Billeder på siden

It is

comes to the point, you fly back to your text; and if each application in ten thousand varying, nay, incompatible instances, produce not to a fraction the same result, instead of taking a mean, you are for throwing away the whole as imperfect. You forget that the laws of Christianity, like all other general rules, cannot be exactly in the same degree applicable to each varying time and circumstance, all you argue is, that we should be perfect. So we should certainly, if we can! But we really must descend from this to matter of fact. We are not perfect, neither are you, nor shall we be, can or cannot, while here we remain. idle building castles in the air, and arguing upon what might be, if we were exactly contrary to what we are. Here we are, weak sinful men, and to us, such as we are, is the Gospel revelation made, and for us the Christ both lived and died. Shall we then say the mighty "scheme" has failed? Has evil been a second time triumphant, and baffled finally both Creator and Redeemer! This surely were criminal want of faith! But no!"Christianity, praise be to God, has raised the tone of morals, and amended the standard of public opinion." It has also corrected the impulses of men; right now assumes, in the majority, its natural precedence, though alas, it cannot always maintain it, and second thoughts are sometimes worst. Why the progress of moral excel

lence has been so slow we know not, but it has extended, is extending, and will, we are bound to believe, extend itself. God will protect His own work, and the powers of hell shall not prevail against it.

With regard to this country in particular, if the rest of the Christian world were better than ourselves, then, indeed, there might be some reason for despair. But does humility itself require us to admit this? You yourself confess it is not the fact, though I sadly fear that, despite our boasted Reformation, we are not so much better than other Christian nations, as some will contend for.Courage, however! let us not find unprofitable fault with what is, nor risk the bursting our boiler or straining our machinery by injudicious endeavours to stop up the safety valves, though the power escaping appear a loss, and though it for the moment may offend our nostrils and partially obscure our sight. In page 316, we come again to a direct attack upon the clergy of the Established Church. It may appear presumptuous in me to say a word in their defence. I may turn to them with a Latin quotation in your style, and say,

"Neve in nos * * * convicia fundere linguæ
Admiremur eum, vobis quoque digna pudore


factum defendite vestrum."

I promised you, however, in a former Letter, argument for argument, assertion for assertion, upon this subject. As usual, you will not come to close quarters, so I must be content to, what sailors call, play at long balls. I will maintain it as a notorious fact against any one, be he radical, be he self-styled evangelical, that the clergy of the present day, are, as a body, as good or better, whether the question regards divinity or morality, or both together, than they, or any other body of men ever were. As for John Wesley and his fellow-labourers, to whom I suppose you to allude in page 318, I give them all due credit.

[ocr errors][merged small]

Neque enim benefacta maligne

Detrectare meum est, sed nec communia solus

Pars est sua laudis in illis."

They were in the main good men, and they performed their part. I cannot consent to attribute their success to any superiority in their doctrine or preaching over that of our Church; but to the novelty, and the earnestness of their manner, and to the circumstances of the time when they commenced their labours, a time when want of church room for increased and congregated population, and I am sorry I perhaps must confess a certain degree of laxity in the clergy, not as regards


peculiar doctrines," but general attention to their business in proportion to its accumulation, had paved their way to success. The austere, the marvellous, and the unintelligible, have always a certain first charm for the vulgar, until familiarity has done its work. These, acting in unison with that universal propensity in nature, from lambs to men, for feeding out of pasture, went far to cause a success, which though apparently hostile, was in fact beneficial to the Church, by giving the required spur to the dormant energies of its ministers. They have been roused, and your taunt upon them in 1829, at least (the date of your edition before me), had been well spared. It had been well spared, even though the pastors of the people, not to create false enthusiasm, and for the sake of being better understood, may give a great portion of their discourses in the changed language of the day, and condescend to explain the difficult and obscure portions of the epistles. Although, instead of wrapping up their subject in mystery, they treat their congregation like reasonable beings, endeavouring to show them that their faith is reasonable, and the practice required of them conducive to their own happiness here, as well as hereafter. Where they preach faith, it is the united faith of their Bibles and their Liturgy; where they preach morality, it is the same morality which both alike

inculcate. They are, as a body, examples of moderation and charity; they attend, as far as circumstances render possible or judicious, to the spiritual and corporeal wants of their parishioners; and if this be not "vital Christianity," heaven help me, for I know not what is, malgre your 400 pages of explanation !

In page 323, you call upon us aloud to proclaim the distinction between God and Baal, as against what you term "the questionable and dangerous policy of endeavouring to soften prejudices against religion, by joining, as far as innocence permits, in the customs and practices of irreligious men.”— We agree with you thus far, that we may not do evil that good may follow, and whatever these things may be, however in their own nature innocent, he who does them, thinking them evil, to him they are evil. But we are no where required to relinquish any enjoyment in itself innocent, merely because the wicked also derive pleasure from it, or even heighten apparently their own enjoyment of it, by its abuse. The Baptist, we are told, came with fasting and austerity; humouring the religious prejudices of the Jews, to woo their notice and gain their ear, that he might prepare them for the reality about to be revealed. The Christ himself came "eating and drinking," and not disdaining to mingle with publicans and sinners, that he

« ForrigeFortsæt »