« PreviousContinue »
and favour, on their forsaking their idolatries, and embracing his gospel, and that Father, who, according to the Calvinistic system, exacts with inexorable severity, an obedience which is wholly impracticable? Surely, Sir, if the one be true, the other must be false; both cannot, form any part of the revealed will of God. But it is plain to all, that the former representations are contained and inculcated in the Scriptures, and a certain fact, that the Divine Being graciously overlooked the past sins of the Gentiles, and received them into the number of his peculiar people, on their repentance and submission to the authority of Christ; it necessarily follows, that his character is the reverse of that inexorable severity, which it is represented by the Calvinistic system.
Another plain, undeniable, evangelical truth, in the detail of which, the Gospel histories are in a great measure occupied, is, that the Lord Jesus came to instruct us in our duty; that his many excellent precepts and lessons of religion and morality, are of divine obligation, and that those only are his genuine disciples who "do the things which he said;" and also, that his conduct and conversation, and particularly his suffering meekness, is their "example that they should follow his steps." Now, Sir, how can these plain, palpable truths, running through those interesting narratives, and every where conspicuous in the admonitions of the Apostles to their convertstruths, indeed, which live and breathe throughout the New Testament, be reconciled with the supposed evangelical doctrines, that mankind being incapable of obeying the divine commands, Christ obeyed, and also suffered the infinite agonies which were otherwise destined for them all, in the place and stead of a certain portion of them? You assert that in consequence of this, a third person in the Deity, whom you term "God the Holy Ghost," by an overpowering influence on the minds of these elect, reversed their nature in favour of holiness. But even admitting the truth of this strange position, it will not serve the purpose of reconciling these palpable inconsistences; the precepts of Jesus being, in the first instance, according to your system, addressed to a world incapable of obeying them; and that a select few should be afterwards impelled by a reversion of their very nature, to yield an obedience, which is nevertheless represented as so imperfect, that his substituted righteousness and suffer,
ings were necessary to effect their salvation, takes not a little from that incongruity and injustice which leaves the great majority of mankind to suffer endless punishment, on account of their total incapacity of obeying his commands, or imitating his example. The doctrines, therefore, that Christ "called upon all men every where to repent," and obey his precepts; and that his own obedience, particularly under sufferings and death, afford an example for their imitation; and the tenet, that his righteousness and sufferings are a substitution for those of a select few, while the mass of human beings are left to suffer everlasting misery, as the inevitable consequence of a total incapacity of yielding any acceptable service to their Creator, are irreconcileable with each other. But as the former is a plain, indisputable doctrine of the New Testament, and the latter maintained in its full extent by none, except the followers of John Calvin, as the interpretation of certain passages, which by others, are understood in a sense perfectly consistent with that plain, rational, and universally acknowledged principle, which alone. preserves the consistency of divine revelation, it follows, that the substituted obedience and sufferings of Christ, can form no part of the contents of the New Testament.
THE CHRISTIAN PIONEER.
GLASGOW, September 1, 1827.
SYNOD OF ULSTER, AT STRABANE-Orthodox Test.
WE now give the continuation of Mr. MONTGOMERY's admirable speech: -And for what is all this tyranny to be exercised, this disgrace to be incurred, this wound to be inflicted on religion? Why, that we may not be liable to the accusation of having a "diversity of opinions amongst us!" That is to say, we do differ, and we know that we shall continue to differ, but we will hold out false colours to the world, we will cast dust into the eyes of the multitude, and try to make them believe that "there is peace, when there is no peace." This may seem very fair in the eyes of some, but to me it appears to be rank Jesuitism and hypocrisy. Yet this alone can be the "unity" for which many are such strenuous advocates. I do not think so meanly of their understandings, as to believe that they aim at any other kind of uniformity. Uniformity of Faith! Oh, that such a phrase had never been heard by the ears of man-that such a vain idea had never flitted across his imagination! What dungeons has it crowded! what tortures has it inflicted! what oceans of innocent blood has it shed! what tears of widows and of
orphans has it caused to ascend in sad memorial before Heaven! Leaving its mightier horrors, what havoc of integrity has it produced, in the ordinary walks of life! what lips has it sealed against the utterance of truth, or opened to the utterance of falsehood! what private and political oppressions has it sanctioned! what barriers has it opposed to the progress of religion, and the emancipation of a world! Uniformity of Faith! Why, two of us can scarcely agree respecting the most ordinary occurrence of life. On the subjects of literature and philosophy, manufactures and commerce, government and laws, there is an endless diversity of opinions. And can we, then, possibly expect to be exactly of one mind on "the high and deep things pertaining to salvation?" So long as human nature is constituted as it is, varying in dispositions and talents, subject to all the influences of education, society, and interest, a vast diversity of religious tenets must necessarily prevail. Nothing less than the immediate interposition of Heaven, could produce perfect uniformity. And when we consider that such uniformity never has been attained, it would be a libel on the Deity, to suppose that it is essential to the salvation of his people. Such an impious supposition would imply, that an all-wise and gracious Being, had given a religion to his creatures, inadequate to produce the effects for which it was designed. But I do not require to urge this upon Presbyterians, who spurn at the idea of "exclusive salvation," and rejoice to think, "that many shall come from the East and from the West, from the North and from the South, and shall sit down in the Kingdom of God."
Were uniformity of faith, however, desirable, (which, to me, seems exceedingly doubtful,) I am persuaded that creeds, and confessions, and other" devices of men," are not the means adapted to produce it. The very Churches which taunt us with our varieties of faith, and reproach us for permitting the disuse of our "ancient standards," have as great diversities of opinion in themselves, as prevail amongst us. We might fairly turn upon them, and say, "Physicians, heal yourselves!" It is as notorious as the sun at noon-day, that the Established Church, at this very moment, is divided into two great parties, of Arminians and Calvinists; not to speak of minor divisions. I have seen a low Arian, if not Socinian work, written not many years ago, as I have been told and believe, by a Dignitary of that Church, turning the doctrine of the Trinity, and Archbishop Magee's view of the Atonement, into contempt and ridicule, in the most indecorous manner. And we all know, that from Tillotson down to the present age, many of the brightest ornaments of that Church, have wished that "she was well rid of the Athanasian creed." Do I mention these things, from any invidious feeling towards the Established Church? By no means. I believe the clergy of that Church to be a very respectable body of Divines, many members of it are amongst my best friends, and some of the most pious Christians I ever knew, were of its communion. But I consider the state of that Church, as a striking proof of my position, that uniformity of creed does not necessarily produce uniformity of faith. And when, on a previous day, I spoke of a few of the clergy, as showing themselves anxious about the dismissal of Mr. Porter from the Clerkship, and interfering in the settlement of a Presbyterian Congregation, I meant no reflection on the clergy of that Church, as a body. If some of them became "busy bodies in other men's matters,' I am convinced that ninety-nine out of one hundred of them, would condemn such injudicious interference, as much as I possibly could. But, whilst I thus express my respect towards the Established Church, I trust I shall be pardoned for not falling into that extreme courtesy, (so common amongst us of late,) which would exalt her above the Church to which I conscientiously belong. I would hold it disgraceful to continue a Presbyterian, if I preferred the doctrine, discipline, or worship, of any other Church: and I freely confess, that İ
should place very little value upon a compliment from any man, who told me, that he considered my Church superior to his own, whilst he remained in that which he disapproved.
If we turn to the Church of Scotland, it will not afford us much stronger proof of the efficacy of a uniform creed. There, the Confession of Faith reigns in all its glory: yet, I have been told, (and I speak under the correction of Mr. Carlile,) that there is not on earth, a body of men of more diversified religious sentiments, than the ministers of the Church of Scotland. Nay, it has been more than hinted, that the very seats of learning are not free from heresy. Rumour tells a strange tale of a subscription scene in one of these venerable seminaries. When a Professor was elected, who was pretty generally known not to be as orthodox as John Knox, the person who presented the Confession of Faith to him for signature, simply enough, asked him if he believed it? This, the learned gentleman very well knew was not in the bond." "You have nothing," said he, "to do with that: hand it here, and I'll sign it. There may be persons who admire this mode of producing a uniform and orthodox faith; but to me, it seems awful to think that a man would be excluded from the ministry, or any other office, for avowing the truth, who would be considered duly qualified for admission, by putting his solemn signature to a lie!
I was wrong, however, in saying that there is no Church in which uniformity is to be found. There is one, which at least boasts of being the same, in every age and clime and country-the Catholic Church. But are those who most strenuously press forward this Declaration, admirers of the beautiful uniformity of that Church? I suspect, that whilst some of them would not join me in my cordial wishes to see the benefits of the British Constitution extended to our Catholic countrymen, they will all unite with me in admitting, that the uniformity of the Catholic Church, powerfully tended to bring on "the gross darkness" of the middle ages, to retard the Reformation, to clog the wheels of science, and thereby to arrest the progress of civilization. The fact cannot be concealed: the uniformity of Catholicity has spread darkness over Spain and Italy; and the noxious weeds of Atheism and Infidelity have sprung up, under its shadow, in the fair and fertile regions of France. This, however, in my mind, would have been the effect, though probably in a less degree, of any other system of faith which had attained equal power and extension; for it seems to be an ingredient in the nature of all Churches, to delight in the exercise of authority, where they have power; and to follow as a natural consequence of uniformity of faith, that inquiry should cease, and the independence of the mind be annihilated. The truth is, controversies and discussions, which can only arise from diversity of opinions, seem to be as necessary to preserve the knowledge and energy of religion, as the motion of the waves to purify the waters of the ocean; but the misfortune is, that in "the strife of words," the spirit of the Gospel is too frequently lost.
I put it then to the Synod of Ulster, whether, in the pursuit of a shadow, a visionary uniformity, they will trample upon the right of private judgment, the very foundation of their Church, and wilfully
lay a snare for the feet of weak brethren." A curse lies upon him "who causeth a brother to offend;" and I ask, is there a man in this house, who does not believe, that if this Declaration be passed, some will assent to it with the lips, but not with the heart or with the mind? I beseech you to pause, before you commit an act which must "cause some to fall." "Lay not the flattering unction to your souls," that the sin will lie solely at the door of him who shall make an insincere declaration. Every man who is concerned in passing it, will be "a partaker in his sin." I can readily conceive what a struggle of nature there may be in many a heart, where the best feelings of humanity will be dragging
the unhappy victim different ways. If he assent to a creed which he believes not, he is for ever degraded in his own estimation; he shudders in the presence of his God. But he is a husband and a father, and if he resolve to put on the high unbending port of a martyr, and to utter that which will make a bigoted multitude expel him from his congregation, what must be the conflict of his spirit! Unqualified for any other profession, perhaps in the wane of life, "to dig unable, and to beg ashamed," he sees, in prospect, his comfortable home made desolate, the partner of his bosom in tears, the children of his affection crying to him for that bread which he can no longer give! I ask any person, that has in his bosom "a heart of flesh," can he wonder, if the most powerful feelings of nature, should overcome the stern commands of conscience? Can it create surprise, if the unhappy man should say, "I will not leave HER desolate, whom in the fond fidelity of my heart, I solemnly swore to protect; I will not leave the pledges of our love without the sustenance of nature, without the means of education. No: I will make this hateful Declaration; I will cast myself upon the mercy of Him who knows the pangs of my heart; I will wear my knees in secret prayer; I will wet my pillow with tears of penitence; and if all be too little to procure pardon for my offence, I may die without hope, but not without the consolation that I have sacrificed myself, for objects dearer to me than life!" Oh! let us not call such a man a wretch, or a hypocrite; he is a husband and a father! Let us rather make the case our own, and not "cast a stumbling-block in his way." Let us not send him into that place, from which nothing but the voice of sincerity and truth should ever be heard, with a heavy conscience, and a falsehood upon his soul! If we do, his blood may be required of the authors of his crime.
But, it may be alleged, that I under-rate the firmness and virtue of our ministers. Possibly I may. And what is the reward proposed for those that will maintain their integrity? Why, you will kindly cast all the odium you can upon them, in these fanatical times; you will distract their congregations, turn them adrift, if you can, and give them the charity of the world for their portion. But you will not have many thus to endow. Those may be courageous, who are free from danger, and very upright, who have nothing to forfeit by their integrity. But I shall recall to your minds a passage in the history of a man, with whom no individual here would dare to put himself in competition. I allude to the virtuous and illustrious Cranmer, the Father of the Reformation in England. In the awful reign of Mary, his love of life prevailed over his integrity, and he was induced to sign a paper condemning the Reformation. This sacrifice, however, did not save him; for, having degraded, they resolved to destroy him. Being led to the stake, and the devouring flames kindling around him, he stretched forth his right hand, and held it in the flames till it was consumed, repeatedly calling out, in the midst of his sufferings, "O that unworthy hand!" Who, then, shall boast of the firmness of ordinary men, when he who was bold enough to rebuke the Eighth Henry, yielded for a season to his fears?
There will, I admit, be a few honest men, whom you may have the comfort and glory of exposing to inconvenience, or injury. But your triumph will be very limited; for if you pass your Test, I calculate that many will very soon perceive their errors. Amongst the first to rush forward to sign it, I suspect, will be a man who told me, if worldly interest and popular applause ran as high in favour of New Light, as of Old Light Doctrines, he did not believe there would be above half-a-dozen Orthodox Ministers in the Synod. This may be an erroneous estimate, but he is proud of being a particularly accurate man in his calculations. Next to him, in the race, will come, I should suppose, another eminent Divine, who yesterday accused a better man than himself of blasphemy, but who has, nevertheless, a very comfortable idea of the compressible