ePub 版

it must be so, we hope of improvement, has at length begun. It is now too late to inquire whether it is safe, or wise, or necessary, that any alterations should be made. The step is taken; the die is cast. Nor will it stop here. We have reason to believe that other ecclesiastical subjects of importance will soon be brought forward for consideration. Meantime, however, we are gratified to find that the Commission includes several names we did not expect to meet with, and excludes others to whom we were afraid its management would be consigned. On the whole, it is made up of moderate men, and we feel in some degree reassured. The Commission, it will be seen, is not confined to the clergy; the laity are now to take their part. And so it will be, no doubt, in the question of Liturgical reform, whenever it may come forward. Can we, then, too anxiously impress upon Evangelical Christians the duty of unity, watchfulness, and prayer. But we shall be better able to write on the subject a few weeks hence. The Commission meets on April 18th.

The Lord Chancellor has made a very cheering declaration with regard to his livings, now on sale. They are disposed of rapidly, and at high prices; a proof that, after all, the people of England have confidence in the stability of their Church. We once more press the subject on the attention of our readers. To the wealthy it offers the opportunity of doing good to an extent which none can calculate. And those who can afford but a small donation may be reminded that there is a Society in London for the purchase of advowsons, in order to vest them in pious trustees, by whom their subscriptions will be gladly received. Let them bear in mind, that whatever is paid in purchase of an advowson, is in fact a donation for the increase of that poor benefice in perpetuity, and they will not grudge paying a liberal, or even somewhat extravagant price.

The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council have reversed the judgment given by Dr. Lushington in the Court of Arches against Dr. Williams and Mr. Wilson, two of the Seven Essayists. We cannot attach the importance to this reversal which we find it receives from both parties. It is not an acquittal on the broad question at issue. The Lord Chancellor explained this in his own pure and lucid words, and in the strongest manner, in giving his judgment. He had to decide, not on the merits of the Essays, not whether they were consistent with Holy Scripture, not even whether they were such as might be held by beneficed clergymen in the Church of England. On none of these points, he said, did the Court decide, nor was it coinpetent to decide. The only question that came before their Lordships was, whether the passages produced before the Court, out of the two Essays, justified the sentence pronounced upon their writers, when compared with those extracts from the Holy Scriptures and book of Common Prayer with which they were contrasted ; the Judicial Committee feeling it their duty, where there was a doubt, to give it in favour of the accused. The utmost then that can be said is, that they have contrived so to express themselves as not to contradict in terms the words of Holy Scripture or the Thirty-nine Articles; and on this ground the judgment is reversed. The two archbishops, taking a wider, and, as we think, a much fairer, view of the subject, decline to acquiesce in the decision. Dr. Lushington's judgment was formed upon right principles, pro


vided it be right to have regard to the animus of a writer, and not to be bound to a rigid construction of his words; so that, if he do not contradict the very terms in which the Church demands subscription, in the same or other terms precisely equivalent, he shall be held guiltless, and let loose to glory in his ingenuity and repeat his crime. Beyond this, the reversal of the sentence gives us but little concern. Twelve months' suspension ab officio et beneficio was but a slight punishment, totally inadequate to so grievous an offence; nor is it punishment the Church wants, but protection. In delivering his judgment, his lordship took occasion to express certain opinions on plenary inspiration, the eternity of future punishment, and justification by substitution. If these opinions are a part of the judgment, our Church is indeed in an evil case. But these were not questions submitted to the Court; no pleadings had been heard upon them. The Lord Chancellor himself declared, in the course of his judgment, that the Court was not competent to determine matters of doctrine; and therefore we must still indulge the hope that these are mere obiter dicta, and go for nothing. But we do not speak with confidence, for we find that ours is not the general opinion.

But it is a state of things which cannot, and ought not, to last. A house divided against itself cannot stand ; and if anything in the whole compass of theology may be called fundamental, the questions raised, and the positions maintained, in the two Essays, are such. If we have no courts which are competent to deal with them, it is time that some such tribunals should be created. This is the feeling of all orthodox churchmen; we might say, of all honest men. We are suffering a grievous wrong; and redress from our Ecclesiastical Courts, as at present constituted, is, it seems, so dilatory, so difficult, and so uncertain, that it may almost be said to be unattainable. We are not advocating a return to Star Chambers or Courts of High Commission ; but some tribunal we do seem to want in which justice may be done without enormous expense or unreasonable delay.


TO CORRESPONDENTS. We must decline “An Appeal to the Ministers of the Established Church.” The

duties of the Clergy in difficult tiines is a subject which can be safely treated only by a writer of great wisdom and experience. The author has not furnished

us with his name. We have received a communication from "A Lay-member of the Church in Ireland,"

and a letter dated, “ Lympshain Rectory." We return our sincere thanks to the writers of both, though we do not altogether agree with either. The latter we should have printed, had not our “ Correspondence" been printed off before it reached us. If Dr. Bonar's book be really neither partial in its statements, nor exaggerated in its methods of expression, it is something surprising that evan. gelical clergymen of long experience in the ministry, who hold the truth just as our excellent friend at Lympsham holds it, and of whom the contributor of the short review of Dr. Bonar in our pages may be taken as a representative, should have contrived so strangely to misunderstand his meaning. Nothing, it seems to us, could be fairer than our short review. The extracts are given on which the charges are founded. If the extracts do not bear out the accusations, we must bear the blame; if they do, let it be remembered that there are higher interests at stake than the reputation, literary or theological, of any writer, and that the best men often err in the overstatement of truths long neglected or denied, as well as the omission of other truths which, in their place, are perhaps of no less importance. Nor is it a justification of erroneous statements on one page of such à treatise, that thcy are corrected by juster views on another.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]



BY ONE OF THE CONGREGATION. Ir is far from the writer's purpose to attempt any description of what the ordinary preaching of the Gospel ought to be. This has been done more than once or twice in modern times, by authors whose qualifications for such a work are beyond dispute. Nor will he even try to discuss the single point, whether the setting forth of moral duties ought to be included in the pulpit declaration of “the Gospel.” He will prefer to assume, for the present, that most preachers profess at least to desire to model their sermons on St. Paul's epistles; in which, as every one knows, the most minute and emphatic statements of moral obligations are always found.

The single point to which he wishes to confine himself, is this,—that among all our congregations there are plainly to be seen three or four large classes of persons, needing special counsels, warnings, and admonitions; and that these special warnings, counsels, and admonitions they do not often receive. It will be easy to point out three very common breaches of the moral law, which are seldom mentioned, except by way of passing allusion; and one state of mind peculiarly requiring counsel, which counsel, so far as is apparent, is very seldom given.

One main reason of these omissions probably is, that in the metropolis and its suburbs, and in all our great towns, the clergy have little access to the active, stirring men of their congregations, and consequently do not really know them. In London, and in other great towns, during the day-time, the merchant, or lawyer, or tradesman, or mechanic, is too busy for quiet conversation. And when the sun sets, he flies off to the suburbs, and it is too late for pastoral visits. The clergyman, Vol. 63.-No. 316.

2 K

in house to house visitation, finds only the women and children; and hears little of the things which I am about to mention. And hence it follows, that while among the men of every congregation the three sins of which I am desirous first to say something, are rife, it is rare indeed to hear any allusion to them in the pulpit.

The first of these is, I am satisfied, greatly on the increase. Expensive habits, in all classes, lead to new wants for money; and these wants lead, continually, to a breach of the eighth commandment. Traders and professional men must have "villas ;" clerks and shopmen, now, “cannot breathe in town;" wine and cigars are deemed necessaries of life; and one natural result is, that very frequently, to escape embarrassment and disgrace, embezzlement or purloining is resorted to (often with purposes of restitution), and the end is—ruin. It difficult, now, to take up a paper, without meeting with some police-report of this kind; and I speak from actual knowledge when I say, that not one-tenth of the whole truth is thus brought to light. I could point to various commercial houses in which three, four, or five cases have been detected in ten years; and to others, the principals of which frankly confess, “We know that we are robbed, but we cannot find out the delinquents.” Nor is this sin to be met with only in one or two classes. Two men of high esteem in professional life have died recently (and suddenly) in London, whose affairs proved hope. lessly and criminally involved. Indeed, were I to go back a dozen years, I might easily reckon up a dozen cases of this class, the losses inflicted by which amounted, in the aggregate, to hundreds of thousands of pounds. Public officers are heard of, every month or two, dismissed or prosecuted for malversation of public funds. In short, in every walk of life in which temptation and opportunity are found, malversation, embezzlement, breach of trust, purloining, and even forgery, are becoming matters of every-day occurrence. I feel no doubt that this sin is rapidly increasing among us; and yet, when do we find a preacher bold enough to brave the charge of coarseness," by plainly urging on his congregation the command, “ Thou shalt not steal”?

But if the eighth commandment is increasingly disregarded; so, I feel certain, is the seventh also. The same cause-growing luxury and expensiveness—leads to the in. fringement of both. Any one who is thrown, for half an hour, on the Exchange, in the courts of Law, or in steam-boat or railway train, into the company of a dozen of lawyers' or merchants' clerks, will soon hear enough to satisfy him on this point. One confesses to having "had too much wine last night;" another was kept till past midnight by the theatre; and you soon find, by the tone and style of their conversation, that

[ocr errors]

the seventh commandment is little thought of. Yet many of these are seen in the church every Sunday morning; but they never hear, from the pulpit at least, any pointed or personal appeal grounded on the text, “ Flee fornication.” The preacher would tremble to touch on the borders of such a subject. It would be " so indelicate."

Another sin, the prevalence of which will not be denied, is that of covetousness. In such a community as that of which we form a part, this temptation must necessarily prevail. If, among the poor and persecuted congregations collected by St. Paul, the apostle deemed it needful continually to repeat his cautions against this device of Satan; how much more needful must it be, in the modern Tyre, where it is everywhere deemed "respectable” to be a professor of Christianity, but still more respectable to be a possessor of wealth ! In how many of our congregations, especially in the suburbs of London, do rich men abound, statedly appearing in their well-cushioned pews once on each Sunday, and compounding silently with the preacher, that they will always have their guinea or five-pound note ready for his call, provided he never says much on such texts as, “How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God !” Surely the thought is a solemn one, that there are, at this moment, thousands of rich men, attending evangelical preachers in the suburbs of London Sunday by Sunday, without hearing, even so often as once in the year, a serious, pointed, warm-hearted address, from the text, “ Take heed and beware of covetousness.” Has the cantion lost its force, “If thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood will I require at thine hand”?

On practical questions, then, or questions concerning daily life and its manifold temptations, it is surely worthy of remark:

That while dishonesty, peculation, and theft are very prevalent among us, a direct and solemn warning against them is seldom heard :

That while positive lewdness among the young men is fearfully prevalent, and while many who practise it are also regular attendants at church, it is rare indeed to hear any explicit and earnest protest against this sin : and,

That while an eager grasping after riches is almost universal, and, when successful, is admired and honoured, the awful words of Christ are seldom heard from the pulpit ; except, indeed, to be modified or explained away. The question, then, arises, whether St. Paul was in error when he so constantly repeated the warnings given by his Lord; or whether the preachers of our day, in so distinctly diverging from the path marked out by the Church's Head, and by His


« 上一頁繼續 »