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author, without very strong proof, principles which he does not avow; and we should be sorry to incur the charge of want of candour towards Dr. Maltby; yet we must be allowed to remark, that upon comparing his sentiments with those of our modern Socinians, we cannot but say we perceive a very striking resemblance between them. Among others, for example, Dr. Maltby says, p. 12, “ It may perhaps be asserted without the smallest perversion of truth, that each of the gospels contain every thing necessary to salvation.” Now, whether the reverend author
was so far deceived as to think that he was hereby stating an original opinion, we do not profess to know; yet we do know, that nearly the same words, and precisely the same opinion (except that many of the Socinians are not quite so niggardly in their allowance), have been stated by the principal Socinian writers. Mr. Fellowes, in his “Guide to Immortality," (modest title !!) asserts, “ that in the gospels alone are to be found every useful truth, and every religious duty; that the precepts of Christ, as they are contained in the four Evangelists, contain all the instruction necessary to our improvement in righteousness; include, in short, every essential principle of genuine Christianity.
Mr. Evanson truly ventures to go the whole length of Dr. Maltby, and is for retaining one gospel only as necessary for the instruction of mankind, from which, indeed, he is also disposed to cut out some peculiar passages that do not altogether meet his approbation. Of the views which the apostles of Socinianism entertained when they expressed these opinions, we shall have some proofs to adduce, when we come to shew the mortifying similarity of views and objects, exhibited in some future passages, by the reverend Prebendary of Leighton Bussard.
But, setting this aside for the present, it appears to us that the grand deficiency in Doctor Maltby's system, and that from which all his mistakes proceed, is a total exclusion of the operation of the Holy Spirit, in guiding the minds of men to the knowledge and understanding of the scriptures. In the pamphlet now under review, the following passages occur on the question, whether the unlearned should be allowed free access to the whole of the Bible. " Readers of ordinary capacity and attainments are left to make their own comments and draw their own conclusions, unassisted by previous study, and destitute of present help.” “ The unlearned, it is evident, can have no other guide than the interpretation given by some one class of those learned men, who, after all, may have taken the most probable signification, without any certainty that they have chosen the right.”
They (the common people) ought no more to expect to understand the prophecies of Ezekiel, and the Epistles of St. Paul, than they should expect to understand the tragedies of Æschylus, or the letters of Cicero and Pliny, even in the excellent translations we have of those ancient authors."- With other passages repeating the same ideas.
Now for argument's sake, we will suppose for an instant with Doctor Maltby, that the assistance of the Holy Spirit was confined to extraordinary occasions, instead of being freely offered to all who earnestly seek it. Upon this supposition, we should be much inclined to agree with him, that it would not be safe to put any parts of the scriptures into the hands of the poor and unlearned, excepting those which are purely practical and not liable to misinterpretation; and that the doctrinal parts should only be dealt out to them through the medium of human learning. We think also, on the other hand, that if Doctor Maltby admits our hypothesis, that the guidance of the Holy Spirit in its ordinary operations will be granted to all who earnestly seek its direction by prayer ; he will also agree with us, that the poor are quite as well qualified as the learned to understand the grand and simple doctrines of the gospel, however mysterious, or even in some instances contradictory to human reason these doctrines may appear.
Not to accumulate quotations from scripture, which, we trust, are familiar to our readers, to prove that the latter hypothesis is that which is warranted by the express promises of God; let us see what the great and learned Bishop Horsley thought upon this subject. Discussing the expediency of imparting to the common people the knowledge of the more difficult parts of scripture, he asserts, “ that it would much more readily secure them against the poison of modern corruptions, than the practice dictated by a false discretion, of avoiding the mention of every doctrine that may be combated, and of burying every text of doubtful meaning.” “ The corrupters of Christian doctrine," he proceeds,“ have no such reserve. The doctrines of the divinity of the Son--the incarnation—the satisfaction of the cross as a sacrifice in the literal meaning of the word—the mediatorial intercession-the influences of the spirit--the eternity of future punishment--are topics of popular discussion with those who would deny or pervert these doctrines : and we may judge by their success what our own might be, if we would but meet our antagonists on their own ground. The common people, we find, enter into the force, though they do not perceive the sophistry of their arguments. The same people would much more enter into the internal evidence of the genuine doctrine of the gospel, if holden out to them, not in parts, studiously divested of whatever may seem mysterious, not with accommodations to the prevailing fashion of opinions, but entire and undisguised.” “ EVERY SENTENCE OF THE BIBLE IS FROM God, and every man is interested in the meaning of it.” (Horsley's Sermons, Vol. I.
p. 7.) As a práctical illustration of the truth and knowledge of the world displayed in these admirable passages, we would refer Dr. Maltby, and those who reason and preach under the impressions which he has thought fit to avow, to a comparison of the deserted churches and full meeting-houses of their own parishes, with the thronged churches and empty conventicles of those where Bishop Horsley's advice is followed. It is in these latter situations indeed, as the Bishop strongly expressed himself, that the enthusiastic ranter may "bellow upregarded in the wilder
Such were the opinions of Bishop Horsley, upon the mere expediency of stating to the common people the more difficult parts of scripture. For ourselves, indeed, we must even go so far as to declare our belief, that highly cultivated human intellect, with the pride often attendant upon it, is sometimes a great obstacle to the reception of the truth, and to the right understanding of the Bible, or rather to its true effect upon the heart. Of course, we do not mean to depreciate the usefulness of human learning in the interpretation of scripture, still less of parochial instruction among the poor by enlightened ministers, which, doubtless, is a powerful mean of leading the ignorant to seek the fountain of light and knowledge on those points which concern their immortal souls; and we agree in some part of the following quotation, heartily wishing that things were in this respect a little more as they " ought to be.”
“I may now be asked, if such really are the difficulties attending the study of the Scriptures among the poor, whether arising from the contents of the books themselves, or the incapacity of the poor to comprehend them, where are the lower classes of mankind to gain their knowledge of religion? I do conceive that this is one of the great ends proposed by an established religion, such as exists in this country. An establishment provides, or ought to provide, for the instruction of the poor, by an explanation every week of the truths of our holy religion; an elucidation of its doctrines, and a serious and animating exhortation to obey its moral precepts. Nor is the duty of the public instructors contined to the labours of the Sunday, but the minister of each parish is, or ought to be, at hand, for the comfort and information of bis parishioners, whensoever they require it. He is to preach the word, to be instant in season, and out of season; to reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and doctrine.?" (P. 26.)
Yet, we believe, that even without instruction, but with the Bible alone, the poor and humble-minded christian, though unfurnished with human learning, is not only upon a par with the greatest philosopher with respect to the stupendous mysteries of our holy religion, but often has an actual advantage over him, from having less to unlearn, and from his heart being in a more recipient state.
VOL. IV. NO. VII.
And we apprehend this to be the meaning of the following .expressions of our Saviour, “ Blessed be ye poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” Luke vi. “Suffer the little children to come to me and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” “ I thank thee, O father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes," with others of the same kind.
We are indeed surprised, that even the experience which Dr. Maltby must have had, (or, “ought to have had,”) of the poor, during his parochial visits to their cottages, has not convinced hini that the Bible is often most correctly appreciated, and best understood by those who have the least assistance from human commentaries. That this is the fact we cannot doubt, and we believe that all those who are conversant with the poor (not those who
ought to be”) will join in our sentiments, which are consonant with the opinion of all the most active and sober-minded parish priests with whom we have had the opportunity of conversing. In short, we do positively deny “ the strict analogy," asserted by Dr. Maltby,
to exist between the talents and means necessary for acquiring classical and philosophical learning, and those which lead to a knowledge and understanding of the scriptures and of pure religion. It may be very true, as he observes, that “the sun rises upon all classes of mankind, nor does he give less light and heat to those who never heard of the Copernican system. That the improvements suggested by mechanics and chemistry facilitate labour, and contribute to the comfort of the lower orders, although they never heard of the laws of motion, nor of the difference between alkalies and acids.” But we positively deny, that it is any just inference from this reasoning that the epistles of St. Paul, which contain fundamental doctrines of christianity, to be found in no other parts of scripture, will not be made intelligible to the poor by the operation of the Holy Spirit, because to the literary man, or the mere man of the world, they appear to contain difficult doctrines. If the knowledge of the fundamental doctrines of christianity be necessary to the salvation of all men in a christian country, we may be
very sure that means will be found of making them plain to an humble inquirer: and, at once, to destroy the analogy on which Dr. Maltby plumes himself so triumphantly; it is only necessary to state, that the knowledge of the Copernican system—of the laws of motion, and of the difference between alkalies and acids is not necessary to save the souls of men. This, however, 'brings us to some of the most important passages in Dr. Maltby's pamphlet, where, speaking of the New Testament, the Articles, and the Liturgy,—He uses the following words:
" In regard to the Books of the New Testament, as we here enter upon topics exclusively belonging to all Christians, I agree that the Gospels and the Acts should be diffused universally, though I contend that there are various matters even in them, which may occasion error, without a critical and judicious exposition. But I cannot think that the Epistles were designed, because they are evidently not calculated, for general diffusion. Every thing that Jesus did, and said, and taught, must be equally interesting to every one of his followers, and ought to be to all mankind. But it does not follow that every thing his apostles wrote, even with the pen of inspiration, is to be equally applicable to the devout meditations of a Christian at the present day. The apostles were engaged in many weighty matters, referable only to the places in which they were acting, or the times in which they lived. They were occupied with temporary questions and with local controversies : and although they inight have (might have !!!) the aid of the Holy Spirit in guiding their judgment, and regulating their conduct, in matters important at that time; it by no means follows that their decision upon such subjects can be necessary or interesting, or in all respects even intelligible to us, who live in such different times, and under such different circumstances. Valuable indeed they are, when considered as mere matters of record, connected with the introduction of our religion. But by far the greater part of the apostolical epistles relate to controversies, agitated at the time, about the partial or total rejection of the Jews, the introduction of Gentiles into the church, the necessity of circumcision, the permanence of the Mosaic law, with allusions to the situation of particular congregations, or the conduct of individuals; some the useful teachers, and others the mischievous disturbers of the church." (P. 9.)
“ I have, perhaps, obviated the charge of dealing in general and obscure intimations, respecting the improvement of our establishment, by stating points in which I conceive such improvement might be made. But I have no hesitation in submitting most respectfully to the serious and dispassionate consideration of our ecclesiastical rulers, whether it might not be desirable also to revise the articles, and some parts, perhaps, of the Liturgy, after a lapse of 250 years since their first promulgation. It should always be kept in mind, that by not insisting upon any particular article as a condition of subscription, we by no means give up our opinion of its truth; although, in the true spirit of christianity, and for the sake of promoting christian concord, we may not always expect that all men should think alike upon texts, obviously susceptible of different interpretations,
“ Such a revision, wisely and temperately conducted, would, I am persuaded, contribute essentially to the peace and security of the established religion; and would, at the same time, more tend to promote a good understanding and cordial union among Christians of different denominations than all the reports of the Bible Society, all the speeches even of its most enlightened advocates, and all the contributions of its members.” (P. 29.)