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NOTES ON SOME PASSAGES IN MR. MÅNEILE'S LECTURES
ON THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND.
· COMPULSORY PROVISION FOR A NATIONAL FORM OF WORSHIP.
In proof of the right of the church, or of the nation on behalf of the church, to enact such compulsory provision, Mr. M`Neile refers ns to Levit. xvii. 2-5. “Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, and unto all the children of Israel, and say unto them ; This is the thing which the Lord hath commanded, saying, What man soever there be of the house of Israel, that killeth an ox, or lamb, or goat, in the camp, or that killeth it out of the camp, and bringeth it not unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, to offer an offering unto the Lord before the tabernacle of the Lord ; blood shall be imputed unto that man; he hath shed blood; and that man shall be cut off from among his people: To the end that the children of Israel may bring their sacrifices, which they offer in the open field, even that they may bring them unto the Lord, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, unto the priest, and offer them for peace offerings unto the Lord.”—Lect. iv. p. 73. Mr. M`Neile, who appears to consider this passage as quite decisive of the point, is surely proclaiming a triumph rather too hastily. Whatever may be taken as implied in this and other passages relating to sacrifices, about the portion assigned to the priest, the offering commanded in it is an “offering unto the Lord;” in which any thing in the shape of an offering to the priest is not so much as mentioned. We are not at liberty thus to cut out passages from the Old Testament containing instructions or commandments to the Jews, and then to take out of its place and connexion something that pleases us, or appears to answer our purpose, and to reject the rest. Mr. M'Neile ought to know, that this is neither logically nor theologically correct; and he can scarcely fail to know, that a large proportion of the confusion and error which bave at any time found their way into the church, has arisen from this very cause. In the passage so needlessly brought forward by Mr. M'Neile, to reprove his opponents, are two express commands, neither of which a protestant minister would dare to obey—the offering of sacrifices, and the inflicting on the offender of the law the penalty of death : while a circumstance deducible from the same passage only by inference, and comparison with other passages, is to be interpreted into a precedent for those to whom it was never addressed, and to whom it would never apply. Here are two things rendered now impracticable, and a third only incidentally included; and yet this single incidental fact, is to be taken as the rule of action in a new institution, and the other two, the only ones that can be taken as resting upon express command, are thrown aside.
We have no occasion to deny or to conceal the fact, that a provision was made for the Aaronical priesthood. What we assert is—that the offering of which the priest was permitted to take a part, was an offering to God; and that for this, the offerer was amenable to God and not to man :--that there exists no express command or distinct and separate mode of taxation for the provision in question, which is capable of being detached from and carried out of the system to which it belongs into any other-nothing which either by logical or forensic induction can be extracted or put down as an indubitable warrant for a compulsory contribution. Not only did the mode of provision constitute an indivisible part of a rite now extinct; but that rite itself formed a part of an economy now totally abrogated ; and not only abrogated, but rendered absolutely incompatible both in its whole and in its parts, with the economy which was to succeed it. A threefold impossibility thus surrounds the repetition or imitation of the mode of provision contended for : while the absence of any thing like a direction or intimation of either its renewal or modification by any other economy, strips it of every shadow of authority in such new economy; and, together with its essentially inimitable character and connexions, brings us to the conviction that it is not available as a precedent.
But Mr. M'Neile is guilty of a further infraction of the rules of sound argument, and of the spirit and letter of the passage he has taken for his authority. He gives -up the penalty of death, the only penalty according to his own showing, contained in it; but argues from it nevertheless, the right of coercion in providing for the national worship. “We think," says he, “ that the word of God requires that a Christian government should adopt the principle of the Jewish precedent : that is, of a national provision for the means of national worship, to be secured by compulsion, should compulsion be rendered necessary · by resistance. Let this stand. And let the details of its management, both as regards the nature of those means, and the nature of the penalty by which the provision is enforced, be open for wise and judicious modification. Let the penalty be modified so as not to touch the conscience or person of any man, but only his property : the demand is a charge, not upon liberty, whether of mind or body, but upon property. It compels, not to conformity in either doctrine or worship, but only to pecuniary contribution, for the supply of outward means. This will meet the exigencies of the case, and while the measure, in its practical working, will be substantially different in England from what it was in Israel, the principle will be the same, and our imitation of the great precedent truly legitimate." All this, no doubt, sounds very plausible to those who have never had their opinions disturbed, or their consciences exercised, on the subject of the extension or support of religious error. But suppose the pecuniary contribution to be for the support of a form of religion which the parties, to be coerced, believe to be a
Sir Helf, I will neverlieve to be constir Robe
sentere to any contributo be contrary to in of Englan
corrupt form, what becomes of this summary disposal of conscience then? Sir Robert Inglis said in his speech on the Maynooth question
"For myself, I will never consent to pay a sixpence for teaching as the word of God, what I believe to be contrary to that word.” A dissenter claims the same privilege with Sir Robert Inglis. The one, objects to any contribution to the church of Rome because it teaches that which he believes to be contrary to the word of God; the other, objects to any contribution to the church of England on the same account. And even supposing him to be mistaken, the principle conceded to the one, cannot, with any show of reason, be withheld from the other. Dr. Chalmers, spurning at the monstrous proposition, should such ever be entertained, of endowing Popery, in strong and indignant language, with which every true Protestant must sympathise, invokes the “calm, resolute, and enlightened principle in the land, to resent the outrage.” I am not advocating Dr. Chalmers's plan of open resistance to what may be the law of the land as an “outrage." But I contend, that the conscientious belief which issues in passive resistance, and which shows its sincerity in patiently submitting to the loss of property or of liberty, infringes no law of Scripture, and will, some day, secure the respect which it demands.
And now let us reflect for a moment, that the crime for which the punishment thus to be taken as a warrant for coercive legislation, cannot now have any existence; and that the permission to inflict this punishment, or any punishment, was a permission which cannot now be obtained or pretended—the express permission of God. And let us further reflect, that the conscience which would have no plea of resistance to any thing belonging to an establishment, every precept of which was dictated by the mouth of God, may be grievously outraged by the injunctions and exactions of an establishment having both for its form and requisitions, the commandments of men. In the one case, conscience is safe, and may surrender itself in entire and willing obedience to a system which it knows to be perfect and holy, and free from the possibility of any admixture of error. In the other, it can ally itself to no such safety; nor repose on a willing and undoubting obedience: seeing that in so doing, it may very possibly be deluding itself, and countenancing the delusion of another. Herein, indeed, lies the secret of the whole question. The system which is secure from error (which can only be true of one having the same advantages as the Jewish,) it may be lawful and just for the chief magistrate to erect into a national establishment, and to require its reception and support by all. But a system not secure from error, but which, like every thing turned out of the hands of men, has at least the possibility of containing much of error, cannot be erected into a national establishment and imposed on the people of that nation, without danger of circulating and perpetuating error, together with truth, if not instead of it. These considerations, must, I should think, to any minds open to conviction, render the "legitimacy" of Mr. M'Neile's “imitation of the great precedent” more then questionable: to my own, they are sufficient entirely to overturn it. THE SCRIPTURE CHARACTER OF THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND A SUFFICIENT JUSTIFICATION FOR ITS ENDOWMENT AND EXTENSION.
"Churchmen,” says Mr. M'Neile, “ ask for additional churches and endowed ministers, at the public expence, to teach a known and defined creed, which is proved to be scriptural, and the good effects of which are manifest wherever it it is taught."-Lect. v. p. 87. Dissenters, as already remarked, believe that much of both forms and formularies of the church is not scriptural; and that these boasted good effects would have been far greater, had the church, been left to her own energies as an unendowed church, and to the necessity which would then have been imposed upon her, of effecting a further reform.
Again, in the same lecture, (p. 91) the lecturer quoting with applause the words of Lord John Russell, in the House of Commons, that an established church was “assumed to be for the common good of the whole that was the principle on which an established church could alone be asked for"-reiterates the assertion, and adds, “Exactly so. If it cease to be for the good of the whole, it cannot consistently continue to be at all.” We, too, can respond to the condition as “the only adequate and consistent basis for an established church,” and cry-exactly 80. Let the question stand on this “basis” alone, and its fate is determined. Neither Lord John Russell, nor Mr. MNeile, will convince dissenters, that a church which teaches baptismal regeneration, sacerdotal absolution, and the indiscriminate resurrection to eternal life of all who die in her communion, together with the more recent graftings of Puseyism, could be for the common good of the whole.
Again, in the sixth lecture, Mr. M`Neile remarks on the crowded, confused, and irreverent manner in which the baptismal service is generally performed; and laments its degeneracy from an exercise of faith, “into a lifeless and superstitious form,” a “cold correctness of official repetition," and an “unimpressive, and to all appearance, an unbelieving manner of its administration.” And is his remedy for this a faithful inquiry, whether there may not be something wrong in the service itself? No, but—"parochial subdivision.” A dissenter, who looks with astonishment on the whole scene, sces other causes for the lifeless, superstitious, and unbelieving, administration of the rite. While the baptismal service declares regeneration to be the concomitant of baptism, and requires the fearful mockery of sponsorship,-neither solemnity in the office, nor a blessing on it, can, with any reason be hoped for.
“ He giveth more grace.” Grace is a donation as well as a “state,"'* and includes “all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” Whatever may be needful for the direction or comfort, deliverance or support of those who are in a state of grace, is secured to them by the “God of grace.” “The Lord God is a sun and shield; he will give grace and glory; no good will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.”
“He giveth more grace,” implies that grace has already been imparted. This is the fact in relation to every believer; and to this, every one who has “obtained mercy" delights to bear his willing testimony. His state, his character, his enjoyments, his hopes originate in grace, and are themselves a part of the heavenly gift. In reflecting on his conversion, his faith, and obedience ; on his spiritual conflicts, his escapes from temptation, his continued steadfastness in the ways of God, and his varied and happy experience, he cannot but exclaim, “By the grace of God I am what I am,” and “by the help of God I continue to this day.”
“He giveth more grace,” intimates, that grace is being supplied, that God is continually imparting divine aid, that there is no intermission in the exercise of his pity, and favour, and love. Grace is to be viewed as a present blessing, a continuous favour, an unceasing stream of divine benignity and goodness, an unfailing supply of assistance. “He giveth more grace;" more light to illuminate my understanding, more faith to sustain my spirit under discouragement and trials, more love to animate my obedience, more patience to alleviate my sufferings, more humility to adorn my character, more spiritualmindedness to assimilate me to his own likeness, and more strength to resist my foes, to bear my burdens, and to urge my way through every difficulty to happiness and to God. “To them that have no might he increaseth strength.” “As thy day thy strength.” “My Grace is sufficient for thee.” “ The inward man is renewed day by day.” These passages are not merely promises, but descriptions of facts—they are the records and language of experience.
That God does give, and that he is continually giving more grace, every saint rejoices to feel and to acknowledge. He knows that in himself dwells no good thing, that he has no independent resources, he feels himself powerless in every duty, and every conflict, and every trial without the supply of grace. His dependence is, therefore, real and constant, his cry for assistance earnest and importunate. God reserves the needed grace in his own hands, and dispenses it as it is required. He imparts no stock of grace; he only bestows a supply for present use.
* Vide Cong. Mag. January, 1841.