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the Dr.'s sermons, would have styled him only a theologist of
first principles’; nor is his sliding from devotional subjects ' into metaphysical researches' to be attributed to his nonconformist theology. The spread of Arian principles among the Presbyterian Dissenters of the last century, Mr. Knox would fain ascribe to their not being accustomed to the recitation of the Liturgy! Yet, he anticipates the objection,-a very reasonable one—* Why, then, did not the Establishment preserve its own
native children from becoming Arians or Socinians ? How did 'it come to have within it a Clarke and a Hoadley, formerly, or • latterly, to send forth from it a Disney and a Lindsay?' To this question he can only answer, that there are minds which no
circumstances will guard': which is no answer at all. The fact is, that modern Arianism sprang up within the Establishment itself, and thence the contagion spread to the colleges of the Dissenters. May we not say, that it was the natural product of the Arminian divinity of the Church of England school; the next stage of doctrinal declension from the faith of the Reformers? The deep deficiency' which Mr. Knox recognises in the divines of that school as teachers of evangelical truth, could not but lead to such further deterioration as the certain consequence. The most fatal errors consist in the negation of truths. Pelagianism and Socinianism are but different stages of the negative process which strips Christianity of all that cannot be made to square with the creed of the philosophic Rationalist. The doctrine of justification is the first that becomes vitiated as pięty declines,-the first element to escape when the process of corruption has begun. The forms of orthodoxy may long retain their symmetry after the vital principle has fled; but at length, spiritual death must ensue.
On the other hand, as all doctrine is but a means to an end, and truth is but the instrument of generating life and restoring purity, whenever the proper use of a doctrine is overlooked or obscured, and the end lost sight of, that which is vital in the doctrine itself will escape and leave nothing but a barren dogma. This is the case with the doctrine of justification itself. If this first principle be made an ultimate one,-if the reception of this doctrine be viewed as an end, instead of the commencement of a restorative process, religious declension must inevitably ensue. The greater part of men, as Howe remarks, 'care more to be
pardoned for being bad, than to become good. Now the preaching which allows men to deem themselves safe, as pardoned, when they have no desire to become holy, is a perversion of the Gospel not less fatal to its genuine influence, than that with which those teachers are chargeable who fall into the opposite error. But such was not the preaching of the Puritans and Noncon
This is itself the end proper
formists; and the declension of religion, of which we find them complaining, is, therefore, unjustly ascribed to their being mere preachers of converting truth.
Another feature which, Mr. Knox thinks, has distinguished associated Christians, is, 'a very general disposition to fix their • views on the mediatory part of the Christian dispensation, to ‘ the comparative neglect of that which is ultimate.'
- They seem to prefer dwelling on the human nature of Christ, rather than on his divine. They, in a sense given to the words by John Wesley, “know Christ after the flesh "; and, therefore, they generally use the name Jesus without any honourable addition, (a thing rarely done by the apostolic writers in the Epistles, rather than those appellations which designate him as the Lord of heaven and earth. In fact, their system is somewhat of a sensitive one ; which is strictly congruous with its being so much a social system. Vol. I. p. 125.
Mr. Knox does not speak of this, he says, as matter of blame: it may have been most suitable to the views of Providence.” We do not quite understand him. It is surely a matter of blame, if there be any deviation from the inspired standard, even in point of purity of religious taste; more especially if it results from dwelling exclusively upon partial views or certain aspects of truth. But again we must remark, that the fault referred to neither attaches distinctively to associated Christians, nor is chargeable upon them generally. It is chiefly in devotional poetry that we find Our Lord addressed by his human name, as equivalent to Saviour; for this is by no means the practice of the Nonconformist divines in their discourses or other theological writings. Now we find the very same use of the name Jesus, in invocation, among the Romish pietists; and we should say, that it is more the language of the closet, than of the sanctuary. It does not seem to us, however, that any class of orthodox Protestants can be described as dwelling too much on the human nature of Christ. On the contrary, an advantage has been given to the deniers of Our Lord's divinity, by the too prevalent error of inerging the distinct apprehension of his person in abstract notions relating to his essential godhead. Upon this subject, we cannot do better than to introduce, in immediate connexion with the above citation, some admirable remarks which occur in Mr. Knox's letter to Mr. Parken,' on the character of Mysticism..
As mysticism proceeds on the principle, not of engaging and employing, but of suppressing and annihilating our natural tastes and feelings, the thorough-paced mystic might find, in this contrariety to human nature, an argument in favour of his system, instead of an objection to its truth. I have only to express my joy, that no such argument can be adduced in favour of Christianity. .... Christianity indispensably requires a dominion of our spirit over our animal nature; but it makes no attempt to separate the former from the latter. ..... And how exquisitely suitable was the method adopted ! The Incarnation. Animal nature was to be magnetized; to make the attraction infallible, Godhead takes our animal nature, in its noblest and happiest form, into a personal union; and, in that union, submits to, and combines, every conceivable circumstance that could tend to modify the moral energies of Deity, into the most powerful medicine, and the most invigorating food, for diseased and destitute man. God in Himself, could be the object of those faculties only, which belong to our purely spiritual nature; and to these, but in a limited measure, and under the greatest disadvantages. To most men, from predominant animality, such an apprehension would be uncongenial; and in whom could it have been so clear and powerful, as to have steadily counteracted the numberless subtle fascinations, as well as gigantic assaults, which we are daily liable to, in this mortal sphere? But what feel. ing, what susceptibility, what attractable or penetrable point, in even our sensitive soul, does “ God manifest in the flesh," leave without its provision ? St. Bernard speaks well; and yet he goes but a little way, when he says, “ Ego hanc arbitror præcipuam invisibili Deo fuisse causam, quod voluit in carne videri, et cum hominibus homo conversari : ut carnalium videlicet qui nisi carnaliter amare non poterant, cunctas primo ad suæ carnis amorem affectiones retraheret, atque ita gradatim ad amorem perduceret spiritualem.” *
*Can Christianity, then, be made to consist in suppressing and annihilating, what its leading features so astonishingly provide for? Doubtless we are, above all other aims, to recognize Deity in the manifestation thus made to us :-“ Nec sic parvuli sunt lactandi,” says St. Augustine, “ ut semper non intelligant Deum Christum ;" but he adds,“ nec sic ablactandi, ut deserant hominem Christum ; Christus autem crucifixus, et lac sugentibus, et cibus proficientibus." ' †
· Mysticism, therefore, I conceive to be hostile to Christianity, because it necessarily disqualifies the mind for that distinct and intelligent contemplation of İMMANUEL, to which we are called by all and every trait, however minute, of the evangelical records. I will not say, that mysticism intentionally turns the mental eye away from this object; at least Fénelon had not any such design: but it, self-evi
* • I look upon this as the chief reason for which the invisible God was pleased to make himself visible in the flesh, and, as a man, to mix among men; namely, that he might, in the first instance, draw off to the love of himself manifest in the flesh, all the affections of those creatures in the flesh, who were incapable of love for any other than a fleshly object; and thus, by degrees, carry them on to a spiritual
+ Even the feeding babes with milk must be so managed, that they be not left always without the knowledge of the Godhead of Christ *****; as also in their weaning, care must be taken, that they forsake not the manhood of Christ. It is, however, Christ crucified, that is both milk for the suckling, and meat for the advanced believer.'
dently, unfits the faculties of the mind for every such employment. By engaging its votaries in that contemplation of Deity, to which the embodied spirit is unequal, and in which, it should seem, even angels are not occupied, it creates in them, both a disrelish, and an incapacity, for that view of Deity, which, we might humbly dare to say, the deepest wisdom of God has been exerted to furnish.”
Vol. I. pp. 300—303. We may seem to have lost sight of the inquiry, How are we to account for the religious declension which has almost uniformly commenced among associated Christians, as soon as the stimulant of outward trial and persecution has been withdrawn, or the fervour of a revival has subsided ? As we have rejected Mr. Knox's explanation of the melancholy fact, which refers it to the exclusive attention given to first principles, or to some other theological peculiarities, we may be required to give a better solution of the problem. But to generalise on this subject is certainly to err; and to arrive at any safe induction we must enter upon a course of historical inquiry which would require a volume. Mr. Wesley's paradox applies to individual Christians and to Christian families, rather than to any sects or churches. “Wherever true • Christianity spreads,' he remarks, 'it must cause diligence and • frugality; these, in the natural course of things, beget riches ; ? and riches naturally beget pride, love of the world, and every
temper that is destructive of Christianity. Thus, Christianity seems to have a tendency to destroy itself, by sapping its own foundations. If there be no way to prevent Christians from
growing worldly, Christianity is inconsistent with itself. This Mr. Knox views as an awful dilemma. We are surprised that he should have viewed it in this light. It is obvious, that the same thing might be said of virtue ; that it teaches frugality and diligence, which generally lead to prosperity, and that prosperity tends to destroy virtue. But does this render virtue inconsistent with itself? Christianity has in itself a tendency to prevent Christians from becoming worldly: therefore Christianity has a tendency to preserve itself amid that worldly prosperity to which it may remotely lead. Therefore Christianity is not inconsistent with itself. Surely this is a sufficient refutation of the dilemma. Still, to speak of Christianity as either tending to preserve or to destroy itself, is obviously improper. The perpetuation and increase of Christianity can be secured, in spite of the principles which are ever at work and at war against it, in the world, and in the microcosm of the heart, only by means of the incessant operation of the Spirit of God, Religion is, from first to last, a supernatural thing—in its source and in its preservation; and the strong and perpetual tendency to deterioration in the human heart would be sufficient to destroy Christianity under any circumstances, but for the constant succours of heavenly influence.
Linciples whicches. Was Gospel,
In tracing the history of the corruption and declension of religious communities, we cannot, however, fail to perceive the operation of secondary causes; and an examination into these causes may turn to important benefit, by putting the Church on its guard, and, by the counsels of experience, enabling its rulers and ministers to obviate incipient evils. To say that riches corrupt, and that prosperity brings temptation, is throwing no light upon the matter. Wherever there is moral malady, there is error; and our business is, to ascertain and describe the error, and its source. We see in the apostolic history, how errors sown by the enemy, 'were, almost contemporaneously with the first promulgation of the Gospel, springing up to trouble the primitive churches. Was it, then, the weakness of their first principles which led to the decline of the Ephesian, or of the Laodicean Church ? No, it was the corruption of those principles—the corruption, mainly, of the fundamental doctrine of Justification*. With whom did that corruption originate, but with the teachers of the Church? T'he true apostolic succession of faithful pastors, the succession which consists in the transmis. sion of apostolic doctrine, was broken. The pastures of the Church became, through neglect, rank and unwholesome; and the sheep became lean and diseased. But this defection in the ministers of the Church requires itself to be accounted for.
Two principal causes may be assigned: first, the limited diffusion of the holy Scriptures,—the inspired rule of faith and fountain of knowledge; secondly, the undue and servile deference which soon began to be yielded to the ministers of religion, especially favourite teachers, so as to divide the church into parties; thus exerting a most unhappy influence upon the ministers themselves, and rendering the sacred office an object of mercenary ambition to irreligious ment. By this means also was eventually produced that wide separation between the clergy and the laity, which proved fatal, first to the liberty, and then to the purity of “ God's heritage,” (Tõv nangwv,) the “body of Christ.” This change in the character of the Christian ministry seems to have been distinctly foreseen by the apostles I; and how easily the Church suffered itself to be thus brought into bondage, may be seen from the warnings contained in the Epistles of St. Paul to the Corinthians, compared with the unscriptural claims advanced by the earliest of the ecclesiastical fathers. As the natural consequence of this, the teaching of religion, the duty of every Christian, became more and more abandoned to the official
* Comp. 1 John i. 8.—ii. 2. Rev. iii. 17.
2 Peter ii. 1-3. 1 John iv. I. 1 Tim. iii. iv. Acts xx. 29, 30.