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convinced, must be satisfied ; his conscience must to him attest the reality of his conviction. Therefore, and as the necessary consequence, there can be no human authority above conscience within the region of faith; and no man can be responsible to his fellow-man for his belief. The proposition, that man is not responsible to God for his belief, is unsound and unscriptural: for, such is the intimate connexion between the heart's wishes and the mind's conclusions, between the will and the convictions of man, that, in the eye of the all-seeing God, penetrating the inner promptings of will, and detecting what Scripture calls the “evil heart of unbelief,” there is always moral guilt in refusing to believe the revealed truth of God. But we have, in dealing with one another, no power of searching the heart, no key to unlock the secrets of internal struggles, no right to intrude on the domain of conscience, in which God alone is Lord. Therefore, as between man and man, no man is responsible to his fellow-man for his belief. This recognition of the constant and solemn responsibility of man to God, with the absolute irresponsibility of man to man in all matters of faith and worship, so often overlooked by bigots on the one hand and latitudinarians on the other, is inherent in the true theory of Protestantism, and in the right of private judgment, vindicated at the Reformation. If we have escaped from the darkness and the bondage of Popish delusions, let us never disown the instrument of free inquiry to which we owe our liberation, nor seek to guard the region of liberty and light by rearing again the defences of tyranny and darkness. If we have won a great victory by opposing conscience to authority, let us not dream of maintaining our ground by opposing authority to conscience. It is easy for a bigot to be zealous ; easy for a latitudinarian to be liberal; but the Christian part is, to be at once zealous and liberal, faithful and tolerant; holding convictions firmly and steadfastly, yet candid and kindly towards opponents ; commending our faith rather by the influence of character, than by the provocations of dispute; and preferring the triumphs of Christian love to the conquests of sectarian controversy. It is easy and pleasant for us to claim the right of free inquiry, and the liberty of private judgment. Let us always be ready to concede to others the same measure of right and liberty which for ourselves we claim. Let us regard our neighbour's conscience as St. Paul did, when he said to the Corinthians, "Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man's conscience ?" or, taking the converse, why is another man's liberty to be judged of my conscience ? On the other hand, allow me to suggest that there is danger in the opposite extreme; and that we must beware of permitting our toleration to tempt us into indifference to the dangers of scepticism, or to the sacredDess of Holy Scripture. The wise man will shun alike the perils of Scylla and Charybdis. Extreme freedom of inquiry, with startling boldness of opinion on sacred subjects, is just the natural reaction from the over-pressure of church authority. A tendency to scepticism is the rebound from High-Churchism; and those who would put a human authority-whether that of Pope or Church-above the authority of the Divine WORD, can scarcely be surprised if the Divine word be itself questioned. Hence it is that doubts follow uninquiring acquiescence,-that license succeeds to bondage,--and that “Essays and Reviews” have emanated from Oxford. Truth is always sacred. Revealed truth, proclaimed by the word of God, is the most sacred as well as the most precious of all truth, to be sought earnestly, reverently, prayerfully, in the humble and diligent study of the Seriptures.
THE VOCATION OF WESLEYAN METHODISM.
It is nothing new to say, that our vocation is to call sinners to repent
This is no less our business at the present day, than it was a hundred years ago. The spiritual necessities of society are no less urgent now than then; and the Gospel we preach is now, as then, the power of God unto salvation to them that believe. In all that is essential,—that is to say, on every point of doctrine, and in all experimental and practical godliness,-we deprecate innovation, and withstand it with unwavering constancy ; but, in common with all earnest Christians, we must adapt our measures to the ever-changing aspects of society, and every where watch for fresh opportunities of pressing on ward beyond the fields of labour we have long occupied, and of entering into those among portions of society with whom the influence of our labours has hitherto been comparatively slight. In calling sinners to repentance, we proclaim a Gospel which suffers no change, which, in adaptation, is ever perfect; but we cannot speak in the dialect of a long-departed generation. Maintaining the sternest persistence in a faith which cannot change, we may give utterance to the same immutable truths in the more cultivated language which those around us generally use, and with which all intelligent persons are familiar,—yet shunning all such affectation of science as mars the loveliness of truth. The love of Christ, which, like Him, is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever, assuredly constrains every faithful preacher to set forth the terrors of the Lord, whose law is broken, with plainness of speech quite as arousing and heart-searching as ever our fathers, in a ruder age, saw it needful to employ.
But, as it pleases God to send us into the wilderness to seek after and to reclaim the lost, it is obvious that our vocation is not only to bring lost sinners into the fold, but also to take care of those whom we reclaim, and to feed the flock of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood. And if it has pleased Him to make us, as well as others, ministers of reconciliation, we, as well as others, njust consider ourselves bound to watch over their souls, as they that must give an account. This obligation is laid upon every Christian church ; and as no existing church has yet been able
satisfactorily to meet the requirements of its own flocks, so no other church can have any spare power at disposal to undertake the charge of ours, or be under any obligation to go beyond the limits of our power. Neither can they nor we pass over our respective borders. Moreover, as to this matter, where obligation ceases, there also ceases right.
Our vocation, therefore, cannot be to raise up other churches that are fallen, nor to repair other churches where they are decayed, but to care for our own, and also to proclaim salvation to repentant sinners,—to awaken them that sleep, to alarm them that are perishing in their sins, whether they be found in our congregations or in the world without. Whosoever is thereby drawn into fellowship with us has a right to expect the benefits of pastoral care and brotherly communion. For it would be a shameful mockery to use means for plucking sinners from the jaws of death eternal, and then leave them to relapse into their former state, or consign them, it might be, to blind guides, or abandon them to that second state of wickedDess revived which is worse than the first.
Piety, we all maintain, comes not by birth, but by change of heart ; and therefore, as our children are all born in sin, and must be born again before they can enter into the kingdom of God, some may have imagined that the child of a Wesleyan Methodist, not meeting in class, nor making any profession of personal religion, has no claim on the care of either minister or people. But this is a heartless imagination, so contradictory to the literal instructions of the Old and the New Testaments, that it is hard to conceive how any lover of souls could dare to entertain it. The flock must be shepherded, both sheep and lainbs, as our blessed Lord commanded Peter.
Under God, therefore, and in the name of Christ, we are fully committed to the entire work of seeking and saving that which is lost. While preacliing repentance, we seek. While discharging all the duties of a church toward its members, we save. Failing as to the latter, we should make void the former. For, if we are not careful to preserve the souls we have reclaimed, we destroy those whom we vainly undertook to save.
Our revered Founder, remembering his ordination-engagements in the Church of England, cherished a strong desire to promote a revival of vital godliness in that church, as a means of more extensive revival in the kingdom and in the world. And although, to all human appearance, he seemed at first to be hoping against hope, that hope was not utterly disappointed ; nor did the Divine Head of the universal church refuse to answer Wesley's prayers for his own. Yet the permanent mission of Methodism is not to supplement the Church of England, nor to remedy her shortcomings, nor to put away the heresies which from time to time spring up within ber bosom. We should pray for that Church, but we are not devoted to a labour so unthankful and so unpromising as the amendment of her works. A task this, which we must regard as hopeless; because the amendment of a peccant community must be wrought by itself, and within itself; not by the direct action of any neighbour. Amendment is now the duty of the Church of England for herself, as it may at any time become the duty of our own church for herself. In some evil day (which may God forbid) we may need her prayers in the like case; and, bearing this in mind, we should now give her the benefit of ours; but so should we pray for all erring sister churches ; while toward the ungodly of the world, and the godly (as we trust) of our own communion, we proceed faithfully in the performance of acknowledged duties. And as prayer is addressed to God alone, and degenerates into an incentive to controversy when spoken in the ears of men, even benevolent intercessions for an erring neighbour-church are best made in secret.
Neither would it be just to point at a party in the Church of England as infected with heresy beyond all others, when the chief error of the times, infidelity, is prevalent in all classes of society. There is a pestilential taint of scepticism too clearly perceptible in colleges, and in pulpits, where, within recent memory, orthodoxy was thought to be established. The daily press, where most popular, is loudest in decrying “orthodoxy," as if it were an exploded superstition, and in holding up to ridicule the cardinal truths of revealed religion. The most barefaced disbelief is treated with ostentatious courtesy by “liberal” dignitaries and “enlightened” professors. In ecclesiastical assemblies parties arise to plead for “charity” toward arch-infidels far more passionately than they ever contend for “the faith once delivered to the saints.” Writings containing direct or covert allegations of the “mistakes,” or “errors,” of the holy men of old who wrote by the inspiration of God, are read with avidity by youthful students of theulogy who have not yet learned the first elements of sacred criticism, nor qualified themselves by ordinary diligence in elementary studies to decipher a page of the original text of the Old Testament, or even of the New. From one end of England to the other, there are preachers whose mention of the Saviour is only incidental ; and who either make no allusion to the atoning sacrifice, or show by their discourses that they are avowedly opposed to the scriptural doctrine of original sin, and of salvation by faith in the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. Others try to conceal a scepticism which betrays itself notwithstanding. Others may not be infidel, but they are heartless. Others, again, are formally orthodox, but spiritually dead. Their sermons are lifeless disquisitions on those very truths which by their power fired our fathers with a self-consuming zeal for Christ and for souls. The Methodists cannot be sufficiently thankful that their pulpits are guarded against unqualified intruders; that their ministers are athirst for more spiritual influence to attend their efforts ; that the state of the church universal, and of the world, has been made the subject of solemn conversations, with humiliation and prayer, in Conference and in District-meetings, leading, as all know, to deep heart-searching throughout the Circuits. But it would be vain to imagine that the whole mass of ministers and people have lived in a season of spreading scepticism, and heard from day to day the reiterations of rebuke and blasphemy, without either receiving some admonition or suffering some damage. Indifference is not possible. We are liable to the common infirmities of human nature, and have no reason to suppose that the myriads in our congregations and schools are proof against the contagion which has made such havoc among other multitudes of persons whom we must suppose to be as rational and sincere as ourselves.
Here, then, is a solemn opportunity. The time is come when the peculiarities of the discipline and usages of our church may be turned to the best possible account. This discipline has by many been reputed unnecessarily strict; and these usages as too peculiar. Many in the Church of England covet our adherence, and are disappointed that they have it not ; while stern Dissenters complain of our inflexible determination to keep aloof from their dissent. With equal firmness we refuse to conform to either party. Silent amidst the strife of tongues, devoted to holier occupations, we must still make it our business to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints. By the grace of God, we have been saved from embarking in a sinking ship, or from entangling ourselves in our neighbour's difficulties. Few of us have entered on the arena of debate during the agitation of questions which divide the established” and the nonconforming churches ; and of late years, especially, we have unadvisedly refrained even from taking our proper share in the work of legislation. Never arbitrator between those two great parties, Methodism has but stood between them to save them from collisions which must have been disastrous, if not fatal, to one or the other.
But, as Methodism is not a supplementary society, so neither can it be regarded merely as a neutral body serving to keep apart the hostile forces of Anglicanism and Dissent. Whatever work it is proper that a Christian church should do, that work is ours. For this blessed service we are entirely free ; and while it is to be hoped that theological studies will in all churches become more thoroughly biblical, and therefore more useful to the students, and more helpful to the common cause of Christianity, the whole weight of our energies, in these times of scepticism, will need to be given to the revival of all that has hitherto tended to our preservation in a position of spiritual independence; in other words, of all that is distinctive in our creed and in our discipline. What this is, every one knows, and we may be well content not to sound the praises of Methodism, but to do its ancient work. We need fervour, not the noisy affectation of it. We need the theology of Wesley and Watson, not the secular, self-sufficient Pelagianisın which has here and there become its substitute. The world expects from us work—hard work—in preaching the Gospel to the poor, and upholding the standard of the cross in every neglected corner both of town and country, and through all the world. We wage war with worldliness,a battle not ostentatiously proclaimed, but maintained with undying perseverance by aggression upon the unconverted multitudes. Are other communions rent into sects, or enfeebled by secularism? Does an antinomian mysticism assail“ organizations," while infidelity eats out the heart and life of churches? This, then, is the time for girding ourselves anew to