« VorigeDoorgaan »
vital, saving, sanctifying truth? Oh! who would covet even a faith that could remove mountains, rather than charity, without which it profiteth nothing?"
These sentiments are given avowedly as a reply" to my sermon: what, therefore, is the obvious, the only possible inference to be drawn, by such of your readers as have not seen that sermon? Clearly that I either wholly neglected to inculcate the graces of the Spirit, or mentioned them as of inferior importance to the miraculous gifts. Could they believe that the same sermon, in the same report of it from which you quote, contains these words?" It is true, that, though the gifts of the Spirit are useful, though they are excellent, though they are much to be desired; yet the man or the woman who exercises those gifts may nevertheless be still at enmity against God, and may perish. Though the Spirit of God were to work by me, so that by my word mountains were removed; yet if he work not in me, so as to remove malice and hatred from my soul, I am nothing. Though the Holy Ghost were to work by me, so as to do such wonders as the Lord Jesus Christ did; yet if he work not in me, so that there shall be in me the mind which was in Christ Jesus, I am nothing. Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, and have not LOVE, I am but sounding brass, and a tinkling cymbal." And again: "All gifts, when compared to this (love), are as nothing: they are excellent in themselves-(covet them earnestly, says the Apostle); but, in the comparison, that which was glorious has no glory, by reason of that which excelleth." And again; "Prophecy shall cease to be useful when all the prophecies are fulfilled: tongues shall cease when all the nations of the earth shall speak one tongue: knowledge such as we have now, at the best, shall vanish away, as moonlight at the approach of the rising sun: but love is the very ele ment of the warmest and brightest
ray of that meridian splendour. Yea, even faith and hope, which are now in the church along with love, shall cease: faith shall cease in the sight of the Lord Jesus, who is the great object of faith; hope shall cease in the enjoyment of the Lord Jesus, who is the great object of hope. Faith and hope both expire upon the threshold of the Lord's glorious kingdom: but love, freed from the trammels of sin, and the temptations of Satan, shall then live, and sing, and triumph throughout eternity: for God is our salvation, and God is love! O follow after love. Desire spiritual gifts indeed; but follow after love. I shew you a more excellent way."
I may not comment upon the spirit of your remarks, above quoted, in connexion with, and as a reply to, a sermon which contains these sentiments, because the only kind of comment which would be just towards you would be unbecoming in me; and I thank God for that grace of his Holy Spirit which now prevents me from allowing even such treatment to make me forget what is due to my own Christian dignity and sacred profession. In reply, however, to your proposal, "were it not wise to TURN from such questionable gifts to the solid, practical," &c. I ask, would it not have been wise in St. Paul not to have written concerning such questionable gifts, but to have confined himself to the solid, practical, &c.? Has the Apostle expended so large a portion of his Epistle upon what it is wise in us to turn from? Or, to ask an inferior, yet still important question, has the Bible Society unwisely wasted so large a proportion of its funds, in printing and circulating hundreds of thousands of copies of certain chapters concerning questionable gifts, which it is wise in us to TURN FROM?
5. You know how "The Preacher," and similar publications, are supplied by itinerant Sabbath-breaking shorthand writers; and it would have been no more than courteous in you to have asked me, by a private letter, whether the report of my sermon,
given in the Preacher, were a correct one, before you proceeded to print quotations from it, and criticise thereupon. In some points the report in question is very incorrect, and no marvel: for if men attend the house of God to catch man's words and make a gain of them, instead of seeking to find and feel God himself in the ordinances of his church, it cannot be a matter of surprise (to those at least who know that the Lord our God is a jealous God, and who mark the Saviour's zeal in cleansing his temple from the pollution of the money changers) that such men should be given up judically to the sin of bearing false witness against their neighbours. That a respect able Christian Journalist should act without inquiry upon the random reports of such men, and so encourage, while he propagates, their misrepresentations, is deeply to be deplored. While such things are done, it is in vain to write and talk in commendation of brotherly love. I am, sir, your obedient servant, HUGH MCNEILE.
We shall add some explanatory remarks to Mr. McNeile's letter, not to increase, but, if possible, to allay irritation; for we see not why Christians should "bite and devour one another" because they do not concur in opinion upon a question of prophecy or miracles. For this reason we pass over certain innuendoes such as that in the very first line," the use which you have deemed it proper and Christian to make of my name," &c.; implying that it was highly improper and unchristian; a point which the writer had perhaps better have contented himself with proving, than begun with assuming. We should not think it right to say to our correspondent, "after the letter you have thought it proper and Christian to write;" because we are sure he did think it proper and Christian, and we are thankful to him for his candour and explicitness of statement: and why will he not
give us equal credit for our motives, however much he may think we failed in judgment? Christians should avoid innuendoes, which mean more than meets the ear, and convey what cannot be replied to because it is not directly stated. We can assure Mr. McNeile that we never " deemed it proper or Christian" to write in the manner implied in his innuendo. We deem it so highly improper and unchristian, that, if we thought we had done so, we should not only wish to abase ourselves before God, but also publicly to beg pardon of an offended brother. But, being confident that our sole wish, throughout the whole discussion on modern miracles, has been to vindicate what we considered truth, and this with as little offence as possible to those who differ from us, we cannot plead guilty to the charge.
At the same time, if any thing we have written has caused Mr. McNeile, or any other friend (if he will allow us so to call him), unnecessary pain, we are not only willing, but anxious, that it should be either obliterated, or construed in the most tender manner that truth will warrant.
Weshall now take our correspondent's paragraphs in their order, as numbered in his letter.
1. First, then, he says that the case of Miss Fancourt has no connexion with the subject of his letter. If he means only that he does not intend to touch upon that case, he is, of course, at liberty to select or pass over what topics he sees right; but if he means that Miss Fancourt's case has no bearing upon the general question of modern miracles, we ask, in reply, who connected them? who said that this case was an instance and proof of the revival, or rather the non-cessation, of miraculous gifts? Was it the Christian Observer? or was it not the assertors of the doctrine for which Mr. McNeile pleads? We earnestly wished to divide the two questions: we have remarked over and over again, that, if we believed ever so firmly that modern miracles are a part of that
economy of grace under which we now live, we should still equally maintain that Miss Fancourt's case was not miraculous; and for this very separation of the two questions we have been vituperated in magazines and pamphlets, in parlours and epistles, as wilfully falsifying the truth, and refusing to open our eyes to a plain fact which would have shewn the fallacy of our opinion. When we said, in commencing the discussion (see our November Number), that the parties who urged the facts judiciously abstained from connecting with them any point of doctrine; was not this made one of the charges urged in the very first tractate published against us? Were we not told that we knew, but wished to suppress, the fact that the friends of Miss F. did connect her case with the general doctrine? Was not this very point alluded to in the prefatory remarks to the republication of the "Documents and Correspondence from the Christian Observer?" where it is stated, that the favourers of the new opinion complain that " the members of the Church of England denied the truth of this doctrine while it appeared to them uncorroborated by recent facts: they even disputed the truth of facts themselves, while they occurred only north of the Tweed: but now God has been pleased to confound their gainsayings, and to strengthen the faith of his servants, by a fact palpable, notorious, at their own doors, within the pale of their own church, and in the very centre of metropolitan scepticism: and this not, as it were, casually, but so ordered as to have occurred to a member of a congregation where the very Sunday be fore the doctrine had been proclaimed; where the people had been told that what are called the extraordinary influences of the Holy Spirit have never ceased, any more than the ordinary ; that it was their privilege to seek the one as much as the other; that speaking in unknown tongues, and the miraculous healing of the sick, are as much a part of the pre
sent dispensation now as in the primitive age; where, in consequence, many were stirred up to the belief of this long-neglected truth; and where the individual chosen by God as the recipient of the miraculous gift was the daughter of one of the officiating clergymen at the chapel, who had actually disputed with his reverend friend and others the soundness of this doctrine, till compelled, by its application in his own household, to acknowledge it to be conformable to the word and the providence of God."
Now, is not our correspondent aware that such is the tenor of the language commonly held by the abettors of the doctrine in question, who, so far from thinking that "the case of Miss Fancourt has no connexion with the subject of his letter," have made it a ground of charge against us that we have separated them? Even Mr. Boys, who has not yet made up his mind to endorse the Scotch miracles, avows that Miss Fancourt's case is a proof in point; and we have scores of letters maintaining the same position. Nay, will Mr. McNeile himself affirm that he does not believe that there is such connexion, and that Miss Fancourt's cure is an instance of the continuance of miraculous power in the church? If he will, most glad shall we be, for the sake of truth, to give publicity to his disclaimer. Indeed, we would seriously hope that the facts which have been proved in our pages cannot but have convinced every calmly reflecting person that, whether miracles are continued or not, those who urged the Hoxton case as miraculous were too hasty in their conclusions. Mr. McNeile vouches for the general doctrine, but declines offering any opinion upon the case of Miss Fancourt; Mr. Boys vouches both for the doctrine and the case of Miss Fancourt, but not for the Scotch miracles; Mr. Erskine, Mr. Irving, and the Morning Watch, more consistently, vouch for all, and, added to them, for an abundance of strange notions, which
neither Mr. Boys nor, as we conceive, Mr. McNeile can approve of. Thus then stands the matter: some admit the Church of England miracle, but not the Presbyterian; others admit both, but not those of the Church of Rome; others again admit the possible truth of all, so far at least as to say with H. S. C. H., that “it would be going too far to affirm that the faith of a truly pious Roman Catholic could not be thus recompensed." We, however, assure Mr. McNeile that we earnestly wish that the connexion which he disclaims had never been made; and, moreover, that if it had not we should scarcely have thought it necessary that the question should be discussed at such length in our pages. Proposed only as an abstract inquiry, whether miraculous gifts are still continued in the church, the speculation was less exciting, and comparatively harmless; but when fanaticism became embodied in act, when practical Hohenlohism was introduced among us, when men and women were pretending to be miraculously inspired by the Holy Ghost to chatter gib berish, and have even attempted to raise the dead, the subject became too serious to be lightly dismissed. Mr. McNeile may personally throw off one part of the question, and Mr. Boys another; the Jewish Expositor may not be so omnivorous as the Morning Watch; but in public feeling, and we think in practical sequence, the whole question hangs together. How can we be certain that there is no connexion between Miss Fancourt's cure and Mr. McNeile's sermon preached at the Jews' chapel on the very Sunday before? or how separate Mr. G.'s conduct and doctrine from the recent proceedings in Scotland? Will our correspondent say that even he himself was not led to devote his attention to the subject by what was passing in Scotland, or by the speculations of writers congenial with the Morning Watch? If Mr. Irving, Mr. Erskine, or Mr. Campbell of Row, had never promulged this doctrine of
modern miracles, and if Miss Mary Campbell and the Macdonalds had not been held forth as proofs of its truth, the experiment, we think, had not reached Hoxton, unless it had come direct from the school of Hohenlohe. While, then, we do not wish to make Mr. McNeile, Mr. Boys, or any other individual, accountable for more than what he himself avouches, we are quite sure that in point of fact the whole matter, as it has begun, will proceed, and at length fall, together.
2. As our object in these remarks is explanation, and not a general discussion of the question at issue, we need say little under the second paragraph; since Mr. McNeile admits that our statement respecting his views was "substantially correct." He proceeds, with much. fairness and candour, to mention some of the reasons on which he grounds his opinion, and we leave his arguments for the consideration of our readers. Some of these were anticipated in the quotation which we gave last month from a work en. titled
"Modern Fanaticism Unveiled;" and the whole of them, as well as all that has been offered on the subject elsewhere, may be set at rest by the simple position, that miracles, under the New-Testament dispensation, ceased with the special occasion for which they were afforded: they were adapted to peculiar circumstances, to the first founding and promulgation of Christianity, and were never promised or required to extend beyond it. We see ample reason why the gift of tongues should have been bestowed at the day of Pentecost; when there were dwelling at Jerusalem, Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven ;" and when, by means of this miraculous manifestation, Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and persons of the other nations there mentioned, heard in their own tongues the wonderful works of God. The result was, that "all were amazed" and though some "mocked," yet, by the especial blessing of God on the
ministry of St. Peter on the occasion, there were added to the church three thousand souls. But what assignable good can arise from the jargon of the Macdonalds at PortGlasgow? Has any Chinese or Calmuck, any Indian or Greenlander, even any Celt or Gael, heard in his own tongue the wonderful works of God? So far from it, the most learned linguists cannot recognise these miraculous tongues; so that even Mr. Erskine is obliged to shelter himself in the astounding remark, that "though no proof were ever made out that such languages are spoken, I should not feel myself in the least degree disturbed by it." This is certainly one way of answering objectors; but if St. Peter had not been able to give a better answer to those that "mocked" on the day of Pentecost, it would not have been easy to silence their mockery. If the people, instead of hearing each in his own tongue the wonderful works of God, had discovered that the Apostles were talking mere gibberish, and passing it off for a miraculous gift of tongues, they would not have acted unreasonably in doubting their inspiration; though in such a case they had far better have wept over such a scene than have "mocked," or accused them of drunkenness. But the two cases are wholly, utterly, inseparably diverse: we will not, we dare not, for a moment compare them; and we therefore adduce the example only to shew that there were special reasons why miracles were afforded in the early church, which now are not bestowed, because not needed. If they should be required again, they will without doubt be again vouchsafed. It is not for us to argue what God may or may not do; but it is a plain palpable fact, that miracles. have long ceased, and that "lying wonders" have for many centuries usurped their place; and it is the prediction of Holy Writ that such lying wonders shall accompany the deeds of the beast and the false prophet. The chief difficulty in
reasoning against the notion that miracles continue, is, that it is too palpably unreasonable to reason with. It is not enough to say there were miraculous gifts of old; for there were many things of old which are not now. Mr. McNeile cannot tell us exactly when sorcery and witchcraft ceased, or even give us any text to prove that they do not exist at this moment : yet he surely would not have us believe that there are really sorcerers and witches now in existence, and in consequence revive the barbarous statutes and cruel massacres of the days of the Tudors and Stuarts. And so in many other instances; though we must do Mr. Boys the justice to say that he is so far consistent as to confess his belief in modern possession and exorcism; and we see not how, upon his own principles, either he or Mr. McNeile can deny the modern agency of witches and sor
3. Our correspondent's next complaint is, that we have spoken of him as giving himself out for a prophet sent of God with a special denunciation against the people of England. As he repels the charge, it is far more grateful to us to hope we were mistaken, than to search over his writings for materials to support it. We cannot consent to so ungracious a task as endeavouring to rake out what, if found, were better forgotten; and as every writer must best know his own sentiments, we feel bound to take his words in his own signification, and not as they might have struck our own minds. If, therefore, we have unjustly censured Mr. McNeile, we are quite willing to acknowledge and repent of our evil deed. But, in truth, the statement complained of was but an abridgment of the following passage in our volume for 1829, p. 719; which we quote, not to plunge more deeply into the subject, but only to shew our correspondent, that if we used strong language, it was only in describing strong language of his own.