« VorigeDoorgaan »
ture to stand up against its novel dogmas.
For who, I would candidly ask, are the Neologists, and what the Neologism, which Jewish Expositors and Morning Watchmen are bent on putting down? They have not left us to look far for an answer. Throughout their writings they tell us that the great mass of religious persons in this country are Neologians; that several of our leading religious institutions, especially the Bible Society, are Neologian; that our religious periodical press, in particular, is decidedly Neologian; and that the writings and discourses of what are called the Evangelical clergy, and Evangelical Dissenting ministers, are deeply tainted with this deadly heresy. I need, on this subject, only quote the words of a reviewer in the last Number of the Christian Observer:-"If a man disapprove either of the doctrine or the spirit of Mr. Bulteel; if he do not follow Mr. Boys and Mr. McNeile in their speculations on modern miracles; if he think the constitution of the Bible Society lawful, or oppose the opinions of Mr. Irving and Mr. Drummond on the interpretation of the prophecies; or if he dissent from Mr. Thelwall's microscopical constructive anti-neological canons, as set forth in the columns of the Record-straightway he is a Neologian." The reviewer goes on to shew in what manner that muchrespected servant of Christ, Mr. Daniel Wilson, has been assailed under this convenient term of reproach; together with "the Christian Observer," and, I believe, every one of our religious periodical publications that has dared to oppose itself to the wild and fanatical speculations which have been of late obtruded upon "the religious world." The Morning Watch includes amongst Neologists the men who talk about Christian experience, humility, piety, and brotherly love," and "cant about Bibles, tracts, and missions."
These, then, are the Neologians really and obviously intended; not a German sect, or a sprinkling of converts to it in England; but what the Morning Watch calls "the Evangelicals," whether Church or Dissenting. "The soi-disant Christian world," says that publication, "is point by point exposing its disbelief of every essential Christian doctrine, till, after rejecting the man Jesus to reign over them” [that is, rejecting Mr. Irving's notions of our Lord's peccability], "they are now blaspheming against the Holy Ghost." The same periodical publication elsewhere gives us the whole matter in few words, and without any ambiguity, by inserting a declaration of Mr. Wolffe, the Jews' Society's discarded missionary, that " Jews and Mohammedans are not such infidels as the Evangelical party in England are." The T. P. P. of the Record tells us, that the persons whom he urges the Record to wage warfare upon are 'those who call themselves the people of the Lord;" and Mr. T. P. Platt has proved, says the Morning Watch, that "the Evangelical world are perverting the plain language of the Bible in the same way as the Neologists of Germany are doing, and their evil courses are of a piece with blaspheming against the Holy Ghost." Mr. Thelwall, another Jewish Expositor, under one of his tests of Neology, says: Of this, sad instances might be adduced from Lowth and Blayney; and indeed so far as I have seen, from all who have put forth new versions of books of Scripture!" And then, after much more, he adds: "I am aware that my remarks involve a censure of many learned men and much-respected names, and fix a note of warning on many elaborate works which have hitherto had an honourable place in the Christian's library: but I write advisedly; and let no one think that any host of names which can be arrayed against me will induce me to shrink from what I have here
said." Such is Mr. Thelwall's view of Neology: it includes "many" of the books dearest to the Christian; and in a lump, without exception, "all new versions of books of Scripture." I might go on to quote from the writings of Mr. Drummond, Mr. Irving, Mr. McNeile, the Dialogues on Prophecy, and twenty other publications; but to bring the matter back directly to the Jewish Expositor, Mr. Boys (whose name I use, because he affixes it as editor of that work,) asserts that there is a conspiracy in this country to promote Neologism; and he unequivocally includes among others, as abettors of it, those who deny Miss Fancourt's cure to be miraculous.
If further proof be wanted, it can be produced in abundance; but the foregoing, it is thought, is sufficient to demonstrate who are some of the persons, and what some of the opinions, intended to be crushed by the proposed secret society. The prospectus asserts, that the object is "to withstand infidelity in every shape; and I have already shewn that the particular shape to which the writers above named refer is, the infidelity of what they call "the Evangelicals," "the men who cant about Bibles, tracts, and missions." Real infidels such a society would scarcely trouble itself with; nor would it think its efforts much needed for "the repression of that modified infidelity" which may be sometimes concealed under the guise of "high church orthodoxy;" no-it is the direful infidelity which Mr. Wolff is pleased to charge upon the "Evangelical party" in England, whether lay or clerical, Dissenting or of the Established Churches of Great Britain, Ireland, and Scotland. The last comes in for a peculiar share of the obloquy, in consequence of the measures pursued towards Mr. Irving, Mr. Campbell, and other members of the new sect.
Such being the object, let us look at the means. A secret society is to be formed, divided into bodies of "three or four staunch men, stationed CHRIST. OBSERV. No. 358.
in each diocese;" secret meetings are to be held ; secret agency is to be employed; no report is to be published; the leaders are to lock their proceedings in their own bosoms, and "to consider themselves as responsible to none but the Lord himself." The initiated staunch men are to procure the latest catalogues of books, to mark all commentaries, expositions, and doctrinal works, and privately report them to the fraternity. Others, in the meanwhile, are "to apply earnestly to the study, for the object of controversy;" and a small periodical is to be set a and going; a watchful lookout is to be kept as to sermons, translations, &c. at the universities and elsewhere;" and the association is to "denounce" such books as they disapprove to the bishop or the chancellor of the university, as the case may happen, with a formidable list of signatures annexed, to sway or intimidate him; and if this fail, then to go with another denunciation" to the archbishop or the king; and if all will not suffice, then eventually to ruin the persecuted victim by means of the press. Was there ever at least in this free and Protestant land-such an overbearing, inquisitorial, and un-English scheme devised for the alleged promotion of a religious object? Would not the whole nation rise as a man against such a system of espionage and "denunciation ?" Give me a fair, open, manly opponent: give me a society that publishes honest reports of its proceedings; but such a device as this is cowardly and insidious, and might be made an engine of the most cruel oppression. For example, let a man but dare to dissent from an iota of Mr. Boys's opinions on modern miracles, or from a dictum of Mr. Thelwall or the Morning Watch, he is instantly a Neologian; his name is on the black list; every machine is set in motion to crush him; and it is wonderful indeed, if no fault, or semblance of fault, can be picked out, which, with the aid of " controversy," and 4 H
the "small periodical," and the official denunciation to the bishops, and archbishops, kings, and universities, and the tyranny of the press, might be made to blast his prospects, ruin his usefulness, and cause him to rue the day when he exposed himself to the displeasure of an irresponsible secret Society, which could discover Neology and Infidelity in the purest doctrines and the most holy life.
I am inclined to think that poor Mr. Greenfield, the editor of the Comprehensive Bible, is suffering under this tyranny, and chiefly because of his connexion with that Neological Institution the Bible Society. Mr. Thelwall, in particular, has assailed him in the Record newspaper with a degree of animosity most afflicting to every candid and impartial mind. There may be passages in the Comprehensive Bible doubtful, or even exceptionable; but the work has for several years been highly valued by thousands of persons of intelligence and piety; by not a few of the most excellent of our Clergy and Dissenting Ministers; the testimonials of the writer, as to soundness of doctrine and spirituality of life, are stated to be of the most decisive character; and among them is the attestation of the venerable and beloved Dr. Waugh: yet this man is to be denounced and ruined as a Neologian and an Infidel. Mr. Haldane, who in his zeal to reprobate the Bible Society, has not been very squeamish in the matter of private character, says that "Mr. Boys, Mr. Gipps, and Mr. Thelwall have exposed the Neologian and Infidel character of many of these notes." "Mr. Boys proves, adds Mr. Haldane, "that they are of the very worst description, and that they come to neither more nor less than this, that the Bible is not true." Mr. Thelwall being "a staunch man," follows up the charge so resolutely, that when Mr. Greenfield corrects, in another edition, what seems, on the face of it, likely enough to have been a misprint," expletive" for "explicative,"
he flatly tells him, that he does not believe that it was a mistake; it shall be no mistake. Such a reply is not candid, Christian, or courteous; and the charity which thinketh no evil, and believeth all things, might easily believe a typographical error. But Mr. Thelwall soon betrays the secret of his displeasure against Mr. Greenfield,-namely, that he is an agent of the Bible Society, which invaluable institution he forthwith sets himself to attack in the spirit of Mr. Haldane, and with plentiful charges of "unscriptural liberalism" and Neologism. He begins with the Comprehensive Bible, and ends with the need of "a thorough purification of the Bible Society and its committee," with much assertion of "rotteness," "leaven," and so forth. I mention this only to shew the spirit of the whole proceeding; and I cannot but congratulate Mr. Greenfield (be he right or wrong, for I am neither praising nor blaming the Comprehensive Bible,) that he has a jury of Englishmen and Christians to decide on the charges against him, and to pass sentence on the evidence of facts, and not on the special pleadings of counsel. If he were a clergyman instead of a layman, he might be in some danger; at least if a bishop could be found who would lend an ear to the familiars of an inquisition. Well may Mr. Boys exclaim, "Where are the men" to conduct the secret agency of such a society? I will not say, nowhere; for Jesuits have been found to obey the most iniquitous orders of a leader; and they too had their "secreta monita; "and published no report, and professed to do every thing "in majorem Dei gloriam," and considered themselves as responsible to none but the Lord himself," except, I believe, to their own General and the Pope, as the proposed secret society would be to their general and pope also. But among honourable men, agents could not be found for such an institution. Let the Jewish Expositor go to some of those clergymen and gentlemen who, upon the
whole, agree, and boldly and conscientiously so, in his opinions, and ask them whether they will join his inquisition, and help to draw up an Index Expurgatorius, and sign "denunciations," and work through the eaves-droppings of a new school for religious scandal. I can only imagine the severe brow and indignant rebuke, which would meet him as he proposed such a question. No, if the object were ever so good, this would not be an honourable way of effecting it; but, while secresy, and irresponsible confidence, and the suppression of reports, are parts of the system, I cannot think that the object is good. As to Neology in its true sense, the whole Christian world should manfully repel its approaches, wherever it intrudes; or if a special institution be requisite for that purpose, let it be forthwith organized, and let all its proceedings be open and court the light. But let not Protestants become Jesuits and Inquisitors: and above all, let them not, under the plausible pretext of opposing Neology, be in reality aiming their blow at something else; at those of their brethren who cannot adopt their novel opinions.
I will only add, in conclusion, that, strongly as I have spoken, I by no means intend to impeach the motives of the proposers of this scheme. I doubt not they really mean to do God service; but they see through a distorted medium, and fancy they behold Neology and Infidelity every where. Deeply do I lament these distressing signs of the times, in what is called the religious world. All Christians, and particularly ministers and those who have access to the public by means of the press, have a serious duty to perform in reference to these portentous divisions among those who ought to strive together for the faith of the Gospel. There is a duty, both as it regards those who err by defect and those who err by excess; those who deny any of the doctrines of salvation, and those who, admitting them, su
peradd to them fancies of their own, calculated to retard the progress of true religion, both in their own souls and in the world around them. What are called the Evangelical clergy have by the grace of God been enabled to discharge the former duty with much zeal and fidelity; and in particular they have not shrunk from the contest with the formalists of whatever grade or station in our own church; with the enemies of the doctrines of grace; with the deniers of justification by faith, the work of the Holy Spirit, the necessity and nature of conversion to God, of Scriptural devotedness of life to his glory, and similar topics. But they are not permitted in duty to stop here; though, as respects their own feelings, they might be glad to do so; for the times impose on them another obligation, an obligation in many respects most painful, but not less urgent,—namely, to oppose the fanaticism which is beginning to prevail in certain quarters, and which in its results is as fatally hostile to the progress of Scriptural truth as errors of an opposite nature. May it not be, that we are approaching a similar state of things to that which occurred in the middle of the seventeenth century? that God, having been pleased in his mercy to cause a revival of religion in the land, the enemy of souls has been actively at work in sowing tares among the wheat? that, unable to effect his purpose openly, he has transformed himself into an angel of light; and, under the appearance of peculiar zeal, faithfulness, and spirituality, is in truth fighting the world's battle, and disparaging not a few of the most active, humble, and devoted servants of Christ; accusing them of lukewarmness, unfaithfulness, low views, Neologism, a desire to shrink from the offence of the Cross, and to court the world, and, above all, of want of spirituality, just because they do not follow every meteor of the day, be it Baringism, or Bulteelism, or modern Millenarianism, or wild reveries unjustly termed Pro
phetic Interpretations, or the revival of the gift of tongues and the working of miracles, or that deadly spirit of detraction and uncharitableness which is exhibited as boldness on the Lord's side against his enemies; among the foremost of whom are reckoned-not the world, the flesh, and the devil-but "those Evangelical teachers" who do not run after new notions, but, in the simplicity of Gospel truth, continue to live and to preach as the Bible prescribes, and as holy men of old lived and preached before them? Every true Christian will earnestly desire to witness a much larger portion of spiritualmindedness among those who name the name of Christ. There is, alas! a lamentable deficiency in this respect; there is far more of general correctness of doctrine and a decent attention to a routine of duties, than of earnest, heart-felt devotedness to God, love for the Redeemer, union to Him, rejoicing in his cross, and living to his glory: but this spiritualmindedness will not be promoted by the revival of the absurdities of the age of Oliver Cromwell, from its Fifth-Monarchy men to its gladiatorial polemics; its hot-headed ignorance; its party-spirit; or by railing at every thing that is sound and sober, as carnal, Neologian, and selfseeking; or by becoming accusers of the brethren, and courting a small kind of martyrdom, to be repaid by notoriety, by the applause of partizans, and by a self-satisfied assumption that bustle is religion; slander, Christian honesty; and a contempt for the low attainments of other religious men, a peculiar mark of religion in ourselves. If such spirits and such measures prevail, what is there to prevent the recurrence of the days above alluded to; when, under the pretence of spiritual-mindedness, zealots brandished the sword to put down all whom they did not consider as spiritually minded as themselves; and virtually instituted Protestant inquisitions as despotic as those of the Church of Rome. But I have no very serious fears, while
either common sense or meek Scriptural piety survives among us. few untamed spirits may make much clamour, but they are not the majority. The vast mass of the religious part of the community are still untainted; and their duty is to put down these things, not by rendering railing for railing, but by being “stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as they know that their labour is not in vain in the Lord."
One of the most portentous features of the day, I conceive to be the spirit of detraction which is abroad against the great body of persons, who, by whatever name designated, whether "saints," "the evangelicals," or "the "religious world," are in truth the salt of the earth. I say not this in any spirit of party, for I would include in my estimate all who love the Lord Jesus Christ by whatever name known among men, High Church or Low Church; Dissenting, Methodist, or Calvinist; Episcopalian, Presbyterian, or Congregationalist. The detraction to which I allude is not that which arises from the side of avowed irreligion or pharisaic formality; this was to be expected, and woe to religious men if they were not assailed by it. It is their honour and privilege in this, as in other things, to suffer with and for their Divine Master. But I allude to the quarters of which I have before been writing -to those who profess a peculiarly high degree of faith, sincerity, boldness in the cause of God, and abhorrence of evil, above their brethren. Why will they not point out what they consider to be the faults, the sins, or the follies of religious persons without one perpetual spirit of sneer, contempt, innuendo, and detraction, which no man can possibly believe can do good either to the parties themselves or to others? It is with extreme pain that I observe this spirit in the three publications before mentioned; the Record newspaper, in particular, turning every thing into this channel. Suppose, for example, that his Ma