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Mr. Wilks's Essay places this momentous subject in its true light. Had its Author anticipated the present Controversy, his remarks could not have been more pertinent or more seasonable. After placing in a striking point of view the peculiar causes of professional indifference which may retard the Conversion of a Christian Minister, and suggesting criteria, by which he may be enabled to form an estimate of his own character, he proceeds to exhibit more at large those 'signs of Con'version and Unconversion,' by which others may judge of the religious character of a Minister. In illustrating the difference of the preaching of the two classes of pastors, with respect even to practical subjects, he remarks,
'On this subject, however, he widely differs from the unconverted Minister, who, not being practically acquainted with any evangelical principle of obedience, imagines there is no way of evincing the importance of holiness, but by representing it as the meritorious cause of human redemption. Such a representation, however, argues rather that pride, which is inherent in fallen man, than that humility which is the characteristic of a true believer, besides, it contradicts
distinctly enabled the reader to judge which of these statements is preferable; which party is most to be justified; or which doctrine is the most important. Indeed, Mr. Cunningham's own views of the subject, appear, from the peculiar phraseology he has adopted, to be very mysterious and indefinite, since he seems almost to identify Justification with Baptism. Yet the very ground assumed for his 'Conciliatory Suggestions,' is that of the ' supposed mistakes and 'confusion of ideas and language in the contending parties.'
'But if,' says Mr. Bugg, after all, 'the subject in dispute, (and not merely the mode of it,) should prove to be " a fundamental doc"trine of religion," it seems impossible, as well as undesirable, that 'there should be any union save that of mutual forbearance and good 'will, until one of the parties at least, is convinced of its error.' No union! What, not in a Church which glories in Uniformity, and which claims authority in matters of faith \ How is this? No, say* our Author, it is unavailing to make concession, unless we 'give up « <. // language by which we express a spiritual change of heart aubse
* quent to Baptism.' 'A due contemplation' of these Tracts, 'would 'nave discovered that their Author, Dr. Mant, objects to the term
* Conversion likewise. He considers Conversion as unnecessary to 'some professed Christians, and as unwisely applied to any.' Mr. Bugg concludes therefore, ' that truth and charity, the ends proposed 'by Mr. Cunningham, are not likely to be answered by accommoda
* turn, or compromise of principle.'
We have not, then, overstated the nature and extent of the disagreement between the conflicting parties in the Established Church. It is such as renders union at once undesirable and impossible. It relates to fundamental doctrines of Christianity. And does Mr. Bugg venture to blame Dissenters for their nonconformity?
the direct testimony of Scripture, which invariably speaks of holiness, not as a procuring cause, but as a necessary consequence; not as the price by which Heaven is purchased, but as the evidence of our meetnpss to enjoy it, and indeed the meetness itself, by which we sre qualified for so doing. There is, therefore, a great difference between the preaching of the two characters on the subject in question. While the one, from his partial and merely theoretical knowledge, frigidly endeavours to recommend obedience to God by motives of fear, or prudence, or expediency, the other speaks of it with delight as the pleasurable service of a willing subject, the corresponding appetency of a renovated nature, the indispensable evidence of Christian principle; the necessary result of faith, and the inseparable concomitant of love. While he possesses, in common with the former character, those inducements to holiness, that arise from its intrinsic beauty, and from its being enjoined by divine command as part of the moral law, and therefore of immutable obligation, he will insist chiefly, though not exclusively, on those higher motives of love and gratitude which are so frequently urged in the Apostolic writings, and which are always found in practice to be far more efficacious than mere abstract reasoning or philosophic suasion. In like manner, in speaking of sin, he stands on higher ground than the moral declaimed The topic may be the same, but the method of discussion is different. His standard of reference is more exalted. He is not contented with having displayed the dreadful consequences of vice, as -they affect the individual and society, but dwells with holy earnestness on its guilt in the sight of God, its contrariety to the divine nature, and its inevitable consequences in a future world, pp. 27, 2S.
* In like manner, all the other essential doctrines of Chistianity will appear in the preaching of a pious Minister to be articles of a moral and practical importance; while to the opposite character more than half the Scripture is confused and unintelligible^— the doctrinal and preceptive parts scarcely appear to have any necessary connexion:—if he choose for his subject one of the most essential tenets of the Gospel, he seems unconscious in what manner it applies to the improvement of the conduct and the heart; if, on the other hand, a moral duty be his topic, he probably mistakes the New Testament motives for enforcing it, forgets that proffered assistance which is necessary for its performance, and leaves unnoticed that faith in Christ which alone can make it acceptable or pure. In his zeal for morality, he forgets the source from which all true morality flows. He is even surprised that other Ministers should so zealously and frequently insist on doctrines which to himself appear of but little practical value, and which, if admitted at all into his system, are suffered to lie dormant and unproductive
'But surely, after the experience of nearly two thousand years, it might without danger of mistake be admitted as a dem nstrated fact, that morality has always advanced or declined, in proportion as the Gospel has been preached in its genuine simplicity, or in a garbled form; and, consequently, that nothing but the undisguised doctrines of Christianity can accomplish even that object which the sroridling considers as the only end of the clerical establishment. But this object, great as it is, is far from being the utmost that a pious Minister proposes to himself. His preaching is founded on the supposition, that'8 man, though outwardly moral, may fail of being a true Christian, and in consequence fail of'the rewards of Christianity. Internal religion, a religion of motives and intentions, a religion corresponding to that which our Saviour taught in his Sermon on the Mount, he esteems necessary to make the most brilliant or useful action acceptable to that Being, whom " without faith it is impossible to please." He conceives, therefore, that the doctrinal parts of Christianity are essentially necessary in his preaching. Whether he argues from the practice of the inspired writers, or from the nature of the thing itself, he arrives at the same conclusion, that an exhibition of the moral precepts of the Gospel,.without the doctrines on which they depend, is as contrary to the intention of its Author, as the opposite error of inculcating its doctrines and forgetting its commands. He insists, therefore, on the necessity of faith no less than of good works; the former as that which justifies, the latter as the indispensable evidences of our being in a state of grace.
'It has been shown, that, even as far as relates to outward morality, the unsophisticated preaching of the Gospel is necessary to effect any considerable reform;—but when to this circumstance, which, it should be observed, proves only the political and moral expediency of such preaching, are added those higher considerations which show its infinite importance, as connected with the awful responsibility of the preacher, and with the eternal interests of the human soul, it ceases to be a question what manner of preaching a converted Minister will feel it his duty to adopt.' pp. 29—32.
It does not escape Mr. Wilks's observation, that one respect in which the two classes essentially differ, is, as to their views of the ecclesiastical function.
'The former classTegards it chiefly in relation to God, the latter as part of the legal constitution of the country : the one, as a political and temporal concern; the other, as a spiritual and eternal one. A pious minister is not ashamed of his vocation. He conceives that even the lowest station in the sanctuary, on account of its connexion with the most awful and interesting of human affairs, is of immense importance. He therefore magnifies his office, while he debases himself. But the contrary character appears ashamed of the Gospel viewed shnpl v, and has recourse to extrinsic considerations to prove his respectability. His ideas of the honour of the profession are connected with those of power, and emolument, and patronage; he cannot divest himself of these external trifles, to survey the character of a true minister in its native unassisted dignity, cut wherever there exists no higher view of the Christian ministry than one merely secular and proftuional, we may, without violation of charity, infer, that there is a serious error; for among those who refer to the Scriptures as their standard of decision, the outward honours of the ministerial character bear no proportion whatever to its importance with regard to the souls of niQOj atvd iu responsibility hi the sight of Cod.' p. 19.
We wish Mr. Wilks had pursued the subject further. The one class, he might have said, view themselves as accredited, authorized teachers of religion: they consider their competency for the office-as originating in their official appointment, and their connexion with the Establishment. They regard a seeming invasion of their prerogative with jealousy, as a personal reflection or a personal injury. In the regular discharge of their functions, they deem the end of their appointment to be fulfilled, and naturally incline therefore to connect the notion of intrinsic efficacy with the external services of religion. The endowments of the Church are esteemed their right; by analogy to the Levitical constitution, a Divine right; and in a civil respect their freehold. And Dissenters of every name, are Schismatics, Puritans, Revolutionists, Methodists. Such, there is too much reason to believe, is the genuine spirit of a secular establishment.
The other class, for the most part, whatever be their opinions or prejudices with regard to matters of ecclesiastical polity,— matters which, feeling them to be infinitely subordinate, they are perhaps too generally disinclined to examine,—regard the ministerial office as incapable of receiving dignity from human enactments, and would scorn to rest its legitimacy on Popish tradition. They go forth as the messengers of the Gospel of Christ, to beseech men to be reconciled to God. Surely, it must appear to such men, on candid reflection, that the notion of an established hierarchy for the conversion of sinners, is an exquisite absurdity; that there is no relation between the primary object of the Gospel, and the Canons, and Ceremonies, and Cathedrals, and all the vast machinery of the Church. There is no fitness in the means, incumbered as it is with State influence, and with all the appendages of legitimacy, to the simple operation of Divine Truth. The Dissenting minister, with the Bible in his hand, and its influence on his heart, visits, perhaps, a district or village, the inhabitants of which are sunk in ignorance and moral insensibility. He collects a few simple people around him, who hear the Gospel gladly, and in process of time some of these people exhibit the marks of a thoughtful attention to religion, which issues, often rapidly issues, in sincere conversion. A Church, in the scriptural sense of the term, is collected; a room, or, it may be, a barn, is hired; and at length, perhaps, a chapel is built. No bishop consecrates the humble structure; no Gothic aisles adorn it: Legitimacy proudly passes it by. Still, this fact not even malignity is able to deny, that there the Gospel of Jesus Christ is faithfully, if not elegantly preached; and that the effect* of Conversion are visible there.
But how must a Clergyman of the Established Church proceed in such a case? What countenance or assistance does he derive from the laws and regulations of that Apostolical Institution? Before he ventures to preach the Gospel, he must find a consecrated edifice: it is at his peril if he turn a house into a conventicle. But if there be no church, may he build one r Yes; if he can obtain an Act of Parliament for that purpose. But may he not raise a chapel on some sequestered spot, where, without offence to any beneficed neighbour, he may labour in the service of his Master? Not if the Rector of that district be of Dr. Mant's opinion, or of the late Bishop of London's opinion, that ' among men, baptized as Christians,' and regenerated in Baptism, ' a special conversion' is unnecessary; not if that Rector is jealous of his prerogative, or lays claim, as a preliminary condition, to the patronage of the chapel. The pious clergyman must not labour for the conversion of sinners in a way contrary to Act of Parliament, and the Canons of the Church. The Divine origin of episcopacy forbids it. The Apostolical commission forbids it. It would be an irregular discharge of the pastoral function.
Is not this as much a ' mockery of the feelings of a Christian 'minister, sincerely labouring to turn sinners to righteousness,' as that of which Mr. Scott so justly complains, in his answer to Dr. Mant, on being told, that ' he must by no means 'consider his congregation as consisting partly of those who 'are converted, and those who are not?' Yet, how can Mr. Scott, or how can any pious man, wonder, that those who contend for Baptismal Regeneration, and Apostolical legitimacy, deny the necessity of Conversion?
Yet Dr. Mant's Tract contains some singular admissions, which shew that he comes nearer to the opinions he professes to oppose, than he imagines; so near indeed, that but for those invincible prejudices which he appears to have imbibed respecting every thing that has the appearance or sound of Methodism, we might consider him to be in imminent danger of becoming himself an evangelical preacher. He admits that the Gospel militates against the prejudices, the pride, and the corrupt passions of men.
* Among the Jews,' he continues, 'he who obstinately resisted, and he who more actively persecuted the faith of Christ; the Pharisee, who commended his own righteousness, and trusted to an exact performance of the ritual ordinances of the law; the Sadducee, who denied a resurrection; the Scribe, who was zealous for the Mosaic institutions; even the disciple who was ambitious of sitting on the right hand or on the left of his Master, in what he expected would be a temporal kingdom; and generally every child of Abraham, who was habitually and fondly. Attached to the national belief