Page images
PDF
EPUB

ists, all Unitarians, all Jews..... Beyond this, the resolution still goes on to de. fine, to narrow, and to exclude: it asserts that all are bound to worship according to their religious convictions of the Divine will as expressed in the Holy Scriptures;' not as expressed anywhere else. A man may think that he derives his notion of the Divine will from other sources, and with that will he may conscientiously and devoutly conform ; still he is by this religious-equality-union placed in a degraded rank, in comparison with religionists of their own creed and worship. He must receive the Scriptures as the only authoritative rule of faith.' Why, there are many who hold tradition to be an authoritative rule of faith.' The majority of Christendom has done so for ages. The Established Church of England claims authority to decree rites and ceremonies not opposed to Scripture. There are, I trust, some few in the country who hold reason to be an authoritative rule of faith.' But all are cast out under this sweeping plan of exclusion, antil the profession of universal religious equality dwindles down into a mere assertion of the pretensions of a sectarian confederation."

“No doubt this union, which I believe is already formed, may, if brought into activity, do much good. It may stop some oppressive measures; it may get rid of direct episcopal taxation upon Dissenters; it may throw open all the public offices that are still appropriated to members of a particular sect; it may, in time, lead on public opinion towards the object, which is pretty plainly expressed in one of the resolutions, of the separation of church and state: although I confess that if this separation were to involve the destruction of the public funds at present in the possession of the church, I should deem it dearly paid for. Church property is people's property. Under a proper system of commutation, tithe is not paid by the consumer, but merely vests a tenth of the proprietorship of the land in the hands of the clergy, or rather of the legislature (the clergy's masters), as trustees. The object of that trust, of which the Church of England has failed not less signally than did the Roman Catholic Church before it, is the spiritual culture of the entire community. To that object the funds should be held sacred, in the hope that they will some day be applied to their legitimate purpose, and

be the means of establishing that national education, in the most comprehensive · sense of the term, which in no other way seems capable of being realised.

“In advancing whatever public good it may be found competent to achieve, let the projected union fairly appear what it is, a sectarian confederation for obtaining sectarian equality. But, for freedom ? Its success might leave to the most conscientious individuals only the freedom of the grain between the upper and the nether millstone. For equality? It might only leave the equality of fire and water to the mariner when his ship is blazing on the wide ocean.

“ He, who, in the spirit of the first resolution of this ‘Union,' tells all men authoritatively what is their duty; decides for them the order and proportions of that duty, &c., &c., whatever he may cant about equality, really implies superiority in himself, religious, spiritual superiority. And if a man claims thus to be the superior of others, their superior in knowledge, in virtue, in worship; their superior in the sight of God; will he not act as their superior ? will he comport himself as an equal in all the concerns of life, or in all his influences as a citizen upon social or institutional arrangements ? will not his children, or his friends, should they diverge in theological opinion or religious practice from his infallible standard, be subject to vexations, which shall make them feel he is their superior ? will not this sense of superiority extend itself wider in the social circle as it is felt and exercised by large bodies of men, by churches bound together by their common faith, rites, and discipline? will it not act as a bribe or a threat upon those who are without?' will it not destroy all practical social equality in matters of religion ? will there not be temptations set up which are utterly subversive of equality?. In contemplating bodies thus acting together, will not the most sordid principles be produced and stimulated in connexion with religious profession? will not the clerical aspirant see in orthodoxy the means of forming connexions and rising to preferment? will not the lawyer see in it the promise of augmenting the number of his clients ? will not the shopkeeper trace in it one mode of increasing the number and value of his customers ? will not the menial find it better than character, as a recommendation to a situation ? Religious equality, indeed! There can be no equality in religion with agencies like these at work."

. We invite, and, if we may say it respectfully, we defy Dr. Smith, or any other man, to refute these sophisms upon the principles avouched by modern Evangelical Dissenters. Let Dr. Andrew Reed, who wrote “The Case of the Dissenters," cope with Mr. Fox, if he can, upon the ground assumed by himself and his brethren. The Equality Society are argued to be " A sectarian confederacy for obtaining sectarian objects.” But, in the mean time, see the gulf into which the Evangelical Dissenters are plunging us. They are trying to raze the national temples of God, and promise that more solid, useful, and durable structures shall succeed in their place; whereas their prognostications turn out to be phantoms, and their edifices heaps of sand. Can Dr. Smith wonder, under these circumstances, that with all our respect for him we write earnestly, and it may be—though we mean it not—uncourteously. It is really frightful to us, to see how a good man may be led by his system to try to find out how he may keep up dissent upon principle, and yet not wholly discard the service of God from public institutions. Is Jehovah the God of nations? If not, let us be nationally “ without God;" but if he he, let us not seek how we may nationally stint our recognition of his laws, till we can find nothing more to say on his behalf, or for his Sabbaths, than would be equally true of a good turnpike act, or any other measure of “civil benefit.” We have a very short answer for Mr. Place and Mr. Fox, (who will consider us as consistent bigots), that Christ is God, and the Bible is God's word, and that its rules bind nations in their corporate as well as their private capacity, and that whatever Deists, Socinians, or political religionists may say to the contrary, a Christain legislature is bound to institute and uphold the worship of God and the religious instruction of the people. This is Bible ground; and it affords firm footing; but once quit it, and there is no resting place; we are lost in wandering mazes, and in each depth find a lower depth opening to devour us.

VIEW OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS. Among the topics which have been dually mould public education accordin part discussed in parliament, we have ing to those pseudo-liberal plans, of only space left at present to advert to which we have lately heard so much; the most important of them all, that of unless the members of the Established National Education.

Church exert all their influence to preLord J. Russell, in presenting some vent it. When Lord J. Russell propapers upon the subject, stated his in- poses his plan in detail, we trust he will tention of proposing the appointment find that they are prepared to stand up of a Board, consisting of privy coun- for the essential principle that National cillors and the responsible servants of Education shall be Christian, and we the Crown, to superintend the distribu. have already shewn at large, in another tion of grants for education. He de- part of the present number, that this precates the idea of National Education involves the agency of a National being attached to the national church; Church. As matters stand at present, but he has not distinctly stated what we see no plan which is feasible, but for plan be considers desirable to be carried the legislature to continue to aid Scripinto effect. It certainly is reasonable tural education as before by voluntary that if parliament grants money to the institutions, whether upon the National object, there should be commissioners Society or the British and Foreign to superintend its distribution ; but School Society's system ; without atthere is too much reason for apprehen- tempting any general measure of its sion, that the proposed Board will gra.

own.

ANSWERS TO CORRESPONDENTS. F. W. H.; ANGLICANUS CHRISTIANUS; B. M.; AN INQUIRER; W. W.; P. R.;

A CHURCHMAN; E. I. C. ; CLERICUS; J. E.; A COUNTRY CURATE; C. C.; A SINGULAR PLURALIST; are under consideration. We are happy to hear, from several correspondents at Oxford, that the Reforma

tion Memorial is going; on so well. Both of the Archbishops have given it

their sanction; and also the bishop of the diocese. Erralum. -At p. 113 of our last Number was misprinted Sir Eardley Wilmot for

Sir C. Eardley Smith. The name was given correctly at p. 113.

[blocks in formation]

IN

of its attainment,-form the most important inquiries with which the human mind can be conversant. Sojourners as we are on earth, mere travellers through time to a permanent dwelling in eternity, the short and uncertain period allotted to the journey, and the unchangeableness of the state, whatever it may be, in which its speedy termination will leave us, should alike stimulate to vigilance and exertion. We should take good heed to the safety of a course that is to land us upon a shore from which we never can return. We should be well assured that the everlasting habitation to which we are hastening, is a mansion of rest, and not a place of torment.

Salvation is a deliverance from sin, and its consequences. Now sin has brought with it two great evils-guilt, with all its attendant train of external, penal inflictions-pollution, with all its intrinsic and inseparable miseries. Salvation is not an abstract doctrine to be credited, but a personal experience to be felt. St. Paul assumes that all whom he addresses are the subjects of this experience, when he says, “ By grace ye are saved.” And certainly the most profitable shape in which his words can present themselves to our consideration, is by suggesting to each, individually, this most important practical question, “Am I saved ?"

Am I, in the first place, saved from the guilt of sin ? Am I saved from the clamours of an evil conscience; from the fear of an offended and angry God; from the painful sense of his heart-inspecting presence; from the dread of death; from the terrors of a judgment to come, and of a ruined eternity ?

Sin necessarily brings with it the wrath of a holy and offended God. It was not the development of mere arbitrary power, but it was the holiness of God's nature revolting from unholiness, which dictated to our first parents that prophetic warning of the danger and malignity of sin, “ In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” And the Law but expands, in its detail, this one principle of all moral good—the obedience of faith working by love, – Corist. OBSÈRV. No. 16.

2 C

it but echoes the Divine warning to our first parents throughout the remotest ages, and most distant habitations of man, when it utters its penal sanction, “ Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them.”

But “ all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” And therefore the Gospel is not merely a system of philosophical speculation, or even of moral instruction, from which the self-justifying Pharisee may learn what good thing he must do to inherit eternal life : but it is a remedial system, adapted by Divine wisdom, and Divine mercy, to the wants and miseries of man, and which provides an answer to the important question, " What must I do to be saved ?" It is a system in which the holiness of the Divine attributes may be uncompromised by the salvation of perishing sinners : a system in which pardon may be fully vouchsafed to the guilty and the lost, without money and without price; while yet, on the one hand, sin stands out in all its turpitude and all its malignancy; and, on the other hand, holiness stands out in all its inviolable and uncompromising strictness. It is a system which reveals, in Incarnate God, a substitute for lost man-a substitute who fulfilled every jot and tittle of the Divine will, and thus magnified the law, and made it honourable: then bare our sins in his own body on the tree ; and so expiated their guilt by his own sufferings and death, that now God may be just, and yet the justifier of the ungodly.

But have we then fled for refuge to this hope set before us? and are we partakers in the benefit of this great salvation? “ There is, therefore, now, no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus ;" but are we in Christ Jesus? They that believe are justified from all things ;” but do we believe? “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them;" but have we been reconciled to God by the death of his Son, so that all the charges which the law can bring against us, are satisfied by the pleaded sufferings and all prevailing intercession of Christ? "Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time, without sin, unto salvation ;" but do we look for Him? If so, a sense of this pardon and reconciliation has been imparted to us, so that we know the things which are freely given us of God. If so, we have that “ Spirit of adoption whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ.” We therefore feel that to us “ to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” because we know in whom we have believed, and are persuaded that He is able to keep that which we have committed to Him unto that day. All this, at least, it is the Christian's privilege to experience; a privilege inestimable in the view of Him who has been awakened to a living sense of the transcendant importance of eternal things, and which, therefore, he who is content to live without, proves, by this śpiritual apathy, that he has never “ passed from death unto life."

But be careful not to suffer a lying spirit to delude you in this important matter, and, counterfeiting the work of the Comforter, to say to your soul, “Peace, peace, when there is no peace."

Try the spirit that witnesseth in you, whether it be of God; and by its fruits ye shall know it. The same Spirit which witnesses our adoption into the family of God, also seals us unto the day of redemption with the signet of holiness. The same grace which saves from the guilt, saves also from the power and pollution, of sin. Am I, in the second place, thus saved ?

“He that committeth sin," the Highest of all authorities has told us, “ is the servant of sin ;' the slave of a wily and merciles styrant, who seizes upon every temper, passion, and affection of his nature, to enchain him to his galling yoke. Nor is this bondage less miserable or less degrading, because the despot rules within his own bosom, and promises liberty while he enslaves him to corruption : and because he so warps his judgment, and depraves his affections, and carnalizes his whole soul, that, while life and death are set before him, he voluntarily prefers misery, and shame, and destruction, to glory, honour, and immortality. Even though the guilt of sin had called forth no sentence of future punishment, this power of sin would have kindled in the soul a native hell. And that anarchy of lusts and passions, which “the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience never fails to introduce, would have supplied abundant fuel for its everlasting burnings.

Nor can this wide-spreading and fatal leprosy of soul be healed, or even arrested in its progress, by any human skill or power. In vain does reason argue the baseness and ingratitude, the folly, the danger, and the misery of sin. In vain does the holy law of God shed the uncreated light of infallible truth upon the path of duty : and draw aside the curtain of time which veils the unseen world, and disclose the mansions of the blessed, and the prisons of the damned ; and point to those unfading crowns of glory which shall encircle the brow of him that overcometh, and that blackness of darkness which shall envelop for ever the unbelieving and ungodly. In vain does conscience bring home the accusations of the law, and say in the sinner's heart, “ Thou art the man.” In vain do they who know“ the terrors of the Lord," persuade men to embrace the offers of his mercy ;reprove, rebuke, exhort them to resist the devil, to extirpate sin, to cultivate holiness. Reason, indeed, counsels well and wisely; but the wisdom of reason, and the still small voice of conscience, are drowned amid the stormy bursts of passion, of prejudice, of inordinate desire. The law, indeed, “is holy, and just, and good ;” but the “law is weak through the flesh "—through the ever present, ever felt, and ever victorious power of corruption : and until the spiritual eye be unsealed, through that faith which is of the operation of God, no counteracting motives, drawn from an unseen future, can tell upon the soul. “The natural man discerneth not the things of the Spirit of God.” To him all are vague and visionary, undefined, uncertain, uninfluential. If sin is to be resisted and put down : if the sinner is to be translated “from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God :" if the soul is to be “delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God," the gospel of free grace, alone, will be found the wisdom of God, and the power of God, unto such salvation.

Have then,- I would ask, for practical subjects are worse than useless unless brought home to the individual conscience,—have the peculiar motives of the Gospel appealed with power to your heart, who now readest these lines? Do you love God, not merely as the Great Creator, the Almighty Architect of universal nature, thus good and beautiful, the Bounteous Dispenser of all sublunary blessings;

« PreviousContinue »