Images de page


transpontine theatres, what childish anecdotes, what unfair inuendos against those who are not quite orthodox, according to the hekel of their tabernacle—pass for the noblest efforts of the Christian preacher among many of the adherents of popular independency. Their taste and judgment are formed on their literature, and the less that is said of the reading of the lower sort of Disneuters perhaps the better. Yet let, such preachers once obtain a multitudinous and injudicious following, and a large chapel in consequence, as they easily may, and they straightway become power. ful men in the “ body,” looking down with pious superiority upon those whom “God has not honoured so much as themselves.

The thoroughly popular preacher, however, let it be said, may one of the noblest, or one of the meanest, of mankind. He may come forth from a divine solitude with a voice fitted to reach or fill a nation's ear, armed with a knowledge of God's word, and with a desire to do His will, “ accepting the person of no man,” his "lips touched with a live coal from off the altar,” and his whole life the visible sacrificial embodiment of his loving and luminous discourse; --or be may be an empty, ambitious charlatan, dealing in sacred mysteries chiefly for his own advancement, the careful student of be base tastes of the multitudes, rather than of the revelations of eaven; the stubborn opponent of honest thought and honest hinkers; seeking pew-rents rather than conversions, and a full conregation rather than his God's approval : the superficial parasite of le rich and ignorant, and of course the steady enemy of all reforms thich would terminate the reign of tinkling cymbals. In the latter ase, there is danger; for as soon as a religions communion genely values an efflorescent type of popular discourse above that nder of quiet instruction which is informing, logical, and practially persuasive to a holy life, it is penetrated by a poison which 1 paralyse its spiritual energies. Private prayer, and private tady of God's Word will be abandoned, active duty will be lischarged by proxy -- life will become one shallow externality. he men who most truly represent the unseen and eternal will be ractically excommunicated, and the ministry will become an intitute of rhetoricians. The real power of Nonconformity is not in umbers, nor in eloquence, but in the spiritual life, and that can be ustained only by the teaching of spiritual and prophetic men, 4. The last avenue by which spiritual dangers may invade the lomains of Secession, and which we shall here designate, is that by vhich political liberalism may enter among us in a state of too auch disintegration from babits of devotion and piety. The lliance between earnest religion and a love of freedom is as old as Christendom, and the early history of our communities offers an excuse for the antagonism of primitive Nonconformity. The slow withdrawal of social disabilities during two centuries is a further


apology for the perpetuation amongst us of much of the same spirit. On the whole, considering what Englishmen are, and what Dissenters have been compelled to endure from their fellow-countrymen, nothing is more creditable than the good temper and patience with which insult, opposition and depression have been borne for so many generations. It is the divine mark on the forehead of the grand old cause of freedom in religion. But it must be borne in mind that the positive side of the truths for which we witness

, is their noblest aspect and their most important bearing. In relation to the Church Establishment of England, we are indeed Dissenters; but in relation to the word and will of God, and ancient Christianity, we are, as we think, Conformists in the most essential particulars, and the members of the Church of England are the real dissenters. The negative side or our belief and practice is an accident. The first thing is that according to the Bible we are, as we trust, right. It is only a secondary consideration that the establishment is wrong. Neither should a sense of personal injury get the better of a sense of the injury to truth and godliness inflicted by that Establishment, so as to lead us to think more of our wrongs than of the vindication of the rights of Heaven. It is the positira side of truth alone which is creative. Negations can do little bet destroy. In vain shall we cast down imaginations which exit themselves against the Word of God, unless we have something better to offer in their room. The establishment of pure and true churches in England is of infinitely greater importance than the breaking up of the Prelatical communion, or the dissolution of Church and State. And a merely dissolving process of negative testimony has no appreciable tendency to build up the living reform. A man may fire an Armstrong gun all through his lifetime, and demolish many a citade! of darkness, but not thereby leave behind him a single evidence that his life was an emanation from that new creating Spirit of Christ in glory, which is the four tain of every good and perfect gift among men. The Apostles did not visit Ephesus as “ blasphemers of their goddess," for if they had done so, it would have been a long time before the theatre would have been filled with multitudes of religious people in the first stage of theological inquiry, throwing dust in the air, and extolling Diana's magnificence. It was a lodgment of positive truth which occasioned all the turmoil.

Besides, the formative evil in the Church of England is spiritual, and requires to be assailed by a spiritual power. Its political and ecclesiastical constitution is in every respect the logical and necessary result of its doctrinal and spiritual character. doctrinal and spiritual character, so far as it is corrupted, is at once the outcome and the religion of unreformed human nature

. To assail such a system as this simply by outcries of political wrong

And this

to misunderstand its strength and the sources of its power. hat which is evil in it is mighty through spiritual forces, “the ower of the air;" through "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the

eye, ad the pride of life;" and can be successfully encountered, if at 1, only by a divine life of love, humility, sacrifice, and godly stimony in the spirit, superior to its own. Exclusively political tacks will brace up the whole structure, strengthen every rivet in se plated fabric, and nerve every carnal resolution to maintain its wwer. It is when the demonstration of its political injustice mes from men whose thoughts are evidently busy with higher ens than demolition, whose chief zeal is against the barefaced or btle dishonesty to which any national subscription to articles ast lead, against the moral and social Paganism which grows out secularized Christianity, against the ruin to souls which overadows every population delivered over to mechanical sacra entalism ;-it is when the “ assault” comes from men who are viously much more bent on creation than destruction, readier to idure wrong than to overthrow the worldly position of the wrongvers; men who breathe the majestic spirit of the Son of God ther than the tone of democratic revolutionaries,-it is then that Church-leaders” and politicians are likely to tremble, like Felix, the prospect of that awful “judgment” which such witnessing eshadows. They fear one Richard Baxter with his spiritual ms more than a thousand men of purely secular antagonisms. Now is there not a danger that some of the persons who repreat the cause of political and ecclesiastical freedom amongst us yuld be agents who have too little knowledge of the spiritual ums, and too little spiritual power for the "wars of the Lord ?" greater calamity can happen to that complex truth which is bstantially represented by Nonconformity than for its political ment to be wielded by men who are deficient in that spiritual e, from which all valuable protest against corruption must spring. je political dissenters must be the religious dissenters, or else it is over with any hope of reform. Spiritual life brings us into Dtact with the spiritual life inside the establishment_and how uch is there of this, and of every most beautiful type l-theogical testimony appeals to the theological mind in the establishent; and these are the forces which will, if anything will, achieve e improvements we desire to see.

powers be disused, and let the antagonistic testimony i Dissent rush chiefly into battles respecting rates of two-pence in le pound, laid on recalcitrant parishioners by a set of ignorant and rrogant farmers, shopkeepers, and country gentlemen; and for ught we can see “ Dissent" might almost as well, like Elijah under bis juniper, lie down and desire to die; for such battles ining more vexation and misunderstanding than the most " glorious

Let These

[ocr errors]

victories” over unconvinced vestry-mobs can bring of comfo the spiritual warrior. But let the mighty power of Spiritual T go forth, as it went in Milton's life and writings, flashing panoply of blazing diamonds—let the most interior truths of Gospel revelation sound in the ears of this trafficking and huck ing and advowson-selling generation ; let compliments to the cl cease, and the fearful apocalyptic warnings of "the lake of 1 for all who trife with truth take their place on holy lips one end of the country to the other, and we anticipate a resul once more noble and more speedy than any that can be hoped solely from the reclamations and utterances of the “volur principle” in all the vestries in the kingdom. It is a sad y somewhat ludicrous and characteristic consideration that the “martyr” to Nonconformity publicly known in modern times martyr for a Church-rate. And the ill-success of Dissent ind throwing the Establishment, its own apparent stationary pos in public esteem, and the ever growing social authority of Church of England, notwithstanding its fearful divisions, and withstanding the issue of the religious census, might suggest inquiry whether the tactics of recent years have really rece in all respects, the sanction of the Almighty. The chief con tion which we enjoy under many painful reflections on this mi is the knowledge that, as in the case of other departments all to before, the most prominent and most deservedly hono opponents of the Politico-Religious Establishment, are men w whole external policy is an effluence from an inward illumina and grace, which might be besought from heaven with advan by some of their pretended followers in every portion of kingdom.

We here most gladly close the present series of criticism some peculiarities of modern Nonconformity, leaving a few m topics to be perhaps treated occasionally hereafter. If at tim has seemed as though there has been a little too much zest in e of the representations of prevailing faults, we must hope f considerate judgment of those in regard to the general spirit w has animated us. Respecting our motives, we shall not "pre too much," being hopeful that they are “ manifest to all m As to the manner of execution, there is little doubt that the fa of Nonconformity appear even in its own efforts at amendm These papers have drawn much more than the expected measur attention, and with the knowledge of that fact has come a neces for an early conclusion of the series, and a keener sense, at er cage, of our own small right, and still smaller desire, to occ censor's chair. However, the spirit of prophecy came upon Christian Spectator at the close of the Bartholomew Celebra, and the fire in his bones which had been burning for many s would not cease, until utterance had been given to that which ied to be the truth for the times. If he has occasionally waxed h at some extreme evil (like Elisha with the ragamuffins of bel), remember his mortality, friendly reader, and forgive him. s to the result of the prophecy, that remains to be seen. It is Ito "dream” of better things to come, in the ages that precede advent. Some prophecies hasten their own fulfilment. The sure of assent accorded to the suggestions astonishes us. Of Ise there is much difference, much counter argument, much tial disapproval, but the extent to which we have been supported these endeavours is truly wonderful and encouraging. posed to give the opponents of our own views the opportunity hearing, and we shall gladly insert condensed letters in reply Dar strictures. The most hostile shall receive the earliest ption wo facts must be mentioned in making an end-to the infinite ut, not of_religious parties, let us say, but of English bianity. The first is, that though the prophecy has been ently sharp, we have not received a single communication, ; or private, from Nonconformists urging a suppression of

or even of opinion, because their publication might be ying to a party. And the second is, that we have not observed le instance of the perverse use of our representations of existtils in Dissent in the journals of the Church of England. We reason to think that this is not because they have been ly unknown. But it seems to have been felt by Churchmen it would be exceedingly ungenerous to take a description of owledged evils as a fair sample of the general character and

of our communities, and that it would be a sort of sacrilege tch up a man's self-revelations as he stands on the brink of a confessing his sins before God, and to use them to his disitage. It seems to have been recognized that these papers been written in a spirit not hostile to anything really glorious e Church of England, and with a very sincere desire to bring

some modifications of Nonconformity which may facilitate Itimate union of Scripture-loving English Catholics. immending them, therefore, to the candid interpretation of our friends and on-lookers, and above all to the merciful regard of faster in Heaven, and praying the reader's forgiveness of all 5 either in judgment or taste, we thankfully conclude this alt undertaking.

« PrécédentContinuer »