Page images

clearly seen in the wonderful revolution in the Christian mind of the nation concerning the character of Wesley and Whitefield. Sectarian prejudices, he affirms, have so far yielded, and their claims to the merit of reformers and benefactors have been so far conceded by the great majority of professing Christians, that no writer now will be allowed to asperse them with the satire, or treat them with the levity which were deemed justifiable even thirty years ago. The public opinion of Great Britain and of the world is, indeed, beginning to do them justice; to retrieve them from the odium of misguided zealots. Ecclesiastical arrogance and literary pride, and sectarian bigotry have gradually abated their vauntings, and awarded to them the praise of great and good men. This is a decided change from the denunciatory tone of the close of the last, or the opening of the present century. But how this, in itself, proves the existence of a great moral and religious revolution, we cannot perceive, any farther than the doing of historic justice, long withheld, is an evidence of such a revolution. It argues a change of opinion by the force of slowly admitted testimony, but it does not necessarily argue an increase of piety. And this, to a great extent, is the truth in the case. Yet we gratefully allow that, by the very instrumentality of these men, the piety of the whole Christian world has been incalculably promoted, and that the liberality of their sentiments towards Methodism is vastly indebted to it. In addition to this, Methodism, he believes, has so far lost its original features; has undergone so thorough a metamorphosis, that a writer who specifies its errors and excesses, with temper and precision, may be assured of the approbation of almost all of his readers. How far this assurance is reliable, remains to be seen in a subsequent part of this article, where it will be in place to examine it; where we will undertake to show that its original features are still preserved without material alteration; that Methodism as it was, has not yet ceased to be.

Considering the changes, here specified, as favorable to the historian of early Methodism; as making his task compara

tively easy, he opportunely discovers in the great religious world, one check to his future progress. Different communions are "many leagues" in advance of what they were sixty years ago, and Methodism has essentially refined upon itself, yet he cannot expect his readers to accompany him with the same cordiality as before; since, notwithstanding their liberal concessions, and the sameness of their creed, there is an undefined repugnance, "an adverse feeling," in fully admitting the substance of Methodism, which, at least, "holds the mind in suspense;" there is something, in the way of an unsettled account, to which they cannot assent; they acknowledge that there is truth in it, but shrink back from it. Our author seems here to be in a quandary. He is mystified and obscure in expressing what he might have said in a word, and what we will say for him. It is literally true, that although Methodism took the ground maintained by the Protestant creed, and never departed from it, and although it has vindicated itself during these sixty years, before other Christian communions, and has imparted its genius more or less to them, there is something in it which they dislike, and which holds in abeyance the full amount of their approbation. Mr. Taylor is right, and had the candor to state the fact, though he has done it with unnecessary circumlocution. P. 19.

To rid himself, as far as possible, of this inconvenience, and to free his own position from misapprehension, he makes three suppositions amongst which a choice is inevitable; one of which he adopts as the only alternative, with all the consequences which it involves. This process of elimination is scientific. It clears the question of all but its naked value; at least, what he considers to be such. His suppositions are the following, which we give in full:

"First. It may be said, that Christianity being true in the sense of this or that church, Methodism ought to be rejected as a spurious development of it; and that its founders should be solemnly denounced as schismatics and enthusiasts.

Or, secondly, that neither Christianity nor Methodism being true in its own sense; but both true in the much abated sense of the recent spiritualizing

philosophy, therefore while both alike may claim some kindly regard, neither of them is entitled to any submission.

Or, thirdly, that Christianity being true, without abatement, in its own sense, Methodism, as a genuine development of its principal elements. must be religiously regarded as such; while yet it may be open to exceptions on many grounds, as the product of minds more good and fervent, than always well-ordered."

The first of these suppositions he rejects on account of its sectarian element. No particular church can, in his judgment, assume that it embodies the whole of Christianity, and that all others are "schismatics and enthusiasts." It is absurd and ridiculous. All exclusive pretensions to being the Church of Christ are, per se, preposterous. The second he rejects on account of its skeptical element. For although the modern spiritual school of philosophy boasts its reverence for Christianity and all of its forms, it regards them only as so many epochs and stages of mental development, and therefore without any Divine authority over the conscience. The third he accepts on account of its evangelical element; that Christianity is true; that Methodism contained its most important principles; that it is exactly so far worthy of adoption, subject to many exceptions, inasmuch as it was "the product of minds more good and fervent, than always well-ordered." Bating the "exceptions," which we shall in due time consider, this is high ground for Mr. Taylor to take. It is as high as the most zealous Methodist ever took; as high as any man ought to take. It required no little moral courage to take it, and he seems perfectly aware of the responsibilities which it incurs, especially this; that the Methodism of the eighteenth century was a part of God's great system of truth. which has been going through successive evolutions with increasing power, from the commencement; that it was a veritable manifestation of Christianity itself. His conviction utters itself in the following words:

"So far as Methodism truly held forth Christianity, it was a signal holding of it forth; for a more marked utterance of the gospel has occurred only once before in the lapse of eighteen centuries; and that, at the Refor

mation, was not less disparaged than this is by a large admixture of the errors and inconsistencies of its movers or adherents." P. 21.

An inscrutable mystery, he remarks, has characterized the progress of Christianity through the world, as a whole; nevertheless it has received an especial illustration, since its origin, at two memorable periods; the Reformation and the rise of Methodism. The one restored the gospel to comparative purity, the other restored it to comparative power. Between these, our author finds a perfect analogy, in their respective events; and that both, whatever may be their relative importance, were an unfolding of the grand scheme of Divine mercy in bringing mankind to the obedience of Christ.

Having thus ascertained the ground upon which he feels he has safely planted his feet, he indicates the method he will pursue in his subsequent inquiries; that he will endeavor to form a correct idea of the originators of Methodism; of Methodism itself; of its influence upon other communions, and its probable ulterior results upon the coming age.

We have detained the reader, thus long, upon the preliminary portion of this work, with design. With all its truth and plausibility, it should be read with allowance. It is, in many instances, specious, but not sound, and imparts a delusive aspect to the remaining portion. Moreover, in all the notices we have seen of this book, and we have seen several both British and American, we have not discovered even an attempted refutation of its imposing generalities.




By Rev. NELSON HEAD, Norfolk, Va.

EZEKIEL, AND THE BOOK OF HIS PROPHECY: An Exposition. By the Rev. Patrick Fairbairn. Edinburgh: T. A. T. Clarke. 1851.

Those who are at all familiar with modern Biblical science, are aware, that considerable improvement has been attained in the exposition of Sacred Scripture. To this improvement the learned exegetical labors of German theologians have contributed in no small degree. There is an increasing familiarity among Englishmen and Americans with the German language and literature. And, besides, many of the best critical and expository works of German divines have been translated into the English language, and have become a part of our own literature. And by this means, the English expositors of the Bible have been prompted to a more thorough and learned investigation of the Sacred Volume. It is well known, that the prince of American commentators, the late, lamented Stuart of Andover, drew largely both impetus and matter for his numerous exegetical works from his study and knowledge of German literature. But the German Biblical scholars have diffused through their writings so much of the poison of infidelity, as for general purposes, greatly to diminish the value of their philological and historical learning. And hence, with a few honorable exceptions, the best results of their critical labors are to be sought in the writings of those, who, familiar with the lights of German science, bring their rays to bear upon the exposition of the Bible, purged by the soberness and soundness of the English mind from the darkening corruptions of rationalistic errors. The American student will, however, deprive himself of much advantage who

« PreviousContinue »