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Author thus expresses his judgment, wisely, we think, and not ineloquently, in his twentieth Sermon:
There is danger, doubtless, in the pursuit of all knowledge, lest it should puff us up, and lead us away from true Christian humility. So also there is a danger, as Cecil has truly observed, in trying to please others, by taking an interest in their pursuits; we may lose, he says, our own Christian character, while endeavouring to accommodate ourselves to their worldly one. There is, indeed, danger ever besetting us; but there are many occasions on which it is better to overcome it than to fly from it. In the case of entering deeply into matters of worldly science and knowledge, there is need of constant prayer and much reading of the Scriptures to keep up in our minds a due sense of the paramount importar.ce of that divine knowledge which must be received with child-like simplicity in the school of Christ. But a mind thus fortified by constant recourse to the fountain of all spiritual strength, comes to the study of human knowledge with a matchless superiority over all other men, and is enabled to derive from it incalculably greater advantages. Why should we leave science, and politics, and literature, only in the possession of unbelievers? In the hands of Christians, they each hold only their proper place, and are made to teach lessons of true wisdom. “I have more understanding than my teachers, for thy testimonies are my study,” are the words of the Psalmist; and I am sure that if a Christian and unbeliever, gifted with equal natural powers, were to apply themselves together to the study of any branch of moral knowledge, the Christian would follow it with a far better understanding of it, and would draw from it conclusions far more just and more profitable.--P. 262.
Undoubtedly! “If any man will do his will,” (táv tis Oéan) “ he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God.”—John vii. 17. A meek and teachable disposition, an honest and willing heart, are the stock upon which “the engrafted word” thrives most fruitfully. It is not given to the impure, to the obstinate, or to the careless to understand the mysteries of godliness; “Toç dè kara lóyov tas ópétels ποιουμένοις και πράττουσι, πολυωφελές αν είη το περί τουτών ειδέναι.** And, therefore, we agree with Dr. Arnold in thinking that one (we should hesitate at calling it the " chief ") reason why St. Paul's Epistles are often thought very hard to be understood is “ because the picture of what Christians ought to be is so very different from the reality of what they are.”--(Sermon XII. p. 152.)
Our Author has an excellent Sermon (the twenty-fifth in the volume before us) upon Acts xiv. 22. Herein he treats of the particular tribulations which all men should expect to meet with in their Christian course, over and above those common trials which await them, not as Christians but as men. He divides them into two kinds, “ those which we meet with from being obliged to run counter to the opinions and feelings of other men, and those which we become exposed to from the increased tenderness of our consciences, and the greater liveliness of our hopes and fears, as we are more impressed with the spirit of the Gospel.”—P. 323.
B. I. c. 3.
Aristot. Nichom. Eth.
VOL. XI, NO. IX.
With regard to this last class of tribulations, Dr. Arnold thus writes, in the concluding paragraph of his discourse, to which we beg leave to introduce our readers :
Some persons are inclined to set all feelings of this kind to the account of bodily constitution ; and there is no doubt that those who are weak and delicate do feel them much more keenly. But there is more in them than this; and naturally so. Strong men are often deeply affected by being placed in situations of intense interest in worldly matters, where great consequences depend on their conduet, and the reputation of their lives is on the issue. Now, to him who believes the Gospel, his whole life is a situation, I do not say of such interest, but of interest infinitely greater; a situation in which his everlasting happiness or misery depends upon his conduct, and may be affected by the state of his heart and practices every hour. True it is that habit and, perhaps, very often some portion of unbelief, keeps this out of our thoughts very commonly; but who can wonder that it should sometimes rush upon them, and that the effect should be then enough to stagger the firmest mind, and confound the wisest? Perhaps it is a most merciful dispensation that it should be so : the feeling of our own littleness and weakness, which in unbelievers leads only to a careless, scoffing, desperate bitterness, is, in a Christian, that valley of humiliation through which the way to the celestial city must pass; he is hunnbled only to be the more exalted. In this state, prayer and patience are the only remedies: it was a wholesome terror which checked the child when he was straying too widely and too confidently, and urged him to run back for protection to his father's arms. So not to those only who are leading a sinful life, but even to those who are labouring in Christ's service, it is useful that their eyes should be sometimes opened to the overwhelming awfulness of the situation, in which we all daily stand : that beholding God's perfect holiness on the one hand, and the vastness and darkness of the unknown world on the other, they may feel that their own best works and most earnest labour are as nothing amidst objects so infinite; and that indeed their only deliverance and safety can consist in throwing themselves wholly on the mercy of God, through Christ, believing in him, trusting to him, and clinging to him with an intensity of faith and love.-Pp. 333, 334.
We could gratify our readers by many more quotations: but our space denies us the pleasure; and we trust our sample is large enough to shew the character of Dr. Arnold's volume. With the exceptions already pointed out, we have no hesitation in saying that these Sermons are pious, plain, orthodox, and earnest. The great rather than the total corruption of our nature; the doctrine of universal redemption; the necessity of Christ's vicarious sacrifice; the need we have of the renovating influence of the Holy Ghost; the practical nature of faith, and the indispensable condition of evangelical holiness to the enjoyment of immortality; these topics are perpetually insisted upon with the most affectionate and earnest feeling. One great excellence of these Sermons, in our judgment, is their shortness. Another is their plainness. And a third their zeal. With so many excellencies, they have however merited in some points our severe condemnation. We could place before our readers more defects, and some grammatical inaccuracies ; and, we are bound to add, we could yet more enlarge our catalogue of passages to which we should, in justice to the talents and the piety of Dr. Arnold, afford the sanction of our unmixed approbation.
Should Dr. Arnold favour the public with another volume, we think he would very much improve his discourses by paying more attention to their perorations. They are not sufficiently hortatory: they want more point, more animation, more home thrusts, and less of that abruptness in the conclusion, which absolutely shocks us like the hurried fall of a clock-weight, and is about as musical as the “ procumbit humi bos” of the Mantuan Bard, though pretending to no purpose of description, and therefore without excuse.
Art. II.— The Church in Danger from Herself: or, the Causes of her
present declining State explained. Dedicated to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. By the Rev. John Acaster, Vicar of St. Helen's, York, and Domestic Chaplain to the Right Hon. the Earl of Mexborough. London: Seeley and Sons. 1829. 6s. Pp. 171.
“ Tue author, having no sinister purpose to serve, nor any malignant wish to gratify, trusts that such unworthy motives will not be imputed to him ; nor any thing else, which cannot be fairly gathered from the facts of the case. He has published his name, and he hopes that no person will appear against him, who does not adopt the same line of conduct. Anonymous attacks he will consider both unchristian and ungentlemanly. Such writers he will not think himself bound to notice ; and therefore he hopes that such as these will not appear.”— Pref. p. viii. We know not whether Mr. Acaster expects us, after this declaration, to affix our proper names in large capitals at the head of our present number, before we presume to comment upon the sage presages and solemn warnings which he has denounced against the rulers and ministers of the Church. If he does, we are sorry to disappoint him; but he may at least have the satisfaction of leaving us unnoticed; as we should have left him, but for the uncharitable reflections with which he has visited a large portion of his clerical brethren, who entertain no less a regard, and possibly a more prudent zeal, for the interest of the Established Church than himself. He has moreover attacked us as Christian Remembrancers (p. 66), and therefore as Christian Remembrancers we shall take the liberty of replying to him. Motives we shall attribute none to him, worthy or unworthy; but shall confine ourselves simply to such inferences “ as may fairly be gathered from the facts of the case.” If in so doing we are led into observations which may savour of harshness and severity, we can assure him that they will be entirely unbiassed by any personal feeling whatsoever; actuated as we are by no other impulse than a sense of duty, as the advocates of those principles by which alone those dangers, to which the Church is really exposed, can effectually be repelled.
To a certain extent we are prepared to echo the ominous title-page of Mr. Acaster, as well as to admit the truth of some of his positions. We are by no means blind to the fearful dangers with which the Church is surrounded; from whatever quarter those dangers may proceed. We cannot yet forget the shameless apostacy of those who deserted her in the time of peril, and betrayed the fortress of Protestantism into the hands of popish agitators and factious demagogues. We have before us, a letter of a Bishop to his Clergy, in which he denounces those as void of Christianity, who would preserve the constitution inviolate against the inroads of papacy, and free it from an ungenial mixture of Romanism and Protestantism, which must end in the total destruction both of Church and State. We see also preachers of strange doctrines springing up on all sides, and dealing out with unsparing vehemence their anathemas against those who still, amid the general defection, remain true to their post, and would uphold, as far as in them lies, the sinking interests of our venerable establishment. Such are the dangers with which we are threatened; but thanks be to God, our house is not yet left unto us desolate. Our blessed Saviour has promised that against his true Church “the gates of hell shall not prevail.” She may be encompassed with calamity, she may have to struggle against false friends and malignant enemies; but she will not be wholly left without those true and faithful servants of their Lord, who, through evil report and good report, will maintain her interests and her institutions, and through whose honest exertions, under Providence, she will yet arise above the malice of her enemies, to the shame and sorrow of those, who would fain have seen her in the dust.
It is not indeed so much against the facts of Mr. Acaster's book that we protest, as against the spirit in which they are produced; we do not object so much to the matter, as to the manner of his publication. That abuses may have crept into the administration of ecclesiastical affairs, we shall not deny. Let us not however charge upon the present generation all the evils which have been accumulating for ages, and fix the mass of all the mischief upon those whose chief offence is in not stemming the torrent, and shrinking from the weighty task of commencing a reform, the difficulties of which are too appalling for them to encounter. But we shall follow Mr. Acaster through his ill omened pamphlet, endeavouring to set him right in some of his opinions, and vindicating the characters of those good and true friends of the Church, whom he has ungenerously, uncharitably, and falsely denounced as her most dangerous enemies.
The pamphlet is divided into four chapters. Having in the two first undertaken to prove the necessity of a national Church Establishment both for its maintenance and support; and the peculiar adaptation of the Church of England for this purpose, if properly and efficiently governed ;--Mr. Acaster proceeds in the third to investigate the causes of its assumed inefficiency, which he traces to the deviations which have been made from the adjustments and regulations originally laid down at the Reformation. In conducting this investigation, Mr. A. strikes at once at the root of the tree, and makes his first protest against the delinquencies of the Right Reverend bench. His opinion of the present bishops he had already delivered in his preface ; wherein, after stating it to be " a matter of the utmost importance" that they who direct the affairs of the Church should be “men not only of superior attainments, but of sound religion, faithful, apt to teach, not given to filthy lucre,” he attributes the cause of existing evils to the choice of men of a directly opposite character to fill the highest orders of the establishment. He now repeats the charge, kindly exempting the existing rulers, it is true, from the guilt of those abuses which were introduced into the respective dioceses by their predecessors, and over which they could have no controul.
Every bishop, for instance, on entering on his charge, will necessarily find every incumbency in his diocese already occupied. Should these incumbents, therefore, even all of them, be improper and unworthy persons, and living in the most shameful violation of their solemn engagements, and in the neglect of their duties; it will be found, that for these, however contrary to the design and order of the Church, the diocesan is not in the least responsible. But should he countenance them in their evil proceedings, or suffer them to continue therein, the case would then wear a different aspect, and he would clearly become, by his own act, a partaker of other men's sins.-P. 29.
We are very ready to acknowledge that it would be a most desirable object, and one which, could it be attained, would tend more than any other to the good of Christianity, if every individual minister of the Gospel was a man of the most spotless reputation. But would it not be somewhat invidious and uncharitable for a Bishop, on his institution' to a diocese, to set inquiries on foot into the characters of the several incumbents, for the purpose of ejecting those who were unworthy of the sacred profession? We can imagine no other means by which the end proposed could be accomplished; and the private slanders and malicious attacks to which such a proceeding would give rise, would do more to injure the Church than the presence of a few – we know they are but few—who debase the pastoral office by worldly views, and irregular habits and occupations.
Speaking of the discretionary power of Bishops with respect to ordination, in connexion with the apostolic injunction to lay hands suddenly on no man, Mr. Acaster takes occasion to insist upon the