Art. XXI. A Letter to the Rev. Robert Hawker, D.D. Vicar

of the Parish of Charles, Plymouth, occafioned by his late Ex. pedition into Cornwall. By the Rev. R. Polwhele, Vicar of Manaccan. 12 mo. Pp. 95. Price is, 6d. Cadell and Davies, London. 1799.

WE have had frequent occasion, since the commencement of our work, to advert to the too prevalent fin of schism, and we have explained, in a summary manner, our conceptions of the doctrine of the established church on that topic. If those conceptions be just, it is certainly a duty strongly incumbent on every member of that church, but more partioularly on its prelates and pastors, to exert every mean in their power, if not for the repression, at least, for

preventing the extension, of schism; if they be erroneous, charity, at leat, if not duty, should lead them to expose our errors, that, by knowing, we might be taught to correct them. That our strenuous defence of the establishment, against all affailants and intruders, should draw down upon us the vengeance of the elect, as well as of other schismatics, was naturally to be expected ; hence the violent attack commenced againit ưs, in one of the monthly vehicles of schism, excited not the smallest surprize. But that the conductors of such a publication, instituted for the avowed purpose of propagating principles, hoftile to the establishment, throughout the kingdom, hould deem it expedient to undertake the defence of a dignitary of the established church, whose duty it is to prevent the diffusion of such principles, would certainly have occafioned a considerable degree of astonishment, had not the motive of the defence been too evident to admit of misconception. The worthy prelate, however, in question, will, we conceive, not feel very much obliged to these officious zealots, for going so much out of their way, in order to make his Lordship appear as one of them. As to ourselves, we shall only, for the present, state that the writer of the article, to which we allude, has not sense to discriminate between palpable irony and ferious declaration, nor yet honestly to abstain from supporting his attack by the advancement of deliberate falsehood.* li is worthy of remark, that the very men, who are thus forward in defending one prelate, have the effrontery to tell another, that he advances opinions which have no more to do with the do&trinal sentiments of the church of England, than they have to do with the scriptures !!!” And this falle and impudent affertion is applied to a passage in which his Lordship has unquestionably supported the true doctrine of the church of England, juftly and ttrictly. It is impollible, here, to point out all the defects of this low, wretched

[ocr errors]

We shall be induced to ur to this topic hereafter, by the recent declaration of these cauting fanatics, that none cam charge us with a direli&tion FROM the truth."

Gg 2


publication, which, far from promoting a spirit of true piety, far from contributing to the happiness of the misguided individuals, for whole prosperity its fanatical editors affect fo fervent a zeal, is eminently calculated to render them unfit to discharge their religious, moral, and social duties, and to produce those evil consequences which are so ally and so strongly depicted in the Letter before us. But, convinced as we have long beer, of the indispensable necelïicy of affording some more effective antidote to the poison which is difused with so much ardour, so much industry, and by such an infinite variety of channels, having already corrupted, if the accouets of those who have been employed in adminiitering it may be credited, no less than half A MILLION of his Majesty's subjects, we have determined to bring out another periodical publication, a large portion of which will be more immediately appropriated to this muit desirable purpose. The arrangements for this work are already far advanced, and we hope foon to be enabled to hoist a pure banner, unsoiled by the touch of schism, unpolluted by the finger of fanati. cism, under which every true friend to the established church may find shelter and support.

It is a subject for serious lamentation, that several regular ministers of the established church have been infected with this false spirit, which a sense of duty, and a knowledge of the pernicious effects which it has produced, has led us fo ftrongly to reprobate, and so firmly to oppose. Dr. Kawker, a clergyman of abilities, in the West of England, it appears, is one of this description, who, not content with instilling his own doctrines into the minds of the flock immediately entrusted to his care, has deemed it not incompatible with the dignity of his character, to become a kind of itinerant preacher, with a view to diffuse his principles widely over the country. It is this conduct which has extorted from Mr. Pol whele, a gentleman equally distinguished for zeal duly regulated, and abili. ties properly applied, an attack not more remarkable for its strength than its juttice. Our author acknowledges the talents of his adverfary, as displayed in his literary compofitions, and gives him due coinmendation for his zeal in religious matters, where it has not exceeded the bounds of prudence and propriety ; but he exposes, with infinite force, and with becoming energy, its dangerous tendency, in most instances, and he corroborates his general arguments by the adduction of apposite facts, some of which, we confess, have alike astonished and shocked us.

Mr. P. accurately defines the nature of enthusiasm and fanaticism, that no opportunity may be afforded, to his opponent, of misrepresenting the charges which he prefers against him; and he supports his own positions by various well-selected quotations from the wellknown work of Bishop Lavington, entitled, “The Enthusiasm of Methodists and Papists compared.” The nature of the doctrine objected to by Mr. P. may be collected from the following pailage :-



“In a note at the 313th page, you tell us, that all men are as lifeless as Ezekiel's dry bones in the valley, till the Lord put his Spirit into them, that they may live-' that preaching may wound the consciences of men, occasioning fa noise and shaking in the hearers ;' may awaken greater attention to the outward forms of religion, more conftant application to the means, more careful endeavours after moral ducies, like the finews, the flesh, and the ikin--but that, till the breath of the Lord breathe upon them, they can experience no life. cording to this doctrine, our regeneration depends not, in the nightest degree, upon ourselves : it is the sole effect of the divine agency. We may be sober, and chafte, and just, and honest, charitable to the poor, benevolent to all. We may offer up our prayers and thanksgivings to God, both in public and private, join in the Holy Communion, and listen to the word of exhortacion; and yet, be on a foot. ing in respect tothe spiritual life, with drunkards, and robbers, and labbath-breakers. Unless the Lord hath prede ined us for glory; unless his Spirit infule life into our bodies, we are even as those that have been long dead,' mere masses of cor. ruption. That we shall not only be driven to God by an irresistible force, inde. pendent of our own inclinations or exertions, if we happen to be claffed with the elect, but be sensible of the exact *moment of this miraculous operation, is a doctrine also of yours, in common with almost the whole tribe of religious enthusiasts. In a note at the 330th page of your Sermons, you intimate that the Eleet Christian will look for“ a jenkble demonftration of the fpirit,' like the apostles of old-the same in kind, though in a lefs degree and, like them, will be suddenly filled with the Holy Ghost, and (peak the word of God with boldness.'

• In your note on the omnipotence of the Holy Ghost, (ac pages 255—259,) you must limit your observations, (you say,) to the particular illuftrations of the divine agency in the history of the faithful. In the dispensations of God's providence, how refreshing is it, (you exclaim,) to trace the omnipotence of the bleffed spirit, manifefted towards them in all the various means of provifion, adapted to their multiform wants and neceflities!'

“ The multiform wants of which you fpeak, are temporal, I conceive, as well as spiritual. If, in part, temporal, would you be understood to say, that the faithful, as contradiftinguished from the rest of mankind, are vitibly supported by Providence, like Elijah fed by ravens in the wilderness? If you do not, I confefs you 1peak a language which to me is perfectly unintelligible. If you do, your affertion is too ridiculous for argument.” Pp. 1(~7.

* “Oh! (says one of the wretched fanatics whom the Bishop of Exeter is expofing to just contempt,) On! I cannot be freed from doubting till I have more infallible assurances--till I hear Chrift speaking to me; so that I may be fenfible in that very hour, that it is he that speaketh.' Then for Mr Welley: • I felt faith in Chrift; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my fins, even mine.' The usual method of the spirit, is to give, at one and one jame time. the forgiveness of fins, and an assurance of that forgiveness.'— In that moment, (says another,) I beheld the Lamb of God taking away my tins.--My fifter received the atonement on St. Peter's day. At that hour, one, who had long continued in sin, from a despair of finding mercy, received a full, cleur fenie of his pardoning love, and power to fin no more. One person could neither eai, nor ileep, nor read, till Christ had afflured him of salvation. By way of parallel to thele presumptuous imaginations, we read, that Sir Francis bewailing his fins from the bitterness of his heart, was, by the Iloly Ghost, fully certified of the plenary remiffion of all his fins. And once defiring a barber to thave hiin gratis, for the love of God, the barber refused till the Saint had given him vull assurance of salvation. --See The Enthusiasm, &c. Part 1. Pp. 43, 44. •Ilow idle it is, (fuys Dr. Ibbot) for meen to trouble themselves, or others, about the exact time of their converfion!'--"We need not disquiet ourselves, or diftruft our own itate, because no ftrange thing has happened unto us, becaule weh ve not been terrified, nor felt any violent inward pangs and conveltions. For religion is easy and natural, pleasant and delightful, unless we have made it otherwise by con'trary habits and even we may be reconciled to it, without any of this unnatural dread or concern.' See Dr. lobot's excellent Sermons on the new birth,' and never creature,'

[ocr errors]

In order to throw a farther light on the doctrine of Dr. Hawker, Mr. Polwhele quotes fome passages from a small treatise published by the Doctor, entitled, “ The great ard leading points of the Gospel, explained in three Dialogues between a Minister and one of his Pariihi. oners," which, in the opinion of its author, contains “the sum and substance of religion."

“ In this treatise, you observe, that the substance of the gospel, as to its saving influence, might be brought within the compass of three particulars; the first of which is, io know ourselves in our loft and ruined state before God. The fecond, to know the Lord Jesus Chrift, under all his divine offices, as the reftorer of our failen nature. And the third, to koow we have a dear interest in him.'

“ Under the first head, you tell us, that “unless the grace of God hath paffed upon us, we are all alike dead in trespasses and sins;' and that we cannot think a good thought, speak a good word, or do a good action.*' (Pp. 6,7.) According to this doétrine, the best moral men, and the moft hardened villain, are equally the objects of their Creator's wrath, and muft both be damned to all eternity, unless God choose to draw them to himself. In your opinion, indeed, the hare dened villain' has the beft chance of being faved; since you declare, (at p. 28,) that “ though you were the chief of finners, your encouragement is not lefsened, but increased. In the number of loft finners, you include thousands, and tees of thousands, (P. 8,) who, every Lord's day, attend the service of the church.

“ Under the second head, your parishioner makes his appearance distracted and miserable. p. 10.) He has discovered, (he says,) that his fancied righteousnels before God is full of unworthiness; and that, even in his most holy things, he is unholy.' He does not detect (as the beft of men might do) any improprieties or errors in his behaviour ; see his infirmities in a stronger light; regret, for instance, the obtrusion of unchaste and irreligious thoughts, or specify any omissions of duty to his wife, his children, or his fellow creatures; but, on the principle of original depravity, he laments, in a general obscure manner, the bias of his nature to fin, and cries out, that in his flesh there dwelleth no good thing.' (p. 13.)

“ Amidst his anxieties to repent, and to be received amongst the faithful, you tell him, for his comfort, that repentance is the sole giti of God; and inat "a man might as soon change the colour of his hair, or alter the complexion of his countenance, as the complexion of his mind; that the strongest resolutions formed in man's own strength muft fäil; and that, even if it were poffible to keep them, the good conduct of the present can make no compensation towards God for the evil conduct of the past.' (p. 14.) You inform your parishioner, however, that 'as the fins of his people are transferred to the perion of Jerus, so his righteousness is imputed to them also;' and that, in consequence of this imputation, they are contidered as righteous before God.' (p. 17.) Surely this is one of the moft absurd and dangerous doctrines that ever was devised by man. If the righteousnels of Christ be imputed to the faithful, so as to become, as you teach us, their righteousness, it follows, that the faithful are equally righteous; and, indeed, that the faithful are, in the eye of God, as righteous as Chrift himself!!! How impious; how blasphemous! Vain are our hopes of falvation, unless we endeavour to attain fome righteousness of our own! The scriptural doctrine of the redemption is, fimply, as follows:-Man had broken the first covenant between his Creator and himself; and this transgression demandied punishment from the divine justice. It was then a mediator appeared tetween God and man: and this mediator was Christ Jesus; who, having made by his dufirings and death, a full atonement and satisfaction for that transgrelivon,

*“A doctrine which you falsely deduce from 2 Corinth. iii. 5. whilft, in order to render your own meaning more forcible, you quote the text faliely; All our fufficiency is of God.' The original is, mixaro ; WV Ex toy Odes. *Our sufficiency is of God."


obtained a new covenant for man. The condition of this covenant is, Repen. tance from every evil work; a lively faith ; and obedience to the will of God, to the best of our poor abilities; an obedience, though not perfect, yet fincere. If we perform this condition, we shall obtain, through the merits of Chrift, eternal happiness. If we fail in the performance of it, we have nothing to expect but everlasting misery.

“ But to return to the dialogue, your parishioner, Sir, seems amazed at the mysteriousness, the incomprehentibility, of your doctrines. This is not to be wondered at. Nor are we lurprized that, at the close of the second interview, he goes home with only a faint glimmering view of what you have been defcribing.

“ Under the third head, you congratulate your parishioner on his feeling himself to be a poor finner; on being sensible of the burthen of his sins.' P. 23.

“ With respect to our Saviour, your parishioner obferves, that he is perfectly satisfied of the all-fufficiency of Jesus, to purify the finner from the leprosy of fin. . But, whether Jesus will condescend to cleanse me; whether I am the object of his grace and mercy ; this is the grand point I want to know,' says your trembling parishioner.-P. 24.

“ This, you tell him, is really the grand point, fince religion is a personal thing; and another man's Christ can be nothing to your parishioner, unleis he be your parishioner's Christ also.'

Of this personal interest in Chrift, (you say,) he will probably receive, at fome time or other, an assurance from heaven. When, however, the time of this assurance shall come, you cannot inform him, though you observe, that he goes Sorrowing all the day in a sense of transgression, and frequently crying out under the heavy load of fin, wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death" (P. 30.) You, at laft, dismiss him with the admonition• Not to be impatient in the expectation of this affurance.' And you tell him, in consolation, that'many a gracious foul may walk without afsurance through life ; and the dying hour will be the sealing hour.'

“ So your poor parishioner leaves you, weighed down by the burthen of his fins, and doubtful when the moment of grace shall arrive to relieve him from that burthen. Is it poslible, that any man, with such a horror upon his spirit, can perform the common duties of life with any degree of satisfaction to himself, or his connexions ? It seems, then, that all mankind come under two grand divisions :

1. “ Those who, left to themselves, are insensible of their fins.

2. “And those who, awakened to a sense of their fins, are either expecting, or have actually received, an assurance of salvation.

“ For the first class, I will not affert, that you have adopted the Calvinistic doctrine of their reprobation from all eternity. Yet, according to your notion of • Redemption-work, as you term it,) you must contider the whole human species as in the broad way to destruction, except those very few, who not only feel their lins, like your parishioner, but are enabled by the Holy Spirit to transfer their fins to Christ, and apply his righteousness to themselves. To all who are without the pale of Chriftianity, this is utterly impracticable.*

“ In nearly the same predicament are the whole tribe of profesional Chris. tians.

* “ If St. Paul's authority be preferable to Dr. Hawker's, (a questionable point, perhaps, as they were both equally gifted by the Holy Ghost, and almoft have been equally righteous, from the imputation of Christ's sighteousness,) the Heathens not having the law, are a law unto themselves : and, if they act in conformity to that law, they will afturedly be faved through Chrift, who died for the sins of the whole world. If Dr. H. allow the truth of this position, and yet exclude moral Christians froni falvation, it is a truly unfortunate ening, that they were born in a Christian country, or admitted within the pale of the church."

G g 4

* One

« ForrigeFortsett »