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"use expressions and make assumptions which imply that the Dissenters are without the pale of salvation." So let me explain myself on these points.
You say that my doctrine of the one Catholic Church in effect excludes Dissenters, nay, Presbyterians, from salvation. Far from it. Do not think of me as of one who makes theories for himself in his closet, who governs himself by book-maxims, and who, as being secluded from the world, has no temptation to let his sympathies for individuals rise against his abstract positions, and can afford to be hard-hearted, and to condemn by wholesale the multitudes in various sects and parties whom he never saw. I have known those among Presbyterians whose piety, resignation, cheerfulness, and affection, under trying circumstances, have been such, as to make me say to myself, on the thoughts of my own higher privileges, "Woe unto thee Chorazin, woe unto thee Bethsaida!" Where little is given, little will be required; and that return, though little, has its own peculiar loveliness, as an acceptable sacrifice to Him who singled out for praise the widow's two mites. Was not Israel apostate from the days of Jeroboam; yet were there not even in the reign of Ahab, seven thousand souls who were "reserved," an elect remnant? Does any Churchman wish to place the Presbyterians, where, as in Scotland, their form of Christianity is in occupation, in a worse condition under the Gospel than Ephraim held under the Law? Had not the ten tribes the schools of the Prophets, and has not Scotland at least the word of God? Yet what would be thought of the Jew who had maintained that Jeroboam and his kingdom were in guilt? and shall we from a false charity, from fear of condemning the elect seven thousand, scruple to say that Presbyterianism has severed itself from our temple privileges, and undervalue the line of Levi and the house of Aaron? Consider our Saviour's discourse with the woman of Samaria. While by conversing with her he tacitly condemned the Jews' conduct in refusing to hold intercourse with the Samaritans, yet He plainly declared that salvation was of the Jews." "Ye worship ye know not what ;" He says, we know what we worship." Can we conceive His making light of the differences between Jew and Samaritan?
Further, if to whom much is given, of him much will be required, how is it safe for us to make light of our privileges, if we have them? is not this to reject the birth-right? to hide our talent under a napkin? When we say that God has done more for us than for the Presbyterians, this indeed may be connected with feelings of spiritual pride; but it need not. We may, by so saying, provoke ourselves to jealousy; for we dare not deny that, in spite of our peculiar privileges of communion with Christ, yet even higher saints may lie hid (to our great shame) among those who have not themselves the certainty of our especial approaches to His glorious majesty. Was not Elijah sent to a widow of Sarepta ? did not Elisha cure Naaman? and are not these instances set for
ward by our Lord Himself as warnings to us not to be highminded but to fear;" and, again, as a gracious consolation when we think of our less favoured brethren? Where is the narrowness of view and feeling which you impute to me? Why may I not speak out, in order at once to admonish myself, and to attempt to reclaim to a more excellent way those who are at present severed from the true Church?
And what has here been said of an established Presbyterianism, is true (in its degree) of dissent, when it has become hereditary, and embodied in institutions.
Further, it is surely parallel with the order of Divine Providence that there should be a variety, a sort of graduated scale, in His method of dispensing His favour in Christ. So far from its being a strange thing that Protestant sects are not "in Christ,' in the same fulness that we are, it is more accordant to the scheme of the world that they should lie between us and heathenism. It would be strange if there were but two states, one absolutely of favour, one of disfavour. Take the world at large, one form of paganism is better than another. The North American Indians are theists, and as such more privileged than polytheists, Mahometanism is a better religion than Hindooism. Judaism is better than Mahometanism. One may believe that long established dissent affords to such as are born and bred in it a sort of pretext, and is attended with a portion of blessing, (where there is no means of knowing better,) which does not attach to those who cause divisions, found sects, or wantonly wander from the Church
to the Meeting House ;-that what is called an orthodox sect has a share of Divine favour, which is utterly withheld from heresy. I am not speaking of the next world, where we shall all find ourselves as individuals, and where there will be but two states, but of existing bodies or societies. On the other hand, why should the corruptions of Rome lead us to deny her Divine privileges, when even the idolatry of Judah did not forfeit hers, annul her temple-sacrifice, or level her to Israel?
I say all this, merely for the purpose of suggesting to those who are 66 weak" some idea of possible modes in which Eternal Wisdom may reconcile the exuberance of His mercy in Christ to the whole race of man, with the placing of it in its fulness in a certain ordained society and ministry. For myself I prefer to rely upon the simple word of truth, of which Scripture is the depository, and since Christ has told me to preach the whole counsel of God, to do so fearlessly and without doubting; not being careful to find ways of smoothing strange appearances in His counsels, and of obviating difficulties, being aware on the one hand that His thoughts are not our thoughts, nor our ways His ways, and on the other, that He is ever justified in His sayings, and overcomes when He is judged.
Ever yours, &c.
The Feast of All Saints.
These Tracts are published Monthly, and sold at the price of 2d. for each sheet, or 7s. for 50 copies.
LONDON: PRINTED FOR J. G. & F. RIVINGTON,
GILBERT & RIVINGTON, Printers, St. John's Square, London.
TRACTS FOR THE TIMES.
BISHOP WILSON'S MEDITATIONS ON HIS SACRED
Question from the Office of Consecration.-WILL YOU DENY ALL
UNGODLINESS AND WORLDLY LUSTS, AND LIVE SOBERLY, RIGHTEOUSLY, AND GODLY, IN THIS PRESENT WORLD, THAT YOU MAY SHOW YOURSELF IN ALL THINGS AN EXAMPLE OF GOOD WORKS UNTO OTHERS, THAT THE ADVERSARY MAY BE ASHAMED, HAVING NOTHING TO SAY AGAINST YOU?-Ans. I WILL SO DO, THE LORD
BEING MY HELPER.
1 Cor. ix. 27. "I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection, lest, by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." And if Paul, what shall be said of us?
Gal. v. 24. 66 They, that are Christ's, have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts." Nature is content with a little, grace with less.
Tit. ii. 15. "Let no man despise thee;" that is, demean thyself agreeable to the authority which thou hast received from Jesus Christ, not making thy office contemptible by any mean action; but act with the dignity of one who stands in the place of God.
Lev. iv. 3. "If the priest that is anointed do sin according to the sin of the people, then let him bring a sin-offering." N.B. That the same sin, in a single priest, is to have as great a sacrifice as a sin of the whole people of Israel. The flesh never thrives but at the cost of the soul. Let us ever remember, that mortification must go further than the body. Self-love, pride, envy, jealousy, hatred, malice, avarice, ambition, must all be mortified, by avoiding and ceasing from the occasions of them.
The sobriety of the soul consists in humility, and in being con
tent with necessaries.
Matt. vii. 14. "Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.' But, if the difficulties of an holy life affright us, let us consider, "who can dwell with everlasting burnings?" All mankind being under the sentence of death, certain to be executed, and at an hour we know not of, a state of penance and self-denial, of being dead and crucified to the world, is certainly the most suitable, the most becoming temper that we can be found in, when that sentence comes to be executed, that is, when we come to die.
The more we deny ourselves, the freer we shall be from sin, and the more dear to God. God appoints us to sufferings, that we may keep close to Him, and that we may value the sufferings of His Son, which we should have but a low notion of, did not our own experience teach us what it is to suffer. Had there been any better, any easier way to heaven, Jesus Christ would have chosen it for Himself and for His followers.
Take up the Cross.
This is designed as a peculiar favor to Christians, as indeed are all Christ's commands. Miseries are the unavoidable portion of fallen man. All the difference is, Christians suffering in obedience to the will of God, it makes them easy; unbelievers suffer the same things, but with an uneasy will and mind.....Self-denial is absolutely necessary to prepare us to receive the grace of God; it was therefore necessary that John the Baptist should prepare the way, by preaching repentance and self-denial. Men need not be at pains to go to hell; if they will not deny themselves, if they make no resistance, they will go there of course. One does not begin to fall, when the fall becomes sensible. "They that are Christ's, have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts." This is the only true test of being truly Christians....... Every day deny yourself some satisfaction; your eyes, objects of mere curiosity; your tongue, every thing that may feed vanity, or vent enmity; the palate, dainties; the ears, flattery, and whatever corrupts the heart; the body, ease and luxury; bearing all the inconveniences of life, (for the love of God,) cold, hunger, restless