correspondent intends the preachers assembled in conference, before he had brought against them the public charge of encouraging rant and wild-fire by withholding instruction and

serious protest against glaring evils, he would have done well to have consulted their published documents, their pastoral advices, as circulated in the societies from year to year. The following is a specimen, from the Pastoral Address of 1827 : “Some parts of the connexion have been favoured in a very extraordinary degree with times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord. We are glad to learn that, while the heavenly influence has been so widely spreading and powerful, and the corresponding excitement proportionably great, it has generally been connected with Christian order and decorum. We observe, with great satisfaction, that sound principles respecting the peculiar duties which such revivals of religion impose upon the senior members of our societies, are generally received and faithfully acted upon : and we are warranted to indulge the pleasing expectation, that, in proportion as our more aged and experienced friends zealously and affectionately interest themselves in conducting meetings, and in watching over the souls which are added to the Lord, the more frequently will these gracious visitations occur, and the more extensive and permanent will be the good effects resulting from them. To those who are newly found in Christ we would also address the word of exhortation : * Be not wise in your own conceits ; but be ye clothed with humility. Apply diligently to the improvement of your understandings in religious knowledge, and especially to the discipline of the heart. ' Search the Scriptures ; for in them ye have eternal life. In all things adorn your Christian profession by a holy and upright life. Be on your guard against mere excitement; ågainst any excitement, indeed, which does not arise from the lively apprehension of some leading truth of God's holy word. Remember who hath said, I am the Vine ; ye are the branches. He that abideth in me, and I in him, bringeth forth much fruit.' And the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, &c.;' and 'they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts.'”

It were easy to multiply quotations, but this may suffice. The same principles are found in all the pastoral communications of the WesleyanMethodist ministers with their flocks. Here, then, again, it may be inquired, Where is the difference so irreconcileable in principle between Watchman and those whom he designates “ the leaders of the Methodist body," on these matters of administration and godly discipline in the church of Christ; that they should expose the Wesleyan ministers to such severe censures, and render the idea of a closer union between the Methodist body and the Church of England so abhorrent to the feelings of all pious and judicious Churchmen throughout the land ? The difference between Watchman and the Wesleyan Methodists appears to relate to the application of the principle of superintendence and repression, as regards matters judged injurious to the work of God; not to the principle itself: and it is doubt. less through defective knowledge of the proceedings of the Wesleyan Methodists, that Watchman has been led into strictures of so much severity.

Lastly: In taking a more comprehensive survey of Mr. Hobson's narrative than suited his existing purpose, Watchman might have usefully adverted to the effects of the revival of which he treats, so far as they had then developed themselves. The tree is known by its fruits. “The law of kindness,” says Mr. Hobson,“ seems to be written on every heart, and the law of love in every lip.” Surely this is heaven “ upon earth.” This is unquestionably a good state of things, which it were devoutly to be wished prevailed in every religious community. So far then as matters of detail are concerned, the Wesleyan Methodists might hope to come to a good understanding with Watchman; but not so if his objections extend to the substance of those powerful and widely spreading religious influences, which in the nomenclature of the Wesleyan Methodists are revivals of the work of God. If he cannot be reconciled to them, under systems of superintendence, however careful and judicious; if he preach that they are altogether works of men, if not of Satan, and by no means to be attributed to the hand of God; if he deem them, in fact, the symptoms of " the fanatical spirit which runs through the whole texture of Methodism,” it only remains for the Wesleyan Methodists frankly to acknowledge, that to expect such visitations, to pray for them, and to rejoice in them when appearing to be graciously vouchsafed from on high, has always been, and it is hoped always will be, an integral part of their religious system. The Wesleyan Methodists, indeed, believe that it is in this way, as a principal means, that genuine Christianity will gain its proper supremacy in all Christian churches, and that the kingdom of Christ will come in great power and glory amongst men. Were, then, a closer union with the Church of England a much more desirable object than it actually is, and it is by no means the object of the present writer to represent it as undesirable, yet by the vast majority of the Wesleyan Methodists, both ministers and people, it would be deemed by far too dearly bought, as the sacrifice of such an expectation and the blessed consequences of really receiving visitations of special power and grace to which it so frequently leads. Supposing, indeed, that the union for which Watchman refers were rendered much more desirable than it now is, in consequence of the purgation of the Established Church from its awfully desecrating secularities, and its being thus fitted, according to the opinion of the Rev. Richard Cecil, to become a general church, it is likely that an important change would take place in the views of its ministers and members generally respecting the matter now under discussion and all kindred subjects ; in which case the principal obstacle to the occurrence of that happy day of “union sweet” might be effectually removed. In the meanwhile, should not these bodies of Christians look at one another with friendly eyes, and judge of each other's modes and practices in a comprehensive and catholic spirit ?

In addressing you, Mr. Editor, on this occasion, the present writer has endeavoured to keep his mind under the influence of such feelings, and in conclusion fervently adopts the excellent petition of the Collect for WhitSunday, that in the self-same Spirit which then descended, “ we may have a right understanding in all things, and evermore rejoice in his holy com




To the Editor of the Christian Observer. I DOUBT not that many of your readers, like myself, have been much impressed of late with the present condition and prospects of our beloved country; and assuredly there is in these enough to excite apprehension and to call for serious consideration. The agitations which have now for a number of years existed on the questions of free trade, colonial slavery and policy, the corn laws, Roman-Catholic claims, reform (church and parliamentary), and other important questions, have done much to loosen the ties by which the different classes of society were united together. A process of transformation has been going forward, which has already produced important changes, and will yet produce others, the extent of which it is impossible to anticipate. The reform acts have already very much altered the complexion of our constitution ; and they will be followed by corresponding changes in municipal and other arrangements throughout the

« VorigeDoorgaan »