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Most zealous and efficient men in the nation ;-without any concern for themselves, at no pains to secure their salvation, and, at the same time, unwearied in the use of those means that are calculated to promote it. We are aware it is alledge ed, that, under this appearance of zeal and goodness, they in reality conceal a depraved heart, and a vicious life-they are destitute of all the virtues that enter into the Christian character. But where is the proof of all this? Or how, even if true, could it possibly be known to these accusers? They confessedly stand aloof from the odious hypocrites. They are ignorant of their private life. It is not for them to penetrate the veil of their prayers, and devotions, and charities, and detect the workings of a corrupt mind. '
The second of the circumstances alluded to, is a positive unfairness of statement His Lordsbip's performance, indeed, contains several instances of misrepresentation so gross and palpable, that we hardly know how to attribute them to inadvertence. Mi. 'Overton having had occasion, in making aa apology for his brethren, to reprobate, as inconsistent with the doctrine of the church, such expressions as the follow. ing : “ We are safe under the shadow of God's wings, * so long as we endeavour to deserve his favour;'- natural ' virtue may be insufficient to serve as the ground of a
strict clairn upon God; but it may nevertheless be a great 'recommendation to God;' - whatever our tenets may be,
nothing can afford us comfort at the hour of death, but 'the consciousness of having done justice, loved mercy, and 'walked humbly with our God;his Lordship says, “We might surely be authorized to conclude, that evangelical preachers do not inculcate a regular attendance upon divine ordinances, an uniform practice of religious precepts, repentance, good works, obedience to the moral law, holiness of living, abhorrence of vice, justice, mercy, and humility.'* Does not his Lordship know, that in drawing this conclusion he reasons in opposition to the habitual practice of these preachers ? Is he to be told, that duties and virtues may be powerfully enforced without being represented as meritorious in the sight of God? Has he read the articles and homilies? Can he have observed the deep attention with which these heralds of the gospel are listened to by their stated hearers,—or have perused their ethical discourses ? Can he have heard of Mr. Gisborne? --The following extract, also, deserves attention, as exhibiting very strikingly the manner in which his Lordship states the opinions of his antagonists.
* Regeneration of those, who are already baptised, by the forcible oper. ation of the Spirit, is one of the doctrines, by which the weak credulity of unthinking persona is imposed upon in the present times. It is a dangerous illusion, calculated to flatter the pride and indolence of our corrupt nature. * It is an easy substitute for that “ Godly sorrow which worketh repentance ;" for that real amendment of life which consists in mortifying our carnal lusts, in forsaking “ the sin which doth most easily beset us,' and in an active and conscientious endeavour to obey the revealed will of God. Men, who fancy that they have received this second birth, consider themslves full of divine grace, are too often regardless of the laws both of God and man, affect to govern themselves by some secret rules in their own breasts, urge the suggestions of the Spirit upon the most trifling occasions, and pretend the most positive assurance of their salvation, while perhaps they are guilty of the grossest immoralities, and are treading underfoot the son of God by the most palpable departure from the plain and simple rules of his pure and holy religion; or at least, by boasting of the peculiar favour of Heaven, they imitate the persons spoken of in the Gospel, who “ trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others.”” pp. 93, 94.
Without inquiring whether his Lordship does not feel a little elation of mind, arising from his superior wisdom and goodness, con pared with these to whom he attributes .these absurd opinions, we may confidently affirm, that a statement more pointedly at variance with the writings generally approved by the Calvinists, could not have been framed. It is the notorious doctrine of these writings, that the change of views and feelings which the Holy Spirit effects, without doing violence to the faculties of our nature, is the beginning of holy and virtuous life; that its reality js to be determined by the harmony of our dispositions and deportment with the dictates of sacred scripture; and that not only gross immoralities, but even a mere harmless life, as it is called, without the love of God, and of man, is incompatible with the existence of this important revolution. -As other indubitable instances of wilful misrepresentation, we intended to mention the • anxiety,' which he attributes to Calvinistic ministers, 'to. depreciate the importance of moral virtue--his representing them as encouraging vice and immorality, among their followers'-aand charging them with performing the duries of their ministry, both. public and private, in a manner injudicious and miscbievous in the extreme'*; but not being willing to wound the feelings of our readers with a repetition what of many of them, no doubt, wou'd regard as vulgar and refuted calumnies, we hasten to lay before them a few of the inconsistencies and contradictions,
* Pp. 182, 176, 177.
with which the right reverend author has plentifully stored his learned performance.
In explaining the following words of the liturgy, “ O God because through the weakness of our mortal nature we can do no good thing, without thou grant us the help of thy
grace.' his Lordship says: 'I have only to observe, that the good thing, here mentioned, must mean good in the sight of God: such an action our weak and unassisted na. ture will, unquestionably, not allow us to perform.' * To the sanie purpose, in another place, he observes : " The human mind is so weakened and vitiated by the sin of our first parents, that we cannot by our own natural strength, prepare it, or put it into a proper state for the reception of a saving faith, or for the performance of the spiritual worship required in the Gos. pel: this mental purification cannot be effected without divine assistancet. Again : • The grace of God prevents us Christians, that is, it goes before, it gives the first spring and rise to our endeavours that we may have a good will : and when this good will is thus excited, the grace of God does not desert us, but it works with us when we have that good will.' . It is acknowledged, that man has not the disposition, and consequently not the ability, to do what in the sight of God is good, till he is influenced by the Spirit of God.'I
This is a Christian bishop expressing the doctrine of scrip. ture and the church. But when he tells us, that 'the gentiles, through the natural suggestions of their own minds, discharge the moral duties enjoined by the law of Moses ;' that bap. tism“ im parts the Holy Ghost to those who shall previously have repented and believed ;' and that the impression which the truths of the gospel make upon the minds of men, depends upon the exercise of their own reason and free will ;'$ he seems to be speaking a very different language. « Regeneration signifies,' at one time, 'an inward effect produced by the Holy Ghost,' -and at another, it is an act performed upon individuals.'The process in mere Heathens and nominal Christians must be nearly the 'same--and yet it is very different. | It is the duty of Christian ministers to exhort those who, though they may be styled Christians, are yet destitute of a Christian principle, to be renewed in the spirit of their mind, to be transformed by the renewing of their mind, &c.; but it is unwarrantable to state to such persons, if they have been baptised, the necessity of being rege. nerated,' of a sensible operation of the Holy Spirit etfectiog
a total change in their hearts and dispositions.'* •The restoring those who have departed from the truth as it is in Jesus, is not called regenerating them, but renewing them again to repentance.'t
Of the sanie nature with these jarring staternents, are the following sentences, Faith stands in the place of uniform obedience.'I • There is, as it wore, a mutual transfer of the sins of men to Christ, and of Christ's righieousness to men.'
Previous good works are certainly not necessary at the time justification is received.'ll • There are more passages in the Epistles which attribute justification to good works than to faith.' 'A man cannot obtain justification on both grounds, works and grace.'** " There is no necessary connection beo tween faith and good works.'tt " True faith produces good works as naturally as a tree produces its fruits.' I It would be tedious to multiply examples. From wbat has been adduced, it is obvious to infer, that the writer who is chargeable with such contradictions, is inadequate to discuss the subjects in dispute between the modern Calvinists and their antagonists.
He who shews so little mercy to himself, seems in a temper to fight with any thing, however sacred in its authority, or venerable from its antiquity. His Lordship, indeed, says, . Our church is not Lutheran, it is rot Calvinistic, it is not Arininian, it is scriptural, it is built upon the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.'88 This, however, is evidently an adroit manæuvre, to conceal his dislike to the real doctrine of the church, and crush his adversaries by the weight of so, ancient and revered an authority. It seems due, therefore, to truth, to the honour of the church, to the character of those whom his Lordship's" book is intended to discredit, -to counteract the effect of this stratagem, by contrasting the doctrines of the church, which be declares are scriptural, with the crude and incoherent 'notions that we find him endeavouring to substitute in their room.
In attending to the following sentences, it is hardly possible to mistake the mind of the church on the nature of original sin, and the consequent corruption and impotence of human beings. Man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil. He can not turn
and prepare himself by his own natural strength to faith and ' calling upon-God.' With these expressions of the articles, agree the foliowing words of the homilies : • Of ourselves we * Pp. 86, 93. – P. 86.
P. 112. § P. 110.
. have no goodness. "Man of his own nature is without any • spark of goodness, without any virtuous or goodly motion, I only given to evil thoughts and wicked deeds. But how. ever scriptural the church may be in this, our author is notwithstanding of opinion, that there is some honesty, some goodness of heart, in the human race : there is at least a degree of righteousness in some men.'* He even represents some of the expressions we just now quoted, as the figment of: modern Calvinists t ; and is sure the reformers were too well acquainted with scripture, and entertained too just notions of the character of moral responsible beings, to intend any such degradation of human nature.'t
In perfect harmony with the views of the articles and homi. lies on the corruption and impotence of man, is the doctrine of the church, on the nature and operation of the Holy Spirit.
We have no power to do good works, pleasant and ac'ceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ pre' renting us, that we may have a good will, and working with ' us when we have that good will.' " It is God that worketh 'in us both the wiil and the deed.' The church addresses God as 'the author of all godliness, from whom all holy de
sires, all good counsels, and all just works do proceed.'. Very different, however, is the account of our R. R. author ; who represents the conversion of persons as owing to their own natural powers,'--'the graces and virtues, on which salvation depends, as the joint operation of the supernatural power of the Holy Ghost and of the natural power of man,' and the gentile converts, as well as the Jewish, as expres
sing their faith in Cbrist before the Holy Spirit was poured 1 out upon them.'s
His Lordship’is equally dissentient on the subject of re. generation. While we are taught by the church, that baptisin is a sign of regeneration,'--that "they that do truly “ repent, must be clean altered and changed, and must become new creatures ;' while she prays that her members imay be
raised from the death of sin unto the life of righteousness,' and that God would create in them, new and contrite hearts;' this prelate is convinced that regeneration is an act performed upon individuals,-not at all requisite in those who bave been baptized, though they be corrupt in their hearts, and vicious in their lives ll. It is indeed proper to call on such persons to repent and reform-to renew their minds—to be renewed in the spirit of their mind: but to insist, in such cases, oli a total change of views and feelings, on the necessity * Pp. 14, 11,
I P. 55. . § Pp. 23, 42, 25.
# Pp. 92, 86.