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services in every department of useful knowledge.' We have certainly read some novels, and poems, and pretty little stories, some journals of tours, critical articles, and other secular compositions, which were avowed or known to have been the works of clergymen of the established church. But we have yet to learn that more than two or three out of the whole number of the living clergy of England, consisting of 12,559 individuals, have obtained any reputation in the walks of literature. And even if Dr. Wilkins could count thousands for those three, we are much at a loss to discover the connexion, which such a reputation would have with their duties as ministers of a Christian church. As to those extraordinary works of the head and heart, by which they have silenced the ignorance of foolish men, we beg leave to ask him when they have been published, under what titles, and where they are to be found? We believe that we should probably have met with some of those
prodigies of eloquence, had they been in existence, but we must confess that we know nothing of them. Their merit, however, can hardly be so great as the doctor supposes, since they have at best succeeded only, according to his account, in putting to silence the ignorance of foolish men! No great triumph, we apprehend, for such very learned persons to obtain !
But let the reader mark the whole tone of this passage, and observe how very widely it differs from the humility of the Gospel ! After magnifying the gifts which, he says, the clergy have received from on high, he bursts forth in this hymn of clerical praise,
• With respect to the application of these gifts, look at that body of sound and pure divinity which the great writers and teachers of our church have given to the world !--works by which they have separated the dross of paganism and the conceits of a vain philosophy from the unsophisticated simplicity of the gospel, and have “ rightly divided the word of truth." Look again at those endless works, both of the head and heart, by which they “ have put to silence the ignorance of foolish men”-have “ convinced the gainsayers,” and brought home the hopes and consolations of the gospel to every ingenuous bosom. Look at the extent and utility of their personal ministrations—at that active faith, zeal, and charity, by which they have given life and energy to the manifold institutions which adorn and dignify our native land, and which cast the brightest lustre upon an enlightened and a religious people. In the walks of literature and science they have ever maintained a high and well-earned reputation, and have so blended their information and services in every department of useful knowledge, as to approve themselves no less valuable citizens of the State than assiduous ministers of the church of Christ. These pretensions may be thought by some to be inconsistent with that humility which should characterise him who speaks of his own profession, but it is so much the humour and fashion of these revolutionary times to blacken our character, and to under-rate the sincerity of our actions, that, put upon the defensive, we are compelled to invite inquiry, and to maintain the claims, which, as a ministry, we have to your veneration and regard, and of which an attempt is made to deprive us by those clamorous for innovation and change, and
by others hostile to the continuance of our ancient and venerable institutions.'
Now let us suppose only the half of this panegyric to be true, we ask, as we have asked before, where are the fruits of this sound and pure divinity, of these endless works of the head and heart, of these hopes and consolations brought home to every ingenuous bosom? We are discussing the matter practically, and we desire to be informed of the actual amount of good, which all these works have produced amongst the members of our community ? Let the Rev. Mr. Armstrong answer this question. We suppose that Dr. Wilkins would not object to the testimony of one of his own brethren. The world,' says Mr. Armstrong, seems to be Christianized just because the church has lowered herself to the character of the world. The church has come down to the world ; and then she boasts of the world that it has come up to her. But the world has not come up to her; the world has dragged her down to itself. The distinctions of the church of God are almost lost in the earth. We have not the heavenly proofs of God's church appearing before us, whithersoever we turn round.' Here is as complete a contradiction as language can give, to the assertion so boldly made by Dr. Wilkins, that he and his brethren throughout the kingdom, have brought home the hopes and consolations of the gospel to every ingenuous bosom,' and that through the grace given to them (the established clergy), the strength of God has been made perfect in their weakness !'
Dr. Wilkins is pleased to rank us amongst those who are hostile to what he calls our ancient and venerable institutions,' meaning thereby the church as by law established. He is very right. We have frequently declared ourselves to be the open foes of the established church, because we conscientiously consider it to be the grossest mockery of religion that was ever palmed upon a credulous people. It is ridiculous to hear him praise its antiquity, for at best it is not more than three centuries old. That would be a pretty good age for a tree, or for a brick or stone building, but for a church it is but a yesterday, seeing that for fifteen hundred years after the birth of the supposed founder of that church, no such institution was in existence, and never would have existed in this country, if Henry VIII. had not wanted to get rid of his wife.
The doctor, who pours out many phials of his wrath against an article which was inserted in THE MONTHLY Review for May last (p. 79), has marked out for particular censure the passage which we shall now take the liberty to repeat.
• “ Even among those who frequent the churches of the establishment, there are exceedingly few who understand what religion truly means, and who practise it with any degree of genuine piety. They, for the most part, believe that they are sufficiently religious if they attend at the services of the church on Sunday, and abstain from doing injury to any body. If
any one of them be asked what is meant by the Trinity, and whether he believes in the incarnation and divinity of Christ, it is of all things the most probable that he will give an answer which shall betray the grossest ignorance. Certain it is, that his answer will not agree in all its parts, with that of a person who sits before or behind him in the neighbouring pew; and that he thinks himself entitled to hold what opinions he pleases upon the subject, inasmuch as the church itself being founded upon the principle and the right of private judgment, he supposes that the same right appertains to him as an individual. We need not remark upon the myriads of sects which have sprung from this prolific source, and openly abandoned the established church, since, even at this late hour, her own doctors dispute about some of the most essential points of Christian faith." - Monthly Review for May, 1831.
Now what is the answer given by the reverend preacher to the charges against the church, which are contained in this passage? Simply this, “that we may keep in check, but we cannot extinguish the perverseness of the human mind,' and then he refers to the dissensions which prevailed on points of doctrine even among the first converts of the Apostles. We have not said that it was possible for the Church of England, or any other church whatever, to prevent differences from existing in men's minds upon questions of religion. What we did say, and now maintain, is this, that the Church of England, having been founded upon the right of private judgment, has necessarily given rise to the myriads of sects which abound at present in this country, and has, by consequence, produced so great a confusion with respect to doctrine amongst us, that even those who frequent that church have no uniform system of belief. But if we inquire among the sects who have sprung from the principle of the right of private judgment, and have long since abandoned the church, we shall find that there is scarcely any one point of faith, beyond that of the existence of a Deity, which they hold in common; and of this wide-spreading dissension, we say, the Church of England has, from the very basis upon which it is constructed, been the immediate and criminal author. We blame it not for its inability to extinguish the perverseness of the human mind, but for the systematic encouragement which it holds out to that perverseness, and for the irreparable injury which it has thereby inflicted upon the Christian faith, .
For let us ask Mr. Armstrong, what is at this moment the state of the church in this country? What is the very title which he has given to his sermon -a sermon preached but a few days ago in the heart of this metropolis? 'The Present Degenerate State of the Church'--that isthe title which he has prefixed to a sermon, delivered in the church of St. Clement Danes. From this well considered and really eloquent discourse, we shall detach a few passages, in order to convince the reader that we have made scarcely a single charge against the establishment, which the evidence of this minister does not fully bear out and substantiate.
« We have not the devotedness that characterized God's church in its purest age. We have not that devotedness characterizing the church at the present day. Christian people are not Christian people devoted to Christ. They are not the stewards of Christ; the generality of Christians are proprietors; they lend a little to Christ now and then; they give a little to Christ, if you please, now and then, when an appeal is made to them; and, if that appeal have a great many arguments in it, if it come home to the flesh, they give perhaps a great deal. But the Christians of the present day would not be known to a Hindoo, they would not be known to a Turk, they are not known to the infidel, as the men that are so identified with Christ, that their wealth, their influence, their power, are Christ's—that every thing they have, and every thing they are, belong to Christ. This is not the case; therefore, we want this mark in the church. Look over the church ; look at the Church of England-look at the Church of Scotland-look at the dissenting churches, if you please : and you find this first mark is wanting; namely, devotedness to the Lord Jesus Christ. Are all the baptized multitude who crowd our churches devoted to the Lord Jesus Christ ? No man dares to say it. We must not be charged with a calumnious spirit, we must not be called haters of the brethren, when we say that they are not more like the true church of Christ than the heathen world is like the true church of Christ.'
In speaking of the fruits of the establishment, we have never ventured to use language of censure so strong as this. Let us hear the same reverend gentleman a little further.
• Again, The brotherly love that characterized the first Christians does not exist in the visible church ; that is, it does not characterize the visible church. No man, looking over the church now, can say it is a collection of people who love one another; but he would say it is an assemblage of people who hate one another, who speak bitter things against each other.
• See how the high churchman is set against the low churchman. See how evangelical is set against legal; and see how one class of evangelicals is set against another class of evangelicals. See how the churchman is set against the dissenter; and how the dissenter is set against the churchman. See how they bite and devour one another. See what a menagerie of wild beasts let loose on each other the church is,--the church that ought to be the church of love, that ought to bring out the manifestation of the Lord Jesus Christ, the God of love, who was love embodied, who exhibited love in his life, who exhibited love in his death, who exhibited love in all the blessings he gives, and in the meritorious way in which he purchased the blessings.'
We do not pity the man who can read this honest and manly exposition of the true state of the Church of England, without feeling seriously alarmed for the spiritual safety of the millions of souls, perplexed and misguided by the false lights which that institution holds out to the people.
Again, look at the church, and say, is the church a church of prayer ? Christ was a man of prayer; all the saints, the ablest saints, are described to us as being emphatically men of prayer. Prayer is the acknowledg
VOL. III. NO, TII,
ment that there is a God; prayer is the opening of the mouth wide, that God may fill it; prayer is the holding communion with the Lord, deriving out of his fulness. Now, would a stranger be constrained to acknowledge, as he looked at the visible church, that it was a body of praying individuals? If he came into our assemblies on the Sabbath-day, would he acknowledge it?
• If he goes into the churches of England and Scotland, he looks into the countenances of hundreds and thousands, and he sees listlessness, and heedlessness, and deadness, pourtrayed on their countenances. Let him go into dissenting-houses, there he will see the people sitting, lolling, and looking about, while the minister is offering to God the best prayer he is taught to utter.
· Let him pass from the Sabbath-services, and go to the dwellings of Christians. Does he find them men of prayer in their closets, in their families? Let him cross the threshold of their houses, and see them in their social and collective unions. Are the people people of prayer? Do they assemble in each other's houses to pray? Are the churches open for prayer-meetings, and do the people attend them? If they are opened, they are opened seldom; and, if they are attended, they are attended by very few. The great majority attend ihem not; the great majority despise these prayer-meetings, and call persons who love them, and who engage in them, fanatics and enthusiasts, and people not fit for the world.' We entreat the candid reader to refer to the passage
which we have above quoted from the number of our journal for May last ; and compare it with the testimony here given by Mr. Armstrong. It would really seem as if we had anticipated not only the outline, but some of the very expressions which this gentleman has adopted in his discourse,
Dr. Wilkins, in a passage upon the common standard of faith, which we shall notice more at length presently, expresses his belief that that standard was obtained by the aid of the Spirit of God;' he afterwards says, “Thus far I have shown you that, as a ministry, we have received proofs of divine mercy and favour, sufficient to satisfy every considerate mind that we are under the favour of the Most High. Let us hear what Mr. Armstrong has to say upon this subject.
'Is the Spirit of God manifested in the visible church? Where is there a proof before the world that the Spirit of God is in the church? The proof is not in the devotedness of the church, for that does not exist : the proof is not in love, for that does not exist : the proof is not in the pure preaching of doctrine, for that does not exist : the proof is not in the gifts of the Spirit, for they are blasphemed by the generality of people who call themselves Christians.
• God's Spirit is banished from the visible church, as a great body, because of its wickedness and its unfaithfulness in doctrine and discipline.
We have lost the church : we have got a great world, but have no church.