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METHODISM. (E. Review, 1808.)
Causes of the increase of Methodism and Dissension. By Robert Acklem Ingram, B. D. Hatchard.
THIS is the production of an honest man, possessed of a fair share of understanding. He cries out lustily (and not before it is time), upon the increase of Methodism; proposes various remedies for the diminution of this evil; and speaks his opinions with a freedom which does him great credit, and convinces us that he is a respectable man. The clergy are accused of not exerting themselves. What temporal motive, Mr. Ingram asks, have they for exertion ? Would a curate, who had served thirty years upon a living in the most exemplary manner, secure to himself, by such a conduct, the slightest right or title to promotion in the Church 2 What can you expect of a whole profession, in which there is no more connection between merit and reward, than between merit and beauty, or merit and strength ? This is the substance of what Mr. Ingram says upon this subject; and he speaks the truth. We regret, however, that this gentleman has thought fit to use against the dissenters the exploded clamour of Jacobinism; or that he deems it necessary to call in to the aid of the Church the power of intolerant laws in spite of the odious and impolitic tests to which the dissenters are still subjected. We believe them to be very good subjects; and we have no doubt but that any further attempt upon their religious liberties, without reconciling them to the Church, would have a direct tendency to render them disaffected to the State. Mr. Ingram (whose book, by the bye, is very dulland tedious) has fallen into the common mistake of supposing his readers to be as well acquainted with his subject as he is himself; and has talked a great deal about dissenters, without giving us any distinct notions of the spirit which pervades these people—the objects they have in view—or the degree of talent which is to be found among them. To remedy this very capital defect, we shall endeavour to set before the eyes of the reader, a complete section of the tabernacle; and to present him with a near view of those sectaries, who are at present at work upon the destruction of the orthodox churches, and are destined hereafter, perhaps, to act as conspicuous a part in public affairs, as the children of Sion did in the time of Cromwell. The sources from which we shall derive our extracts, are the Evangelical and Methodistical Magazines for the year 1807;-works which are said to be circulated to the amount of 18,000 or 20,000 each, every month; and which contain the sentiments of Arminian and Calvinistic methodists, and of the evangelical clergymen of the Church of England. We shall use the general term of Methodism, to designate these three classes of fanatics, not troubling ourselves to point out the finer shades and nicer discriminations of lunacy, but treating them all as in one general conspiracy against common sense, and rational orthodox Christianity. In reading these very curious productions, we seemed to be in a new world, and to have got among a set of beings, of whose existence we had hardly before entertained the slightest conception. It has been our good fortune to be acquainted with many truly religious persons, both in the Presbyterian and Episcopalian churches; and from their manly, rational, and serious characters, our conceptions of true practical piety have been formed. To these confined habits, and to our want of proper introductions among the children of light and grace, any degree of surprise is to be attributed, which may be excited by the publications before us; which, under opposite circumstances, would (we doubt not) have proved as great a source of instruction and delight to the Edinburgh reviewers, as they are to the most melodious votaries of the tabernacle. It is not wantonly, or with the most distant intention of trifling upon serious subjects, that we call the attention of the public to these sorts of publications. Their circulation is so enormous, and so increasing, — they contain the opinions, and display the habits of so many human beings, – that they cannot but be objects of curiosity and importance. The common and the middling classes of people are the purchasers; and the subject is religion, — though not that religion certainly which is established by law, and encouraged by national provision. This may lead to unpleasant consequences, or it may not; but it carries with it a sort of aspect, which ought to insure to it serious attention and reflection. It is impossible to arrive at any knowledge of a religious sect, by merely detailing the settled articles of their belief: it may be the fashion of such a sect to insist upon some articles very slightly; to bring forward others prominently; and to consider some portion of their formal creed as obsolete. As the knowledge of the jurisprudence of any country can never be obtained by the perusal of volumes which contain some statutes that are daily enforced, and others that have been silently antiquated: in the same manner, the practice, the preaching, and the writing of sects, are comments absolutely necessary to render the perusal of their creed of any degree of utility. t is the practice, we believe, with the orthodox, both in the Scotch and the English churches, to insist very rarely, and very discreetly, upon the particular instances of the interference of Divine Providence. They do not contend that the world is governed only by general laws, — that a Superintending Mind never interferes for particular purposes; but such purposes are represented to be of a nature very awful and sublime, – when a guilty people are to be destroyed, - when an oppressed nation is to be lifted up, and some remarkable change introduced into the order and arrangement of the world. With this kind of theology we can have no quarrel; we bow to its truth; we are satisfied with the moderation which it exhibits; and we have no doubt of the salutary effect which it produces upon the human heart. Let us now come to those special cases of the interference of Providence, as they are exhibited in the publications before us.
An interference with respect to the Rev. James Moody.
‘Mr. James Moody was descended from pious ancestors, who resided at Paisley: —his heart was devoted to music, dancing, and theatrical amusements: of the latter he was so fond, that he used to meet with some men of a similar cast to rehearse plays, and used to entertain a hope that he should make a figure upon the stage. To improve himself in music, he would rise very early, even in severely cold weather, and practise on the German flute: by his skill in music and singing, with his general powers of entertaining, he became a desirable companion: he would sometimes venture to profane the day of God, by turning it into a season of carnal pleasure; and would join in excursions on the water, to various parts of the vicinity of London. But the time was approaching, when the Lord, who had designs of mercy for him, and for many others by his means, was about to stop him in his vain career of sin and folly. There were two professing servants in the house where he lived; one of these was a porter, who, in brushing his clothes, would say, “Master James, this will never do—you must be otherwise employed— you must be a minister of the gospel.” This worthy man, earnestly wishing his conversion, put into his hands that excellent book which God hath so much owned, Alleine's Alarm to the Unconverted.
‘About this time, it pleased God to visit him with a disorder in his eyes, occasioned, as it was thought, by his sitting up in the night to improve himself in drawing. The apprehension of losing his sight occasioned many serious reflections; his mind was impressed with the importance and necessity of seeking the salvation of his soul, and he was induced to attend the preaching of the gospel. The first sermon that he heard with a desire to profit, was at Spa-fields Chapel; a place which he had formerly frequented, when it was a temple of vanity and dissipation. Strong convictions of sin fixed on his mind; and he continued to attend the preached word, particularly at Tottenham-court Chapel. Every sermon increased his sorrow and grief that he had not earlier sought the Lord. It was a considerable time before he found comfort from the gospel. He has stood in the free part of the chapel, hearing with such emotion, that the tears have flowed from his eyes in torrents; and when he has returned home, he has continued a great part of the night on his knees, praying over what he had heard.
‘The change effected by the power of the Holy Spirit on his heart now became visible to all. Nor did he halt between two opinions, as some persons do; he became at once a decided character, and gave up for ever all his vain pursuits and amusements; devoting himself with as much resolution and diligence to the service of God, as he had formerly done to folly.’— Ev. Mag. p. 194.
An interference respecting Cards.
“A clergyman not far distant from the spot on which these lines were written, was spending an evening—not in his closet, wrestling with his Divine Master for the communication of that grace which is so peculiarly necessary for the faithful discharge of the ministerial function, —not in his study, searching the sacred oracles of divine truth for materials wherewith to prepare for his public exercises and feed the flock under his care, —not in pastoral visits to that flock, to inquire into the state of their souls, and endeavour, by his pious and affectionate conversation, to conciliate their esteem, and promote their edification, — but at the card table.”— After stating that when it was his turn to deal, he dropt down dead, ‘It is worthy of remark (says the writer,) that within a very few years this was the third character in the neighbourhood which had been summoned from the card table to the bar of God.”— Ev. Mag. p. 262.
Interference respecting Swearing, — a Bee the
“A young man is stung by a bee, upon which he buffets the bees with his hat, uttering at the same time the most dreadful oaths and imprecations. In the midst of his fury, one of these little combatants stung him upon the tip of that unruly member (his tongue), which was then employed in blaspheming his Maker. Thus can the Lord engage one of the meanest of his creatures in reproving the bold transgressor who dares to take his name in vain.”—Ev. Mag. p. 363.
Interference with respect to David Wright, who was cured of Atheism and Scrofula by one Sermon of Mr. Coles.
This case is too long to quote in the language and with the evidences of the writers. The substance of it