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Where is the manifested church having the graces of the Spirit, and the gifts of the Spirit, and displaying the same to prove a present God, and a living God? Brethren, we are out at sea; we have to look in vain for all these things.”
So much for the favour which Dr. Wilkins says the clergy enjoy from the Spirit of God Again the same plausible and japanned panegyrist of the clergy of the establishment, informs us that * nothing is kept back or hidden, and that we (the ministry) have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God l’—But what does Mr. Armstrong say to this 2
“Many ministers,’ he declares, “who know the truth, are afraid or deterred from speaking it by multitudes of persons who are round them, who call themselves Christians, but who cannot bear to hear all the truth. To instance one truth, the doctrine of election—how many are there in the Church of England who are afraid of bringing out that truth, for fear of offending the multitude l’
A plain contradiction, can, we suppose, go no farther than this. Were we not right, then, when we asserted, in the passage from this journal to which Dr. Wilkins has attempted a reply, that * even at this late hour, the doctors of the established church dispute about some of the most essential points of christian faith ?” ‘We have not shunned,’ says Dr. Wilkins, “to declare unto you, all the counsel of God!’. ‘Indeed but we have,’ says Mr. Armstrong :—
‘Look, again, at the visible church, and consider it with reference to doctrine. Are all the doctrines that were preached by Christ and by the Apostles preached now in the visible church 7 No man would say that they are. I need not pursue this part of the subject further; it requires not to be enlarged upon.’
We must, in justice to ourselves, observe that we have not gone in search of the testimony of Mr. Armstrong, in order to confound the glossy and barefaced panegyric, which Dr. Wilkins has pronounced upon the clergy and establishment of the church. Two numbers of a periodical publication, entitled “The Pulpit,” happened to have been sent to us, by whom we really do not know ; one of these, No. 464, contained the sermon which was preached against the Monthly Review by Dr. Wilkins; and in the other, No. 465, we found Mr. Armstrong's discourse, and thus we had scarcely received the bane, when it was followed by the antidote.
But we have not yet done with our reverend and learned antagonist. Our leading charge against the Church of England is that it is, from its origin and character, the prolific parent of dissension in matters of religion. “All minds,’ as Dr. Wilkins very justly remarks, “are not open to the same impressions—all minds have not the same temperature of feeling—the thoughts of the mind, and the imaginations of the heart, are various, and are infinitely diversified: hence, the large number of sects and parties into which the
religious community is divided : how variable and distant their doctrimes, how discordant and changeable their sentiments l’. This is: all perfectly true; but is it, or is it not, the fundamental principle upon which the Church of England has been built, that, notwithstanding this characteristic weakness of the human mind, when left to its own control, it is the right of every man to judge for himself in matters of religion? If men have not that right, upon what ground were the people of this country justified in separating from: the Church of Rome 7 Upon what ground were and are the people. of Scotland justified in dissenting from the Church of England 2. Why the people of England, who, by the way, were at first forced by laws and by penalties to adopt the reformed religion, were. taught to believe that they ought to shake off the authority of the Church of Rome, and depend upon their own judgment; the people of Scotland were led by their fanatic preachers into the same way of thinking; and the result is, that they have both established, churches, essentially different from each other. This is the plain view of the case, and Dr. Wilkins cannot get out of it. Well then, is there no inconsistency after all in the conduct of the English church, upon this very subject of the right of private. judgment 2. The grossest inconsistency ; for no sooner did that, church make use of the principle of individual right, in order to. shake off the authority of Rome, which she denied to be infallible, than she set up an authority of her own, which, if it does not claim. to be infallible, is the strangest compound of affirmatives and negatives that the perverted ingenuity of mankind has ever produced. We beg the reader to give us his candid attention.
‘Consummately wise and judicious,’ says Dr. Wilkins, “were our predecessors, who, knowing the propensity of our nature, and how apt mankind are to be swayed by the delusive charms of novelty, and guarding against those pernicious effects which the conceit of ability, and the love of popular applause, produce in vulgar minds, constructed an approved standard by which we are bound justly to mete out the exposition of holy writ, and to deliver instruction to the people committed to our spiritual care. By this common standard of our faith it is clear to all that our church does. not arrogate to herself infallibility, nor does she presume to set up a faith and doctrine founded on human policy and contrivance ; but such only as the plain dictates of conscience, and the legitimate inferences of reason, aided, as we think, by the Spirit of God, have led her most able and enlightened sons to deduce from those oracles of which she is the “keeper and witness;” and though it be her desire to bring and to keep all men in her communion, she has recourse to no other means than the most gentle and persuasive. She would allure, but not compel; she feels the inward assurance of correctness, but does not insist upon it—she remonstrates, but does not condemn—her spirit is the spirit of Christianity, and therefore her aim is love, joy, and peace.”
‘The approved standard,’ the ‘common standard,” here spoken ine app - - pok of, is no other than that collection of “Articles of Religion” generally known by the title of the “Thirty-nine Articles.” It is notorious that these thirty-nine articles were originally forty-two; that they were composed by Cranmer, by order of the privy council, about the year 1551; that although he is supposed to have consulted with Ridley and Latimer, he is, nevertheless, usually considered to have been the sole author of those articles, which, however, he submitted to six royal chaplains, Harley, Bill, Horn, Grindal, Perne and Knox, to Dr. Cox, and to two laymen, Cecil and Sir John Clarke. At this period Edward VI. was upon the throne: the articles were laid before his majesty and he, a few days before his death, which occurred in the sixteenth year of his age, issued his mandate, desiring that all the bishops should cause all their preachers, arch-deacons, deans, prebendaries, parsons, vicars, curates, with all their clergy, to subscribe the said articles! The articles were then published by the King's printer, and thus they became the “approved standard, the ‘common standard’ of faith in the church ; and so they remained until the fifth year of the reign of Elizabeth, when they were amended by a committee of the lower house of convocation, and reduced to their present number. It is an indisputable fact in the history of these articles, as Burnet says, on the authority of a variety of evidences, that these articles “were not passed in convocation” before they received the sanction of Edward VI. It appears moreover, from the terms of his mandate, that he commanded them to be published, “because they seemed agreeable to the Scriptures, and the ordinances of the realm.” Seemed to whom ? why to him, the boy-king ! In his opinion the articles were conformable to the Scriptures, and to the laws of the country, and therefore they were published, and ordered to be subscribed. Did they not therefore receive their original sanction and authority from the fiat of the king 2 And was not this, in the weakest sense of the word, human authority of the very lowest description ? Is the case of these articles mended by what took place in the early part of the reign of Elizabeth Not at all. They were amended by a committee of the lower house of convocation, and sanctioned by the queen: so that, in fact, this very approved standard of faith has come down to us upon the authority of a boy, burthened with the wisdom of sixteen years, and of a woman who had already arrived at the venerable age of thirty-one ! And with these astounding facts before his eyes, Dr. Wilkins has the hardihood to say, that the faith and doctrine of the Church of England are not founded on ‘human policy and contrivance / What then, were Edward and Elizabeth supernatural beings?—were Cranmer, Ridley, Latimer, and the committee of convocation, other than men 7 But, adds the profound doctor, their reason was ‘aided, as we think, by the Spirit of God.” Was it indeed 2 If it was, it is plain that there is an infallible authority in the Church of England, for the Spirit of God cannot err. It would be the height of blasphemy
to suppose that God is liable to error, and, therefore, if His Spirit
by the minister, the whole people standing, in every church that is in communion with the Church of England ; it forms an essential article of her faith. We ask therefore, is not the very utterance of the two paragraphs which we have cited, as strong a condemnation as language can express, of all persons who do not receive and hold the points enumerated in that solemn document 2 Is it not as strong a condemnation of a man's belief as you can pass upon it, to tell him, that unless it be conformable in all things with your own standard, he is sure to be damned to all eternity ? And yet this is the church which remonstrates only, but does not condemn ! A pretty way of remonstrating truly, to tell your neighbour that unless he agree with you in all the details of the Athanasian creed, he has not the slightest chance of being saved r. Wilkins gives us a very full account of the kind of education which the established clergy receive at the universities. We observe that in this system of preparation for preaching the Gospel, ‘religion and philosophy go hand in hand,’ that the student is well grounded in the ancient schemes of morality devised by the heathen masters; in logic, mathematics, natural history, astronomy, literature, the liberal arts of painting, poetry, and music. But we do not find that much attention is paid to divinity, or that any regard is had to the formation of those personal habits of piety and good conduct, without which, so far as the future pastor is concerned, all the rest of his accomplishments are but as the tinkling cymbal. Indeed it is notorious, that the most profligate youths of the universities are almost uniformly found to be those who are intended for the church, or rather, we should say, for the livings, which their friends have in view for them. Having now examined pretty much at large the panegyric which Dr. Wilkins has bestowed upon the church and its clergy, and having shown by the testimony of one of his own brethren, and by the evidence of undoubted history, the falsehood of that panegyric in several of its most material points, we now come, with the greatest possible equanimity, to the more violent portions of the invective which he has been pleased to pronounce against this journal.
“And here I feel called upon to notice an attack lately made upon us, and upon our church, by an enemy who has published to the world, and n a work of considerable circulation,” a report of alleged blemishes and defects, the most wicked that a vitiated mind and a corrupt judgment could suggest: wicked because it is composed of misrepresentations palpably wilful, and because its object is the downfall of the establishment, at all hazards—reckless of any ruin or danger that may ensue.
“It commences by charging upon the church, and upon ourselves, the increase of crime. “It will not be denied,” says this writer, “that crime, instead of being diminished by all this machinery of religion, [meaning the system of our national religion] is increasing, from year to year, with