« AnteriorContinuar »
unsound together; there is no more worship of that God whom the Scriptures reveal—no more spiritual and chistian devotion, than there is christian instruction and edification in the sermon; not to mention (though this is highly important) that there is nothing in the devotional formularies of such a church, to set bounds and limits to the errors and heresies which the minister might broach in his sermons. Too many sermons have indeed been preached in the churches of our Establishment in which there was no Gospel ; bnt we have not had our churches deluged with the open, shameless, undisguised preaching of Arianism, and Socinianism, and Inndelity, like the vast mjority (alas !) of the churches of the continent; though they boasted all the while of the name of Protestant and Reformed. The evil in its worst sorm, in the Church of England, has been, comparatively speaking, only negative ; in the churches of the continent (and not unfrequently in Dissenting chapels here at home, though our admirable Liturgy and evangelical Articles have doubtless exercised indirectly, in very many cases, a restraining influence there,) the evil has been, even to the most horrible degree, positive, ruging, and rumpant. You, my dear sister, can well understand how important, yea, how blessed it is, to have evangelical prayers and the abundant reading of the Scriptures secured to us,however blind and ignorant the minister may happen to he. - Letters, &c. pp. 182.- 184.
“The Voluntary Principle" is so monstrous an absurdity, has been so frequently exposed, and so little needs exposure, that the Dissenters themselves do not seriously adopt it. In no instance whatever, so far as we are aware, have they rejected endowments or provisions for the maintenance of Dissent. Their exclamations in favour of the voluntary principle are part of a very transparent system of chicanery for possesing themselves of the tithes. But Mr. Osler has anatomized the principle in the most masterly way, and exposed its utter corruption.
The voluntary principle, of which so much has lately been said and written, is very imperfectly understood. Most people imagine that it only asserts the right of every individual to pay for the instruction which he prefers, with a protest against being compelled to pay for any other. But in reality it includes the whole question at issue. It claims for every man the right to choose for himself his mode of worship, and form of church government, and to make himself sole judge of the nature and extent of the obedience he shall render: in other words, that every man shall do that which is right in his own eyes, determine for himself what laws he will obey, submit to no authority which he has not sanctioned, and revolt against this whenever it pleases him to do so. This principle strikes at the foundation of society itself; for it contains nothing which may forbid its application to civil, as well as to ecclesiastical institutions.
It is not surprising, however, that the voluntary principle should have become identified with pecuniary considerations, because it is very greatly controlled by the purse. The command of the funds materially determines the government of the meeting; and though the authority of the church members is the first principle of independency, it is superseded, by that of trustees, if the meeting be endowed; by a committee of stranyers, if it be supported by funds from without. If the minister be poor, the “ church” governs him: if he have property, or influential connexions, he dictates to them. The voluntary principle resolves itself, in fact, into the right of the strongest;
“And why-because the good old rule
Sufficeth them; the simple plan
That they should keep, who can.”—Church and Dissent, pp. 9–11. We shall conclude this notice with an extract from Mr. Allen's Appendix, a part of his work which is highly valuable.
The great authority on all these points is Mr. James, wbo, in his Church Member's Guide, has these startling statements-
1. On the Election of Dissenting Ministers.
" When a minister is removed, the choice of a successor alwuys brings on a crisis in the history of the church.” “ No erent that could happen can place the interest of the society in greater peril!" (Guide, pp. 223, 224.) “ Distraction and division of churches have frequently resulted from the election of ministers.” (p. 223.) At this “ perilous crisis,” (p. 224.) “secret canvassing,” (p. 228.) "cabals, intrigues, (p. 229.) and the most disgusting exercise of the most disgusting tyranny between opposing parties take place.” (p. 231.) “ If the two parties cannot unite in peace, let them at least separute in peace. Alas ! that this should so rarely be the case.” (p. 233.) Divisions in our churches produce incalculable mischief; since they not only prevent the growth of religion, but impair and destroy it.” (p. 240.) Sometimes the majority yields to the minority.!” (p. 230.) * In some cases a division is necesssary; (p. 233.)" and the ininority separates;" and then “ bow much ill will and antichristian feeling - what envies, and jealousies, and evil speakings coinmence and continue ?" (p. 232.) “We have been accused of wrangling about a teacher of religion, till we have lost our religion in the affray; and the state of many of our congregations proves that the charge is not altogether without foundation.” p. (923.)
2. On the Ministerial Character in Dissenting Churches.
“ Churches tempt students to leave their colleges before the term of their education has been completed.” (p. 243.) “A detective education not unfrequently prepares a minister to be the cause of much uneasiness in a Christian church.” (p. 241.) “ For want of ministerial diligence the sermons of some ministers are poverly itself, a mere repetition of the same sentiments in the same words." (p. 243.)“ į believe one half of our church quurrels originate in lazy, loitering ministers !" (p. 244.) “Some ministers plunge themselves in debt, involve themselves in politics, or marry unsuitable persons;" (p. 244.) “others are of a bad temper"_" so that a fire of contention is soon kindled, and the whole church is enveloped in the flames !" (p. 244, 245.).“ Others are immoral”—“ attaching to themselves a party" are retained in the church!! (p. 245.) “After all I am constrained to contess that the darkness which rests upon the mind of the church member is the result of that cloudiness which envelops the mind of the pastor: if there is ignorance in the pew, it is because there is so little knowledge in the pulpit. When the preacher dwells en nothing but a few common place topics of an experimental or consolatory nature; while all the varied and sublime parts of revealed truth are neglected for one eternal round of beaten subjects; when a text is selected from time to time, which requires no study to understand, no ability to expound; when nothing is heard from one Sabbath to another but the same sentiments in the same words, until the introduction of a new or original conception would startle the congregation almost as much as the entrance of a spectre; who can wonder if, under such circumstances, the congregation should grow tired of their preacher; or if such drowsy tinkling should . Jull the fold' till with their shepherd they sink to the slumbers of indifference, amidst the thickening gloom of religious ignorance.' (pp. 43, 44.)
3. On Deacons of Dissenting Churches.
“ I have known instances, where through first the neglect and then the refusal (of deacons) to render an account" of money; "the affairs of religious societies have been carried into chancery; and strife, ill-will, confusion, and every evil work have sprung up in the church!” (p. 150.) Some “deacons make kindness and assistance a cloak for their own tyranny; or a silken web to wind round the fetters they are preparing for the slavery of the pastor!" (p. 153.) For “ what is the deacon of some of our dissenting communities?the patron of the living, the Bible of the minister, and the wolf of the flock ! an individual, who, thrusting bimself into the seat of government, attempts to lord it over God's heritage, by dictating alike to the pastor and the members;
yet who thinks that in virtue of bis office his opinion is to be law in all matters of church government, whether temporal or spiritual; who upon the least symptom of opposition to his will
, frowns like a tyrant upon the spirit of rising rebellion among his slaves! Such men there have been, whose spirit of domination in the church has produced a kind of diaconophobia in the minds of many ministers, who have suffered most woefully from their bite, and have been led to resolve to do without them altogether, rather than be worried any more! Hence it is, that in some cases the unscripturul plan of committees has been resorted to, that the tyranny of lord-deucons migbt be avoided !” (pp. 146, 147.)
4. On Members of Dissenting Churches.
“ They are frequently hasty in the choice of a pastor;” (p. 247.) and “soon grow tired of the man whom they chose at first with every demonstration of sincere and strong regard. They seldom approve a minister beyond a period of seven years ; and are so uniform in the term of their satisfaction, as to make their neighbours look out for a change, when that term is about to expire.” (p. 248.)
“In many of our churches the pastor is depressed far below his level, He has no official distinction or authority. He may flatter like a sycophant, beg like a servant, or woo like a lover! but he is not permitted to enjoin like a ruler. His opinion is received with no deference, bis person is treated with no respect, and in presence of some of bis lay tyrants he is only permitted to peep and mutter from the dust!” (p. 60.) He is exposed to their "whispers, inuendoes, significant nods, and slanderous silence.” (p. 76.) “They treat him as if he could feel nothing but blows; they are rude, uncoura teous, churlish.” (p. 62.). They send him “anonymous and insulting letters; young, impertinent, and dictatorial persons wait upon him; and those who have nothing to recommend them but their impudence and officiousness, school him in an objurgatory strain.” (p. 249, 250.)-Some are “petulant and irascible. I would have a text of "Scripture written upon a label, and tied upon the foreheads of such persons; and it should be this, . Beware of dogs."" (p. 99, 100.) “Few circumstances tend more to disturb the harmony of our churches than a gossiping and tattling disposition.” (p. 112.) • And many disguise their backbiting disposition in affected lamentation.” (p. 115.) “ Third persons, whose ears are ever open to catch reports should be avoided as the plague: they are mischief-makers and quarrel-mongers; and the very pests of our churches! (p. 102.). “Discipline is relaxed to admit wealthy members of unsanctified dispositions." (pp. 252, 253.) “Some (members] betray their Master for a less sum than that which Judas set upon His blood; and for a titbe of thirty pieces of silver will be guilty of an action, which, they must know at the time, will provoke the severest invective, and bitterest sarcasm against all religion.” (p. 49.) “ But after all, the grand source of ecclesiastical distractions is, the very feeble operation of Christian principles on the hearts of church members.” (p. 257.) “ Alas! alas! how many of our churches present at this moment the sad spectacle of a house divided against itself.” (p. 240.)
5. On Meetings of Dissenting Churches.
“ Instead of seeking the good of the whole, the feeling of too many of our members is, • I will have my way.' Such a spirit is the source of all the evils to which our churches are ever exposed, and of which it must be confessed, they are but too frequently the miserable victims !” “What can be more indecorous than to see a stripling standing up at a church meeting, and with confidence opposing his views to those of a disciple old enough to be his grand-father?” (p. 96.) Thus church meetings become “a court of common pleas ;”(p. 109.)--and it is necessary" to bind over to keep the peace !” (p. 256.)
Individual members, of property, carrying the spirit of the world into the church,“ endeavour to subjugate both the minister and the people.” (p. 250.) "When they are resisted, they breathe out threats of giving up all interest in church affuirs ; at which the terrified and servile society end their resistance, consolidate the power of their tyrants, and rivet the fetters of slavery upon their own necks. At length, however, a rival power springs up; opposition commences; the church is divided into factions; ibe minister becomes involved in the dispute ; distraction follows; and division finishes the scene ; Lainentable state of things! Would God it rarely occurred !” (p. 251.)
“Creeping reptiles infest our churches, and perpetually insinuate that their ministers do not preach the gospel; because they have dured to enforce the moral law as the rule of a believer's conduct." (p. 76.) “Oftentimes has this elfish spirit of antinomianism risen up to be the tormentor of the father that begat him; but if quiet till his head was beneath the clods of the valley, he has possessed and convulsed the church during the time of bis successor.” (p. 255.) “Miserable efforts are made by some professing Christians to be thought people of taste and fashion; but when a worldly temper has crept into the circle of a Christian church, piety retires before it, and the spirit of error soon enters to take possession of the desolate heritage.” (p. 158.) - Lectures, &c. pp. 419-424.
Such, according to one of its most strenuous defenders, is the system recommended by him and his friends to supplant our worldly and luxurious Church. It is every way cheering to contemplate the line which the Dissenters have adopted; in their every act, their confessions and denials, their opposition and admissions, they are equally ruining their wretched cause.
"Quem Jupiter vult perdere, dementat priùs," was the observation of an acute heathen ; we trust we can perceive in the present insanity of the Dissenters no indistinct traces of a protecting Providence arising in the cause of a Church which has so long been a favoured instrument of spiritual good to millions and generations.
Art. II.- The History of the Temple of Jerusalem, translated from
the Arabic MS. of the Imam Jalal-Addin al Siútí, with Notes and Dissertations. By the Rev. James Reynolds, B.A., late Scholar of Catherine Hall, Cambridge. Publi shed under the superintendence of the Oriental Translation Fund of Great Britain and Ireland. London: A.J. Valpy. 1836. 8vo.
Few questions have been debated with more pertinacious zeal than that of the value or the inutility of Eastern learning in general, and Hebrew letters in particular; and the disputants on either side, with the common fate of warm and eager partizanship, have frequently mistaken the true points of their strength or weakness. If we can but admit the lofty pretensions of Hebraists, all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are contained, not in the words, but in the letters, nay, in the points and accents of the sacred language. The common form and shape of a letter expresses some deep mystery of the faith ; any occasional variation includes some extraordinary revelation; and in the roots of every noun are comprised the principles both of theology and natural philosophy; so that to adopt a novel alphabet or phonetic system, would constitute in itself a departure from heavenly truth. They who have oppugned these exalted claims, have complained of the indefiniteness and unsatisfactory nature of the Hebrew language: the force and bearing of words, they assert, is arrived at by an extended collation and comparison of the various ways in which different authors employ them, which process it is impossible to pursue with the language in question ; and the construction of words is more anomalous and perplexing, they urge, than their meaning. Exceptions often equal, frequently exceed, the rule in the number of instances ; and hence a kind of dreamy indistinctness pervades this study, and we are apt to feel that if we were destitute of a guide, or not previously acquainted with the meaning of a sentence, we should be lost amidst an endless variety of possible senses, without the power of singling out one, and maintaining the grammatical correctness of that one beyond the others. Where any or no meaning can be allixed to a sentence, according to the shifting systems of philological disputants, it is evident that the mind, always abhorrent from uncertainty, labours under a painful feeling, and revolts from an object of pursuit so unsatisfying and indecisive. Much in the same degree opposed to one another have been the opinions of the lovers and despisers of Oriental literature. We must, however, dismiss this subject with the remark, that the bitterness manifested by this class of disputants was far less excusable than the undue warmth of Hebrew controversialists; as the points which engaged the attention of the latter included those supremely important topics, in treating of which some degree of sensitive jealousy can scarcely be termed an error: and with regard to the opposite sentiments entertained by contending parties upon Hebrew learning, it is now fairly ascertained that both are mistaken.
For what appears to be in all probability the real state of the case ? Evidently, that Hebrew is but one offshoot of that family of languages which must be referred to one common origin. ' A grand language, which has been termed Semitic, seems to have prevailed at least in Chaldea, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Canaan, and Syria, very probably more extensively. If, as is probable, one language remained unaltered at the confusion of Babel, this was, we may conjecture, the exception. Perhaps the number of tongues was immediately after the confusion but few, which each subsequently branched forth into dialects, either simple or compound ; and as Providence ever employs the minimum of efficient cause, it would form a very interesting investigation if we could enquire à priori what is the least degree of modification in articulation, or the slightest variation in the leading idea of speech, which could, from one common source, originate a given number of languages. Whether exempted, or springing from the confusion, the Semitic language mostly prevailed amongst those primitive nations of whom some incidental records are preserved in holy writ, as well as with that family who were the destined forefathers of the chosen people. An examination of this class of languages carries conviction