« ForrigeFortsett »
“ You know that the Statutes of this Kingdom fill a great many volumes ; and, if we add the decisions of our courts of law, they would fill a moderate library. Our Bible must have been e. panded to the same bulk, had the inspired writers attempted, to secure from misunderstanding every point of our belief, and every duty of our lives, with the same laborious accuracy of expression. The bad consequence of this would have been, that the poor, (every where the largest portion of mankind) could never have purchased the Sacred Volumes.
“ Few would have had leisure to read them ; still fewer would have had inclination; and, of those, a very small portion could have comprehended in one view, a system dilated, and scattered over so large a space. Neither can we imagine that this mass of minute, details would, after all, have by any means preserved unaniinity amongst the numbers, who acknowledge the Bible as their rule of Faith. We see that, notwithstanding all possible pains taken to fix the precise meaning of a legal definition, yet law-suits are full as numerous as religious sects. For example; there is scarcely a single word in the definition of the crime of Burglary, which has not made it necessary to refer a case to the Judges, as to whether this or that particular offence came within the description of the crime, as given in the Statute Book ; and these cases have, at length, been decided, rather by authority than reason.
“ We may understand from hence, why so many points of doctrine are not more precisely defined in Scripture ; and that the differences of opinion which have prevailed in the Christian world, need not be causes of great wonder; even though all Christians do imagine, their different faiths to be consistent with the same one book.
“ It is no more wonderful, that Christian teachers should differ, as to the proper distinction between Grace and Merit ; than that experienced lawyers should differ, as to the meaning of an Act of Parliament. If however, some errors and disputes have originated . in a real difficulty of understanding some texts of Scripture, a much greater number of sects, and mistakes of a much more important nature, have proceeded from that fondness for paradox, which often accompanies great abilities, or from the vanity and prejudice of ignorant teachers.
“ To protect from error and delusion the numbers, who are necessarily unable to judge for themselves, it was usual for the Clergy to call together, in the case of any new dispute, a Council, consist. ing of all such persons as from their learning, or personal influence, had most authority with the multitude. This Council, after due ex. amination, usually published a decree, declaring what was their opinion of the passages of Scripture which affected the question in dispute ; and the people either acquiesced in their decision, or chusing other teachers, separated themselves from the Church *.
“« * In the latter case they were called Heretics, from the word 'Aigrois, ' a sect, or party.'"
“ In process of time, however, when the Emperors embraced Christianity, Religion became a state question; and these Councils degenerated from religious into political meetings. The members no longer voted this or that doctrine to be right or wrong, according as it appeared to be consistent or inconsistent with Scripture, but according as it suited or not, the views of the Emperor, or Pope. Hence they gradually gave their sanction, on the one hand, to the superstitions of the Greek Church ; on the other, to the ambitious claims, and artful errors of the Roman Pontiffs.
“ At the Reformation, therefore, it was necessary to declare, as is done in the 21st Article, that • Things ordained by General Councils, as necessary to Salvation, have neither strength nor authority, unless it may be declared that they may be taken out of Holy Scripture. Instead then of the bulky decrees of Councils, which had by this time swelled to hundreds of volumes, our Reformers drew up Thirty-nine Articles, declaratory of their opinion as to the niost important doctrines of Christianity. Those persons who think that these Articles are not inconsistent with the Scriptures, are properly members of the Church of England. These Articles were drawn up with great labour and diligence, and received gradual alterations and corrections down to the time of Charles the Second.
“ You must not suppose that, in asking your assent to the doctrines contained in the Articles, I am asking you to believe more than is to be found in the Bible. In the Scriptures are many de. tached passages, sometimes apparently contradictory ones, relating to the same point of doctrine. Our Church asserts, that from 'a comparisou of these different texts, the result is, that we are bound to believe, what these Articles contain. They are drawn up with a reference to disputed points. You will find no Article asserting that we must not steal, because the command in Scripture to that effect has never been misunderstood. But had any persons chosen to teach, that the word steal, as it stands in Scripture, only meant defrauding the public treasury, and not robbing individuals; and that, consequently, we were under no obligation to abstain from robbing private persons; and had such teachers found numerous disciples; then it would have been necessary to have added ano. ther article, stating, that by the command, “Thou shalt not steal, was meant, that we should neither rob nor defraud any person or body of persons. This may serve for an illustration, of the manner in which articles of faith have been rendered necessary. They serve as guides to pious laymen in their cnquiries, and no person is allowed to become a Ciergyman of the Establishment, without first declaring his solemn assent to these Articles.” P. 36.
Mr.W.then proceeds to examine the Thirty-nine Articles one by one, to explain their real meaning, and to shew their correspond ence with Scripture. This task he has performed in a style equally neat, short, and perspicuous. As a proof of the truth of our opinion we shall extract bis exposition of the Twelfth Article,
in which the doctrines of free justification and human merit are stawed in a manner no less scriptural and just, than simple and familiar.
“ I had told you, that the Articles were drawn up, to express the opinion of our Church, on disputed points only. And yet we have here an Article, which declares no more than, that though our best actions must always partake of human weakness, they are yet a proof of our religio'issincerity, and acceptableto God; he overlooking their imperfection, in consequence of the atoning merits of our Saviour. The fact is, that this Article was not written by the founders of our Church in King Edward the VI's time. Without previous experi. ence to the contrary, they must naturally have presumed that, it could not be required of them to declare, that good works were pleasing to the Author of all good.
" To do good, and to communicate ; forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased *,' says St. Paul. But I will not waste words, in attempting to prove, what every page of Scripture testifies. That understanding, must surely be blinded by very heavy prejudices, which neeils the assistance of accumulated texts, to enable it to see this truth. Before the year 1562, however, certain sects called Antinomians, or Solifidians, had arisen ; who denied the necessity of good works. These sectaries might have taken advantage of the expressions in the eleventh Article, to assert, that their creed was not different from that taught by our Church. To prevent, therefore, the possibility of such misrepresentation, and to check the growth of these erroneous doctrines, this Article was composed, and inserted immediately after the eleventh. Combining the language and doctrine conveyed in both these Articles, we may fairly state, that the doctrine which our Church deduces from the Scriptures is, as follows ;— The cause, of our salvation, is, the merits and sufferings of our Saviour, by which he purchased our redemption.--Our strenuous exertions to obey and love him are the condition, on which we shall be allowed to take advantage of the mer. cies, which he holds out to us.
" The assistance of a familiar illustration will, I trust, make this very important distinction intelligible to you.
« Suppose the goverrment of this country should reward the services of an able general with large territorial grants in one of its colonies; suppose also, that being desirous of encouraging the growtii of some particular production of that colony, they should make the grant conditional, and insert a clause, that the heirs of the said general should only hold tiis estate by the tenure, of producing every year, in the king's courts, a certificate, that two acres of ground at least had been that year devoted to the production required in the deed of grant. Now, surely, any descendant of this general would be thought to use very incorrect language, if he
" Heb. xii. 16.''
should hold your
should boast, that this estate was continued in his hands for liis me rit in annually cultivating two acres with the prescribed production. He would immediately be told, that is the condition, indeed, on which you
but the your riches, is the va. lour of your ancestor. On the other hand, should he foolishly neglect to comply with the condition, he would be told, at once, that he had thrown away all claim to the estate.
“ Just so, God has been pleased to make us an offer of Glory, honour and immortality,' for Christ's sake. Desiring also the propagation of virtue, as best harmonising with his own pure and perfect nature, and as most productive of happiness amongst his creatures, he has made our endeavours after perfect virtue the condition, on which we are allowed to take hold of his most gracious offer.
“ It is both presumption and ingratitude to Christ, to speak or think of heavenly rewards, as if they were due to us as a matter of right for our own merits. It is the height of folly to think that salvation will be bestowed upon us, if we neglect good works, the indispensable condition of the offer.
“ This is the great, the vital doctrine of Christianity, by which it is distinguished from mere Natural Religion,
" Uninspired philosophy might lead us to discover the existence of a God, and might enable us to draw up rules of moral practice, and to prove with tolerable certainty the necessity of complying with those rules. But Christianity alone teaches us, in the words of our Saviour, to say, even when we shall have done all those things which are commanded us, we are unprofitable servants : we have done that which was our duty to do. Nothing, short of an immediate revelation from heaven, could assure us, that for those transgressions, of which even the most perfect must be sometimes guilty, satisfaction has been made by the sacrifice of our blessed Redeemer; that · Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many : and that unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation." P. 67.
From these extracts it will appear that Mr. Walter has furnished us with a book which was much wanting, viz. a clear and compendious exposition of the Articles of our Established Church, calculated for the use of early youth. This little volume might be introduced with peculiarly good effect among the higher classes of our principal schools, as it is written with a simplicily of style, and a happiness of illustration especially calculated to secure the attention even of the thoughtlessness and volauility of youth, and what is of infinitely greater importance, to provide a ready answer to all those quibbling and delusive objections, in wbich the petulancy of youth is too apt to indulge
We trust that success may attend the exertions of Mr. W. less for the sake of himself, than of those to whom it is addressed, as we are persuaded that the highest gratification which he could receive, is the consciousness of the inestimable advantage that his labours may have conferred upon others.
46 * Heb. ix. 28.**
Art. VII. Discourses and Dissertations on the Scriptural Doc
trines of Atonement und Sacrifice, 8c. Together wih Remarks on the Persijn of the Vew Testament, lately published by the Unitarians. By William Magee, D.D. F.R.S. 01. R. I. A. Dean of Cork, Chaplain to his Excellency the
Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, 8c. Cadell and Davies, 1816. IN introducing the present volume to the acquaintance of our readers, we are rather called upon tomodescribe its contents than to detail its perfections. The fifteen years which have elapsed since the publication of Dean Magee's great Work, have placed
THE DiscouRSES ON ATONEMENT AND SACRIFICE," in the rank of books of standard authority, and have enrolled the author among the most celebrated names in English Theology. To announce the publication of a supplementary volume to that work, is to pronounce its sufficient panegyric.
The two writers who, in express publications, have directed their attention to the Unitarian Version, have fulfilled their engagements, and accomplished their purpose. The incidental objections, which have been occasionally urged by the learned Bishops of St. David's and Calcutta, have attained their specific object. One object, with respect to this version, still remained a desideratum, When the Unitarians undertook to re. cast the version of Archbishop Newcome, they felt it to be not only politic, but saw that it was necessary, to apprize their readers, of the full extent of their deviations from the translation, which they adopted as their basis. When they discarded a reading from the text, it carried at least the specious appearance of fairness and impartiality to replace it in the margin, and by thus leaving it to the option of the reader, to restore the rejected phrase, they eventually perpetuated the version which they virtally superseded. Impressed with a due sense of the weight of these considerations, their panegyrists and defenders laboured, but too effectually, to gain credit to the assertion; “ that whereettr they had judged it expedient to deviate from the Primate's trasislation, the editors have, with the most scrupulous fidelity, give a notice of the change, and set down the Primate's words in the margin.” How much the credit of the work, and its edito.rs, is implicated in the event of the one being convicted of