صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

Tolerate it, indeed, if you would tolerate ignorance, darkness, brutality, insurrection, civil war; which if you hate and hinder, then also hate and hinder idolatry and superstition.

But how fight against it? Not with sword nor fire. No; but with that which is proper to its destruction and abolition. Sword will not slay it, nor torture make an end of it. I would not retaliate upon the idolaters their treatment of our fathers. Neither do I exhort to or recommend pains and penalties as an instrument of the destruction of superstition. I will go as far as the Liberals in this kind of toleration. Nevertheless, I would destroy it, utterly destroy it, by that which is effectual to destroy it. And if I were a statesman, or Representative of this land, I would meditate by night and by day, I would utter whatever seemed to me most likely to root it out. Now, of these means which have been found effectual to the destruction of this abomination, the first is the preaching of the word. Let the Ministers of Christ, who know their calling of shepherds, and are not wolves in sheep's clothing, be stirred up to discharge it, not only for their scanty flocks, but for the population of their bounds, testifying in all ways and in all places against the idol-shepherds; not giving place to them for a moment; not compromising the truth for any sake. You may as well think to charm the ocean with a song, as to dissolve Popish errors without a strife of argument; and wherever they have had the upper hand, it hath soon been made a strife of blood. Therefore, who saith, "By peace you shall prevail," speaketh a falsehood. Whoso saith, "By gentle compromises you shall take them, and by the manly and steadfast declaration of truth you shall lose them," doth utter a falsehood. They have possessed strongholds of error, which the armoury of truth alone can capture; truth set in array, truth set in battle-array. If truth was ever called upon to be a champion, and a champion-errant, it is in Ireland at this time, where error hath engrossed the great multitude of souls, and is bringing forth deeds of darkness, and is extending his dominion of darkness more and more wildly. For every armed man now kept to rein-in these fierce passions which their superstition hath begotten, give me an armed Minister of truth, and there shall soon be peace and quietness; give me one for every hundred; give me but one for every thousand, who shall be at liberty to go forth, and with sufficient knowledge furnished, and with ready skill accomplished, and, after a few years of hard fighting, you shall see the troops of the alien discomfited.

If these views of human nature and of religion be just, and these illustrations drawn from the observation and history of the world be correct, it follows most clearly, that whatever doth tend to take these veils of sense from the spirit of the people, will best deliver them from the sensual and brutal condition in which they are found. To which end I know nothing so effectual as the preaching of the word of God, which is given on express purpose, and by God's Spirit endowed with power, to redeem the spirit from the dominion of the flesh and of the carnal mind; which spirit being redeemed, gives rise to another law opposite to the law of sin and death, which is in our members. The evil

of the present system is, that it is a compensation in sensible merits for sensible offences; so that the sense is honoured to atone for the sense, to enlighten the sense, to remedy the sense; and the more wicked it is in the guilt contracted, the more it is honoured in the guilt removed. While this system exists, you legislate, you educate, you civilize the customs, you improve the arts, and propagate the sciences in vain; of which the good fruit must first be realized in sapping the sensual religion. They will profit just as far as they emancipate the people from that basest of servitudes, which they may do; yea, and will do; but will plant no other religion in its stead; so that you will have the bitter edge of infidelity laid against the throat of superstition, and religion will perish in the conflict; which might have been preserved, had you, by the ministry of God's precious word, strengthened the spirit to cast off the foul and deformed leprosy with which the beauty of religion hath been darkened.

And, if the same spirit be shown by another House of Commons which was shown by the present, to maintain the superstition, and in some sort to legalize it, yea, and to reward its services, or hire its loyalty; I make no doubt that the present evil condition of Ireland will work on until a crisis comes, which nothing but preaching and teaching the truth will avert. Had the Protestant Church of Ireland done its duty, as the Presbyterian Church of Scotland heretofore did, there would have been as few Catholics in Ireland, and those of as harmless a kind, as there are in Scotland at this day.

The effect of such an uncompromising and unaccommodating ministry of the Gospel, would be to set up in arms all the guardians of the superstition, who would come forth to defend their ways and works of darkness; and between the two contending parties, the people would want a mediator and intercessor, to whose tribunal they might carry the appeal. And what so proper for this end as the words of the great Mediator recorded in the holy Scriptures, which must therefore be one of the confederates in this warfare against idolatry? Not that the Scriptures by themselves will do the work of converting men, and building up churches, which is the great prejudice of Protestants in these days, whereby they give the Catholics a great handle of advantage; but that, according to the great principle of the Reformers, when anything concerning faith is in controversy, they are the last and only appeal. It never was intended that a book should of itself convert the world, else no more than a book would have been given; and it never hath happened that the Bible of itself hath wrought any great reformation in the church. It is the spirit of man, quickened by the Spirit of God, through means of the Bible, and with the same means going forth to quicken other men, that every good work hath been wrought in the church by God. Nevertheless, the Bible is most necessary in the present condition of Ireland, and wherever a controversy hath been excited, or must be excited, which is the case at present, and must be more the case before any real and substantial improvement in their condition is effected. Where false coin is circulating with good, you must have a touch-stone, as well for the

honour of the good as for the detection of the evil, because there is doubt of all. The Romish Priests, by instinct aware of the opinions which would thus be put out of circulation, have already resisted the diffusion of the Scriptures. But when they argue the inability of the people to draw thence a sound code of faith, and the tendency of the unlettered and uneducated to bring in their own narrow and partial interpretations, instead of the orthodox interpretations of the church, our answer should be, We admit it; and therefore, we intend to accompany or to follow them as we can, with faithful Preachers, who shall lead them into the right interpretation of the church, from those mazes of error with which you have perplexed every doctrine, and every precept of the divine word. O for a few Preachers, who,* possessing in their heart the written word, quickened by the Holy Spirit, would go forth upon this errand, and, casting down the gauntlet of defiance to all the Priests of Baal, would offer themselves to every proof that is possible of understanding, of devotion, of personal suffering, of the written word, of the history of the church, of the diverse characters of the worshippers! Then would I have hope that the Bible would be sought, would be read, would be quickened; but without such Preachers, I do not believe that it will work there, or elsewhere, the fruits that are looked for from it. The proof of what I say is to be found in the effect produced by the public controversies of the last year in quickening the demand for scriptural knowledge, although these controversies were only upon the outworks of divinity, and not upon the great questions which stir and agitate the soul. Once bring transubstantiation, and image-worship, and works of supererogation, and priestly absolution, and purgatory, and such questions into issue, and call them by their proper names of falsehood, superstition, and idolatry, and you shall witness a ferment of soul, and a calling out for knowledge, which I defy the chains of Satan, or the world, to bind or restrain. They will cry out, Commotion! and I answer, Come what will, men's souls must be saved; and under the present system of idolatry, men's souls can hardly be saved: whatever is threatened in the train of the Gospel, still the Gospel must be preached; though the world should be shaken, and the earth be removed, the Gospel must be preached. And why? because it is the ark of the salvation of men against all these judgments of the Lord, which come upon the earth, not by the Gospel, but by that wickedness which the Gospel alone can destroy. Who are those seducers that talk continually against the bold voice of truth, because of the troubles that it may engender? They are the men who formerly said of Christ and his Apostles, "Cæsar will come, and take away our state and nation." One greater than Cæsar came, and took away that state and nation for which they were afraid; even He whom they did silence and persecute with these intriguing speeches, which

We trust there are many such; and among them the Irish Wesleyan Ministers, who go forth, preaching the word, appealing to Scripture, and preaching for the personal conversion of men.-EDIT.

savoured of mercy, but were full of spitefulness; which were outwardly for mildness, but the covert of cruelty. And I will tell you this one word, that if the mediation of faithful Ministers of truth interfere not between God and idolatrous Ireland, he will bring famine, and pestilence, and perhaps civil war, and they may reach unto thy land also, O England, who hast power over that idolatry, and hast basely used it for thy political conveniency, instead of peopling every parish with a Boanerges, a son of thunder, who might make known the terrors of the Lord, and the coming doom upon all who adhere to it, and have traffic in the merchandise of its supporters.

To the manly instruction of the ripened mind by preaching, that royal ordinance of the kingdom, and satisfaction of their doubts, by appeal unto Scripture, that end of all controversy, I add, as my last means of relieving Ireland, the active and persevering education of the rising generation. God forbid that I should slide into the weak and helpless measure of these times, that the present generation must be given up, to whom we are sent; for this generation of the church is God's minister to this generation of the world, and the next to the next we are made to be the witnesses against those with whom we live, and move, and have our being, whom we shoulder and jostle in the arena of the present life. And another sign of our poverty and pusillanimity it is, this other measure of the times: we must give up the present generation, and work with the children. As if Paul should become a schoolmaster, and Peter an usher. Fie upon it, thus to have pulled your Missionaries from their high estate, and made them school-keepers. Is Christ become feeble against men? Is Satan to have the men, and Christ only the children? And therefore I have put the Preacher's office foremost in thus treating of means, and the education of children last; because it is my part, and your part as men, to be instant for this generation, and not to forget the generation that is to arise. For which innocent rising generation they will prepare such fetters as will bind them fast in error and darkness, if you interpose not your prompt and immediate help. That scheme of schemes for its utter folly, (whose only hopeful feature is its impracticability,) which I touched upon when showing the range that this question had in the politician's mind, doth bespeak in the quarters by whom such a commission was appointed-high quarters, I presume, though I know not, being utterly ignorant of the wheels of policy—such a feeling towards the youth of Ireland, as utterly unmans me to think of it. Make all your Members of Parliament Catholics, and all your Generals, and all your Admirals; but, for the sake of God, do not appoint that the Teachers of the children shall be Catholics do not by public authority and holy law command it that the children of five millions of people shall be made inaccessible to the light and knowledge of God's word. The principle of this scheme, while it holds out the pretence of making peace by educating the Protestants and Catholics in one school, doth truly prevent peace by making wider the breach, and marking more distinctly the features of distinction subsisting between Protestant and Catholic; yea, more, it

will secure a great preponderance of Catholic masters and Catholic influence, in proportion to the preponderance of Catholic population. And this is what they propose to legalize, to make universal!

If ye then have left the worldly city of destruction on account of the error of seeking salvation by their own works instead of the only merits of Christ, how can ye look upon a people who have sanctified this error, and covered it with all idolatrous glory, and not wish them and their children delivered from the same? If they ask you, whether your object is to proselytize from the Catholic faith, say, Yes it is. For what avails the subterfuge, that the Catholic faith contains beneath it the true faith, seeing that the people see it not? The visible world contains under it all the truths of the invisible world, the knowledge of the true God; but men see it not. So the Catholic faith contains under it the true Gospel; but the people see it not. If you say they do, I say, Come and see. Do they receive absolution from a Priest? Do they penance? Worship they their host? Trust they in the intercession of saints? Yes, so they do in simplicity and sincerity; not with plausible explanations, but with unsophisticated faith. What, then, do you not wish them converted? And if you wish them and their children converted, avow it; avow it before the world, and stand by the issues. Though your income should fall ten in the hundred, or fifty in the hundred, what of that? the Lord will bless the remainder, and give it seven-fold fruit. Men must at length be plain and declare themselves: EXPEDIENCY WILL SERVE THE TURN NO LONGER. They that are for Christ and his truth, must be for nothing else; and they that are for him and something else, must fall with that broken reed unto which they have leaned their trust.

These three remedies I commend unto every one who hath a tender heart to the condition of Ireland, natural and spiritual, temporal and eternal: First, the labours of the ministry, in preaching the living word; second, the labour of all, in circulating the written word; and, lastly, the most strenuous exertion of all, especially the laymen, and those of weight and influence, in resisting all measures contemplated for education, which manifest indifference to, instead of enlightened zeal against, the mortal errors with which the people and their children are oppressed. These threefold labours of love I commend unto you in the Lord, with all prayer and diligence and perseverance, to be endured against misconstruction, ridicule, persecution, and contempt; and I trust this Society will continue to show itself the most forward in maintaining the unequivocal principle, that it is religious ignorance and religious error which they fight against, and that they expect no reformation to be of any value which doth not acknowledge God as its beginning, and the salvation of the souls of men as its end.

« السابقةمتابعة »