תמונות בעמוד
PDF

WE have received several communications upon the subject of the Essays of N. R. which have appeared in the three last numbers of this publication. One of these communications was inserted in No. 29, and the following has been since received. The writers appear to have mistaken N. R.'s meaning. We were aware that he had expressed himself in an unusal manner; and we by no means think that his expressions are the best that could have been selected: but his papers were calculated to call the attention of our readers to a subject which is at the bottom of all the disputes between modern Churchmen; and we saw no reason to refuse them a place in our miscellany. We shall also readily publish any remarks with which we may be favoured, either in reprobation or in defence of these Essays; and shall hereafter

take the liberty of reviewing the whole.

ORIGINAL SIN.

To the Editor of the Remembrancer.
SIR, -

THAT it is the constant effect of exaggerated statement on one side, to produce in its re-action an equal exaggeration in a contrary direction, is a truth too trite to require repetition; but I do not remember ever to have met with a proof of it so very striking as is afforded in the essay “On Enmity to God by Nature,” with which your last number commences. I fully admit, that much of injudicious overstatement has occasionally, at least, appeared in the writings of one party, with respect to those most important and fundamental questions in religion (for such, in truth, they are) which form the subject of your corres. pondent's remarks; from the common principle above adverted to, I might, therefore, have been reasonably prepared to find some tendency to run into a contrary excess;

but I must confess myself wholly unprepared to meet with statements admitted to your pages, in which a crude and indigested hypothesis, evidently framed without any sufficient acquaintance either with current opinions, or standard authori: ties, on the subject referred to, and with a palpable misconception of the whole matter in dispute, stands directly opposed (as to me at least it appears), to the very letter of our articles—to the spirit of all our religious formularies—and to the express doctrines, not of one party alone, but of all who have hitherto been recognized as bearing any weight among the writers connected with our establishment. I would not willingly deal harshly with any writer, however I might feel inclined to controvert his opinions; yet there are cases in which nothing less than the exposure of the complete incompetency of those who rashly thrust themselves forward into the field of controversy, can afford any sufficient corrective to the evils produced by their intrusion; altogether unprepared as they are with the requisite armour of proof. What can I say then of one, who attempting a subject, requiring, above all others, clearness of conception and precision of statement, conveys his opinions in such a paragraph as the following:

“By righteousness understanding religion, and by religion Christianity, the whole system of that, rightly contemplated, is a proof of this: and is itself proved to be the work of the same Creator, by the remarkable correspondence, and the exact resemblance which subsist between them.”

These propositions I certainly do not mean to dispute, because I find it perfectly impossible to attach any kind of meaning to them. I feel, indeed, in transcribing them, that it may naturally be supposed that I have acted unfairly in suppressing some connecting part which might have given sense and consistency to the chaotic mass; but those whe

will consult the original, will find it a vain o: to seek for elucidation in any thing which either goes before or follows after. The same obscurity pervades so much of your correspondent's argument, that I shall not pretend to follow it, but content myself by shewing, that such a task is rendered quite superfluous by the direct contradiction which his conclusions present to all the most respected authorities of our Church, both ancient and modern ; and that they involve an entire misconception of the opinions which he believes himself to be opposing. These conclusions, if I rightly apprehend them (which, from the causes above stated), I dare hardly positively assert, may be reduced to these two propositions. I. That human nature, employing that term in its proper and strict sense, being, “that by which we are what we are by God’s appointment,” is not and cannot be “opposite to God’s will,” or “adverse to true religion,” or have implanted in it any “seeds of evil.” II. That whenever such characters are ascribed to human nature, the term is employed loosely “only a subordinate nature, or habitual usage, is, in fact intended,” superinduced “by bad examples, bad suggestions, bad habits, of our own acquirement,” &c. . In the first place this hypothesis is evidently inconsistent with itself; for if there be no original taint, whence arises all this subsequent contamination ? IIo9s, ro razo, ; can the innocent infect the innocent, or will the spontaneous workings of an healthy mass generate contagion? or how is it that we so readily acquire for ourselves these bad habits? Again, in another place, the necessity of God's grace to support us against temptation is admitted; but a moment's reflection must shew, that it is the original depravation of our natural powers alone which can ender supernatural assistance thus indispensable, I omit the still gros

ser inconsistency of the passage in which it is allowed, that we are b

the very terms of that nature i. God gives us, since Adam's fall, prone to sin; which is obviously contradictory to the whole hypo

thesis.

In the second place, this hypothesis involves a total misconception of the matter in dispute, inasmuch, as no one ever did ascribe corruption to human nature, as it originally proceeded from the hands of its maker; for the Supralapsarian himself, though, perhaps, somewhat inconsistently, would regard such a notion with horror. The subsequent corruption of that nature, and our own participation in that corruption, are points to which we feel ourselves compelled to assent, equally by the incontrovertible testimony of God’s revealed word and our own personal experience; nor will the various metaphysical difficulties with which every sciolist knows the great question of the original introduction of evil, to be embarrassed, in the least countervail these positive and decisive authorities; although they certainly ought to prevent a writer, obviously little acquainted with them, from rashly obtruding an opinion on the subject.

I now proceed to that which is, in fact, the primary point at issue between myself and your correspondent, namely the total contradiction which all the received authorities of the Church oppose to his hypothesis, he himself modestly charges “excess of statement,” against the Homilies; and my only wonder is how, with his views, he failed to include the Articles, the Liturgy, and all our standard divines, in the same accusation. I am fully aware, indeed, that many different shades of opinion have been entertained by the most respectable authorities, as to the precise extent and effects of that original corruption of our nature which it has ever been admitted, on all hands, that the formularies of our Church constantly assert or imply throughout their whole fabric; but I am, at the same time, quite prepared to prove, that the most moderate view which has ever been advocated by any known authority in our Establishment, is as remote from the hypothesis of your correspondent on the one hand, as from the most exaggerated statements of ultra Calvinism on the other. It is simply necessary, in order to prove the justice of this animadversion, to compare the words of the article dedicated expressly to this subject, with the terms of your correspondent's hypothesis. “Original Sin, is the fault and corruption of the nature of every man that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam, whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil; therefore, in every person born into this world, it deserveth God's wrath and damnation.” After this it is surely unnecessary to proceed; here is nothing like a secondary nature, superinduced by bad habit or example; the subject of these startling predicates is human nature strictly so called ; that which is uaturally engendered in the whole race of Adam; that with which every person is born into the world; if the article had been constructed for the very purpose of condemning your correspondent’s hopothesis, instead of the heresy of Pelagius only (which was, in truth, the same thing, under a somewhat less extravagant form) it could not have been more expressly worded. It is with pleasure that I refer to the commentary of Bishop Tomline on this article to prove, that it is by no means necessary to be Calvinistically inclined in order to differ toto calo with your correspondent. To prove further, if further proof be requisite, that the views of all sound Churchmen on this subject are uniformly (whatever minor differences may exist amongst them) opposed to this ultra Pelagian

scheme, I subjoin an extract from an admirable discourse of the present Bishop of Killaloe, a writer who cannot be suspected of having handled this subject inadvertently, or with a mind uninstructed in the controverted points with which it is connected. “It is the property of the holy scriptures to open the eyes of man upon his real situation; and to convince him of the errors with respect to his own nature and powers which in his unenlightened state he is found to etertain. Philosophy, that philosophy I mean, falsely so called, which would fain be esteemed superior to Revelation, is fond of descanting upon the dignity and independence of man; revealed religion, especially the Christian religion, presents us with a very different picture, it teaches us that our nature is essentially faulty, and that as men we are compassed with infirmity; spoiled through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, we adopt the self-sufficient language of the church of the Laodiceans, and say, ‘ I am rich, I am increased with goods, and have need of nothing.' Instructed in the truth after Christ, rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith we are taught to “know that we are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked; we are thereby taught, that we are not sufficient of ourselves to think or do any good thing as of ourselves; we are particularly remainded, that in us, that is in our flesh, in our original nature, there duelleth no good thing.”—Bp. Mant's Parochial Sermons, Vol. III. p. 333. The prejudice with which this doctrine is so often received, seems to arise (next to the influence of that natural pride which it so sensibly mortifies) from an erroneous conception of its real bearing and extent; and the idea, that it necessarily involves the total denial of our natural capacity to perform any generous or amiable social actions, I will not,

indeed, deny that some writers have actually carried, and more hurried on by the force of rhetorical overstatement, have seemed to carry it to this length; but a slight acquaintance with the present state of opinions, will shew, that the number actually holding it in this extreme sense, is both small and diminishing. It must be remembered, however, that the virtues belonging to the second table are neither the only nor the highest requisites in the Christian scale of character; the real question is, how far man is naturally competent to such a performance of the first great command, as can be considered in any degree commensurate to its supreme obligation. Whether he does or can of himself “love the Lord his God with all his strength, and with all his soul, and with all his mind P’ I am most deeply convinced, that whether we look around us or within us, the only answer which it is possible to return, must be a decided negative; that a degree of disinclination to the spiritual service of God, which nothing short of his grace can enable us to overcome at all, and which is, perhaps, never entirely overcome in our present imperfect state, will be sound lurking in every breast. Could this be so, were the nature with which we are now born, according

toyour correspondent's phrase," that

by which we are what God appointed us to be?” if we indeed retained the original image in which we were created, would not the love of God be the first, the highest, the most influential of our motives 2 And where the first principle is thus dePraved, and the great source of human virtue thus choked, will not all the lower virtues partake in the dePravation? Does our social virtue *tually rise to the high standard of Christian duty ; is it not often built on false motives; are not its most "illiant instances but as columns *anding amidst a scene of ruin; do * not form the exceptions, rather

*the general rule of human conduct?

[blocks in formation]

This surely affords an additional proof, that the facts of common experience harmonise with the doctrine in question, otherwise how shall we account for so general a belief, in that which it is nevertheless so painful and humiliating to believe.

Let me conclude with a short view of some of the consequences which must follow the admission of your correspondent’s hypothesis. The 9th Article must not merely be modified, but entirely abandoned; since original sin must, on such a scheme, be an expression absolutely without meaning—the 10th, which is in fact a corollary from the 9th, (since, if we were of our own nature inclined to good, there could be neither room nor necessity for the supernatural aid of preventing grace) must share the same fate; as must the 11th, 12th, and 13th ; all of which are built up in a regular concatenated series with the former; and the double effect ascribed in the 2d, to the sacrifice of Christ, must be renounced ; since, on this view, it must be obvious, that there could be no sin but that which is described as actual sin, viz. that superinduced by “bad example, bad habit,” &c. to require atonement.

Further, the fundamental assumption on which the whole baptismal

service proceeds; and therefore the whole of that service must be expunged. “Dearly beloved—for as much as all men are conceived and born in sin—I beseech you to call upon God that he will grant to this child that thing which by nature he cannot have.” In our confessions again it must, on this hypothesis, be palpably false, to assign our following too much the devices and desires of our own hearts, as the cause of our of fending; and a ridiculous mockery to profess, that there is no health in us. Such would be what I may call the ecclesiastical consequences of your correspondent's scheme. I will only add, what appear to me its moral consequences. It would effectually throw open the door to licentiousness, by countenancing that most common of all sophisms, by which the libertine defends his conduct; that the indulgence of his inclinations cannot be vicious, because it is natural; and that he follows only the dictates of that nature “by which he is what God appointed him to be;” by disarming us of all salutary suspicion of ourselves and our own hearts, it would render us negligent in selfexamination, and altogether remiss in that watchfulness enjoined by our Lord. And lastly, it would deprive us of the great motive and object of prayer; since beings so virtuously disposed by nature, could stand in no need whatever of preventing grace, and in very little of co-operating grace. I have now concluded what I have to offer. I am not absurd enough to expect that an editor should be held accountable for all that appears in a publication of this nature; nor do I deny, that a liberal freedom of discussion is, in such a publication, desirable; but still there are certain limits upon which the inscription of the Herculean columns should be carefully fixed; and should a journal, conducted on the principles of yours, and professing to hold out a central

point of union to a large clerical party, suffer itself to become in its anxiety to counteract opposite errors, the vehicle of such crude speculations and of Pelagianism, only not clearly exhibited, from the want of information and power in the author so to exhibit it; the natural effect must be to scandalize real friends; to justify open enemies; and to discredit the cause which it is intended to advocate. OxONIENSIS.

-

We are enabled to present our readers with the following Notes, copied verbatim from a M.S. in the hand-writing of Dr. Chapman, the learned author of Eusebius. He was the Domestic Chaplain, and intimate friend of Archbishop Potter.

Memorandums of Things which I have heard in private from Archbishop Potter's own Mouth, as certain Truths.

1. THAT his Majesty King George II. had often declared to the Archbishop himself, that he would always support the Church of England, both as to religion and government, in opposition to all attempts upon it; and likewise the Clergy, in all their just rights and liberties. 2. That the same Prince often used to make a jest of his Queen’s intermeddling so much in theological disputes, especially in the Arian cause. 3. That his Grace had often reasoned with Queen Caroline on the subject of Arianism, very freely and fully, that she would hear any thing with the greatest condescension and candour; and however she might screen or favour persons inclined to Arianism, she yet was never fixed in that way of thinking as far, as he could discern. o 4. That the Queen's disgust for a time to Dr. Waterland, he was sure was not owing to bis writings against Arianism, butto a little misbehaviour in the Doctor, upon a certain occasion, which was this. The Queen * : * * * * * * * * *

« הקודםהמשך »