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contains precisely this doctrine of the reformers,) is, in the article before us, cited with condemnation, and as an illustration of the doctrines which it is intended to banish from among us :
“Q. Why may not persons refuse to partake in the sacraments ?”
“ A. That they may not lose that inward and spiritual grace given “ unto us by God, of which the sacraments are outward and visible “ signs.”
And the subsequent tenour of the article makes it sufficiently apparent that the doctrine objected to in this extract is, the regarding the holy sacraments as though they were something more than what the Socinian considers them, mere inoperative signs.
The above extract shews that both the sacraments of our church are, generally speaking, viewed by the writer of the article in question in the same light. But with respect to one of them, baptism, he unfolds his sentiments at greater length. I need not, however, transcribe this; the principle is that with which I am concerned, and that is the same in both cases.
That this should be the feeling entertained respecting the sacraments is, I confess, not wonderful to me. The fashionable religion of any age must of course be tainted with that age's principal characteristics. And a leading characteristic of ours is, undoubtedly, a shrinking from mystery, coupled with a too exclusive regard for things visible and tangible. In any age, as the minds of men grew dull, and unfit for the contemplation of heavenly mysteries, the doctrines of the sacraments are probably those which, from their sublimity and mysteriousness, would fade the first, from the enfeebled powers of spiritual vision. It is, therefore, but too natural that we should, in this our day, be the witnesses of an attempt to erase those doctrines from our creed, and to introduce in their place a system less spiritual, and more adapted, consequently, to a gross and self-seeking people.
That the attempt of which I complain, in truth, arises from this source— from a want of faith in things invisible, a reluctance to admit the reality of anything which is not the object of actual observationis strikingly shewn by a subsequent passage of the article which I am quoting. The writer's point is to prove that baptism is not, according to our church's meaning, a sacrament, because the writer's senses do not assure him that it is one. The phraseology is curious :
“ Mark how it (i. e. baptism) works. The child is baptized ; in “ other words, according to Dr. - it is regenerated, or made a new “ creature. Let this child be examined with the child of a baptist, and, “except in peculiar circumstances, no difference of nature will be “ manifested. They will both be found of the earth, earthy; alive to “ the world, and dead to God. Still the one, according to Dr. “ has been made a new creature, and the other is in a state of nature. “ But the difference between the two, in the state of their hearts, their “ affections, or their conduct, it is acknowledged by all, is generally not “ perceptible ; and accordingly it follows, as an unavoidable consequence, “ that the change, which is called a new creation, being born again,
“ being raised from the dead, is a very little matter, indeed, as it regards “ the change effected in the nature of the individual, whatever it may “ be as it respects the relation in which he stands to the gospel.”*
This reasoning, it will be seen, depends for all its weight upon the assumed admission, that visible or tangible evidence is to be required for everything,—that things, even of a spiritual nature, which are “not perceptible” to our imperfect faculties, are not, upon the simple evidence of Revelation, to be believed to exist.
Where men have suffered themselves to be so far deluded as to avow, and to act upon, a principle like this, it need not surprise us to find them carrying that principle to the extreme; to find them speaking of that which the church has ever esteemed the holy sacrament of baptism, in terms like these
“Our readers are quite aware that we cordially subscribe to the practice of infant baptism, and consider it most valuable in many points of view."
But the fact that the corruption with which we are threatenedt is one adapted to the tone and spirit of the world around us, does but increase our danger-does but increase, consequently, the necessity, among all right-minded members of our society, of active, of immediate, exertion. Are we, Mr. Editor, as Christians, as members of the holy church catholic, to remain longer quiescent, wbile such endeavours are avowed, while such doctrines are assailed ? Are we not, if we speak not now, virtually telling the world, that the holy doctrines of the sacraments are looked upon by us as open questions, as points respecting which men may hold opinions wide as the poles from each other, without compromising, in any important degree, the orthodoxy of their Christian creed? And, if so, what a position, to the reflecting mind, is ours! To what an end are we applying the influence, the incalculably-important influence, of our venerable society!
To me, Mr. Editor, this appears a most serious subject of consideration. Remembering how carefully the holy men of old--the rulers and examples of the church in former ages-were wont to cherish, as so many jewels committed to their charge, the several truths of Reve. lation, I should, I confess, see with pain those who profess to look up to them, and to follow in their steps, disposed to surrender any one of those great verities-nay, even to tender the admission tbat one of them is unimportant-to the worldly and compromising spirit of the age. It were surely better in itself—it were surely more reverential to the memory of those who have gone before us in the administration and support of our society—to dissolve that society at once, than to suffer its now widely-extended powers and influence to be wielded for purposes directly opposite to those for which it was originally established, and for which it has for more than a century been sustained.
I hope, however, Mr. Editor, that this is not our only alternative. I hope that prompt and decisive measures may yet, with the blessing
The reader will, perhaps, remember some remarks on this very argument in a former Number of this Magazine.
+ It ought to be mentioned that the “ Record” is now calling for some plan of revision of all the tracts.-Ed.
of Heaven, avert the menaced evil, and preserve the society, as an instructress of the truth, -as an instrument of good untold to our country. What those measures should be, I do not presume to say. My situation,-as I have already informed you,—is that of a follower, not of a leader, in the church. I leave, therefore, the arrangement of details to the proper quarters. But I feel, Sir, that I should not, even as a lay member of our society, have stood clear in my own sight of the neglect of a solemn duty, had I not, by thus addressing you, striven to enter my humble protest against the fearful evil which threatens us,-against the degradation of our Christian society from the holy employment of diffusing a knowledge of the truth throughout our land, to that of systematically obscuring the light of Revelation, and debasing our national creed. I remain, Mr. Editor, yours, &c.
SOCIETY FOR THE PROPAGATION OF THE GOSPEL. SIR,—Being deeply interested in the welfare and efficiency of the venerable Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, I read, with much pleasure, an article on that subject, in your Number for December last, signed “D.” Still I conceive your correspondent's plan is not capable of universal application, though excellent where it can be applied. Where there are but three or four agricultural parishioners, the remaining population consisting of the lower classes, it would not answer; though in a town, where there are many well-educated masters of families, it would. Being myself the vicar of a small country parish, and having made an experiment in favour of the society, I beg to furnish your readers with the result, hoping that others may be induced to adopt a similar plan. In 1834 a meeting was holden at Northampton, for the purpose of considering how the deficiency created by the withdrawal of the Parliamentary grant of 15,0001. per annum could be made up, on which occasion it was stated that the clergy and others interested in the society should induce respectable persons, in the middle class of life, resident in their parishes, to become annual subscribers of five shillings. This suggestion I quickly acted upon, and four of my agricultural parishioners most cheerfully responded to my appeal and became subscribers. I did not feel satisfied, however, to rest here, being convinced that, by a little extra exertion, I might effect much more. After some little consideration, I determined on preaching a sermon, the object of which should be to impress it on the minds of my people, of all ranks, that where people are (as is the case in this country) eminently blessed with the means of grace, it becomes their positive duty to evince (to the extent of their powers) their gratitude to the giver of all good, by contributing a small portion of their worldly substance for the glorious purpose of extending those blessings to others as yet imperfectly supplied with them, or entirely destitute of them. I gave notice that I should call at every house in my parish in the course of the two or three succeeding days. This I did, and I suggested one penny per month as sufficient for the poor. I endeavoured to impress on each the privilege it should be considered to have an opportunity of contributing to so glorious an object. I farther stated that I should myself collect the pence, each month, or every other month, as circumstances would permit, which would have the good effect of bringing us more into contact with each other. I found many very ready to subscribeseveral volunteered two-pence per month-others acceded to my request, though not so cheerfully—some declined. To those of a grade between the poor and my agricultural parishioners, consisting of the village carpenters, blacksmith, publican, &c., I proposed an annual half crown, to which they willingly acceded. The list stood thus :Subscribers of one penny per month, or one shilling at Christmas, including our own elder children and several domestics, 39; at twopence per month, 5; at two shillings and sixpence per annum, 7; at five shillings per annum, 4. Christmas, 1834, I paid into the society's treasurer's hands 21. 148.; Christmas, 1835, 41. 108. 9d., exclusive, of course, of regular subscriptions from my own house. Now, Sir, multiplying the sum by our 10,000 agricultural parishes, we should raise in this manner such a fund as to be enabled to rejoice (while we deprecate that miserable act of the legislature of this Christian land which rendered such exertion necessary) that God bringeth good out of evil. That such a plan might be pretty generally adopted, and with nearly the same success, I have no doubt; for though the parish in which I am placed is a highly respectable one, still, human nature is much the same everywhere. In the course of the last year (as might be expected) some half dozen of the monthly penny subscribers have withdrawn their names, but then others have joined our society, and I see no reason to fear but that, with a trifling fluctuation, I shall maintain my ground. I will allow it is rather a laborious way of assisting the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, and some of the poorer members smile, and say I fairly earn their subscription,—and moreover that they value my visit at more than the penny. Indeed, that which brings a clergyman into frequent contact with his people generally, must, primâ facie, in itself be good, when to this is added the chief object of the visit-viz., increasing the funds of so excellent a society; and lastly, the probability that it may induce the subscribers to value more highly, on their own account, the spiritual blessings they thus extend to others, and surely there is enough to excite exertion and repay labour. As a pledge that I shall be very happy to answer any queries which a brother clergyman, wishing to establish a similar society in his parish, may desire to put to me, I shall subscribe to this letter the name of your obedient humble servant,
FIENNES T. TROTMAN. Dallington Vicarage, Northampton.
SOCIETY FOR THE PROPAGATION OF THE GOSPEL.
SIR, I have read in the November number of the British Magazine" a paper containing these words_“I take for granted that every minister of the Church of England is deeply interested in the prosperity of the venerable Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts ;” and, on this assumption, the writer proposes this questionHow can we, the parochial clergy, be most instrumental in increasing the efficiency of the society?
I am afraid, Sir, that “D.” assumes too much. As one who is very anxious for the prosperity and efficiency of the society, I deeply regret to be obliged to say, that all the clergy of the Church of England are not zealous in its cause. I know a considerable number, although I much regret to be obliged to mention this fact, who are but cold whenever an occasion is suggested for promoting its interests and increasing its funds. Some, indeed, openly avow their indifference. What, you will ask, may be the reason of this backwardness? One reason I suspect to be, that at the meetings of the members of the society such persons do not experience the same excitement which they feel at the meetings of some other religious societies. Some men are apt, I think, to mistake animal heat for religious impressions, and will attend no meetings where they do not expect that this excitement will be produced. But this, if it be a reason, is not the only one why some clergymen hold back when they are requested to advocate the cause of the society. I will mention one, which I think to be well deserving the attention of the leading members of the society, and which has more than once been assigned, in my hearing, for not being forward to promote its prosperity, and that is the absence of onction from the reports. They are said to be “ written on ice ;” and it is added, that the grace of God is seldom acknowledged in them as being necessary for the success of the society's labours.* Now, this is a very grave charge, and, if well founded, should be corrected; and, as one of the incorporated members, I am glad of this opportunity of directing the attention of the society to it. I think there is some
This demand is the same in principle as another which is constantly made, that the ground of our Christian hope, the meritorious sufferings of our blessed Lord, should be not only the main subject of every discourse, but of almost every paragraph. An opposite practice is deemed to be “laying another foundation." Yet surely this is not right, or just, or true, nor does it agree with St. Paul's preaching, either in theory or practice. He lays the foundation strong and sure, but he proceeds to build on it. He treats of all subjects on Christian principles, but does not deem it necessary in every sentence directly to refer to, and formally to recognise, the great verities which lie at the base of the gospel system. Surely, in all cases, the perpetual repetition of a formal and outward acknowledgment of particular truths seems to imply that they are not important enough, unless so repeated, to keep their hold on the heart,--that they neither are, nor are felt to be, essential, the sole binge on which the whole machine turns, the foundation, without which, the building crumbles into dust. As to the reports of societies, assuredly it must be desirable that they should express a deep and affectionate and fervent interest in the cause of Christ. But can it be believed that a society which exists for the propagation of the gospel of Christ Jesus can possibly look to any other source than the Divine blessing for suc. cess ? Can they not protect themselves from such a charge except by constantly repeating that they do believe that, the disbelief of which would at once banish them from the pale of Christ's church? Is it possible that they should believe that it is their own arm which can win the victory, because they do not in every line say that God alone can prosper that which is undertaken in dutiful obedience to his commands, and in the desire to spread far and wide the knowledge of his scheme of salsation by Jesus Christ ?--Ed.