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The doctrines of these sermons correspond with those which it has been the uniform object of the work in which they were inserted to maintain. It was thought that the chief topics for Family Sermons—and indeed all sermons—were such simple scriptural points as the fallen, guilty, and helpless condition of mankind by nature; the love of God in Christ; the atonement; repentance; faith; justification; the offices of Christ, and of the Holy Spirit; sanctification; peace with God; love to God; the forbearance of God; Christian obedience, and love to mankind; death, and eternity, heaven, and hell.-Pp. vi. vii.
On all these doctrines, the Arminian clergy as zealously insist as the Calvinistic. There was, therefore, we repeat, no reason whatever, why these parties should not have agreed to differ; their distinguishing peculiarities affected not the essentials of religion, or of Churchmembership. Whether man be wholly or partially corrupt, mattered not to their common doctrine. Both were agreed that "the condition of man, after the fall of Adam, is such, that he cannot turn and prepare himself by his own natural strength and good works, to faith, and calling upon God." *
Such was the situation of the Church, when a portion of the Calvinistic clergy chose to erect into essentials of religion, opinions which were never received by the Catholic Church, and never obtained form or system till the age of Augustine. All who ventured to differ from themselves on very abstruse metaphysical questions, were stigmatized as unregenerate and ignorant, and Calvinism was proclaimed the pure and only Gospel. A consequence easily to be foreseen ensued. While the Calvinistic clergy, on the one hand, were thus virtually regarding as heretics their brethren who preferred, in a mysterious inquiry, to examine and interpret the obscure parts of Scripture by the clear, they were, on the other, ready to join fellowship with the most uneducated advocate of the most preposterous schism, in which Calvinism was a recognized or permitted ingredient. This disposition was ardently welcomed, and sedulously fomented, by the enemies of the Church. The breach was gradually widened, until a portion of the English Church was conspicuous in the unseemly act of renouncing the rest, and engaging in friendly intercourse with the bitterest enemies of the Church they had sworn to support. Such intercourse could scarely be barren. It was hardly possible to pass mental excommunication on a large majority of the Church of England, without a disposition to view the Establishment itself with a partial jealousy. It was equally impossible to maintain a degree of communion with her enemies, without imbibing the infection of their prejudices, and acquiring, almost insensibly, a laxity of opinion in many important matters. An irritability consequent on their minority, and on the views taken by their more consistent brethren, would at once supply to these partial seceders, motives for proselytism, and
Article X. of the Church of England.
anxiety to represent themselves (since they did not choose to quit the ministry of the Church,) as not only not inconsistent, but the only consistent members of her communion. They would endeavour so to interpret her formularies, as to suit their own hybrid notions of Church-fellowship and subordination; and to convince the public (who too often on these occasions show a most lamentable indifference) that these were the sentiments of the Church of England. Others, who, without any definite opinion on the original controversy, wished to reconcile a nominal communion with the Church with a participation of the most hostile errors, readily joined this confederacy, and the result is, a combination, which might rival that of Horace's painter, and which styles itself—the Evangelicals.
Of this party, the Christian Observer is decidedly the accredited organ; necessarily partaking the incongruities of its constituents. At one time we read much of 66 our venerable," " our beloved Church;" at another, principles, societies, and schemes are advocated, which would all tend to the utter subversion of that, or any Church at all. Wesley and Romaine are mentioned with equal approbation, and equally regarded as representatives of the Church. Final perseverance, and universal redemption, are vindicated in a breath; popery, like one of its own saints in a storm, is coaxed and belaboured alternately. But we will content ourselves with a brief comment on the following passage, which occurs in the Preface to the work now before us.
The preface to the first volume states, that the work thus announced had been received with a large measure of public favour, and with the most honourable testimonies to its usefulness, and promises of support, even some "in quarters where the conductors were not sanguine in expecting them." Tories alleged that it was Whig, and Whigs that it was Tory; Calvinists that it was Arminian, and Arminians that it was Calvinistic; some Dissenters called it High Church, and some High-Churchmen thought it too conciliating towards Dissenters: a proof, it was inferred, that truth, and not party, was the object which its supporters wished to follow.-P. ix.
With respect to the object which the supporters of the Christian Observer wished to follow, we pronounce no opinion; we have no desire to impeach the sincerity of their motives. But we certainly cannot deduce from these data, that truth was the object actually followed. We should rather infer (what is abundantly confirmed. by the perusal of almost any number of the Christian Observer,) that its general principles, especially on Church unity, were fluctuating and confused, and such as no systematic view of Christianity could recognize. Of its knowledge of the Church, it may be sufficient to say, that our readers will find in the number for September, 1829, "Letter from a High Churchman," which is introduced with much parade of commendation; the writer of which was of so “high Church”
a family, that his father could not bear to hear "the Revolution" (shades of the seven Bishops!) named in his presence! The same high churchman, brought up among men of his own sentiments, and "dignified Clergymen," "had formed no idea that there still existed amongst us a class of Christians, who might be considered to possess real and vital religion!" He discovered at length that there were such-at the table of a DISSENTER! Who this high churchman was, who so quietly acquiesced in opinions unconnected with real and vital religion, is a matter of little consequence. His opinion may be safely allowed all the weight that belongs to it. But do we read this in a publication professing to be "conducted by members of the Established Church?" Did not the address "to the Editor of the Christian Observer" confront us, we should be tempted to suppose that some bungling stitcher had transposed the respectable cover of the Church publication, to the back of some schismatical magazine. The great evil on which we would insist is, not so much the unsettled and irregular character of the Christian Observer, as its identification of all this chaos with the plain, broad, simple, and consistent opinions of "the Established Church."
Here then is the difference between the Christian Observer and the Christian Remembrancer. We are of decided Church principles, and we advocate them decidedly. In an age when indifference passes current for liberality, it is no wonder that decision should be confounded with bigotry. For this we are prepared. We see the vastness of the interval which separates the qualities thus identified by a superficial and precipitate philosophy, and we write for the approbation of those who agree with us, and for the consideration of the candid portion of those who do not. As Christians, we do not find acrimony towards Dissenters consequent on our repudiation of what we, in conscience, deem their errors. We would have them consider whether they have sufficient warrant for what they do; whether the blemishes (supposing they should be so admitted) of the Church of England are such as absolve their secession from the serious charge of schism. If they, in conscience, think they do, we have nothing more to say. May all who profess and call themselves Christians be led into the way of truth, and hold the faith in unity of spirit, in the bond of peace, and in righteousness of life! Meantime, we find in our Church, not an infallible mistress, but a pious and affectionate mother, under whose nurture and admonition we have grown from 66 new-born babes," and who will not be chargeable if we attain not to "the perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." "Built on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone," the Church of England is at once orthodox in her creed, and primitive
in the spirit of her discipline. There is no argument admissible in favour of secession from her, which would not go to dismember every professing visible Church. Believing this, we cannot reject the consequence, that whatever tends to prejudice the authority or influence of the Church, tends in like proportion to the injury of that pure religion of which she is the ark. We can as readily separate the interests of the Church of England from those of the Church of Christ, as we can distinguish between the welfare of a limb and the welfare of the body. All religious schemes, however well intentioned, which tend to lower the standard of her scriptural claims, we are antiquated enough to regard as injurious, because we are not only lovers of our Church, but we have cultivated a habit little likely to dazzle, and consequently to attract, that of estimating all things by their general tendencies.
Personal, therefore, as this question may appear, we feel that it is only so by coincidence. It is most important on all accounts that it should be known what are, and what are not, the principles of the national Church. Without this understanding, men may throng her banners who reject her sentiments, or they may relinquish her communion for some merely imputed delinquency. We would not be understood to throw the responsibility of every opinion to which we may give currency on the Church of these realms; but we would be understood to say, that we endeavour, to the utmost of our power, to afford an accurate reflection of the sentiments of that Church. We write not without mature study and deliberation; we have examined the opinions we have embraced. It is therefore more probable that they should be justly collected from our pages, than from those of a publication emanating from sources so heterogeneous as supply the channels of the Christian Observer. Nor are these remarks at all irrelevant on the present occasion: we are about to recommend the work on our table to all Christian families; but we could not extend this recommendation to the publication wherein it originally appeared; and it is right that the grounds of this distinction should be explained.
To come, then, to what is more immediately the subject of this article, the volume of Sermons now before us. It gives us great pleasure to say that, in the perusal of this work, we have been most agreeably disappointed. We have read "Family Sermons" in the Christian Observer, whose character has been any thing but scriptural, or such as could have been expected from "Members of the Established Church." But those which compose the present volume appear carefully selected, with a view to conciliate consistent churchmen. We could almost award them unqualified praise: there is only one exception to their excellence-some passages on regene
ration, which we cannot quite approve; yet even these are equivocal, and very different from what we should have expected from that quarter. Thus in the Eighteenth Sermon, "The Heavenly Inhabitants," we read that they felt, "even after their regeneration," the infection of sin. We cannot but think that any divine of the present day, would be cautious in using the term, and that therefore it is here intended to separate regeneration from Baptism. Again, in Sermon XXVII. "The Joy in Samaria," we have these observations—
We next learn that the people of the city of Samaria, having attentively heard the word of God, and received it by faith, "were baptized." They were not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, but hastened to confess him openly before men, by a compliance with his own appointed sacrament, by which all who should receive him as their Saviour, were to declare their belief in him in the presence of the church and of the world. It is not enough that we have a firm persuasion of the Divine inspiration and infinite importance of Christianity; we must be willing to take up the cross of our Saviour, and, whatever reproach may await us, remain firm and consistent in our profession of his name before mankind. In the present age no such peril or persecution assails us for calling ourselves Christians as threatened the first disciples of Christ; we are not exposed to pain or infamy or death for the sake of our professed religion; and to be baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, even in infancy, has become so general that it is often complied with as a customary rite, with scarcely any consideration of its meaning and importance, either on the part of those who present a child for baptism, or of the baptized person himself when he comes to years of reflection. But very different was the case at the time when these Samaritans became candidates for admission to this holy sacrament; for, in coming to the font of baptism, they solemnly recorded their belief in the Saviour, their reliance upon his atonement, and their determination to live to his glory. They declared by the very act their earnest resolution, through the grace of God strengthening them, "to renounce the devil and all his works, the pomps and vanities of this wicked world, and all the sinful lusts of the flesh; to believe all the articles of the Christian faith, and to keep God's holy will and commandments, and to walk in the same all the days of their life." And with regard to ourselves, who were baptized in our infancy, our baptism is of no spiritual value to us, yea rather it will increase our condemnation, if, having thus named the name of Christ, we do not depart from iniquity. We may say of it as the Apostle said of the Jewish rite of circumcision, that of itself "it availeth nothing, but a new creature:" it is only an outward and visible sign and seal of an inward and spiritual grace; which grace is the washing and regeneration of the soul, by virtue of faith in the atonement of Christ, and through the renewing influences of the Holy Spirit.-Pp. 335–337.
Now in every syllable of this do we most cordially concur, except where it is said, "by virtue of faith in the atonement of Christ." "He that BÉLIEVETH and is baptized shall be SAVED." We know it is faith which will make baptism available to salvation; but regeneration may be no less real, should faith never ensue. By regeneration we understand that act of the Holy Spirit which enables us to will and to do. This is what is covenanted on the part of God in baptism. And although it is most true that the outward sign will avail nothing where the inward grace has not been employed, it is not the less certain that such grace has been given because it has been rejected and overborne.