Page images
PDF
EPUB
[merged small][graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

unre

theological disputes : they breathe, as they RELIGIOUS LIBERALISM.

imagine, a purer atmosphere, and from their Ir is a trite observation, that human nature height can look down upon all sects as on a is prone to run into extremes. This is re- level. markably the case as it respects religion. An Now it is a lamentable fact, that as much important lesson may be learned by contrast- energy has been wasted in contending fruiting the religious bigotry of a former age with lessly about non-essentials, as, if combined the religious liberalism of the present. To- against the common enemies of fundamental leration, two or three centuries ago, was very truth, might, by God's blessing, have achieved little understood. No man was content with many a victory; yet, because we may dispute hoiding his own sentiments, without at the reasonably for trifles, it by no means folsame time endeavouring to make every one

lows that we must cease to contend earnestly else hold them 100. And every history of for the substantial “ faith once delivered to our country will inform us, that the Roman the saints." The apostle Paul was willing, Catholics, so long as they were the ruling in indifferent matters, to become “ all things party, enforced unanimity of opinion by argu- to all men ;" yet we find him strenuously ments gathered from the prison and the stakc. asserting, that if any of the Galatians sought Even in later times it must be confessed that to be justified by the law, they were “ fallen a tructure of the same severity remained from grace." And he scruples not to deAnd though few, indeed, for the last two nounce a fearful curse on him who should centuries and a half, have perished in Eng- presume to teach another Gospel, even though land by the hand of the executioner, on ac- he were “an angel from heaven. count of religion, yet it was by slow degrees The question, therefore, is, What is fundathat a perfect freedom of judgment was mental truth? Where can we take our stand ? generally established. Now, however, the A member of the Church of England need aspect of things is altered. For though, to not find it difficult to answer. For, besides

sure, bigotry is not extinct, and there that he has free access to the sacred Scripmay be those among us, who, if they had tures, which, by the teaching of the Holy the opportunity, would be as zealous as their Spirit, are able to lead him into all truth, he fathers in urging persecution forward,

yet a is furnished, in the forms of sound words spirit is very widely and increasingly diffused, handed down to him from past generations, which, measuring its notions of religion by with a summary of the doctrines he professes what all are agreed to hold, denounces, as to believe, so clearly exhibited as to leave the narrow-mindedness of party-feeling, all him in no doubt respecting his faith. Hence, that constitutes the distinctive characteristic it is easy for him to see on how many or of separate professions. Men influenced by how few points other religionists accord with this principle have no great affection for him. He can distinguish whether the difereeds

, and utterly condemn all damnatory ference be of discipline or of doctrine ; and clauses : they rise, as they think, superior to whether the doctrinal disagreement be in

be

1

VOL. 1.-NO. XI.

matters which his own Church has left un- so advise would be ready to yield every thing decided, or in those on which she has deemed which the humble follower of Christ holds it fitting to pronounce her solemn judg- dear: they would be justly guilty, in the mind ment.

of the believer, of the charge once brought But I will descend a little to particulars. against the Roman masters of the world, Our Church, since her emancipation from the "When they have made a desert, then they Romish yoke, has always regarded the cor- call it peace.” No: there can be no peace ruption of Popery as of fearful magnitude. betwixt truth and such error.

He that can In the thirty-first article we are told that profess to look with complacency on both, " the sacrifices of masses, in the which it might attempt a covenant betwixt God and was commonly said, that the priest did offer Mammon--might strive to reconcile Christ Christ for the quick and the dead, to have with Belial. remission of pain or guilt, were blasphemous Differences of opinion in matters of science fables and dangerous deceits." Now, after are eagerly investigated. No point is thought this, is it possible that any conscientious too unimportant to be tested, no fact too Churchman can deem Popery and Protes- trivial to be maintained. The philosopher, tantism two forms, nearly upon a par, of when discordant theories arise before him, common Christianity? Either let it be proved carefully pursues his experiments, arranges from Scripture that our reformers were wrong the evidence they offer, and at once promulin thus characterising the mass, and that the gates the result. His object is not concession, Church is to be blamed for retaining such not reconciliation, but truth. Is he blamed language in her formularies; or let the charge for this? Is he not rather lauded and of uncharitable restlessness, which Protestant honoured ? Why then should the same liberty champions so frequently incur, be for ever be denied to the theologian? Why should he silenced. The truth, let us allow for the sake be denounced for defining accurately, and of argument, may be on the one side, may be maintaining resolutely, that truth on which, on the other ; but the dispute never must be not a science, but the salvation of innumersaid to be on trivial matters. As Protestants able souls depends ? we may live in peace, yea, in love with Ro- It will be said, you are encouraging bitterman Catholics ; but we ought never to dis- ness and acrimony. But I reply, there may semble that a wide gulf lies betwixt their be in the mind the fullest persuasion that it faith and ours. We may abhor the cruel has grasped the truth, the most resolute deabsurdity which would strive to make the termination to hold and to diffuse it, the most one party agree with the other by force : we vivid perception of another's error, and yet ought never to disguise the fact that there the kindliest affection towards him. The is little, very little common ground on which apostles, though their enemies denounced we are both standing. The arguments which them as turning the world upside down, were are brought against the agitation of Protestant surely actuated by, no bitter spirit when they as opposed to Roman Catholic doctrines, went forth, in spite of opposition, to preach would have been equally applicable in the to the nations, who were lying in wickedness, apostolic age to shut the mouths of the first the love of the crucified Jesus. They were preachers of the Gospel, and to persuade gentle and tender to those whose idolatry and them, instead of making proselytes, to let sin they rebuked. Acrimony is no meet astheir countrymen alone; and, instead of ex- sociate of truth. Must the physician be angry posing the deficiencies of Judaism, and the because he has discovered his patient's imcorrupt traditions introduced into it by the minent danger ? But if the poor sufferer

, Pharisees, to be content with dwelling on the unwilling to acknowledge his malady, would points in which it agreed with Christianity. repulse the kind hand that administers his

Yet, strong as are her expressions of cen- medicine, is he, therefore, to be left? He sure on the Romish doctrines, our Church no will only be the more pitied by a humane where declares that salvation in the Romish mind. And so, to leave a man in error, to communion is impossible : she does, however, palliate his moral danger, to soothe him with in almost Scripture language, raise her warn- | crying peace, when the Word of God declares ing voice against the certain danger of those that there is no peace, is the mark rather of who disbelieve the doctrine of the Trinity. impatience than of charity, is the act of him If, then, there is little ground common to us who feels not for another's welfare, rather and to the Romanists, there is none to us and than of one in whose bosom burns the heathe Socinians. Can the difference, therefore, venly flame of good-will towards his fellowbe esteemed of no moment ? Ought it to be creatures. represented as a war of merely speculative Let Christians strive to overcome that inopinions, which had better, for the quiet of firmity of their nature which mingles evil the world, be foreborne ? Men who could with their holiest things; let all “ anger

[ocr errors]

truth.

[ocr errors]

over.

and wrath, and bitterness," be put aside ; | diately, the garden would not recover the damage all let them speak the truth in love, lest they the next year. To be sure, this kind of flood does not throw a stumbling-block in any man's way.

commonly last many hours; but that is long enough,

you know, sir, to spoil the labour of weeks and But let them never fall“ from their avowed months." stedfastness ;" let them be persuaded to “ That I can understand," I answered; "but how make no concessions to error; let them be

you can be in any alarm about Highland ponies, I deterred by no stigma from maintaining the

cannot imagine."

Why,” said he, "you know, sir, that there is a party of faith, and the exclusiveness of fair at the town every year, early in the spring, where

The standard of the Lord must a great many of these ponies are bought and sold; and be more boldly displayed; the difference for many years past, Mr. Saveall

, the owner of this

field, has let it for one day and night to the horsebetween good and evil more decidedly

dealer (a well-known man out of Lincolnshire), to turn inarked. Then will the spirit, of which those ponies into, as well as other horses he may have I have been speaking, be checked, and we purchased at the fair. The first year I was here, I shall become more

'jealous for the Lord was not aware of this custom, and had taken no preGod of Hosts." Indifference and amalga

caution against it; so these little mountaineers got in

at a weak place in the hedge during the night, and mation of right with wrong will be seen to trod the garden, as one may say, to a mummy. So, to breathe little of this holy jealousy, and, protect myself for the future against such mischieyous therefore, to detract from that glory which

visitors, I put this fence along, which I was now reGod will not give unto another.

pairing. And if you will please to look at it, I think

you, sir, will allow that it was not badly contrived, Saill

, never let the weapons of human though I say it, who should not say it." warfare be employed in a spiritual contest. All along the whole length of the garden (which Christ's kingdom is “not of this world," and might be, perhaps, nearly one hundred yards), on that therefore his servants will not fight. They

side which was next the foot-path, he had fixed very must imitate Him, who was meek and lowly,

neatly, about half-way up the slope of the ditch on the

opposite side, a double indented line of sharp strong of whom it was declared, “he shall not strive, stakes, pointing upwards, presenting a sort of chevau. nor cry, neither shall any man hear his voice

de frise ; an impenetrable barrier, which no pony,

highland or lowland, could possibly get through or in the streets ; " yet he shall “send forth his judgment unto victory."

I.

We said something in commendation of his skill and precaution : on which he observed, "I am glad, sir, you approve of what I have done ; for it has cost me

a good deal of labour. And my neighbour, farmer THE ATHANASIAN CREED.

Yawn, who has been standing by me for the last three A DIALOGUE.

quarters of an hour, and went away just as you came

up, he says, I am taking a deal of trouble, and very Two or three days after our meeting with Richard likely for nothing ; how can I be sure there will be a Nelson, we took our walk (it being a pleasant evening land-flood, or that the man will turn in the ponies ? towards the end of August,) along the side of a little and besides (says he), neither land-flood nor ponies stream, which we traced for a mile or two down the would stay twelve hours. But I know better, sir, than valley, returning by a kind of natural terrace, which to take Mr. Yawn's advice ; for if my bit of garden terminated in my favourite beech-walk. The sun was should be ruined for a twelvemonth, it would be no bow when we got here; and we stood still (it was not comfort afterwards to think, that perhaps it might not faz from Nelson's garden-hedge,) to admire its rich have happened, or that the mischief was quickly done, # on the opposite side of the valley. I was point- or that with timely caution it might have been preout to my friend a bold and almost mountainous vented.” outline of hills rising in the distance, far to the west After a few more words, we wished him a good in Laneashire, Pendie-hill, as I fancied, and other evening, and walked on for some little way in silence, laity tracts in the neighbourhood of Clitheroe ; and which my companion put an end to by saying, “It speculating on the distance they might be must be confessed that our friend Nelson is a sen

sible man; and not the less so (added he, with a "Sir," said a voice, which startled me, from my not smile,) because I am sure he will agree with me in observing that any one was near ; " Pendle-hill must opinion." be full fifty miles off'; what you see is most likely some For in the course of our walk we had been discussof the high ground beyond Halifax."

ing rather earnestly the subject of the Athanasian "Why, Richard," said I," what are you doing down Creed ; the question between us not being as to the there !" for I could scarcely see more than his head-- doctrines contained in it, but as to the expediency of " you seem to be making a strong entrenchment round retaining it in the Liturgy, supposing any changes your castle."

should take place in that also, as in every thing else. ." I dare say, sir,” he answered, "you may wonder Not that there was any real difference of opinion bewhat I am about ; but at this time of year, when the tween us on that point either ; but wishing to know springs are low, I generally spend an hour, when I his views on the subject, I had been urging the various have leisure in the evening, in repairing the garden- objections, such of them at least as are most plausible, mound, that it may be fit to stand against the assaults and had been gratified with observing how little weight of what I call my two winter enemies."

he attached to them; and my satisfaction was the * What can they be ?" I asked ; " I did not know greater, because, from his education and profession, as that you had any enemies."

a layman and a merchant, he could not be accused of "Yes, sir, I have,” he replied ; " at least niy garden what have been scornfully designated as “ academical had two, land-floods and Scotch ponies. Almost every and clerical prejudices.” Hinter, once, if not twice, there is a violent land-flood In the course of our conversation he had expressed from the high-ground behind the house ; and if this himself most earnestly in favour of the Athanasian diteh were not kept clear, to take the water off imme- Creed ; alleging for this his opinion, various reasons,

We were

from us.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

and among others the following ; " that he regarded | be laid waste, either by the torrent from the high this creed in the light of a fence or bulwark, set up ground above you, or by the cattle from your neighto protect the truth against all innovations and en- bour's field." croachments; and that to take it away, particularly “ Indeed, sir," he answered, " that is no more than in times when popular opinion, or rather feeling, was the truth. But I confess I do not exactly see how, in against it, would be almost high treason against God acting thus, I have set any particularly good example. (that was his word): would be, so far as in us lies, So person of common sense could do otherwise." wilfully to expose the truth to be trodden down by As to that," I replied, “perhaps what some witty its enemics."

man said of common honesty, he might too have said “Now," said he, whilst you were talking to our of common sense, that it is a very uncommon thing. friend Nelson, it struck me that his care about his But be that as it may, it certainly would appear to me garden very aptly expresses our duty in respect of this to be no mark of sense nor of honesty either, if we very subject. For why is this creed so obnoxious ? Christians, who are put in trust (as St. Paul speaks) simply because it is so strongly and sharply worded ; with the Gospel,' were to draw back from our strong because it leaves no opening for a semi-socinian or a advanced positions, in the vain hope that the enemy five-quarter latitudinarian to creep in at; because it would be content with this success, and encroach 110 presents an insurmountable obstacle to every intruder further." who would trample under foot the Lord's vineyard. “May I ask, sir," he said, “what it is you refer And even if the aspect of things were more favourable, even if there were no sign of danger at "Why, Richard," I replied, " of course you have hand, I should much rather advise that, like Nelson, heard that a great many people think that the Church we should look forward to probable or possible in- Prayer-Book ought to be altered ; and that, first and roads, than venture to neglect, much less to remove, foremost, the Athanasian Creed ought to be put out our fences. I wish," added he, as we concluded our of it." walk and our discussion together, "you would endea- Sir," said he, “ I have heard more than one pervour to ascertain what are the sentiments of our son make this observation; but I never took much acfriend Nelson on this subject, for I have no doubt he count of it till about a year or eighteen months ago, has turned it over in his mind; and his opinion must when a brother-in-law of mine told me he had been certainly be of value, because, happily for himself, he reading extracts from some works in which there were has not been, I suppose, in the way of hearing the objections made to parts of the Church service, and profane absurdities that are daily written and spoken particularly to the Athanasian Creed, and which, I amı against this inestimable creed."

sorry to say, he was inclined to admire. So I re“Yes,” said I, “ whatever his opinions are, I doubt solved that, with God's gracious help, I would search not they will be found candid, and free from unreason- the matter out for myselt'; for surely, sir, it is a malable prejudice; and I will take an early opportunity ter in which not the clergy only, but we all are deeply of ascertaining them."

interested." Soon after this my friend left me, and I promised to "You say right," I replied; "the knowledge of communicate to him the result of my inquiries. The God's truth must be the greatest carthly treasure to Sunday following, it being a serene autumnal morning, us all. It unquestionably concerns the laity full as according to the description of the divine poet- much as it does the clergy, to ascertain the truth and

most calm, most bright"--I proceeded earlier than to keep it ; also to hand it on, pure and uncorrupted, usual towards the school.

to their children after them." When I came up to Richard's cottage, he was stand- Hc proceeded : “ My plan was this: first, to ening at the gate, with his infant child in his arms, look- deavour to make out what was the intention of ing as if he could envy no man; as it Sunday were to the Church in appointing this and the other two him, what it should be to us all, “ the couch of time, creeds to be occasionally used ; and then to try this care's balm and bay."'.

Athanasiau Creed by Scripture rules; and if I could “ You are rather earlier, sir, than usual,” he said. not reconcile it to then, why then, certainly, how

“Yes," I answered, "the morning is so lovely, so ever unwillingly, I should liave joined in opinion Sunday-like, I could not endure to stay any longer with those who wish to have it left out of the Prayerwithin doors."

Book." After some few observations had passed between us, “ A very good pian," said I ; " but you must recol-in which he expressed, with an unaffected solemnity lect that ihe enemies of this crced would ask, what of manner peculiar to himself, his sense of the value of possible reason you could have for being unwilling to each returning Lord's day, calling it (and I think he part with it, especially when you know that great numused, though uncon

consciously, Izaac Walton's very bers of people have so vehement a dislike to it." words), a " step towards a blessed eternity,”-I asked “Sir," said he, “I have long made up my mind, him if he would have any objection to take two or three that on questions of this kind, relating io God and turns with me in the beech-walk, as it still wanted a eternity, people's likings and dislikings are not much considerable time to school.

in the scale either way. But I think, sir, I can offer He answered that he would gladly accompany me, one or two good excuses for my being unwilling to especially as it might be better for the child to be taken have this creed laid aside. In the first place, it would under the shade of the trees.

give me pain to have any great alterations made in “ Richard,” said I, “ my friend Mr. Woodnot, and I such a book as the Prayer-Book; which I have been may call him your friend too, was much amused with

used to from my infancy; which as a child I was your plan for keeping off the enemies of your garden. always taugbt to reverence; and which (I am not He commended it highly, and thinks you therein set ashamed to say) I do reverence from my heart

, more a good example to all true Churchmen, and especially and more, the older I grow. In the next place, I am to us of the clergy."

sure all must allow that some parts of the Athanasian * In what respect, sir ?" he asked. “Why," I re- Creed are very noble and beautiful to hear, especially plied, “ in keeping your fences strong and sharp, and when they are well read or repeated. And again, even contrived in the best possible way to serve the purpose a child may see that if this creed be put away, great of fences; namely, to preserve one's property from in- encouragement will be given, not only to professed jury. For we umerstood you to say, that, were it intidels, but also to many wild thoughtless persons, not for a little observation and foresight, however who would fain believe that religion, like every thing well all might be for three hundred and sixty-four else, needs to be radically reformed.". days in the year, in one twenty-four hours all night " But," said I, “ will you now tell ine what con

66

66

[ocr errors]

clusion you came to in your inquiry into the intention friend to us in telling us so; in making us confess it, of the Church in appointing this and the other two as one may almost say, whether we choose or no ? li ceeds to be used."

the Gospel of the Lord Jesus be our only hope, is not * I remembered," he said, 6 that I had heard you, this kind ? Indeed, sir, it is my opinion, that there is Sir, or some one whose opinion I could take on these nothing in that creed either unscriptural or uncharitsubjects, make an observation, that the three creeds able ; but quite the contrary: And, sir, if you will not Frif not written all at the same time, but at three dif- be weary of me, I will try to slicw you how I came to terent periods. That the Apostles' ('reed was made this conclusion." irr, either in the time of the apostles, or very soon

Richard," said I, you need not fear that you uter. That the Nicene Creed came nest, after an in- will tire me." rral of two hundred years or more. And that then, Well, sir," lie proceeded, “ it seemed to me plain zain, after another considerable space, I think I un- from the Scriptures that Almighty God should be the derstood more than a century, followed the Creed of object of all our love and adoration. From the same 8. Athanasius, as it is called."

Scriptures it also appeared, that the Lord Jesus Christ, * So it came into my thoughts, that the Church our only Saviour and hope, is entitled to all our love seemed to act like a tender mother very anxious for ind adoration. And again, from the same Scriptures, her children, from the very first; but growing still it appears that the Holy Spirit of God, the only Sancmore and more anxious as they grow older, are more lifier, Guide, and Guardian of his Church, is entitled exposed to dangers, and yet less and less willing to to all our love and adoration." yield themselves to lier control.

“ Certainly," I replied ; no one who believes the “ Thus it may seem, that in the most ancient, the Scriptures can doubt this." Apostles' Creed, a plain simple rule of faith is given. And is not this,” he said, "the very doctrine of

* In the next, the Vicene Crecil, the same rule is ihe first part of the creed ; ' that the father is God, laid down, but more at length, and in a tone of anxiety the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God; and yet and caution, as if the enemy were at hand.

they are not three Gods, but one God?' In like man" But in the last, the Athanasian Creed, where still ner, if any man inquire for the very foundation of the very same rule of faith is laid down, the alarm is Christian hope and consolation, surely it is the docbudly sounded; there is throughout an expression of trine that God our Saviour took on him our frail and urgent warning, as needful for persons in the very mortal nature : that he was perfect man,' as well as midst of foes, some open, and more secret foes, who

perfect God.'

Without this doctrine, the peculiar would roh God of his honour, and man of the ever- hopes and consolations of the Gospel fade away and lasting inheritance purchased for him by his Saviour's disappear. Now this is the great truth pressed on our blood."

thoughits in the second part of the Athanasian Creed, " Indeed," said I, “it is fearful to think to what where we are taught bolily to maintain that the right lengths the pride of human reason will draw those faith is, that we believe and confess-not believe only, who yield to it. But before you proceed with your but believe and confess, that our Lord Jesus Christ, statement, I should wish to know what opinion you the Son of God, is God and man.'” have come to, respecting what are so falsely, not to say “Yes,” I answered, “ it is ditficult to imagine how prokanely, called the damnatory clauses' in the Atha- any one who acknowledges the truth of the Scriptures, 12:iin Creed. You are doubtless aware that many can deny and question this. But you must, I am youd sort of persons, who proless not to disapprove of sure, be aware that many people object that this docthe other parts of the creed, are (or at least fancy trine is not simply stated, and so left to every one's themselves) much offended and hurt in their feeling own conscience to approve, but that attempts are made by these clauses. Observe, I am not now exactly re- to draw out distinctions and explanations which are ferring to persons who speak harshly or disrespectfully not in the Scripture, and which no one can underof this creed, but rather to persons of piety and learn- stand ; and then, after all, people are made to say, ing, who, with all reverence for it as an ancient and that whoever does not believe all this has no chance true confession of faith, have yet thought that some of

of salvation." the expressions in it are unecessarily strong, and Sir," he replied, there is a verse in the Psalms, what they cannot endure to repeat or to lear.” which seems to give an answer to such objectors: 'If

“Sir," he replied, “ if it is not presumptuous in me I should say like them, I should condemn the geneto pass my opinion on the conduct of such persons as ration of God's children.' So one will dare deny scu represent, I should say to them, if you can endure that those who framed this creed, and those who put to believe these things, you may also endure to ac- it into our Prayer-Book, were good and holy men, knowledge such your belief, and to hear it coniirmed sincerely anxious for the honour of Almighty God, and by the voice of the Church. The parent who cannot for the salvation of men's souls. It was surely not endure to correct his child, will doubtless live to repent their fault that these distinctions and explanations (if bis inistaken tenderness, as we are taught in Scripture. they are to be so called) became necessary, but the And if the Church or ler ministers, throughi like fault ot' rash or loose-minded people, who attempted false pity, should no longer endure to hold out to our to corrupt the hearts of the simple with their false consciences the terrors of the Lord, we of the people distinctions and false explanations. shall no doubt have cause to lament their mistaken " Tyainst such, the Churchi, as a good parent should, tenderness; even though now, like over-indulged chil- warns her sons in the strongest terms; and if stronger dren, we may many of us be impatient of strict re- terms could have been found, no doubt she would have straint, or of warnings seemingly severe; yet, if the used them. And it seems to me, that it is not at all Church will be but firm to her sacred trust, many souls the intention of the Church, in this creed, or any where will doubtless in the end bless God for these very else, to ('ndeavour to explain what is above hunan warnings and threatenings, which now they fancy to comprehension; but only to warn us, that quibbled and be almost intolerable. But as to persons who scruple pretended distinctions have been made of old, and not to speak scornfully and reproachfully of this creed, will be again, against the essential doctrines of the of any part of it, I must think such language of theirs Cospel; and that, come in whatever shape they may, shews rashness, and ignorance too, very unbecoming a they are to be opposed at once with a sharp and strong Charistian. For, it may well be asked, is a mother to dienial; to be at once, and as the article says, 'thobe blamed, who, seeing her child in imminent danger, roughly rejected. warns him of it in language the most powerful her "And the absolute need of some such strong imtongue can give utterance to? If the Gospel of Christ penetrable fence appears from what I have heard, that be indeed our only hope, is not the Church a true there have been Church people, and even clergymek.

[ocr errors]

46

« PreviousContinue »