Page images

ly because they use the same term in a constantly, and who pay a decent very different sense.

respect to the other external ordinances So far, therefore, the question, in of the gospel, whose hearts are not at reference at least to nearly all who all affected by its holy precepts. God hold to the doctrine of sudden conver- is not in all their thoughts.

Our holy sion, seems to me to be merely verbal. religion respects the motives of men, The one part speak of that change of the temper and disposition of heart character which is the beginning of the which govern them in all their actions, Christian life in the individual, and as well as those actions themselves. It call it conversion ; the other part use will not, I trust, be denied by the authe same word to express that gradual thor of the letter, that the heart of change in wbich the Christian, by the every man is originally opposed to assistance of the Holy Spirit, rises holiness, and that whatever acts of above the temptations which are in obedience he may perform are insuffi. the world, and becomes more and more cient to constitute bim a true Christian, transformed into the image of Christ ; until his obedience springs from a right while all agree that such a change is a regard to him who cominands it. He necessary part of the Christian charac. has not taken one step in the Christian ter. It is a question of comparatively course, until this change is wrought in little importance, in which sense the the principles and motives of his acword is the most correctly used, pro- tions. As our church expresses it in vided the meaning of those who use it the thirteenth article, “ Works done is distinctly understood. I may re- before the grace of Christ, and the inmark, however, that the author of the spiration of his Spirit, are not pleasant letter himself uses the word, in the same to God, forasmuch as they spring not sense that it is used by those whose doc. of faith in Jesus Christ;-for that they trine he opposes, where he speaks of are not done as God hath willed and the conversion of St. Paul.

commanded them to be done, we doubt But it is not " those who have lived not but they have the nature of sin.” in the practice of gross vices” only, Now I do not see that this change is who must undergo some change of the less real in the man who has alrea. character at the very commence- dy led a correct moral life, than in him ment of the Christian life. On this who has lived in the practice of vice, point, I could wish that the author because it is less apparent in its effects. of the letter had been more expli- In either case it is a radical change in cit

. If we believe, in the language the disposition and motives which have of our articles, that man is very far governed the life and conduct. lira gone from original righteousness, and one case the change in the temper of is of bis own nature inclined to evil, so the heart brings with it no considerable that the flesh lusteth always against the change of outward conduct, because Spirit,” and in that of our liturgy, that none is requisite : but in the other, the

we have no health in us," and in whole life, as well as the heart, is to that of scripture, that we are all be brought into subjection to the obegone out of the way," " there is none dience of Christ. that doeth good, no, not one"-then, This is a question of immense pracit

appears to me, we must believe tical importance. For if persons are that some degree of renovation of heart left to suppose themselves in the way is necessary before we can be said even of salvation, because they have been to have begun to be Christians. How educated in a christian country, and many thousands are there, in a Chris- have lived in the enjoyment of Chrislian country, who lead tolerably regu- tiap privileges, and have not grossly lar, moral lives, who attend church neglected - the more obvious religious

[ocr errors]

duties, all exhortations to a thorough to which he was before a stranger ; repentance will be rejected as not ap- that he finds a new delight in drawing plicable to them. How can they be near to God in his worship and ordiexcited to pray that a new heart may nances, which he has never before be given them, and a new spirit be put tasted. He will not indeed look upon within them? They will innagine that these feelings as the proofs of his.conthey are already running the Christian version ; but he will regard them as a course, when they have not in fact even part of that work of divine


which entered

upon the path which leads to is wrought in his heart. eternal life. They are attempting to We might, if it were necessary, far. build the superstructure, while the ther illustrate this point, by the comfoundation is in the sand. Such a parison from archbishop Sharpe, quoted building must fall; and O, how great in the letter. The sick man, be rewill be the fail thereof!

marks, does not fix upon any particular Another mistake in this letter, simi- moment as the time of his recovery. lar to that which I bave mentioned, ap- Neither, we may add, does he is pears to me to be in the author's sup. upon the reinoval of any particular posing a much greater importance to symptom, as the evidence of his recove. be attached to the feelings in religion, ry. It is not merely because he regains than is actually given them by the his strength, or is able to perform some class of Christians of whom he speaks; little labour, that he thinks himself reand in opposing this opinion, he seems covering. But he finds that he relishes (for I do not believe that he intended the food which formerly be loathed; to do it) to run into the other extreme that he now takes pleasure in objects of rejecting the influence of the feel which then were painful to him ; that

o ings altogether. Although there are his spirits which were oppressed or many who believe that they are aware wavering are now steady and serene. of the time when, by the operations of Were he to take the appetite alone as the Holy Spirit, they are first made the mark of returning health, that might tully sensible of their sinfulness, and itself be diseased, and if trusted to their need of a Saviour, and are led to and indulged, might throw him back such a confidence in the merit of his into deeper distress ; and the pleasure atonement, as induces them to hope that he feels, or the elevation of his that they are born of God, yet I be. spirits, it regarded by themselves, may lieve there are very few who avowedly be confounded with the delusions of a regard this state of feeling as in itself delirium. But all taken together form any evidence of their conversion. That that wonderful combination of capacia change of the feeřings in reference ties and enjoyments which constitute to matters of religion, goes to form a health. part of the character of a Christian, can. The fruits of the Spirit, it is to be not, I think, be doubted. Nor do I remembered, are " love, joy, peace, see that there is any difficulty in sup- as well as “long-suffering, gentleness, posing that the person, who is the sub- goodness, faith, meekness, temperance;" ject of such a change, may be at the and the true Christian lives in a greater time conscious that it is going on. He or less degree in the enjoyment of those may be conscious that his mind is less holy affections, as well as in the perengrossed by worldly or sinful affec- formance of these duties. tions ; that he now takes pleasure in holy David exclaim, “O bow love I the perforinance of duties that before thy law! It is my, meditation all the were disagreable or indifferent to him ; day?" With what fervour does St. that he has a dread of falling into sin Paul call upon Christians to “ Rejoice

Did not

[ocr errors]

in the Lord alway, and again I say plans of Christian benevolence for rejoice." “ And the peace of God, which the present age is so distinguishwhich passeth all understanding, shall ed. While he who places a high keep your hearts and minds through value on spiritual blessings, who sets Jesus Christ.” It will not be supposed his affections on things above the that I should wish to see religious feel- earth, will not only be careful to mainings, however elevated they may seem tain good works in his own person, but to be, excited or encouraged to the will be active in his endeavours to exneglect of a Christian life. Nor do I tend to others those blessings which believe that there are Christians in have been the source of so much enjoyour country, unless it be some few of ment to himself.

S. ibe wildest of enthusiasts, who would avowedly do it. The feelings and the conduct each forma a part of the Christian character, and neither can be made To the Editor of the Gospel Adrocate. a substitute for the other; although the

MR. WEBSTER'S DISCOURSE. correctness of the feelings is always to be tested by the correctness of the I have read with very great pleasure conduct.

the discourse by the honourable Daniel Had the author of the letter argued, Webster, in commemoration of the first that where so much is said of the neces. settlement of New England, which was sity of a renovation of heart as the pronounced by him at Plymouth, the very commencement of a Christian life, 22d of December, 1820, and published and so much importance attached to in Boston on the same anniversary, in the possession of right religious feel- 1821. ings, there is great danger of insensibly Mr. Webster's views upon all suboverlooking the equal necessity of jects to which he turns his attention persevering in the paths of holiness, are so lofty and extensive, that he canand walking in all the commandments not descend either to the common place of the Lord blameless, I should have remarks, or to the narrow prejudices of most cordially agreed with him. I do meaner minds. It was of course to be indeed believe that there is great danger expected from him that he would refrain of this. But I also believe, and there is with dignified moderation, from that much consolation in the belief, that intemperate and indiscriminate abuse many, at least, of those among whom of the church of England wbich has it exists, are aware of the danger, and been a sort of heir-loom among the are watchful and diligent to guard descendants of the puritans; and wbich against its effects.

is now continued, for party purposes, Let us on the other hand see that we by those who have retained nothing of do not in our church run into the oppo- their patrimonial religion but its name site errour, of placing such an exclusive and its animosities. There are, howreliance on the more external fruits of ever, some expressions wbich occur in the spirit (if I may so express myself) this discourse, on which I must request

f as shall chill our religious affections, permission to offer a few observations and enfeeble our zeal. A proper cul- to your readers. tivation of the affections of the heart is We have come to this rock," says is necessary to a zealous discharge of the orator, (p. 10.) “ to record here the duties of life. He whose religious our homage for our pilgrim fathers ; our feelings are languid, and whose thoughts sympathy in their sufferings; our gradwell much on the world and its plea. titude for their labours ; our admiration sures or its business, will not be ready of their virtues; our veneration for to engage with much ardour in the their piety; and our attachment to 8


[ocr errors]

those principles of civil and religious off their little band from their native liberty, which they encountered the soil, at first to find shelter on the shores dangers of the ocean, the storms of of the neighbouring continent, but ulbeaven, the violence of savages, dis- timately to come bither; and, having ease, exile, and famine, to enjoy and surmounted all difficulties, and braved to establish,”

a thousand dangers, to find here a place Again, (p. 20.) They fled not so of refuge and of rest. Thanks be to much from the civil government, as God, that this spot was honoured as from the bierarchy, and the laws which the asylum of religious liberty. May enforced conformity to the church es. its standard reared here remain for tablishment. Mr. Robinson had left ever! May it rise up as high as heaEngland as early as 1608, on account ven, till its banner shall fan the air of of the prosecutions for non-conformity, both continents, and wave as a glorious and had retired to Holland. He left ensign of peace and security to the England, from no disappointed ambi. nations !" tion in affairs of state, from no regrets A lively writer of our own country, at the want of preferment in the church, speaking of the imperfections of histonor from any motive of distinction or ry, has rem ed, that“ the same event, of gain. Uniformity in matters of re. treated by different historians, comes ligion was pressed with such extreme white from one hand, tinged with a rigour, that a voluntary exile seemed rosy blush from another, and from the most eligible mode of escaping another black."* Under this last hue from the penalties of non-compliance. it has been so customary to represent The accession of Elizabeth had, it is all the proceedings of the church of true, quenched the fires of Smithfield, England with reference to the dissenand put an end to the easy acquisition ters, that even the most intelligent and of the crown of martyrdom. Her long candid minds may well be pardoned reign had established the reformation, for having received and entertained but toleration was a virtue beyond her erroneous opinions. The story bas conception and beyond the age. She been told so continually on one side, left no example of it to her successor; that the opposite has been entirely unand he was not of a character which known. No suspicions have induced rendered it probable that a sentiment the labour of collating the representaeither so wise or so liberal should ori- tions of differing historians. The labour ginate with him. At the present period itself is revolting to men of genius but it seems incredible, that the learned, of little leisure. They wish to read accomplished, unassuming and inoffen- history only as a recreation from toil. sive Robinson, should neither be tole- They shun the trouble of investigating rated in his own peaceable mode of subjects unconnected with their immeworship, in his own country, nor suf- diate occupations. And they therefore fered quietly to depart from it. Yet suffer themselves, especially with resuch was the fact. He left his country gard to a theme of expirinig interest, by stealth, that he might elsewhere and so rough and unpleasant in its own enjoy those rights which ought to nature, to float along with the current belong to men in all countries."; of popular feelings and prejudices.

Again, (p. 24.) “ This was not the Yet surely the love of truth, and, I flight of guilt, but of virtue. It was an may add, a proper veneration for the humble and peaceable religion, flying character of our forefathers ought to from causeless oppression. conscience attempting to escape from

* Inaug. Discourse, by the honourable

Gouv. Morris, before the N. York Hist. Soc. the arbitrary rule of the Stuarts. It

on the 206th anniversary of the discovery of was Robinson and Brewster, leading New York. Sept. 4, 1816.

[ocr errors]

It was


lead to a different result. We are far sity, the bishop, who was also the enough removed by the lapse of two prince of that city, having fled, and centuries to contemplate with calmness being so opposed to the reformation the ferments of that age of revolution. that he would not ordain any who And it is but a poor compliment to the supported it. Calvin himself became niemory of our puritan ancestors, if one of the pastors, though there is no we think it necessary to support their evidence that he was ever ordained. fame upon the exaggerations which, Bayle says of him, that he had only under their circumstances, the infirmities received the tonsure, a ceremony adof our nature rendered almost inevi- ministered to boys who were designed table.

for the clerical office. It would seem, from the extracts above In England the reformation having given, to be Mr. Webster's opinion, been conducted by the authority of that

, from the beginning, there was no government, and under the direction disposition in the rulers of the English of the archbishop and several of the church to tolerate the slightest devia- bishops, there was no assignable reason tions from established practice; that for any departure from the outward the sole object of the puritans was to order of the church. All that was to obtain a full toleration for themselves; be done, was to banish doctrines conand that their religious principles and trary to God's word, to make the modes of worship were entirely peace-' people acquainted with the scriptures, able and inoffensive. I hope to be able to give them a liturgy free from cor. to show your readers that the represen- ruptions, and to remove from it all tations which have thus led astray even idle and unprofitable ceremonies. the most candid and liberal, are to be During the reign of Edward, there received with much extenuation. I was very little difference of opinion hope to convince them that there was among the English reformers. Hooper, a disposition in the church of England indeed, who had been on the continent to treat with tenderness the scrupulous in the reign of Henry, and who was objections of conscientious men, upon consecrated Bishop of Gloucester in points unconnected with the great 1550, scrupled about wearing the episprinciples of doctrine ; that so far copal robes, which were then of white from tbere being any desire for tolera- and scarlet, because he considered tion among the puritans, they accused them as the dress of popish bishops. the church of a desire to tolerate as He also objected to some oath which one of the marks of her corruption; was then required to be taken. In that so far from having any idea of both these particulars the king respectreligious liberty in the proper sense of ed his scruples, and wrote to the bishops the term, they were opposed to reli. not to insist upon his conformity. The gious liberty from principle; and that bishops, however, prevailed upon him the hardships which they underwent not to depart from the usage of the are to be be attributed in the first in- church; and it does not appear that stance to their own seditious opposition any farther difficulty was made. to government.

When Mary succeeded her brother In the year of our Lord, 1541, the on the English throne in 1553, and celebrated Calvin established at Gene- established popery, many both of the va his system of ecclesiastical govern- clergy and laity fled from the fury of ment consisting of pastors, doctors or her persecution to the continent, and teachers, lay elders and deacons. He English congregations were established acknowledged that this was contrary to at Emden, in West Friezland, Arrow, ile practice of the ancient church, and in Switzerland, Strasburg, Zurich, and defended it only on the plea of neces« Frankfort. At the latter place, where



« PreviousContinue »