Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

of the former is somewhat bitter, and the fruit sour; the other of love, is as a spiritual wine, which may be said to glad the heart both of God and man (Judges ix. 13); men on earth, blessed saints and angels in heaven, and even God himself being delighted at the true conversion of a sinner. All this while have we spoken of plague and famine, the two instruments of death and executioners of God's vengeance; and wish that no other matter of horror and dread could be represented unto you. But (alas, the intolerable burden of our sins!) the watchmen that stand on the highest tower of this kingdom, being asked what they see, do answer and behold a complete, vast, and eminent preparation to war against us, by an enemy mighty in power, in malice implacable, in rage bent and incensed to the utter destruction of our nation, as being that which chiefly maintaineth the evangelical truth, and withstandeth his boundless and unsatiable ambition.

"This being our present doubtful and dangerous condition, what can we conceive, or pretend, that we should not think ourselves liable and subject to this the greatest and most terrible vengeance even the devouring sword? Shall we now conceit that we are become more conformable to the commandments of God than heretofore? Let every one open his eyes both of mind and body, looking as well inwardly into the closet of his own heart, as outwardly upon the actions of other men, and then let him tell; are not men commonly as sensually profane as they have been? their drunkenness as general and loathsome, their swearing as prodigious, their pride as satanical, their hatred as rancorous and inveterate; and of all other reigning sins, some as unreproved by preachers, many as unpunished by magistrates, and almost all unrepented of by transgressors themselves; who after their afflictions are now grown so obstinate, as if they had made their hearts as anvils, to be more and more hardened by the late strokes of God's

vengeance? Wherefore, as long as we rebelliously oppose against God an array of our sins, let us expect he will bring upon us his host of revengeful enemies, as he once denounced against his people, saying that he would hiss for the fly that is in the uttermost part of the rivers of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria, which (saith he) shall come with arrows and bows, (Isa. vii. 18); that is to say, in huge multitudes of armed enemies suddenly pressed and prepared to execute God's judgments.

"O, but some will say, are not we the professors of God's truth, having the light of his Gospel among us, together with the holy seals of his covenant? True, our Church of England, by the singular mercy of God in Christ Jesus, may truly and confidently boast herself in comparison with any other, that she, under a most gracious and religious king, is for truth of doctrine and purity of worship, as truly catholic and orthodox as ever any church of Christ hath been since the days of the Apostles; insomuch that, in this our English and Spanish war, truth may seem to fight against falsehood, innocence against anti-christian cruelty, and sincerity of worship against flat idolatry; and therefore (say you) what can be expected from God by us in this battle but victory and great triumph? Nay, deceive not your own selves by claim of false privileges, as though, forsooth, Israel (even the peculiar and only people of God, carrying the sign of his covenant in their flesh, acquainted with his oracles, and possessed of the ark and temple of God,) did not (notwithstanding) complain that God (Psa. xliv.) went not out with their armies, but forsook them, so that they turned their back upon their enemies; that (1 Sam. iv.) God's ark (the glory of Israel and ensign of the victorious God) was taken of the heathen ; and that their whole nation was often enthralled in manifold captivities in Egypt and Babylon, a justice against God's people which God himself did avow, when he spoke of the sword, saying (Isa. x. 15), 'O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, I will send thee against an hypocritical nation to destroy them.'

"In which process of God's judgment against his people we are to contemplate and consider the holiness, justice, and power of our jealous God, together with the abomination of our own sins. So holy a God is he, that he will not acknowledge any professor of his law who is not also a practiser of piety and holiness; so just, that he will at length afflict his own children for their wilful transgressions; so powerful, that he can of beasts, elements, diseases, and (if these will not serve) of the very heathen and enemies of God's truth, and of their mortally malicious swords make rods to correct them. Whereunto the prophet giveth his estimation, saying (Heb. i. 12), O mighty God, thou hast ordained them (namely, the heathen) for correction. And how shall not the transgressor himself appear to be abominable, who profaneth the religion of God with his wicked life, which he professeth with his breath, thereby causing as much as in him is, the name and truth of God to be blasphemed among the adversaries thereof, as if God were a patronizer and protector of wickedness. But say not with yourselves that the light of God's glory shall be in any whit eclipsed by punishing his own people. No; but the contrary, as the prophet sheweth (Isa. v. 16), saying, The Lord of Hosts will be exalted in judgment, and God that is holy will be sanctified in righteousness, that is his avenging justice. This may be sufficient for removing these fond pretences, which, like false prophets, most commonly seduce the hearts of men."

We copy one passage more. It contains a beautiful adduction of scriptural example, and shews how profitably and pertinently the sacred narrative may be employed for argument and illustration.

"In the last place, let ys examine

the more ordinary providence of God, which may beget confidence in all extremities of warfare. What can men fear, being in reconciliation and confederacy with God, when our enemies are enemies of God? Is it the policy of their councils? But he confounded the counsel of Ahitophel. Is it that enemies continue, together in the name of a holy league? Butwhen they say a confederacy, God maketh them like a wheel, turned with the spirit of giddiness. Is it the courage of their hearts? But he possesseth the enemies' heart with fear, and maketh the hearts of Canaanites to melt. Is it their strength, or hugeness of stature? But were they the children of Anakims and giants, and we but as grasshoppers in comparison of them, yet fear them not, saith God, I will go before you. Is it the multitude of their boasts? But it is the glory of God to overthrow many thousands by a few hundreds. Is it their joint and united forces? But he setteth the Egyptians against the Egyptians. Is it their importunity, not to be satisfied till they fight? But either he will draw Sennacherib back from warring against Israel by a rumour of wars begun in the bowels of his own kingdom, or else, if they will needs battle, he will hale them on thereunto to their own destruction. Is it because no man can tell when there shall come deliverance? But he can do thus to our astonishment, before we can think on it. When God turned the captivity of Zion we were like unto them that dreamed, saith Israel, as not persuaded it was so; no, not when they saw it. Again, what greater matter of confidence can we have than our former experience of God's providence? David's remembrance i5f his deliverance from the lion and the bear did animate him in the encountering with that huge Goliath; and is there any nation at this day, under heaven, that hath greater experience of God's manifold deliverances than this our kingdom; especially from the fierypo wder-plot and from the Spanish invasion by water; in respect whereof, we might here take up a song answerable to that of Deborah, of the river Kishon; so we. The main ocean swept them away, the ancient and main ocean. To conclude; do we cleave fast to God, then their arms cannot touch us; for it is he that maketh war to cease, knappeth the spear asunder, and bumeth the chariot in the fire."

There are those who account such sentiments as the above unphilosophical and illogical. Old-fashioned they may be, but sure we are they are scriptural; and we therefore think it an omen for good, that the nation in its public capacity is about solemnly to prostrate itself before the Divine Majesty, with prayer and humiliation of soul. We are not wont to trouble our readers with classical allusions on Christian subjects; but we cannot but remember, that impelled, even by natural conscience,

"Veteres Romani, cum in omnibus aliis vital officiis, tum in constituendis religionibus, atque in Diis immortalibus animadvertendis, castissimi cautissimique, ubi terrain movisse senserant, nunciatumve erat, ferias, ejus rei causa, edicto imperabant." (A. Gell. Q. 28.) And shall it then be said of any Christian nation, "This people turneth not to Him that smiteth them?"

We are unwilling to quote from these scarce and curious relics of our beloved church more largely than we think will be agreeable to our readers; but we should defraud them of much that is interesting and generally inaccessible, did we not resume the subject in at least one Number more, taking in the forms for the pestilential visitations in 1636, 1640, 1661, and concluding with the great plague of 1665.

REVIEW OF NEW PUBLICATIONS.

A Church Establishment law/iil, scriptural, and necessary: Six Dialogues between the Rector of Oakenvale and Mr. Grainger, one of his Parishioners. By the Rev. Samuel Charles Wilrs, A.M. (Published by the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge.) London. 1832.

The Church and its Endowments: a Charge at the Visitation in Hamp shire. By W. Dealtry, D.D. F.R.S. Chancellor of the Diocese. London. 1832.

We have, in a former page of this Number, suggested a plan for cathedral reform j and we purpose in an early Number taking up the question of church reform in general. Our scheme of cathedral reform is, we think, ample, practicable, and efficient, yet not one of spoliation or revolution; and we trust the same may be said of that which we shall

venture to suggest respecting church reform in general; a subject in our view far more important than mere political reforms, or some other reforms which have of late been so much vaunted of; for if we have not speedily a very extensive system of ecclesiastical reform carried fully into effect, our nutional-church establishment is not worth many years' purchase, and with it would fall more than can be easily calculated of the strongest bulwark, under the providence of God, of the Reformation, and the best human instrument for the temporal and spiritual welfare of the land.

But in the revolutionary spirit of the present times, the very name of reform is ominous; and what is good in itself is often made a two-edged weapon to wound the best of causes. We are anxious, therefore, to lay a solid basis for improvement, by shewing the security of the foundations on which the whole structure rests; lest sotne rash and reckless spirits, when the scaffolding is put up to repair the building, should suggest that it would be better to place a mine of gunpowder under it, and get rid of it at once, as an unchristian fabric and a political nuisance. Now it is precisely because we feel intensely the importance, necessity, and scriptural sanctiou of an established church, that we wish to see its breaches repaired; it is because we dread and deprecate subversion that we desire reformation, in order that the glory of God and the salvation of men may be increasingly promoted, and our ecclesiastical Zion become more than ever a praise in the earth.

With these views we have prefixed the titles of the two publications .before us, intending to extract from them a few passages on the point in question, and which will form, as we have said, a basis for our remarks on church reform. Dr. Dealtry's Charge is a publication of great interest and value at the present moment, and we gladly avail ourselves of his arguments. The other tract we mention chiefly as shewing the opinion of those who conduct the affairs of the venerable Society for promoting Christian Knowledge, that a publication was wanted .on .this subject for popular instruction; for it is somewhat remarkable, and it shews the altered position of the question of church establishments, that the society should not have hitherto had on its list, as wc believe, any work that takes up precisely the general ground of church establishments, which is in truth quite a modern question; all the older defences of the Church of England being specific rather than 'generic, shewing the excellency of our national communion, and answering objections to its doctrines or discipline, but not replying to the modern objection urged by " Dissenters- upon principle," that all national church establishments are unnecessary and unscriptural. With

theexeeption of Warburton'sAlliance of Church and State, which no pious or judicious churchman, we presume, would now adopt as his own, there was, till of late years, scarcely any thing written on the general question, though this general question must be settled before the minds of men will be satisfied as to the solidity of the basis on which the defence of any particular church is conducted. Hooker, and other of our ancient defenders indeed, treat incidentally of the matter; but they do not go to the exact point of the objection as urged in the present day. Dr. Chalmers, however, has discussed it with great strength and ability; and though his arguments have been abundantly nibbled at, we have never seen them refuted. His work, on "the Use and Abuse of Literary and Ecclesiastical Endowments," is quite as valuable and important on the south as the north side of the Tweed, and on the west as the east side of St. George's channel; for the question of national church-establishments is not connected with the rites or tenets of any particular communion; and if it were better understood, and the great importance of the subject duly felt, men would not be so ready to dissent, at every slight blush of an objection respecting some matter of non-essential detail, from an institution which, as to its great leading features, was seen to be of vital importance to the interests of true religion. We shall introduce the subject with a few passages from the six dialogues now before us. We shall not review a popular tractate, which may be procured for a few pence, but the following extracts may both shew the general state of the argument, and furnish us with an introduction to Dr. Dealtry's able and seasonable charge.

"Rector. What, are you leaving the neighbourhood? I am sorry for it. ..

"Mr.G. Not leaving the neighbourhood, but quitting the chureh.

"R. You astonish me! Do you really mean becoming a Dissenter?

"Mr. G. Yes. A principle.

"IL You astonish me still more ! You are the last man in the parish I should hare expected to take such a step.

M Mr. G. And well, sir, you may say so. I myself should have said the same three months ago; for if any man owes much to the Established Church it is I. All that I enjoy or hope for, as a Christian, has been derived within her walls, and under your truly pious and zealous pastoral labours; and to this hour never have I been in a dissenting place of worship, or known any thing of its forms. My determination 1ms cost me many tears and sleepless nights; but it is now fully formed; I cannot, I dare not, attend your ministry, highly as I prize it, and much as, by tie blessing of God, I have profited under it- Do not, sir, I entreat you, be angry with me at this declaration.

"H. I am far enough, my good friend, from being angry with you: but grieved and shocked I am beyond measure. But I do not despair; you have been hearing, perhaps, some objections against our forms or doctrines or services—the baptismal service—or the burial service—or confirmation or episcopacy—or some of the articles—or forms of prayer—or—

"Mr. G. No, sir, it is nothing of this kind. I know there are objections often made to some of these things, and I have at times considered such of them as fell in my way, but they never gave me much trouble. Some appeared to me quite groundless; others I have often heard you yourself speak upon in a manner that explained the subject fully to my satisfaction: and at the worst there was nothing in any scruple that I ever had or heard on the subject that would have torn me from a church and a pastor that I have so long and justly loved.

"B. lean only say, Air. Grainger, you puzzle me more and more as you proceed. What then is your objection? It is not, you say, to me, or my doctrine, or the forms and doctrines of our church; what then is it? Do tell me what has passed on the subject.

"Mr. G. You remember my brotherin-law's funeral?

"R. Yes; I buried him this spring.

"Mr. G. My brother-in-law was a dissenter, and Mr. Dickson, the Independent minister, whose preaching he attended, and whom he has joined with myself in the executorship, came back with the mourners after the solemn service. 'I do not like that church service at all, Mr. Dickson,' said a forward young man who happened to be present; 'it is very popish.' ' And why, Mr. Timkins?' replied Mr- Dickson: ' I do not myself, as you know, approve of some expressions in it, but on the present occasion I found it peculiarly solemn and impressive; it was uttered from the heart, and it went to the

Christ. Observ. No. 362.

heart: we ought, Mr. Timkins, to be candid ; my own objections in these matters lie much deeper than the wording of a service.' 'Ay, Mr. Dickson,' rejoined Timkins; ' I know what you mean: you object to all set forms.' 'Why, not exactly so, Mr. Timkins: there is nothing wrong in forms as such, whether forms of ritual, or forms of prayer and praise ; and the forms of the Church of England are in general excellent, many of them eminently beautiful; and the pious members of the church profit in the use of them, and doubtless find conscientious reasons for approving even of those which to you and me seem objectionable.' 'Yes, yes,' returned Timkins, 'I see where you are: you do not like men-made-parsons; there is no warrant for bishops in the word of God. 'I am sorry, Mr. Timkins,' replied Mr. Dickson, ' to oppose you, as if for the sake of quibbling; but the question of episcopacy is one which you have not studied: I have; and though I am not myself an episcopalian, I can readily admit that a pious and honest episcopalian may feel as conscientiously convinced on his side as I on mine; and I should certainly not think this alone a reason for dissenting from the church; I should be very sorry to call such a servant of Christ as the excellent rector of this parish a man-made-minister. I could not in conscience frequent his church; but I cannot doubt that he is truly called by the Holy Ghost to the office of the Christian ministry, and that his labours have been eminently blessed of God to the spiritual welfare of his flock.' ' Oh then,' rejoined Timkins, ' I conclude you do not like the rags of popery—fonts and surplices and steeples and so forth.' 'Noreasonable man, Mr. Timkins,' continued Mr. Dickson, 'no Christian of an enlightened mind in the present day would rend the church of Christ for scruples like this. I presume the rector attributes no more holiness to his surplice than I to my gown. There used to be vehement disputes about the lawfulness of appointing ceremonies, not sinful in themselves, and intended for edification, but not prescribed by the word of God; but no Dissenter in the nineteenth century dwells upon points like these. When the basis of a church is solid there is room for amendment in the details: my chief objection to the Church of England is, that it is established by law; I should equally object to any other national church-establishment, even were all the doctrines sound and all the rites scriptural. I lay it down as a fundamental principle, that it is the duty of every true disciple of Christ to withdraw himself from a national church, and to bear his testimony against all act-of-parliament religion.'" Wilks, pp. 8—11.

Then come on the various ob-
P

« AnteriorContinuar »