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THE sixteenth year of our labours is now brought to a closes At its commencement, our political horizon was overhung with clouds and darkness, and the hearts of the wise and good were filled with fearful presages of an approaching storm: Abroad, indeed, all was peace; but at home, the agitation and the alarm were great. The particular dangers, however, which then threatened us, have happily been averted, and a new year has opened with brighter prospects. This improvement, both in the state of our affairs and in the temper of a great part of the community, whatever may have been the secondary causes, we must ascribe to Him alone who has the hearts of all men in his hands, and who in the midst of judgment still
The Almighty, indeed, has not withheld from us the chas tisement which our sins have deserved, but has visited us with evident marks of his displeasure. He has smitten us in a tender part; and the stroke has been felt in the heart of every individual in the land from him who sways the sceptre of this mighty empire, to the meanest of his subjects. May the dispensation prove as salutary as it has been severe ; and may the repentance and reformation to which it calls us be as comprehensive in their range as the grief which it has produced !
The present year has been further distinguished as the Third Centenary of the Protestant Reformation. The point, therefore, at which we have arrived seems to justify us in recurring to the principles which gave birth to that mighty event, with the view of ascertaining whether those principles are still maintained in their strength and integrity by the Members of our Protestant Church.
We have great reason to bless God, that during the last twenty years the influence of those just views of Christian
doctrine which characterized the wiscst and best of our Reformers has rapidly increased in the Church; and we trust that it is still increasing. In the midst, however, of this manifest improvement, the Christian observer cannot fail to have marked the growth of two evils; very opposite, indeed, to each other, but both equally at variance with the true principles of the Reformation.
In the first place, he must have seen, that, while there is much professed abhorrence of Popery among us, some of its worst errors not only lurk, as they have always done, in the minds of many Protestants, but are at this very moment openly avowed, and assiduously propagated, by Ministers, and even by Dignitaries, of the Church of England.
In preferring this charge, we do not intend any particular reference to the admitted fact, that, on a recent occasion, notwithstanding the solemn decision of the Church against the practice, a Bishop publicly offered up prayer for the dead; both because the instance appears to stand alone, and because we have little apprehension that a superstition so gross as this will find many adherents among us.
We allude to errors of a more subtle and insidious character, and which are therefore likely to acquire a far more extensive influence.
Have we not witnessed, for example, the growth of a strenuous and systematic opposition to that distinguishing doctrine of the Reformation, the doctrine of a sinner’s justification only by faith in the merits of a crucified Saviour ?
Who is ignorant of the powerful, but we trust abortive, attempt which has recently been made, hy men of high name, 10 identify the baptismal rite with spiritual regeneration, and thus to merge the vitality of our holy religion in the opus operatum of the Romish Church?
The ears of the nation still ring with the hostile clamour which has been raised against the free circulation of the Bible without note or comment, and against a Society whose sole object is to disseminate the pure word of God throughout the world.
Nor are these facts, among others that might be adduced, less remarkable, as proving the existence of a Popish spirit in the Church, than are the arguments employed, and the means used, to give to that spirit a more general diffusion. Let any one read the controversies carricd on between our own Re
foriners and their Romish opposers, and he cannot fail to be struck with the parallel which, in many respects, they furnish to tbe debates existing within the Church of England at the present day, and to the unfairness and acrimony with which, on one side at least, those debates are carried on.
The recent attack made on the Church Missionary Society, the indecent circumstances attending that attack, and the spirit of intolerance which appears to animate the assailant and his supporters, will perhaps be regarded by some as illustrative of these remarks.
Whilst, therefore, numbers of zealous individuals are raising their voices to demonstrate the danger of conceding political privileges to their Roman Catholic brethren, will it be deemed unseasonable in us to warn the Members of the Church of England against a far more dangerous concessiona concession of the very points which chiefly render Protestantism worth contending for? Shall we be blamed if we aim our cry of “ No Popery,” not at avowed Papists, but professed Protestants; and if we are less anxious to exclude the former from a participation of our civil franchises, than we are to guard our own hearts, and those of our readers, from the destructive influence of their religious errors ?
But, in the second place, there are not a few Protestants, who, in avoiding the errors just mentioned, have run into an opposite extreme, no less blameable and dangerous. The Antinomian heresy appears to us to be as much at variance with true Protestantism as the spirit of Popery itself. Its leading doctrines are, the eternal justification and imputed sanctification of redeemed sinners. The only evidence required to entitle a man to regard himself as a member of this privileged body, is the persuasion that he belongs to it; and this persuasion is made the substitute for that “ faith which worketh by love” and holy obedience. Conformably to these views, the believer is set free from the obligations of the Moral Law as a rule of life : even repentance is no longer a duty; sanctification is no longer a progressive but a finished work; and the Holy Spirit ceases to be the Author of conversion, or even to be a Party to the Covenant of Grace.
Such is the Antinomianism of the present day. Its perversions of scriptural truth are so monstrous that it would be a flagrant dereliction of our duty not to watch their develope
ment, and not to endeavour, to the best of our feeble powers, to expose their tendency, and to arrest their progress.
But while we feel it to be incumbent on us strenuously to contend against the opposite errors to which we have briefly adverted, we are anxious to be enabled to conduct every controversy in which we may be engaged, in a spirit of kindness and moderation, of truth and love. The wrath of man, we are well assured, worketh not the righteousness of God. And we would impress it upon our own minds, as well as on those of our readers, that “there will come a time when three words uttered with charity and meekness shall receive a far more blessed reward than three thousand yolumes written with disdainful sharpness of wit *.”.