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METHODISM IN FORMER DAYS.
No. XXIV.-ANIMADVERSIONS ON BISHOP LAVINGTON'S
CHARGE TO THE CLERGY OF HIS DIOCESS. *
(To the Editor of the Wesleyan-Methodist Magazine.) The following Letter by a Clergyman seems worthy of being preserved entire, as it is the first + defence “ of those principles of the Methodists” to which Bishop Lavington raised his objections, and directed his Charges. It was printed in 1748, when the Clergy were loud in their clamours, charging the Wesleys with delivering new doctrines, while they were strictly inculcating the old. Their appeal was to the Articles and Homilies. Hence, in 1748, (when Mr. John Wesley's second portrait was engraved by Faber,) he is represented with his hands resting on a book, on which is inscribed the word “ Homilies ;” thereby intimating, it was no new religion he taught, but the old religion of the Bible and the Reformers. “ The book," he says himself, $ " which, next to the holy Scriptures, was of the greatest use to us in settling our judgment as to the grand point of justification by faith, was the Book of Homilies.ll We never were clearly convinced that we are justified by faith alone, till we carefully consulted these, and compared them with the sacred writings, particularly St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans. No Minister of the Church of England,” says he, “ can with any decency oppose these, seeing at his ordination he subscribed to them in subscribing the Thirty-sixth Article of the Church.”
The more importance may be attached to the following Letter, from the circumstance of the writer being personally unknown to the Wesleys, and they to him. His own words are, “ The heads of this sect are wholly strangers to me, and very few of their followers have I any acquaintance with. It is true, I have some of their books, wherein I find so much of the spirit of primitive Christianity, and wherein I see the Holy Ghost so clearly manifested to the world ; wherein I see that almost exploded doctrine of justification by faith’so strongly inculcated ; and, in short, wherein I see so much of the mind that was in Christ Jesus;' that I must
*" A Letter to the Right Rev. Father in God, George, Lord Bishop of Exeter : occasioned by His Lordship's late Charge to the Clergy of his Diocess ; in Defence of those Principles of the Methodists, objected to in His Lordship's Charge. By a Clergyman of the Church of England. London: Printed for E. Withers, at the Seven Stars, opposite Chancery-Lane, Fleet-street. 1748.” t“ Remarks,” &c., by Vincent Perronet, is dated March 25th, 1749.
Prayer-books (till the present century) were generally published without the insertion of the Articles ; and as to the Homilies, many had never so much as heard of them. “ No Society existed at that time through which a copy of the Homilies could be obtained ; yet these very Homilies were set forth by authority, and appointed to be read in churches diligently and devoutly,' and were recognised in the Articles as containing godly and wholesome doctrine.' When, therefore, these necessary bulwarks of the Church remained almost inaccessible, no wonder that the purity of her doctrine became ultimately corrupted, and the general tone of preaching was not salvation by faith, producing holiness of heart and life, but practical duties were held up as the sum and substance of true religion.” (See Meinoirs of Legh Richmond, tenth Edition, p. 136.)
S See Wesley's Works, vol. vii., pp. 204, 206, third edition ; also vol. viii., p. 31.
| In the list of books published by John and Charles Wesley, in 1765, No. 47 is, “ The Doctrine of Salvation, &c., from the Homilies.”
own, if this is Methodism, I have sometimes been tempted to wish every man a Methodist, in order to his being a Christian.” (Pp. 19, 20.) City-Road, March, 1847.
TO THE RIGHT REV. PATHER IN GOD, GEORGE, LORD BISHOP OF EXETER.
My LORD, I am a Clergyman, and, I trust, a lover of the Lord Jesus Christ : no wonder, then, I am, as it were, constrained thus to address your Lordship, in a letter indeed of thanks and congratulation, for your late very excellent and Christian Charge to the Clergy of that diocess, over which the Holy Ghost has made your Lordship overseer. O, my Lord, what joy has it given me, and all Christian people, to see a Prelate, a person of your Lordship’s high station in the Church, thus evidence the great love he has for his Master! What joy, I say, to read that glorious paragraph ! 66 My brethren, I must beg of you to rise up with me against moral preaching: with what success have we used it?” Alas! my Lord, with what success, indeed ? unless this be called success, that we have preached those who were once the people of God, almost into a total forgetfulness of the Lord that bought them.
Justification by faith, my Lord, is the Gospel of Jesus Christ ; it is the doctrine of the pure Church of England; it is the doctrine of her Homilies and Articles ; it is the doctrine which all her Clergy have subscribed to, yet too many of them disregard. It is this, and this only, we should preach up in our churches : the fall of Adam, and our loss in his fall; the power of working lost to us in him ; and the righteousness of Jesus Christ imputed to us for our recovery ; the free grace of God, who, knowing our incapacity, has clothed every true believer with the righteousness of his blessed Son, has changed the terms of our acceptance with him from, “Do this, and live,” into that most comfortable sentence, “ Believe, and thou shalt be saved.” “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and goodness of God: how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out !” O, my Lord, what anguish has it many times given me, and indeed all sincere Christians, to see our pulpits filled with people really preaching up themselves rather than their Master! whose sermons were calculated to soothe the ears, instead of feeding the souls, of their flock; preaching for their own glory and advancement, and not for the salvation of those they had the care of; of whom it may indeed justly be said, “I have not sent these Prophets, yet they ran; I have not spoken unto them, yet they prophesied.” (Jer. xxiii. 21.) Others again preaching to a worse end, building up the salvation of man upon his own works, and thus giving him to share with Jesus Christ in the great work of salvation. What are we flying back into, my Lord, if such doctrine is continued ? Are we not flying back to that very yoke we fled from in the Reformation? What is Popery, but a religion established upon works, and selfrighteousness? And what are we going back into but Popery again, if we preach up works instead of faith in Jesus Christ ?
Not that I am here, my Lord, contending against works: God forbid ! “ Do we abolish the law by faith ? yea, rather we establish it:” all I plead for-yet not I, but the Lord ; not I, but the holy Scriptures ; not I, but the Articles and Homilies of our Church-is this, that the fundamentals of our religion are faith in Christ Jesus. Who will dare deny it? Let that but once be fixed in the heart, and holiness and good works, will as necessarily flow from it, as the fruit from the tree we have planted.
Why, then, is not this inculcated? Why is not this, and indeed this only, strongly pressed upon the people? Why are not their hearts made to burn within them, to hear us preach the grace of God in Jesus Christ; since this, and this alone, can give them that peace of God which passes all understanding? It is in vain, my Lord, that we preach against swearing, it is in vain that we preach against drunkenness, it is in vain that we preach up the moral virtues, and decry the reigning vices of mankind. How long, as your Lordship well observes, have we tried this scheme without success! How long have your half-Christians given us a lifeless hearing, and the wicked and profane turned their backs and laughed at our cold doctrine ! Nothing but Gospel has the promises of being watered from above ; nothing but Gospel is “ the power of God unto salvation." Let us preach upJesus Christ, the blood of the sprinkling, repentance, and remission of sins. Let us fix the great and glorious promises of the Gospel, the incorruptible crown of glory reserved for all those that love the appearing of the Lord Jesus; let us, I say, fix this in the hearts of our people ; let us teach them to love God, for the great things he has done for us in Christ Jesus; let us thus lay the axe to the root, and, my soul to nothing, my Lord, all vice and iniquity, every sin, and every kind of transgression, nay, even the very inclination to it, will quickly vanish away.
Having thus far given your Lordship my hearty thanks and congratulations, for the great work reviving under your Lordship’s influence, give me leave to cast my eyes a little lower in the Charge given to the Clergy of your Lordship’s diocess : it is with respect to some few words levelled at a set of people called Methodists. To remove all prejudice from what I am about to say, I beg leave to assure the world, that if they hold any principles contrary to the spirit of true and solid Christianity, I know nothing of such their principles; and yet I humbly think I know them all. Give me leave to say further, and that upon the word of a Clergyman, that I neither know, nor ain known by, Mr. Wesley or Mr. Whitefield, whom the world calls the broachers, but I, the revivers, of this old-new doctrine. But shall I not speak the truth? Shall a Minister of the God of truth dare himself to deny the truth? God forbid! How should I fear, if I did, lest the Lord Jesus, who is “the way and the truth,” should turn his back upon my soul on the great day of his revelation !
All I have to say concerning this people will take up but little of your Lordship's time, since it is confined to a short paragraph or two in your Lordship’s Charge ; and therein I beg pardon, if I say, your Lordship seems to set out in an error, a mistake in the very portal. Your Lordship begins thus : “ There are some who are gone out from among us." O, my Lord, with how much more propriety, (and, I may say, truth, as your Lordship seems only to have been wrong informed,) I say, with how much more propriety and truth might your Lordship have said, “ There are some who have been driven out from among us!” I am very far, as I have before hinted, from thinking your Lordship has therein said one word, more or less, than you thought; but, my Lord, are people to be condemned unheard ? « Does our law condemn a man before it hears him?” Has your Lordship ever read Mr. Wesley's Appeal ? No! why, then your Lordship has condemned those whom you have never heard in their own defence. Give me leave, my Lord, to quote a few lines from that book, the truth of which is easily to be manifested : then see how ill the facts therein set down square with your Lordship's opinion of them.
“ We preach inward salvation, now attainable by faith ; and for
preaching this, (for no other crime was then so much as pretended) we were forbid to preach any more in any of those churches, where, til) then, we were gladly received; and not being suffered to preach it in the usual places, we declare it wheresoever a door is opened, either in a mountain, or a plain, or by a river side ; nor dare we refrain : 'a dispensation of the Gospel is committed to me, and woe is me if I preach not the Gospel.'”* And who would not do the same, that loved the Lord Jesus Christ? Would not your Lordship? For my part, I have that high opinion of your Lordship's Christianity and zeal for God, by the spirit that breathes in your Lordship's late Charge, that I should never be more disappointed, than in finding your Lordship, if under the same circumstances, any otherwise employed than in preaching up Jesus Christ, anywhere and everywhere, however apparently, as your Lordship calls it, “immethodical.”
I now beg your Lordship would be pleased to weigh these truths, and then I ask these questions : Are they gone out from among us? Or have we not rather driven them out? Away with all prejudice, and let God be glorified in our answer: which of these is the truth? I ask it in the name of my Master, my Master the Lord Jesus Christ, for whose Name I am ready to lay down my life this moment: if it is granted, as I think it must, in behalf of these “immethodical ” Preachers, I ask next, For what cause were they driven out? For preaching " salvation attainable by faith ;" and this in a Christian country? O monstrous ! « Tell it not in Gath!” For preaching up salvation by faith, are the Ministers of Jesus Christ forbidden the pulpits ? Alas! my good Lord, is there any other channel to salvation ? Is there any other Gospel ? Can we find a better way to heaven? Will not this produce in us all manner of good works? Is not this yoke easy, and this burden light," Believe and thou shalt be saved?” Will any man point me out an easier and a safer way than this : “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thy heart that God has raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved ?” O let these things be well weighed, and the mouth of all calumny be stopped !
There is a second thing laid to the charge of these people by your Lordship, which I also think it my duty to take some notice of ; and that I think is couched in these words : “ That they refuse to be under political government, and are therefore no friends to the hierarchy." O, my Lord ! how has your Lordship been imposed on, and how undeservedly have these unhappy people suffered in your Lordship’s opinion! Why, my Lord, they are ready, I answer for them; and that only upon what I read of them ; (for little more of them do I know ;) I say, they are ready, whenever and wherever called upon, to confess and defend all they have subscribed to in their ordination. Give me leave to give one more transcript out of the same book I before quoted. t.
“ However, we cannot, it is said, be friends to the Church, because we do not obey the governors of it; and submit ourselves (as at our ordination we promised to do to all their godly admonitions and injunctions: I answer, In every individual point of an indifferent nature, we do, and will, by the grace of God, obey the governors of the Church; but the testifying the Gospel of the grace of God, is not a point of an indifferent nature; the ministry which we have received at the hand of the Lord Jesus we are at all hazards to fulfil ; it is the burden of the Lord, which is laid upon us
*“ Appeal,” 4to., p. 35. (28, third edition.)
+ “ Appeal,” 4to. p. 42.
here ; and are we not to obey God rather than man? Nor do we in any ways violate the promise which each of us made, when it was said unto him, " Take thou authority to preach the word of God, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost :' we then promised to submit (mark the words) to the godly admonitions and injunctions of our Ordinary; but we did not, could not, promise to obey such injunctions as we know are contrary to the word of God.”*—(Par. 83.) · Very just, my Lord ; as clear a truth in my eyes, as the sun at his full lustre, in the meridian : for example, if your Lordship should command me (which I am sure your Lordship will not do by me, nor any of your Clergy) to preach up salvation by some other name than that of the Lord Jesus Christ, your Lordship could not wonder much if I withdrew my obedience from such a command ; for, notwithstanding the great love and veneration I always had for your Lordship, and now (since your Lordship’s Charge) much more than ever, yet I beg leave to assure the world in general, that I would not lose my soul to obey your Lordship, nor all the Bishops in Christendom.
The last thing I shall take notice of, and which indeed cannot with any justice be passed over, is the grand charge your Lordship lays to these people, of being “immethodical.” My Lord, I only take up the cause thus slightly, in the absence of those who can, and no doubt will, do it, hereafter, more efficaciously. Your Lordship’s accusation is couched in these words : “ Of whom it may be said, that their preaching is right and good in the main, though the persons are immethodical in their practice.” How did it rejoice my heart, and indeed that of every true lover of Jesus Christ, to hear these words ! for indeed, my Lord, they are truth; your Lordship never spoke a greater in your life, and the Lord will bear witness to it. What a true and glorious concession has your Lordship here made ! Is their doctrine “ right and good ?” why then are the Preachers of it despised and treated as the offscouring of the people ? Ay, but they are “ immethodical :" wherefore are they so? Let those answer that who have driven them to it; and who are those, my Lord ? who but those who have refused them their churches to preach in? Had they declined preaching in the churches, they were indeed of themselves “immethodical :” but if they are refused the liberty of preaching in the churches, and that indeed almost over this whole land ; pray, my Lord, who made them so ? Is not a “ dispensation of the Gospel committed ” unto them? Only try them, my Lord; send for them to your churches; you already approve their doctrine, you acknowledge it is “right and good in the main;" send for them then ; bid them go into your pulpits; and if they refuse, I will join hand and heart with your Lordship, and give them up as schismatics.
0, my Lord, pardon my zeal for the cause of Jesus Christ ! I have declared before, and do now again declare, that the heads of this sect of people (as it is invidiously termed) are wholly strangers to me; and indeed but few, very few of their followers have I any acquaintance with. It is true, I have some of their books, wherein I find so much of the spirit of primitive Christianity ; wherein I see the Holy Ghost so clearly manifested to the world ; wherein I see that almost exploded doctrine of justification by faith so strongly inculcated ;, and, in short, wherein I see so much of the “mind that was in Christ Jesus ;” that I must own, if this is.
* Works, vol. viii., pp. 34, 35, third edition.