« VorigeDoorgaan »
pect entirely by entering into engagements of a different kind. never heard a syllable from Mr. Chapman, yet his motion by you was amongst the causes of my present settlement. Just at that time I received an invitation from a Dissenting congregation in Yorkshire, with which I should perhaps have complied, but that I waited to hear from him. His delay kept me in suspense, and disengaged, till the latter end of February, when I received a letter from Lord Dartmouth, informing me that Mr. Brown was soon to resign Olney, and making me an offer of the living. I was not entirely a stranger to his Lordship, but had not the least reason to expect such a favour. When I came to London Mr. Brown's resignation seemed dubious ; however he gave me a title to his curacy, by which, under the influence of my kind and honoured patron, I obtained ordination from the Bishop of Lincoln, who treated me with very great candour and kindness. I was ordained Deacon at Buckden, on 29th April ; opened my commission at Liverpool and in the neighbourhood, where I preached six times (during the fortnight we were busied in breaking up house) to very numerous auditories.
We came to Olney the latter end of May. I received Priest's Orders on Trinity Sunday, and am now comfortably and happily settled. The Lord has chosen for me beyond my wishes. The church here is large and well filled, and many serious experienced Christians are round about. Our common auditories (in the afternoon) are, I suppose, about 1200, but upon some occasions I have seen more than 2000. The Lord favours me with some liberty in preaching His blessed word. I have many friends about me, and meet with no opposition worth the mentioning ; so that I have no reason to regret that I did not go to Bath. We have a lecture on Thursday evenings, which is well attended, and I have reason to hope the Lord is with us of a truth. How comfortable and cheering are the tokens of His presence, but without Him every thing will languish. Oh, Thou Shepherd of thy people, shine forth! Hitherto the Lord has made my path smooth. Trials I must expect, but though my flesh is weak I do not greatly fear, because He has said, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." I want to have a more lively sense of the malice of Satan, my own weakness, and the power and grace of Jesus, both to supply and to defend ; my whole trust is in His word that cannot fail, but for this I should soon faint, and tire, and die ; but He will renew my strength; He is the faithful Shepherd, and none that rely on Him shall be disappointed. I agree with you heartily, that there is no security for a poor worm but in the everlasting covenant; all is of free sovereign grace from beginning to end, and there is no ground of glorying but in the Lord. In Him indeed we may glory, and boast, and rejoice, all the day long, for in His righteousness we are exalted. What a privilege, to be the children, yea, heirs of God; to have access with boldness unto the holiest of all, to know that all things shall work together for our good; to be able to look forward to that better world, and say, There dwells my Saviour—there I shall shortly be-creatures must change, earthly comforts must wither ; but the Lord is my portion ; in time, and to eternity He will guide me by His counsel, while I am here, and will soon receive me to His glory. If these things are so, what manner of persons ought we to be ; especially we who are put in the ministry, and thereby set as a mark for the public observation of CHRIST, OBSERV. No. 34.
men, and the peculiar assaults of Satan. Who is sufficient, ikavoc? who is worthy to bear the Gospel message, or able to dispense it ? What a need have we above others to be instant in prayer and meditation, that we may gain nearer and brighter views of the glory of God in the person of Jesus—such views as may transform us more and more into the same image—that we may not only preach but love Christ; that our conduct may be a perpetual comment upon our doctrine; that we may be a pattern to believers in all that is praiseworthy, and walk so that they who hate us, and would fain find something against us, may be ashamed, and put to silence. Without this, the best gifts and abilities, and the most unwearied labours in public, will hardly turn to much account. The Lord will honour those who honour Him, who are little in their own eyes, wbo give the praise to Him alone, and shew that they feel His love in their hearts, by their care and exercise to maintain a conscience void of offence. But those who trust in themselves that they are wise and good, or make light of the least of His precepts; these, though they speak with the tongues of angels, He will seldom greatly own. I apprehend it much behoves a minister carefully to distinguish in his own experience between the exercise of gifts, and the exercise
It is possible to talk smoothly, yea, with some appearance of warmth, from the pulpit, on Gospel subjects, so as to be heard with acceptance, and to the edification of others, and yet our own souls be lean and dry at the same time; and if once a person can come to take comfort in God's using him as an instrument for the good of others, abstracted from the influence of grace in his own soul, he is upon the brink of danger. May the Lord preserve you and me from thinking ourselves to be somebody, because we are preachers. Have we not seen too many instances of those who were sound in their notions, and could speak well about the doctrines of truth, who have turned out sadly at last, and by their wrong behaviour have given more offence than ever they did good-a dreadful case to which we are liable, unless the Lord keep us ; to Him there. fore let us apply. If He hold us up we shall be safe, and not otherwise.
I shall be very glad to continue a correspondence with you, at times; and if your occasions should ever lead you near us, a visit would be highly acceptable. Till then, let us meet daily at a throne of grace. In good time I hope we shall meet in glory. The dispensations of Divine Providence towards me, in the former part of my life, were wonderful and uncommon. The narrative, which has been long handed about in MS., is now in the press : my name will not be to it, nor do I exactly know the title ; a part of it, however, will be “ A Narrative, &c., in a Series of Letters to the Rev. Thomas Haweis.” If it should come in your way, I believe you will think it not unworthy your perusal and recommendation ; which, besides putting the story in more hands, will be of service to me, as they are printed at my own risk. They will be published about the end of this month, or the beginning of the next.
May the Great Shepherd water your soul, and your labours, with the increase of His grace. Afford me a place in your prayers, and believe me to be, dear Sir, Your affectionate brother and servant,
JOHN NEWTON. Olney in Bucks, 4th Oct, 1764.
DISSENTING PRAYER FOR ESTABLISHED AND PROTECTED
To the Editor of the Christian Observer. It was formerly the practice of evangelical dissenting ministers to pray publicly for “our established and protected churches.” The phrase was rather peculiar, but the meaning was brotherly and catholic. Is it within the power of any of your readers to state whether this prayer, or one tantamount to it, is still used ? If it be, how is it that men can pray for what they are labouring to subvert? if it be not, why have evangelical dissenters become less brotherly and catholic? May not this prayer be cited as a proof that the fathers of modern dissent, like their predecessors, the Nonconformists, though they objected to some things in the Church of England, which prevented their uniting with it, yet were far from viewing it, as certain of their children do, as a pest and a curse ; an institution which ruins more souls than it is the instrument in God's hands of saving; and therefore not to be prayed for but denounced. This change in the spirit of Dissenters originates, not in increased Scriptural light, or greater spirituality, but in that secularity which has identified evangelical dissent with politicalism, and the rights of conscience with worldly aggrandisement. How is the gold become dim since the days of Howe and Baxter, of Watts and Doddridge ! I lament to say that kind words have not always been spoken on our side ; but this does not affect the question whether an established church ought to be prayed for or denounced. We will be grateful for prayer or admonition ; but to raze our national altar we believe would be an aggravated sin against God, and be attended with awful peril to the souls of men.
THE DEACON'S STOLE AT OXFORD.
To the Editor of the Christian Observer. WAEN so much was lately said of the affectation of some young men of the Oxford Tract persuasion in wearing what they gravely call “ the Deacon's stole" with a St. Andrew's cross, and I know not what other Popish gear, I could not but think of our Lord's warning (Luke XX. 46), “ Προσεχετε απο των Γραμματεων των θελοντων TEPITATEIV ¿v otokais." The verbal coincidence of “ loving to walk in stoles " caused me to notice the passage; and, to say the least, it is somewhat strange that the innovators should have revived the very word, as anglicised, which is used in the New Testament, in our Lord's rebuke of ostentation in vestments; and which word, perhaps for this very reason among others, our Reformers passed over when prescribing the garments and ornaments to be worn by the Anglican clergy. The word is rendered in our translation “ long robes;" but as an ecclesiastical vestment the stole is said to be a strip of silken, woollen, or other fabric, worn in various ways; sometimes as the deacon's stole, over one shoulder; some. times as the priest's stole, over both; and sometimes as the bishop's pall, tied round the neck. It is remarkable, however, that our Reformers discarded the use of the vestment in all these
fashions ;-whether from thinking that it was superfluous; or that it was a badge of Popery ; or that even its name was objectionable, on account of the verbal coincidence above noticed. In some manner not accounted for, the priest's stole, under the name of a scarf, was from habit either not wholly relinquished upon the appointment of a chaplain ; or was silently revived; but the old appellation was forgotten, and there is nothing objectionable in the vestment itself, though the use of it in the Church of England rests on no ground of authority. When worn it is not a part of the church's raiment; but is the conventional badge of a chaplain, though by usage it is assumed by many clergymen who are not chaplains.
But it was not the casual coincidence of a word, but the intrinsic aptness of the passage, which induced me to notice it in this con. nexion. Our Lord was not censuring the official use of distinctive garments or other appendages; they had been enjoined, and were minutely particularised by Divine command, in the Levitical worship : the force of the prohibition lies in the word Oedovtwv; the obstantatious wish to be publicly marked and pointed at with admiration. “ Beware of the scribes which desire to walk in long robes." There is nothing intrinsically evil in a gown or surplice ; in a judge's ermine or a mayor's chain ; in a mace or a sceptre ; a tiara or a crown. But there is much evil in a spirit of vanity and display; and, in religion, fearful is the delusion of leading men, according to the proneness of our fallen nature, to pay more attention to non-essential forms and rites, than to repentance, faith, and holiness. In our own church we have becoming vestures, ornaments, and ceremonies; and order, decency, gravity, and uniformity are thus preserved without pharisaism or superstition. But we value the casket only for the sake of the jewel; the form for the substance. When however men begin to devote inordinate attention to manual religion, the religion of the heart is proportionably neglected ; nor could Satan have devised a more subtle scheme for impeding the hopeful progress of true godliness among us, than by raising up a zealous sect of sticklers for frivolous, and often superstitious, ceremonies : as if the very essence of religion consisted in the location of a font; the mathematical adjustment of a lectern ; the right number of windows or compartments in a chancel to represent the Holy Trinity, or of pillars in the church to remind us of the twelve apostles; the substituting a stone “altar" for a communion table to shew that the Lord's supper is a material sacrifice; and burning wax candles upon it by day-light, because our ancestors did so in the days of Popery ; and many other emblematical devices for making men religious by dumb-shew; with the cheering prospect that if they obediently perform their part as good exoterics with implicit faith in some young stoled deacon or mystery-making priest, they shall at length, if they live long enough, be admitted with less of reserve to a participation of the exoteric secrets of their considerate “ lords over God's heritage,” who are their efficient proxies in religion, and only require that they should just do what their father confessor prescribes, without asking questions, or searching for
Most needful then is it to reiterate our Lord's warning with its due modern applications. Beware of whatever is allied in spirit to the religious ostentation of the Scribes and Pharisees. If ecclesiastical authority, or even custom, had prescribed a "stole,” or any other distinctive article of dress or decoration, not in itself, or by association, offensive, it would not be a matter of any moment to discuss its merits or demerits ; but when much importance is attached to such trifles, and the attention of men is attracted to them as matters of great concern, they become snares and devices of Satan to ruin souls, as the whole history of Popery awfully proves. If they had no positively deleterious effect, they would at least cause spiritual death by inanition. Bags filled with chaff cannot contain wheat; and books and sermons, about “mint, anise, and cummin,” only serve to turn men's thoughts from the way of salvation and from true obedience to God's law. The very speciousness and apparent decency of a ceremonial are often baneful because the more seductive. What harm, it is said, can there be in persons going to church or chapel to perform their private devotions? Is it not highly edifying to see them on their knees in their pews, or before the altar, abstracted from all earthly scenes in silent orisons ? Their very passage through the streets with their matin books in their hands is a lesson to their thoughtless neighbours. But might not the Pharisees have argued thus when our Lord said: “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites; for they love to pray standing in the synagogues, and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door pray to thy Father which is in secret." Might they not have said, “ How uncharitable to surmise that ostentation or hypocrisy may generate or be mixed with such edifying observances! And how irreverent to suppose that private devotion in a chamber is as acceptable to God as private devotion in a church! The Pharisaism of Popery violates the injunction of Christ, by teaching men, instead of shutting their door, and holding communion with their own heart and Him who seeth in secret, to parade their prayers before the eye of their fellow creatures, and to court the aid of altars, crucifixes, and relics, to stimulate them to factitious energy. But the man who cannot pray unless he is thus stimulated, lacks the spirit of prayer, and cannot offer acceptable worship. Social and public worship rest on quite other grounds ; but for private devotion the most retired place is usually the best : and it is to be feared that it is superstition, and not Scriptural knowledge, which leads many persons in papal lands, and some in our own, to seek consecrated walls for their mental supplications, instead of consecrating their own chamber by faith and prayer.
USEFULNESS BUT INADEQUACY OF NATURAL THEOLOGY.
To the Editor of the Christian Observer. The paper on the Vis Medicatrix, in your last Number, was very interesting and striking; and such subjects ought not to be despised as proving or illustrating only what it is to be taken for granted everybody admits. Paley's Natural Theology, and similar works, may some. times be useful even to the stedfast Christian, when Satan injects a momentary doubt whether he may not have been in a dream. He sees at once that the existence, the power, the wisdom, the provi