« VorigeDoorgaan »
the "Strictures" referred to, a passage on Mr. G.'s objection to Sacraments, which appears to us to involve the very marrow of the controversy, and which we cannot quote without earnestly recommending the entire pamphlet as one which for its Christian spirit and great ability, far exceeds any we have met with on this important subject.
"In combating the doctrine of the sacraments" (writes Mr. Bliss) "Mr. G. remarks, that, as they constitute a part of the system of worship of those among whom they are administered, 'the objection of Friends to their use will be perceived to have its foundation in a principle of acknowledged importance, and one which is clearly revealed in the New Testament; that under the Christian dispensation the worship of God is not to be formal, ceremonial, or typical, but simply spiritual.' (p. 53.) This principle, we are told, was declared in a clear and forcible manner by Jesus Christ himself-" Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father-the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit; and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." John iv. 21, 24. (p. 55.)
"That this passage intimates the introduction of a spiritual worship, and that Christianity, as opposed to the old dispensation, transcendently displays this character, I readily admit. But does it thence follow that all external expression of the inward feelings of devotion is incompatible with this spiritual character? Were Christians to pray only in spirit ?—to meet together' only in spirit? to confess their Lord only in spirit ?-to' deny themselves,'' keep the commandments' of their divine Master, and observe all things whatsoever he had commanded them,' only in spirit?-to' hold fast the form of sound words,' 'keep the ordinances delivered' by the apostles, and do all things decently and in order,' only in spirit? Are all such things to be done only in a spiritual manner? Do not all the acts of our religion, even the most private, naturally and necessarily require time, place, and manner? And do not all those which are open-whatever the church of Christ does in its corporate capacity, and whatever individuals do as members of such a society-imply public, observable, and of course, corporeal forms? The Friends themselves practically give the answer. How do they subsist as a Christian association? They have their times, their places, and even their modes, for what they account religious acts and services. They meet together in the body; they pray and preach with the tongue; they suspend their worship by a signal from an elder; they have their
established forms for admission into the society, and for the maintenance of communion with it. It appears then, that though the principle' inculcated by our Lord in his conversation with the Samaritan woman is of acknowledged importance,' our author's application of it to two such easy and significant rites as Baptism and the Lord's Supper is altogether gratuitous. I think we may safely appeal to the common sense of mankind, and ask, where is the individual who, except under the influence of a warm imagination, or from the bias of early education, would have fixed on the text insisted upon by Mr. G. as prohibiting these ordinances as now used in Protestant churches.
"I would submit to our author's consideration, whether he has not here fallen into an error very similar to that which, I conceive, attaches to the modern advocates of Socinianism. The abettors of this system fasten on some important and acknowledged truth of scripture, which they consider to be most favourable to their preconceived ideas. They dwell, for instance, on the admitted and glorious truth of the benevolence of the divine character, and taking upon themselves to determine, upon what they deem rational grounds, how this attribute must regulate and control the operations of Deity in a given order of circumstances, they venture to torture every statement of scripture which militates against their views, till by an unnatural process they have shaped and adapted it to their scheme of doctrine. Thus they explain away the scripture account of the consequences of Adam's transgression upon his posterity. Thus they disclaim the view maintained by the general church of the nature and mission of the Son of God, &c. They appeal to scripture, but in its literal and grammatical sense they refuse the subjection of their understanding to its authority. Upon precisely the same principle, though with a different application, our author seems to have proceeded in the question before us. He fixes on a general and unquestionable truth, viz. that a distinguishing feature of the new dispensation, when compared with the old, was declared by the Saviour to be its transcendent spirituality; and that Christian worship must therefore widely differ from that of the Jews, which was in a great measure embodied in outward forms. But Mr. G. is not content to stop here. From the force of early education and long-formed habits, he has persuaded himself that the use of emblematical actions, however simple and significant, is altogether inconsistent with the spiritual character of the gospel dispensation; and hence he accommodates the supposed import of our Lord's declaration to his own preconceived system, He appeals to scripture; but though his interpretation of the single passage, from which he professes to derive the view he
maintains, is opposed and contradicted by definite and express assertions, and by the sanction of our Saviour, and the practice of his apostles, yet, from the power of prepossession, he adheres to his own conclusion, because the new dispensation is represented as distinguished for its spirituality. Here seems to be our author's error; and I would submit to his serious consideration, whether, unconsciously, it is not the effect of an understanding unsubjected to the divine authority. I doubt not Mr. G. and all serious Friends would coincide with me in saying to the advocates of Socinianism,-In matters of pure revelation, the first thing we have to do, is to inquire, not what we can discover most accordant with our preconceived ideas, but what God has discovered and declared in scripture and thus, if they would be consistent, they must also coincide in saying,-In the interpretation of scripture, the first thing we have to do, is to inquire, not what is compatible or incompatible, according to our views, or our sense of an isolated text, with the spirituality of the New Dispensation, but what is agreeable to the analogy of revelation, to the consistency of sense in the several parts of Scripture, and, if the case admit, to the practice or sanction of our Lord and his Apostles. In short, the appeal must be made to the Scriptures to the Scriptures as a whole, faithfully comparing Scripture with Scripture and to each part with due attention to the occasion, coherence, and connexion; providing that no portion be so interpreted as to clash with any other, but that what may seem to be obscure may be brought into a consistency with what is plain and evident. But has not our author overlooked this mode of proceeding, when he makes the solitary passage of St. John's Gospel quoted above, the basis of his views as to the observance of the Sacraments in the Christian Church? Is it not a gratuitous assertion to say, that our Lord in this passage would prohibit the use of all typical rites? Is it not an assumption instead of a proof, when such a text is adduced as establishing the incompatibility of such rites with the spirituality of Christian worship? Our Lord tells the Samaritan woman, that under the Gospel dispensation, God would not be worshipped as the Samaritans worshipped him, without any rule or prescript of his word; nor yet as the hypocritical Jews worshipped him, who rested upon their sacrifices, and ritual performances, as if they would purge away their sins; no, nor yet as the more sincere Jews worshipped him, who indeed did truly and with their heart worship God, but by gifts and sacrifices that could not make him that did the service perfect as pertaining to the conscience; but that now the time of reformation was come, and God was going to introduce such a pure and spiritual
dispensation, as would remove all manner of distinction as to the place in which he would be worshipped, and supersede the ceremonies practised here or there; so that, in gospel times, the true and acceptable worshippers should worship the Father in spirit and in truth; not laying the stress upon the place where they worshipped him, but with what mind they worshipped him; nor should they worship him in the ceremonial observances of the Mosaic Institution, but in spiritual ordinances consisting less in bodily exercises, and animated and invigorated more with a divine power and energy. Such appears to be the plain meaning of our Lord's declaration; and I would again ask-is it not a postulate which no unbiased mind can grant, that such a text, without reference to other parts of Scripture, should be considered as involving the exclusion of the Sacraments from Christian worship? And yet this is the alleged prohibition, and let it be remarked, this is the only express prohibition even alleged, from the whole compass of the sacred volume, to unsettle the practice of the General Church after eighteen centuries, and to convince the Christian world that Sacramental observances have been the fruit of spiritual blindness and ignorance!" On one point we entirely agree with our valued friend Mr. Gurney, nor can we better conclude this hasty notice than by calling attention to the fact which he thus states
"That there is to be observed a most extraordinary revulsion, in the present day, towards the papal system, is notorious. Many are they, in various countries, and in different classes of society, who have actually given in their adherence to Rome spiritual: and many more are they, in our own land, and even in America, who, while they profess to have no connexion with her, have openly adopted most of her tenets and principles, and seem more than half disposed to find a resting-place in her bosom. Let her once more become the dominant Church in Great Britain and Ireland-let the sword of the magistrate be once more fairly under her command-and who shall say that the blood of those who bear a consistent testimony against her superstition and idolatry, will not flow as freely and copiously as in days of old? The same principles, in possession of the same power, may in all probability be productive of the same effects."-(p 25.)
Mr. G. "on this and other grounds considers the progress of Popery to be highly alarming." We wish he had not added
"The Roman Catholic Church holds many of the essential doctrines of the Christian religion, and holds them with a firm hand:" or, "Again, when I speak of that Church in her character of mistress of the beast of ten horns, which wounds and slays the followers of Christ, I do not forget, and have no wish to conceal, that so far as this is the peculiar characteristic of Antichrist, it is far from being confined to the Romish hierarchy.”
It has been well observed by Robert Hall, that "when a baleful superstition like that of the Roman Church, once takes root among a people, it is next to impossible to eradicate it: for it can only be assailed by the weapon of argument, and to them it is impassive,' We fear Mr. G.'s weapons are not the most likely to pierce the scaly hide of this great leviathan.
A CHARGE delivered at the Visitation of the Archdeaconry of Chichester, July, 1845. By HENRY E. MANNING, M. A. Archdeacon. London: Murray. 1845.
THE CHRISTIAN WITNESS. November, 1845. London: Snow. 1845.
A LARGE addition to the important facts which we laid before our readers in our last number, on the state of the church of Christ, induces us to return to the subject. The Christian Witness, a Magazine published "under the sanction of the Congregational Union of England and Wales," presents, in its last number, a deeply affecting and mournful picture of the state of religion among that denomination; and as we feel convinced that it is most desirable for Christian ministers, in one part of the vineyard, to know what is passing in other parts, we shall offer no apology for furnishing a pretty large abstract of this information.
The Magazine opens with a paper entitled, Spiritual Leanness lamented." Two or three striking passages we shall give entire
"Spiritual leanness in the church is the heaviest calamity that can befal the world.-By these terms we mean the general population of what is called a Christian country as well as those of Heathen lands. Among these, to a fearful extent, it will be found that now the work of conversion is suspended, and that the Ruler of the darkness of this world has recovered the ground he had lost. Families remain unconverted; congregations cease to be absorbed into the church, and hence the church itself, unless repentance bring revival, pines till it expire. Some fall away into gross sin from which they never recover; others remain entrenched in dead forms till the grave swallow them up. Thus they drop away one after another, till all that remains of the body is the skeleton. This is all that survives of the once healthful, powerful, living temple of God! Thus the curse spreads; the calamity is extended. The first plague-spot appears upon the church; the second upon the congregation, both of which die off. The fire of Divine love once extinguished in the heart of the church, the link of sympathy which binds the congregation to it, will speedily snap in sunder, and like snow in spring it will melt away. Pining leanness in the church is invariably the counterpart of hardened impenitence in the congregation. What the church has failed to effect, the world will soon accomplish. Like a devouring flame amidst dried stubble, it will absorb and consume them. How fearfully all this has been exemplified in our own land! Where now is the Presbyterian host, ministers and people, who once adorned and blessed the English nation? They are gone! And nothing survives but empty edifices, munificent endowments, and 'treacherous dealers,' who like cormorants devour them!
"But the aspect which such a state of things bears to the Heathen world is not less awful than that which it presents to our home population. The life of Missions is just the life of piety. It will go well with other lands in proportion as it goes well with our own. Whatever tends to invigorate home religion makes for the advancement of missionary labour. Any sensible and permanent decay of the churches in Britain would be attended with disastrous