صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

it is often equally true that there are no "oxen." The style is as "dull, cold, flat, and unprofitable," as it is pure and correct. The simplicity is nothing less than absolute beggary. There can be no false figures where there are not any; and no excess where there is no strength. The river is not likely to overflow its banks which never fills its channel. It is the judgment of a no less critic than Quintilian, that the writer who, in his youth, is never redundant, will usually in his old age be poverty stricken. Where the heart, the imagination, and the passions have free play, the critic may find something to correct; but very often also consciences will be touched and hearts be edified.

But I now turn to some higher topics, to which the rule appears to me equally to apply.

Lenis is a most unexceptionable person; of the very calmest temper and the most placid manners. He is always to be found in the right place at the very right moment. He speaks little, and never offensively; he belongs to no party, and is a determined enemy to all excess. When the storm rages around him, he wraps himself in his mantle-" virtute mea me involvo"not without some feeling of complacency, and of superiority over those rasher spirits who, whether right or wrong, plainly do not contrive so successfully for their own repose. He is perhaps constant at church, though a little drowsy there; has a decided preference for vague, calm, general sermons. He gives decently to all popular or uncriticised charities. And the result of all this is, that he gets into no scrapes, incurs no reproach, is claimed as a friend by men of all opinions, simply because he was never known to express an opinion of his own. Now here "the crib" is unusually "clean." But at what expense is it purchased? I should say at the cost of most of the feelings, tastes, principles, rules, habits, and sympathies which constitute the substance and essence of the Christian character. The "crib is clean" because there are no oxen." Lenis is as much like a statue as a man, if human existence is to be determined by a capacity for doing and suffering. All the higher and nobler passions of our nature have no place in him. His life is, possibly, harmless, but it is altogether unprofitable; and whatever there is in him likely to call forth the commendation of his fellow-creatures, there is nothing by which he can hope to win the favour of God. And this, because the one essential quality is wanting, the love of God, and the love of His family upon earth. He might be nearly all he is if there were no such Being as the Redeemer of the world, who had felt for him, and expected him to feel for others.

The same thought may be extended to different classes of the ministers of religion. I remember to have seen, some years since, in a review of high authority, a comparison drawn between Bishop as a parochial minister, and Thomas Scott as the minister of Olney. The Bishop, on quitting his parish for another sphere of duty, finds little but subjects of self-complacency, commendation, and thankfulness. The whole popu

lation might seem to have received the whole word of truth into their souls. Every plan had prospered; and the "net" cast into the sea seems, in this case, to have caught nothing but "good fish." "The crib was clean."-Mr. Scott, on the contrary, in quitting his parish, speaks strongly of the immorality ofone part of the population, of the stubbornness and self-will of another, and of the abuse of the doctrines of grace in a third party. And whilst he dwells strongly, and gratefully, on the zeal, love, and fidelity of some, his language is certainly, on the whole, such as might be expected from the mourning Prophet, when "rivers of water ran down his eyes because men kept not the word" of the Lord. Here, therefore, "the crib" was, to appearance, not equally "clean." But then I am disposed to think, that the "oxen" were far more diligently at work, in the one case, than in the other. At all events, I conceive that the labourer at Olney had higher objects in view, and a deeper sense of the responsibilities of his office; and that, hence, the plough cut deeper, and the harrow swept more roughly over the surface of the soil. The object of the one minister was mainly to secure order, regularity, decency, harmony, with a decent regard for morals and religion. The object of the other was to "lay the axe to the root of the tree"-to convince, to alarm, to convert, to sanctify, to lead his hearers as contrite sinners to the foot of the cross, and to qualify them under God for the highest seats in the kingdom of heaven. And the result was that, in the one case, few consciences were touched, few fears were awakened, few hearts were moved. In fact, the work of conversion was unknown; and the people were led rather to love their gentle, tender, considerate pastor, than the great Shepherd of the sheep, and the Saviour of a bleeding world. In the other case, if there were some who, offended at plain truths announced in the somewhat homely language of the minister, closed their ears and their hearts against his ministrations, there were also many awakened consciences and bleeding hearts; many who loved the minister well, but who loved infinitely better the Divine Master whom he delighted to serve, honour, and exalt; many who devoted themselves hand and heart to deepen the work of religion at home, and to carry the Gospel into all the regions of the world. Let your readers study the picture, and consider whether the saying of the wise man has no bearing upon it; "Where no oxen are, the crib is clean."

The last case to which I shall refer the Proverb, is that of controversy.

Eirenos is a man of peace. He can quote to you maxims without number from the Scriptures and from the writings of great theologians, on the duty of gentleness, forbearance, charity. If you wish to enlist him on the side of those who are doing battle for some vital truth, he comes down upon you with a deluge of authorities which it is almost impossible to resist; tells you that Fénélon wrote a whole treatise upon "Charity;" that Bishop Hall was the author of a treatise expressly denomi

nated "The Olive Branch;" that Hooker said the time would come when "a few words written in charity" would be worth all the angry disputation in the world. Now all this is true; and is, indeed, never to be forgotten by the disciples of a compassionate Saviour. A higher authority than any of these uninspired writers says: "If I give my body to be burned and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing." But it may be well to remind Eirenos that, notwithstanding the peaceful spirit and language of all these authorities, Fénélon barely escaped burning for the honesty and explicitness with which he spoke his mind; Bishop Hall was for the same offence driven out of his diocese; Hooker was charged with all sorts of enormities before the Privy Council; and St. Paul himself was hunted down like a wild beast by all classes of the community, by his own countrymen as well as by strangers; was carried before kings and councils; was plunged into the innermost dungeon, because, when the exigency came, he "opened his mouth boldly," and "resisted even unto blood" the encroachments of error, and the disparagement of his Lord and Master. But Eirenos has no taste for such extravagances. He is a man of peace. He hates all controversy. He is resolved to have, at all risks, the "clean crib." He abjures disputation with all men, and upon every point. Popery may thunder at our door, or may steal with the pale face and bloody hand of Jesuitism into our secret chambers; Socinianism may be striving to pluck the brightest jewel from the crown of the Redeemer; Tractarianism may be doing the work of Popery under the disguise of Protestantism;-Eirenos holds his peace. Seated in the easy chair of magnanimous neutrality, his chosen occupation is to canvass and condemn the excesses of all parties; he writes a letter upon moderation to the "Christian Observer;" reminds us that "the stillest stream oft waters fairest meadows,"-that "the bird which flutters least is longest on the wing;" and that all which is essential for the progress of truth is to let error have its free course. Now here is the "clean crib," but where are the "oxen?" Here is Erasmus; but where is Luther, or Cranmer, or Ridley, or Latimer? Where are the zeal, the "indignation" at error, the "vehemence" of holy love, the devotion to God and to truth, which consumed the soul of the meek and lowly Saviour; which exiled St. John to Patmos; and which has lighted up the funeral pile of the whole army of saints and martyrs ?-Eirenos, we observe, has gone to sleep while we have been asking these questions; and, if he awakes, his entreaty will be, "Leave me, ah! leave me to repose." And, so, we now will; but may he awake long before the pealing of those thunders of the great day, which will announce neither rest nor joy to the man who is not "zealously affected always in a good thing."

I conclude with a petition, founded upon the words of that inspired Apostle who inherited, perhaps, to a greater degree than any of the followers of the blessed Jesus, his combined character of strength and tenderness-" Give us, O Lord, that

'charity' which is 'the end of the commandment;' but let it be charity 'out of a pure heart and a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned.'



LETTER I.-RIGHT AND WRONG ESTIMATE OF SACRAMENTS. My dear Friend,-I am not in the least degree surprised that your mind was much disturbed by the conversation on the Sacraments which you heard a few evenings since. It was, indeed, of a perplexing nature. But if you now calmly review the debate, you may derive no small benefit from it: for if much was advanced which was unsatisfactory, yet the subject was discussed so as to lead reflecting minds to some useful remarks.

I will denote the three most earnest debaters by the letters A. B. and C. You will remember, then, how A. maintained that, in short, Baptism did everything; changing entirely both the state and the nature of the baptized person by a virtue inherent in itself. Let Baptism be rightly administered, and then, in all cases, every thing that can be meant by being born again is conferred on the soul, and wrought in it. The aspersion of water and the effusion or the agency of the Holy Spirit are inseparable, so that every baptized person is, in the fullest sense of the expression, born anew, and a child of God. In opposition to him, B. maintained that all this is theory; that Baptism is a mere ordinance by which Christians are received into the visible Church; that it is nothing more than a divinely appointed rite; a sign, an emblem, a representation; not essentially connected with any spiritual efficacy. From A. and B., as advocates of extreme views, C. differed, and endeavoured to take a middle course; but I am not of opinion that he enabled us to form any thing like a determinate idea of the subject. We admired his spirit more than his logic.

You are welcome to my remarks; but though they are satisfactory in a measure to my own mind, they may not be so to yours. I have no scruple in telling you, that, in my opinion, the subject of the Sacraments requires reconsideration in the Church. Have we not been unduly influenced, I would ask, from age to age from the earliest times, by human authority? Have we not inverted the proper order, following men rather than Scripture, instead of following Scripture rather than men?

But who is competent to treat such a subject aright? Not one in a million. He must have the heart of a believer, the mind of a sage, and the erudition of a scholar. He must be a giant in piety, judgment, and learning. He must cast away hereditary notions and prejudices, and have sagacity to discover, and courage to follow, truth. Regardless of Fathers and of

* The Editor has inserted two out of eight letters which he has received from the same respected correspondent; and he designs to insert the rest. Without pledging himself to every sentiment con

tained in these letters, he thinks they can scarcely fail to be read with advantage, if only read in the same spirit of candour with which they are written.

Churches, his object will be to ascertain what the Scriptures teach us. When I say that he will be regardless of Fathers, and of Churches, I mean to say, that he will not make them his texts; he will consult them, and consult them respectfully, as comments, but not adduce them, or defer to them, as primary and infallible authorities.

Although I consider all extreme views to be untenable, I cannot refrain from regarding the Sacraments as in a high sense peculiar ordinances. They are of divine institution. They have Christ himself for their Author. I cannot for a moment suppose, that He appointed these two standing ordinances in His Church without designing them to be the means of especial benefit to it. Being, then, what they are, they are to be treated with veneration, but not with a superstitious regard "as medicines or charms which work by a virtue of their own."

Our Church justly teaches us, that the Sacraments are "generally necessary to salvation." They are not, therefore, "absolutely" necessary; but they are so far necessary, that they cannot be refused, where they are obtainable, without sinful neglect or contempt.

But the great point is this--to ascertain their real nature and efficacy. What benefits are derived from the first, or initiatory one; and from the second, or edifying one? Who is competent to answer this question? Every one; and yet, in truth, no one whatever.

In giving a general idea of the Sacraments, I cannot use more appropriate language than that of our Church. "Sacraments ordained by Christ be not only badges or tokens of Christian men's profession, but rather they be certain sure witnesses, and effectual signs of grace, and God's good will towards us, by the which he doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken, but also strengthen and confirm our faith in Him."-They are not grace, but signs of grace; effectual signs, by which God works invisibly in us. But when are they effectual? or in whom are they so? Are they such to whomsoever they are administered, by virtue of mere administration? The Church answers: "In such only as worthily receive the same they have a wholesome effect or operation: but they that receive them unworthily purchase to themselves damnation, as St. Paul saith."

You may now reflect on the wrong and the right view of the Sacraments. You will look upon A. and B. as wrong in very different ways; and the question is, whether we shall be able to arrive at something more clear and determinate than what C. suggested. We will not hope to settle a question that cannot be settled; but we may, perhaps, arrive at conclusions, or at a conclusion, in which the humble will not hesitate to rest, and with which candid minds will not be offended. Yours, &c. J. J.

LETTER II.-ON THE SACRAMENTS. My Dear Friend,-In this letter, I put down only a few Remarks on the Sacraments. The full expansion of them would fill a volume; but in their present concise form, they may deserve

« السابقةمتابعة »