Abbildungen der Seite

Is it then credible that none of those Evangelists alluded to in the Ep. to the Ephesians, should have published their performances so many years after the ascension,if they were then appointed to their office, and that they should have all published in the course of four years after the date of the first epistle to the Corinthians ? This inference from the epistle to the Corinthians may at first seem to be a fair counterpoise to that from the epistle to the Ephesians. A little attention however to the time when a church was first established at Corinth, and to the drift of our Apostle's reasoning through the preceding part of the first epistle to that church, and particularly of the chapter where the list of offices occurs, may convince any one, that this omission is by no means a decisive proof that those Evangelists had not given proofs of their ministry before that epistle was written. At the time when Paul wrote that epistle, the church at Corinth may be said to have been in its infancy; it may therefore be doubted whether the very best informed among the Corinthians were sufficiently acquainted with the multifarious transactions of our Lord's ministry, to be able to write such a narration of it, as would afford satisfaction even to the members of their own church.: but it is much more to be doubted whether any of them were become so extravagant in their pretensions to superior spiritual qualifications, as to expect greater credit for any performance of the kind, than must have been due to those who could produce satisfactory proof of their having been in Palestine, and intimate with some of the eye-witnesses. As there is no great room therefore to suppose that there could have been any strife among the members of the church at Corinth on that account, it must be allowed that it is the more probable there could have been no great occasion for Paul to advert to that class of public characters in the Church as being objects of invidious emulation. But whatever may have been the cause of Paul's having omitted to give this class of ministers a place among the other four, on this occasion it will, perhaps, be made to appear in the sequel that St. Luke had then published his Gospel; and if so, many other gospels must have been in circulation when Paul wrote his first epistle to the Corinthians; thcugh he has therein omitted to give Evangelists a place in his catalogue of spiritual

offices. ... But though the many adverted to by Luke may have - - . . published

published their narratives before the first epistle to the Corinthians was written, yet unless it can be made to appear that those unknown gospel-writers were in general men of respectability, the inference from the omission in that epistle would remain pretty nearly in full force.--It might still be remarked, and with some appearance of plausibility, that since Paul did not think it right to place the authors of those Gospels in this first list of spiritual ministers, it is much to be questioned whether he thought they deserved that honour; and that the inattention manifested by the Church to their performances, is a pretty clear proof that they were of very little value. But as we seem to have reason to suspect, from what has been already said concerning the Evangelists mentioned in the epistle to the Ephesians, viz. that they appear to have been duly accredited ; and, that Luke only among the four principal Evangelists, is likely to have been of the number there adverted to, we surely have no great reason to think disrespectfully of them. How is it then, it may be asked, that their productions, if they were entitled to credit, were so soon permitted to be lost? The publication of those, by the eye-witnesses, it may be replied, may have rendered them useless. And should this be considered as not quite satisfactory, it may be furthermore contended, that if only one or two instances can be produced of the inattention of the Church to the preservation of Gospels written by Evangelists of acknowledged credibility, the others now lost may have been written by men of equal celebrity and credibility :

Let us then see whether we can find something like an instance of this sort in the New Testament,

(To be continued.)




[ocr errors]

THE Christian Observer for December last contains

a criticism on my tract relating to Catechising, which seems to demand a few observations from me. Without trespassing too much on the patience of you and your readers, I cannot reply to every part of the attack; Kk 2


but I indulge the hope, that a specimen of what thight be said on this occasion, will be sufficient to answer every useful purpose. The Christian Observers, who seem, in this instance, to have condescended to borrow the pen (the modern stylus) of Mr. Overton, think they have convicted me of inconsistency, and “ condemned me,” as they express it, “out of my own mouth,” because I say, that “Calvinists adopt a mode of reasoning which induces, them to reject or neglect the use of means in religion,” while I allow, that “ many Calvinistic ministers are some of the most diligent ministers among us.” I o: myself, however, that any candid person, who shall compare to* #. the two passages referred to, will find in them no nconsistency. In the former passage, I am speaking of the effects which Calvinistic opinions tend to produce on the minds and conduct of the lower orders of the people, and of the neglect of instructing their children, or causins them to be instructed, in the principles of religion, as one of those effects. Now, it is well known, that Calvinistic opinions are propagated by the very numerous sects of Whitfieldian Methodists and Particular ...Baptists, as well as by that class of ministers of the Established Church, who are termed Evangelical Ministers. But the Christian Observers, who, I suppose, speak the sense of those ministers, are, it seems, so concerned in the interests of Calvinism, as to think that every thing which is spoken of Calvinism is spoken in reference to them. I mention Evangelical Ministers of the Fstablishment as contributing to the increase of Calvinism; but I do not say, nor do I think, that all the effects, which are naturally to be expected from Calvinistic opinions, take place in the minds, and may be traced in the conduct of those ministers. The absurdities of Calvinism are so gross, that they never can produce their full effect on the mind or conduct of any cultivated person. In such a case, their tendency is counteracted by various opposing considerations. I never imagined that a Calvinistic Minister of the Establishment, or any person of a regular education, could be induced by his peculiar opinions to neglect all the means of religion. Who, for instance, that has any acquaintance with the conduct of Calvinistic Ministers, can accuse them of want of diligence in preaching? In this particular they are sufficiently observant of the Apostolic injunction ; and are - - - ? - - * “ instant « instant in season and out of season.” The danger is, that the prevalence of Calvinistic opinions inay inducethe lower orders of the people, who are immersed in ignorance, and inclined to vice, and for many of whom no absurdity is too gross, to rest in their ignorance and vice, and to think all exertions to deliver theinselves from such a state either unnecessary or unavailing.

Again; I have said, that, owing to the institution of parochial schools in Scotland, the common people of that part of the United Kingdom are better informed on the subject of religion than the common people of England. This, the Christian Observers think is utterly inconsistent with my saying that Calvinism is a hindrance to religious instruction; because Calvinism prevails more in Scotland than in England. But the Christian Observers ought to have recollected, that Calvinism is the Established Religion in Scotland, though it is not yet so in England; and that, consequently, the hindrance to catechising, which I referred to, i. e. the unwillingness of Calvinists to instruct by an Anti-Calvinistic catechism, cannot possibly take place there. If Calvinistic Ministers of the Church of England were permitted to make use of the

Assembly's Catechism, I have but little doubt that they would pay more attention to catechising than they do at present, though certainly not such an attention as I should think the most desirable.

The Christian Observers expressly deny, what I as expressly affirin, that the passages in the Church Catechism, which represent all persons who are baptized, as regenerated; that is, born anew, and delivered from the curse of original sin ; as also elect, that is, chosen children of grace, and placed in a state of salvation; or, tą use the words of the Catechism itself, made members of Christ, children of God, and inheritors of the kingdom of Heaven, contradict the fundamental principle of Calvinism; but it appears to me, that in affirming this, however inconsistent I may be with the Christian Observers, I am not guilty of any inconsistency with myself.

The Christian Observers are angry with me for appealing to the common people on such abstruse subjects as

those which are dispated between Calvinists and Armi- nians. In my Tract I have stated my reason for doing

this; and declared it not to be a matter of choice, but of necessity, a necessity induced by the Evangelical Mipisters themselves, “who not only make their peculiar


opinions the chief subjects of their sermons, and the criterion of true churchmanship, but represent the belief of them as necessary to salvation.” It is made matter of particular complaint too, that, in this point, I have directed the attention of my readers to Mr. Overton. I am not aware that I had any intention of doing this. I am glad to be assured, however, that Mr. Overton is too sensible to preach in the manner I have reprobated; for, from the great stress which he lays on those opinions in his publication, the contrary might naturally enough be suspected. But I have too much reason to think, that all evangelical ministers are not equally sensible, or at least do not act with equal prudence. I can inform Mr. Overtop of the name of an evangelical minister, a friend, I believe, of his, who lays such a stress on the peculiar doctrines referred to, that, previously to his occasional absence from his parish, he advised his parishioners to attend the meeting-house, or even no place of public worship at all, rather than any Church where those doctrines were not likely to be preached. I could also inform Mr. Overton of the name of another evangelical minister, a friend of his, who has contributed not a little to bring the Catechism and Catechising into disrepute in my-parish and neighbourhood, and who is continually endeawouring to draw off my parishioners from attending their parish Church, under the idea, that the Gospel is not preached there. But I have contradicted myself, it seems, in calling the opinions, which the generality of the ministers of the Church of England entertain on the points disputed between Arminians and Calvinists, Arminian opinions; because I have said in another work, i. e. my Second Letter to Mr. Overton, that “The Church of England, properly speaking, is not in her doctrines, any more than in her discipline, Calvinistic, Arminian, Romish, or Lutheran; but that, combining the perfections of all these persuasions, and avoiding their faults and defects, she stands as distinguished in a religious view, as the State, to which she is allied, does in a political view.”. It must be obvious enough to a common observer, though not to the Christian Observer, that, in this latter passage, I mean merely to say, that the Church of England is not so completely Arminian in her doctrines, as to have adopted all the opinions which were afterwards maintained by Arminius, and those opinions only; and that I by no means preclude


« ZurückWeiter »