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FOR MAY, 1818.
Art. I. 1. A Brief Account of the Reasons which have induced the
Rev. T. C. Cowan to secede from the Established Church ; addressed to those who composed his Congregation, while he officiated in the Parish Church of St. Thomas, Bristol. Second Edition,
revised and corrected, with Alterations. · 8vo. Bristol. 1818. 2. Serious Remarks on the different Representations of Evangelical
Doctrine by the professed Friends of the Gospel. Bristol. 3. Letters addressed to a scrious and humble Enquirer after Divine
Truth, with a peculiar Aspect to the Circumstances of the present Times. By the Rev. Edward Cooper, Rector of Hamstall-Ridware, and of Yoxall in the County of Stafford, &c. Second Edition.
12mo. pp. 233. London. 1817. 4. Truth Vindicated : or, a Series of Remarks on some of the leading
Doctrines of the Gospel, with a particular View to its right Administration : occasioned by Dr. Hawker's Appendix to his True Gospel. By James Bidlake, Author of a Letter to a friend, under
the Signature Verax. 8vo. pp. 39. Bristol. 1818. 5. A Search after Truth in its own Field, the Holy Scriptures ; or, a
Reference to the Apostolic Acts and Epistles on the Subject of some novel Opinions in Theology. By Thomas T. Biddulph, M.A. Minister of St. James's, Bristol. Second Edition, corrected and
enlarged. 8vo. pp. viii. 63. Bristol. 1818. 6. The True Test of Religion in the Soul : or Practical Christianity
delineated. A Sermon Preached before the University of Cambridge, March 9, 1817. By the Rev. Charles Simeon, M.A.
Cambridge. 8vo. pp. 25. 7. A Letter to a highly respected Friend, on the Subject of certain
Errors, of the Antinomian Kind, which have lately sprung up in the West of England, and are now making an alarming Progress throughout the Kingdom. By the Rev. John Simons, B.LL.
Rector of Paul's Cray. 8vo. pp. 69., London. 1818. PERHAPS the reluctance with which we enter upon the
discharge of our duties on the present occasion, is unjustifiable. Perhaps we have too long listened to the exaggerations of calumnioas rumour. Perhaps we have yielded to a Vol. IX. N.S.
groundless despondency in imagining that the task to which we address ourselves, is not more irksome than it is hopeless of any beneficial result. We determine then to dismiss from our minds an idea so disheartening to ourselves, and perbaps so injurious to others; nor will we suppose that the parties most directly concerned in the remarks we may offer, have already shut themselves up in the munition of infallibility, and that it would be nothing less than the abandonment of a fundamental principle, were they to give a moment's audience to the humblest suggestion.
But although there were ground for the allegation, with respect to some individuals, that they are even less distinguished by the incoherence and extravagance of their opinions, than by the haughty confidence, the appalling violence, the inaccessible dogmatism, with which they maintain those opinions; were it true of such individuals, that they are far gone out of the reach of our feeble expostulations; were we compelled to believe that the leaders and the van have long since made an aberration, which carries them, not only beyond the circle of our influence, but even without the sphere of common sense and argument; yet, surely, we might take courage from the persuasion, that at least the hindermost companies of the camp have not passed the boundary where the mighty voice of truth and soberness ceases to be heard.
But however this may be, while on our part we labour to avoid the feeling as well as the manner of a flippant confidence, we shall not suppose that any one who may give our pages à perusal, will commence that perusal with the insane determination of stopping the ear against every appeal. We shall, on the contrary, suppose our readers to have as thorough, as practical, as humbling a conviction as ourselves, of the fallibility and depraved obscurity of the human understanding.
It is, we know, the distinguishing privilege of the Christian, that he is taught of God. But we cannot forget in bow many cases the unfounded presumption of this teaching bas become the impregnable bulwark of false opinions. Is then, it may be asked, the serious inquirer abandoned to hopeless distraction amid the jarring pretensions which divide the Christian world? The supposition is inconsistent with the claims and the honours of Revelation No: while the self-sufficient, the obstinate, the proud, the vain, the presumptuous, the perverse, pursue, each the path of his own choosing, the humble soul holds on his way rejoieing; he follows the banner which bears that inscription, " The meek will He guide in judgement; " the meek will He teach his law.” When the time arrives that the minds of inen shall be fixed with the attention it de
serves upon the sensible criterion of truth, when they shall understand the inseparable connexion between heavenly teaching, and heavenly teachableness, heresy will quickly expire, and the sword, the spear, the shield of controversy, will drop at once from the hands of the defenders of the faith, and of its oppugners.
If a complicated system of opinions is to be considered merely as the result of so much ratiocination as is implied in the proving of the several propositions of which it consists, we imagine it will be very difficult in most cases to discover any clew to the reason of its colierence, or that principle which makes it one in a logical sense, and secures the adhesion of its parts in its reception by different minds. But on the other hand, with respect to the various systeins which have actually obtained any considerable currency among men, this principle of coherence may readily be found in some one of those impulses to wbich the moral and intellectual constitution of man is subjected. Tbe reasoning faculty, instead of being considered as the source, or first cause of these systems, will appear only to have discharged the very subordinate office of hunting for pleas hy which to reconcile the understanding to the heterogeneous
Man is doubtless a reasoning being; but the slightest acquaintance with his history sufficiently evinces that, in his opinions, he is immeasurably less the creature of simple ratiocination, than of impulses derived from his susceptibility to moral sentiment. This view of the subject greatly simplifies the phenomena of opinion. Were systems purely, or chiefly the result of reasoning, true and false propositions, perfect and defective inferences, being capable of infinitely diversified combinations, would give an almost infinite chance against any uniformity in these phenomena : there would be nearly as many persuasions as thinkers, as many creeds as believers. But those impulses which are the true sources of opinion, are few in number, common, though in different degrees, to all men, and perhaps not very difficult to be ascertained and defined. We incline to think that no great violence would be done to any of the apparently multifarions draughts of moral and religious truth which have been published and received in the world, were they all reduced into three or four classes, as they may be traced to the three or four leading impulses of our corrupted nature. On this ground the doctrine of our Lord Jesus Christ stands in striking contrast with all the ugly progeny of Error, whether of Pagan or of Christian name. Considered as a scheme of sentiments for man, Christianity can be traced to none of the inherent propensities of the human mind. And when effectuated by Almighty Power, it plows up for itself a track directly athwart every one of those propen
sities. Under its sovereign influence they must all be subverted, and buried, and perish in the soil that is to bring forth fruit unto eternal life.
Hence then we derive a test, independent of the direct line of argumentation, to which a system may be fairly submitted. Christianity offers to man nothing less than to make him every wbit whole ; empiricism, however it may astonish by a partial cure, effects nothing but at the cost of the vital principle. The former rests its success upon the operation of an energy wholly foreign to the subject; the latter borrows all its power from some modification of the inherent forces of the constitution.
The application of a test of this kind consists in an appeal to the conscience rather than to the understanding. And we believe that if the charge against a system, of its originating in a corrupt bias of the mind, can be substantiated by a reference to a variety of particulars, it may succeed in arresting the attention, and in shaking the confidence of belief, where the soundest reasoning would produce no effect.
If then it shall appear, with respect to a debated system, that upon the first view, and considered as a whole, it manifestly tends to defend, to cherish, and to indulge some one of the known impulses of the human mind; that, in examining the details of the said system, those points in which it departs from the asserted standard of Truth, are exactly those in which that standard militates the most directly against the indulgence of the corrupt propensity; that those points of Divine truth which are the most easily accommodated to the sinister designs of the system, and whicli, superficially considered, give it some appearance of support, are in fact those to wbich an almost exclusive prominence is given ; and that the hypothesis assumed, which serves, as it were, to connect together the system, furnishes a clew to the explanation of those apparently unconnected accidents by which its reception is invariably accompanied-those minor symptoms which are usually the least fallacious criteria of a specific disease: if all this shall appear, we shall think ourselves authorized to urge upon the advocates of the system in question, a very strong presumption against their doctrine, that it is not from Heaven, but of man.
We do then avow our conviction, that those statements of Christian doctrine, which are usually styled Antinomian,* arise from an entire corruption of the true design of Religion : we further think, that Antinomianism is not a simple mistake, or a
* We shall not be misunderstood as using this term in the way of bringing " a railing accusation” against a party; we employ it purely for the convenience of avoiding circumlocution, and consider it as comprehending all the various shades of sentiment of the same class.
combination of mere errors in judgement. Contemplated in the aspect it bears to the constitution of human nature, the system appears to possess an unbroken consistency and uniformity of design, and throughout its various details to betray the operation of the same germinating principle. We view it as an attempt of the depraved mind to rescue itself by an artificial process from the inference contained in the facts of our condition, as they are revealed and authenticated by Revelation. It is a manæuvre to evade the laws of the moral world, and to gain by a single step that position which can in fact be attained only in the way of subjection to those laws. It seeks to place the truths relating to our moral condition, in that position which shall intercept the direct communication between the understanding, and the affections and active powers; and thus allows of no motive beyond a mere reflection, indirectly derived from the truth. Antinomianism aims to disjoin man from himself, and it is perfected when it has reduced bim to the feeling of being the inane spectator of his own immortal destinies.
It is not unusual to charge the scheme of doctrine of which we treat, with being a mere device to cloke the indulgence of depraved appetites and passions. That it does serve in many cases as a plea and a disguise for such indulgence, is a matter of notorious fact, and must be allowed to be a natural consequence. But such a result is by no means uniform, and many of the most determined advocates of the system will be able to repel the charge, with a triumphant consciousness of its injustice; and thus, if it be assumed as affording a sufficient clew by which to explain the facts of the case, many of the most characteristic of those facts will be left unaccounted for.
So far from attempting to trace the evil to the grossness of appetite, or the turbulence of the higher passions, we should rather seek for its origination in the closet of the man whose temperament exempts him from the stronger impulses both of the animal and moral faculties; who possesses a constitutional facility of withdrawing bimself from the importunity of external objects, and who can derive a sufficiency of happiness from the operations of his own mind. Were we indeed to designate Antinomianism by a single phrase, we should call it the doctrine of Intellectual Quietism. It might perhaps be denominated the Stoicism of Christianity. We should not rest the propriety of the allusion, upon the obvious peculiarity of both systems-their distortion and abuse of the doctrine of necessity, but upon their attempting to effect a disjunction between the understanding, and the affections and active powers, and endeavouring to perpetuate this separation, by sinking between them the impassable gulf of unfathomable abstractions,-upon their labouring to wall-up an impregnable Paradise for mad,