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The orthodox stand charged with not preaching the Gospel, or in the milder mode of stating it, with being mere moral preachers. That there was formerly some foundation for this charge ought to be fairly and frankly conceded. Without entering upon the causes, we know that a system of preaching did prevail in the last century, and part of this, in which the peculiar doctrines of the Gospel had not sufficient prominence. And I should think contemptibly of my own cause did I not dare to candidly and cheerfully acknowledge that the evangelical party have had considerable, though indirect influence in promoting the improved tone which is now observable in our discourses. But in making these concessions, I must distinctly protest against the extent to which this omission was charged on the established Church. I deny that at any one period these doctrines were lost sight of, or that good works, though disproportionately insisted upon, were ever held, or taught by the Clergy, to be the meritorious causes of salvation. None other foundation of our acceptance was ever laid down than Christ Jesus. Never was the state of moral preaching such, as to justify the language of an evangelical clergyman * respecting the Church, which has been triumphantly quoted by the Dissenters; that “ the bulk of the kingdom lay under the judgment of an unregenerate ministry," that in 1740, he is not sure there was “ a single paro
chial minister who was publicly known as a Gospel preacher in the whole kingdom,” that in 1797 there were only 400, and in 1801, “ out of 10,000 parishes, 9,000 were destitute of the Gospel.”
Language such as this could lead to nothing but dissent. The congregation delivering over their judgment to ministers who adopted the language and the tone of Dissenters, and whose peremptory condemnation of the Church was thus set forth, could have no tie to bind them to our communion. It is not surprising that they should “ secede from the parish church in a body," or that “ hundreds often became Dissenters."
But whatsoever ground might be supposed to have existed formerly for this charge, I trust that it is generally removed, and that the more candid of our evangelical brethren see the injustice and impolicy of directly, or indirectly,sanctioning such an impression. In our pulpits generally, I am persuaded that the great and distinguishing characteristics of the Gospel are duly recognized and earnestly inculcated.
Whatsoever difference may exist between us in the mode of stating the matter, we are as decided as any of our evangelical brethren in preaching salvation through Christ Jesus, in enforcing not only the vital importance of holiness, but also the essential necessity of that faith and grace, which alone can sanctify, or give energy to human efforts. If we dwell less frequently on the principles themselves, and more earnestly on their application to practice,
we are far from despising or neglecting the former ; we press them in that form and proportion which we conceive, according to our judgment and conscience, most consistent with the spirit, and most conducive to the purposes of the Gospel; to the glory of God, the improvement and salvation of man. We may be sensitive, perhaps morbidly sensitive, against fanaticism and hypocrisy, we may be too fearful of encouraging a substitution of the phraseology, for the substance of religion. But we acknowledge and endeavour to fulfil our obligations, to set forth those truths; which, by displaying the enormity of sin, the effects of our corruption, the magnitude of our danger, the mercies of God, the power of the Spirit, and the merits of the Redeemer, distinguish the heart-stirring homilies and affecting appeals of a Christian preacher, from the lifeless discussions and cold speculations of an infidel philosopher. Yet we ought not to despise the judgment of our brethren. It behoves us to examine honestly, frequently, and humbly, our practice and preaching; and to feel that, where we differ, there may be defects on either side; and that there certainly is room for continual improvement on both sides. If any of us do not preach in their due proportion the doctrines of the Gospel, on them, as far as relates to their ministry, must fall the blame of subverting the Church to which they belong.
On the other hand, however, it must be remembered, that there are extremes to be avoided in each direction; that the power of divine grace, the effects
of the Redeemer's sacrifice, the privileges of the elect, the nature of faith, the assurance, the experiences and influences of the Spirit, and other points, may and have been so stated as to appear irreconcileable with human responsibility and free-will ; to render the decrees of Scripture fiats of caprice or cruelty; her threats the messages of misery or despair ; her promises the inheritance of presumption and delusion; her solemn exhortations and affectionate appeals unmeaning phrases and useless mockeries. At all events we should bear in mind that these questions have perplexed many of the most profound theologians and earnest Christians. Is a conscientious difference, perhaps often only in the terms, but even in sentiment, upon these, to place an impassable gulph between us, to be made the foundation of a charge of desertion of the Gospel, of being in an awful state of unconversion and unregeneracy? Is it on these grounds that the majority of the Church of England is to be denounced as an unevangelical Church, and its members to infer, that the sanctuary of truth is confined to the Dissenters, unless her congregations be confided to the teaching of a minority of her pastors ?
It behoves us, my brethren, in the present times to reflect on these things. We have perhaps on both sides received improvement in this controversy, and both been further withdrawn from the extremes. Much has been done; but much more remains to be done. We should all of us, avoiding vain discussions, en
deavour to approximate in every possible point; preaching the Gospel in its whole harmony and power; in its mingled obligations of faith and practice ; in its varied but concurrent motives of grace and responsibility. We need not fear, but surely we need not aim at singularity. There should be no studied distinction in our preaching or practice; nothing by which we should be desirous to increase or to mark our separation from our brethren. But our sole desire should be to preach the Gospel in spirit and in truth. We should endeavour to avoid such a mode of stating its truths as would, on the one hand, give ground to the charge of our despising its fundamental doctrines; or, on the other hand, create such a distinction, that the congregation should find greater affinity between clergymen of the established Church, and preachers of the Meeting-house, than between ministers of the same communion.
The next point to which I would advert is the tendency, I may almost say necessity, which appears attached to the party in question, of forming themselves into a sort of separate caste in society and in the Church ; in which a marked line of separation in practice seems to be studiously laid down. This line not only is to distinguish two parties in the Church, but on the one side of it they are to understand are to be found the elect, and on the other the world; in that awful sense in which the term is frequently employed in the Gospel.
The distinction is assumed from no knowledge of