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Font and stream unlocked attest,
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Of wind and cold and rain.
CORRECTION OF A MISQUOTATION.
To the Editor of the Christian Observer. Will you permit me, through the medium of your columns, to thank your correspondent who has pointed out (C. 0. 1839, p. 544) my erroneous quotation from the heading of page 29 of the 73d number of the Tracts for the Times, and to express my regret for the inaccu. racy, which was the result of writing in haste, owing to pressure of time. I should have noticed this before, had I not been absent from London.
On referring to my copy of Tract 73, I find the heading of page 29 run thus : “ The atonement not a manifestation of God's justice." I perfectly agree with you in thinking that this contains a sentiment substantially as objectionable as my misquotation, but still that does not excuse my inaccuracy, which I most sincerely lament.
THE BISHOP OF EXETER AND THE OXFORD TRACTS.
To the Editor of the Christian Observer. FEELING as I do, in common with most other Churchmen, much obligation to the Bishop of Exeter for the bold and uncompromising manner in which he has defended the religious establishment of the country against political aggression, I have yet observed with con. cern, that there is some inconsistency in that part of his Lordship’s Charge last year, which treats of the Tracts for the Times. In one place he exposes several of their errors with apparently much decision and energy; but is there not a most extraordinary inconsistency in declaring, after having done this, that the Church is upon the whole deeply indebted to them? How can the Church be deeply indebted to those who have promulgated such fundamental, and, if they were fully followed up, fatal errors ? Suppose, for example, all clergymen were universally to follow the advice of keeping the doctrine of the atonement in the back ground, would it not be in danger of ultimately being forgotten and omitted altogether, and then what would become of the Church and of Christianity? If his Lordship had said that in some respects, and on some particular points, the Church is indebted to them, he would have saved his consistency. Again, in quoting Mr. Keble's Sermon on Tradition, his Lordship has forgotten to bring forward the most important part, that indeed upon which the whole matter turns. The question is this, Does Professor Keble, or does he not, speak of tradition as containing any essential matters not revealed in Scripture? He does do so, for he speaks of certain things which, although not in Scripture, may yet be a part of their rule (the Apostles) concerning whom the Son of God has declared, He that heareth you heareth me; compare p. 26 with p. 32. Now to omit all this when professedly treating on the subject, is not giving a correct account. The Bishop, in his numerous quotations from the authentic documents of the Church, has forgotten " the stinking puddles of men's traditions." How can there be a stronger condemnation of Mr. Keble's doctrine of tradition ?- which by the bye seems to differ from that contained in the Tracts.
But further respecting tradition. I do not exactly understand how, in the ordinary and generally recognised sense of the term, the creeds can be calleed tradition, for their articles are directly and expressly drawn from Scripture. Doubtless in one sense they are tradition ; that is, they are handed down from one person and one generation to another; but in this sense the Bible itself is tradition. But the creeds are not oral tradition, which is what we usually understand by the word; and oral tradition signifies a doctrine or doctrines delivered by word of mouth, and not committed to writing by the first promulgators.
Another extraordinary fallacy is, confounding the outward visible sign with the inward spiritual grace, the sign with the thing signified, Regeneration with Baptism. Doubtless our Apostolical Church always speaks of baptized persons as regenerate ; but in public offices it is impossible to speak of particular cases; general terms alone can be used; and the Church very properly takes it for granted that in general those who come to Baptism, come worthily, in which case, and in which only, both the sacraments “ have a wholsome effect or operation,” Article 25; to which, in the case of Baptism, is given the name of Regeneration. But still I conceive that there is likewise another species of regeneration of which all who come to baptism, even adults who come unworthily, are partakers,-I mean that formal regeneration which consists of admission into the visible Christian church, but without any other accompanying blessing, so that cur Church is on both these accounts fully borne out in her language without obliging us to confound the external sign with the internal grace; and I fully agree with his Lordship in censuring those who omit any portion of this office. As for Baptism and Regeneration being convertible terms, the bread and wine also are as convertible terms with the body and blood of Christ, even in their very administration; so that if this reason be valid, the bread and wine are the literal and corporal body and blood of Christ.
The oft quoted instance in the New Testament, Acts x. 47, where the grace of regeneration, if by that term we understand the FIRST influence of the Holy Spirit on the mind, was conferred previously to baptism, which gift was doubtless confirmed to them and its fruits increased by the administration of Baptism, shews that we are not borne out in accounting baptism the ONLY, although it be the principal, channel of regeneration.
*** We have said often, and we repeat, that we cannot assent to this idea of a quasi regeneration. We objected on this ground to Bishop Bradford's well-known sermon on Baptismal and Spiritual Regeneration. The notion was invented in order to meet the objection that the language of our church does not correspond with the Scriptural account of the new birth. We cannot believe that such a two-fold sense is admissible; we cannot entertain the notion of two new-births; and we are su it is not requisite for the explication of the church formularies. Extremes often meet; and those who, with the Oxford Tracts, predicated one new-birth which may never bring forth any fruits of renewal; and those who, recognizing a “spiritual” new-birth, followed by good fruits, yet acknowledge a “baptismal” new-birth which does not produce them, both seems to us to lower the true character of regeneration.
ON THE WEEKLY DIVISION OF TIME.
To the Editor of the Christian Observer. The division of time into weeks, so common throughout the world, has been often strongly pressed as an argument in proof of the primæval institution of the Sabbath ; but there is one striking circumstance which I do not recollect to have seen duly urged in the argument; namely, that a seventh-day division is entirely arbitrary, and such as could have originated only in a positive institution. A year is a revolution of the sun ; a month the revolution of the moon; and a day the revolution of the earth on its axis ; but a week has no relation to any astronomical phenomenon ; there is no natural reason why Noah should have dispatched the dove every seven days any more than every five or nine days ; nor is it possible to account for the hebdomadal division, except by special appointment; and what could that be but what the sacred Word records?
SPLITTING THE DIFFERENCE.
To the Editor of the Christian Observer. There can be scarcely an act of greater injustice to an innocent man, than that popular mode of adjudication which is called “splitting the difference." Jurymen, country justices, and the officers of courts of requests, are very prone to this summary injustice. An injured person perhaps, after a long course of provocation, is induced at length to make a complaint ; the offending party professes to be sorry that he has acted improperly, but it was not in human nature to bear what he had done without being chafed, and he hopes therefore that his conduct will be overlooked. The complainant, perfectly astonished at such a reply, proposes to shew that he had done nothing whatever to provoke such usage; whereupon the examiner candidly stops him short with “Ah, I see how it is ; there are faults on both sides ; Fulvius has done wrong, but Scipio provoked him; I cannot go into the merits of the case; the best way will be to split the difference."
The following are illustrations. A man complained that another had taken five shillings from him. The accused replied that the accuser owed him that sum. The accuser with extreme astonishment denied this, and challenged him to the proof. The candid wise-acre who had to decide the question said, “ Well, if you like to go to law about it you must; but I should advise you both to settle it quietly." “I am willing to do whatever you approve " said the thief. And I," said the honest man, not doubting that justice would be done. “Well, well then," said the arbitrator, " each take half-a-crown."
The Rev. H. M'Neile lately made a speech in which he called the Church of Rome “that woman Jezebel,” as he had often done before, alluding to Revelation ii. 20. There happened to be some juxta-position in his speech about the papists environing the Queen ; there. upon it suited Mr. O'Connell to represent him, with many foul ex. pressions, as calling the Queen Jezebel; and to pretend that Protestants and Conservatives wished to get rid of her~" throw her out of a window.” The inuendo was perfectly monstrous; no person who. knows Mr: M‘Neile could suppose for a moment that he made any allusion to the Queen, or that he meant one syllable of disrespect towards her ; but then comes in one of these careful splitters of differences : “I do not vindicate Mr. O'Connell's unjustifiable expres sions; and I am sure Mr. M'Neile did not mean that there could be no peace till the Queen was deposed; but still he should not have given cause for the taunt by using improper language respecting her.” “But are you sure that he did use improper language? Do you believe he referred to her Majesty under the epithet of Jezebel? Have you carefully read his speech ?” “Oh no, I have not read it at all ; I do not wish to enter into the merits of the dispute ; I think O'Connell's remarks abominable, but it is a pity to provoke such things.”
Some very kind and religious persons are guilty of this flagrant injustice. Their first feeling-a very excellent feeling-when they hear of a quarrel, is to make peace; but if the wound will not heal with the first intention, they try to skin it over instead of probing it ; and hence it rankles beneath, though the surface is fair. If a man undertakes the office of an arbitrator, he should discharge it thoroughly and honestly. No person can be offended by his declining to examine into a litigation, while he refrains from giving an opinion upon it ; but to give an opinion, and to offer some sage advice, without knowing the facts, is grievous injustice to the injured party. There are more men who know how to be just than to be generous ; and there are more splitters of differences than investigators of truth.
ALLEGED APPEARANCE OF A DEPARTED SPIRIT.
To the Editor of the Christian Observer. The following extraordinary narrative lately fell into my hands, but through socircuitousa route, that I am unable to refer back to the original source. It purports to be an account given at the Methodist Conference at Sheffield, in the year 1817, by a preacher who was then received into full connexion, (I had his name with the narrative, but have lost it,) of the appearance of the departed spirit of his brother-in-law; which "solemn fact,” he says, “was the first grand means of leading my mind to think seriously of the solemn realities of death, judgment, and eternity." It will be best first to transcribe the narrative, before mentioning my object in sending it for your pages; which I was at first doubtful of doing, but further reconsideration has led me to think it may be useful.
“A sister being married to a gentleman in the army, received intelligence that the regiment to which he belonged had orders for one of the Spanish Isles in the Mediterranean. One night about ten o'clock, sixteen years since, in the town of Doncaster, in Yorkshire, as his wife, his child, an elder sister, and myself, were Christ. OBSERV. No. 26.
sitting in a back room—the shutters were closed, barred, and bolted, and the yard door locked—suddenly a light shone through the window, and illuminated the room in which we were sitting :—we looked, started, and beheld the spirit of our departed brother,—his eye was fixed on his wife and child alternately, he waved his hand-smiled—continued about half a minute—and then vanished from our sight. The moment before the spirit disappeared, my sister cried, “He's dead, he's dead,” and fainted away. Her little boy ran toward the apparition, and wept because it would not stay. A short time after this, we received a letter from the colonel of the regiment, sealed with a black seal—the dark emblem of death-bearing the doleful but expected news that, on such a night, answering to the same on which we saw his spirit, my brother-in-law was found weltering in his blood, having been murdered by the Spaniards when returning from the mess-room : the spark of life was not quite extinct when he was found, and the last wish which he was heard to breat be was that be might see his wife and child once again ; which was granted him, in the island of Minorca, in that same hour bis spirit appeared to his wife, his child, an elder sister, and myself.
" Before this event, though a boy of nine years only, I was a complete atheist, having been taught by my father to disbelieve every thing except what I saw; but by this solemn circumstance, I was convinced of the reality of another world's existence; and by the solemn impression that it made upon my mind I was led to pray for mercy; which mercy I found at the foot of the cross, and now feel the Holy Spirit preparing my soul to enter those eternal and invisible regions—the world of spirits. My sister, from the night that she saw the spirit of ber husband, and before she received any intelligence of his death, went into mourning for bim; nor could my father prevent it by any argument. He endeavoured to persuade us we were all deluded and deceived, yet acknowledged that the testimony which the child gave staggered him; but when the letter arrived from the colonel of the regiment, with the awful tidings of our brother's death, he was struck dumb, so to speak, and had nothing more to say. My two sisters are yet living, and can testify to the truth of this account ; beside which at least one hundred persons can prove our mentioning the hour the spirit appeared, several weeks before we received the melancholy letter, and that the letter mentioned the night and the hour as the same in which we beheld his spirit.”
Now, Sir, without entering into the general questions involved in this narrative, two things are clear; first, that no account of a supernatural appearance should be credited on doubtful evidence; and secondly, that an account attested by strong evidence ought not necessarily to be rejected without inquiry, as involving an impossibility. With regard to both these points, I should say that the testimony of so many witnesses, if their testimony has really been collected apart, and there is no reason to suspect deceit or collusion, is not to be peremptorily rejected. But is this the fact? I take for granted that such a statement was made at the Sheffield Conference ;—if not, one of your Wesleyan readers will doubtless furnish you with a denial. Nor do I doubt the veracity of the relator; to which I may add that the alleged blessed effect of the vision upon his mind, may be said to have furnished an occasion on which it was meet for the Most High to interpose; but why in this case in particular, more than in others, who shall say? or shall venture to affirm or conjecture what is meet or otherwise for Him whose ways are past finding out?
But are the facts proved? The relator mentions other names, but we have not their testimony; we have only his unsupported opinion that they believed the facts. And then, though he relates the circumstance at a mature age, yet it occurred, he says, when he was not nine years old; so that, at best, we have only the testimony of a little child ; who might have been mistaken, or imposed upon, or been under delirium, or only had a vivid dream. Yet the story has been held forth as one strongly confirmed in all its parts; and many such stories are to be found in Mr. Wesley's Journals, and various other Methodist publications. It may not be too late even