Images de page

'they might be one,' and that in the pure age of the Apostles 'the multitude of them that believed were of one heart, and of one soul,' they (the Methodist preachers) seduce you to forsake the Church of England, which is settled upon the Gospel principles, by some of the wisest men and best Christians that this country ever produced." p. 4.

The Methodist (or rather the professed Dissenter, for his Lordship seems utterly ignorant of the sentiments of the Methodists) will answer, that the Bishop again takes for granted the very point in question-namely, that the Church of England is thus "settled upon the Gospel principles." Prove this, he would say, to my satisfaction, and you need give yourself no further trouble; but it will not do to set out upon this assumption. Next comes the following argument:

[ocr errors]

(Even) "if your preachers are qualified to teach others, (still) they ought to know that those who attempted to invade the office of the priesthood of Aaron were punished with death, and that under the Gospel, whoever entereth not by the door into the sheep-fold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber,' whom the sheep cannot follow with any just confidence." pp. 4, 5.

The Methodist would reply, that the whole is still assumption: he does not admit that his preacher is a thief and a robber; he believes him to be duly qualified and rightly called ; and he views it as something worse than a bad argument, to remind him that those who attempted to invade the office of the priesthood of Aaron were punished with death, till it is proved to his satisfaction that the cases are parallel, and that toleration is a crime in England because the Israelitish government was a Theocracy. If the Christian Knowledge Society seriously expects either to convince or to terrify the Methodists by such assertions as the above, we fear the hope will be sadly frustrated.

A few lines after we read:

"None who depart from the rules laid down by Christ and his Apostles, and who violate the appointments of the Church, to which the promise of Christ's presence till the end of the world must be confined, have a right to expect the direction of his Spirit ; neither can they be considered as empowered to preach the word, or to remit sins, since they are not commissioned by any authority which is acknowledged, or recommended by any manifestation of a Divine appointment. Your preachers enter on an office of great excellency and difficulty, without sufficient, and often without any, preparation, without having been examined, or having produced any testimonies of their character." pp. 5, 6.

Here the Methodist will still complain that his opponent takes for granted just what he ought to prove. The Methodist will agree with the Churchman in his statements, that "none who depart from the rules," &c.; but he denies that he is in the one category, or his opponent in the other; and therefore, in his estimation, the conclusion applies not to the case. And as to the assertion, that the Methodist preachers enter upon their office—and this not in one instance, but as a universal propositionwithout examination, or testimonials of character, he will perhaps feel it difficult to maintain Christian charity, either towards his Lordship or the Society, upon reading so notoriously unfounded a statement. In nothing are the Methodists more remarkable than in the strictness of their discipline. No body of Christians require more frequent and vigilant examinations and testimonials as to character and conduct-they have classes, leaders, and we know not what-and their preachers in particular undergo a system of strict scrutiny for months, or years, through the gradations of that complicated machinery which Mr. Wesley invented with an express view to revision and controul, both among his preachers and the private members of the society. It is quite clear that the Bishop knows nothing of the discipline of the Methodists, upon which he animadverts; and we shall presently see that he knows as little of their doctrines.

It appears to us that some of his Lordship's arguments would recoil upon his own church. For example:

"Methodist. But preachers may have an especial call from God.

"Churchman. If they had an especial call from God, they would give proofs of their mission by 'signs and wonders, and mighty deeds,' as did Christ and the Apostles." p. 6.

Now we do not believe that any intelligent Methodists or Dissenters hold the call of their preachers to be especial, in any sense materially distinct or above that recognised in the Ordination Services of the Church of England. The followers of Mr. Irving believe in direct special manifestations, by which certain individuals have been by name recently instituted in London, at Albury, and elsewhere, apostles, angels, evangelists, presbyters, deacons, and so forth; but neither the Methodists nor the Dissenters have abetted these follies. But to deny that the minister of Christ has "an especial call from God," is to set aside the very spirit and letter of the Christian dispensation. The whole of the Ordination Services which his Lordship is called upon to administer, proceed upon this express principle, and even recognise it in a degree which has excited much apprehension in the minds of many pious candidates for Holy Orders, as to their being duly qualified to respond to the tests required by the Church: Do you trust that you are inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost to take upon you this office and ministration?” any language be stronger than this; any thing more special? Would any Methodist desire language stronger, or more special? Again: "Mercifully behold these thy servants, now called to the office of the priesthood;" "Thou hast vouchsafed to call these thy servants to the same office and ministry," and so on, throughout the services. Might not a Socinian, ridiculing all this, quote the Bishop of Bristol's words, and say of the ministers ordained by his Lordship, as his Lordship says of the Methodist preachers, "If they had an especial call from God [in other words, were inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost], they would give proofs of their mission by signs and wonders and mighty deeds, as did Christ and his Apostles?"

[ocr errors]


His Lordship proceeds to compare the prayers of the Methodist preachers with the Liturgy of the Church of England:

“Churchman......It is the fault of individuals, if, instead of attending to their own prayers, they are employed in watching the conduct of others; and are not as fully engaged by the great and comprehensive objects of our Liturgy, by its diversified forms of exhortation, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication for the whole race of mankind, as by the wild and irregular flights of heated men; which hurry on their hearers to the expression of sentiments that they have no time to canvass and examine; which are often little calculated for addresses to the Supreme Being, and certainly are never so adapted to his attributes, or so concerted to produce amendment and virtuous affections, as the admirable prayers used in our Service.

"Methodist. But we join together in hymns and songs of praise, so as to gladden the heart.

"Church. There would be no harm, but, on the contrary, much reasonable and pious service, if all of the congregation who are able, would unite in singing psalms with a well-regulated decency in the church; and I believe that there are very few pastors of our church who are not willing to give all encouragement and commendation to the discreet exertions of those who are desirous of promoting a conjunction and harmony in the singing of praise to God." pp. 7, 8.

Our readers will as little suspect us of undervaluing the Liturgy as of defending the Methodists, because, in shewing the unfitness of this tract for its purpose, we are constrained to shew the inconclusiveness of its arguments. In the above passage the Bishop considers the Methodist prayers as "wild and irregular flights of heated men;" which, the Methodist will say, is another mere gratuitous assumption; and as we have not frequented Methodist meetings, we shall not profess to arbitrate between the parties. But it strikes us that his Lordship gives a very cold and insufficient description of our own prayers. They are " concerted,"

547 he says, "to produce amendment and virtuous affections." And even of the joyful congregational singing of psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, which, the Methodist justly says, "gladdens the heart;" his Lordship only frigidly allows, that there is in it "much reasonable and pious service," provided it be done with "a well-regulated decency," and with "discreet exertions." If a large body of our clergy and laity did not rise far beyond this gelid decency, and admit the heart and the affectionswe had almost said the passions-yes, the very passions, renewed and sanctified, and elevated by the love of Christ-into the service of God, the Church of England would soon become an ice-berg in a tempest, and be shattered to atoms before it would melt. Could two terms more tame, more inadequate, and less evangelical, be found, than amendment and virtuous affections," to describe what ought, by the blessing of God, to be the effect of the fervid, the impassioned Liturgy of the Church of England? Heated men" are not likely to give up their "wild and irregular flights," for the Christian Knowledge Society's cool and philosophical musings upon "virtuous affections."

[ocr errors]

The tract proceeds :

"Churchman. Zeal, my friend, is of no service, or rather it is productive of much injury, unless it be zeal according to knowledge,' which, I take it, that of your teachers is not, since it arises not in just reflections, and is not controlled in agreement with reason and truth. But does not your pastor shew zeal? Is he not punctual and warm in his devotions; earnest in his attendance and exhortations to the sick; anxious at all times to instruct you in what is beneficial; always striving to promote your present happiness as well as your future welfare; willing to intercede with your superiors to shew you any kindness; charitable to the poor; and friendly, indulgent, and hospitable to all?

"Methodist. Why, yes to be sure, I cannot deny all this; but then he is paid for it." p. 8.

All this, again, the Methodist will say, is assumption, not argument. The Bishop assumes that the Methodist preacher's zeal is of a very bad quality; that it does not arise in "just reflections," and so forth; but that the parochial Clergyman's zeal is both very warm and admirably regulated. This, the Methodist will say, is no argument; and, as in the fable of the Man and the Lion, if they exchanged pencils the picture would be very different; whether fairer, is another question. It is, however, an historical fact, that the zeal of the Clergy, when Methodism was founded, however it might abound in "just reflections," was not always as ardent as described in the above extract; for had it been, Methodism would have perished in the cradle, not by violence, but by the gentler death of inanition.

We may add, in allusion to the last remark in the extract, that the Methodists do not, like the Society of Friends, object to those that serve at the altar living by the altar. A Methodist would not have given such an absurd answer as, "" Yes, to be sure, I cannot deny all this; but then he is paid for it." Why, his own minister is paid too. He would object to inordinately large or forced emoluments; but he would not consider it as any disparagement to his minister that he received a stipend for his support. A controversialist ought not to put words into the lips of his opponent which he would not himself have used, and which are contrary to his sentiments.

The disputants next discuss the subject of tithes; and though we believe tithes to be quite defensible (notwithstanding for peace sake we are anxious for their commutation), we should be sorry to put into the hands of an objector the following defence of them.

"Church. If you do not like tithes, you should give good reasons for not liking them. You should recollect that God himself, in the instance of the Jewish nation, appointed that all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed, or of the fruit of the tree, or of

[ocr errors]

the herd, or of the flock, should be holy unto the Lord: that all nations, from the earliest ages, have acknowledged the propriety of devoting some part of their possessions to the service of God: and that our blessed Lord approved the mode which had been established among the Jews." p. 9.

It is true that the Jews paid tithes by an express Divine command; but will any man say that this command applies to England? or does any clergyman ask his tithes upon that footing? It is enough that it is the law of the land, and that tithe is as just a claim as any other species of property. As for the example of Heathen nations offering gifts to idols, it would not go far, either with a Christian or an unchristian farmer. A bad argument prejudices a good cause; and we therefore lament that the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge defends tithes upon this untenable ground. The following addition to the argument, coming from a Clergyman and a Prelate, appears to us very likely to be misunderstood or misconstrued by the ignorant reader. A clergyman should be very delicate in telling his farmers that God will so bless them, if they duly pay their tithes, that they will have more corn after the deduction than if they had not been subject to the payment.

"So far from depriving you of the fruits of God's blessing, there is good ground to believe that the cheerful payment of a claim, sanctioned by such great considerations, may draw down the Divine favour to multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness.' It was a proverbial precept among the Jews, to pay tithes and grow rich.'" p. 9.

His Lordship says, "No one has yet been able to propose any plan of supporting an Establishment which is not liable to more objections than tithes are." We can only say upon this statement, that this is matter of opinion; and though his Lordship makes it a matter of positive assertion, few persons would concur with his Lordship and the Society in this conclusion at all events, however important it may be as a matter of church reform or political economy, it was not necessary to the purposes of a tract for promoting Christian Knowledge; in which especial care ought to have been taken, that, while the Churchman was professing to advocate the interests of Religion and of the Church of England, he should not be exposed to the retort of thinking chiefly of Tithes and Easter Offerings. We do not mean that these just and reasonable claims ought to be relinquished, or that they may not be abundantly advocated in proper time and place; but we would not make them prominent in a tract like this, which ought to be directed to the spiritual instruction of the Methodist, rather than to an assertion of the temporal claims of the Clergy. If we can make the Methodist a good Churchman on other and higher grounds, we have no fear respecting the payment of ecclesiastical dues.

The Bishop next proceeds to defend the preaching of the clergy :— "If their discourses are perhaps sometimes composed in a manner more suited to the understandings of the improved part of the congregation, than to the ignorant and unlearned, who have need that one teach them which be the first principles of the oracles of God;' yet, if you will incline your ears with serious attention, and exert your impartial judgment, you will comprehend at least the chief part and drift of their sermons, and find that they teach excellent doctrine; that, indeed, which Christ and his Apostles taught, and which, if you do not like, only proves that you have ⚫itching ears, and will not endure sound doctrine.' It is moreover very presumptuous in you to sit in judgment on your teachers, and to pronounce them to be unfaithful 'stewards of the mysteries of God,' who having been tried, called, and examined, are known to have qualities requisite for their office, and to be meet for their learning and godly conversation."" pp. 10, 11.

[ocr errors]

Here again all is mere assertion, and such assertions will never convince an opponent. The Methodist will reply, That he very much doubts whether he shall thus find that all the clergy "preach excellent doctrine;" that this is the matter to be proved, not postulated; and that for a man to say, I assure you, if you will exert your impartial judgment, instead of cherishing your present obliquity of mind, you will find every thing to be just as

I inculcate, is no better an argument than may be urged by the defender of any doctrine whatever, however incorrect, in religion, politics, or philosophy and yet Clergymen wonder that their tracts and sermons do not convince men, when they thus deal in confident, and it may be true, statements, instead of solid reasons and scriptural proof. Bishop Gray and the Christian Knowledge Society know little either of human nature, or of the workings of public opinion at the present moment, if, instead of appealing to the understandings and affections of the people, they hope to overawe them with solemn denunciations of the wickedness of their presumption in sitting in judgment upon the doctrines of their teachers. Presumptuous or not, they will continue to do it; and it might be better to meet the evil at once, if it be one, after St. Paul's fashion: "I speak as to wise men: judge ye what I say;" and not with " I speak to poor illiterate Methodists believe ye what I say, but do not be so presumptuous as to pretend to judge of it." It is an invidious way of representing the matter, to state, that it is the Methodist's stupidity of apprehension, by reason of which he cannot understand his pastor's elaborate sermon, that makes him dissent from it; but that if he would only "incline his ears," and understand as much, poor man, as he can, all would be right, and he would see its truth and excellence-notwithstanding the very opposite doctrine might be preached from the same pulpit the very same day. This habit of quietly assuming that all that every clergyman says from the pulpit is ex officio Scriptural, and that the people have nothing to do but to listen and imbibe, is not the best means of convincing gainsayers.

The next argument is equally a begging of the question :

"In this country, where a free toleration is allowed to all, you certainly may frequent any place of worship which you please, without incurring human penalties; but you must remember that you are responsible to God, for deserting those guides who are ordained in a manner agreeably to the Apostolic rules; and preferring those who do not respect the instruction of their Lord; who have not received the approbation of those spiritual superiors that are appointed to govern the Church, established on sacred principles; and who have turned aside unto vain jangling, desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.' You may learn from the prophet Malachi, that it is your duty to seek the law at the priest's mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of Hosts; and to be careful that you are not included in the number of those of whom the Apostle foretold, 'that after their own lusts they should heap to themselves teachers.'" pp. 11, 12.

The Methodist, or rather the Dissenter, in reply to all this will say, that he does not consider that he does desert guides ordained agreeably to Apostolic rules, or prefer men who do not respect the instruction of their Lord. A few scintillations of argument to prove these points would have been better than reprehensions and warnings, which the individual does not think applicable to his case.

Again, take the next passage. Does any person think that a Methodist would be turned from his course by such statements as the following, which he would not admit to be either true or charitable? And as to the matter of suppressing the feelings in religion, he would wonder how it is that the sacred penmen wrote in so impassioned a style: "Whom have I in heaven but Thee, and there is none upon earth that I desire in comparison of thee;" "As the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God:" "To them that believe, He is precious: The love of Christ constraineth us:"" Whom not having seen we love;" with hundreds of other fervid exclamations.

[ocr errors]

"Your preachers address themselves to the passions of their hearers, and not to their judgments, while the regular clergy more properly appeal to the understandings, and endeavour to influence the convictions of men. Hence it is that the most extravagant declaimers captivate those who 'turn away their ears from the truth, and are turned unto fables. They surprise you with strange and fearful relations,' with profane and old wives' fables; they introduce descriptions and CHRIST. OBSERV. No. 381.

4 B

« PrécédentContinuer »