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and a host of good men who have not believed that the baptismal question is so fundamental a part of Christianity as to stand on the same level in point of the clearness with which it is revealed as the atonement, or justification by faith. The argument may be put in another form.
Men of such powers, and such conscientiousness, as John Bunyan, and such learning, and such research, as Robert Hall, on the one hand, and Richard Baxter and John Howe, on the other; and a vast multitude of almost equally celebrated names, on both sides, bave agreed in every thing else regarding Christian doctrine and practice, with hardly a shade of difference ; but on the subject of baptism they have differed. This agreement and this diversity have lasted from age to age : it still continues. Mr. Overbury, for instance, agrees in the main in doctrine with Dr. Pye Smith, but differs as to baptism. But Mr. Overbury will not say, surely, that Dr. Pye Smith is not quite as fully qualified to judge on the question of baptism as himself. Such examples might, of course, be multiplied indefinitely. What conclusion, then, do we draw from this state of things? Simply this: that the doctrines in which so many Christians agree are more clearly revealed than the practices in which they differ : and that it is not fair to put the two things on the same level as articles of faith. So long, therefore, as our strict Baptist friends are strict, that is, so long as they are of opinion that (so far as the Lord's supper, at least, is concerned) those who deny that the evidence for adult immersion is as clear as the evidence for the doctrine of the atonement, ought not to be fully recognised as members of Christ's church, of course union on their part is hopeless. They must wait till we all become Baptists, or else we must wait till our good brethren discover that “the ordinance” is not to be regarded as so indisputably revealed as what we must still call the great fundamentals of Christianity. Robert Hall even went farther, and regretted that the views of the Baptists were ever made the basis of a sect, and were not held as a private opinion, together with infant baptism, as among some of the ancient Alpine churches.
Mr. Wilberforce takes a different course, but arrives at the same general principle with our exclusive Baptist brother. He thinks that whatever be the opinions of Christians, they should not forsake the church. We are quite prepared to think with him that denominational Christianity is a blot on her escutcheon. Undoubtedly many separations appear to be almost gratuitous ; and happy should we be to see a consolidation of evangelical Christians, little as we expect much relaxation of denominational bonds in our day. But Mr. Wilberforce, also, claims infallibility, if not in name, yet in deed, for one church, and that of course the Church of England. He can unite with none who do not conform to her, though they may privately hold almost
what opinions they like. The Baptist may, he says, refrain from having his children baptized, yet he ought not to leave the church. Then we ask —Why does the church tell the Baptist that his child can only be regenerated by being baptized? why do many of the clergy, now-adays, ring in the ears of their parishioners that baptism and regeneration are identical ? why do they even deny Christian burial to the unbaptized ? Oh, Mr. Wilberforce, Mr. Wilberforce, incumbent of Walmer, Kent! what a church is yours! how contradictory! how divided against itself! what is the poor Baptist who remains in your church to believe? You tell him that he need not necessarily have his child baptized, but he must not leave the church. Mr. Palmer, known by the amiable appellation of "cursing," would anathematise him and his child, and with a host more of Puseyites would almost if not quite send both to perdition. Who then is now a churchman ?and what are churchmen to believe? for your house is most strangely divided against itself! Remember that your episcopal church, right or wrong, contains but a fraction of the Christian world. It is much outnumbered by other denominations. Yet you have the modesty to presume that episcopacy alone includes, and is, “the church !” and this is what you say: "Every dissenting teacher is plainly making a division : every churchman therefore is commanded by God Himself to avoid him.” But the reverend incumbent of Walmer waxes very charitable, and candidly apologises for the delinquent dissenting teacher.
“Perhaps he may be very little mistaken in his opinions, perhaps he would gladly have been a clergyman of the church, but could not get ordained, or could not afford to go to college to be educated as clergymen are; and so, as he could not get ordained, he thinks the next best thing he can do, is to become a dissenting teacher. Still whatever are his motives, he is making a separation, and so I must avoid him : be his personal holiness, his moral and intellectual qualification what they may—God has commanded me to avoid him. To pray for him as an erring brother, &c. to assist him, if need be, with my purse: these things would be a duty and a pleasure ; but schism must sever its author from Christian men.”
At all events it might be worth while for as many dissenting teachers as have cast a longing eye towards the classic bowers of the Isis or the Cam, and the good incumbencies thenceforth arising, to lighten the generous purse of the reverend gentleman; for we do not see, after what he has said, how he could well refuse to help the poor wights who turn to dissent as a forlorn hope, after having gazed with wistful but hopeless eyes on the forbidden fruit in the paradisaic garden of the two universities.
It is surprising how perfectly clear it is to the perspicuous vision of the incumbent of Walmer, that the episcopal church is the only church; and that all others so called, though vastly more numerous in adherents, are only “sects.” He thus speaks of the light he has obtained on
this subject, which seems to have gleamed on him through the stained windows of Puseyism :
“Now, he sees that to establish or maintain any sect is schism; and that all those dissenting teachers with whom he formerly acted, are the very authors of division whom God has commanded him to avoid. Therefore he feels that it would be a sin to attend their places of worship or of preaching. to acknowledge them in publie meetings or elsewhere as fellow-ministers of the word of God, or to choose them as the friendly companions of his leisure hours."
What an honour do these poor dissenting teachers lose! It would be a curious problem, and worthy of the casuistry of his reverence, and we would propose its discussion in his next pamphlet, whether it is a greater sin in any churchman to listen to a dissenting teacher's preaching, be his "personal holiness, and his moral and intellectual qualifications what they may," or the preaching of the Reverend Herbert Charles Marsh, Prebendary of Peterborough ; and whether, if there were only two places of worship in the parish where his reverence is rector, the churchman ought to go to either place, or to stay at home?
Much is it to be lamented that such a spirit of exclusiveness should reside in the minds of good men ; and we fear that, in the Church of England, matters will never be amended, there will be no coming down from the pride and arrogance of a state-church clothed with the fancied badge of Divine right, until Providence strikes a humbling blow. We believe that blow is preparing: and surely if it does come, the saying that “pride goeth before a fall,” will never have been more signally exemplified. We hope and believe that, notwithstanding all present unfavourable appearances, good will arise out of evil. The union of all true believers must and will go on: it is necessary as the last finishing evidence of the truth of Christianity. The process may not be very rapid, but there will be a growing adhesion of all the elements of truth, and the discordant and heterogeneous principles of error will be left to fall asunder by their own want of coherence. We claim no Divine right ourselves—we reject it in others; but we wish to see & more powerful operation of the attraction of souls, kindred in their common relationship to Him who pronounced them all to be one in Him.
Elements of Church History. Vol. I. comprising the External History
of the Church during the first three centuries. By David Welsh, D.D. F.R.S.E., fc. &c. Edinburgh: Clark.
We are anxious to lose no time in calling the attention of our readers to this valuable and interesting volume, from the pen of a competent and venerable writer. The general character and talents of Dr. Welsh have long been known to fame ; and have been as truly, though perhaps they could not be as correctly and highly appreciated, on this side the Tweed, as by his own countrymen and fellow-citizens. He has, recently however, risen in esteem. His uniformly consistent conduct during the whole of the great struggle in which he has "come off more than conqueror;" his deeply serious, his noble, we must add, his apostolic bearing, on that eventful day, when it devolved on him to preach the sermon, to deliver the protest, to head and lead the movement, -by no means the least memorable in that land of memorable sermons and protests and movements,-has enshrined him in our hearts. Multitudes in Britain, who never saw him; multitudes more who previously knew not his name, whilst they were one with him in Christ Jesus, as they read his character in his acts and in his words, blended their sacred tears and sympathies with the strugglings of his own afflicted spirit, and enjoyed many a season of holy communion with himself and his high-minded companions. We now revere and love, as well as admire him; and cannot fail to read such a work from such a pen, with a greatly increased interest. “Virtus, virtus et conciliat amicitias, et conservat ; . . . et nobis Scipio, quanquam dissitus, vivit nunc, semperque vivet.”
It is always for a lamentation when men, thoroughly qualified to instruct their fellows from the press, go down to the grave leaving no memorial. When it pleases God prematurely, or suddenly, to remove them, we meekly bow to his decision, because we know that he doeth all things well. But in some cases the evil arises from procrastination, in others from dilatoriness ; in a few it may be referred to true humility, but in more it must be traced to a morbid dread of failure, or of criticism, which not unfrequently has its origin in pride ; and in either case it is deeply to be deplored. What vast stores of acquired knowledge, what accumulated materials of profound thought, which only wanted recording to give them the stability and permanence of the finished and imperishable structure, have thus been lost to mankind! What responsibilities have thus been violated! What trusts betrayed! And whilst the superficial and jejune have inundated the earth with their worthless speculations, who can calculate the extent to which posterity has been defrauded of its fair inheritance, by some of the greatest men of the human family withholding, through sheer diffidence or indolence, the fruit of their toils? We rejoice that Dr. Welsh has formed that just estimate of his own powers, which, whilst it is quite consistent with the modesty of true genius, is necessary to stimulate us even to attempt all the good we are capable of doing ; and we believe he will not be without his reward.
We learn from the preface of the volume, whose title we have cited above, that the author contemplates a work on church history, which may extend to six or seven volumes, and which shall reach to the close of the sixteenth century; the volume before us, however, is one of two only, which are to embrace the first three centuries, and to have the character of a complete work of that very instructive period; and the hope is held out to us of receiving the second within twelve months from the publication of the first, i.e. about May next year. It is not our attention therefore now to review the volume before us,-we shall await anxiously the birth of its companion; and after we have heard its voice, and ascertained its existence, apply ourselves to the careful examination of its form and structure, its beauty and strength. In the mean time, however, we cannot suffer the one we have to lie on our shelf unnoticed. It has high claims to attention. To three classes of persons especially we earnestly recommend its immediate purchase and perusal,-to the minister of religion, the theological student, and the heads of families. The former two must have it; and we know of no work on the subject that could with so much advantage be read aloud in the family circle. Nor would any disadvantage arise from the reading of it, even if the appearance of its companion should be delayed, since, though incomplete without it, its subject is quite distinct and full of interest.
The volume contains two introductions. The first is general, and intended as the introduction to the entire work. It extends to fiftythree pages. It treats on the “object of church history—its place among other departments of inquiry--subjects comprehended in itperiods--preparatory and auxiliary studies--sources of informationadvantages of the study—and works upon the subject.” It is a masterly performance. Dr. Welsh is a philosophic historian. His wing may be less adventurous, and his flights less daring than those of his late friend, Dr. Thos. Brown; but he exhibits much of the sagacity and discrimination, and possesses much of the elegance, both of thought and diction, by which Dugald Stewart is distinguished. He may be the inferior of another illustrious countryman, in breadth of view and largeness of grasp, but he has studied with no small success in the same school with Robertson, and has some excellences peculiarly his
He may not be capable of that quick intuitive apprehension of the characters and scenes to be described, which has enabled that great man to make every page a picture instinct with life; but what was wanting to him in this original power has been well supplied by attention and diligence, and has enabled him to present before us some vivid and charming sketches.
On reading this introduction, we at once see that the author had taken due pains to understand what he had to do, before he entered on his work.
His ambition was far higher than that of a mere chronicler of facts, or collector of material, however valuable, for the use of others. Ile aspires to be an architect of a high order, and be has not mistaken his capabilities. Under the guidance of those great principles which he has so beautifully and clearly enunciated in this