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THE CHRISTIAN GUARDIAN,
CHURCH OF ENGLAND MAGAZINE.
THE PRESENT DANGERS OF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST.
To the Editor of the Christian Guardian.
SIR,—Circumstanced as the Church in all that concerns his fellow-men. of Christ is at present, he who would He must be a watchful observer estimate truly her position in the of all that is passing around him, world, the dangers which threaten whether for good or for evil ; especiher, and the progress she is making ally in the workings of the human intowards the accomplishment of her tellect. He must, in short, as a glorious mission, in the conversion of member of a professedly Christian the whole world to Christ, must no community, be in its legitimate aclonger be either a recluse or a mere ceptation a man of the world; far theologian. We have had of late in separated, indeed, from its wickedthe delusions of Tractarianism, one ness, and its frivolities, and disenremarkable proof more in addition to gaged from its most attractive allurethose of former times, that neither the ments; but yet with a heart full of seclusion of the cloister, nor the study sympathy for his fellow-creatures ;of speculative theology, can prove any
his attention always awake to every safeguard against error in doctrine; passing event that may affect their but that both, on the contrary, tend interests; and a hand ready to help to foster it. Nor do they promote
time of need. Here, surely, either spirituality of mind, or real and in no narrower field, is his sphere sanctification of the heart and life. of duty during his earthly sojourn ; Indeed there is no case in which the and if he be truly one of watchfulness real spirit of worldly-mindedness is and prayer, he will be more likely to generally more conspicuous, than in preserve his garments unspotted, than that of those who profess to have for- if he shut himself up in the fancied saken the world. While the true security of a cherished retirement, or Christian is ever on the watch to keep within the precincts of some selfhimself uncontaminated by the evil chosen party, of whatever name, that is in the world, he feels it never- which a narrow-minded sectarianism theless to be his duty to go forth, induces him to call exclusively the and take his share in its lawful busi- Church. ness and pursuits. Although a It is indeed in the wide field of acstranger and a pilgrim” on the earth; tive duty, that Tractarianism itself yet, being also "a man and a brother, must be met, in order that it may be he ought to take a brotherly interest successfully encountered. Nurtured
within the narrow confines of the certain defective views as to the “real cloister, it cannot live and flourish danger of the Church,” entertained, long in the more healthy atmosphere not by Mr. Gresley or his party, but, of Christian diligence and zeal." "It what is of far more consequence, by is remarkable," as Dr. Pusey himself their opponents; and inducing them observed, before he became unhappily to take a contracted view of Tractaa leader of the party which now bears rianism and its baneful results. Inhis name, and when speaking of the deed I think that a love of retirement, aberrations of German Theology, an exclusive attachment to certain that the opponents of these aberra- party opinions, and an unwise, though tions
were, with a few splendid ex- conscientious dreadofintercourse with ceptions, principally the practical general society, professedly Christian, clergy, in whom their difficult practi- but which they, misapplying the term cal duties perpetuated the sense that used in the New Testament in a dif. something more was necessary than ferent sense, are wont to call “the doctrinal speculation.”* I believe world,” has, by narrowing the mind, that happily Puseyism is not much and closing up the avenues to general relished by the laity of this country; information, and extended views of it appears to be in favour chiefly with Christian doctrine, prevented a large the clergy; and we may venture to class of pious and devoted Christians affirm that, had they been all along or from forming an accurate estimate of for the last twenty years a "practical” the perils which now threaten the clergy, the plague would never have Church, whether from friends within gained ground among us at all; nay, or foes without. Although maintainthere is at this moment distress ing perhaps theoretically the univerenough in Ireland, to cure effectually sality of redemption, they do not emthe Puseyism of the sister country; brace it practically in all its grandeur would the clergy of both, quitting and vastness, as including in extent their insane reveries, and their scho- the destinies of myriads of the human lastie systems, set themselves in good family, nay, for ought we know, of earnest, as some have already done, other worlds besides, and as reckonto relieve the present misery of that ing its days of duration from the unhappy country. They would thus first “song of the morning stars," to prove themselves to be indeed the the “sound of the last trumpet." ministers of a religion ordained" to The speculations of such narrowheal the broken-hearted;" and which viewed Christians seem to centre too enjoins all its members as their first much on self, or to circulate within duty, to "consider the poor,” and to the orbit of a neighbourhood or a de“ visit the fatherless and widows in nomination. But while they are thus their affliction.” We should then
contracting their views of doctrine have no further need of pamphlets and duty, the destinies of the world about the “real danger of the are advancing onward with the proChurch ;" for even imaginary dan- gress of time, and so they who ought gers would then speedily disappear. to be the Church's best safeguard,
By such means only indeed may are prevented from keeping watch in we reasonably hope that this, and all the needful quarter ;-imaginary danother vain speculations, and fond in- gers are magnified, while real ones are ventions of man, will be eventually kept out of sight. put down : viz., by the universal pre- To the Evangelical portion of the valence of practical godliness. In Christian community the above rethe meantime, it is the duty of all those marks may not, without good reason, who put pen to paper to expose with apply. They are, or ought to be, meekness and candour the fallacy, "the salt of the earth," the Church's and the "real danger" of erroneous best protection ; and if so, to them it systems. I have accordingly made the belongs to be especially clear-sighted foregoing observations not so much on when dangors threaten, Hitherto, their own account, as with reference to however, throughout the Tractarian
controversy, theirs has been a zeal * Pusey on Rationalism, p. 147. not always according to knowledge.
Viewing the system of their opponents Infidelity was moreover emphatically as subversive of doctrines which they the sin to reprove which the Spirit justly consider essential, but which was to be sent. “ And when he is they seem somewhat unjustly to re- come,” says our Lord, “ he will regard as their own peculiar inheritance, prove the world of sin, because they they have been accustomed to con- believe not on me.” (John xvi. 8, 9.) sider the question as one of party im- Infidelity brought the Lord of glory portance, without respect to its more at last to the Cross and to the grave. general, and more remote, but far more It occasioned the destruction of the momentous consequences.
Hence Jewish church and nation, so long the almost exclusive outcry in this the chosen and favoured people of quarter against Popery, and the God. It was indeed the chief occaPopish element of Tractarianism, as sion of the rise of that deadly form of if both systems were formidable only superstition within the Christian for their superstition. This is one Church, of which we have been speakcause of alarm certainly, and a very ing—the cause, as well as the conseobvious one, for the Church has suf- quence of Romish error: a subtle fered too much already from the en- principle of evil, ever revolving, and croachments of the grand apostacy, interweaving itself with the most monot to be seriously alarmed at the mentous concerns of man, and interslightest prospect of her regaining the posing between him and his eternal ascendancy. But it is not the only welfare. one. “Things are not always as they And how much reason we now have
It is one of the wiles of the to dread the inroads of this malignant arch-deceiver, by false appearances of principle, an enlarged acquaintance danger, frequently to conceal real with the world, with its literature, ones. The depths of Satan are seldom and with the tone of political and disclosed at once : indeed they never social feeling, especially among the appear on the surface.
middle classes of society, cannot fail always, even in the darkest ages,
If we observe closely the proved less formidable as a supersti- character and tendency of all that is tion, than as a mask for indifference supposed to be most influential in the and disbelief. And in the present exercise of the human intellect, that comparatively enlightened age, and in most powerful of all secular agencies its new dress of Tractarianism, it is for the promotion either of truth or still the old enemy, more artfully dis- error amongst mankind :—if we note guised than ever. He therefore who the tone of our popular periodical would protect himself and others from and newspaper literature, and of those errors now so prevalent in the most graver works, especially of a scientific momentous of all concerns, must en- description, which have secured, and deavour to unmask it, and expose its which still retain, general attention native deformity.
and approbation; and if we listen to Norarewe indeed sufficiently aware, the speeches and lectures delivered at how much is to be apprehended from the various philosophical and literary the undisguised and direct assaults of societies, now
so frequent in the unbelief. We are apt to forget that country, it will soon, I think, appear it is at once the first and foremost that for one sincere convert to Rooffspring of man's natural corruption, manism, or even for one whose mind and the root of all sin ; that it is the may receive a bias in that direction, oldest, the most inveterate, the most thousands are continually exposed to irreconcilable, as well as the most the danger of receiving 'impressions insidious foe of the Church of Christ. subversive of the very name and form
'Infidelity did cause,” says Barrow, of Christianity. To say nothing of “ the Devil's apostacy.” 'Infidelity the metropolis, take as an instance did banish man from paradise.” “In- one of our provincial towns of medium fidelity did bring the deluge on the population. Twenty or thirty Roworld? Infidelity did keep the manists perhaps, poor, ignorant, and Israelites from entering into Canaan." chiefly Irish, attend a Popish chapel.
Twice the number, it may be, of per- Journal,” to profess respect for relisons from the opposite extremity of gion, and yet think that respect best the social scale, frequent a Puseyite exhibited by a total silence upon the church; but what are these to the subject, are not only forming the multitudes of the middle, and really minds of a large class of readers to influential class, young, enthusiastic, be satisfied without religion; but are and aspiring, who habitually refrain also by their successful example confrom attending any place of worship tributing to create a class of Authors, whatsoever, but who flock almost
to perpetuate to future generations a daily (including Sunday) to Mecha- godless and heathenish literature. nics' lecture rooms, and news-rooms, Again, if we ascend to works of a and other kindred institutions, where more permanent character; Mr. Newreligion, if not denounced, or treated man, we find, has published a theory with open contempt, is at least ex- of “ development” sufficiently novel cluded?
to attract attention; and so also has The “Tracts for the Times," and the anonymous author of the “ Vesother more popular publications of tiges of Creation," once supposed to the party, have undoubtedly their be his brother ; but which of the two readers, especially those more attrac- is most likely to secure general notice, tive works adapted for the young; they who have read both can have but how few are these compared with little difficulty in deciding, and still the numbers, almost beyond calcula- less in determining the nature of the tion, who devour the practically impression likely to be made upon deistical writings of Dickens, Jerrold, the public by each. I am not here and other popular novelists of the speaking of the intrinsic merits of day! The moral influence of clever either of these works; both no doubt works of fiction is generally much contain some valuable truth; but of underrated. Either for good or for evil the effect likely to be produced by it is incalculable. And it is scarcely each upon the minds of general readpossible to conceive examples more ers; and I think there can be as little utterly destitute of religious principle, doubt of the anti-Scriptural tendency or indeed principle of any kind, than of the one, as there is of the antithose exhibited in the writings of Protestant character of the other. Charles Dickens. Yet how many are And it may perhaps be hereafter said daily forming their own and their of both, as was said of Semler, the children's characters, unconsciously first founder of the German innoperhaps, upon these wretched, though vating school, that “when, in his plausible models? And their num- latter years, he saw how his principles ber is likely to increase; for it appears had been developed by others, he rethat his works are now about to be pented that he had gone so far.” published at one-fifth of their original Most true indeed it is, that nothing cost, and may consequently be ex- is really to be apprehended from any pected to find their way to almost supposed inconsistency between the every hearth. Infidel newspapers, it advancement of sound literature, or is hardly necessary to say, abound; the genuine discoveries of physical and even German neology, translated science, and the records of Holy into plain English, and sold at a cheap Scripture. When both are rightly rate, is, as I am informed, circulated understood, they will be found to be very extensively among the humbler
perfectly reconcileable, and indeed classes in the metropolis, and other corroborative of each other. But the densely populated districts. With tone of indifference assumed by respect to periodical works of a higher scientific and literary men as to wheorder, valuable as they undoubtedly ther they are so, or not, it is truly are as journals of science and litera- painful to witness; and these include ture, it is with difficulty that many of a much larger portion of the gifted them, for example the "Athenæum," class (alas ! how misnamed) than the can conceal their contempt for serious, abettors of Tractarianism can boast earnest piety. Others, again, which of. They are however as nothing in seem, like “ Chambers' Edinburgh point of numbers, when compared
with the sciolists created by means of Mechanics’ Institutes, and other like institutions, whose conceit and arrogance, especially in dealing with sacred subjects, is equalled only by their ignorance.
In short, Sir, observation must make it appear that, in the present day, we have less to fear from superstition, even in its worst form, than we have from infidelity, whether in the shape of positive professed unbelief, or what is little better, mere negative indifference. Congenial as Popery is undoubtedly to the natural corruption of the human heart at all times; the intellectual bondage, and subjection of will which it requires, are too glaring to be generally submitted to, in a condition of society like the present-a condition peculiarly of transition—when the masses are just emerging from a state of ignorance to one of comparative knowledge; and are especially jealous of whatever has the appearance of interfering with their independence, either of thought or action. I speak now with reference to the many—to those who are incapable of profound research or absorbing interest in the momentous concerns of religion, but who, while they really take their tone of thought and feeling from the general complexion of the times in which they live, assume to themselves, nevertheless, the privileges of independent thinkers : and within this class must be included, I fear, a large proportion of the clergy of this country. With respect to the earnest and thoughtful few, who can both reason, and feel deeply, upon the great subject of man's eternal destiny; and who are likely to have an influence upon their own and future generations; although they may be seduced for a time to unite themselves to Rome, they will not, in all probability, continue in her communion. They will either through Divine grace be recovered from their apostacy, or else will find themselves ultimately obliged to take refuge in scepticism, or positive unbelief.
And here it is that Tractarianism, whether extensively prevalent or not, assumes its most formidable aspect, as I have already remarked; and to this point I now wish particularly to
call attention. In this view, indeed, the subject has been already partially noticed in more than one of the literary journals of the day; would that it had been treated with like discernment by those whom it more immediately concerns. The “Edinburgh Review,” a work of course not professedly religious, has alluded to the resemblance, in some points, between the spiritof Anglo-catholicism and that of unbelief. “When, as at present," says the reviewer, “mysticism and scepticism are undistinguishable in outward aspect; and when transcendental orthodoxy, and utter disbelief have learned to speak the same language; it becomes the more necessary to strip them of their disguises.” While we are viewing Tractarianism merely as an antagonist system of theology opposed to our own peculiar notions, and dread it solely as the pioneer of Romish superstition, we are in danger of losing sight of its more important influence upon the world in general. We forget that it may be only disguised infidelity, the precursor of a bondage far worse than that of Rome; a bondage which, while it promises liberty — allowing the intellect an ample range, including alike the unitarianism of Channing, and the atheism of Comté-really reduces the whole man to the most abject of all thraldom, renders him the bondslave of his own prejudices and passions, and an easy prey to the wiles of Satan.
Extremes often meet in a manner so singular, that we may cease to be surprised at the discovery of a resemblance between forms of error apparently the most opposite. Indeed, the vulgar habit of going from one extreme to another is so universally prevalent as to justify the inference, a priori, that from superstition to unbelief there is but a step. Experience, however, has established the fact. Of this, the late movement in Germany might be cited as a painful illustration. But I shall at present merely refer to Archbishop Whately's remarks, upon the connexion between superstition and profaneness. He adduces Spain as an instance, and cites a passage from “ Doblado’s Letters," in which the author, in