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covetousness made against “the world called religious :" the proof of which is thus stated at pages 52 and 53:
You have only to be present and hear what is the first subject of conversation in all their meetings, and the great theme of their delight : is it not the state of their funds ? What the great end of their speeches? The increase of donations and subscriptions. What the great labour of their travellers, and what the proof of their success? The amount of their in-gatherings. What the qualification for honourable office? The amount of your contributions. What the great fear and apprehension ? Lest the funds should fall off. If these things do not betray a covetous spirit in this religious world, I know not where it is to be met with elsewhere. I could never find in my heart to accuse the other world of covetousness, if I must acquit this world. No one who bath an eye to observe, or an ear to hear, but will justify me in saying, that in comparison with any former age of the Protestant church, the covetousness of the religious societies of the religious world passeth all bounds, and is only to be found paralleled by the zeal of the begging friars, seeking alms to enrich their overgrown and luxurious convents.
But enough of this drivelling nonsense! Why, Sir, pray tell us what it is that religious associations for the furtherance of the faith, or the relief of the necessitous, or the instruction of the ignorant, or the clothing of the naked, or the reclaiming of the wicked, or the distribution of tracts, or for any other Christian object, can so properly canvass at their meetings, whether annual or otherwise, as the state of their accounts? Without means their respective purposes cannot be accomplished! Money is, of necessity, the sinew of these benevolent societies. What, then, shall they not audit their finances ? Shall they not endeavour to increase them, that they may increase their beneficence? Is not zeal a fit qualification for office in such societies? and how shall that zeal be measured more correctly than by the amount of the contribution? and what is there reprehensible in the fear that their funds may fall off? Is this covetousness? Is this an idolatrous love of money? It is a miserable abuse of words so to argue! Yet, what if it were? Granting the charge of covetousness to be established by these overt acts, we fearlessly deny that these overt acts are proved. We deny that the sole object of any religious association, -we deny that the theme of their delight, and the end of their speeches, are the state of their funds; and we boldly appeal to the fair judgment of any man who has attended such associations. Besides the state of their accounts, do we not hear the peculiar objects contemplated by such societies elaborately set forth, their merits warmly lauded, and their successful enterprises eloquently detailed ? The charge of covetousness, upon Mr. Irving's data, is without proof, without reason, and without common sense!!!
With respect to the crime of “disobedience to parents," which forms the subject of our author's Fourth Sermon, he says, “I can freely declare before God, that the deterioration of the age in this capital point can hardly be over-estimated, or overstated.” (p. 75.)
To make this charge good, Mr. Irving somewhat alters his ground, and insists upon “the relaxation of discipline on the part of the parents" (p. 77); pretty much in the same spirit as if we were to accuse A of assaulting B, and then endeavour to establish the fact by showing that B had assaulted A! The four great signs of the increasing disobedience of children, and disorganization of families, are stated to be, 1. “The interference of the legislature to protect children from the covetousness of their parents and masters;" 2. “ The increase of aged persons cast upon the parish;" 3. “ The increase of infant depredations;" and 4. “The increase of the remedies of Infant and Sunday Schools.” (p. 84.) With respect to the first sign, we would remark, that it reflects no discredit upon the children, and fails to establish against them the crime of disobedience to their parents. With respect to the second criterion, we can truly say that we hardly know one instance of aged persons deserted by children able to support them, and that we believe them to be too rare to be adduced amongst the general characteristics of the times! The increase of infant depredations is only by inference a proof of the point at issue; and there are melancholy grounds for suspecting, even according to the report of Mr. Irving, (see p. 81) that these juvenile sins may sometimes be attributed to the wicked instructions, and much oftener no doubt to the bad examples of the wretched parents. The fourth criterion reminds us of the ingenious French traveller who accused our nation of being an indelicate and dirty people, and supported his charge by alleging the shameful custom of our using finger-glasses at our principal meal!
* Omne in præcipiti vitium stetit," is the melancholy burden of the Discourse before us :
The increase of crime is prodigious ; the increase of profanity and blasphemy is prodigious; the increase of indifference to religion is prodigious; the increase of scandal and malice is prodigious ; and, in general, I would say, the baptized are in these times much more absolved from all sense of obligation to God and the church, than they ever have been.”—P. 136.
Now, all this is truly prodigious ; but we think this prodigious statement prodigiously overcharged ; and lamenting the general depravity of men as sorely as the reverend writer under review, we confess our unwillingness to believe that the present generation is more unholy than its predecessors; at least we must have better evidence of the fact, ere we yield our reluctant assent to the truth of Mr. Irving's positions. And we boldly make this declaration in the sincerity of our hearts, though we know the scorn with which the Scotch minister has treated our reviled race, “as summoning into action the evilspeaking, contentious, unholy periodical publications.” (p. 240.) Maugre these calumnies, and reckless of the wrath of Mr. Irving, we proceed in our heavy task, and we would inquire how he reconciles VOL. XI. NO, II.
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the following statements, which seem to us, we confess, very contradictory. He tells us that there have always been wolves within the fold, -tares mixed with the wheat,-good and bad within the pale of the Church. Of "these unfruitful branches, which are planted along with the fruitful ones in the vine” (p. 133,) he says that “they are brought under the vows of God equally with the rest, and admitted to the grace in the strength of which they are to be performed.” (p. 133.) “Nevertheless," he says, “such as are thus guilty of unholiness, and of falling away, have never been possessed of the Holy Ghost.” (p. 132.) It follows, then, according to this statement, that men may be “admitted to grace," and yet “never possess the Holy Ghost.” We had always thought that the Spirit of God was the author of all grace and sanctification, and, therefore, emphatically styled his Holy Spirit; it seems, however, that there is a grace, to which we are admitted without partaking of the influence of that anointing Power! Where did Mr. Irving learn this erroneous doctrine ? In vain will he search the Scriptures for it, though we can well imagine how anxious the maintainers of the strange tenet of “ final perseverance” are to quote the oracles of heaven in aid of that opinion. In the frightful picture, or rather caricature, which Mr. Irving has drawn of the present times, he has dwelt largely, for the purpose of manifesting their prodigious guilt, upon the desecration of the two sacraments; and he states (p. 141) that the elements of the holy Eucharist " are administered to all comers, and not withheld from the most profane Atheist or Deist, or the most openly profane violators of the laws;" and are “given, oh most horrible to be told! to the very murderer, when with all hardihood and impenitency he is about to mount the scaffold, to atone for his guilt to his country's offended laws !!!" In the first place we have to remind Mr. Irving that capital punishments have for their object, not the satisfaction of justice, but the prevention of crime, and that to talk of a culprit’s atoning for his guilt by submitting to the last penalty of the law, is to use a language which is incorrect. In the second place, we deny the horrible fact here charged against the Church of England, and we loudly challenge our author to the proof of his statement. We challenge him to adduce even one solitary instance of the horrible deed; and we would advertise this calumniator of such "as follow the corrupt way of Diocesan Episcopacy,” (p. 141,) that it should be by other means than naked and violent declamation that the steward of the mysteries of God should exercise the function of public preaching ! Again we deny the fact. Again we call for proof! .... But, we are quite weary of the language of dispraise, and we therefore seize the opportunity of panegyric afforded us by the next sermon of our author upon the subject of natural affection, which is handled with singular beauty, and grace of style. Indeed we are
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persuaded, notwithstanding the severity of remark, in which we have felt ourselves called upon to indulge,- that there are few living writers, who could adorn the delightful topic of natural affection with more pathos, simplicity, and eloquence, than the author before us. Whilst we protest, then, against the proof, by which he would manifest the want of natural affection to be characteristic of the present times, we have unmixed pleasure in bearing testimony to the extent of those powers which have for the most part been so sadly misapplied in his 7th Discourse.
To show how natural affection has declined in the present times, our author insists that there is much less of domestic enjoyment in our days than in the age of our fathers; and much more of ostentation in our hospitality. We transfer to our pages Mr. Irving's description of the withering influence of fashionable life, as a favourable specimen of his style.
I consider home to be to man's natural affections what the nest of its young is to the affections of the fowls of heaven ; but if we should see the birds of heaven forsaking their young and callow brood, in order to contend in song, in beauty of plumage, or in rapidity of flight, to enjoy themselves in flocks when they ought to be providing for their young, and teaching their young how to provide for themselves, what would we say, but that natural affection had intermitted its course, and a wonderful thing had come to pass in the animal creation? But, ah! how truly doth it so fare with families in these our times, when all the day is spent in business or in vanity, and all the nights in feasting, or in greater vanity! Between the oppression of business, and the oppression of fashion, the tender, and delicate, and blessed abode of our natural affections, which our fathers called home, hath been almost crushed to pieces, and the very word hath changed its meaning; so that at home' now signifies being surrounded with a multitude, and not at home almost signifies being alone with your children. And for hospitality, which is another sphere of natural affection, wider than home, how much it hath suffered from the same evil causes, be ye also judges; for, first of all, it hath been crushed clean out of the day into the hours of night, and is postponed to the Exchange and the Post-office. It hath the hours which should be spent with our families at home, and many of those which should be slept in sleep; and, when thus shuffled out of time, and purchased at such expense of family comfort, how seldom is any tribute of natural affection given and received ! How frequently the boastful profusion of expense, to be followed by a brilliant display of vanity, and even this given and returned upon an exact and well-balanced debtor and creditor account! But what need of entering into particulars, when by a general fact we can include all particulars, and show the very disposition of the time to be against natural affection? The fact I refer to is the promulgation of what was called the French philosophy by many able men in these parts, some thirty years ago. .... And in an age, when liberality is the object of universal Worship, and public opinion of men, not the word of God, is the common law, nothing else is to be expected but a dissolution of the bonds of natural affection, and the increase of crime in every direction.—Pp. 167–169.
We must pass over the remaining parts of this volume. Our general notion of the Discourse is apparent from what we have already written, and we can assure our readers that it preserves its consistency to the last. “ Qualis ab incepto processerit,--sibi constat.” The jaundiced eye of Mr. Irving sees every thing in frightful colours ; and the one sentiment, which pervades the sermons on our table, is simply “ Whatever is, is” wrong! Yet the evidence in support of this wide accusation is vague, defective, and inconclusive. Our author mistakes violence for strength, and passion for argument. What he wants in reason he would supply by verbosity; and we are unable to decide whether his religious, or his political creed, be most exceptionable. What, for instance, can be said of the following dictum ?
A Christian government may not, upon its responsibility to Christ, the King of kings, absolve any Christian, layman, or clergyman, from his obedience to the laws of the kingdom !--P. 176.
What does our author mean, when he says, in language of interpretation,
The atonement of Christ, Christ's life and death, which are the fruits of the everlasting covenant between the Father and the Son, is above all other things, and to the neglect of all other things, doted on?—P. 446.
We would to God that the atonement of Christ were indeed “ doted on!" Oh! “ the depth of the riches” of this unspeakable love! For the knowledge of its marvellous excellency we “count all things but loss !"
“ The speaking evil of dignities" is no light offence, and yet we charge our author with it, and produce the following passage to prove our accusation :
I suppose, in the houses of our bishops,—by whom I mean not the twenty-six men commonly so denominated,—but all who, like myself, rule in word and doctrine,-there is an outward reverence for the ordinances of the church, and for the ancient godly order of a bishop's family; which yet can consist with the manners and customs of fashionable life, and with the prostitution of the church's patrimony upon any and every object, but that of piety, charity, and hospitality, for which it was intended !-P. 446.
Mr. Irving is, it must be confessed, a bold man; yet he might do well to recollect that discretion is no mean part of valour. We are by no means sure that he does not owe his personal liberty at this moment to the enlightened spirit of the times, which he has laboured to depreciate ; for there have been eras in our history, when a calumnious charge of hypocrisy against all the members of Parliament (p. 448) would have involved its author “ in penalties and pains.”
But we have no wish to inflict unnecessary pain upon Mr. Irving ; and there are portions of his work, for which we thank him; but those portions are so small, when compared with the bulk of his Discourse, that we have been compelled to characterise his performance in no measured periods. As an interpreter of prophecy we think him deficient in almost every quality, which could fit him for the difficult task. He wants learning; he wants patience ; he wants sobriety; he wants impartiality. The tricks of a sophist, and the warmth of a declaimer ; -- the bitterness of accusation, and the pathos of