« PrécédentContinuer »
painting to the life every other character, should totally fail in delineating those two characters which are the most excellent, and the most important of all to be known? shall we pronounce them unable to copy? or shall we say that their exhibitions are only copies, taken from other imperfect copies, and not from the great archetype ? It is evident that the writers had never scanned the book of God with an exploring eye, and that they had seldom seen those truths which are the life of the world, exhibited with that prominence which was necessary to arrest and fix their attention. But it would be utterly unjust to represent this great and awful defect, as peculiar to the Ministers of the Church of England. They may with justice say, that whatever defects were chargeable upon the discourses of her sons, the Liturgy of their venerable Mother presented to her worshippers the faithful picture of every Christian doctrine, grace, and virtue. The Church of Scotland has suffered the same declination from the meridian of sound doctrine; and the heat and life of devotion, as is always the case, have declined in exact proportion. The same dereliction of the great doctrines of the Reformation, has taken place among the Protestants on the Continent, and has been attended with the same unhappy effects on the state of practical religion. The Presbyterian Dissenters, soon after the accession of the Brunswick Family, slid gradually into the same vapid system of Divinity with the Church; and sunk eren deeper in the mire of Pelagianism and an Anti-evangelical creed. The resuscitation of scriptural doctrine, which has given new life and vigour to the Church, has hardly shaken the dry bones, that in this society lie scattered around the grave.
In the dreary regions of the frigid zone of Arianism and Socinianism, they have wandered, and they still continue to wander, where no sun gilds or warms the prospect, wild and waste. The Indepen. dents in general preserved uncontaminated the doctrines of the Reformation, though they so far sympathized with the general coldness and torpor in religion, that they displayed little of the animated tone of devotion. They had indeed a Dr. Watts, and a Dr. Doddridge, men who were burning as well as shining lights. The former observes, “ It must be acknowledged, indeed, to the honour of the present age, that we have some pretences above our predecessors, to freedom and justness of thought, to strength of reasoning, to clear ideas, and to the generous principles of Christian charity; and I wish we had the practice too: but as to the savour of piety, and inward religion, as to spiritual-mindedness, and zeal for God, and the good of souls; and as to the spirit and power of evangelical ministrations, we may all complain, the glory is much departed from our Israel."'*
The revival of Religion among the Independent and Baptist Dissenters was nearly simultaneous with the reviviscency of it in the Church. As in both it had languished, in both it began to recover its vigour nearly about the same time, and in both with a progressive energy it continues to grow. Thus these bodies, the Church and Dissenters, though in a state of mutual repulsion, continue to act upon each other with a sort of electrical power, which either benumbs or animates.It was, however, through the instrumentality of her own ministers, that the doctrines of the Reformation were rescued from the oblivion into which they had fallen.
The great truths of Christianity being brought into general notice, the appeal being made to the Scriptures, to the Articles, and to the Homilies of the Church, à trail of light burst upon the eyes of men. The sparks of this fire were first kindled in the Church, and were soon communicated to the Dissenters.
Of all the writers in the Church, subsequent to the Restoration, none laboured with more unwearied perseverance, to bring back the doctrines taught by the Ministers of the Church to its original purity, than Bishop Beveridge. In his Exposition of the Thirty Nine Articles, in his Thesaurus Theologicus, in his Sermons, &c. he exerted himself to restore Evangelical Religion to the more vigorous tone of better times; nor were his efforts altogether ineffectual. He resolutely stemmed the general current, and though he could not turn the tide, like a mighty rock, *he, unshaken, resisted its impetuosity; and, by breaking its force, assisted others in escaping from its overwhelming current. To no name in the history of the confessors who followed him, does the Church owe the respeciful tribute of gratitude, more than to the memory of Dr. Beveridge, for the possession of that healthful doctrine with which she is now blessed. In several respects he is entitled to the praise of more sobrie. ty, than some other good and pious men, wbile he possessed equal fervor; of more discrimination, with equal soundness in the faith ; of more learning, with equal simplicity; and of an equal zeal for the great doctrines of the Gospel, with a total exemption from their eccentricity. If, in later times, the success of others were more complete, yet to none of the competitors in the same honourable course, is the gratitude of the present age more justly due, than to that excellent man. It is not al
ways for the greatest champions, that the meed of triumph is reserved, The colossal mind of Mr. Pitt, laboured with all its powerful energies, to rescue Europe from the beak and talons of that foul and ravenous harpy, Buonaparte; and in this struggle he fell the martyr of his own exertions, of his country, and of civil society. To him that was denied, which Providence has granted to the persevering efforts of the wisdom and vigour of our present Ministry, great indeed, but certainly inferior to the resources of his wonderful genius. When the machine of government, or of religion, receives the impulse of that Almighty hand that gave to our globe its centripetal and centrifugal force, it flies to the goal with a velocity that mocks the best, but the unblest operations of man.
For the two Wesleys, John and Charles, and for Mr. Whitfield, (all of them Ministers of the Church when they began their career, and the first two continued in her communion to the end of their lives), Providence had laid up in store the happiness of successfully recalling many of the members of the Church to the important truths of Christianity, that had suffered an eclipse by the supposed improvements of modern divinity. Their discourses in. deed smelled less of the lamp, than the lucubrations of many of their superiors and equals in the Church, though all of them were men of respectable talents, and considerably imbued with literature. But bringing their stores of divinity fresh from the reservoir of the Scriptures, their sermons had a power and unction unknown to every system of philosophy. Appealing to the authentic documents of the Church, for the soundness of the doctrines they taught, as well as to the writings of the most eminent English Reformers, the closer the appeal was fol
making, by confessing his enthusiasm, and retracting his censures, with all the marks of a deep humility and sincere repentance. This circumstance is none of the least singular in that extraordinary character, and it should disarm the hand that is lifted up to wound bis memory, now that he is in a better world. Nor was this recantation made on his death-bed, but before the scene of his useful labours was closed, though after the effer. vescence of those passions, which mingled with the first ebullitions of his Christian zeal, had evaporated. The Evangelical Clergy generally allow, that with much that was excellent, there were considerable mixtures of heterogeneous qualities, in the public ministrations and systems of both; that the tumultuous passions were too much and too frequently roused ; and that the possession of grace was sometimes inferred, rather from the strength, than from the subjugation of turbulent feelings. They also highly blame the inconsistency of both, in claiming to be the members of a Church, the discipline of which, by their irregularity, they continued to violate.
Mr. Hervey, Mr. Walker of Truro, Mr. Adam, Mr. Grimshaw, Mr. Flechier, and Mr. Peronett, were all men of fervent piety and exemplary lives; all of them were possessed of talents above, rather than below, mediocrity; and some of them were distinguished by great talents highly cultivated. By the energy of their pulpit exertions, and some of them by their writings, they contributed greatly to the diffusion of genuine Christianity. A goodly number of other Divines arose in the Church, who slone with a steady and increasing light, all of whom it would be impossible to particularize.
Many of the Bishops of the Church have taken a deci. sive part in inculcating the doctrines of Evangelical Re