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Redemption; in Twenty Books. . By George Woodley, Author of “ The Church-yard,” and other Poems, o vols. 8vo. 168.
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THE BRITISH CRITIC,
FOR MARCH, 1816.
ART. I. An Enquiry into the Effect of Baptism, &c. in An.
swer to the Rev. Dr. Mant's two Tracts on Regeneration and · Conversion. By the Rev. John Scott, M. A. Vicar of North
Ferriby, &c. 1815. Baptism a Seul of the Christian Covenant ; or Remarks on
Dr. Mant's Tract on Regeneration. By Thomas T. Bid. dulph, A. M. Minister of St. James's, Bristol, 8c., 1816.
THE subject of these treatises is of the utmost importance, and is rendered peculiarly interesting, at the present moment, by the zeal and exertions of a party to give currency to their own conceits and authority to their peculiar notions. bv a confident appeal to Scripture and to the established doctrine of the Church of England. Their zeal, though not always acs cording to knowledge, nor generally very consistent with cans dour or charity, is full of art and activity. Their exertions are very various, very extensive, and altogether unremittiny. They seem frequently, indeed, in the haste and in the multiplicity of their labours, to “darken counsel by words without knowledge but it is evident, at the same time, that their confidence is daily assuming a higher note of accusation and defiance, and is gradually acquiring a firmer tone of assertion and assurance. They appear indeed to be well, and they have probably been longa practised in the common arts of controversy ; in the art ad capa tandum vulgus particularly. - Oa no questions in the wide field of theological enquiry do we find more inaccurate thinking, more incoherent speaking, and more incorrect and various writing, even from the same pen, than on those which respect the nature, the means, and the marks of regeneration and conversion, · Language, the medium of all our knowledge, is so inadequate, and the powers of man
. are tol . MARCH, 1816. :
are so imperfect, as to render it perhaps impossible, (in matters, ko much beyond our ordinary experience, and our social relations, and naturally involving very various views, very difficult and mysterious circumstances,) so to express the truth, or our conception of the truth, as not to give occasion to misapprebension, and consequently, with men so artful and so zealous, to controversy. When we view such subjects in one light, (and their very nalure, as well as the imperfection of our powers, renders it necessary that we should so view them,) when we are arguing the consequences and enforcing the duties which result from this view, and when we are guarding against the errors which have been attached to the part of the subject before us, we are apt to give occasion to prejudice, to mistake, and to artifice, to mistate our meaning: We may even seem to approach, or we may give a colour to the suspicion that we approve other errors equally great, which a full view of the subject and a candid estimate of our whole opivion, would at once shew that we not ouly reject but abhor. The force of the controversy at present consists, we think, entirely, in the advantage which has been taken by our assailants, (for they are originally unprovoked assailants,) of the difficulty which naturally belongs to the subject, increased as that difficulty greatly is by the inadequacy of language and the imperfection of man. They have largely declaimed on such inaccurate expressions, as they have found, or feigned, in the writings of their opponents, and they have collected with assiduous artifice, many insulated passages from approved authors, which ihus detached, aided by their comments, seem to speak their sentiments, but which, in their proper place and connection, have no such meaning as they maintain.
The controversy thus conducted is idle, and it is endless. Within the last month we have reperused with high gratification the writings of various of our great divines, whose opinions on the subject before us Dr. Mant chiefly follows, and on the whole, in our judgment, very satisfactorily maintains. We have. had special reference at the same time to the numerous authofities which they have adduced and elucidated, nor have we peglected the various efforts, apologies, illustrations and assertions of the various tribes of enthusiasts, within and without the Church. But what avail the labours, the learning, and the sagacity of our most illustrivus divines against the noisy and inceye sant clamour of a restless party? We tind the same prejudices pertinaciously urged, and the same errors zealously maintained, with a bundle of opposite authorities, hastily collected and artfully enforced, with scarce a reference to those confutations which have been before the public for a long series of years, and which have never yet met with a paticat and a pertinent reply.
Dr. Waterland's admirable Sermon on Regeneration is yet unanswered, and we believe unanswerable ; nor do we deem the general positions of Dr. Mant in any danger from the rude attacks of Mr. Scott, who displays much readiness, some ability, and great artifice. Still less danger is to be apprehended from the Remarks of Mr. Biddulph, who is feeble and Aimsy, and not by any means, we think, master of the merits of the subject, These gentlemen, however, fancy themselves invincible; the latter quite as much so as the former; and they both deal their blows and utter their coinplaints with becoming confidence and with great self-consplacency. So far for the present are they safe in their fancied security; for it is not in the hasty pages of a Review that a formal answer can be furnished to two such col. lections of subtlety and declamation. Something useful, however, may even here perhaps be attained, by removing irrelevant matter, by lopping off redundancies, and by reducing the subject of dispute within its proper limits. In attempting this, we would avoid repetition as much as possible, and therefore we venture to refer the reader to the British Critic for July, 1814, Art. IV. and to recommend a serious perusal of the work therein considered, and of the authorities with which it so remarkably abounds. The question between Dr. Mant and his opponents is in effect the same, in many essential particulars, as Mr. Nolan has discussed with so much ability and elucidated with so much learning. The cause or ground of the whole dispute consists in the low estimation (see the Art. referred to, p. 55,) in which the Christian sacraments are held, and in the positive conviction entertained by Messrs. Scott, Biddulph, and Co. that they are not the necessary, nor even the common means of grace.
Toremove at once one great source of declamation and controversy, let it be particularly noted that we speak only, and that we are entitled only to speak, of the Christian Church, and of those to whom the terms of Christian salvation are offered and are. possible. We make this remark, because these gentlemen (Scott, p. 127, &c. and Biddulph, p. 110, &c.) rather rudely run riot in their declamations against their opponents, as if forsooth they consigned, without mercy, to* eternal damnation, all those unfortunate persons, infants and adults, who are born, live, and die, WHERE BAPTISM MAY NOT BE HAD. The accusation is very gráve, and wherever and to whomsoever these charitable declaimers shall be able with justice to affix the gross guilt of so horrible a judgment, the criminals merit their severest repro. bation. But really, gentlemen, to the best of our knowledge and belief, the men whom you so rashly accuse are not guilty, por do their real principles admit of the abomipable inference.