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the congregation do; having been nourished with marrow and fatness, with Christ the true bread of life, they cannot feed on husks, or swallow poison ; they must seek for wholesome meat, where they can find it; but from principle they love the church, though alas! the sweet sound of her essential doctrines is no longer heard from the pulpit, where they used to hear it,”* &c. Can language be more reviling, or an imputation more unjust ? By such slander separation is encouraged, and variance made a principle of conscience; and by such criminations, it may be feared the rage of persecution will one day be fomented.
The Rev. Rowland Hill descends to the same base arts of scurrility and detraction. In his Village Dialogues the coarse abuse of our ministry. is repeated, even to the disgust, one might suppose, of his professed admirers ; at least, that part of them which is raised above the lowest of the 'vulgar. A few extracts from this popular work will place the temper of the author, and the design with which he addressed his village readers, in a light too clear to be mistaken.
“ It will be a great mercy if some of the clergy in these parts should be influenced by divine grace to preach what all of them should preach, according to the bible and their own subscriptions ; the glad tidings of salvation, instead of a downright heathenish morality, or a sort of undefinable jumble between law and gospel, which nobody
* Id. p. 159.
can understand.”* “Old Mr. Deadman, and his cousin-german, Mr. Blindman,t had preached no more the true doctrine of the bible, as it relates to salvation by Jesus Christ, than if they had been two of the priests of Jupiter.” I
Under these characters are designated clergymen of the establishment, for the obvious pur. pose of exposing them to scorn and ridicule. To the same end it is related of a Mr. Steadyman, that when he became inquisitive after the truth of the gospel, he discovered there was in the same town a worthy dissenting minister, whom in the days of bis ignorance he had overlooked; whose life was exemplary, and who had preached
* Village Dialogues, vol. iv. p. 102.
+ This evangelical writer is pleased to contemplate the facility with which the appellations he has invented will be understood, and says, in allusion to one of them, “ Learned men should have learned names. No wonder that Dr. Nescience has his name from a Latin derivation, though in plain English, Dr. Know-nothing. All my other names, I believe, my readers can pretty well comprehend, without understanding Latin."* Certainly there is little difficulty in decyphering the characters of this facetious author; and those which occur in the page before us, are eminent instances of his talent for this species of satyr, viz. “ Dr. Numscull, Dr. Papscull, and Dr. Loggerhead.” The ingenious application of this witty device is equalled only by its novelty; but in good truth, the mind that can have recourse to such scurrility, betrays its insufficiency for better. things, and deserves pity rather than resentment.
| Village Dialogues, vol. i. p. 114.
* Village Dialogues, vol. iii. p. 95.
more of the doctrines of the church of England in his meeting in one sermon, than was to be heard in the church for seven years together.” * Might we not admonish these declaimers as St. Paul did the Colossians ? “ Lie not one to another, seeing ye have put off the old man with his deeds.”+ If ye be regenerate, at least speak truth.
Did not " the spirit which lusteth to envy" blind the heart of man with prejudice and passion, the cause of such foul aspersions cast by a minister of Christ upon his brethren would be inexplicable, and if they be countenanced by other teachers, who profess to disseminate the genuine dictates of the gospel, it is plain they know not " what spirit they are of.” It would seem that they are entirely ignorant of the scripture, which commands us“ to speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men;" I otherwise those pestilent invectives which disgrace the “ Village Dialogues,” and “ Scriptural Characteristics”. would never have contaminated writings, avowedly published for the sole purpose of diffusing evangelical doctrines. Nor would the characters of the clergy have been assailed by a member of their own order with taunts and insults, alike inconsistent with the charity of a christian, and
* Village Dialogues, vol. i. p. 69. + Ch. iii. 9. m .
Titus iii. 2.
the dignity of a man. Had the gracious admonitions of St. Paul penetrated the heart, and corrected the spleen of this acrimonious author, he would not have given vent to language such as this : “ If I was to quarrel with our parson, I should not have any peace in the parish, and he would raise my tithes directly, for he is always grinning after more money;"* he would not have termed the clergy “ A race of pseudospiritual monkies;”+ nor have scoffed at them as · objects of abhorrence and contempt. I
It is no light charge against us, in the opinion of this gentleman, and in that of his coadjutors, that we consider reasonįng and argument of some moment in the investigation of divine truth. These instruments of knowledge they set at nought, as having no concern with religious matters, and treat the principle of reason itself as if it were in direct opposition to revelation. The author of " Willat's Apology” confidently asks, “ Would it not be the highest mark of enthusiasm, and a still stronger one of folly, for fallen creatures to trust to their own corrupt
** Village Dialogues, vol. i. p. 5. + Vol. iii. p. 107.
" The Village Dialogues," says the Barrister, “ abound in such descriptiops, as are calculated to compel the deluded peasantry of this kingdom to think and act towards their parish minister with no feelings but those of aversion and disdain. The sale of curates is but another quiver laden with arrows of stronger venom, and directed at the same target.-Hints, part II. p. 124.
reason as a sufficient guide to direct them in their search after truth?”*4
* P. 39.
† For my part I am certain,” says an excellent writer, “ that God hath given us our reason to discern between truth and falsehood, and he that makes not this use of it, but believes things he knows not wby, I say it is by chance that he believes the truth, and not by choice; and I cannot but fear that God will not accept of this sacrifice of fools:'” Again, he asks, “ Why do you make it such a monstrous absurdity, that men in the choice of their religion should make use of their reason? Which yet, without all question, none but unreasonable men can deny, to have been the chiefest end why reason was given them.”* “ Controversies,” he observes, “ wherein the scripture itself is the subjeot of the question, cannot be determined but by natural reason, the only principle, beside scripture, which is common to Christians.” + To what purpose this champion of the Protestaut cause employed his reason, will never be forgotten by his adversaries, whatever be the neglect or ingratitude of those whose triumph he ensured. . It would be amusing, if the subject were not too serious, to remark the resemblance in every material point between the Methodists and their puritanical predecessors ; of whom the historian relates, “ What they were chiefly anxious about, was the fixing the precise moment of their conversion, or new birth; and whoever could not ascertain so difficult a point of calculation, could not pretend to any title to saintship. The zealots,” (after the parliament became masters of Oxford,) " insulted the scholars and professors, and intruding into the place of lectures, disclaimed against human learning, and
* Chillingworth's Religion of Protestants, a safo Way to Salvation, p. 96. 99.
+ Id. p. 53. edition of 1638.