and a person who had not taken the trouble to investigate their dark hiding-places of false doctrines, would hardly believe the extent of error which pervades these publications. In turning over the volumes of these tracts, we are struck, at first sight, with the number of editions that some of the worst have gone through ; -eighteenth' and 'twentieth' shine in the title-pages of tracts or small books which no religious person has ever heard of — which we never see in the hands of the poor—and which, apparently, are unknown to all persons, except a few of the clergy of the Establishment, who, probably, receive large bales of them, and either keep them in their depôts untouched, or give them away to their heedless and uninstructed parishioners.”

The writer then proceeds to illustrate his remarks by extracts from seven of the Society's tracts, which he considers fair specimens of the catalogue. His collection, he states, is dated 1818; but in the Society's Report of 1832 we find that two of the publications animadverted upon are “ out of print;”—a gentle but not definite mode of expression, which may either mean that they are held back by the Standing Committee, or that there does not at present happen to be a demand for them; though, if a few members who approve their doctrine should be willing to order a sufficient number to guarantee the Society against pecuniary risk, it is bound, we presume, to reprint them, as they are not stated to be withdrawn from the list.

The first tract complained of is one entitled “ A Discourse concerning a Death-bed Repentance ; by William Assheton, D.D., late Rector of Beckingham, in Kent; and Chaplain to his Grace the Duke of Ormond. 14th edit. 1818.” On this tract the writer of the paper in the Evangelical Magazine has printed the following remarks :

“The object of this work is to shew that there is no such thing as justification by faith, and that it is impossible for any one to be saved without first living some portion of his life as a respectable and religious member of society ;-that, for any one to be awakened to a sense of sin, and to call upon God for mercy in Christ Jesus, believing that He can justify the ungodly, and that faith in Christ can remove sin, without any preparation of a godly life and a high degree of morality, is altogether an error ; and that, therefore, a death-bed repentance is quite hopeless. Dr. Assheton says : • In the sacred writings we are often admonished that it is not an historical confession, it is not a bare acknowledgment that we have done thus or thus ; but it is a penitential confession that shall find acceptance “ Whoso confesseth and forsaketh his sins shall find mercy," Prov. xxviii. 13. A sick and dying man may indeed confess his sins; but how he can be able to forsake his sins, that is, to amend and reform, shall be farther considered. “ All the promises of God in Jesus Christ are yea and amen;" that is, most certain : but then you must also know, promises are conditional, and the performance of them, on God's part, doth suppose certain qualifications and conditions on our part—" Having, therefore, these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God,” 2 Cor. vii. 1; intimating that, unless we cleanse ourselves from all filthiness, and do thus perfect holiness, we have no title to these promises.' Page 23.

“ This is, in truth, the ordinary teaching of the ignorant; who, knowing no divinity but what carnal wisdom can furnish them, do thus deceive and mislead the unwary. The confutation of Dr. Assheton's errors will be here superfluous; he is abundantly confuted by the Articles and Homilies of his own church, and by the unanimous doctrine of all sound divines; and it is wonderful that persons who read their Bible can fall into such gross mistakes. Let Paul's words conclude this part of the subject : 'Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt; but to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.' Rom. iv. 4.

“ Dr. Assheton thus continues his heretical strain : - What can a man do who is now dying ? When the sentence of death is passed upon him, and his physician has given him over-to talk then of reforming his life, when he now finds he can live no longer, is such an intolerable piece of weakness as in any other instance would be scarce heard with patience.' Page 27.—Thus the whole scheme of salvation, according to this teacher, consists in reforming one's manners, and living with sobriety and decency, as a merit to secure God's favour.

“ The case of the thief's pardon on the cross is of course a great stumbling-block to Dr. Assheton's favourite scheme of justification by works; and, behold, thus does he handle the subject : 'It should be proved, first, that this thief was a very wicked man ; secondly, that he continued in his sins, and did not repent till the time of his death. But it doth not appear that this thief was a very wicked man. It is impossible to peruse the Doctor's arguments to prove this monstrous absurdity without smiling. His proof is this : That which is called 'a thief' ought to be translated ' a hired soldier ;' and, for aught we know, he may have had a very honourable meaning. Barabbas, a notable prisoner,' was also called a robber ; but he ought to be considered, more properly, 'an eminent person of note and quality, head of a party, who, as zealots for their nation and religion, had made a rising against the Romans. Having thus shewn that Barabbas was a gentleman of quality, a great patriot, and full of zeal for religion (page 41), it follows, that if he, whose character we ought in reality to pity and admire, was called a thief, it is unjust to accuse the thief on the cross of a wicked life, merely because he also was called a thief. Thus does Dr. Assheton shew to the faithful that the thief was not saved by faith in Jesus, but by the absence of wickedness in his previous life! Or, fearing that this may appear too ridiculous for even the most ignorant, he judiciously adds this query, “How do we know that he did not repent, even long before he died ?' (p. 42): any thing, in short, to get rid of justification by faith.

“ Dr. Assheton, however, has one merit, which seems to have weighed with the managers of the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge in all their selections that he has taught doctrine diametrically opposite to the Articles of the Church of England; for it is evident that a writer who can use such arguments must have been totally ignorant of original sin, which places all of us in a state of damnation in the sight of God, and is as obnoxious to wrath in the most virtuous hermit, unjustified by faith in Christ, as in a robber on the high road. For the benefit of the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge, I quote the Ninth Article of the Church of England : Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam, as the Pelagians do vainly talk ; but it is the fault or corruption of the nature of every man that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam, whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the Spirit; and therefore, in every person born into the world it deserveth God's wrath and damnation. Apply this to the 'patriotic hired soldier, who was executed for fighting on the wrong side,' and I fear that all Dr. Assheton's heterodox machinery will be hopelessly destroyed; as it has been long ago by Scripture, which, confuting this heresy, teaches that every mouth is stopped, and all the world is become guilty before God;' and that the Lord's people are justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus.' Rom. üïi. 24.

" I would further state, that in this tract there is no sort of allusion to the operation of the Holy Spirit; that the work of conversion and repentance is ascribed entirely to a man's own judgment, will, and power; and that the Holy Ghost is not even named, from the beginning to the ending of this truly heathen production.

“ If heresies, such as are taught in this tract, were confined to the depôts of the society, we should have less cause for regret; but, alas ! in how many parishes in England do the clergy sedulously circulate these pernicious doctrines, and so ruin the souls of their parishioners! I have witnessed the sad effect of this dreary divinity, and know some painful cases, where trembling sinners were driven away from the peace of the cross, by being told that they could not possibly have done any thing to merit their pardon, and that it was presumptuous for them to talk of feeling a hope of mercy by faith in Jesus."

The next tract animadverted upon is one by the present Bishop of Salisbury, entitled, A Short Catechism on the Duty of conforming to the Established Church. Eighth Edition." This tract the writer pronounces to be “conspicuous for its curious logic, and its excessive bigotry;" but as it is now " out of print,” which we suppose means withdrawn, we need not enter upon its merits. If it be as the critic describes it, the Society is much to be commended in having displaced it from the catalogue; but we must in justice say, that the only extract which he has given does not appear to us to warrant the strength of his expressions : nor indeed did we think that the extract from Dr. Assheton, standing by itself, of necessity bore out the whole of the comment upon it. We say this in utter ignorance of both these publications, and not wishing to impute to them what is not clearly and undeniably inherent in their texture.

The tract next noticed is entitled “ The Christian's Way to Heaven, or what he must do to be saved; by a Divine of the Church of England. 18th Edition." From this tract the writer gives the following quotation, accompanied by the succeeding comment.

"“ Next, in order to your salvation, you must be diligent in observing the ordinances which either Christ himself or his holy church hath instituted, for the furtherance of godliness and true religion : therefore you must be constant in the duty of prayer, as well public as private ; you must likewise, on Sundays and holidays, attend the public service of the church; and in the public congregation we may expect our prayers to be sooner heard, when they are joined with the united prayers of so many good people.'

“ It used to be the doctrine of the old divines, that our only hope of acceptance in prayer is in the merits and intercession of the Lord Jesus, by whom, as our High Priest, we can draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith; but, according to the Divine of the Church of Eng. land, our hopes are in the united prayers of so many good people : a sort of company of saints, who seem canonized, by this writer, to do something that Christ could not do. Who these good people are, is not stated; they, however, seem to be very numerous, by the phrase

so many;' and it is to be presumed that they are firm supporters of the Church established by law, according to the Catechism of Bishop Burgess. The rest of this tract is in the same style ; one more quotation will be sufficient. As one means of salvation, you must also religiously observe all the feasts and fasts of the Church, not only by coming to church on Sundays, fast-days, and holidays, but by dedicating besides some considerable part of them to your

religious exercise in private. Perhaps it will be needless to observe, that being justified freely by the grace of God, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, is totally omitted ; and that, in the six means of salvation drawn up by this divine,' no sort of mention is made of the peace of God through the teaching of the Holy Ghost.”

It does not seem to us that the writer in the Evangelical Magazine has always given due prominence to the strongest points of objection, or presented the most strikingly illustrative citations. We are not ourselves now reviewing, or giving an opinion upon, any of these publications; nor are we, indeed, at present, acquainted with them; but we remember, respecting this same" Christian's Way to Heaven,” that Mr. J. Sculthorpe, a layman, and the Secretary of a District Committee in Leicestershire, in a memorial which he presented some time since to the Society brought forward worse passages than those quoted by the Evangelical Magazine. We copy the following specimens from his printed letter :

“ Do all the good you can in your generation; if you do this sincerely, though it may be with a great deal of imperfection, God Almighty in His goodness will accept this imperfect for a complete obedience.”......“ One long habituated to a course of godliness cannot so well plead sins of infirmity, when his nature has very considerably lost its bias to sin by a long course of virtue....and for an encouragement in this progress, God Almighty will not only reward them with the bare saving their souls, but will liberally bestow on such the ten talents. Luke xix. 24.”

Having thus incidentally alluded to Mr. Sculthorpe's Memorial, we cannot but lament that the Standing Committee should take upon itself to answer such communications with a laconic note, to the effect that such a letter had been “ submitted to them," but that “ they did not deem it expedient to recommend the Society to take any measure thereon.” In this manner a very few individuals of this Standing Committee have continued for many years to retain the management of the Society very much in their own hands, interposing between the Society's correspondents and the Monthly Board, and quietly intercepting in its passage whatever they did not choose should come before their constituents or the public. This unjust and narrow-minded system is now happily tottering to its fall*.

• Mr. Sculthorpe mentions two or three other tracts besides those noticed by the writer in the Evangelical Magazine; and as we are anxious that the matter should be fully investigated, we copy a portion of his extracts from them. “Extracts from “A Course of plain and familiar Lectures, &c., by the Rev. W.

Duke, L.L.B.:". “ • If you act according to the knowledge you have of what is right and what is wrong, you may depend on it that God will as readily reward you for living innocent and useful lives, as He will those of a different situation of life.

" " We are apt to lay hold of the merits of Christ without doing any thing on our parts to entille us to the benefits of them.'

“« Though you are many of you poor and ignorant, yet by doing the best you can you will be owned by your Saviour, and as fully entitled to the merits of His death as the wisest and most learned among your superiors. It is not so much knowledge as a good life that is to carry us to heaven when we go out of this world.

«« There is a covenant or agreement between God and man. We may thus understand it: God promises man that if he will do such actions He will give him salvation; and man agrees to accept that salvation, and do what God requires.'

"You may ask, What can we do? I will tell you. You your best, and

“ After all, you must remember, that your repentance only qualifies you to receive forgiveness, by making you proper objects of that mercy which God, for the sake of Jesus Christ, is ready to bestow on every penitent and returning sinner.

"• After death, if you have been but faithful to God, and sober, diligent, and honest in your dealings with men, you shall arise to a new life of happiness, that shall never have an end.

Next follows “A Country Clergyman's Advice to his Parishoners, explaining what they are to believe and do in order to be saved : addressed chiefly to those who are of the younger Sort. A new Edition.”This tract,” says the writer in the Magazine, “abounds in false doctrine ; but I shall confine myself to one extract, regarding baptism, which puts the theory adopted by the non-Evangelical Clergy in almost a ludicrous light, owing to its extravagances.

«« Ye are not only members of Christ, but ye are likewise the children of God, a privilege which ye receive in baptism. Now here ye must consider what it is to be a child of God. As God created all mankind, they may all be said, in some sense, to be the children of God; but ye, who are baptized, are the children of God in a higher sense, as he has adopted you, and chosen you out of the rest of the world, taking you into his more particular favour. Those who were never baptized, although they have had constant opportunities of being so, are children of God's wrath, obstinate and disobedient, continuing still in sin and under the curse; but ye have recovered the favour of God, through the merits of Jesus Christ, being obedient to his will (i. e. having been baptized); and although, by nature, ye were strangers and enemies to God, yet now, by baptism, ye are taken into the family of God, and are entitled to all his mercies and blessings. p. 12.

“ Thus the elect are proved to be the baptized, and the grace of God means sprinkling with water.”

We do not defend the passage animadverted upon; but the critic ought not to speak with levity of a Divine ordinance. The Country Clergyman goes far beyond the letter or meaning or spirit of the Church Catechism, on which he professes to ground his remarks : in truth, he caricatures it.

Next we find “ The Principles of Religion explained and proved from the Scriptures, for the Instruction of the Unlearned; by the Right Rev. Father in God, Thomas Greene, D.D., late Lord Bishop of Ely. A new Edition, corrected.” The critic remarks : “Those who are acquainted with the theology patronized by the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge,' need not be told, that the doctrine of St. Paul, as seen in Romans viii. 28–30, and ix. 15, 16, can have no place in their tracts; and whoever shall have studied the quotations already given, will not be surprised to hear that all their publications are silent on the work of sovereign grace. Whenever, indeed, an opportunity occurs, these tracts teach that sinners

“ Extracts from The great Importance of a religious Life considered :'“Whenever an action is good and virtuous, it is not only natural, but carries with it a felicity, flowing from, and essential to, the very nature of it.... Justice, friendship, beneficence, all the offices of humanity, and the whole train of virtues, does not the exercise of them administer the most sincere and lasting joy? The propensity there is in us toward them, and the satisfaction there is in the doing of them, does, in dispositions not debauched, lead most irresistibly to the practice of them .... comfort, complacency of mind, and a gratulating conscience, always accompanying such actions.'

“How happy is an intellectual being, wbo, by prayer and meditation, by virtue and good works, opens this communication between God and his own soul.

«• There is no doubt but a serious and conscientious observance of the duties of religion will recommend a man to God's favour and protection.'

« • Yet, if upon the review of life, in his last hours, he finds in it such a mixture of good and evil that he is in great doubt and uncertainty concerning his eternal welfare; how sad and disconsolate must his condition even then be !'

“ . But there are other advantages attending a good life, infinitely beyond all that have been mentioned, namely, that it will entitle us, through the merits of Christ Jesus, to an inheritance incorruptible, &c.'

“Oh! who, indeed, can think of these things without resolving, in good earnest, to flee from the wrath to come, and secure a happy eternity by a life of virtue and righteousness.

** Our Saviour..... by death and sufferings, hath purchased this grace for us, that real repentance, and the sincere endeavour of perfect obedience, shall be accepted instead of innocence.'

« VorigeDoorgaan »