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FOR FEBRUARY, 1816.
Art. I. Eight Sermons preached before the University of
Orford, together with a Sermon delivered at an Ordination, holden at Christ Church, by the Bishop of Durham, on Tri. nity Sunday, in the Year 1810, by Edward Garrard Marsh.
pp. 225. Oxford. Rivingtons. 1814. NOTHING can be more important to the preservation of true religion among us, than the system of divinity which is taught in our two universities. In these venerable seats of learning, a large proportion of the men who are destined for the ministry of the Church of England imbibe their principles and settle their religious faith. It is therefore a matter of national concern, that the greatest attention should be paid to this part of their education, and that all their studies should be made subservient to this most important object. Much may be done in this way by professors of divinity and college tutors: but a very serious part of the charge devolves upon those, who are selected to fill the university pulpits. It is a great mistake to suppose that the sermons at St. Mary's are a mere matter of form, and that the young men rarely attend them. Both at Cambridge and at Oxe ford the select preachers are attended by a very numerous, and a very observant congregation : what they say is duly weighed and considered, especially by the younger part of their audience, who in most cases go not to hear only but to be taught. Most important, therefore, it is, that the select preachers before our universities should be chosen out of those whose learning is most extensive, whose zeal is most affectionate, whose theology is most sound. Should those to whom the choice is intrusted, either from indolence, perversity, or caprice, so neglect their duty, as to appoint any, whose doctrines are well known to be in opposition to the doctrines of our Church, and in whose minds fanaticism supplies the place of piety, and conceited ignorance that of learning, then should we cousider the upiversity, be it which it may, as disgraced.
Impressed VOL. V. FEB. 1816.
Impressed with these sentiments, we turn to a volume of university sermons with peculiar interest and attention. Here, at least, we expect, that our critical labours will be amply repaid by good writing, clear argument, and sound divinity. We will not say that our expectations are altogether disappointed in the volume before us. Its subject matter is various ; and we have examined it with various feelings of censure and approbation. We proceed, therefore, to lay before our readers a brief account of each discourse, and to state the grounds of the very different opinions which we find ourselves obliged to pass upon them.
The first Sermon in the volume was delivered at an ordination, holden at Christ Church, on Trinity Sunday, 1810. It is founded on our Lord's injunction to St. Peter to “ feed his sheep.” From this appropriate text, the preacher enforces the necessity of the love of Christ, as the only legitimate motive for undertaking the duties of the ministry. On this point Mr. Marsh's sentiments can not be better expressed than in his own words.
“ The proper question, therefore, for every candidate who apu plies for ordination, to put to his own bosom, is- What is my object in coming hither? Am I seeking my own profit, or the profit of
many that they may be saved ? Am I urged by the love of Christ, or of myself, of godliness or of gain ? And this is a question which every one must determine for himself. No examiner can settle it. He may investigate the claims of his candidates with respect to scholarship or attainments. He may ascertain the grounds of their faith, and may inquire into their character in the world. But all beyond this must be left between them and God. If they have been guilty of no gross offences such as are cognizable to all men, the human examiner can not penetrate deeper. It is to God that they must answer this question lovest thou me more than these!'-and it will be well for them if they can answer it, as Peter did, Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee.'» P. 10.
In the subsequent part of this discourse, the preacher reminds his audience that the proper mode of displaying their love of Christ, is by attending diligently to the spiritual interest of the flock committed to their charge. He enforces upon them the duty of studying the Scriptures, as the fountain of all truth, and of preaching the whole doctrine of the Gospel without reserve. He then briefly touches upon the doctrine of the day, (Trinity Sunday) and concludes with seasonable admonition. We can safely recommend this discourse to our readers' attention. It is not distinguished, indeed, by any peculiar excellence of style, or originality of thought: but it is sound, scriptural, and unaffected. It expresses the sentiments of a Christian in the language of a scholar.
The first Sermon prepared for the university pulpit, is upon the operation of second causes ;-a subject highly proper to be discussed before young men, who are combining the study of philosophy with that of religion. For if it is once supposed that the system of nature could not have been constituted other. wise than it is, the foundation of infidelity is effectually laid in the mind. About twenty-five years ago, a French philosopher in this country, who had probably been trained in the school of Volo taire, pretended to demonstrate that the law of gravitation could hot possibly operate in any other manner than it does; from whence he would have inferred, that it is a necessary principle of nature, not an appointment of the Creator. The mathematical arguments on which this doctrine rested, were examined and refuted by Bishop Horsley, and Professor Robison, whose attention had naturally been roused by the pernicious tendency of this boasted discovery. The Sermon before us is well calculated to give a right view of the absolute power of the Deity in the constitution of the universe. It justly maintains that the laws of nature were established by the arbitrary decree of God, not by any necessity in the case. The only connection between any cause and its effect is the will of God. Nay, further, (as Mr. M. observes),
" Tlie effects themselves were in their creation prior to their present causes"- -“ for, though it was on the first day that God said, “Let there be light, and there was light, it was not till the fourth, that he made those two great lights, which have continued ever since to rule the day and the night.” He then contends that the appointment of second causes does not derogate from the omnipotence of the Deity, that it is more consistent with his glory and mercy than an immediate exercise of his power, inasmuch as it conduces to the moral agency of man, and other grand designs of His Providence. The same mode of operation pervades the dispensation of grace, and serves to
« Explain many difficulties attending it, in which men act, as second causes, in the hand of the Great Artificer: for the ways of God, both in the formation and reformation, in the government and redemption of the world, are uniform, analogous, and consistent. In both he makes use of means. And though on extraordinary occasions he has sometimes chosen to accomplish his objects without them, yet this manner of operation through the intervention of second causes, besides being more beautiful, tends more to the glory of his omnipotence than the other. Even in this latter work the Almighty has no need of subordinate ministers; and yet here also the employment of them is both a grace and a glory to his blessed scheme of salvation." P. 32.
This excellent discourse is followed by one on mysteries, to which our approbation cannot be so cordially extended. After a few preliminary remarks on religious mysteries in general, Mr. M. adverts to the “controversy relating to the divine decrees.' This be represents as a mystery which can never be cleared up, and he recommends us to abstain from perplexing ourselves with the question, since it does not affect the essentials of religion. He proceeds :
“ Many who have agreed upon all other parts of our common religion, have differed, and agreed to differ, upon this. Such were notoriously many of the reformers and fathers of the Church of England ; and such their consciousness of the innocence of this difference, and the safety of this union, that our 17th article has been generally confessed to be formed upon principles, which ought not to exclude any from the Establishment, who, concurring upon all other points, differ only upon a question, on which, those who framed it, were themselves divided in opinion. The strenuousness with which both parties have laboured to prove that the article is on their side, is indeed, to impartial judges, a sufficient proof of its neutrality.” P. 56.
We are aware that the authority of Bishop Burnet may be alledged as giving countenance to this insinuation, but it ought atever to.be forgotten that his Exposition of the Articles was written to serve the purpose of the comprehension at that time projected, and that it was considered by the Lower House of Convocation so injurious to the English Reformation, that they presented it to the Upper House as a book strongly meriting a public censure. Dr. Binks's Prefatory Examination of the Bishop's Work should always be read with it as an antidote to the loose notions respecting Subscription to which it gives currency.
We should not then so frequently have to regret the utterance of the insinuation just cited from our author, against which, however, whatever may be the authority it claims for its support, cur formal protest must be recorded. The sense of the article is the sense of those who compiled it ; and we have the most abundant historical proof that these men were not Calvinists :---that they took especial care to reject Calvinistic doctrines from the formularies of our Church : and that they would not accept the proffered assistance of Calvin in compila ing the articles, although they freely availed themselves of the aid of other learned foreigners. The limits of a Review will not permit us to enter into the proofs of our assertions; but if Mr. M. or any of our readers, would wish to see the whole matter placed in the clearest light, we refer them to an incomparable tract written about forty years ago by Dr. Winchester, and reprinted in the Churchman's Remembrancer. Let them read this. with an impartial mind, and they will rise fully satisfied that our
Reformers were no Calvinists. In the mean time we will present them with a brief explanation of the 17th article ; and this shall be done in the masterly language of Dr. Waterland.
“ The article of Predestination," says he,“ has been vainly enough urged in favour of the Calvinistic tenets. For not to mention the saving clause in the conclusion, or its saying nothing at all of Reprobation, and nothing in favour of absolute Predestination to life, there seems to be a plain distinction (as Plaifere has well observed) in the article itself of two kinds of predestination, one of which is recommended to us, the other condemned. Predes. tination, rightly and piously considered, (i. e, considered nos irrespectively, not absolutely) but with respect to faith in Christ, faith working by love and persevering; such a predestination is a sweet and comfortable doctrine. But the sentence of God's predesțination, (it is not here said in Christ as before) that sentence simply or absolutely considered (as curious and carnal persons are apt to consider it) is a most dangerous downfall, leading either to security or desperation, as having no respect to foreseen faith and a good life, nor depending upon it, but antecedent in order to it: The article then seems to speak of two subjects; first of predestination, soberly understood with respect to faith in Christ, which is wholesome doctrine; secondly of predestination simply considered, which is dangerous doctrine.”—“It is not imaginable that any true and sound doctrine of the Gospel should of itself have any aptness to become a down fall even to carnal persons ; but carnal persons are apt to corrupt a sound doctrine, and suit it to their own lusts and passions, thereby falsifying the truth. This doctrine, so depraved and mistaken, our Church condemns. That is, she condemns absolute, irrespective predestination, not the other *.'
We cannot, therefore, concede to Mr. M. that our Church is “neutral” upon Calvinistic points. Here we must niake a stand, whatever may be our reluctance to excite contro. versy on such subjects. We agree indeed with him,
“ That the legitimate object of studying these sublime mysteries is, that we may do the words of this law; and if we studied them with no other end, if we sought in doing so, not to condemn our neighbours' errors, but only to make our own calling and election sure, we might under the guidance of the Divine Spirit search all things, yea, the deep things of God, without fear of entrenching upon those secrets of his government, which he has declared to belong only to himself.”. P. 59
But there is a turn in this sentence which we can not approve. It seems to intimate, that when we oppose the tenets of Calvin, we are actuated by a mere spirit of controversy. This is an unfair representation of the case. Our object in so doing is not to condemn our neighbours, but to defend the truth. We
* Waterland's Supplement to the Case of Arian Subscription. P. 57. Printed 1722.