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relate, and which have continued “ to trouble both the schools and pulpit,” had sunk with them into neglect and silence; but the subject under consideration is pregnant with too many evidences, that these obnoxious doctrines still disturb the peace and union of those who profess one Lord, one faith, one baptism.
THE CHARGE AGAINST THE CLERGY, AS THE AUTHORS OF A NEW DOCTRINE; GROUNDED ON THE PLEA, THAT NO SPIRITUAL EFFICACY ATTENDS THEIR PREACHING.—THE SUccess of METHODISM FALSELY ATTRIBUTED TO THAT EFFICACY.-ZEAL WITHOUT CHARITY, DANGEROUS AND UNCHRISTIAN-MORAL DOCTRINE OF THE GOSPEL MAINTAINED.-CONDEMNATION DENOUNCED BY THE METHODISTS AGAINST THOSE WHO TEACH IT.-THE CLERGY ASSAILED WITH OBLOQUY AND INSULT.-REASON VILIFIED BY METHODISTS. ITS PROPER EXERCISE IN THE SEARCH AND DEFENCE OF TRUTH, COMPATIBLE WITH SPIRITUAL ILLUMINATION.-CAUTION AGAINST IMAGINARY EXPERIENCES.—THE ANSWER OF A GOOD CONSCIENCE A TEST OF SANCTIFICATION. THE HUMBLE HOPES AND SINCEPE ENDEAVOURS ARISING FROM CHRISTIAN FAITH.
THE digression into which we have been led, seemed necessary, to vindicate the ministers of the established church from a false and frequently-repeated imputation; and to make way for a fair and impartial view of such unjust conclusions as are drawn from their supposed desertion of those evangelical principles which they have solemnly vowed to maintain. They are taunted and reviled as the authors of a new mode of preaching, namely, moral preaching, which is
scornfully termed a novel system of theology; and it is averred to be so because its impugner assumes, “ that no operations of God's holy spirit, no good effects hảve appeared to attend it, while that which he apprehends to be the true gospel of Christ is mighty indeed in operation, and testifies by its beneficial consequences that its author is divine."
Certainly the operation has been extensive, and the consequences important, but whether they have been beneficial, is a question on which we must beg leave to differ from these confident assertions. It is matter of reasonable inquiry, at least, whether the absolution of the Methodist may not be equally seductive with that pronounced by the pope; and the seal of election affixed by the former, as favourite a sanction of unrepented sins as the indulgence granted by the latter? If men are taught that iniquity and salvation are compatible, or that the damnable sins by which the guilty are polluted, may be suddenly washed away, it signifies not whether it be by holy water, or the pretended oil of grace; whether they be justified by works of supererogation, or the arbitrary imputation of the righteousviess of Jesus Christ.
Tenets are not the more true, because they are popular; and when the weakness or wickedness of men is flattered by a doctrine which indulges vice and folly, a strong presumption is naturally raised against its truth. Indeed, the very adyocates of Methodism sometimes attribute its widely-spreading influence to other causes than the operation of the holy spirit.
The Evangelical Magazine for October, 1809, p. 408, contains a remarkable paper, in which several reasons are assigned for the large attendance upon gospel-preachers. They are briefly these : 1. Curiosity ; 2. Fashion; 3. Worldly interest ; 4. Doctrines alluring to the carnal man; 5. Energetic style of worship; 6. Double service on the sabbath; 7. Natural conscience; 8. An indistinct sort of hope wbich carnal persons feel in associating with the godly; 9. Despair. The exposition of the fourth cause deserves particular attention, as coming from the pen of a new evangelist: it is thus stated. “ Perhaps, without allowing for their spiritual influence upon the mind, we may say there is something in the nature of gospel-doctrines highly attractive to some states of the carnal man: they hold forth pardon, free pardon, for all manner of sin and iniquity; they point to mercy exercised, without regard to human merit, ready for the vilest publican, as for the most moral pharisee. They represent the Almighty God, as operating with his influences in a sovereign and uncontrollable way, giving all grace, strength, and mercy, as seemeth him good.:
Pity that such divine truths should be abused! But to some this seems a most easy and convenient sort of religion; they would like to be saved, and have no trouble about it: so they understand the proposition ; they find sinners at the eleventh hour may be saved. To continue in sin is exactly what they wish; and as the greatness of sin is no bar to mercy, but God is indeed honoured by saving the chief of sinners, they hope to be saved, I had almost said for their sin; and as no merit or righteousness can have a share in obtaining justification, they feel easy in neglecting uncomfortable duties. Such as are yet ignorant that not justification alone, but holiness also is salvation, conceive great hopes and feel much peace in the confused idea they have thus formed of the gospel; prefer it much to that sort of laborious morality, which those who know not the gospel as the source of living morals, must preach upon. This sensation and mistake cause many to desert other places, and come where they think they have discovered the easiest mode of obtaining heaven.”
This is a fair and just account of the motives which induce a multitude to follow the teachers of Methodism: it reminds us of the just observation of Dr. Johnson, “ To find a substitution for violated morality, is the leading feature in all perversions of religion.”*
The success of gospel-preaching, as it is falsely termed, being admitted, for indeed it is too notorious, does it follow then that the consequences are beneficial ?
* Boswell's Life of Johnson, p. 345, 4to. edition.