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An Apology for the Ancient Fulness and Purity of the Doctrine of the
Kirk of Scotland: a Sermon preached on the occasion of a Fast, appointed by the Presbytery of London, to be held in all their Churches on the First Day of the present Year, because of the low ebb of Religion among the Children of the Scottish Church residing in these Parts. By the Rev. Edward Irving, M. A. Minister of the Scotch Church, London. Nisbet.
As we some time since wrote in praise of a volume by the Rev. Edw. Irving, we cannot in the notice of this Sermon express our dissent from many of its sentiments, without entering a little into particulars. In his explanatory comment on “the ancient fulness and purity of the doctrine of the Kirk of Scotland,” we apprehend the author has done injustice to the principles of the Scottish Reformers, —and that in no inconsiderable degree, in reference to their statement of the doctrine of the blessed Trinity, and the person of Christ. It unhappily appears to be the object of the Rev. Gentleman, whatsoever be the topic of discourse, to introduce some novelty, or to venture some speculation, whether for the purpose of elucidation, or for the sake of mere effect, we will not attempt to predict. So far as he writes in agreement with sound doctrine, we rejoice to commend his labours; but when he oversteps the boundaries of eternal truth, we hasten to lift the warning voice, and to call attention to the profitless pursuits of an immature judgment.
" The first great declension on the subject of doctrine which we have to lament in our church, and indeed in all the churches, is in that which is the foundation of all other doctrines ; to wit, the doctrine of the Trinity, which, in the first ages, was deemed of such importance as to occupy almost exclusively the attention of the first four councils of the church : yet now it is become an unopened mystery, believed chiefly upon tradition, when believed at all, and, even when believed, seldom apprehended as the great fountain of christian truth. Divines of these days shrink from it, as a profound abyss in which nothing is to be found but darkness and dismay. There is, indeed, a controversy still maintained for the Divinity of Christ, by the quotation of texts, but seldom by any deep arguments drawn from the nature of the Godhead itself, or from the work of the redemption and regeneration of the creature; and it is maintained not so much for its own dignity and use in theology, as for the securing of the doctrine of the atonement, which hath swallowed up almost every other doctrine, and become the great indulgence of ignorance and idleness, which, in a selfish age, will ever be the case. But as to the personal subsistences in the Trinity, and their personal offices in the great work which is accomplishing the purpose of God, as to the Unity of the Divine substance, notwithstanding these personal distinctions and offices, and as to the sublime theology of our fathers, thence derived, concerning the covenant made between the Father and the Son, and carried into effect by the Holy Spirit ;-these subjects are as much lost to the studies of our divines, and excluded from their public discourses unto the people, as if VOL. IV.-No. 47.
they belonged to the speculations of the later Platonists, or the refinements of the school divines: and yet I hold them to be the first principles and car- dinal points of all orthodox theology.
“From the darkness which God hath spread over these, the rudiments of doctrine, innumerable deficiencies and errors have proceeded, of which I shall mention a few. First- The doubts and waverings which exist upon the subject of election arise all from not comprehending the office of the Father. and his prerogative to be alone self-originated, the originator of the Son, and through him of the Holy Ghost : for, if this were rightly and fully apprehended, then his prerogative of first-will and self-origination in all things revealed hy the Word and Spirit, could never come into doubt; and for this all-originating will, what is election but the specific name proper to that of the eternal counsel opened in this present age of the church, which endureth until the Lord shall come again ?"
Much of this is very excellent: and, alas ! that the subject of lamentation should be so justly chosen. The idea of the doctrine of the atonement having swallowed up' almost every other doctrine, and become the great indulgence of ignorance and idleness,' is rather above our comprehension. That of the prerogative of the Father to become, the originator of the Son, and through him of the Holy Ghost,' is so near akin to the language of an anti-trinitarian, that we but re-quote it to shew our great surprise and utter astonishment.
We too often have occasion to render the mighty argument of scripture in favour of “the mystery of God,” to require enlargement in this place; and we therefore turn to Mr. Irving's views of the person of Christ. He is speaking of the eternal purpose of God to bring all things into subjection to the second Person in a creature-form.
“To the attainment of which end, the second Person must come in the fallen state of the creature, and so become its Jesus or Saviour by triumphing over its sinfulness and its infirmity; after which, in reward of his humiliation, and in virtue of his triumph, as the first-born of the fallen creatures, he receiveth from his Father, now become his God, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and so is constituted the Christ, or the Anointed One; who thenceforth anointeth with holiness and power all the creatures whom the Father willeth to save : when also, he virtually becometh the Lord, because no higher place or power can be attained unto, than to possess in full right the gift of the Holy Ghost; who, as he is the first life, so also he is the second life of all things. But here, the Father, to assert his own first place of sovereign rule, and all-origination in the redemption, as in the creation and the fall, and for other great ends which we stay not to enumerate, instead of giving the Son at once the sceptre of the kingdom, gave him the seat at his own right-hand, and said unto David's Lord, “Sit thou here, till I make thine enemies thy footstool;" and the Son-to shew that in his exaltation also he is but second in respect to origination, as in his eternal generation and in his humiliation--the great Head of the worshippers, and the great pattern of the subjects, did consent to remain a Lord declared, but not a Lord installed, until the times of his Father should be accomplished, when he shall be brought in the second time in glory and majesty, a Priest no longer within the veil, but a Priest upon the throne of David. Now, I do solemnly declare, that this endless theme of the person and work of Jesus Christ the Lord, and the infinite mystery of his Name, seemeth to have become hid from the public ministry of the great body of the preachers of that church whereof I am a minister. It is a bold word' to utter, and a fearful one; but the time no longer endureth palliation, and I say it advisedly, with all the risks upon my head."
- The second Person must come in the fallen state of the creature !" - The first-born of the fallen creatures.!” We should offer an insult to the understanding of our readers, were we to attempt to prove the fatal effects of indulging in such unscriptural expressions. Or, were it apparent that they originated in unpremeditated design, they might be passed by with simply referring to them. But the error they involve is one of the strange novelties our author has recently introduced, and which, in the face of a bold disavowal, he seems determined to maintain. We can know, acknowledge, or conceive of, no way in which the immaculate Surety of the church partook of her sins, her sorrows, and her infirmities, but through the doctrine of imputation. The Son of God, uniting himself to the nature of his people, took possession of a “ body prepared” by the Holy Ghost, a nature, though human, holy, harmless, undefiled. But—not to enlarge
-it is worthy of remark, that the imputation of the sins of the church, and of the righteousness of the Surety, has found no place in the sermon we are noticing. We do not choose to go to the lengths of some, even divines of eminence, in the use of terms to elucidate the great mystery of godliness, -God manifest in the flesh; but we candidly avow, that their error is venial, compared with the unqualified statements this extraordinary preacher advances, and pertinaciously presumes to justify.
That “the endless theme of the person and work of Jesus Christ the Lord, and the infinite mystery of his Name, seemeth to have become hid from the public ministry of the preachers both of the Scottish and English church, we agree to deplore-but on very different grounds. And we, also, say it advisedly, with all the risk upon our head.'
Equally abhorrent to our feelings and judgment are such sentiments as these, in treating of the covenant engagements of the third Person in Jehovah. " The act of self-humiliation which the Spirit underwent in condescending to inform the Son of God in creature-form !" “ The work of the Spirit, in the immaculate conception of a substance created in a sinful form !” Above all, we protest against the idea, " that in every act of Christ there are these three parts : namely, first, the meritorious part, consisting in his personal humiliation into the form of a man ; the second, the manly part, in his feeling the perfect identity of fallen manhood in all its points ; the third, the holy part, in his being supported under the same, pure and spotless, by the Holy Ghost.”
We have a word or two to add, on our author's views of Baptism, and the Lord's Supper.
" Ah me! the gospel, -the substance of the precious gospel, the death, the burial, the resurrection, and the eternal life, which Christ embodied to the faithful in these two holy sacraments; and required of the faithful, by an act of their own, to receive in solemn covenant and assurance from his hands; so that, after such an interchange made between Christ and his several members, one by one, there might remain no more doubt upon their
minds for ever concerning their interest in Christ ;-this actual, personal, and individual application and home-bringing of all the promises and of all the privileges of the blessed gospel, is overlooked and forgotten in the administration of these holy sacraments: whereby it cometh to pass, that the very idea of a covenant, which erewhile broke the fetters of Scotland, hath failed from the land. And the people are set all at large again, and the preachers all at sea again; as if the christian people were again become like the surging waves of the barbarous nations, and the preachers, like the apostolic fishermen, who went forth into the waste of waters to cast their nets therein, and fish out solitary men. But I solemnly protest, before the Most High God, against all such demolitions of the church; which is a city built upon a rock, and no surging sea ; which is a vineyard, planted, and watered, and guarded by the Lord, and no wilderness of nations.” :
Mr. Irving, in following the practice of his own church, administers the former ordinance to infants ; but we cannot apply one word of this admonition to his unconscious disciples. And when we reflect on the common experience of adult believers, we are constrained to deny the correctness of the position, even in a single instance, that doubt of interest in Christ no more pervades the mind. The notion stated elsewhere, that the rite of baptism by “a sealing virtue' bringeth grace to the participant, is too nearly allied to the papistical error of baptismal regeneration. And that of the transubstantiation of our mortal flesh into the immortal substance of the body of Christ, by worthily partaking of the supper of the Lord, is not sufficiently removed from the deadly errors of the Romish Church to warrant our acquiescence.
We rejoice to learn, that the whole of the writings of the Reformers are now being published, and will soon afford many of our readers the means of judging whether Mr. Irving, or those great men of God, are the originators of the strange doctrines' we have aimed to expose. Want of space prevents our touching on several other topics in this discourse.
Pastoral Rehearsings, and the Lord's Knocking: the Substance of
Two Sermons, Preached on the First and Second Lord's Days in Oct. 1827, in the Baptist Meeting, Brentford, Middlesex. By J. A. Jones. Palmer.
In the first of these Sermons, entitled, “ Pastoral Rehearsings,” on Heb. ii. 1. the preacher brings to the remembrance of his church and congregation, the truths they had heard from him in his three years labours among them.
I. “ The things which become sound doctrine,” comprising, the glorious doctrine of the Trinity-the glorious Sonship of Christ, God-man--the eternal and personal election of the church; her eternal union to Christ; her everlasting adoption in him, with all the fruits and effects when manifestative children'by faith in his name,' through the spirit of adoption bearing witness with their spirits that they are the sons of God : also, the covenant blessings-, of atonement by the blood of Christ, and justification by his righteousness -of complete satisfaction rendered to the law and justice of God
-and the work of the Spirit of God within his people. II. “ The things of genuine experience:” the real situation of man by sin and transgression--the Holy Spirit in his distinct personality, and in his work of regeneration and sanctification and the perseverance of the saints from grace to glory. III. “ The things which concern holy precept and practice :” the characters considered, not as working to obtain life, but under the influences of life already obtained, and evidential of a true and living faith, &c.
That the reader may form a more accurate idea of the author's mode of treating the latter part of his subject, we will place a short paragraph in connexion with a former page, on the sanctification of the Spirit.' And as they seem to embody the principal design of the Sermons being published, we have greater pleasure in transcribing them. We only add, they are in perfect agreement with one leading object we have long laboured, and shall, by the blessing of the Lord, continue labouring to effect; which is, to make a clear, faithful, and perpetual exhibition, of the influence of divine grace on the character, life, and conduct of its possessor.
“ It has been well observed by a sound divine, that, “ the Holy Spirit dwells in every believer, as the living fountain of all the graces ; from him they spring and rise ; and from him they derive all their life, activity, and energy.” No power can extinguish the life and work of God in the soul ; it is an operative and operating principle, diffusing holy vivifying energy; from God it proceeds, to God it tends, in God it centers. The production of faith in the heart, and every grace of the Spirit in the soul is instantaneous ; but the preservation of these in being, and the drawing forth of the same in continual daily exercise, is a progressive work: and this work the Holy Ghost is constantly performing from the moment he creates the same in the soul, until that soul quits the body, and mortality is swallowed up of life.
“ You will not fail to draw a line, between the often painful experiences of the children of God, and real christian experience. The child of God fregently experiences that, which he would fain be without the experience of: he must not therefore conclude that he is growing in grace, and attaining a depth of experience beyond others, merely because he finds and feels more sin, and the workings thereof in those desires which are not to be named: this, alas! is too often the criterion with some, and the treating thereof in the pulpit, in language not becoming, is called experimental preaching; but, according to this standard, I have no wish to be considered very experimental. Let the criterion and touchstone with you and me, be, as stated by the poet :
Once to abstain from outward sin,
Was more than I could do;
I feel I hate it too. Ever bearing in mind the language of the apostle, and this I know that if we are indeed regenerated characters, we then daily prove the truth thereof, “If ye live after the flesh ye shall die; but, if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body ye shall live." Rom. viii. 13. Often have you heard, what is this death, and what this life. O to be inore than ever preserved