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Wesleyanism, we are far from wishing them to do violence to their honest convictions, nor would we repel them from our communion on that account. Perhaps we may not unreasonably indulge the pleasing hope, that, by cherishing that attachment to the Church in which they have so well begun, by a continued closer familiarity with her orderly institutions and ministrations, by a less prejudiced observation of her zeal and fidelity in administering the word of life to the people, by learning to separate the sacredness of her orders and ritual from any real or imputed deficiency in those who bear her commission, they may be brought to see, that the system which they desire to engraft on the Church, while it is not essential to the preservation and extension of vital Christianity, produces no inconsiderable evil by impairing that unity which should subsist, as far as is possible, in doctrine, discipline, and practice.
For, holding the Church as we do, to be a sacred institation, to which it is not lawful for human wisdom or piety to add in any respect beyond that which has been handed down to us by the Apostles, we cannot agree with the observation of Mr. Southey, that Methodism, under any modification whatever, can “ deserve to be recognized as an auxiliary institution " to the Establishment. If the Established Church were the mere creature of human invention, then we might be disposed to consider the question how far other institutions for the custody of religion might be introduced in connexion with it. But firmly persuaded as we are, that there is but one holy Catholic Church, and that the Church of England is a pure branch of that one Church, we cannot recognize ministerial services which rest not equally on the footing of apostolic right. Neither can we approve that interpretation of the term Catholic, which renders it synonymous with confusion, when it is construed to mean a comprehensive union of the most discordant professions of Christianity. According to our view of the subject, a peculiarity of doctrine, and a distinctiveness of character, are as essential to the constitution of the Catholic Church, as comprehensiveness. But that sort of Catholicism, which is aimed at by Methodism, is precisely such as to merge the peculiar and. distinctive character of the Church in the vortex of confusion. For what says Wesley himself of his own people? " They do not impose,” says he, "in order to their admission, any opinions. whatever: let them hold particular or general redemption, absolute or conditional decrees; let them be churchmen or dissenters, presbyterians or independents, it is no obstacle. Let them choose one mode of worship or another, it is no bar to their admission. The presbyterian may be a presbyterian still; the independent or anabaptist use his own mode of worship; so may the quaker, and none will contend with him about it. They think and let think. One condition, and one only, is required,---a real desire to save their souls. Where this, is, it is enough; they desire no more. They lay stress upon nothing else. They ask only, Is thy heart herein as my heart !--- If it be, give me thy hand. Is there any other society in Great Britain or Ireland that is so truly of a Catholic spirit? so ready to admit all serious persons without distinction ?"
If the opposite to such a “ Catholic spirit” as this is bigotry, then will we readily subscribe to the imputation of a bigotry so contrasted. We are not ashamed to own, that we do fondly and supremely love that Church which has carried us, as a fond nursing mother, in her arms to Christ in baptism, and which has nourished us at her altars with the spiritual food of his body and blood, and that we turn with aversion from every intruder on her sacred prerogatives.. For the Methodists themselves, as well as for every other member of any sect of Christianity, who sincerely serves God as his conscience, after mature inquiry, dictates to him, we feel every respect and charity, as they are individual Christians; but of the system itself of Methodism, and its tendency, we cannot but speak in terms of hostility.
Further, with reference to the very plea which Wesley himself urged in extenuation of his schismatical conduct ---that of necessity,---we would conjure the Methodists at large to reflect seriously on the relation in which they now stand to the Established Church. If a departure from the Church is no longer necessary in the same sense in which Wesley understood the necessity upon which he justified himself, then the existence of Methodism (as far as it is a Wesleyan institution) ought to cease. Remove the necessity upon which alone he justified his irregular proceedings, and those proceedings ought (consistently at least) to fall to the ground. Now, if there was some occasion for that impulse which Methodism gave to religion at the period of its rise, that occasion certainly no longer exists. There is, on the contrary, in the present day, rather a tendency to the opposite extreme, to an excess of religious fermentation in the mass of the people, which ought not to be aggravated by fanatical excitements. Even our enemies must confess, that the Clergy at large do preach the gospel in its scriptural integrity to the people; and that there is no ground accordingly for continuing a system which the present state of the religious world has entirely superseded. If, indeed, the enthusiastic notion of Mr. Sandwith, concerning the discipline instituted by Wesley, is generally prevalent among the Methodists of the present day; who speaks of “ an overruling Providence, subordinating Mr. Wesley's talents, as well as many other seemingly casual occurrences, to the gradual developement of a plan which subsisted no where but in the
divine i mindo, applying to the system the remark, that the workmen in England had no more plan than the workmen in Judæa," (p. 15.)-if, we say, such an estimate of Methodism be prevalent among the body of the Methodists, then is there little reason to expect that any arguments drawn from the present inexpediency of the system will weigh with them to sacrifice to the cause of Church Unity, an excrescence reputed of such divine growth. But we do hope, that Mr: Humphry Sandwith does not here speak the sentiments of his brethren; that such extravagances of conceit have now no extensive countenance anong the members of the society, but with the distortions of mind and body, the stupors and hysterics, which accompanied the first propagation of Methodism, have long ago expired-at least, among the generality of educated professors of the system.
It is almost needless to argue against so fanatical an account of the origin of Methodism; but it may not be superfluous to observe, that its rise and prevalence may be satisfactorily accounted for from natural carises.* * The principal cause vis ta be found in the excess of that philosophizing spirit which characterized the leading divines of the age in which Methodism appeared. The minds of the people were brought to that condition which predisposed them for the strong stimulants of Methodism. The fundamental principles of the gospelt--the door trines of original sinó+of the atonement by the blood of Christ and of sanctification by the Holy Spirit---being placed before them in their naked scriptural grandeur by men of no ordinary powers of eloquence and oratorical tact, and (in the case of White field in particular) of histrionic talent;---were seized with avidity as truths which had before been obscured from their sight, or which, at least, they had been unaccustomed to regard in 'BO striking a point of view. Nor was the effect of the writings of William Law (whom we cannot mention without recording the respect which we bear to him for his great talents and piety, while we lament that so 'exeellent a spirit should ever have devíated from the strict line of sober religion) inconsiderable in preparing the way for the success of Methodism. Both Wesley and Whitefield studied in the school of Law; and the religious systems of both will be found, on examination, to be only modifications of the opinions of that eminent divine: Wesley having engrafted on them the peculiarities of the Moravians, whilst Whitefield corrupted them with Calvinism. Thus -Methodism, in this respect, like the Reformation, had its Erasmus, who, though not himself one of its votaries, was instrumental in furthering that great revolution of religious opinion which was consequent upon the adoption (or rather in regard to Law the perverted adoption) of his views. This is a topic'upon which we feel strongly tempted to enlarge;- but we must. forbear, and
VOL. VIII, NO. I.
at present, at least, leave the discussion to the reflexion both of the friends and enemies of Methodism, who will find it no uninteresting subject of philosophical inquiry.
Nov. 1, 1825. Sir,-Although the Bishop of Exeter declined publishing the excellent Charge, which he delivered to the Clergy of his Diocese at his late Visitation, yet I hope that I shall stand excused for offering you this brief abstract of it. I cannot help thinking, that this sketch, however imperfect, will prove highly acceptable to your readers ; especially as many of the points, which the Bishop touched upon, are of considerable interest and importance at the present time; and I am sure, that it is far more correct, upon the whole, than any of the reports of the Charge which appeared in the newspapers.
Your obedient servant,
His Lordship commenced his Charge by congratulating the Clergy upon the improvement that had taken place in the Diocese at large, by the augmentation of the smaller livings, the erection of parsonage houses, the increase of resident Clergymen, and, in many cases, the addition of a second service on the sabbath. “Much, undoubtedly," said his Lordship,“ has been accomplished in these respects, but much still remains to be done ; and that it will be done without any interference on my part, I am induced confidently to expect (from that right feeling and proper sense of duty which so generally prevail; for, notwithstanding the calumnies daily put forth against the clergy, and the charges of supineness, ignorance, and worldly-mindedness, so constantly repeated, I will be bold to affirm, that in no age of the Church have its ministers been more active, zealous, and disinterested, or better informed, than in the present."
He then returned his warmest thanks to the Clergy in general for their cordial co-operation ; he was sensible, that without it the benefits before mentioned could not have been so satisfactorily attained ; and that the degree of improvement, which might yet be looked for, must depend more upon their exertions than on his. It would be for him, however, if opportunities for such exertions should accidendentally escape their observation, to call their attention to them, and also to any other circumstances which might affect the interests of the Church in general, or of this diocese in particular.
Hence he took occasion to remind them of many of their religious and civil duties. Speaking of the latter, he observed, that the Clergy were not excluded from the exercise of the rights and privileges of citizens. As such, they were not controuled in forming their opinions upon passing events, nor were they prohibited from expressing those opinions, provided they transgressed not the bounds of sobriety, moderation, and Christian charity. At the same time, it was much to be desired, and much more consistent with the clerical character, that the Clergy should altogether abstain from taking part in those general political questions,—"those," said he, “I mean, which are purely political, -or in particular local disputes, which were so apt to engender lasting feuds and animosities, and too frequently destroyed the blessings and comforts which society was originally intended, and was in itself calculated, to afford. If they became partizans, they must necessarily lose that influence, which they might otherwise possess, and might be able to exert with effect in allaying the rancour and bitterness of contention; for, in any attempt which they may make to reconcile conflicting interests, it will not be believed that they are actuated by any pious feeling, and anxiety for the temporal or spiritual welfare of their flocks; but they will at least be suspected, and not without reason, of regulating their conduct solely by selfish views and worldly considerations. And should such really be the case,-should any minister of the gospel, deceived by views of interest, and the hope of advancing himself by a shorter and less honourable road, than that of exertion and labour in his profession, engage in secular pursuits and party broils, neglecting the duties of his high calling,—or, if not wholly neglecting them, accounting them only of secondary importance; awful, indeed, is the responsibility of that minister, and piteous will be his condition, when his Lord, to whom all his motives are known, shall "come and reckon with him."
His Lordship then suggested many excellent rules to the Clergy for the government of their whole conduct and general intercourse with those around them; that they should exhibit in themselves examples of moderation and prudence, of good-will and charity towards all men, cherishing all those habits and dispositions which might conciliate the affection of others, or command their esteem. That they should use such prudence and caution not only in the weightier and more important concerns of life, but in the recreations also, and the amusements in which they should indulge themselves ; for these, even when innocent in themselves, might become criminal, if carried to excess. Here, however, he begged not to be misunderstoud ; he did not wish to debar the Clergy from all gratifications unconnected with their profession; though he confessed, that he could not conceive any higher gratifications than those which the duties of that profession, in the faithful performance of them, are so eminently calculated to produce. Yet far, very far, was be from thinking, that they should seclude themselves from the social intercourse of the world, and from those enjoyments which a merciful Creator intended that his creatures should use without abusing. But while, on the one hand, they shunned the “ abstraction of pietism," God forbid that, on the other, they should not, turn with abhorrence from those pernicious doctrines which, teaching men to “ sin that grace may abound,” are destructive all virtue, morality, and religion.
In adverting to the censures so freely bestowed upon the Clergy, and which, with all their care and diligence, they must not expect to