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ON RESERVE IN PREACHING THE DOCTRINE OF
THE ATONEMENT. Sir,-I am glad to have been the means of drawing forth the able letters of your correspondent F. G. and am little inclined to dispute about premises, in the conclusions from which I fully concur. I am induced, however, to offer a few more observations, from the fear that the subject is not merely “one on which the orthodox clergy are at present kept asunder, in great measure, through misunderstanding ;" but one on which a practical difference is manifesting itself between those who ought to be one in heart and one in doctrine. It has been observed with pain, that there is a growing inclination amongst a portion of our brethren to keep the doctrine of the Atonement in the background of their pulpit teaching, -a shrinking from exhibiting it as a motive to love and obedience, -as if it were to expose a thing too holy for the vulgar gaze. I do not inquire whether this is a legitimate inference from the principles of the Oxford Tracts, or how far it may be considered a natural re-action from the practice of those, who have seemed to think this doctrine the only weapon in God's armoury, and who have in a manner overlaid and obscured the rest of the Bible with one great truth. But I am anxious to direct the attention of your readers to an investigation of the practice of the apostles, as the best guide for ministers of the Gospel at present; and for this purpose endeavoured in my last letter to throw together a few of the passages bearing on the subject. And I cannot think that F. G.'s remarks have at all weakened the conclusion to which those passages lead my own mind,—that St. Paul and the other apostles taught without reserve the doctrine of the Atonement, as well to the recent and weak, as to the experienced convert; and even preached it to the prejudiced Jew, and the self-satisfied philosopher of Greece.
I am far indeed, however, from propounding dogmatically this conclusion. My desire was rather to learn than to teach ; and my present purpose will be answered, if such of your readers as are interested in the question should be induced to examine the New Testament carefully for themselves. I find, however, from perusing F. G.'s letters, that a few remarks are necessary to prevent misapprehension.
I preserve the title of my former communication in preference to that assumed by F. G. ; and for this reason. The question is not, whether there are any religious truths in the communication of which reserve is needful: to assert this would be to contradict St. Paul, and confound his distinction between “milk for babes,” and “strong meat for them that are of full age;" the question (at least the question at present before us) is, whether the Atonement is one of the truths which are to be reserved. It appears to me, and I think to your correspondent, that it is not. It may be necessary, however, to define the doctrine of which we are speaking. The Atonement may be regarded as a single article of our creed, or as a complex of the many great doctrines which make up the wonderful scheme of man's redemption. In one sense, indeed, it
may be said to embrace the whole Bible, as being the point on which all the rays of revelation converge. Prophecies look forward to it; types shadow it out; the law prepares for it; the very empires of the world, as they rise and fall, bear on their successive waves this great purpose of God towards its consummation. But the specific doctrine, to which I would be understood as applying these remarks, is, that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, (i. e. as the Jews evidently understood it, the co-equal Son of God), died une nuwv, in bebalf, and instead of us; and the question is, whether we are justified on apostolic authority in keeping this truth in the background of our public teaching, or whether we should not rather put it prominently forward, as one of the fundamental truths on which every man's edifice of faith and obedience must be built, as the only ground of our hopes, and a motive, and a powerful one, to repentance, holiness, and love.
There is another point on which a distinction will tend much to disentangle the subject before us. We must distinguish between an intellectual fitness, and a moral fitness to receive religious truths. It is argued," that religious teachers do, for the most part, adopt a portion of this principle. We admit children but gradually to the knowledge of christian doctrine ; we exercise discretion as to what we shall in the mean time communicate and what keep back; that which we do impart, we in great measure impart economically." Doubtless we do; we do not teach children to read, who have not learnt to spell, or put the principia into the heads of those who are ignorant of the rudiments of mathematics. And in the case of the heathen, whenever the attempt has been made, it has been found a mischievous mistake to open to them the peculiar doctrines of the Gospel, before they have received the first principles of the unity of the Godhead, &c. But it has hence been illogically argued (though not I believe by your correspondent, whose words I have borrowed), that, therefore, reserve is allowable in the sense in which it is said to have been practised by the Alexandrian church, viz. to keep the doctrines of the Atonement, &c. as a sacred deposit, to be entrusted only to those who by a patient continuance in well doing have shown themselves worthy of it. This is to require, not merely an intellectual but a moral fitness, and a moral fitness of a kind which surely was not required by the practice of the apostles. To “cast our pearls before swine,” indeed—to expose the holy truths of revelation to the jeers of the scoffer, or the scorn of the hardened infidel,—is contrary both to the dictates of reason and the voice of God; but to wait for men to become moral, before we communicate the doctrines which contain the seeds of true morality,—to ask for virtue, while we withhold the light and heat which best unfold its blossoms, and ripen its fruits,ếis surely to invert the order of God's dealings with the human soul, and not “rightly to divide the word of truth.”
Men are brought in different ways, though by the same Holy Agent, to a saving conviction of the truth. Some are startled out of sin, and terrified by a fear of coming judgment; some are led by the conviction of their reason ; and some are drawn by the constraining force of love, acting, as the Holy Spirit directs, on the sympathies and affections of their nature. The christian minister, then, when it is his task to convert the unbeliever, to rouse the insensible, or to reclaim those who have VOL. XXII. NO. VIII.
wandered from the pale of the covenant, and broken their baptismal vow, should put in motion all the means with which God has furnished him, “ that he may by all means save some.” Not merely should he warn and terrify,--not merely urge with the calm pressure of compact argument, —but he should also attack the heart; and endeavour to engage the affections by a display of the infinite love of God in reconciling the world unto himself by the death and passion of his only and co-eternal Son. The most stern and rugged minds, in spiritual as well as moral agency, have been known to yield to the sympathetic force of love, when the shock of terror and the battery of reason have been alike employed in vain. We may not indeed limit the efficacious working of the Holy Spirit to any, or all of these means ;—" The wind bloweth where it listeth ;"--but these are means by which the Holy Spirit does work, and of which the christian minister should therefore avail himself, to influence the souls over which he is called to watch.
That the doctrine of the Atonement should be fully unfolded to the faithful and consistent Christian there is no question. It will be found, I think, that St. Paul did not reserve it for these, but preached it ér TPUTOLS, together with the fundamental truths of the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord, to weak brethren, and unconverted Jews and Greeks. It appears too in practice, that the preaching the Atonement is one of the means by which the Holy Spirit is pleased to act upon the hearts of men. I can hardly see, then, how a minister of the Gospel, even in his private ministrations, can be justified in reserving this doctrine, excepting in the cases of intellectual incapacity or wilful and scoffing infidelity. And I cannot see at all, how he can safely withhold it from a mixed congregation of educated adults, or place it in a less prominent situation in his teaching than it holds in God's revelationthe substance of a Christian's faith, the foundation of his hope, the source of his love to God, and the motive of his charity to men.
ON RELIGIOUS LIBERTY. Dear Sir,-In my former letter, I endeavoured to point out the importance of the Book of Common Prayer, as the Pastor's help. And, under the full conviction that all who really regard it as their highest privilege to be employed, under the Good Shepherd, in feeding the lambs and the sheep of His flock, will often call to remembrance the language of their ordination vows, I am anxious to say a few words on that passage in the office for the Ordering of Priests, where we are so solemnly reminded, that we must be 'ready, with all faithful diligence, to banish and drive away all erroneous and strange doctrines, contrary to God's word.'
Now, how can we be ready' to fulfil this part of the Pastoral office, unless we shall be always on the watch, for the purpose of guarding our Aocks against the first beginnings of error ? In other words : How can we be ready' thus to banish and drive away all erroneous and strange doctrines,' unless we shall give all faithful diligence' to warn the people committed to our charge against the too common and most mischievous practice of calling things by their wrong names ? tain it is that they who once begin with using words in an improper sense, will gradually learn to view things always through a wrong medium, or to colour them always with their own false prejudices, until they become, at last, "wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight."
It is from this habit of calling things by their wrong names, that many persons are so accustomed to speak of the Church of England as a state of 'spiritual bondage,' and of those who separate from her communion, as friends of religious liberty. And we cannot be surprised that such language should create a strong prejudice against the Church of England, inasmuch as we are plainly commanded, in Holy Scripture, to “stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free ;” and it follows, therefore, that when men allow themselves to speak of the Church of England, as gendering to bondage, they actually represent her as exercising or claiming an authority repuguant to the plain word of God.
But if we proceed to inquire into the real signification of the term liberty, not according to the partial and peculiar interpretations of india viduals, but as it is invariably used in Holy Scripture, we shall find that it is intended to describe the children of God, as being delivered from the bondage of sin, and from the chains of prejudice and error, in order that they may no longer be enslaved by their own imperious wills, or groan under the tyranny of their own sinful and corrupt affections, but that they may be disposed and enabled to live and die to Him, who has redeemed them with His own most precious blood! The liberty of the Gospel denotes, in short, that service of God, in which only, as it is expressed in our Liturgy, perfect freedom' consists. For, to employ the admirable language of Isaac Barrow: 'Our Redeemer hath rescued us from miserable captivity, under most barbarous enemies, that, obeying His will, we might command our own, and that, serving Him, we might enjoy perfect freedom.'
Who, then, are the true friends of religious liberty?' They, and they alone, who, remembering how we are commanded, in Holy Scripture, to walk as free," and yet “ not using our liberty as a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God,” are daily praying that, instead of being any longer the slaves of self-will, they may indeed experience the blessedness of Christian liberty, by submitting themselves, in all things, to the will of God, as revealed to us in His Word, and transmitted to us, through all generations, by the Holy Catholic Church.
Instead of being “ tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine," such persons deem it their privilege, no less than their duty, to follow the guidance of the Church, as the guardian of the “ faith once delivered unto the saints, and to receive all the truths which she has thus preserved, whole and unmutilated, amidst the ever fluctuating and conflicting opinions which have prevailed around her. In one word; the true friends of religious liberty do not consider themselves free to pick and choose for themselves any favourite and peculiar doctrines; but they desire to hold stedfastly all those Catholic verities, which obtained the consent of Christians, in the earliest and purest ages of the Church ; and they look upon thosa two articles of the Apostles' Creed, wherein we profess to believe in the Holy Catholic
Church, and in the Communion of Saints,' not as so many idle, unmeaning words, but as forming an integral and important part of the Christian Faith.
I have said that these true friends of religious liberty always remember how they are commanded, in Holy Scripture, to walk
as free," and yet, at the same time, “ as the servants of God;" and I feel that Archbishop Leighton's remarks on the Apostle Peter's language ought to be treasured up in our very heart's core.
• The Apostle,' he observes, so expresses himself, lest any should so far mistake the nature of their Christian liberty, as to dream of an exemption from obedience, either to God, or to men for His sake, and according to his appointment. That we deceive not ourselves, as too many do, who have no portion in this liberty, we ought to know, that it is not to inordinate walking and licentiousness, as our liberty, that we are called, but from them, as our thraldom. We are not called from obedience, but to it. We must beware, therefore, that we make not our liberty, a cloak of maliciousness;" since it is too precious a garment for so base a use. Liberty is, indeed, Christ's livery, that he gives to all his followers: but to live suitably to it, is not to live in wickedness, or in disobedience of any kind, but in obedience and holiness. We are called to be " the servants of God;" and that is, at once, our dignity and our liberty.'
But if these observations be just, it follows that all who plead their religious liberty, as a reason for separating from the communion of the Church, are calling things by their wrong names. And if they would desire to substitute the phrase of religious independence, I can only say that religious independence, though actually adopted, as a badge of discipleship by one denomination of separatists, involves a contradiction in terms; since it is quite certain that independence can have nothing in common with religion, whose end it is, as its very name implies, to bring us back to that blessed state of dependence on God's will, and to that dutiful obedience to His word, from which our first parents departed, and which the pride of our rebellious hearts is always striving to shake off.
But every effort to shake off the rightful authority of our God, will only bind us the faster to the usurped authority of man. And the question, therefore, simply is, Whether we will adhere to the fellowship of the Holy Catholic Church, as the congregation of faithful men, in the which the pure word of God is preached, and the sacraments are duly ministered according to Christ's ordinance; or, Whether we will set up for ourselves some favourite Teacher, who shall exercise dominion over our faith, and teach us to measure all truth by the standard of his own judgment, and according to his own private and peculiar notions ? The question really is, Whether the doctrines of the Gospel shall be taught, according to the narrow, and partial, and limited views, and in compliance with the ever wavering opinions, of individual men; or, according to some common, acknowledged public standard, which shall remain one and the same in all places, and at all periods of Christendom?
For though men may idly boast of independence, there is not one man in ten thousand, who could or would work out his religious system entirely for himself. And yet, if we receive it, for the most part, from the teaching of others, what is this but going to another source besides the Bible, in order to ascertain what the Bible contains ? The