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I bless thee, O God, that several whom I know have been thus blessed. Never did they shine so brightly as since they came out of the furnace. Never were they so fruitful as since thy chastening
hand was upon them. And surely, O Lord, I can say, that “in mercy thou hast afflicted me.” May all thy dealings with my friends be productive of the like advantages! Amen.
TRACTS OF THE SOCIETY FOR PROMOTING CHRISTIAN
The tracts published by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge have frequently been noticed with just severity by writers who profess a vital and spiritual faith in the Lord Jesus; but, in truth, they never can be too severely dealt with, nor can their mischievous doctrines be too strenuously opposed. The two striking features of these tracts are bigotry and ignorance; 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.
Any further preface on this subject will be unnecessary; a slight notice of some of these tracts will show the sort of trash on which the money of the subscribers to the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge is expended.
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 deathbed repentance is quite hopeless.
" 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, skall be farther considered. •All the promises of God in Jesus Christ are yea and amen ;' that is most cer. tain : 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
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.*
The object of this work is to show 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
* My collection of these tracts being all dated Å. D. 1818, it is to be presumed that the editions have been greatly multiplied since that time.
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 reformingone'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 shown 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 show to the faithful that the thief was not saved by faith in Jesus, but by the absence of wickedness in his previous life! Or, fear ing 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 9th 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. iii. 24.
I would further state that in this tract there is no sort of allusion to the operatíon 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.
A short Catechism on the Duty of Con
forming to the Established Church. By the Right Rev. Thomas Burgess, D.D., Bishop of St. David's. 8th edition.
This tract is conspicuous for its curious logic and its excessive bigotry. Anything more absurd than its reasoning could hardly be found in the writings of ecclesiastics; but it will speak for itself more eloquently than any critic can speak for it.
“Q. From what authority is derived the civil right of publicly exercising the Christian ministry? A. From the laws of the land in which it is professed.
“Q. What is a true church ? A. That is a true church in which the word of God is preached, and the sacraments are duly administered, by persons rightly ordained.
“Q. What is a legal church ? A. That is a legal church which is established by law.
"Q. What do you mean by the Church of England ? A. By the Church of England I mean the church of Christ as it is established by the laws of England.
« Q. Is the Church of England a true church? A. Yes : because the word of God is preached in it, and the sacraments are duly administered by persons rightly ordained.
"Q. Is it also a legal church? A. Yes: because it is established by law.
“Q. Is it not our duty to conform to the laws of our country? A. Yes : St. Paul says, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers.' Rom, xiii. 1. And St. Peter bids us to submit to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake.' 1 Pet. ii. 13.
“Q. Is it not then your duty to conform to the established church ? A. Yes.
“ Q. Why? A. Because it is a true church, established by law; and because the powers that be are ordained of God.
“Q. Do not the laws require an uniformity of public worship, that is, that there should be only one form of public worship? A. Yes.
"Q. Which is that form of public worship? A. The form of public worship which is set forth in the book of Common Prayer.
"Q. How should we endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace ? A. By living a peaceable and orderly life, in conformity to the laws, and to the church established by law,” &c. &c.
No comment is needed on this Caten chism; it speaks for itself.
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 publie 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 England,” 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,
A Country Clergyman's Advice to his
Parishioners, 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 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
The Christian's Way to Heaven ; or what
he must do to be saved. By a Divine of the Church of England. 18th edition.
“ Next, in order to your salvation, you must be diligent in observing the ordinances which either Christ himself or his holy church
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 sprin. kling with water!!
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.
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 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 Greene's, it is stated with more than usual impudence.
“ R. Is, then, the sacrifice of Christ's death alone sufficient for the pardon of sins? --A. This alone is sufficient as the meritori. ous 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.”-p. 37. .
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. Conditions of Obtaining Salvation by
Jesus Christ briefly Proposed, by way of Question and Answer. 16th edition.
The following quotation will be sufficient:
“ Q. What is required of us in order to our being saved by Jesus Christ? A. Faith, repentance, and sincere obedience, or newness and holiness of life.
"Q. What is faith? A. Faith is an assent of the mind to all those divine truths which are contained in the Holy Scriptures, particularly that Jesus Christ is the Son of God,
"Q. How may we know when our faith is true and sincere ? A. Faith is true and sincere when it prevails with us seriously to en. deavour to obey all God's commandments, to fear above all things his threatenings, and to depend on him for the fulfilment of his promises.”—p. 6.
Here faith is coldly stated to be a mere intellectual operation, believing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, though totally unconnected with his righteousness. Let this writer be asked the meaning of the “ righteousness which is of faith," (Rom. ix. 30), and “ that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith." (Gal. iii. 14.)
This tract, like all its brothers, 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 a treatise as ever disgraced the Christian world. It concludes with a few jejune prayers; that for the evening supplicates the grace of “a willing and cheerful obedience” to the clergy,
The Husbandman's Manual, Directing himu 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.
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. lts famous Chapter IX., “ setting forth tithe,” is too well known now to need fur. ther notice. It is a chapter full of blasphe
my and robbery ; but the 13th Chapter,
have nothing to do with those that are given to change,” &c. &c.
T his 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 show 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.
These specimens of the tracts published by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge will abundantly show their merit. It is needless to multiply instances of their bad spirit; for, in ninety out of every hundred, false doctrine or intolerant bigotry will be seen to be the chief ingredients; and great is indeed our astonishment to see such vile publications patronized by the first names in the land.
R. M. CASTOREUS.
CORRESPONDENCE IN REFERENCE TO A LATE SECESSION FROM
THE NATIONAL CHURCH.
Hans Place, Chelsea, Nov. 5, 1832. . " their hand against every man, and every My Dear Sir,
man's hand against them.” You have Since I heard of your secession from left the church of England because of its the national church, I have been deeply errors, and you do well to take heed lest anxious to know what ecclesiastical course you fall into errors still more serious. I you intend pursuing in future. From what trust you will be preserved from the pride I have learnt of the state of your mind, and vanity of those who stand alone, and I am satisfied that you have acted upon seek to form a religious connexion of their conscientious, not factious, motives in the own; and I also venture to hope that you step you have taken. But will you par- will be able to associate yourself with don me, my dear Sir; if I endeavour to some of the great bodies of dissenters, who impress upon you the importance of now are pledged to the public for their views considering well what you ought to do? of Christian doctrine, and for the forms Allow me to remind you that most of the and modes of their worship. late secessions from the established church I will only add that, should it be your have been disastrous to the cause of sober, intention to cast in your lot among conenlightened, and scriptural piety, and that gregational dissenters, I must tell you that it behoves you to take warning from the they are a grave and deliberative body, examples before you. In doctrine, there and that you will only find yourself happy is much that is out of joint among the with them in proportion as your views of recent separatists; and in ecclesiastical doctrine and discipline are in harmony procedure, they seem to belong to the de- with the simple lights and dictates of the vomination of spiritual Ishmaelites New Testament. Most happy shall I be