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Himself to the souls of men, the first means which he employs are His works; the second, His Providence; the third and highest, the written word, which He has magnified above all His name. And all these alike are powerless, unless the living and eternal Spirit apply their various messages to the conscience and the heart.
The first view of the Church of God is its catholicity. And here the author begins by defining the sense in which he employs each of these terms. If others had followed the same rule, we should have been spared much confusion of thought and false doctrine. Dr. Pusey's Treatise on Baptism and Mr. Palmer's on the Church are two notable examples of the pitchy darkness which involves both writer and reader, when they rush into the heart of the most difficult questions before they have defined a single term.
The Church of God in Christ, as defined by our author, is the election of grace, or the body of Christ in its completeness from first to last, “ according to the eternal purpose of God, which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” After the doctrine has been briefly unfolded, it is confirmed by an exposition of Rom. ix. Mr. McNeile then replies to the objections of Mr. Faber and Dean Graves, and closes with a view of the catholicity which belongs to the true Church, extending through all ages and all countries of the world. “ This is the only true and genuine catholicity. There cannot be a more egregious misnomer than to apply the expression to a section of the whole, limited in its extent, and temporary in its duration. The Church of God existed on earth four thousand years before there was the name or thought of a church in either Italy or England. How then can any one, with common regard to accuracy of language, apply the term · Catholic' either to the Latin or the English Church?”
Like Mr. McNeile, we honour Mr. Faber, and value his writings; but the refutation here offered, of his Treatise on the Primitive Doctrine of Election, is, in our judgment, complete. The Scriptures and the early Fathers do recognize, doubtless, as he maintains, an ecclesiastical election to Christian privileges. But it is equally true that the Scriptures, and even several of the Fathers, as Ignatius, Hermas, Jerome, and Augustine, speak also of another election, of persons chosen to eternal life. It is a strange oversight to imagine that, by proving one of these truths, we have disproved the other. The argument from Scripture on this point (pp. 50—64) is clear, forcible, and conclusive.
We are not sure that the remarks (p. 29) are equally just. “Our reasonable admissions concerning God's infinite perfections in himself, and our moral instincts as to what fairness and impar
tiality demand in his dealings with us, invite us to contlicting conclusions; and it is man's littleness to attempt to simplify the problem, by denying or evadirz either set of premises." "If God were divested of mystery, could he continue to be all-sufficient for man?” In these remarks there is deep truth, but is it stated with due caution? The human mind cannot receive contradie. tions at the same time. If our view of election involves decreed punishment, irrespective of sin ; or decreed glory, irrespective of grace and holiness, then it must exclude, whether we will or not, all faith in God, as a Moral Governor of the world. On the other hand, if our “ moral instincts as to what fairness demands," prescribe that God shall give no spiritual gift to one, wbich He does not bestow equally on all, then they must exclude, whether we choose it or not, all faith in God, as the Supreme Sovereign. There is no real conflict between our moral instincts and the scriptural doctrine of the Divine Sovereignty. But when those instincts are perverted by the pride and arrogance of the fallen heart, or that doctrine is corrupted by cold and heartless logicians into a mere fatalism, or the caprice of unfeeling tyranny, then a violent collision must and will arise. There are depths and mysteries here; but no contradiction, which cannot be traced directly to its true source, in a sinful perversion of the lessons of morality, or else of the real doctrine of the word of God.
There is also, as it seems to us, another defect in this passage. Two views of election are naned, which “ extract the heart of the mystery,' —an election to privileges, and an election, because of foreseen faith and love, to eternal glory. “ There is a truth,” it is said, “ in each of these. With the former we agree that election is absolute; with the latter, that it is of individuals to eternal life.” But this is, in our view, too scanty an admission. Each of these doctrines is not merely true in part; it is rather a part of the whole truth. There is a real election to ecclesiastical privileges, as Mr. McNeile himself fully allows. There is also revealed to us an appointment to life and glory, because of foreseen faith and obedience. Psalm xci. 14. John xii. 26; xv. 10.
; There is further an absolute election, the result of both these former truths, harmonized by the Apostolic maxim, which traces faith itself to a Divine source. “By grace are ye saved, through faith : and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” When absolute election to eternal life is placed in contrast to these other truths, which are really two of the three main elements that form its moral prerequisites, a process of corruption is begun, and a high and holy mystery of our faith may soon be perverted into the dark, immoral, and gloomy fatalism of the unbelieving heart.
But we must leave this deep mystery, and pass on to another subject, the Unity of the Church. The chapter is rich in thought, and to review it thoroughly would alone require a volume, instead of a few pages. Christian Unity, Mr. M. observes, consists, first of all, in the relation which all true Christians bear to the Lord Jesus Christ; and secondly, in their mutual affection to each other. In the first aspect it is a revealed fact which we are to believe; in the second, it is a great duty which we are instructed how to fulfil, “endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” This unity, it is said further, does not require outward uniformity. It does not even involve the duty of visible and mutual Church fellowship among all believers. It will be rather injured than advanced by attempts at co-operation among those Christians who differ in secondary things, such as modes of worship, and forms of discipline. “It may be freely questioned, whether much that is complained of as division be really division, and whether much that is longed after as unity be essential to unity.” In the earliest part of the chapter, the Act of Uniformity is strongly denounced, and Mr. M. confirms his view of it by a long and striking passage from a Sermon of Archdeacon Hare. “Uniformity,” he concludes, " in the secondary questions of discipline is among things impossible. Human nature recoils from it, Christianity nowhere enjoins it. The authority which enjoins, and then proceeds to enforce it, is anti-human, and anti-Christian. authority originates separation, and then punishes one or more of the separating bodies.'
In the close of the chapter, Mr. M. also condemns the Evangelical Alliance, but more gently. “ Mutual recognition,” he says, “as Christian brethren, notwithstanding differences in worship and discipline, or national connexion, is a duty. Co-operation, under such circumstances, appears to me impossible. Men must be engaged, and men are not abstractions. We may talk together in unity, because we can confine our talk to the great truths on which we are agreed; but we cannot act together in uniformity; because our acts inevitably involve matters in which we are conscientiously at issue. Attempts at such co-operation engender jealousies, lest unfair advantage be taken on either side of opportunities that may arise in course of the proceeding. And therefore our best hope of maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace lies in refraining from all attempts at such outward co-operation."
Now in the main principles here advocated we heartily and thoroughly agree. The chapter bears more than usual marks of Mr. M.'s clear, lucid, and vigorous style of thought, and of that love for honesty and practical reality, which gives a deep interest
Oxford, as the vice-principal and tutor at Edmund-Hall, as the pastor at Bisley and Chobham, and at St. John's, Bedford-row, and as the almost suffragan overseer of the clergy and the 60,000 laity of Islington, and then, for fifteen years, the active and zealous, truth-loving and truth-testifying prelate of Calcutta, we love to dwell upon his faithful, consistent, practical witness to the “ truth as it is in Jesus ;” and gratefully to acknowledge that “ having obtained help of God, he has continued unto this day.” He has passed through a time of severe and sifting trial. He has adhered distinctly and affectionately to those views which are rightly designated— evangelical.” He has seen their victorious power in the field of missions. He has borne, and never shrunk from, their reproach. It was the stigma of his Master. It was “ the offence of the cross.” The whole period of his course has been one of deep interest; nor is that interest diminished. And as his sun is going down, it still remains a question, whether truth--Protestant, Bible, truth-in its present phase in our reformed Church, shall prevail and prosper, or be overborne by the rise of Romish error. Our worthy prelate hopes that the crisis is past—that the tide has reached its mark—that the ebb is begun. We confess that we do not think so. So many valuable ministers are near the close of their career; so much youth and activity distinguishes the Tractarian party; so little firmness and theological distinctness characterizes the opposition ; there are so many instances of heartless partizanship; and so great and evident is the fear of sacrificing to a bold confession the prospect of substantial preferment in after-life,—that we anticipate with yet more overwhelming force the refluent tide. Gladly should we find ourselves mistaken ; cheerfully should we hail that series of events, which would thoroughly show forth our unfitness for the prophetic vocation. Yet, while the many indications of the spreading evil are what they are ; and while the witness of authority against the evil is so dubious and misty, we see but little reason to anticipate at the present crisis the victory of the truth. Disproved, the whole Tractarian system has long been; but that disproof does not prevent one large section of the party from proceeding onwards to actual junction with Rome; nor bar the promotion of those who prefer to remain in the Establishment, on the speculation of carrying the Church itself with them, when they take the same step. THE CHURCH AND CHURCHES ; or, the Church of God in
Christ, and the Churches of Christ militant here on Earth. By the Rev. Hugh McNeile, Honorary Canon of Chester, and Incumbent of St. Jude's, Liverpool. London : Hatchards. 1846.
When statesmen are undermining the foundations of our Church, and clergymen are deserting her communion to join the Church of Rome, we have cause to bless God that such faithful champions of Protestant truth as Mr. McNeile are still to be found among her ministers. His name is so well-known to our readers, that we need not speak to them of his various merits, as one of the first, if not the very first, Christian orator of our day. The graces of his diction, and the power of his stirring eloquence, may however conceal from some eyes those other excellencies, which are of still higher value—the purity and depth of scriptural theology which marks his speeches and writings, and gives them a power that no mere declamation, however brilliant, could possibly attain. We rejoice, then, to see him, in this volume, bear a seasonable testimony against the errors of the day; and though the living voice is wanting, which has so often chained the ears of thousands in breathless attention to his lips, the same spirit of truth, faithfulness, and wisdom, animates these pages, and will make them rich in profit and instruction to every thoughtful reader.
To review a work of six hundred pages, by such a writer, and at such a time, on the Church of Christ, is a perplexing task. The very abundance of materials is embarrassing. We might easily multiply extracts, full of deep interest, and rich in scriptural truth ; but where nearly all is so valuable, it would be difficult to choose; and as most of our readers, we hope, will peruse the work, we shall quote very sparingly. No block of the purest Parian marble can serve for the pattern of a Grecian temple. The work before us must be read and judged as a whole. We shall therefore simply follow the author in his general outline, and only add such words of friendly criticism as he has himself invited, to assist his readers in attaining the great object of the work—a consistent, sound, and scriptural view of the Church of Christ.
The Preface itself is rich in thought. Mr. McNeile touches on four distinct but important subjects—the need of controversy, the value of the written word, the notes of a true church, and the painful contrast between the theory and the practice of the
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