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ing and religious education, that there never may be wanting a supply of fit and able men to serve God in the church as well as the state, the thanks of the public are eminently due to those members of the University who have contributed to the recent improvement of their system. If it be followed up with fidelity and spirit, it will certainly be productive of great benefit to the kingdom. We have reason to believe, that its advantages have already been felt; and we are not without a hope that the sister University will pay due respect to an example so worthy of imitation. Whether the Essay by Mr. Wilks is to be attributed in any degree to the encouragement, which is held out with so much, real wisdom at Oxford, to theolo gical pursuits, we are unable to state. We accept it, however, as the promise and indication of increasing regard to religious knowledge: and without this knowledge, of how little service to the sacred profession are all other attainments, however splendid and sublime!
The occasion, on which the Essay was written, is stated in the title page. The subject was proposed by a Society for promoting Christian Knowledge and Church Union, established under the sanction of the good Bishop of St. David's: and few questions can be proposed of greater importance to the Christian ministry. The Society as sumes, that some ministers of the church are in a state of conversion, and some of unconversion: and it also believes that there are certain marks or visible signs, by which we may form a probable judgment of their state. These assumptions we Consider as perfectly just: and, if the subject be discussed in a proper spirit and upon scriptural grounds, the inquiry cannot fail to be of inestimable service to all that minister in holy things.
The Essay is preceded by an introduction on the use of technical CHRIST. OBsery. No. 160.
terms, with a particular reference to the words "conversion and unConversion." Mr. Wilks enters upon a defence of them, and pleads with much force for the adoption generally of scriptural language in its plain unsophisticated meaning. There is danger lest we shrink from the phraseology of the Bible: there is also danger, lest, while we use the terms of Scripture, we lower their dignity or pervert their signification. Both errors are carefully to be avoided. Every minister of Christ will "endeavour to preserve the language of the Bible, from oblivion on the one hand, and from misrepresentation on the other." p. 11.
The evidences of conversion or unconversion in a minister, are considered in the Essay under two points of view; as they relate to his preaching, and his conduct.
With respect to preaching, the author maintains, "that those features which characterised the discourses of Christian ministers in purer ages, will be visible also in the discourses of Christian ministers in modern times." p. 20. The essential doctrines of religion will therefore be constantly inculcated; they will be the great and prominent topics of instruction from the pulpit; and the preacher who omits to explain and enforce them must be accounted as in a state of unconversion.
But what are the doctrines, which we include under the term "essential?" Mr. Wilks enumerates the following:-original sin; justification solely and exclusively through the merits of Christ; the divinity of our Saviour; the divinity of the Holy Ghost. These he mentions among the "peculiarities" of the Christian Revelation; and adds, that" it is by such doctrines the Gospel is distinguished from other systems of ethics or religion, and by such chiefly that the preaching of its true disciples differs from merely nominal Christian ministers." p. 26.
plan. We shall endeavour to state.
Before he enters upon the main ‹ subject of the Essay, he proposes a few rules, by which a minister may be enabled to judge of his own state. He concludes in these terms;
"Prejudice against the peculiar doe
But the preaching of the converted minister will not be confined to doctrines: he must feel that religion is a "practical and influential principle," and will esteem it his duty to describe its nature and effects." He will therefore take every opportunity to impress upon his hearers the absolute necessity of a holy life: and this he will do, not by representing holiness as the meritorious cause of trines of the Gospel is one of the most human redemption, but as the proof sion; and to this prejudice a minister is common obstacles in the way of conver and evidence of faith: as the necessary consequence of a real scrip- has not only the sources of prejudice more exposed than a layman, since be tural belief in Christ, and as indi- and objection natural to the hearts of cating our meetness for heaven. all men, but some which are peculiar He will be careful to shew the true to himself. An unbiassed person can→ nature of holiness, and adopt the not easily withstand the plain statements full declarations of the word of of Scripture; but he who knows someGod with respect to its extent. thing of religions controversies, may The good works which he enjoins, easily soften them down, till they be will be founded upon evangelical by his prejudices, close every avenne come of no value; and in this manner, principles: and all the essential to conviction. A minister thus prepos doctrines of Christianity will be sessed, instead of admitting the Serip illustrated as truths of moral and ture doctrine of conversion, of a total practical importance. renovation of heart, endeavours to neus tralize every text that explains its nature or inculcates its necessity.
With a view to form a correct Judgment of a minister's state, Mr. Wilks next proposes to consider the evidences of conversion or unconversion, as they appear in bis conduct, and the general tenor of bis life.
He mentions particularly Christian zeal, residence and a peaceful demeanour in his parish, pastoral visiting, religious instruction of the young, decorum in recreations, a solemn regard to the dignity of the ecclesiastical function, a devout manner of performing the service, ready attention to those that solicit religious advice, mildness and condescension to inferiors, self-denial, choice of friends, intercourse with general society, willingness to endure the reproach of Christ, In all these points, and others conpected with them, Mr. Wilks endeavours to mark the distinction between a converted and an unconverted minister: and it cannot be doubted, that in most cases the difference is undeniable.
Such is the general outline of the
"If, however, he be induced to a
to be the hononted instrument of conveying it to others, are characteristic features of a converted minister; and In proportion as these are visible in kingself, he may judge favourably of his religionis state. Agitated spirits and Inexplicable emotions are not the evidences of piety, He must look rather for a heavenly principle, active in its tendency, purifying the affections, expanding the soul, elevating the hopes and desires, crucifying the corrupt inclinations, fixing the heart on God, moderating self love, exciting to univerbal benevolence, in a word, regenerating the whole man, and making him meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.' He must expect to see the efficacy of this principle most conspicuous in the subjugation of those sins to which he is naturally most inclined, and which, under any influence short of true religion, he would be desirous of retaining. He will learn to look not so much to his real or delight in the public services of religion, as to the sincerity of his private devotions, since the former may be in fluenced by social feelings, while the fatter are seldom cordial but in a reno vated mind. To these characteristics may be added acquiescence in the Divine will, and filial eagerness to perform the Divine commands; which are dispositions of mind so exclusively appropriate to a genuine Christian, that where they exist, or are fervently implored, other evidences will not be sought in vain. If, in a word, to be a true Christian, be the pre-eminent desire of his soul, and if the sincerity of this desire be correspondently evinced in his life, he already possesses an invaluable evidence of the renovation of his nature." pp. 13-18.
In stating the doctrines, which ought to be inculcated from the pulpit, he thus speaks of Original Sin, Justification, and the Divinity of Christ :
"But what, it may be asked, are the peculiarities, the preaching of which is so important a test of a minister's piety? The most obvious is, that man has departed from original righteousness, and on account of sin is justly obnoxious to the Divine anger. This fact, and the consequence deduced from it, form the hypothesia on which the preaching of every converted minister, and, indeed,
the whole scheme of Christianity, is founded; and which being denied, Christianity and preaching become inappropriate and useless. A minister who admits these truths fully and un equivocally, must, in consequence, admit the necessity of the atonement; and who, that admits its necessity, can be unconscious of its importance? Or who, that allows its importance, can fail to make it a prominent topic in his parochial addresses?
"In addition to these points, justifica tion, solely and exclusively through the merits of Christ, has been always considered, among men of piety, as a doctrine plainly revealed in Scripture, and of essential value in the system of human redemption. They have viewed it, not as an appeudage or corollary, much less as an excrescence, but as the sum, the substance, the life, the spirit, of the whole dispensation. On this only, their own hopes of pardon and acceptance have been founded, and on this only have they exhorted others to depend. Having learned from Revelation the nature of God and the extent of the Divine requisitions, and having at the same time discovered the utter incom. petency of man, since the fall, to secure to himself a place in heaven by sinless obedience, they have acknowledged that nothing but a revelation of gratui tous mercy could relieve our wants, or be worth our acceptance. On these accounts, the doctrine in question has in every pure church been considered of supreme importance; and, whatever may be the prevailing sentiment of any particular age, the Gospel and its effects being always the same, the piety of that minister is undoubtedly suspicions, whose preaching is heretical or defective on this fundamental subject of justification by the merits of Christ.
"Intimately connected with the last
mentioned topic is that of the divinity of our Saviour, a doctrine which, beyond most others, has been ridiculed and im pugned; but which is so explicitly taught in the Sacred Writings, and so necessarily implied in the whole economy of human salvation, that it would be difficult to imagine him a converted man who denies its truth, or him a faithful minister who forgets its importance. The disbelief of this doctrine, virtually implies a disbelief of Christianity (except so far as it is a system of ethics), and must, therefore, be the most fatal of mistakes.” pp. 22–24.
The relation of doctrine to practice, or the influence which right principle has upon the conduct, is thus stated:
"After the experience of nearly two thousand years, it might without danger of mistake be admitted as a demonstrat
ed fact, that morality has always advanced or declined, in proportion as the Gospel has been preached in its genuine simplicity, or in a garbled form; and, Consequently, that nothing but the undisguised doctrines of Christianity can accomplish even that object which the worldling considers as the only end of the clerical establishment. But this object, great as it is, is far from being the utmost that a pious minister proposes to himself. His preaching is founded on the supposition, that a man, though outwardly moral, may fail of being a true Christian, and in consequence fail of the rewards of Christianity. Internal religion, a religion of motives and intentions, a religion corresponding to that which our Saviour taught in his Sermon on the Mount, he esteems ne, cessary to make the most brilliant or useful action acceptable to that Being, whom without faith it is impossible to please,' He conceives, therefore, that the doctrinal parts of Christianity are essentially necessary in his preaching, Whether he argues from the practice of the inspired writers, or from the na ture of the thing itself, he arrives at the same conclusion, that an exhibition of the moral precepts of the Gospel, without the doctrines on which they depend, is as contrary to the intention of its Author, as the opposite error of inculcating its doctrines and forgetting its commands. He insists, therefore, on the necessity of faith no less than of good works; the former as that which justifies, the latter as the indispensable evidences of our being in a state of grace,
“It has been shewn, that, even as far as relates to outward morality, the un sophisticated preaching of the Gospel is necessary to effect any considerable reform; but when to this circumstance, which, it should be observed, proves ply the political and moral expediency of such preaching, are added those higher considerations which shew its infinite importance, as connected with the awful responsibility of the preacher, and with the eternal interests of the hu
"The most conspicuous aim of a pious minister, and that to which his whole conduct may be reduced, is an ardent desire to save himself and those that hear him.' No powers of language can describe the intensity with which this feeling often glows in the bosom of a good man, Where such a feeling exists, it will always be evident to others. The natural disposition of a man, how. ever cold or reserved, will not be able to overcome its influence. Some mea sure of holy zeal is absolutely inseparable from the office and character of a pious Minister; it may vary with the different tempers of men, or with the degrees of their piety, but it will never be quite extinct. It is impossible that he who has imbibed even the smallest portion of the Christian spirit, that spirit which actuated Apostles, Confessors, and Martyrs, can remain an unconcern ed spectator of the religious wants of those whose souls are intrusted to his care. He must of necessity bring into his ministerial functions something of that spirit which characterized the primitive ages, He will be anxious to know the state of his flock; his preaching will be cordial and affectionate; his private labours conscientious and unremitted; and in his whole conduct he will appear to value his bodily strength, and his mental attainments, only as they promote the cause of the Redeemer, and the eternal interests of the human soul." pp. 35, 36.
"But one of the strongest tests of a minister, and one which should by no means be forgotten, is his willingness or unwillingness to bear the reproach of the cross of Christ; for, even in this happy country, where Christianity in its purest form is the national religion, something of this reproach still remains. The excellency of our political and ecclesiastical regulations cannot prevent the accomplishment of that pro phecy, that all who live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution.
sent to endure. No regularity of deportment, no consistency with the doctrines and discipline of the Establishment, no amiableness of manners and disposition, nothing, in short, but an unholy compliance with the world, can entirely prevent the reproach which every minister of Christ is appointed to sustain." pp. 60–62.
He concludes this part of the Essay, with the following paragraph:
"These, then, appear to be some of the chief evidences by which a converted minister may be distinguished from an unconverted one. But to delineate the ministerial character adequately is impossible; for who can fully conceive what that man ought to be, who is sent by the Sovereign of the Universe as his herald to a world in arms, with denunciations of wrath which the tongue of angels might faulter to proclaim; and with tidings of love and mercy so ineffable and divine, that even imprisoned demons, were they interested in them, would melt with contrition, and rejoice once more to employ the golden harps of heaven in singing songs of glory and praise to their beneficent Creator? Were a minister to walk altogether worthy of his high vocation, it would be impossible to mistake his character. He would appear among men as an in
It is not possible for the Gospel to be professed in its unsophisticated energy and spirit, without exciting the opposition of mankind. Let us imagine that an individual among the lower orders of society, from a course of life overtly flagitious, should become a reformed and exemplary character. This change, being imputed to merely moral causes, or to motives of expediency, would most certainly procure him a degree of respect and encouragement which he could not otherwise have enjoyed. It is evident, therefore, that morality, simply considered, is far from being an object of contempt or persecution. But if the individual under consideration should openly avow that it was the denunciations of the Bible against sin, that first excited his alarm; that, despairing of salvation by his own merits, he had learned to trust wholly and implicitly to the merits of Him who came to take away the sins of the world; and that, in correspondence to his new nature, and as a proof of his sincerity, he had solemnly resolved to live no longer to himself, but to Him who had bought him with the price of his own blood; and if in future he were to make it his undivided aim, to fulfil his baptis. mal engagements, to confess the faith of Christ crucified, to fight manfully under his banners, and to continue his faithful servant and soldier unto his life's end, and were to exemplify in his conduct that holiness, spirituality, and self-habitant of a superior world. His condenial, which such resolutions were calculated to inspire,--would the same result take place as in the former instance? Would he not rather be censured than applauded by the world around bim? Would not his name be often heard in connexion with the terms.hy pocrite, enthusiast, and others of similar import? In a word, would he not be one instance among many,' that the offence of the cross has not ceased; but that, wherever our holy religion appears, in its genuine form, the hatred of mankind is sure to be excited against it? The sarcastic hint, the retorted sneer, the malice of the tongue, the annoying vexations of petty insult, are still employed, in place of more formidable weapons, to oppose the Gospel, as often as it is seen in its natural energy and spirit; and the wounds inflicted by these poisoned arrows, though not worthy to be compared with the persecutions of the first Christians, are yet usually far more than an unconverted Minister will con
versation would be in heaven. Elevated above earth, he would learn to look down with equal eye on its honours and its frowns, its sorrows and its enjoy ments. His spotless garments would be uncontaminated with its pollutions. Employed in the same, or even a higher work than that of angels, he would participate their spirit. His manners would be celestial. Like the Redeemer himself, he would appear on earth but as one come to do good; and when his course was finished, would quit it with "a hope full of immortality and glory." p. 64.
After the citations, which have now been presented to our readers, it is almost superfluous for us to, say any thing by way of commendation. These passages will recommend themselves: and we consider them as fair specimens of the work. It will be evident, even on the most