« PreviousContinue »
The Protestant Reformation in all Countries, including Sketches of
the State and Prospects of the Reformed Churches. A Book for Critical Times. By John Morison, D.D. Fisher, Son, & Co. 8vo. 1844.
How fitly and how forcibly is Popery described by the pen of inspiration as the mystery of iniquity! The history of the papal church from its earliest period to the present day, furnishes a substantial and striking comment upon this very significant designation. Beneath a pall of human inventions, and cunningly-devised fables, the truths of Christianity have been well-nigh concealed, or shine only like sepulchral lamps amid the dense and oppressive atmosphere which gathers round them. The spirit of religion has been forced out by the oppressive weight of superincumbent forms, and the demon of cruelty has ruled where the love of Christ should have reigned. The genius of Popery is relentless and sanguinary ; dragons have been yoked to her car, and her course has been marked with dead men's bones and stained with the blood of souls.
When the multiform crimes and outrageous claims of the papal church bad, in the sixteenth century, reached a most fearful climax, the scriptural knowledge, the intrepid spirit, and right-hearted devotedness of a cloistered monk in Germany, commenced an attack upon this embodiment of all evil, which was quickly followed by a people prepared for the Lord' in England, France, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, Italy, Spain, and Belgium. But the assault upon the strongholds of antichrist was quickly repelled, and it is a question of the deepest interest at the present time, What principle was it that checked the progress of that spiritual revolt in some countries, and entirely suppressed it in others? We believe it was mainly occasioned by the concession of authority to civil magistrates in the affairs of the kingdom of Christ.
The unnatural and unholy alliance of the church of Christ with civil power, which the reformers generally conceded, the amalgamation of things which radically differ, will go far to explain the causes of that failure which we have to deplore. It has, at least, perpetuated much that is erroneous in doctrine, ungracious in spirit, and unchristian in practice ; it has filled the earth with violence, and dyed its soil with blood; it has impeded the functions of civil legislation, and clogged the movements of primitive Christianity. The kingdom of Christ asks not for secular support, which may deprave, but cannot purify; which may depress, but cannot elevate ; which may check its progress, but cannnot promote it. The sword of the magistrate may force a proselyte, but the sword of the Spirit alone can secure a convert. The battle of the warrior is with confused noise, and garments rolled
in blood; but the triumphs of Christianity are with peaceful step, and unstained raiment. When religion is rescued from all constrained connexion with secular power, then will her native loveliness more fully appear, and her achievements be more extensive and glorious.
Dr. Morison has done good service to the cause of truth and righteousness by the publication of the volume which stands at the head of this article. We feel indebted to the worthy and industrious author, for this seasonable effort of his pen. If a word spoken in season is good, a volume published in season is better ; we admire its plan, and generally approve of its execution.
“The signs of the times," says Dr. M., "require that the facts of the Reformation should be inscribed on our own heart, and fixed in the memories of our children.” Dr. M. has written this work under the vivid impression that we live in critical times, and the book is unquestionably shaped to meet the crisis. It supplies a valuable digest of the history of the Protestant Reformation throughout Europe, which seems to be drawn up with much research and fidelity. The work consists of twenty-five chapters. I. The state of Europe at the time of the Reformation. II. The lights which shone amidst the long night of papal darkness. III. to VII. inclusive, contain the progress of the Reformation in Germany. VIII. The death, character, and writings of Luther. From IX. to XVII, include Switzerland, Geneva, France, Sweden, Denmark, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Hungary, Transylvania, and Poland. XVIII. and XIX. refer to England. XX. and two successive chapters include Scotland. XXIII. Ireland. XXIV. The results of the Reformation, religious, political, and intellectual. XXV. The state and prospects of the reformed church.
The following paragraph we give from the first chapter, descriptive of the state of Rome before the Reformation :
“ Behold the picture which Rome now presented, and say what an offence it must have been in the eyes of the God of truth and holiness! Its pontiffs the very patrons of vice, luxury, ambition, profaneness, exaction, and political misrule ;—its clergy, of all grades, bloated with avarice, intrigue, lustful excess, tyrannous usurpation of the rights of conscience, and criminal neglect of the souls of men ;-its love of wealth and power so exorbitant, that the half of all Germany's resources flowed into the treasury of the church, and that of other countries in an almost equal proportion ;-while all the crowned monarchs of Europe sat cowering at the feet of Rome, courting her smile, or trembling at her frown ;-its doctrines and rites so miserably perverted, as scarcely to bear any resemblance to the Divine original from which they professed to be copied, -feeble mortals every where affecting, by priestly virtues, to convert bread and wine into the real body, soul, and divinity of Christ, enriching themselves by the well-paid confessions of weak and superstitious minds, employing the terrors of the invisible world, as the instrument of extorting money for prayers and masses to rescue miserable souls from the sufferings of purgatorial fire,—and, what was worse than all, entering into compact with the depraved and vicious, to permit, for a given time, the commission of enormities at which every virtuous mind must shrink with instinctive horror and disgust.”—p. 17.
The sketch which Dr. M. has given of the progress of the Reformation in various countries into which it penetrated, is comprehensive, bold, and beautiful ; and we do not know a single volume which embraces such a digest. We could select passages which, we are sure, would gratify our readers, but we trust that they will avail themselves of the volume, and peruse it with the attention which its merits demand. We cannot, however, close our extracts without selecting one which combines exhortation with encouragement. It is taken from the chapter on the results of the Reformation, and is as follows :
“ We owe it to ourselves, to our children, and to generations yet unborn, that we should cherish and keep alive the spirit of the Reformation ; that we should never relax our struggle with antichristian powers, until every papal symbol has been abolished, and the life-giving energy of a pure faith, has shed health and salvation on every country still blighted and paralysed by the fatal enchantments of the mystic Babylon. The prospect of final victory may not, indeed, be near at hand; and mountains of difficulty may seem to arise in our path ; but prophecy is on our side; Providence is on our side; the bright experience of the past is on our side; the political freedom of the age is on our side; the newly-awakened zeal of Romanism is on our side; the whole Bible is on our side; the Spirit of God is on our side ; let us, therefore, put forth a new energy in the cause of truth, and endeavour, by all moral and scriptural means, to break the despotic link which binds the members of the papal church to an assiduous priesthood, whose sway is upheld by the terrors of ignorance, and whose dominion must cease as soon as the light of heavenly truth can be brought to bear upon the thick darkness which envelopes the Catholic mind."—p. 499.
A false liberality may, however, suggest, that Popery is considerably modified, that its spirit has undergone a change, and, therefore, we need not be under any apprehension of danger now. Admit this to be true, and what becomes of the boasted infallibility of the papal church? But if that infallibility be still claimed, it is an incontestable evidence that she remains exactly what she was, a perfect Daguerreotype likeness of her former self. It is true, that in order to beguile the unwary, and mislead the ignorant, a veil may be dexterously drawn over her more repulsive features ; but in doctrine, in spirit, and in practice, she remains unaltered, unalterable.
It would be unnecessary to inform our readers, after the perusal of the preceding extracts, that the work is written with uncommon energy and considerable eloquence. We would cordially recommend it to our readers, to the members of our churches, to the heads of families ; claiming for it, as it well deserves, a place in every vestry library. Let the “inquiring youth of Great Britain,” to whom this volume is offered, familiarise themselves with its contents; let our pulpits give prominence to the great doctrine of justification by faith : a doctrine which is the very life-blood of the Christian system, the corner-stone of the Reformation, and the glory of every Protestant community ; let a bold and uncompromising stand be made against the encroachments of error ;-let this be done, and we shall have little to fear from the Puseyism of Oxford, or the Popery of Rome.
The Anglican Church in the Nineteenth Century: indicating her
Relative Position to Dissent in every Form; and presenting a clear and unprejudiced View of Puseyism and Orthodoxy. Translated from the German of F. Uhden. By W. C. C. Humphreys, Esq. 8vo. pp. 248. London: Hatchard and Son. 1844.
Ip we are not greatly mistaken, there is an interest, we might say an importance, connected with the volume before us, which no one could guess from its title-page. The circumstances to which we refer are these :—When the King of Prussia visited England in the spring of 1842, to be godfather to the infant Prince of Wales, his Majesty was not a little impressed by the pomp and glory of the Anglican church, as seen in the pageant of St. George's Chapel : the intercourse he had also with a learned bishop, who is distinguished by his energy and tact, is said to have suggested to his Majesty, that the prelatical system might be used with great effect in Prussia to further his views of royal supremacy in ecclesiastical affairs.
On the other hand, his Majesty received an address of congratulation at Buckingham Palace, from the body of dissenting ministers of the Three Denominations, and condescended, after the forms of presentation were over, to inquire of Dr. Vaughan, who headed the deputation, concerning the number, usages, &c., of the Nonconformist denominations; when the good doctor made such statements as evidently surprised the king, and tempted one of the courtiers to presume to question the perfect accuracy of his representations.
We believe that his Majesty “pondered these things in his heart," and was led to conclude that he must use means to know more about the history and operations of an episcopal hierarchy in England, before he attempted to force the Presbyterians of Prussia to receive a bench of bishops, as his royal father had compelled them to adopt a new liturgy.
An event which immediately followed his Majesty's return to his dominions will justify our impression. There arrived in England, in time for the religious anniversaries of that year, several Prussian clergymen, who were understood to be a corps of observation, if not a board of commissioners, to inform themselves about the ecclesiastical affairs of England. These gentlemen were most impartial in their intercourse, and were as ready to visit the Congregational Union, the Methodist Conference, or the public meetings at Exeter Hall, as they were to go to Fulham or to Lambeth, to Oxford or Cambridge.
Amongst the number was Dr. Herman Ferdinand Uhden, who we regard as the author of the work before us. The following paragraph of the preface seems to refer to this visit:
"The author of the present work enjoyed the fullest opportunities, during a prolonged residence in England, of attentively considering the church of that country
and has here endeavoured to express the results of his observations. The data that refer to the established institutions, as well as to the important appearances of the present moment, at first occurred to him; he next took into account the various and not unfrequently opposite opinions entertained with respect to the church; and thought that he might thus review the attributed and attributable value of the regulations and relations of the Anglican church. In the following pages he seeks to bring their value and importance home to such as, in default of personal observation, desire carefully and dispassionately to examine the peculiarities of that church. In a delineation such as he purposes, it is an exceedingly arduous task for an author to lay aside his own opinions, even in a personal point of view; and still more so in reference to the peculiar views entertained by the church to which he belongs. He still, however, thinks he may make the attempt; and hopes to succeed in rendering the object he has in view paramount to all other considerations.”—p. vi.
This volume, then, is not a record of the author's sentiments or inferences, but of principles and facts, so far as he was able to understand them. Chapters I. II. and III. are devoted to the character of the Anglican church. IV. The Common Prayer Book. V. Preaching and the cure of souls. VI. Revenues and the erection of churches. VII. Religious life and manners. And VIII. Relation of the church to dissenters. The philosophical mind of Dr. Uhden at once perceived that the tenets of the Independent or Congregational churches are those which are most systematically and practically opposed to the theory of the Anglican church ; and therefore in his first chapter he states fairly, and at considerable length, the principles they profess, and points out their antagonism to the organic unity and state support of the episcopal church. He recognises the position they occupy; and such passages as the following may admonish us to seek the grace of God, that we may meekly and faithfully fulfil the mission his providence assigns to us :
“The leading party is that of the Congregationalists. They are both in number and influence by far the most important. It is from them that those movements have emanated, which have brought the opposition to bear more distinctly; and, having even become its leaders, they have thus achieved the most for theological knowledge."-p. 3.
It is not easy to fix upon passages for transcription: the following extract, containing an important testimony to the influence of Puritanism upon
the character and habits of our countrymen, will be read with interest :
“The influence of Puritanism upon life and manners is also of the greatest moment. It is true that this has not touched the institutions of the church ; but the clergy, as private persons, have been greatly affected by it; in addition to which there are also the dissenting institutions and ministers, besides a controversy which, kept up and augmented on both sides, as it has been, has lost nothing of its distinctive character.
“The morals and the intelligence of the people present quite another subject for contemplation. Had the Puritan congregations withdrawn themselves altogether from social intercourse with the members of the Episcopal church, or had the line of