« ElőzőTovább »
Art. IV. A Reply to a Letter written by the Reverend John Simons, Rector of Paul's Cray, purporting to be on the Subject of certain Errors of the Antinomian Kind, which have lately sprung up in the West of England. By Thomas Snow, Seceder from the National
Religious Establishment. 8vo. pp. 76. 1818. W E applaud the good sense manifested in the following
V passage from this “ Reply"; and while we rejoice in the evidence it affords of a return to soberness of mind, and accept the virtual acknowledgement it contains of past errors, we must think that the nature of the case called for something even more ingenuous and explicit. Mr. Snow recommends the perusal of Mr, Simon's Letter to those who have been followers with him, in order, 5 ,First, that they may be admonished against a sin, too easily fallen into amongst all religionists-into which they may fall, of wresting the Scriptures from their plain signification; by which, if one diffi. culty seemed for a little while to be removed, many others would be inevitably raised. . Secondly, that they may be much more cautious
in explaining what their true meaning is, as well as what it is not, in 1 order to guard against the possibility of such changes as those which you
(Mr. Simons) make; « using sound words that cannot be condemned.” Thirdly, that they may be more cautious in encouraging
persons to become religious teachers who are not qualified to be so. | Fourthly, that they would admit of a more free intercourse with
persons, provided they be upright and godly men, who in some particulars differ from them, that so there may be a liberal discussion of truth to mutual advantage; and also such an explanation of sentiments as might prevent those public contests, which are injurious to the public mind.
Nothing could be more judicious, or more seasonable than this advice. Let but Mr. Snow bimself and his friends have grace to follow it in each particular, and before long, we yenture to predict, neither he, nor they, will be separated from the spiritual catbolic church, except, perhaps, by some worthless wordy distinctions.
Having no more inclination to involve ourselves in wire-drawn theological discussions, than we have to become the arbiters of a personal controversy, we shall concern ourselves no further with the contents of this pamphlet, than to allow Mr. Snow, through the medium of our pages, to exonerate himself from the charge of being now the defender of certain absurdities, which have been, perhaps, in too unqualified a manner, or, at least, too pertinaciously imputed to him. A return towards “ sound. “ ness in the Faith,” in any case, especially in that of a publio teacher, is so pleasing an event, that our readers will not think we occupy them too long in extracting the following declarations, which Mr. $. makes in concluding bis “ Reply."
• I do not,' he says, 'believe in an actual union from eternity between Christ and his Church.- -- Neither do I believe that there was any other union between Christ and the Church, before the foundation of the world, than that which consisted in their being bound up together in the unalterable decree of God, in the same • bundle of life :' and that which had its being in God's purpose, to bring them together in an actual and spiritual union, in their time. state here, as the certain pledge of their eternal enjoyment of God together, in the world of glory.- - I do not believe in justification from eternity, nor in any actual justification of the Church before the foundation of the World.- -- I do not believe in imputed Sanctification, but that the elect of God are personally sanctified, as I have before shown at large. When I assert that believers are dead • to the law, delivered from the law,' I do not mean to teach that their mercies vouchsafed release them from the obligation to regard either God or man ; - - but I believe, that redemption is in order to their loving God and his Church with a pure heart fervently. That Christian liberty is a liberty from those enemies which hinder us from living unto God, in order that we may serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life.'
We have all along anticipated a happy result, when the recent opinions should be submitted to the ordeal of the Press. Very many things will be spoken and written, which a man, endowed with an ordinary share of good sense, will pause to weigh, before he prints ; and this very pausing may bring about the propitious moment, in which a sound understanding and genuine affections, sball triumph over a heated imagination and sinister influences. So desirable an event, we say, may be expected to take place with the humble and the upright: as to those who are “ wiser in their own conceits than seven men " that can render a reason,"—whether they preach, or write, or print, it matters not; their course is never retrograde; it is always onward, always downward ; if they stop, we may be sure, either that some sordid passion has given another direction to their thoughts, or, that the whole elasticity of their minds is exhausted, or, that the external stimulus which has hitherto operated upon them, has been removed..
We say there is yet some ground for dissatisfaction. It is very possible that some particular expressions may have been incorrectly reported, some statement may have been misrepresented. Mr. Snow speaks in bebalf of himself and his friends, but he cannot be ignorant that sentiments the very reverse of those which we have just quoted from his Reply, have long been and still are warmly maintained by individuals with whom, according to common report, he has been closely associated. Mr. Snow cannot be ignorant, that expressions to the full as extravagant and as reprehensible as any of those which Mr. Simops bas adduced in his Letter, have been perpetually on the
externa hole elastic another
is yet sem, has
lips of these persons. The most explicit avowal of opinions which Mr. S. here professes to deprecate, we have ourselves heard from an individual, who would, as we believe, in the restricted sense of the terms, claim him as a friend and associate. Nay, we must renounce our credit in the most respectable
testimony, if Mr. Snow himself has not employed a mode of s expression, which nothing but an unworthy sophistry could i reconcile with the declarations he now makes. If such be the I case-but we forbear-it is not our part to upbraid, or to force
those upon their knees before the public, whose own ingenui ousness does not place them in that position. We suggest but
a single hint in conclusion. The History of the Church teaches ļ us, that the one feature which has the most invariably attached ! itself to heresy, is, an ever shifting evasion. The dishonest
have evaded because they were dishonest; the sincere have acted the like unworthy part, from the very necessity of the case, and the absolute impossibility of pursuing a straight-forward course upon the ground they have unhappily chosen to occupy. Art, V. Sermons on the Evidences, the Doctrines, and the Duties of
Christianity. By the Rev. W. H. Rowlatt. A.M. &c. &c. 2 Vols.
8vo. Price 1l. 1816. . O UR readers are aware that we do not profess to review
U all the sermons, or series of sermonis, which are continually issuing from the press, the greater proportion of which never pass beyond the circle of private friendsbip, while not a few sink at once into merited oblivion. The mode which we have adopted, as some limitation is necessary, has been to arrange the mass of sermon writers into several classes, and to notice distinctly the productions of two or three of those who may be considered as taking the lead in each classs. There have been, happily, á very considerable number, who have recently distinguished themselves by their open avowal, their scriptural explanation, and their able defence of the essential truths of Christianity. These writers manifestly belong to the evangelical class, and to them, with whatever denomination they may be connected, we are at all times desirous to pay a due attention. There are others who belong to what may be denominated the polemic class, consisting of those who write and publish sermons for the express purpose of assailing popular errors, or vindicating controverted doctrines. These are manifestly legitimate objects of criticism, and so far as the matters in dispute are worth contending for, we have felt ourselves bound by our duty to the Christian Public, and our attachment to truth, to balance the respective claims of such controvertists. Again, there are others, who constitute, per. baps, the great majority of modern sermon-writers, that belong
able manifestes denoto pay
to the ethical or didactic class, who seem to consider it their duty to steer clear of all doctrinal statements whatever, and to inculcate only the moral precepts of Christianity; whose discourses seem rather to have been extracted from the writings of Plato and Seneca, than founded on the sublime and evangelical precepts of Christian Revelation. Some of the writings of this class may be usefol, as far as they go, provided that the morality they inculcate be not enforced by false and unscriptural motives : they can have however no just pretensions to the appellation of Sermons, by wbich has ever been understood something widely different from a mere ethical essay. Nearly allied to this latter class, are those writers who may be denominated fashionable divines, whose discourses are accommodated in doctrine, expression, and general costume, to the prevailing taste of the times, and to certain oracular standards, whom all the world admires. : The Author of the volumes now before us, belongs to this order : and from the specimens with which he has favoured the public, we are enabled io furnish our readers with the distinctive qualities of this species of composition.
In the first place then, it would seem absolutely necessary to a modern fashionable discourse, that it be very short; thus our Author informs us in his preface,'' that the sermons are ? short, in compliance with the prevailing custom of the times; • but,' he adds, if they are read as slowly as I think all • sermons ought to be, they will occupy about twenty minutes
in the delivery.' In the next place, it would appear requisite, from these models, that sermons of this class should be altugether without plan and method, or, if the preacher have any connected train of thought, that it be effectually concealed from bis hearers, lest' he should be suspected by them of having adopted the antiquated and puritanical fashion of dividing sermons into heads, and particulars, and subdivisions. The discourse, moreover, must not be textual ; a very slender and remote connexion between the scriptural motto prefixed, and the sentiments subsequently delivered, is amply sufficient. Another requisite is, that the language be not theological; that none of those terms which are considered as cant phrases, or which savour of Methodism and fanaticism, be introduced; nor must it contain many citations from the Holy Scriptures. Here and there indeed it may be allowed to introduce a direct quotation from the sacred volume; but the general character of the style must not be scriptural; nor is it on any account admissible that the obsolete terms with which the sacred volume abounds, should be adopted, without suitable explanations and comments. It is further required, if the discourse be doctrinal, that the doctrines it containg be exactly conformed to the modern theological Creed,' and while a profound respect is professed for the Ar
ticles and Homilies of the Church of England, no appeal must * be made immediately to those upcouth and antiquated writings
themselves, but rather to some of the fashionable modern interpreters of those authorized formularies. The sanction for such doctrinal statements must be taken, not from the New Testament, nor even from the Liturgy itself, but from the Elements of
• Theology,' the • Refutation of Calvinisin,' or some other i oracular publication of modern times. Again, if the sermon
be hortatory, the exhortations must be of a very general kind, i and delivered in soothing accents ; no vehement, or pointed, i or terrifying expressions must be used, which may engender
fanaticism, or drive the sinner to madoess and despair. Finally,
a great proportion of the discourses must be on the Fasts and che Festivals of the Established Church, since this will afford the
preacher an excellent opportunity of eulogizing his Church, and of warning his hearers against evil and designing men, who aim at its subversion; a topic on which it is allowable to declaim with vehemence, and to exhaust all the terms of opprobrium which our language contains. This would seem to be a just and impartial representation of that style of preaching which is now adopted by many, in compliance with the prevailing custom' or fashion of the times ;' and it would be easy to gather proofs and illustrations from the volumes before us, of each of these particulars, exclusive of the last. In adverting to Separatists, the Author has, with one or two exceptions, assumed a tone of moderation and candour well worthy of imitation, and which has seldom been exhibited by preachers and writers of his class.
We cannot, however, dismiss these volumes, without a few additional strictures, by which our readers may be enabled to form a correct estimate of their merits or defects. That the Author should feel it necessary to offer an apology for the publication of two volumes of Sermons, which, he modestly admits,
make no pretensions to originality, nor approach those ad' mirable models of discourses for the pulpit which are ala
ready possessed,' is not surprising; but we were surprised
to find that he deemed it necessary to apologize for the - writing of new Sermons, instead of delivering those of others,
and to excuse his conduct in doing so, by a quotation from Paley, in which that distinguished writer recommends to the
junior clergy, the composition of their own sermons, because S however inferior their compositions inay be to those of others
'in some respects, they will be better delivered, and better re'ceived.' We were certainly not aware that matters were come to such a pass with clergymen of the establishment, that