« PreviousContinue »
shall content myself for the present
The next class of scripture texts | it at all necessary to do so; but I to which the Doctor directs us for proofs of his sentiment, is that which speaks of Christ as humbling himself at his incarnation and so becoming a pattern of humility to his people. Thus Phil. ii. 5-7. "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus; who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation," or, as he very properly translates it emptied himself, (namely of the form or majesty of Godhead which he had with the Father before his incarnation.*) The Doctor's gloss upon this text is so Now on this I remark that, were extremely curious that I beg leave the principle in question ever once to cite it. Having quoted the clearly and expressly taught by apostle's words "Who being in the the inspired writers, it would be form of God, &c." he adds, "that our duty to receive it submissively, is, his human soul, which is the and to abide by it at all hazards; chief part of the man, being in but to invent an hypothesis ununion with his godhead [the very known to the Scriptures, and, point which he had to prove!] having assumed it as a first princiwas vested with a godlike form ple in our reasonings, then to and glory in all former ages; thus make the word of God bend to it, he oftentimes appeared to the is a most unwarrantable procedure, Patriarchs as the angel of the and pregnant with dangerous and Lord, and as God or Jehovah, &c. destructive consequences. This seems to be the form of God, add, that it is in flat opposition to which the apostle speaks of." p. the excellent rules for investigating 591. This gloss requires no refu- truth which the Doctor himself tation-for I have already shewn has given us, both in his Treatise that the notion so current in the on the art of Logic, and also in religious world, that it was the his Improvement of the Mind. Son of God who appeared of old "Take heed," says he, "lest some to the fathers, and who personated favourite hypothesis, be made a the angel of the Lord, is an un- test of the truth or falsehood of founded supposition, and incon- all other propositions about the sistent with Paul's doctrine in Heb. same subject. Dare not to build ii. and other parts of scripture. much upon such a notion or docAll the Doctor's elaborate reason- trine till it be very fully examined, ing, therefore, on this and similar accurately adjusted, and sufficient. texts, such as 2 Cor. viii. 9. beingly confirmed. Some persons, by founded on false premises, turns indulging such a practice, have out a mere castle in the air. In- been led into long ranks of errors; deed it were easy to follow him they have found themselves in a through the whole chain of his train of mistakes, by taking up argumentation, and evince its futi-some petty hypothesis-upon slight lity, did my limits allow, and were and insufficient grounds, and esta
* See Dr. Macknight's Note on this text, where the reader will find a grand illustration of it, in perfect harmony with the scope of the New Testament, without having recourse to the pre-existent scheme,
"As they are disposed can prove it, Below the moon or else above it."
blishing that as a test and rule to applied to him in all the Scripjudge of all other things." Im-tures! and the second is, that it provement of the Mind, Part I. was the Human soul of Jesus which ch. xviii. Sect. 13. Alas, for poor Jehovah possessed in the beginkuman nature! how much easier ning before his works of old!! is it to give advice than to take it. But having established these two Dr. Watts's own conduct in the points (without any scriptural present instance is equally unphi- evidence) all the rest follows in losophical and unscriptural. Yet train. The human soul of Jesus the Doctor was not a solitary in- united itself to the Logos, or the stance of this perversity of judg- WORD, John i. 1. and hence he ment. It is common to all who was "the beginning"-" the firsthave adopted this strange notion born of every creature"-and thus of the pre-existence of Christ's these gentlemen human soul. I have now before me, an Octavo Volume entitled "A Scriptural Display_of_the But let an unprejudiced mind Triune God, and the early Exis-examine the foundation of this tence of Jesus' Human Soul, By superstructure, and he will find it John Stevens (of York street) Lon- all built upon stubble! In the don, 1813. A great proportion of eighth chapter of Proverbs, the Mr. Stevens's book is occupied in speaker, or subject spoken of, is adducing evidence of a distinction Wisdom-that is, (says Mr. Stevens) of persons in the Godhead, and of the man Jesus or at least his human the essential Deity of the Lord soul. Suppose now for argument Jesus Christ-on neither of which sake we were to admit this arbidoctrines have I any dispute with trary interpretation; let us see him. But let any person impar- what follows. It is said in the tially attend to the evidence by context, ver. 12. "I wisdom dwell which he labours to establish the with prudence and find out knowdoctrine of the pre-existence of ledge of witty inventions." Now Christ's human soul, and he will if Jesus be Wisdom, who is Prufind it equally futile with that by dence? and I may with equal prowhich Dr. Watts attempts to prove priety demand, who is Knowit. For instance, Mr. Stevens ledge? We have no more authomeets with the following passage, rity to personify one of these Prov. viii. 22. &c. "The Lord qualities than we have another, for possessed me in the beginning, &c. the existence of knowledge implies then I was by him as one brought a subject in which it must exist. up with him; and I was daily his But the truth is that the whole is delight, rejoicing always before a mere petitio principii a begging him and my delights were with of the question at issue-and will the sons of men." About thirty not bear examination. While on pages of his book are taken up in the other hand, if, by these accommodating this text to the epithets, wisdom, prudence, and author's purpose, and every one knowledge, we understand the atmust allow, indeed, that it re-tributes of Deity denoted by those quired no little skill to accomplish terms, they admit of an interpreit. But the thing is at last com- tation equally striking and familiar pletely effected! Does the reader when applied to the divine purask how? I will tell him. 'Tis by poses and counsels respecting the taking for granted two things; economy of man's redemption, a the first is that this passage in Pro-branch of knowledge in which the "hath abounded verbs has any respect whatever to blessed God the Son of God, for it is never once
towards us in all wisdom and pru
dence." Eph. i. 8. whether we regard the plan of our salvation or the means by which that greatest of all the divine works was carried into effect.* But I must desist from further enlarging on this subject, and therefore only add, that both Dr. Watts and Mr. Stevens appear to me to err egregiously in their use, no less than in their interpretation of many texts of scripture, when they apply them to this their favourite hypothesis. I particularly refer to such passages as the following, viz. Col. i. 15-19. Rev. i. 5. Heb. i. 3. Rev. iii. 14. and others of similar import. These texts speak of Christ as "the first born of every creature"" the first-begotten from the dead"— "the beginning" (or chief)" the head of his body the church" "the beginning of the creation of God." Now all these expressions, which are nearly synonymous in their import, have a manifest reference to that dominion which has been conferred upon the Son of God as the reward of his obedience unto the death in accomplishing the redemption of his elect and in virtue of which he is constituted THE HEIR, or Lord of all things, Heb. i. 2. which with ch. compare ii. 7-9. It was in virtue of his deep humiliation and bitter sufferings that God not only raised his Son Jesus from the dead, but also exalted him to his own right hand, and made him both Lord and Christ, Acts ii. 36. constituting him "Lord of all," ch. x. 36. giving him all power and authority both in heaven and on earth, Matt. xxviii. 18. angels, authorities and powers being made subject unto him, yea commanded to worskip him. 1 Pet. iii. 22. Heb. i. 6. Thus we not only behold him as the first who rose from the dead
to inherit immortal life-and constituted head over all things to his body the church-but vested with universal dominion over the creation of God-" the Prince of the Kings of the earth," Rev. i. 5. "King of kings and Lord of lords," 1 Tim. vi. 5. Rev. xvii. 14. But all this is wholly independent of the strange and unscriptural doctrine of the preexistence of his human soul. Sic sensit,
To the Editor of the New Evangelical Magazine.
IN your Number for September, you have an extract of a Letter from Halifax, Nova Scotia, in which is the following passage.
"The pews in the Methodist Meeting are sold, to the almost total exclusion of the poor; and also the exclusion of the poor blacks from the ordinance of the Lord's Supper, with the whites."
You candidly observe, that this is contrary to our general practice as a body; and it is indeed so much so, that the charges in the
above extract are as new to us, as to your readers. The Committee for the management of our Missions have no knowledge of such exclusions either at Halifax, or any other Missionary Stations.
I am, Sir,
Your obedient Servant, Oct. 6, 1817. City Road, RICHARD WATSON.
The letter to which Mr. Watson refers, was written by Capt. Bromley, a gentleman of unimpeachable veracity, who is bending all his efforts to colonize the Indians in that quarter. attracted the notice of Mr. Watson, We are glad to find the subject has for we are sure if any abuse does exist in that quarter, he will spare no pains to correct it.
* I remember, some years ago, perusing a work written by an old Baptist minister to illustrate the book of the Revelation, and was surprised to find how the good man made out the doctrine of Believers' baptism from almost every chapter in it! Mr. Stevens's optic faculty is scarcely less acute and penetrating, who can find the human soul of Jesus Christ in the book of Proverbs,
the noble sacrifice to principle which they have made, evinces à disinterestedness of mind and a confidence in God which commands our veneration. It affords us satisfaction to find Mr. Cowan, the author of the pamphlet before us, following their example, and becoming a companion with them in the kingdom, and patience of Jesus Christ." In his case, indeed, the circumstances are more trying, for we learn from his own narrative, that he has a family of NINE CHILDREN, p. 11. We must, however, endeavour to make our readers a little more particularly acquainted with his history, and the things which have led to his secession from the church of England.
Brief account of the Reasons which | towards God and man. It was per have induced the Rev. T. C. Cowan, haps fortunate for them, that they (Late of Trinity College, Dublin) to were not placed precisely in those secede from the established church: circumstances which led the late Dr. Addressed to those who composed his Paley to apologise for retaining his congregation, while he officiated in the situation in the establishment, nameParish church of St. Thomas, Bristol.ly, that "he could not afford to keep a London, Whittemore, Paternoster-conscience." But, be that as it may, row; and Bonner, Bristol, 1817. pp. 50. Octavo. 1s. 6d. stitched. AMONG the various occurrences which mark the aspect of the present times, and concur to impress upon them a discriminating characteristic, interesting to the friends of truth beyond all former precedent, may be fairly enumerated the frequent instances we meet with, of clergymen resigning their ministry in the national church, and casting their lot among the dissenters. We do not mention this as any matter of surprise, or regret; on the contrary we regard it as the natural operation of those principles which are universally diffusing themselves, and which, like "the leaven hid in three measures of meal will not cease their influence, till they We presume, from the circumhave ultimately leavened the whole." stance of his having received his Matt. xxiii. 33. The last twenty years education in Trinity College Dublin, has unquestionably been a remark- that Mr. Cowan is a native of Ireland. able æra in the moral world. Know-How long he has resided in this counledge of every kind has been gradu- try we are not informed, but we colally and increasingly diffusing itself-lect from p. 9. of his pamphlet that an ardent spirit of enquiry is become prevalent throughout the lettered and even unlettered world-men are every where divesting themselves of the shackles which for centuries had kept the human mind in bondage-the decrees of Popes, and Councils, and Synods have already lost much of that reverence which was formerly entertained for them-and all human authority in the concerns of the kingdom of heaven is daily diminishing. It is now pretty generally known that about two or three years ago, four or five ministers of evangelical sentiments, who resided in the vicinity of Taunton, relinquished their stations in the established church, under a conviction that its constitution is unscriptural, and that a conformity to its rites and ceremonies demanded sacrifices from them which were incompatible with preserving a Conscience void of offence both
he has been nearly eighteen years engaged in the work of the ministry.
There is some little confusion attending the representation which he gives us of the workings of his mind, previous to his quitting the establishment, but we suspect it to arise from an error of the press. Thus when in page 6, he says "It was not, however, from the convictions of conscience, that I entered into her service as one of her ministers." We apprehend he means to say that it was from the convictions of conscience, for in the same page, he adds,
“I voluntarily undertook the sacred office of a minister, but without thought as to its importance, and without any knowledge of its duties. This, however, was not all at that time, from the force of early prejudice, it was my full belief, the Establishment was the exclusive residence of the God of the Bible, really conceiving the term Dissenter, was synes
nymous with heretic; is it therefore, any wonder she was beheld by me, with a reverence bordering on, if not identified with, idolatry? and that I never, for one moment, imagined, her seeming beauty and her imposing pomp, was tarnished with a speck, and still less, that she was unsound within."
It is much to be feared that there are thousands of clergymen in this kingdom, whose state of mind is mostexactly delineated by Mr. Cowan, in this short extract. Trained up from their infancy in a reverence for the national establishment of religion, which is a mere human institution: and kept in countenance by the superior numbers of its adherents, their minds become blinded to its monstrous incongruity with the fundamental principles of the kingdom of the Son of God, and they come gradually to regard its various rites and ceremonies, not merely with complacency, but in process of time even to attach a kind of sanctity to things which are altogether unknown to the New Testament. Such are the various orders of her clergy-the rites and ceremonies prescribed in her book of Common Prayer-a liturgy plainly borrowed from the church of Rome, and various other things too numerous to be specified. To this unscriptural state of things, it is Mr. Cowan's mercy to have lately had his eyes opened; and, what is still of higher importance, his mind has been enlightened "to perceive something of the spirituality of the truths contained in the mystery of godliness, and his heart consequently enlarged with Christian feeling towards all those who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity." With his growth in scriptural knowledge, his early prejudices gave way; and as he became better acquainted with his Bible, and attended to the reasonings of his Episcopal brethren in defence of the doctrines, liturgy, and discipline of the church of England, his mind grew uneasy at perceiving the difficulties under which they laboured to prove that her language did not mean, what to a plain unlettered man, it evidently does import-particularly in reference to her Catechism and Baptismal service.
About two years ago, Mr. Cowan's scruples became very irksome to him, but he continued struggling against the convictions of conscience, until,
about ten months since, he had nearly determined on quitting his station as a minister of the Establishment. Still, however, he persevered, owing to the authority of names, and swayed by the arguments of his friends, who urged that, by quitting the establishment, he would be diminishing his usefulness-uneasy in his situation and yet afraid to move
cordially disliking many things, yet attached to the establishment. But the time was now come when it was no longer allowed him to trifle with the dictates of conscience. A representation was made to the Bishop of the Diocese, that Mr. Cowan was guilty of several irregularities" in the performance of Divine service at seven in the morning of a Lord's day-in consequence of which his Lordship thought proper to suspend him from his official duties! The charges preferred against him were, that on a particular occasion, " he commenced the worship of God, with something of his own, and not according to the prescribed form." This charge does not appear to us to have involved in it any blameableness had it been true, but it turned out to be wholly unfounded, and the Bishop acknowledged that he had been misinformed upon the point. Another was that in reading the prayers he had "omitted the absolution!" which Mr. C. admits to be true but not intentionally done. A third was that he changed the proper lessons for the day, and read only one Psalm, and that one appointed for the Evening service and not the Morning. This charge Mr. Cowan admits to be true, and endeavours to justify it on the ground that he thought himself at liberty to consult the convenience of his hearers by reading shorter lessons, that the congregation might have time to return to public worship at half past ten. A fourth complaint was that he read a verse of the second lesson twice over with peculiar emphasis-and to this he pleads guilty. Lastly "that he curtailed the Service by omitting several of the Prayers, the Litany, and Communion Service"-which is also admitted to be true.
Thus our readers have before them the "whole head and front" of Mr. Cowan's offending in this important matter, for which he was suspended by the Bishop from his ministerial