Imatges de pÓgina

liceat, an deceat, an expediat, which savour more of worldly wisdom than of Christian obligation, are not so proper to be asked, as that plain simple question, proposed by our Saviour, "What saith the law? how readest thou?" The solution of this plain question puts the doubting Christian upon sure ground, by convincing him that times and circumstances are to be accommodated to imperious duty, not imperious duty to them. The consideration which you have recommended, appears therefore more applicable to your case than mine. The zeal which you have manifested on this occasion would, it is presumed, have lost nothing of its value, by being accompanied with discretion and charity. But in writing my book, I conceive myself to have been acting strictly within the line of professional duty. The charge delivered to Timothy virtually applies to every minister of the Christian Church" I charge thee, therefore, before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing, and his kingdom; preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an Evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.”* No qualifying clauses, calculated to make ministers

* 2 Tim. iv. 1, et seq.

of Christ time-servers and men-pleasers, rather than faithful fulfillers of their trust, are to be found in the foregoing passage. St. Paul's charge places the duty of the Christ's minister plainly and authoritatively before him; and that minister who shrinks from it, must have forgotten his Master's awful words "No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."*

Moreover, the ground upon which your doctrine of expediency is built, namely, the regard proper to be paid to times and circumstances, when generally applied, is in itself unsound. Times and circumstances may be such as to require a more strenuous exertion of duty for the preservation of truth, rather than any qualification of it in compliment to prevailing error: and such I conceive the present times and circumstances to be; when, in consequence of the generally prevailing ignorance in ecclesiastical matters, the constitution of the Church is disregarded, and its Divinely-established order trampled under foot; when schism is considered as no sin, and is even promoted by those who call themselves steady members of the Church; when the people are turning away from the regularlyappointed stewards of the Divine mysteries, and "after their own lusts, heaping to themselves teachers, having itching ears."+

"The temper of the age (you say) is by no means calculated to listen to an extreme of ecclesiastical partiality." The temper of the present age is by no means favourable to establishments of † 2 Tim. iv. 3.

*Luke ix. 62.

any kind. But this, Sir, is a temper to be lamented, not to be humoured. It is a temper which must be corrected by sound and wholesome doctrine, or this nation is undone. The honest physician adapts his prescription, not to the vitiated palate of the patient, but to the nature of his disease.

The comparison you have thought proper to make between Papal Rome, and the established Church of this country, appears totally foreign to the subject. The maintenance of the Divinelyestablished constitution of the Christian Church, and the endeavour to prevent an unlawful separation from it, are subjects which bear no more affinity to Popery, than do the regular Acts of the British Parliament to the despotic decrees of the French Directory. Sorry am I, therefore, that you should descend to give countenance to a senseless cry, calculated only ad captandum vulgus; and which has been so often brought forward in this kingdom, as a convenient substitute for sound argument and rational conviction.

You are much afraid, you say, that the doctrine contained in the Guide to the Church, "so far from tending to conciliate at this alarming crisis, is more likely to irritate and disgust." The doctrine of conciliation must always be welcome to a minister of the Gospel of Peace. At the same time it is to be remembered, that it is a doctrine not to be enforced at the expence of truth. "Amicus Plato, amicus Socrates; sed magis amica veritas." The Apostle has forewarned us, that the time should come, when Christians would not endure sound doctrine: but so far from forbidding ministers to

preach on that account, he charges them, in the person of Timothy, to make full proof of their ministry, by preaching it with more earnestness and long-suffering. The kingdom of Christ "is not of this world:" the less the concerns of this world are mixed up with it, the better. To sacri fice, therefore, the establishment of the Church to what may be deemed the security of the state, under the plausible idea of conciliation, would not be political wisdom but political weakness, and must eventually terminate in the destruction of both. My book was written for the express purpose of maintaining the constitution of that Church of which I am a minister, at a time when the love of many towards it is waxen cold. Your book, written by a person who calls himself a steady member of the same Church, under the idea, it shall be admitted, of promoting the cause of true religion, is calculated, if I understand it rightly, by setting Christians loose from the established order and government of that Church, to undermine and destroy it. Allow me, Sir, to call upon your cool judgment to determine, to which of these two cases your threefold consideration, "an liceat, an deceat, an expediat," does most properly apply?”

In page 167, speaking of the evangelical plan of Divine grace, you observe, that " it is by its secret, peculiar, and efficacious operations alone, that we can ever become the living members of the Church." We are both, it is presumed, perfectly agreed, that without the Spirit of God, no man can become a Christian; or, if you please, a living member of the Church." But there is not, I conceive, a more

[ocr errors]

dangerous delusion than to rely on the secret and peculiar operations of Divine grace, whilst we neglect to make use of the means appointed by Christ to convey it. Outward means of grace had never been instituted by an all-wise Being, who does nothing in vain, if the effect to be produced by their use, could in ordinary cases have been as well procured without them. There is no part of scripture which warrants this visionary idea. The grace of God, we are there taught to expect in the regular use of the appointed means, but not without them. Only those who looked on the brazen serpent were healed. Naaman had never been cleansed, had he not, in compliance with the Prophet's direction, washed seven times in Jordan. Baptism is called the door, because it is the way appointed by Christ for us to become members of the Church; our being living members of it depends upon our making a regular and due use of those means of grace, with which the ministry of that Church was appointed to furnish us. The descrip tion of the primitive Church is this: the members, having been introduced into it by baptism, tinued steadfastly in the Apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers," as the regular means of their becoming what the Gospel of Christ was designed to make them. This looking for secret and peculiar operations of Divine grace, independent of the use of the regular and appointed means, has, I fear, opened the door to more deception on the subject of true religion, than you, as a pious man, are well *Acts ii. 41, 42.


« AnteriorContinua »