« VorigeDoorgaan »
must do a great deal on their part to merit the grace and mercy of God. Instances of this have already been given ; but in this tract of Bishop's Greene's it is stated with more than usual impudence.
"• Q. Is, then, the sacrifice of Christ's death alone sufficient for the pardon of sins ?-A. This alone is sufficient as the meritorious cause for which God is pleased to forgive sin ; but there is still required of the sinner something to be done on his part, in order to qualify him for God's mercy in the pardon of sin, and that is repentance.'
" In other words, a sinner is to plead for mercy with God, that he has repented, and then to add the merits of Christ as a sort of make-weight to his prayers, which, as it is robbing the Saviour of his glory, will indeed leave the poor sinner in a miserable condition, and keep him far from the Throne of Grace in the hour of the soul's need. The writer of these remarks can testify of the unutterable misery which such dangerous heresies produce on a sin-entangled soul, and he prays that none of his readers may ever be led into such misery, by listening to the favourite doctrine of the tracts published by the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge."
The next-mentioned tract, entitled Conditions of obtaining Salvation by Jesus Christ, 16th edition,” being out of print, we pass it over. It well deserved to be suppressed, if it answered to the critic's description, that “ it makes no mention of the Holy Spirit, but ascribes the whole of the Christian's religious efforts to his own judgment, discretion, and prudence, and is altogether as godless á treatise as ever disgraced the Christian world.” The critic seems, however, most displeased that “it concludes with a few jejune prayers; that for the evening supplicating the grace of ' a willing and cheerful obedience' to the clergy."
Lastly we find " The Husbandman's Manual, directing him how to improve the several Actions of his Calling, and the most usual Occurrences of his Life, to the Glory of God, and the Benefit of his Soul. 25th Edit. 1818.”—On this tract the writer in the Evangelical Magazine remarks as follows: “The Husbandman's Manual, notorious for its shameful prostitution of God's name in order to secure a full payment of tithe to the clergy, has lately been brought before the public, and has met with the disapprobation, or rather execration, of all good men, whether within or without the pale of the Establishment. Its famous Chapter IX., ' setting forth Tithe,' is too well known now to need further notice. It is a chapter full of blasphemy and robbery. But the 13th chapter, 'folding of Sheep,' is scarcely less impudent. Now, should one of these poor creatures leap out and stray from the fold, it would perhaps meet a thief to cut its throat, or a malicious neighbour to drive it to the pound. This gentle insinuation is against the Dissenters, as will be seen by what follows. · How much less is the hazard of those people who run away from their own church, and leave their own pastor ? How many of them are deceived by wolves in sheep's clothing, and led into very dangerous errors! There are a great many pitfalls and snares in their way, and an abundance of crafty men, that lie in wait to deceive. [These 'wolves and crafty men’ are the ministers of the Independent, Baptist, and Methodist chapels.] Men may talk what they please of greater edification; but should one of my sheep run away from me, and still trust itself under another shepherd, I should not hope to see it thrive very fast.' This last sentence is indeed a precious gem of logic. The prayer that follows begins thus : • Preserve me, O my God, in the communion of the church [i. e. Church of England, as established by Act of Parliament] : suffer me not to wander in the byepaths of schism and heresy; take from me all vanity and lightness of spirit, and let me have nothing to do with those that are given to change,' &c. &c.
“ This tract, being precisely the worst ever patronized by the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge, seems to have been the greatest favourite with the managers, if we may judge from its having gone through twenty-five editions in the year 1818. It probably has been dispersed fourfold as much since that time, as it is considered a sovereign remedy for the epidemic disease now raging in Ireland, and beginning to shew itself in this country : I mean the disease of not paying tithe. We will not stop to inquire whether the managers have formed an erroneous estimate of society, and of the agriculturists in particular : that must be their look out: but sometimes remedies have been discovered to aggravate the disease they were meant to cure.”
In quoting the above remarks, we need scarcely say how strongly we censure the spirit in which some of them are penned ; and especially how unjust and uncandid we consider the sneers at the Church of England, which far wiser men than the writer of those censures appears to be, have styled “ the Glory of the Protestant Reformation.” But not the less do we regret that the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge should have furnished the writer with even a pretext for his assertions; and we know not that, if all the Churchmen in England had written an exposition to shew the ill-advised character of too many of the Society's tracts, they could have illustrated it so forcibly as by adducing such remarks as the above from the pens of Dissenters.
PARENTS NOT TO BE URGED TO BE PRESENT AT THE
BAPTISM OF THEIR CHILDREN.
To the Editor of the Christian Observer. I HAVE ever been a zealous advocate for the wise and salutary regulation, perpetuated by our Church from the days of venerable Christian antiquity, for the appointment of sponsors in baptism ; but I cannot see the wisdom, or even comprehend the object, of the injunction in the Twenty-ninth Canon, that “ No parent shall be urged to be present, nor be admitted to answer as godfather for his own child.” In truth, I feel not a little condemned by this canon, to which I never till lately adverted; for, in explaining to my parishioners the appointment of sponsors, I have always been in the habit of telling them that it was so much superadded to parental care and religious nurture; the parent being excluded from the office only because he is already pledged by a higher obligation, which there needed no specific compact to render more sacred; and the godfather taking his place in case of his death, or assisting his efforts, and supplying as far as possible his lack of service, during his life. But I have always added, that this appointment took away no portion of the parent's responsibility: on the contrary, that he was bound himself to bring his child to the font, to be dedicated to God, the sponsors duly attending with him ; that the dedication was primarily his own, and only secondarily theirs; and that he ought to listen and mentally to respond to all that is required of the sureties : and I have particularly censured the custom of nurses and proxies bringing a child to church while the parents are absent, or at least the father, as if they had no interest in the matter.
I now, however, find that absentee parents may plead the Canon, as well as the spirit of the Baptismal Service, which no where recognises their presence; and that, in urging them to be present, I have actually violated, without knowing it, my subscription of obedience to the Constitutions of the Church. I am, notwithstanding, unwilling to think that this Canon was framed by eminently wise and holy men without some strong reason, though
I cannot myself discover it; and I should feel much indebted to any of your correspondents who would afford me some light upon the subject. I am quite satisfied that sponsors ought to attend; but why is it wrong to recommend parents to attend also ? Even if no benefit resulted from it, what harm, what evil, is there in it, that required a Canon forbidding a clergyman to urge it?
ALLEGED REFUSAL TO BAPTIZE AN ILLEGITIMATE CHILD.
To the Editor of the Christian Observer. Is a clergyman authorized to refuse Baptism to a child on the ground of its illegitimacy? If he is authorized by the laws of man, does the law of God also bear him out ?
I am led to make the inquiry in consequence of a case having occurred within my knowledge of a mother bringing her child to the church for baptism, and of her being sent away in tears, on the grounds above stated; whilst at the same time (most inconsistently, as it seems to me) the clergyman offered to administer the rite in private. If he were right one way, he must surely be wrong the other; and I cannot bring myself to think that any thing can justify his shutting, as it were, the gates of heaven in the face of an innocent babe, and setting the children's teeth on edge, because the fathers have eaten sour grapes.
I am very anxious to be set right on this point. The conduct and character of the clergyman alluded to are unimpeachable in other respects, yet I cannot myself see the shadow of an excuse for the course pursued in the matter in question. I have taken the precaution to ascertain the correctness of the facts as above stated, and shall feel obliged for any infor- · mation hereon.
* If our correspondent will turn to Canon 68, he will find that “ No minister shall refuse or delay to christen any child according to the Book of Common Prayer, that is brought to the church to him upon Sundays or holy-days to be christened, or to bury any corpse that is brought to the church or church-yard, convenient warning being given him thereof before, in such manner and form as is prescribed in the said Book of Common Prayer," under pain of three months' suspension. The warning required is, “ over night, or in the morning before the beginning of Morning Prayer.”
The same punishment applies by Canon 69 to a clergyman refusing or negligently delaying to baptize any infant in his parish in a private house, where the child is certified to be in danger. We know nothing of the case referred to by our correspondent: but from the circumstance of the clergyman's being said to have offered to baptize privately, though not publicly, it appears to us that he did not refuse to baptize, but only to receive into the church; and this refusal he probably grounded, at least technically, not upon the illegitimacy of the child, but upon the absence of suitable sponsors; on which ground clergymen often refuse, as the Rubric requires, to receive even legitimate children into the church, though they are willing to baptize them.
So much for the matter of canonical law; but the question also connects itself with a point of doctrine. A large portion of Protestant Dissenters, believing that an infant derives no direct and immediate benefit from the solemn rite, and that the chief matter to be looked to is the faith of the parent and his desire to dedicate his child to God, would refuse baptism to the illegitimate infant of a person evidently living in an impenitent state. On the other hand, many of the Roman Catholic priesthood, believing that in the very administration of the rite the child receives forgiveness of sins, and an admission to a state of privilege without which it cannot be safe for eternity, would baptize even the children of heathens (and this has sometimes been done by stealth), not regarding in this instance the parent, but solely the child. The Church of England certainly assumes far more than the nudum signum, though it does not go to the length of the opus operatum, or make the absence of baptism, to which the unconscious infant is no party, “ the shutting, as it were, the gates of heaven in the face of an innocent babe." 'The circumstances alluded to by our correspondent
Christ. OBSERV. No. 382. 4 H
ON THE PECULIARITIES OF THE MONTANISTS.
To the Editor of the Christian Observer. A CORRESPONDENT, R. L., in your Appendix for last year, p. 857, calls the attention of your readers to a very interesting subject in early Ecclesiastical History,--the peculiarities of the Montanists. He adduces the opinion of Mr. Wesley, that the Montanists were Scriptural Christians," and seems himself to incline to the same opinion (see his paper), and quotes Mosheim as admitting that Montanus“ made no attempts upon the peculiar doctrines of Christianity.” He, upon the whole, seems to think that Montanus was evil spoken of for the same causes which have ever brought down reproach upon all who would be singular enough to live soberly, righteously, and godly in a wicked world. No one can object to the spirit in which your correspondent's remarks are written; but they seem to me to proceed upon a feeling which I regard with considerable jealousy--a feeling of excessive scepticism. Historic doubting has unquestionably rescued many important truths from the misrepresentations of prejudice and party; but it has become too common, and, combined with the love of change which characterizes our age, threatens to revolutionize history. The sincere lover of truth is ever afraid of extremes.
Your correspondent asks for information. My studies have lately been in the Greek Ecclesiastical Historians. As soon as I read his letler, I proceeded to collect the evidence afforded by Eusebius. In this communication I shall lay out the first authority produced by the venerable historian. If you think it worth inserting, I will go through the remainder of his testimony in another letter.
I first translate the passage in which he introduces the Montanists, in chap. xiv. of the fifth Book of his History.
“ The enemy of the church, who always hates what is excellent and loves what is evil, and who has never neglected any means of plotting against men, again caused foreign heresies to spring up against the church. Some of the supporters of these, like poisonous reptiles, crept over Asia and Phrygia, boasting that Montanus was the Paraclete, and that his female followers, Priscilla and Maximilla, had become prophetesses of Montanus. Others flourished at Rome, &c."
will perhaps be variously judged of according to the views which persons take of the relation of baptism to the child and to the parent. The clergyman concerned may plead, that, not believing that any injury would be done to the unconscious infant, he was in duty bound to shew his sense of the evil conduct of the mother, and to read a useful lesson to his parish, by availing himself of the absence of sponsors, or of any other irregularity, to decline receiving into the church a child thus circumstanced, and whose only presenting parent possibly gave no sign of penitence. Others may reply, that he had better have asked no questions, but have presumed the faith of the parent upon the visible indication of her public presentation of her child at the font. Not ourselves knowing the exact facts of the case, we cannot answer our correspondent except thus hypothetically; but we think the whole question deserving of serious discussion, irrespective of this particular case. If the clergyman refused to baptize upon a Sunday or holy-day, due notice being given, he acted illegally. If he had a scruple of conscience in the matter, and made a technical irregularity his nominal excuse, he acted legally; but the question is still open, whether the scruple was scriptural or otherwise. If, again, he did not object to baptize, but only to receive into the church, he might do this first without any reference whatever to the child's illegitimacy, but only from some ecclesiastical objection, such as the absence of sponsors; or, secondly, from a scruple of conscience, without any technical irregularity; or, thirdly, really and avowedly from scruple of conscience, but defending himself from punishment by a technical objection. Our correspondent, in his brief statement of the case, bas not specified the facts that bear upon these distinctions.
In chap. xvi. he returns to the same subject. I again translate.
“ Against the heresy of the Cataphryges (the Montanists were so called, from their being chiefly Phrygians) the Power that defends the truth raised, as a strong and irresistible weapon, Apollinaris of Hierapolis, and with him many more of the eloquent men of that age, by whom there have been left to us very extensive materials for history.”—From one of these writers, whose name he does not specify, but which appears to have been Asterius Urbanus, he extracts these particulars. “There is said to be in the Mysia bordering on Phrygia a certain village called by the name of Ardaba. Here, they say, first, while Gratus was proconsul of Asia, a person who had recently received the faith, named Montanus, from his immoderate desire of pre-eminence afforded to the adversary an opportunity of assailing him. He was filled with a spiritual influence, and, having been suddenly seized by a sort of possession and violent ecstasy, was affected by madness. In this state he began to speak, and to utter strange sentiments ; speaking, as in prophecy, contrary to the custom established in the church by tradition and continued succession. Of those who at that time heard his strange and depraved announcements, some in grief rebuked him as one possessed, as a demoniac, and as under the power of a spirit of 'delusion, and forbade him to speak; remembering the Lord's distinction, and the threatening by which we are warned to beware of false prophets. But others, professing to be excited by the Holy Spirit and the gift of prophecy, in no small degree puffed up, and forgetting the Lord's distinction, encouraged this infatuating and seductive and deluding spirit; being seduced and led astray by it, that it might not any more be compelled to silence. By some art, or rather by such wicked craft and cunning, did the devil, having contrived the ruin of them who disregarded warnings, and being honoured by them more than he deserved, by degrees excite and inflame the minds which had criminally withdrawn from the true faith : as he also raised up two other women to speak madly, unseasonably, and inconsistently, like the before-mentioned (Montanus).” “ The believers of Asia, having assembled often and in several places in Asia upon this business, having examined the new doctrines and proved them to be profane, and having rejected the heresy, its adherents were thereupon expelled from the church, and debarred from communion.”
It would be tedious to transcribe the whole extract from this writer. which has been preserved by our historian. He mentions a report that Montanus and Maximilla hanged themselves, under the influence of a spirit of delusion. He tells us that he wrote his treatise thirteen years after the death of Maximilla ; that the Montanists boasted of their martyrs—a circumstance which he treats as of small value, as the Marcionites made the same boast :-and that the celebrated Miltiades also wrote against the Montanists.
The last extract produced by Eusebius is so curious that I translate it at length, and with that I will conclude. “This false prophet spoke in violent ecstasy, accompanied by licentiousness and boldness; commencing in voluntary folly, and terminating, as it has been said, in involuntary madness. But they cannot shew that any prophet, of those under the Old or the New Testament, was affected in this manner by the Spirit-neither Agabus, nor Judas, nor Silas, nor the daughters of Philip-nor Ammias of Philadelphia, nor Quadratus ; nor will they boast of several others whose practice does not make for their cause." But after a short interval he continues thus : “ For if, after Quadratus and Ammias of Philadelphia, the female companions of Montanus succeeded to the prophetic gift, let them shew who among them have succeeded to Montanus and those females. For the Apostle asserts that the gift of prophecy must be in the church till the last coming ; but