Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

position to the Apostle's own declaration, that the sins of St. Paul were not washed away in baptism. We must confess that all this appears to us more than astonishing. We may be stupid, and we may be prejudiced; while you are endowed with all that is wise, and decorated with all that is candid. We cannot help it. Here stands the record, and we believe it. We cannot admit of your previous enquiries. We cannot yield your gratuitous suppositions. We take the fact as it stands recorded in the plainest terms of which language is capable, and we again refer you to our quotation from Hooker.

We consider the story of the jailor, Acts xvi. 29-34. as equally striking and equally decisive, but it is needless to discuss or dwell upon it. The very remarkable passage, Acts ä. 38–42, which, as forming a part of the first Christian sermon which was ever preached, is primary and fundamental, is rendered nugatory by Mr. B. p. 48. because repentance is to be “ a pre-requisite to baptism,” and Mr. S. p. 56. demolishes it by a single question, “. Does it follow, that every one who is baptized is regenerated and pardoned, whether he repent or not?” Truly in this way it were very easy to make of any thing what we list, and if we set no bounds to our presuinption and prescribe no limit to our subtilties to bring in the end all truth to nothing. Mr. B. p. 20. considers the case of Apollos, Acts xviii. as also to his purpose; though how, we are really at no small loss even to conjecture, for most certainly he was not then a Christian. He preached, at the period referred to, the preparatory repentance of St. John the baptist, with which only he was acquainted, and he was afterwards instructed, baptized, and apparently commissioned as a Christian minister, by the brethren at Ephesus. All this is not indeed distinctly announced in the xvith chapter, but the inference is inevitable when we read the first seven verses of the xixth. The case of Apollos therefore is as remote from Mr. B's purpose, and appears as conclusive evidence against it, as any case in the Scriptures, though most unaccountably he does not perceive it either with respect to him or to the certain disciples converted to Christianity and baptized, in the sixth chapter. Were we to reason as Mr. B. on the case of those disciples, p. 19. we should certainly conclude that the preparatory doctrine of the Baptist was perfectly equivalent to ihe full effulgence of the Gospel. Sucha trifling is really pitiable, and such conceits are really derogatory to the supremacy of Gospel truth aud of Christian redemption. But Mr. S. informs us. p. 83. see also Mr. B. p. 36. that “ St. Paul speaks, 1 Cor. i. 14--17. of baptizing as a very secondary and inferior employ. ment with preaching the Gospel.” Indeed, good sirs, you are mistaken. The Apostle does not speak slightingly of baptismi

lle He only asserts that it did not form a prominent part of his commission ; and he rejoices that it did vot, lest he should be suspected of having given cause to those divisions with which be reproaches the Corinthians, and of having baptized not iu the name of Christ, but in his owil.

We have still another text, however, Ephes. v. 25-27. which Mr. B. is pleased, p.47., to consider as a death-blow to Dr. Mi's cause, in which opinion Mr. S. p. 52. condescends to agree with him, and he quotes, p.53., the Homily on the Sacrament, “ wash yourselves with the living waters of God's word.” Now it might have been worth the while of both these gentlemen to corsider, if it had been only to refute, for our benefit, the ancient opinion distinctly stated by St. Chrysostom, that by the word is here meant the sacred form of words by which baptism is administered. We certainly think a reference to this reasonable and likely, and the more so, in that the sacred form bequeathed to his Church by the Divine WORD together with the vow and conditions of the Baptismal covenant distinctly comprehend, and directly infer, all that is essential in the word of God towards the faith and salvation of Christian converts. But without insisting upon this, we would only venture modestly to insinuate that the word in the text and “ the living waters of God's word” in the Homily, do not in any event, of necessity mean the PREACHING of Messrs. B. S. and Co.

The preaching of the Apostles in authority, power, and substance, was a very different thing from that of any ordi. pary Christian minister, whether bishop, priest, or deacon, in any subsequent age. That preaching was to all intents and purposes the word of God, and carried with it the demon. stration of the Spirit and of power; but the latter, be the preacher who or what he may, is the word of man. It may be vain and it may be erroneous, but even when it is just and true as the most sacred truths of the Gospel, being, as of course we presume, in strict conformity with them, we must distinguisha between it and the word of God, we must distinguish between it and the preaching of the Apostles. Not only is fallen and fallible man the object of such preaching, but fallen and fallible men are the preachers. They have no pretence, or it is a vain and impious pretence, to the demonstration of the Spirit and of power wbich attached to the holy men who founded the Chrisę tian Church. Their power consists, or should consist, in sober learning and serious zeal; and it is generally aided, where sin, cerity leads it, by the combined intluence of an ordinary Providence, of the moral motives with which the Gospel abounds, and of the services and sacraments of the Church. We know no more dangerous delusion than that which leads men to dig. nify, with the high and sacred appellation of the word of God, what may be the mere ravings of presumptuous ignorance, or, the idle vanities of absolute enthusiasm. Place the matter on its fairest footing ; grant that the preacher utters only the truth, the error is a gross one which gives to the word of man the sanctity and the power which belong only to the word of God; his written word; the only word of God which the Church now possesses.

what

We mean neither to deny nor to dissemble the importance of preaching. We mean neither to deny nor to question the awful obligation which lies upou all the ministers of Christ to preach the truth, the whole truth as it is in Jesus. But we solemoly protest against elevating this work of man, ordained indeed of God, but still unquestionably, and from its very nature essentially the work of fallible man, beyond the ins stituted services and sacraments of salvation. The danger of delusion, of pride, conceit, and presumption, is here prodigious, and has been verified in numerous and painful examples of men, who, while they pretend to preach Christ, actually preach themselves, and who rely with the most carnal vanity on the breath of popular applause for their very existence. We abhor calumny, and we make no invidious application. The general truth which we assert is notorious and undeniable. We ton are accused, we are repeatedly accused, by both the authors under review of presumption, of priestly presumption, and of arrogating to ourselves a power which is almost divine. They know, however, or they ought to kuow, that we maintain the importance; aye, the sacred importance; aye, the divine efficacy; of the sacraments, not because we are the ministers ; the humble medium of their administration ; but because they are God's institution, and that our folly or our faults cannot seriously affect nor materially injure their well-defined administration. They know, or they ought to know, that we arrogate to the priestly office no arbitrary power, but a delegated and a regulated ministry; which may be abused, as we readily acknowledge it often has been. What is there connected with human conduct which has not been abused! They know, or they ought to know, that we derive all the efficiency which we believe and assert from nothing in ourselves, but from the power and the promise of God. They kuow, or if prejudice have hitherto obscured their vision, a little easy ene quiry will enable them to ascertain the fact, that, neither in pretensions nor in practice have the clergy, whom they represent as so high and laughty, ever claimed a higher character than that of huinble ministers-of servants subjected to a strict rule never of masters, of the grace of Christ. Their office indeed tbey sometimes magnify, themselves never--110 never. Preaching, even our opponents will grant, if it were only to apply the inference to us, may be very erroneous, and the vehicle of much

vanity

vanity; but in performing the various services and in adminis. tering the various ordinances of the Church, error is impossible, if we abide, as we are bound, by the forms prescribed and the rule laid down; and vanity, we think, having no ground whatever to rely on, were mere madness. It is indeed astonishing that men who treat the sacraments, the divinely instituted means of grace, as these men do, should yet presume to decorate preaching, the preaching of mere men, with the high and heavenly attributes which they attach to it; that they should denominate baptism an outward work of man upon the body with which regeneration has no connection, and should yet attach that essential grace to the preaching of a mere mortal. Were preaching the only institution established and regarded in the Church, we are perfectly convinced that the Gospel would soon cease to be the religion of the nation. It is by the services, by the reading of the Scriptures, by catechising, and by the administration of the Sacraments, that the form and the substance of true religion are preserved amongst us. The funda. mental truths and mysteries of the Gospel are therein constantly exhibited. The necessary graces of the Christian life are thereby in constant and essential operation; neglected certainly by some, and despised by others; but still in mercy, while the day of mercy lasts, offered to all, and effectually applied to many holy, and humble inen, who happily in the form secure the substance, of which, in all ordinary cases, the form makes an essential

part.

* We had intended to folow these gentlemen in their quota-. tions, and were actually prepared to furnish some curious specimens of baste, ignorance, or artifice, perhaps occasionally of the three combined. But it is evident that we should thus compile a volume, not a review. Nor is the labour necessary. Nothing is more fallacious than the mode which they have pursued; the inward and the ultimate effect of all religion and of all religious services may certainly be considered separate from the external sign, and from the ineans, however essential, by which that effect is secured and proved. This is frequently and necessarily the case in all religious writers. It is frequently the case in Scripture, and it is all very proper and very necessary. Well then, these gentlemen select these passages and exhibit them as decisive, without thinking it necessary, as it might have been inconvenient for the object in view, to bring forward other passages in the same writers, equally express and at least as de: cisive, which would have set the whole matter in its true light, by furnishing a connected view of the combined opinion of the writer cited. Had this been fully and fairly done, most of the authorities would have been effectually lost to the good cause ; and thus, gentlemen, we bid you farewell.

ART.

Art. II. Lives of Edward and John Philips, Nephews und

Pupils of Milton, including various Particulars of the Literary and Political History of their Times. By William Godwin. To which are added Collections for the Life of Milton, by John Aubrey, and the Life of Milton, by Ed. ward Philips. 410 pp. 21. 29. Longman. 1815. . TWO men who died a century ago, and whose existence would not commonly be known, but that their names are connected with the biography of Milton, their uncle and preceptor, are selected by Mr. Godwin to appear in the title page of this elaborate performance. A quarto volume of four hundred pages appears to be principally devoted to the lives of two men who mingled with the common herd in their own day, and of whom we persuade ourselves that many of our readers have not hitherto heard the name, or marked it with attention. They were indeed, the nepbews and the pupils of one, who stands pre-emi. nent for genius and learning, the boast of this country and the admiration of the world. But truly all that can afford interest in their biography is found in that short recital. There is no account of the great poet himself, though his history involves whatever is connected with the learning of his own age, with all the examples of taste, and with all critical enquiry; and though it is connected with the affairs of civil polity and religion at a period the most interesting and eventful, which is not half so long as this work, inscribed with the names of his nephew's, Edward and John Philips.

. We presume to thiuk that the object of Mr. William Godwin, in this long labour, was not to rescue from the oblivion of a hundred years, the men, who now, for the first time, are presented as the subjects of elaborate biography. We cannot persuade ourselves that he selected that subject “ as one way of approach to the history of Milton, untouched as yet, and promising new gratification to those who feel an interest in all that concerns him.” It could not be “ that their history affords us an advantage in studying his character;" or that “ the little handful of knowledge which our author has gleaned respecting them," (we confess that it is little indeed) distributed through twelve chapters, from many of which their names may be crased without affecting the context, was necessary to perpetuate or to augment the fame of Milton. The subject of a discourse : does not necessarily proceed from its text. The excursive fancy of an established writer is not to be restrained by the title of his work, or by the rules of ordinary composition. When Mr. Godwin seated himself to compile these pages, the nephews of

S

..Milton VOL. V. MARCH, 1816.

« ZurückWeiter »