« VorigeDoorgaan »
or two evenings in the week, that he might converse with a number at once; and before he had thought of such an event as a religious awakening, he found that about thirty of his congregation were deeply impressed with a concern for their spiritual state. Soon after that, the excitement became general in the town, and very remarkable. His parish was small, and he had but about forty communicants: and yet, though great efforts were made by the other denominations to draw the converts to their respective communions, the result was, that one hundred were added to his communion, and a large part of them to his congregation, being such as had before attended public worship at other places, or no where. These converts were not encouraged in ranting or raptures, but instructed in the" words of truth and soberness;" and of course very few of them after fell away from their stedfastness. There were so many who needed instruction, and to be prepared for baptism and confirmation, that it became necessary to collect a number of them together, chiefly in the evening. This was the origin of prayer meetings in that parish; and a few of the more pious members of the Church have found it profitable, to themselves at least, to continue the meetings to the present time: and whether it would not generally be wise in our clergy to pursue the like course in seasons of like excitement, is submitted to their serious consideration.
It is also unhappily the fact, that many of those who at these seasons are wrought upon, and seem to be converted, prove not to be stedfast Christians. But this is precisely what our Saviour has told us will be the effect of sowing the good seed. In some, it springs up quickly, and after withers away. But we must also acknowledge, that among those who come to the communion without pretending to any conversion or change of heart, we find many who live to the world and Cunrom Onerny No. 357.
disgrace their profession. If among those who are suddenly converted a larger proportion prove to be of those on stony ground, it must with equal truth be acknowledged that among those who commune without experiencing any change there are more of those whom our Lord designates by the seed falling among thorns; and these, it cannot be denied, injure and disgrace religion not less than the others. should be further considered, that this evil also (of many falling away) is owing in no small measure to the improper efforts so often made to excite the passions of those who are awakened. From our Lord's teaching, it is to be expected that the more the "good seed" is sown, and men are affected by it, the more will the enemy sow his tares.
The coldness that usually follows religious excitements is the worst of their ill effects. This indeed is the real evil. The awakened state is that which ought to be constant. If what the Scriptures teach be true, how can we be too much concerned for the salvation of our souls? How can we be too anxious to obtain evidence of our being at peace with God, or too much engaged in working out our salvation?
One very striking evidence that the excitements under review are generally the work of God, is the remarkable and very interesting fact that those converted at such seasons embrace the most essential doctrines of Christianity: they confess Christ in his true character, and reject whatever would make his cross of no effect. And who can say that these awakenings are not intended, by a wise and merciful God, to counteract and check the spread of the anti-christian doctrines which have been so alarmingly prevalent in some of the eastern states? This work (supposing it to be of God) has encompassed this pernicious heresy, and hedged it in, setting bounds to its progress; and is now penetrating to its very heart. "When the enemy shall come in 3 X
like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him." Is it not then unwise (to say the least) to oppose this work, and more so to condemn and revile it? If after due consideration our sober and most candid judgment is unfavourable to these awakenings, the safer way is to let them alone. We cannot be too careful not to be found fighting against God; not to frustrate the good which may be done; and especially not, by illtimed censures and opposition, to drive serious and well-meaning people from our communion.
But the inference most to our present purpose is, that the evils resulting from these revivals, though never so many and never so great, do not prove the prayer meetings to be improper or without use. They prove, rather, that such meetings are sometimes necessary, to instruct those who are anxiously inquiring what they shall do to be saved, and to guide them in that way which we believe to be most agreeable to the word and will of God.
To the Editor of the Christian Observer. I HAVE been lately looking into some writings of the Rev. Richard Watson, the well-known Methodist minister, and I confess I have read the following passages with astonishment. In his Theological Institutes, vol. iii. p. 12, referring to my father's commentary on Rom. xiv. 15, Mr. Watson says: 'Mr. Scott is, however, evidently not satisfied with his own interpretation; and gives a painful example of the influence of a preconceived system in commenting upon Scripture, by charging the Apostle himself with careless writing: 'We may, however, observe' [these are Mr. Scott's words, quoted by Mr. Watson],
that the Apostles did not write in that exact systematic style which some
affect: otherwise they would have scrupulously avoided such expressions.' "This," Mr. Watson says, is "rather in the manner of Priestley and Belsham, than that of an orthodor commentator.”
In the next page the accusation is repeated, with reference to 2 Pet. ii. 1. As Mr. Scott " charged St. Paul with want of exactness in writing to the Romans, so also St. Peter, in the passage before us, comes in for his share of the same censure: It was not the manner of the sacred writers to express themselves with that systematic exactness which many now affect."
It is perfectly competent to Mr. Watson to combat and to censure my father, or any other writer, wherever he thinks there may be occasion for it; but groundlessly to cast such imputations as these upon an author of acknowledged piety and usefulness, than whom no one ever gave less occasion for them, is what every Christian ought carefully to avoid. Now, did ever any one before suppose (as Mr. Watson must here do), that to say an author wrote in an affected systematic style was to praise him? and that to say he declined this, was "censure," and "charging him with careless writing?" Mr. Scott was evidently here "censuring," not the inspired writers, but those who were not contented to speak as they do; those who "affected" to be wiser than the Scriptures, in their language at least; and who would fain pare down the greatness and grandeur of a Divine system to conformity with our little narrow notions of exact consistency. And in this instance his censure actually fell on the zealots of his own side.
Surely Mr. Watson might have availed himself of the concession, and commended the writer's fairness, instead of comparing him to Priestley and Belsham.
In what follows, Mr. Watson is only answerable for having selected, and brought afresh into notice, that which, for the credit of its venerable author (I use the epithet in since
rity), had far better have been suffered to fall into oblivion. But, such statements being so brought forward afresh, and in a work designed for popular reading, regard for historic truth and justice forbids that they should pass without correction, and even exposure.
In his new Life of the founder of Methodism, p. 241–243, Mr. Watson gives the following instances, from Mr. Wesley's journals, of his "laconic reviews of books." "I set out for London; and read over in the way Martin Luther's Comment on the Epistle to the Galatians. I was utterly ashamed. How have I esteemed this book, only because I had heard it so commended by others; or, at best, because I had read some excellent sentences, occasionally quoted from it. But what shall I say, now I judge for myself, now I see with my own eyes? Why, not only that the author makes nothing out, clears up not one considerable difficulty; that he is quite shallow in his remarks on many passages, and muddy and confused almost on all; but that he is deeply tinctured with mysticism throughout, and hence often dangerously wrong." Mr. Wesley proceeds to specify two particulars: first, the indiscriminate manner in which Luther sometimes decries reason; and secondly, the improper terms which he applies to the Divine law-though other passages make it evident that he meant them only of the Law as "used unlawfully," or perverted from its proper
On the subject of this criticism I shall content myself with remarking, that, whatever may be the defects and faults of Luther's Comment on the Galatians, probably no one human composition, at the period of the Reformation, produced so great an effect in restoring the grand fundamental doctrine of justification by faith, such as, Mr. Watson affirms, Mr. Wesley "uniformly taught " it. (Life, pp. 68-71.) For any thing
further I refer to Milner's History, iv. 509, &c.
On the other passage I shall have somewhat more to offer. It is as follows: "Being," says Mr. Wesley, "in the Bodleian Library, I lit on Mr. Calvin's account of the case of Michael Servetus, several of whose letters he occasionally inserts, wherein Servetus often declares, in terms, 'I believe the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God.' Mr. Calvin, however, paints him such a monster as never wasan Arian, a blasphemer, and what not-besides strewing over him his flowers of 'dog,' 'devil,' 'swine,' and so on, which are the usual appellations he gives to his opponents."
On turning to Mr. Wesley's Works (vol. xiii. p. 117, ed. 1815) I find the result, I presume, of this same visit to the Bodleian, thus repeated: "If Calvin does not misquote his words, he (Servetus) was no anti-Trinitarian at all. Calvin himself gives a quotation from one of his letters, in which he expressly declares, 'I do believe the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God; but I dare not use the word Trinity, or Person.'
This is being bold indeed: for to affirm, "on the authority of Calvin himself," that Servetus 66 was no anti-Trinitarian at all," is not less bold than it would be to say, On the authority of Hume and Rapin I affirm that James II. was the Protestant, and William III. the Papist.
But to the proof. It will be observed, that what was in the first quotation made to be a "frequent declaration," repeated perhaps in "several" of Servetus's "letters," in the second dwindles down into a single quotation from one of his letters." And for this momentous quotation (momentous to the inquiry in hand) no reference to any page or division of Calvin's account is made, even though the last appeal to the sentence is in a controversial work of Mr. Wesley's. If it can be pointed out, let it be so; but till
that is done I shall disbelieve its existence altogether, at least in any authentic document. I had lately occasion to go over the whole case of Servetus with some minuteness: and for the history of that case I am well content with the statements of Chauffpié, in his "Dictionaire Historique et Critique," to which Gibbon, in the midst of a malignant invective against Calvin, refers us as "the best account" he had seen. I contend for nothing more favourable. But, for the particular point before us, I have been induced again to turn over the work of Calvin referred to (Opera, viii. pp. 510567); and I must say I find no part of Mr. Wesley's assertions borne out. It can hardly be said that any "letter" of Servetus's, properly so called, is there introduced at all: and, though such "flowers" as Mr. Wesley enumerates were of too frequent use in that age, I find them but sparingly, if at all, totidem verhis, applied by Calvin in this work. And as to the declaration in question, said to be made by Servetus, I can only say, I have not found it, or any thing approaching to it; but much that is of a directly contrary tendency. Calvin indeed asserts, and his assertion is confirmed by the signatures of fourteen other ministers of Geneva, and by numerous quotations from the heresiarch's writings, that Servetus declared "the body " of Christ to be God, "his soul" to be God; as he also held every stone and every stick of wood to be God: and that, when reminded that his principle would make "Satan himself to be in substance God," he only laughed, and asked, if he was not indubitably so! In short, not Calvin's charges only, but Servetus's writings, apparently shew him to have been a thorough Pantheist. "Hoc artificio se explicat, quod Deus in ligno sit lignum, in lapide, lapis, formam et substantiam lapidis veram in se habens. Hæc ejus sunt verba, Epist. vi. p. 189."-The pastors of Zurich, to whom Servetus's
book, as well as Calvin's excerpts from it, had been sent, and who attest the fidelity of the latter, say: "Quod ergo Servetus Hispanus Trinitatem æternam Dei, triceps monstrum et cerberum quendam tripartitum, denique imaginarios deos, illusiones, ac tres spiritus dæmoniorum appellitat, æternam Dei majestatem nefande et horribiliter blasphemat. Quod Athanasium, Augustinum, et alios servos Dei eximios, illustriaque ecclesiæ lumina, Trinitarios atque adeo atheos appellat (ita enim omnes Trinitatem agnoscentes nuncupat), non illos tantum, sed totum chorum sanctorum, adeoque totam Christi ecclesiam, infandis et non ferendis convitiis indignissime proscindit." In Calv. Epist.p.73: Op. ix.
That all this furnished no justification of the burning of Servetus, we are all happily agreed: but it may surely satisfy us, that, whatever our prejudices against Calvin may be, Servetus is not the person for whom we are to become apologists: and it may combine with numberless other things to shew us, that, if Servetus did ever use terms like those for which Mr. Wesley gives him credit, he had some sense to put upon them remote from ordinary conceptions.
Between these two critiques of Mr. Wesley's, if I mistake not (for I have not the book now at hand), there is interposed a third, on the Synod of Dort, in which that assembly is sunk to the level, or below the level, of the Council of Trent. But I decline to enter into it.
The remarks, which I have felt myself called to offer, are made from no hostility to Mr. Watson, nor from any disrespect for the memory of Mr. Wesley-for, after all the abatements and per contra which I am constrained to admit, I venerate his devotedness, and bless God for having raised him up;-but I write from zeal for historic truth; from a just regard to the fair fame of other men as great and holy as Mr. Wesley; from a deep sense of the mischief which
must arise from giving to the worldto be received by thousands as oracular the mere results of rapid glances, and hasty snatches, and imperfect recollections. Truth is not to be served in this way, though error may be propagated by it to an unlimited extent. I am, &c.
ON THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF THE
To the Editor of the Christian Observer. YOUR Correspondent J. in your Number for June, is perfectly right in calling the attention of your readers to the plural form of the word translated "righteousness" in Rev. xix. 8. I do not, however, think him correct in interpreting the word to mean righteous acts performed. The verb dikatow is to justify, acquit, or declare innocent; and all its derivatives partake of the same meaning. Hence dikawσiç is properly the act of acquitting; dikaloovvn the state of acquittal; and dikauua the acquisition of that state, whether by imputation or service; or, secondly, it is any institution which may help us to obtain it.
In the first of these two senses the word is used in Rom. v. 16, viii. 4; in the second, in Luke i. 6, Rom. i. 32, ii. 26, Heb. ix. 1, 10, Rev. xv. 4. In the passage under consideration it is implied that all the saints have been employed in seeking justification, every one for himself; and the various methods by which they have severally sought and eventually obtained it, are summed up in the 'fine linen " which is given them. Thus is the righteousness of the purest saint a free gift at last. He is invested with the righteousness of his Redeemer.
I also apprehend that J. is inaccurate in stating that it is the effect (that is, the rewards and honours merited) of the perfect obedience of our blessed Lord, which God imputes, reckons, or accounts to the benefit of all true believers in him. To im
pute, is one thing; to give, another. God imputes to the believer the spotless purity and innocence of the Redeemer, and therefore gives him the reward which his Redeemer has merited. The whole doctrine of imputation rests on this principle, that something is attributed to the believer in Christ which at the time of the imputation he does not possess. The imputation, therefore, is perfect at once, in this life; whereas the reward and crown of righteousness are not fully bestowed till the next. Both reward, your correspondent and I as respects justification, however, and entirely agree, that the Lord is graciously pleased to treat the faithful disciples of his Son as if they were entitled to all the privileges and blessings which His gratuitous obedience has earned for them.
"Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift!" D. D.
THE RIVER OF DEATH: A DREAM.
For the Christian Observer. I HAD been spending an evening with a valued friend, discussing, with more animation, I fear, than profit, three new miracles, for which he was vouching, when the hour of family prayer summoned us to higher thoughts and more holy feelings; and our last remarks at parting were, I hope, such as we should not have lamented indulging in had we been on the very verge of heaven. Indeed, we were not in idea far off from that blessed region; for we had been speaking of David, who neither on earth nor there had any whom he loved in comparison of God; and of St. Paul, who, when the time of his departure was at hand, was ready to be offered; and of saints and martyrs in more recent ages; and lastly, of Bunyan's seraphic picture of the passage of his Pilgrim over the river to the gates of the celestial city. My friend had repeated with glowing delight the following passage: 'Now I further