Page images

-simplex munditiis-plain in its neatness?'

Our reviewer's remarks on the Covenant Service are, on the whole, favourable. This he pronounces to be the most impressive Methodist function'; and he admits that, 'despite all drawbacks, this service has produced much true religious life.' What these drawbacks are is but vaguely indicated, but they seem to be the following: The strongest denunciations of self, couched in the figurative language of that day.' (Richard Alleine's.) The stringency of the terms would be considered sufficient in the case of a religious order.' It should be remembered, however, that 'the stringency of the terms' binds the covenanting person to no earthly rule or merely human director, but to God alone; that the terms are not a whit more stringent than those enforced by Christ Himself; and that, in the view of Methodists, as of the New Testament writers, no 'religious order' can possibly bind itself to a stricter consecration than that to which the Master Himself binds every one of His disciples. In the Covenant Service renunciation of self is much more marked than denunciation of self.' The last complaint is adopted from an anonymous Wesleyan essayist: "Without doubt there is much that is exquisitely beautiful in that service, but there is an unfortunate mixture of what is faulty in expression, and unbecoming to Christian lips." (Pp. 8, 9.) Faultiness of expression in the Service, as read when, as we gather, our reviewer was familiar with it, we fully admit; but he is not aware that the Service has, by order of the Conference, undergone careful and vigorous revision, and was adopted in its much amended form by the great majority of the District Committees and by the Conference of 1879.

[ocr errors]

Proceeding to notice the Local

Preachers of Methodism, our critic exaggerates the powers of a Wesleyan Minister. He says: 'In Wesleyanism the superintendent minister nominates

every local preacher' (p. 9); but he omits to state that the approval or rejection of the Superintendent's nominee is with the Local Preachers' Meeting. 'Without the approbation of the meeting,' no one can become a Local Preacher. On this subject of Local Preachers, as on others, our reviewer assumes a rather amusing air of unfamiliarity not easy to correlate with his claim of extensive and interior personal knowledge. Thus, he writes, According to the historians of Methodism, local preachers have been of various grades in social life. Ex-local preachers are to be found in unexpected places. They have. . . . found a home in the priesthood of the National Church.' (Pp. 9, 10.)


[ocr errors]

No doubt, however, some readers will derive from this article a larger and more impressive view of Methodism than they had before.

Our critic's loose way of writing is exemplified again in his styling Local Preachers 'irregular agents.' Their agency is as really regulated as that of the Ministry itself. The like tendency, so unfortunate in one who professes to give accurate information, is exhibited in the following statement: 'At present the chapels of every Methodist sect must be as ecclesiastical as an architect of the nineteenth century, chosen by a committee after open competition, can contrive to make it.' (sic P. 11.) This writer's knowledge of Methodist chapels must at present' be as contracted as at one time it appears to have been extensive. A host of Methodist architects, trustees, and Ministers could correct this recklessly sweeping affirmation. And yet it is seized upon as the occasion of another sarcasm, at the vaunted

plainness of the Methodist precisians.' (P. 11.)

Our reviewer concludes a rather confused account of the celebrated judgments of Vice-Chancellor Shadwell and Lord-Chancellor Lyndhurst with something worse than a sneer.


After mistaking the real grievance' of Dr. Warren's adherents, and citing the devout recognition by the Conference of Lord Lyndhurst, in this momentous case, as a minister of God for good,' our critic comments thus: "This Erastian estimate of a Lord Chancellor sounds strangely from the upholders of the "Power of the Keys" as entrusted to Wesleyan Ministers, and provokes a momentary question whether it would have been as high had the judgment gone in favour of Dr. Warren.' (P. 13.) No one who knew the meaning of the word Erastian, and had also the slightest acquaintance with the merits of the case adjudicated on by Shadwell and Lyndhurst, could have ventured to commit himself to a sentence so absurd as this. Everyone even moderately versed in Church history and polity knows that 'Erastianism' means the assumption by the State of the legislative and disciplinary functions of the Church. Erastianism is exemplified when the formularies and public services and offices of an Established Church are determined by Act of Parliament; when the chief Church CouncilConvocation to wit-cannot assemble but by the Sovereign's writ, and during the Session of Parliament, none of its legislation being valid without the approval of Parliament; Parliament, the while, abolishing at will Church services and abrogating Church arrangements without consulting Convocation or any Church authority whatsoever; and when the Chief Pastors in the Church-its Bishops are selected by the first Minister of State. But the decision

of the Court of Chancery in the case of Dr. Warren had not in it a shade or a semblance of Erastianism; on the contrary, it was intensely un-Erastian and anti-Erastian. Not to dwell upon the fact that it was not Conference that took the case into Court, but Dr. Warren and four trustees of Wesley Chapel, Oldham Road, Manchester, the question, as stated by the ViceChancellor himself, was simply this, 'Whether the Court of Chancery is to interfere in a case in which the trustees of a chapel have virtually excluded Dr. Warren, or any other gentleman, from preaching or performing any other duty in that chapel, to which he had originally been appointed unquestionably in a lawful and proper manner?' The Lord Chancellor, in his turn, prefaced his judgment thus: 'I am called upon merely to determine as to the legal rights of these parties.' But, as the Vice-Chancellor said, this case could not be settled by 'merely looking at the words of the trust-deed;' they 'must be construed and looked at as part and parcel of the whole machinery by which the great body of Wesleyan-Methodists is kept together, and by which Methodism itself is carried on.' The result of the decision was the affirmation of the unchallengeable legislative and disciplinary rights of the Methodist Conference. On this point the Lord Chancellor was studiously explicit: Whether they acted wisely or discreetly, temperately or harshly, these are matters with which I have no concern. Therefore upon these two grounds merely, the regularity of the proceedings, and being satisfied of the authority of the body, I am bound to affirm the decision of the ViceChancellor.' How preposterous to twit the Conference with Erastianism in thanking God for a legal decision which, to borrow a word

[ocr errors]

used by the reviewer himself with regard to the Conference, secured to it 'autonomy'-in plain words, secured to it the non-interference of Law Court or of State with its legislation and the regular administration of its economy.

But with what an unworthy insinuation does our critic quote the devout recognition by the Conference of a gracious Providence in a decision which saved the Connexion from chaos-a recognition embodied in an apt quotation from Romans xiii. 4: He is the minister of God to thee for good,' which, as all admit, can only refer to the civil magistrate! This Erastian estimate,' says the reviewer, 'provokes the momentary question whether it would have been as high had the judgment gone in favour of Dr. Warren?' What expression of gratitude for Providential goodness, either in Scripture, or in ordinary Christian life, is not equally open to this flippant questioning?

Our reviewer now turns to Wesleyan worship, rightly remarking: Wesleyanism rejoices in a variable ritual.' But the following piece of information will be as new to our readers as to ourselves: "Were he ("a stranger") to attend a celebration, he would find the celebrant standing on the north side' (p. 14). We confess our ignorance up to this time of the fact that Wesleyan Ministers take any note whatever of the points of the compass in the position they assume on administering the Supper of the Lord.

The reviewer further observes: 'Attempts have frequently been made to revise the Prayer-Book for

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Methodist use. Wesley commenced these fruitless labours. .. a Committee of the Conference has been endeavouring for some time to revise the Liturgy.' He then quotes a passage from the London Quarterly, which pronounces the attempt to be useless.' To this the action of the last Conference is a sufficient answer.* The reviewer's next point against Methodism, though strongly stated, is, we must admit, not unworthy of grave consideration. Methodism... has ignored the position of baptized children.' We have good reason, however, to hope that when the object proposed by the last Conference is realized-'In order that the Formulary ("for the Administration of Baptism") and the Catechism may agree' (Minutes, p. 208)—this reproach will be soon rolled away. But here, too, our critic must have his exaggeration: 'It (Methodism) has exalted the "ticket on trial" into the gateway to the mystical body of Christ' (p. 15)—a statement contradicted, not only by all the standards of Methodist doctrine and by the whole tone and tenor of Methodist literature, but by the very 'ticket on trial' itself.

On the Hymn-Book the reviewer has, mixed up with idiosyncratic strictures, some very just and even generous remarks. The following eloquent passage is well worth quoting Charles Wesley's lilting songs of triumph over persecuting mobs, and many an echo from ancient victories, stir the hearts of the soldiers of Christ; while the Calvinistic controversialist, Toplady, and his opponent, Thomas Olivers, unite to inspire Methodism

* It may be worth while to note, in passing, the interest which the proceedings of Conference in this important matter have excited amongst the general public. We may mention one significant instance: In the last edition of Haydn's Dictionary of Dates we find the necessarily condensed information under the head of Common Prayer, Book of, which begins with, The King's Primer, published 1545,' ending with, The Wesleyan Methodists, who had used a Prayer-Book, appoint a Committee to revise it. August, 1874.'

[ocr errors]

with deep spiritual feeling. When all deductions are made, there are reasons why Methodists should regard it as "a priceless treasure." A Wesleyan quotes from it (the Hymn-Book), with as keen a relish as a High Churchman quotes the Fathers...He reproduces it with the accuracy of a well-taught Presbyterian repeating the Catechism. He sings its jubilant iambics in en

thusiastic missionary meetings in Yorkshire; he shouts its stanzas with startling emphasis above the roar of a Cornish revival-that fearful and wonderful product of spiritual emotion and Celtic ardour; and when he makes the last confession of his faith, it is often in the words that the well-loved hymn-book supplies.' After all, our critic has a good time' in rejoicing with us still. (To be concluded.)


THIS is a work of rare ability and great
usefulness, and withal of an excellent
spirit. If not an absolute model, it is
certainly a marvel, of moderation and
catholicity, especially when the firmness
with which the writer grasps his own
opinions which are, in fact, convictions

and the energy and boldness with which he asserts them and endeavours to carry them out, is taken into the account. The discrimination, the judiciousness, the breadth of view and the geniality of temper manifested in these Lectures account for and justify the influence which Mr. Rogers has acquired as one of the leading minds of his Denomination. To that Denomination these Lectures are an honour, as well as to the Lecturer himself. The lamented Dean Stanley begins one of the last, if not the very last, of his published essays-the Introduction to the volume Church and Chapel, with the following characteristic sentence: The ecclesiastical historian Socrates, in a well-known passage, compares the theological controversies of the fifth century to a battle in the night, where each party, from the ignorance of the exact meaning of the terms employed, numbered amongst its adherents, foes and friends fighting on the same side.' No one who has carefully and candidly read this volume can attribute such ignorance to Mr. Rogers. His Articles on Church questions, in The London Quarterly, some years ago, showed him to be a close and keen observer of the religious life of England at the present day, and these Lectures prove that his

eye has not waxed dim. The First Lecture, on The Age and the Churches, is a fair sample of the rest. It contains a hearty response to the catholicity of the Archbishop of Canterbury, of which we must quote one weighty sentence: 'Nor is his catholicity of so molluscous a type, and so lacking in all strength of principle, that it degenerates into indifference to theological doctrine altogether.' This is happily true of the Lecturer himself. In fact, there is nothing of wishy-washy indifferentism in the large-heartedness of Mr. Rogers. What credit can catholicity be to a man to whom all articles of the Christian Faith are unimportant? This first Lecture contains some fine apothegms, which we wish we had room to quote, as they are the very principia of genuine catholicity.

On this account we are the more surprised at such a forgetfulness of the history of Nonconformist principles as is betrayed in the following observation: 'The restriction of the services admissible in the parochial graveyards to those which are "Christian and orderly" is in violation of the principles for which Nonconformists have always contended.' (Pp. 31, 32.) Dr. Stoughton's History, amongst the rest, is a complete refutation of that statement. The Lecturer's prevailing generosity fails him occasionally, as when he makes out an 'extreme course,' on the part of the Clergy, to be the 'consistent' course. (P. 32.) One of his capital axioms is: Sectarianism is a matter of temper.'

The second Lecture, on Religious Liberalism in its Influence on Church Polity,

*The Church Systems of England in the Nineteenth Century. The Sixth Congrenal Union Lecture. By J. Guinness Rogers, B.A. (Hodder and Stoughton.)

is an admirable and most timely manifesto against extreme 'religious liberalism,' Latitudinarianism, Erastianism, and the immorality of clerical rationalism. It exposes gently but faithfully the optimist Latitudinarianism and Erastianism of which the lamented Dean Stanley was the foremost champion, taking note of its very latest utterances. Mr. Rogers is very far from regarding the influence of religious liberalism' as wholly good. He points out its dangers and defends theology and creed. (P. 66.) But he, unfortunately, takes his nomenclature and his definitions from Cardinal Newman (p. 49), which definitions are subtly worded in the interest of Romanism, so as to misrepresent the Protestant position. Newman adroitly misstates the Protestant tenet of right of private judg ment, making it out to be the right of judging as they severally please,' instead of in accordance with their most carefully, prayerfully and conscientiouslyformed convictions. To our surprise, Mr. Rogers does not seem to detect the gross inaccuracy of Newman's statement and the shiftiness of his reasoning, but quietly accepts it, as not indeed the doctrine of the Reformers, but as the nécessary, though perhaps unforeseen, result of their doctrine. On the contrary, it is a direct violation of their doctrine. The Reformers no more allowed individual readers of the Bible to interpret it as they severally please,' than they allowed the Pope to do so. On this important point the Lecturer's wording is rather loose and unguarded. But we have some impregnable principles against the absurd claims of such writers as Mr. Vance Smith. We quote the following: 'A man's liberty is not curtailed because other men constitute a society, even though that society call itself a Christian Church, whose doors are barred against him by the terms of its membership.'

In guarding, therefore, against laxity in relation to forms of Church government, confessedly subordinate as they are, we are setting up bulwarks which may serve also as defences for the most precious spiritual truths.' 'When men begin to think that it is of no moment to what Church they belong, they are very apt to pass on to a conviction that it is of equally little importance what creed they hold.' It matters little, therefore, as to the ultimate result, whether Liberalism seek first to undermine the doctrine or the polity.' He manfully protests against the sacrifice of truth to charity.'

Mr. Rogers, however, greatly overstates

'the consolations which await the Romanists,' when he says: To them nothing could be more real or more strengthening.' (P. 81.) As a matter of fact this is far from being the case in a vast number of instances, although he is quite right in affirming that Romanist consolations are far more real and strengthening than anything which scepticism has to offer. And, on the other hand, in applying the epithet heroic' (p. 82) to a sceptic's 'sturdy independence' under his selfchosen miseries, the Lecturer assumes too readily that pride, self-will and unteachableness have nothing to do with scepticism. It is wonderful what suffering pride and self-will can induce a man or a fiend to inflict upon himself. But if pride and stubbornness are elements of heroism, then Byron's Cain and Lucifer must be fitting candidates for hero-worship. We quite agree with Mr. Rogers, that a man who has become an unbeliever is to be respected for leaving a Church with which he is no longer in sympathy; but it by no means follows that because infidelity without hypocrisy is not nearly so bad as infidelity and hypocrisy combined, therefore avowed infidelity is heroism. All that an infidel can fairly claim is to have the judgment of his motives left wholly to his Maker.

Mr. Rogers states well the nature and the importance of the different views held in the various Churches as to 'the fundamental point of all-the proper qualification for membership in a Christian Church.' But his denial of any ruling function to the Christian Ministry is directly opposed to the representation of Holy Scripture, which speaks of them as having 'the rule over' the private members, and as, consequently, to be obeyed.

The third Lecture, on the Evangelical Revival, is, in the main, not only fair but generous in its estimate of the Established Church. But when Mr. Rogers says 'It has isolated itself...alike from the Dissenters at home and from the Protestant Churches abroad,' he loses sight of such efforts as those of Archbishop Wake; and in some other instances too, a qualifying particle might with justice be inserted. He truly remarks: The High Churchman of that day (Queen Anne's) was a very different character from his successor of our times. The party names have remained, and perhaps even a party succession may be traced, but the original ground of distinction has long since been shifted.' Is not this equally true of Dissent ?

The Lecturer very nobly exposes the 'attempt to have a Christianity without a Christ.'

« PreviousContinue »