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spondence led to a suggestion, that an useful publication might be put forth in the form of an "Address to those sincere and pious Christians commonly called Methodists, occasioned by Mr. Wilberforce's View of professed Christians, Mr. Daubeney's Guide, and Sir Richard Hill's Apology y stating the true notion of the church, and proving it shortly from Scripture, the primitive fathers, the best modern divines, and the liturgy &c. of our church; showing how exactly this notion agrees with Mr. Daubeney's book, and how it differs from the two others, particularly the last: from thence proceeding to do the same by the doctrines of justification, faith, &c. proving by a collation of texts from all parts of the Bible, that all our sectaries err by taking up peculiar notions from some one favourite part of Scripture, and not attending to the true scope and meaning of all its parts fairly compared and fully considered; which, when so compared and considered, prove to demonstration, that repentance, faith, and obedience are the terms on which God has promised to man pardon and salvation." This subject did not pass away with the hour which suggested it. It occupied much of Mr. Bowdler's attention, and he drew out at greater length the heads of such a publication as he had proposed, under the title of "Prevailing Errors and pure Religion." The separate heads or contents were these : —
"Chapter I. "On Atheism, Deism, Natural Religion, Morality.
"Chap. II <c On Conscience, Enthusiasm, Superstition, and Church Authority.
« Chap. III. "Of the Romish Religion, or Popery; the Greek Church; and the Protestant, or Reformed Religion.
« Chap. IV. "Of partial Christianity: — Unitarians, Socinians, Arians."Chap. V. "Of the different Sects among Protestants: — Quakers, Anabaptists, Independents, Presbyterians, Moravians, Methodists.
Chap. VI. tc Of the Old and New Testaments; Tradition; Church Unity, Government, and Establishment.
« Chap. VII. "Of Gospel Christianity."
A work of this kind, adapted to general perusal, plain without being inelegant, comprehensive and convincing without any boastful display of learning, might have excited much interest and attention. It might at all times produce beneficial effects by pointing out errors and the dangers arising from them, and teaching the truth and the importance of maintaining it. It were well if some• vigilant watchmen of the true Israel would continually, from time to time, give notice of the dangers which arise. The visitations holden at stated seasons afford to our spiritual rulers an opportunity of conveying information to the clergy concerning the state of the church; and, perhaps, it were not amiss, if such information were conveyed to the public frequently in a more popular form; not for the purpose of exciting disputation, or filling them with that knowledge which puffeth up; but to put them constantly upon their guard against the errors and false doctrines which are continually arising; and to excite in them a lively interest and quick feeling on the subject of pure religion, and a strong attachment, on sound principles, to the church which teaches it.
There is one subject mentioned above to which Mr. Bowdler was in the habit of frequently adverting, namely, the danger of taking partial views of religion.
"People fall into error," says he, " by taking only particular passages of the Scripture, and not considering the whole scope of it. Some finding, that God is love; that to love God with all the heart, &c. is the great commandment — make love every thing. Others reading, that by faith we are saved; that he that believeth shall be saved, — make faith all. Others observing, that we are told it is the Spirit that quickeneth; that the days come when they shall worship God in spirit, — despise all outward forms and ordinances, and even those very sacraments which Christ himself instituted. Others again, taught by St. Paul, that charity is greater than faith or hope; and by our Lord himself, that in the day of judgment the enquiry shall be, whether we have fed the hungry, visited the sick, and the like, — conclude most rashly, that our good works can save us; and say, with our excellent poet, but execrable divine, —
'For modes of faith let graceless zealots fight.'
"Now all these are errors; and all errors in matters of the highest moment are dangerous. If, instead of dwelling on some detached parts of Scripture, they would read the whole attentively, they would see that all these are necessary, and none of them may be omitted," &c. &c.
Some of his thoughts upon these subjects he afterwards put in print, and distributed among his friends, as cautions to the readers of a work which had then appeared, whose author he conceived to be, in some degree, under the influence of religious enthusiasm, which he used to call "religion run wild."
"Reason instructed by revelation, and assisted by the grace of God, will teach a man true religion, and keep him steady in the faith and practice of it, so long as his passions, appetites, feelings, affections, and imagination are kept in due subordination. But if any of these overpower reason, the man becomes liable to run into all sorts and degrees of error and mischief, in proportion to the nature and strength of the prevailing power. If these things be so, they will account for the leading error, and most of the other errors
- I contained in this work. It is an able apology for the persons calling themselves evangelical clergymen; and its aim is, to induce all sober, serious members of the church of England to unite with them, and with sectaries of all denominations, in order that thereby vital religion may spread.
"But this author appears to be ignorant of that which should form the basis of such a plan; I mean the constitution of the Christian church. For he does not consider it as a regular society, under officers duly authorised to govern it according to certain fixed laws and ordinances; but as consisting of a number of distinct sects, differing from each other in many important points both of doctrine and discipline, and most of them governed by rulers of their own appointment. But is this the doctrine of the church of England? Was it the doctrine of any part of the Christian church, for fifteen hundred years after Christ? Or is it the doctrine of the holy scriptures? In them we have a full account of another form of church government, established by God himself among his own peculiar people; by which it appears, that in every part of the Jewish church the most exact order prevailed; and what makes this the more to our purpose, is, that all its principal ordinances are types of Christ and his church. The form of church government was the same; the high priests, priests, and levites, answering to the bishop with his priests and deacons. And let it not be forgotten, or remembered without awe, that an attempt to alter this form was punished with death, and that by one of the most tremendous miracles recorded in the Bible. Happy would it be for themselves and for the Christian world, if those who are inclined to introduce novelties into the church, would recollect the fate of Corah and his company.