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On referring to the subsequent Reports, these volumes seem to have been silently withdrawn. A member who had obtained them from the parent society, in answer to a second application for them, was informed," that they were no longer on the Society's list.” Now, surely, sir, such important and interesting memoirs as these, of the great heroes and champions of the Reformation and of the Church of England, we might have expected would have been preferred, by a Society for promoting Christian Knowledge, to certain volumes of so light and indeterminate a nature as to be productive of little, if any, religious advantage ; for example, “Southey's Life of Nelson," and, “Tales of a Grandfather,” &c.
I observed with pleasure, p. 61 of the last Annual Report, the declaration, “ that it should be the object of the committee to give to all their publications, whether upon subjects strictly theological or not, a Christian character and tendency.” Having instituted a parish library many years previous to a suggestion on the subject from the Society, experience convinces me, that in no parish of any considerable extent could a minister, as it is wished, confine himself to the books of the Society, without very serious detriment to his flock. Those who have much free parochial intercourse with the poor, must perceive that there is a thirst gone forth for religious instruction, which will be satisfied from some channel ; and with respect to many of the books which our Society offers it may truly be said, “The hungry sheep look up, and are not fed.” Their time is too limited for general and indiscriminate reading : and religious biography—from which, in the present day, there might easily be made a very useful selection, tending to shew the Scriptural excellence of the doctrine and discipline of the Church of England-Would, I am persuaded, not fail to interest them and engage their attention.
I do not offer these remarks with any unfriendly feeling to the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge; far from it. I have for many years been a member of it, and have several times had parochial collections in support of its funds; and, notwithstanding the defects to which I have referred, I am strongly attached to it. When I consider that it was the Society that sent forth and patronised the devoted and apostolical Swartz, the missionary of the East; the incalculable support which it has extended to our schools, from one quarter of the land to the other ; that in the space of the last year it has been the means of circulating 129,756 Bibles and Testaments, and 165,818 Prayer-books and Psalters, exclusive of other books and tracts ; I feel that it is entitled to the warmest gratitude of every true friend of his country, and of Christians in general, as well as of every pious member of our Established Church. But, in regard to the particular department of parish libraries, I am convinced that the Society is not keeping pace with the progress of religious knowledge and feeling amongst our poor; and that many clergymen are consequently compelled to seek udditional books elsewhere, of a more decided character.
Wishing every success, under the Divine blessing, to the exertions of our Society at home and abroad, and greater efficiency in that branch of it which relates to those important institutions parish libraries, I remain, A MEMBER AND SINCERE FRIEND OF THE SOCIETY
FOR PROMOTING CHRISTIAN KNOWLEDGE,
ON THE INDISCRIMINATE USE OF THE BURIAL SERVICE.
To the Editor of the Christian Observer. As I have already more than once publicly expressed my sentiments in favour of a revision of our Liturgy, I trust I shall not be considered as
indirectly opposing such a measure in the following observations on an article which appeared in your Number for April. My object is not to retard an authorized emendation of our ritual, but to remove the scruples of those clergymen who suppose that in a variety of cases they are reduced to the painful alternative of either violating their conscience, by reading the whole of the Burial Service, or transgressing their ecclesiastical vows, by omitting a portion of it. Your correspondent, after having referred to a particular case, which occurred in the discharge of his ministerial duties, observes, that to have refused to read the service over the deceased would have been unwise ; to have read the whole of it would have been impious : “I therefore,” he continues, "read it, but with great pain, leaving out the prayer of thanksgiving to God for taking the deceased. For this omission, I admit, I ran great hazard, but what was I to do?" Thus it appears from his own account that he felt he was acting illegally in venturing to abridge the service, and also that his religious scruples were far from being satisfied, even with the mutilated form in which he presented it to the congregation. Now, according to my opinion, if he had taken the following view of the subject (and I do not perceive that it is liable to any serious objection) he might have gone through the whole of the service without feeling any misgiving whatever.
“Men should be what they seem.” The members of a corporate body, whatever may be their private character, are justly invested with all the immunities of their society, until actually excluded from it. On the same principle, the members of a church properly enjoy all its external religious privileges, until they are officially ejected from the pale of its communion. On this principle, every one who has not been legally ejected from our church, whatever may be our fears respecting his real state in the sight of God, possesses an indubitable claim to the performance of the rite of Christian sepulture. And here it may not be deemed irrelevant to notice the guarded and discriminating language of our Burial Service. For the edification and encouragement of survivors it expresses a full and certain hope of the triumphant resurrection of those who die in the Lord; but with respect to the actual state of each individual, it merely intimates a charitable hope that such was the issue of his earthly pilgrimage,
I have merely to add, that, however much I desire an authorized alteration in this part of our ritual, I feel a holy jealousy respecting the hands into which the revision of this service should fall. Infinitely better would it be that it should retain all its glowing allusion to the future happiness of the real Christian, than that it should be lowered down to a cold and comfortless service, destitute of every expression of hope for the deceased, of every particle of encouragement for the surviving relations. I am, &c.
ON THE CAUSES OF MEN'S REJECTING THE OFFERS OF
To the Editor of the Christian Observer. Taking up lately Mrs. H. More's admirable Essay on the Life and Writings of St. Paul, my attention was arrested by the following passage, which embodies also the sentiments of many pious writers on the same subject:“But while God, by a way of his own devising, by a process of his own conducting, had made foolish the wisdom of this world, and baffled the vain and impracticable schemes of impotent man for effecting his deliverance by any conception or act of his own, does not man's unwillingness to partake of the offered mercy look as if his proud heart did not choose to
be freely forgiven ; as if his haughty independence revolted at a plan in which, though he has all the benefit, he has none of the merit? Does it not seem as if he would improve the terms of the treaty ; as if he would mend the plan of salvation, and work it up into a kind of partnership scheme, in which his own contribution should have the predominance ? But it will be urged, men do not say this : we reply, they do not profess it in words ; but do not some say it virtually, when they practically decline the terms; or, if they do not entirely disbelieve them, give, at least, a reluctant, and partial, and qualified assent?".
Now, I would ask, is this so? Is this the leading motive in most minds for the rejection of the free offers of the Gospel ? Does it originate in a simple desire of doing something for themselves ? Is it that we would be our own saviours, or that we must at least have a share in the work? Would not natural indolence, and the unwillingness which every unrege. nerate man feels, to entertaining thoughts of another world, be a sufficient counterpoise to whatever pride might dictate as to working for ourselves? My own opinion is, that they would : and I think that the non-acceptance of the offers of Gospel grace does not often arise so much from a proud desire of doing something for ourselves, as from other causes. It originates generally, I apprehend, from the lowness of our desires after any salvation at all ; our want of acquaintance with its necessity; and our being contented with a state of religious feeling and religious hopes very inadequate to our real necessities. We know, also, that the doctrines of grace standconnected with separation from the world, with self-denial, with strict practice, and a spiritual mind : so that, neither feeling nor desiring these things, we are contented to let things go on as they are, and rest satisfied with a mere outward performance of duty, without looking inward to the motive, or forward to the end. For, till the mind is roused by a Divine energy, the conscience itself slumbers, and spiritual things are very faintly discerned, and not at all in their just proportions. In this state of the mental powers, we neither, as I conceive, accept, nor yet with express and settled pur. pose reject, the offers of free salvation : but there seems to me nothing of system in the matter : the object itself is not seen with sufficient clearness to induce any serious inquiry about it.
It is true, that in false religions we see wonderful examples of personal sacrifices and austerities; but, then, this may arise from the alarms of natural conscience, connected with ignorance of every other resource. Nature points to an undefined heaven, and an undefined hell; and the passion of fear is so acted upon as to lead to every species of extravagance, there being no counteracting principle to govern it.
The austerities practised by the Roman Catholics certainly seem to bear Mrs. More out in the view she has taken ; but whether they go beyond the bare line of superstitious observances, without any defined reference to the object, is with me a doubt : they are chiefly confined to the very ignorant members of that community; and I cannot but question their being connected with a systematic idea of purchasing heaven by them.
If these views of the subject are erroneous, I shall be glad to be set right by any of your correspondents.
*.* We also shall be glad if our correspondents will take up the question in its amplitude, so as to exhibit a large view of the causes why men reject the Gospel. These causes may indeed all be traced to one-the corrupt state of the heart of man by reason of the Fall;—but still, as is exemplified in our Lord's parable of the Marriage Supper, the specific excuses may greatly vary; and we do not understand our correspondent H. C. as by any means excluding those causes mentioned by Mrs. H. More, though he considers that there are others also, and some of them even more prominent.
Our Correspondents will perhaps think it well to adduce some actual facts-many of which are on record in the annals of religious and irreligious biography in proof of the truth of Mrs. H. More's statement. The following just occurs to us:--A friend of ours, a layman, many years since deceased, once visited an aged gentleman of great respectability of character, who in the prospect of eternity was depending for acceptance with God upon his own past meritorious life. His visitor, knowing that he was within a few days or hours of another world--for he was then suffering under the disease that brought him to the grave-earnestly urged him not to build his everlasting hopes upon so delusive a foundation, but to lay hold of the hope of salvation freely offered in the Gospel. The sick man for some time rebutted his texts and arguments ; till at length, incensed at the supposed depreciation of his virtues, and deaf to the proffered explanation of the scheme of salvation as exhibited in the word of God, he started up from bis couch, and by the aid of his crutch sprang out of the room, dashing back the door in no gentle mood, with the exclamation, “Before I would be saved like the thief upon the cross"— the closing door prevented the visitor's hearing the remainder of the sentence; and the next intelligence he received of his aged friend was, that he was gone to that world wbere the only available plea for guilty man is that infinite mercy which reached even a dying but penitent and believing malefactor, and transported bim to Paradise. Such narratives (and we vouch for the truth of the above) shew that Mrs. More's statement is not unsupported by facts; and the chief inquiry, therefore, in regard to our correspondent's question, is, How far such facts are of a general character, and warrant such extensive statements as that upon which he offers his remarks. If the causes which a writer or preacher assigns are not such as the reader or hearer strictly feels that he ought to plead guilty to, the application is lost upon him, and he becomes hardened in his sins.
THE REV. W. JAY ON THE CHARACTER OF THE LATE
REV. ROWLAND HILL.
10 the Editor of the Christian Observer. To the brief observations in your last Number, on the character of the late Rev. Rowland Hill permit me to add the following passages, from a report of a sermon preached on occasion of his death by his much-esteemed friend Mr. Jay. Mr. Jay's remarks will, I doubt, not, be acceptable to your readers, as exhibiting in a correct light' some particulars which have been popularly misunderstood : but the chief point to which I would request their attention, is the long-tried consistency of Mr. Hill in regard to the great matters of salvation, and his abstinence from the novelties of succeeding races of unfledged polemics. What he was in opposing the errors of Huntington and other heresiarchs forty years ago, he was, up to the last hour of his life, in contending for the simplicity of the Gospel against the monstrosities of modern innovation. Mr. Jay's remarks may be serviceable to those who are ready to confound the enthusiasm of zeal with the enthusiasm of fanaticism.
The following are Mr. Jay's statements.
“My beloved friend and honoured tutor, Cornelius Winter—whose Life I published many years ago—was at Bristol when our friend first arrived in that city; and I received from him many communications which I have not time to refer to this morning; but I recollect how often he enlarged upon this subject, on his condition in life, his spirituality, and his peculiar mode of preaching. He preached in the fields, he preached in the streets, he preached through all Wiltshire, through all Somersetshire, through all Gloucestershire; and fled like an angel having the everlasting Gospel to preach to them who live on the earth; and going forth, with his Redeemer, to display his zeal without the camp, he was called on to bear his reproach ; opposed by some of his own connexions, suffering persecution from the world, and knowing what want is in his circumstances. I could particularize cases, and verify them.
Christ. Observ. No. 378. 2 Z
“ The subject of his preaching was always the same. Never was there a preacher who adhered more to the determination to know nothing among men “save Jesus Christ and him crucified.” He was neither high nor low in his sentiments; truth was always balanced judiciously in his mind; his 'heart was established with grace,' and he always properly united doctrinal, experimental, and practical, in his preaching. He fell into no errors ; he embraced no whims; he made no new discoveries - he never thought of new discoveries in religion ; he was never employed in breaking open the seals, in blowing the trumpets, and pouring out the vials of the book of the Revelations*; he never pretended to have the gift of tongues ; and if he had his own private opinions, as the Apostle recommends to us, he had • faith with himself before God.'”
“ This was the more remarkable, as our esteemed friend had unquestionably a portion of eccentricity in his composition; but this was never observed in the subject matter of his preaching, but occasionally in the manner. Into this he was betrayed, not only by the peculiarity of his genius, but by his wish to strike, especially the lower orders, who he thought (and thought truly) were too much overlooked by preachers of the present day. But many things of this kind which are related of him are not true—not one in a thousand, especially those of an exceptionable kind. It cannot be supposed that he was very measured and guarded in his diction, as his preaching was almost extemporaneous. He could not, indeed, from the multiplicity of his engagements-preaching eight or nine times a week—be expected to be very fully prepared for the pulpit. Men who preach off-hand have one advantage, that their thoughts are not anticipated by previous meditation : they may feel more liveliness and freshness, and enjoy more vivacity--that is, when they are in a good frame of mind ;—but how is it when they are in a bad frame, and when they are perplexed and embarrassed? And surely a man who has in prospect the privilege of engaging the attention of an audience, and of holding a thousand people by the ear for an hour, should consider this as one of the most important duties, and be concerned to turn it to the greatest advantage; and let my younger brethren who are here this morning remember, that this is not to be accomplished by meditation only, nor by prayer, but by study. We are not in the condition of the Apostles, who, when they were called to appear suddenly before kings and before councils, had the promise that it should be given them in that hour what they should speak. With regard to the manner of preaching, it is by no means necessary that all should conform to the same model. The excellence of our departed friend did not consist in any particular arrangement or unity of design. In what, then, did it consist? It consisted in pleasing and striking sentiments and sentences. I never heard him in my life without hearing something solemn and pathetic, and when simile has not been followed by example-just as the sunshine succeeds an April shower.
“There was in our departed friend an uncommon quickness of conception; a kind of intuition in apprehending and seizing things; and even much force of argument and profound thought, and bringing it down within the reach of the plainest capacity ; and then by some familiar or shrewd or striking allusion, furnish it with a handle by which his hearers could take it away. What a collection of these may be brought together from all his friends!
“ There was often a peculiar vehemence in his manner, and loudness in his voice, especially in his earlier years ; but there was nothing of mere rant: as in Whitfield's case, it was occasional, and springing from energy.
..There is somewhat of lightness in these expressions, as uttered in extemporaneous speech, which Mr. Jay will probably amend, should he publish his discourse.