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It is worthy of remark, that ST. PAUL was greatly afflicted because of the Jews' unbelief;-he had great heaviness and continual sorrow in his heart, on account of his brethren; and was ready to make any sacrifice, and to endure any temporal suffering, in order to effect their conversion. (Rom. ix. 1, &c.) He also well knew that they were greatly offended with CHRIST, for styling himself the Sox of God, and appearing to claim divine honour. (John x. 33, &c.) For this they condemned him to death; (Matt. xxvi. 65, &c.; John xix. 7 ;) and yet the same Apostle spake frequently of JESUS in terms which could apply to God alone. In his Epistle to the Hebrews, the great doctrine of CHRIST's Divinity forms the very frontispiece of the work, in order to render it the more conspicuous, and to fix the attention of his readers. Instead of declaring himself " PAUL, an Apostle of JESUS CHRIST," according to his general mode of addressing other churches, he begins with these sublime and striking expressions: "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the Prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds," &c.-From what is here advanced, the following argument will arise: He by whom the worlds were made, must be the eternal GoD: but the worlds were made by the SON; therefore the Sox must be the eternal GOD.
The writer of this epistle was fully aware, that this doctrine would be highly offensive to the unbelieving Jews; and therefore he would never have advanced it but from a full conviction, that it was his duty so to do. He was willing to sacrifice every thing but truth, in order to avoid the giving of offence; but truth he would not sacrifice ; neither would he shun to declare the whole counsel of God.
Hence we may reasonably draw the following inferences: No man of real honesty would affirm, that he earnestly desired and prayed for the conversion of the Jews, and call GoD to witness the truth of it, if he did not earnestly desire and pray for it. No man of good sense, who earnestly desired and prayed for the conversion of the Jews, would use a language which he knew would offend them, unless there was a necessity for using it. No man of good sense could be under a necessity of representing CHRIST as the Creator of the world, unless he cordially believed the truth of that doctrine, and considered it his duty to make it known. As surely then as the Apostle was a man of real honesty and good sense, so surely he cordially believed the Divinity of CHRIST, and considered it his duty to make it known.
7. There are some authors who object to this doctrine upon philosophical principles, and say that, in the nature of things, it cannot possibly be true, because it involves a manifest contradiction. Of this number is DR. PRIESTLEY, who, in order to manage his opposition the more effectually, goes so far as to reject, as spurious or erroneous, those parts of Scripture which are unfavourable to his system. In
Now I ask, Are not the seeming contradictions in the Doctor's belief of Eternity, as great and as many as those in our belief of a Trinity? We believe, the FATHER eternal, the SoN eternal, and the HOLY GHOST eternal. And yet they are not three eternals, but one eternal. Our opponents ask, How can one person in the triad be the FATHER without being older than the Sox and SPIRIT? We reply, Let those who put the question, explain to us the precise nature of Eternity, before they require us to explain the mystery of the Trinity. According to DR. P., there is an eternity past, which is always increasing, and an eternity to come, which is always diminishing; and yet, let the augmentation of the one, and the diminution of the other, continue ever so long, he is forced to acknowledge, that they both ever have been, and always must be, exactly equal. Let, therefore, any of his followers explain these things by a suitable comparison let them produce two positive quantities, which always have been, and ever must continue, perfectly equal, although the one is constantly augmenting, and the other continually diminishing: let them find two equal quantities, which being added together, the sum shall not be greater than either of them separately taken in a word, let them show us a whole made up of two equal parts, and yet not greater than one of those parts. All this must be done in order to explain what DR. P. has advanced concerning Eternity; and until this be done, let them cease calling upon us to explain the doctrine of the adorable Trinity.
It is objected, that what we believe concerning the Trinity, would be a manifest contradiction, if affirmed of any thing in all created nature. We reply, What DR. P. believes concerning Eternity, would be a manifest contradiction, if affirmed of any thing in all created nature. Therefore, if he is justifiable in believing concerning Eternity, what is altogether incomprehensible by reason, we are justifiable in believing concerning the Trinity, what is altogether incomprehensible by reason. Should we, therefore, be asked, how the SON OF GOD can be coeval with the FATHER, we would ask, how Creation can be coeval with its Maker. Here we meet our antagonists upon their own ground, and argue from their own declaration; in order to show the unreasonableness of their demands in requiring us to explain that, which, according to their own principles, is inexplicable.
That the limited powers of the human soul are insufficient to search out the perfections of God, is owned by DR. P. in the following candid declarations. "The mind of man will never be able to contemplate the Being, Perfections, and Providence of God, without meeting with inexplicable difficulties. We may find sufficient reason for acquiescing in the darkness which involves these great subjects, but we must never expect to see them set in a perfectly clear light. But notwithstanding this, we may know enough of the Divine Being, and
of his moral government, to make us much better and happier beings than we could be without such knowledge; and even the consideration of the insuperable difficulties, referred to above, is not without its use, as it tends to impress the mind with sentiments of reverence, humility, and submission." (Preface to the Institutes of Natural Religion, pp. 8, 9.)
If, then, the mind of man will never be able to contemplate the Being, Perfections, and Providence of God without meeting with inexplicable difficulties, it must be because apparent or seeming contradictions will always be found in this abstruse contemplation; for, if there were no seeming contradictions there could be no inexplicable difficulties. And, certainly, the inexplicable difficulties, or apparent contradictions, in DR. PRIESTLEY'S system, are equal in number and magnitude to those which are discovered in the doctrine of the Trinity. Is there not an apparent contradiction in the notion that creation is eternal and coeval with its Maker? Does there not appear a manifest contradiction in the idea that one eternity is always increasing, and yet for ever equal to another eternity which is always decreasing? Does it not seem a contradiction in terms, to assert that two eternities added together, will not amount to more than one of them separately taken? Would any reasonable man publish such sentiments as these, and yet object to the Divinity of CHRIST because it seemed to imply a contradiction? Would any man, who was consistent with himself, openly declare that in contemplating the Being of GOD, we shall always meet with inexplicable difficulties, and yet reject the doctrine of the Trinity because he meets with inexplicable difficulties in the contemplation of it?
But however inconsistent and unreasonable our opponents may be, let us render to God a reasonable service. Let us patiently proceed in the path of duty, manifesting our reverence, humility, and submission, by honouring the Son even as we honour the FATHER; for "blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.” (Ps. ii. 12.) And now may grace, mercy, and peace, be unto all that in every place call upon the name of JESUS CHRIST Our LORD, both theirs and ours. Mylor, near Falmouth. WILLIAM JENKIN.
[There are but few readers, to whom it can be necessary to state, that the Author of the preceding Paper by no means intended to commit himself, as to the truth of all the sentiments avowed by DR. PRIESTLEY, in the passages quoted from the "Institutes." The whole is argumentum ad hominem; and designed to show, that DR. P.'s opposition to some vital doctrines of the Gospel, on account of "inexplicable difficulties," and "apparent contradictions" to our reason, was, even on his own principles and admissions, a most unreasonable opposition; and that similar difficulties and apparent contradictions were allowed by himself to attach to parts of his own system of theology. Thus, "out of his own mouth" his objections to orthodox Christianity are refuted and "condemned." EDITOR.]
THE WESLEYAN-METHODIST. (No. III.)
ON THE CHARACTER OF THE EARLY METHODISTS.
IN the further delineation of the Character of the early Methodists, we may remark,
3. The Simplicity of their Manners. That state of society, which is marked by simplicity of manners, in opposition to excessive worldly refinement, is the soil most adapted to religion, and that in which it strikes its deepest root. There are, in the human mind, certain perceptions and feelings, which, when the Gospel is presented, respond to its solemn tones, and echo back the intimations which it gives of man's present state, and of his wants. But in the gaiety of the city, and in the centre of refinement, these are too often stifled; for there the condition of man is highly artificial and sophisticated. It is observable, too, that the Gospel has a tendency, by reaction, to produce that simplicity, which is so favourable to its own reception. It displaces the insipid courtesy of the world, and substitutes for it the courtesy of Scripture. The latter always accompanies religion in its mature state, and it is, therefore, a great mistake to put rudeness of behaviour in the place of scriptural simplicity. In every instance where the Gospel of JESUS CHRIST has been attended by an influence which has turned the wilderness into a fruitful field, the result has been, great simplicity of manners, mingled with scriptural courtesy. This, even according to the testimony of heathen writers, was the distinguishing character of the first Christians. This was also the case among the Moravian societies in their purest state. In reading the accounts of the Unitas Fratrum, we are struck with the primitive and almost patriarchal simplicity in which they lived, and with which they conducted all their affairs. This appears to have forcibly impressed the mind of MR. WESLEY,
On one occasion, he informs us, it made him almost forget the seventeen hundred years between, and imagine himself in one of those assemblies, where form and state were not, but where PAUL or PETER presided, with the demonstration of the SPIRIT and of power. Derived, perhaps, in some measure, from the source just mentioned, the same trait of character distinguished the early Methodists.
4. Closely connected with this, was the Plainness of their Dress. We are aware that there have been persons, and those strenuous contenders for evangelical religion, who have professed to think this a matter of trifling importance. But the arguments by which the Founder of the Methodist Societies enforced the duty of plainness of dress, were and are unanswerable. The evils of fashionable and expensive adorning of the body he attacked with considerations drawn from Scripture, and confirmed by reason. He showed that time,-inestimable in its value, and all-important in the use for which it is given,-is wasted, is murdered, while every part of a fashionable dress is adjusted. He appealed to his hearers, as those who, in the character of stewards, were responsible to God for the use which they made of the talent of worldly property, whether they would be able to give a good account, at last, of that portion of it which, in dress excessively costly, they had needlessly expended. He further insisted on the fact,-which must be plain as noon-day to the attentive observer,-that it is impossible for the mind, which resides in a body so adorned as to attract attention, to enjoy unruffled serenity. If some of his opponents, in default of arguments, had recourse to ridicule, it must also be remembered that the
names of great and wise men might be enumerated, who have had nearly similar views to those of MR.WESLEY on this subject.* Certain it is, that his scriptural advice to his people recommended itself to their consciences, and very generally produced the effects which he desired. He did not strenuously enforcé a particular mode of dress, but he attacked its acknowledged evils, waste of time, waste of property, and its tendency to minister to vanity. At one time, he did indeed think that it might have been better if, from the first, he had insisted on a defined mode of" putting on of apparel," somewhat like that of a respectable body of Christians whom, in many things, he highly approved; but it will, perhaps, be regarded as a proof of his soundness of judgment, that he fixed no arbitrary standard. More intent upon implanting right principles than upon regulating minute forms, he contented himself with presenting to the minds of his people those considerations which might lead them to choose a right standard for them
5. Rising from a particular to a more general view of their chatacter, we may remark their Separation from the World. The foundation of nonconformity to this world is laid in that influence which a future world obtains over the mind through the medium of faith. Sometimes there is, also, a combination of outward circumstances, to render more complete the separation between the world and the Church. This is the case when the world indulges its natural asperity of feeling against Christians. It then builds up, on its part, a strengthening mound of separation, joined to the wall of discipline which the Church has, on her part, erected for the preservation of her members. This was the case in the early times of Methodism. The warfare between the Church and the world was direct and incessant. The world thought itself' aggrieved by being disturbed. After a long series of follies and crimes,
DR. JOHNSON once said of a certain Lady, "The best proof I can give you of the propriety of her dress is, that one can never remember what she had on."
which had passed almost totally unreproved, the foolish and criminal amusements, as well as the flagrant sins of the world, were at once attacked. Neither the theatre, nor the card-table, nor the ball-room, were spared. The frequenters of these places, as well as the horseracer, and the sons of NIMROD, the mighty hunter, all heard their several sports condemned,-some for their folly, some for their cruelty, and all for their unholy tendency. The onset was vigorous, and the weapons of warfare were powerful; both Scripture and reason being equally brought to bear on the triflers. Those who were not reclaimed were provoked, and had recourse to persecution. Thus were the early Methodists exposed to the malevolence of the ungodly. "The world was not their friend," and we may add, in some cases, "nor the world's law." But this circumstance brought them into closer union among themselves, and, in a very innocent sense of the words, they formed, as MR. SOUTHEY says, Imperium in imperio,” “a kingdom within a kingdom." They met, as fellow-countrymen meet in the land of an enemy. Their common origin and hopes endeared them to each other; and, united among themselves, they sought in that union a happiness which the strange land in which they dwelt was neither disposed nor able to bestow.
6. A remarkable prominence was given by the early Methodists, to Experimental Religion. They represented religion as laying claim to the heart rather than the head, or to the latter only in reference to the former. A right state of heart they insisted on, as absolutely requisite to all true morality. Their repentance was not a speculative conviction of the fact of human depravity; their faith was not a mere assent of the understanding; their holiness not a mere notion of a finished work wrought for them by another, with which they had no farther concern than to trust in it: their experience was real, and personal; and it was deep. Every one who has read the epistolary correspondence of former times, published in the early volumes of the Methodist Magazine, will have perceived,
VOL. I. Third Series. MARCH, 1822.