Page images
PDF
EPUB

passage in Mr. Wilberforce's account of his interview with Mr. Pitt, when he stated to him, at large, the change which had taken place in his religious sentiments, and where he mentions, among other things, He (Pitt) declared to me that Bishop Butler's work raised in his mind more doubts than it had answered." Upon this passagefor it alone is given in italics—is grounded a charge against Mr. Wilberforce, of hypocritical treachery, and want of charity to his friend ; and against the biographers, of manufacturing the paragraph, for what purpose I am at a loss to conceive, unless it was their intention to prejudice Mr. Pitt's character, of which their whole work affords a practical denial. But the Reviewer says, if this account were a true statement of facts, we should still protest against this unctuous style of talking uncharitably of one's neighbours, and whetting the edge of censure in the oil of piety and friendship.' The whole of the paragraph which relates his communication with Mr. Pitt, is too long to extract; but throughout there is not one word of censure except that which is above extracted, unless it is uncharitable to say that Pitt tried to reason him out of his convictions, but found himself unable to do so, if Christianity were true. Mr. Wilberforce's convictions, though just, reasonable, and scriptural, were such as many of the world call madness; and some would deem them so, who could not be classed with scoffers or infidels. Whether right or wrong, they led to his taking a different view, on many moral questions, from Mr. Pitt; as duelling for instance. It is no wonder, therefore, and no great breach of charity, to mention that Mr. Pitt endeavoured to reason him out of his convictions; and the "oil of piety and friendship” with which he whetted the edge of his censure, was a statement of the fact “ that he (Pitt) was so absorbed in politics, that he had never given himself time for due reflection in religion.” And how does the matter stand? A young man of extraordinary talents engages in politics as soon as he leaves the University; is Prime Minister of one of the first countries in the world, at the age of twenty-four; in a few years has his attention engaged by the most portentous revolution which ever convulsed the world; involving his own country in a long and dangerous war, and obliging him to contend with enemies without, and treason in the shape of both mutiny

Two of the instances which the the fact of Mr. Canning having turned Reviewer cites, of “whetting the edge the story in question into ridicule. of censure in the oil of piety and friend- Again: the Reviewer quotes from vol. ship,” will suffice to enable the reader V: page 340, “Poor Canning, I knew to judge of the others. The Review him well, and he knew that I knew er's quotation is, . Poor Canning, how him.” I am not aware that there is so grievous to see him so unjust;" the much censure here, or any great use of true reading is, “Poor Canning, too, the oil of piety and friendship; but the how grievous to hear him so unjust to very next line but one adds, “ he had his own real kindness of heart, as to a mind susceptible of the forms of attempt to turn into ridicule the story great ideas ;” and again, “ I often talked of distress told by Buxton.” How openly to Canning, and I cannot but grievous it is that a Reviewer should hope that good may come of him;" so be so unjust as to garble such an ex- that the amount of this “uncharitable tract, by leaving out the words which censure," when fairly stated, is that mitigate the censure by giving general Mr. Canning was capable of great ideas, commendation, and by which the sense and that he, Mr. Wilberforce, hoped is altered, and a general charge of un- he had made a favourable impression justness is implied; instead of limiting on him. the charge, as Mr. Wilberforce did, to

and rebellion within. Nothing can justify the neglect of religion ; but is it a hypocritical pretence to piety and friendship, to state that under such circumstances the individual had been so absorbed by politics, as not to have given time for due reflection ? But the Reviewer maintains that the statement of Mr. Pitt's having declared that Butler's Analogy caused more doubts than it had answered, “was manufactured by the editors, so as to convey, in its present shape, very erroneous impressions in point of fact ;" and this charge is grounded on the extract from the Diary, which says,

“ Pitt called, and commended Butler's Analogy ;” but there does not by any means appear to be such a contradiction between these two extracts, as to convict the editors of so grave a charge as manufacturing that which caused the Reviewer's censure ; it is quite possible to commend Butler's Analogy as an able exposition of that particular argument, and yet that the person who commended it might not have found it give him perfect satisfaction in every particular ; and that it may even have suggested doubts which, to a mind not much turned to such subjects, had not occurred before. The correctness of the statement, with respect to the effect of Butler's Analogy on Mr. Pitt's mind, is further disputed, on account of the infirmity of Mr. Wilberforce's memory, when the circumstance so much objected to was recorded in notes of his conversation. It happens, however, that the writer of the present paper heard the same circumstance from the late Mr. John Bowdler, in Wilberforce's house at Clapham, the year after, or the year but one after, Mr. Pitt's death, and Mr. Bowdler stated that he heard it from Mr. Wilberforce. I cannot expect the testimony of an anonymous writer to weigh much with the Reviewer, but if it could serve to convince him, the writer would not remain anonymous ; not but that he would be most unwilling to give his testimony, even to vindicate the editors, if he thought it tended to convict Mr. Pitt of scepticism. An eminent divine has said, that he who never doubted never believed. That doubts should pass through Mr. Pitt's mind is not surprising; and it is to be lamented that he did not give himself time effectually to clear them up; but I know enough to believe he did not dwell on them, or allow them permanently to impress his character ; and I must therefore take the liberty of thinking, that the remark does not seriously impugn Mr. Pitt's belief in Christianity, on which subject it gives little information, and it does not at all derogate from the value of Bishop Butler.

(To be continued.)

ON THE “ALTITUDINARIAN” AND “LATITUDINARIAN” DIVINES; WITH REMARKS ON TILLOTSON AND BURNET.

For the Christian Observer. The pious and able correspondent who has favoured us with the paper in our present Number, upon the strictures of the Quarterly Reviewer (supposed to be Mr. Croker) upon the Life of Mr. Wilberforce, says of Bishop Burnet (page 74) that he may perhaps be classed among “what would now be designated as EVANGELICAL divines." Our correspondent is so well read in English ecclesiastical literature, that we should offer an apology for differing from him,

ex.

had he not introduced his remark with a “ perhaps,” which shews that he meant it for further consideration. The subject is germane to several questions which have of late been a good deal before us ; and a few historical statements upon it may not be useless or uninteresting, as connected with three doctrinal schools which have long divided the Church of England.

In the remarks upon Crossman's Catechism, in our last Number, we had occasion to notice (p. 50) Burnet's “ Essay towards a New Book of Homilies,” prepared at the desire of Tillotson; the object of which, he himself says, was to “explain " (that is, in effect, to explain away) “the doctrine of justification,” and “to examine some pressions in the first Book of Homilies, that seemed to carry justification by faith only to a height that wanted some mitigation.” It was further intended (see Dr. Birch's Life of Tillotson, p. 367) that “all that St. Paul had written on that head, both to the Romans and the Galatians, should be explained and reconciled to what St. James wrote on the same subject ;” and “ sanctification was to be rightly stated.” Now St. Paul and St. James—we will not say were reconciled,” for they never quarrelled, but-were“ explained ” in the authorised Homilies; and sanctification also was there “rightly stated ;" so that the real object of Burnet was to “mitigate or contradict what the Church of England had set forth. Should any of our readers think this statement too strong, they need only refer to Burnet's work on the Articles to find it verified. The Homilies explicitly taught, respecting justification, that we are justified freely by God's mercy, through faith in Christ, and not, in whole or in part, by our own works; and respecting sanctification, that it is the necessary fruit of true faith ; so that, says the Homily on Faith, “ if these fruits do not follow, we do but mock with God, deceive ourselves, and also other men,” “ for true faith doth ever bring forth good works, as St. James saith ;" “ a dead faith, which bringeth forth no good works, but is idle, barren, and unfruitful, by the holy Apostle St. James is compared to the faith of devils.” But these were not Burnet's opinions. It is true that he considered the Romish notion of sacramental justification most unscriptural and demoralizing, and “one of the depths of Satan;" but he was equally opposed to the Anglican doctrine of justification by faith ; and his objection to both doctrines -- widely as they differ—was substantially the same, namely, that neither appeared to him to promote moral virtue; the Popish doctrine, he says, “ making men rest in low imperfect acts," which can be “ so easily made up by a sacrament;" and the Protestant not allowing moral virtues to enter at all into the question of justification; though they are secured as subsequent fruits, so that the justified man does not “qest in " low imperfect acts, but presses on, by Divine grace, in all holiness and obedience.

What then was Burnet's own hypothesis ? It was that mis. chievous one of a remedial law, which we noticed in our remarks on Crossman. He denied that a person is justified“ in consequence of such a grace infused, that thereupon he becomes truly just, and is considered such before God ;” which, he says, is the Popish doctrine, and which is also the doctrine of the Oxford Tracts. He consi. ders even evangelical virtue not sufficient; for “there is such a mixture," he says, “and so much imperfection, that if God did straitly mark iniquity, none could stand before him." So far he is

right; but how does he get over the difficulty which results from this scriptural view of the question ? Not, we lament to say, by St. Paul's doctrine of justification by faith ; but by the scheme of a remedial law, under which, for Christ's sake, God " approves and accepts of sincerity for perfect obedience ;" the doctrine so justly refuted by Mr. Newman ;-for the Popish school, which the Oxford Tracts incline to in this and many other matters, is, in this particular, more scriptural than that of the Latitudinarian divines. If Burnet's denial that we are justified by infused grace—that is, by sanctification-had led him on to the full doctrine of justification by faith, without works of any kind, he would have followed Scripture, and the Articles and Homilies of his own Church : but he did not take this second step; on the contrary, when he proceeds to explain what St. Paul meant by justification by faith and not by works, he says that the Apostle referred only to the Jewish law, not to evangelical virtues; that the word “faith" stands generally " for the complex of Christianity in opposition to the Mosaical dispensation ;” and that “by faith only" does not mean "faith as it is separated from " (rather distinguished from, not separated] “other evangelical graces and virtues; but faith as it is opposite to the rites of the Mosaical law.” He “reconciles" the two Apostles, by saying that when St. James affirms we are justified by works and not by faith only, he does not say we are justified by the works of the Mosaic law, but only by evangelical works; so that he does not contradict St. Paul, who meant only that we are not justified by the works of the Mosaic law. In all this he directly opposes the Homilies and Articles of the Church of England. He adds also, that the question between us, and those of the Church of Rome, who consider justification the consequence of grace infused, is only “a strife of words ;" they meaning by justification "what we mean by sanctification;" so that “we agree in the same doctrine, only we differ in the use of the terms." He says, indeed, that we have the Scripture on our side in our use of the terms; and that as the Papists, at the time of the Reformation, had gone to the extremity of saying that our good works “merit” justification, instead of saying that they are accepted though imperfect, it was quite right for the Reformers to shew that “we were reconciled to God merely through his mercy by the redemption purchased by Jesus Christ; but that in urging this doctrine against the Papists they wrote rashly and unjustifiably; that they did not make “so critical a judgment of the scope of several passages of St. Paul's Epistles” as they ought to have done ; that “we do not now stand to all their arguments, citations, and illustrations ;"—which is true, though not in the sense Burnet means ; that “the approbation given to the Homily on Justification, in the Eleventh Article, is only an approbation of the doctrine, not of every particular of the proofs or explanations ;" which also is true, but not in the sense that its doctrine of justification by faith was “carried to a height that wanted some mitigation;" and lastly, that the protests made at the Reformation have had such good effects upon many of the writers of the Church of Rome, that they “have come insensibly off from the most practical errors that had been formerly much taught and more practised among them ;” and that “this matter was so stated by many of them, that as to the main of it we have no just exceptions to it.” The sum of all is, that though Burnet could not deny that the Reformers were right in opposing the Romanist notion that we are justified either sacramentally or meritoriously; yet as many Romanists, he said, had dropped the latter, and did not urge the former to the exclusion of good works, there is “no just exception" to their statements; which was more, he thought, than can be said respecting those of the writers of the Homilies.

We are far from wishing to disparage either Burnet or Tillotson; both of them have many claims upon our respect and gratitude; and with regard to their being called Moderation-men, Latitude-men, and Latitudinarians, these names were not invented by the divines of the Reformation school, of whom few were left; but by the “ high-flying" or “altitudinarian " school, as it was called, the school of Laud and the non-jurors; and they had not reference so much to their mournful defects in respect to “the doctrines of grace," as set forth in the Articles and Homilies, as in respect to their opposition to exaggerated notions respecting apostolical succession and sacramental grace ; making tradition a concurrent authority with Holy Writ; and their charity towards their non-episcopalian protestant brethren. No divines asserted more strongly the doctrine, that the Bible, and the Bible only, is the religion of Protestants; and Archbishop Tillotson's treatise to prove that the Scriptures are the only rule of faith, is most able and unanswerable. Hickes, Leslie, and others of the Laud and Sacheverell school, assailed the Archbishop with an acrimony which shewed how much he did their cause disservice. “The greatest part of the non-juring party," says his biographer, Dr. Birch, “pursued him with an unrelenting rage, which lasted during his life, and was by no means appeased after his death.” Tillotson once made a remark respecting a more than semi-popish book by one of this party, which is worth the recollection of some who are perplexed by the Ox. ford Tracts, feeling convinced that their conclusions are palpably false" and “absurd,” and yet not being always able to unweave their sophistry. “ Such has been the height," says his friend and former pupil Beardmore, of our Altitudinariun divines, as that they have not stuck to challenge the Reformed churches beyond the seas, as being no churches for want of episcopal government; as particularly that learned person Mr. Dodwell, in his book about Schism, and his other book, One Priesthood one Altar ; about which I remember having some discourse with our late Archbishop above ten years ago. He told me that Mr. Dodwell brought his book to himself to peruse, before he put it into the press, and desired him to give his judgment of it; that he freely told him his dislike of it; and that though it was writ with such accuracy and close dependence of one proposition upon another, as that it seemed to be little less than demonstration; so that, saith he, 'I can hardly tell you where it is that you break the chain ; yet I am sure that it is broken somewhere; for such and such particulars are so palpably false, that I wonder you do not feel the absurdity of them, they are so gross, and grate so much upon the inward sense.' And I remember also that he said, Mr. Dodwell was run into one extreme, as much as Mr. Baxter had done into the other."

Another passage from Beardmore will further shew why the “Altitudinarians” called Tillotson a Latitudinarian. “ He did not warp to the other extreme," says Beardmore, “ to become a bigoted zealot for the church and monarchy, as many have done ; but like a wise

« PreviousContinue »