Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

Wesley was not an exception to the general rule; but he did emancipate himself from bondage to error on this point as he subsequently did in matters of Church polity. The Articles of Religion are the carefully guarded expressions of Wesley's belief on the subjects to which they refer; and, judging by them, he must logically be excluded from the number of believers in the doctrine of baptismal regeneration.

The distinctive doctrines of Methodism not comprised in the Articles, but to be found in the consensus of acknowledged theological authorities are:

1. PREVENIENT GRACE.—"The freedom of will, as a gift of prevenient grace, which is given to every man as a check and antidote to original sin.”*

“No man living,” says Wesley, “is without some preventing grace, and every degree of grace is a degree of life. There is à measure of free will supernaturally restored to every man, together with that supernatural light which enlightens every man that cometh into the world.” “That by the offense of one judgment came upon all men (all born into the world) unto condemnation, is an undoubted truth, and affects every infant as well as every adult person. But it is equally true that by the righteousness of One, the free gift came upon all men, (all born into the world-infants and adults) unto justification." -D. D. Whedon, Bibliotheca Sacra, 1862, p. 258. “ Under the redemptive system, the man is born into the world, from Adam, a depraved being. It is as a depraved being that he becomes an Ego. But instantly after, in the order of nature, he is met by the provisions of the atonement."

Every human being,” says Warren, “ has a measure of grace (unless he has cast it away,) and those who faithfully use this intrusted gift will be accepted of God in the day of judgment, whether Jew or Greek, Christian or heathen.” +

With these representations of doctrinal belief, Clarke, Watson, Bunting, Fisk, and all acknowledged Methodist theological authorities concur; nor is there any doctrine which “so irresistibly and universally appeals for its confirmation to the common conscience and judgment of mankind.”

“ Original sin and original grace met in the mystery of mercy at the very gate of Paradise.” 7

2. THE WITNESS OF THE SPIRIT. This is another characteristic doctrine of Methodism.

66

Schaff's “ History of Creeds," pp. 897.

+ Ibid., p. 897, 893. # Pope's “ Comp. of Christian Theology," vol. ii, p. 61. See also p. 359 et seq.

With Wesley's definition of the doctrine all his Methodistic contemporaries and successors substantially agree. “By the testimony of the Spirit,” he writes, “I mean, an inward impression on the soul, whereby the Spirit of God immediately and directly witnesses to my spirit, that I am a child of God: that Jesus Christ hath loved me, and given himself for me; that all my sins are blotted out, and I, even I, am reconciled to God.” “The immediate result of this testimony is the fruit of the Spirit;' namely, love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness; and without these the testimony itself cannot continue." *

This testimony of our spirit, as St. Paul calls it, or “indirect testimony of the Holy Spirit, by and through our own spirit, is considered confirmatory of the first testimony."

The Spirit's cvidence, based on the Word and Sacrament, is guarded by the ethical and moral testimony of the life. Wherever the assurance of the Spirit is mentioned there is to be found hard by the appeal to the resulting and never-absent evidences of devotion, obedience, and charity.t Assurance is the fruit, not the essence, of faith. ... Perfect faith must be assured of its object. .. The internal assurance of faith is a privilege that all may claim and expect; seasons of darkness and depression and uncertainty are only the trial of that faith of assurance.

3. CHRISTIAN PERFECTION is another doctrine eminently characteristic of Methodism; its “last and crowning doctrine.”

In the minutes of 1744 we find it defined by the process of question and answer:

Quest. What is it to be sanctified ?

Ans. To be renewed in the image of God, in righteousness and true holiness.

Quest. What is implied in being a perfect Christian ?

Ans. The loving God with all our heart, and mind, and soul; Deut. vi, 5.

Quest. Does this imply that all inward sin is taken away?

Ans. Undoubtedly ; or how can we be said to be “saved from all our uncleannesses ?” Ezek. xxxvi, 29.

The promises, commands, prayers, and illustrations contained in the Holy Scriptures abundantly warrant the Methodistic reply to the inquiry, “What is Christian Perfection ?” “ Ans. The loving God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. This implies that no wrong temper, none contrary tu love, remains in the soul; and that all the thoughts, words, and actions are governed by pure love."

*"Works," vol. i, sermon xi. † Pope's “ Compendium of Theology," vol. iii, p. 121.

Schatt's “ History of Creeds,” p. 900.

“Do you affirm that this perfection excludes all infirmities, ig:norance, and mistake?” it was asked, in substance, if not in words. “I continually affirm quite the contrary, and have always done so," was Wesley's rejoinder. “The humble, gentle, patient love of God and our neighbor, ruling our tempers, words, and actions,” “is the whole and sole perfection "* tanght by him from the pulpit and the press.

He cherished this “last and crowning doctrine ” as “the peculiar doctrine committed to our trust," and advised that “all onr preachers should make it a point of preaching perfection to believers, constantly, strongly, explicitly.” Asbury, like the great majority of Methodist preachers, felt “ divinely impressed with a charge to preach it in every sermon.”

The Methodist consensus on this doctrine is apparent in all our theological standards and higlily prized biographies. Wesley, as many of his preachers have since done, held one opinion of the different constituents of a human being at one time, and a contrary opinion at a later period, but his testimony to Christian perfection was uniformly the same. Methodist orthodoxy is indifferent to the trichotomy or dichotomy of man; "it allows a liberal margin for further theological development," but is zealous and uncompromising in its insistence on the privilege and duty of all believers in Christ to enter into and retain the state of entire sanctification.

The doctrine of eternal rewards and punishments is not a distinctively Methodist tenet, but the agreement of Methodist writers and preachers in the exposition and defense of this revealed truth is so positive and unvarying as to leave no room for doubt as to the faith of the Church in its Scripturalness and obligation.

Neither can the possibility of falling from grace, and perishing forever, be distinguished as a distinctively Methodist doctrine. It does receive deserved prominence in the pulpit and the press, and its vital importance is recognized by the Methodist Episcopal Catechism No. 3, p. 37, which says: “ It is the privilege of every believer to be wholly sanctified, and to love God with all his heart in the present life ; but at every stage of Christian experience there is danger of falling from grace, which danger is to be guarded against by watchfulness, prayer, and a life of faith in the Son of God.”

* Wesley's "Works," vol. vi, pp. 530, 531.

This quotation from the catechism of the Church raises the question in what sense and to what extent it is to be accepted as one of the Methodist doctrinal standards. Dr. Schaff + assigns to it conspicuous authority as one of them. [ 259 of the Discipline makes it “the duty of our preachers to enforce faithfully upon parents and Sunday-school teachers the great importance of instructing children in the doctrines and duties of our holy religion ; to see that our catechisms be used as extensively as possible in our Sunday-schools and families,” etc. The language of this section evidently conveys the impression that the catechism contains a summary of all the essential doctrines of Christianity as held by the Methodist Episcopal Church. The General Conference of 1848 intended that it should be so when that body ordered its preparation. Their instructions were carried out by the Rev. Dr. Kidder, assisted by other divines, and their work was approved and adopted by the General Conference of 1852. The series Nos. 1, 2, 3, does not consist of three separate catechisms, but of one, in three stages of development, the language of the basis being unchanged in the different numbers. No. 3 presents something like a system of Christian doctrine in condensed form, and is designed “ for an advanced grade of study.”

This summary of Church doctrines enjoys the acceptance of the Methodist Episcopal Church, represented by the General Conference, and its use is obligatory, “as extensively as possible,"

upon ministers and members. Assuredly the Church has not spoken in any uncertain tones about her doctrinal beliefs. She has nothing to conceal, no set of opinions for private study and ministerial subscription, and one altogether different for pulpit use and prudential ministration. What she believes is proclaimed with fervid boldness. The Catechism is as explicit as, and infinitely more credible than, the Westminster Confession and the Longer and Shorter Catechisms.

Nor did the General Conference of 1852 exceed the limits

p"Llistory of Creeds," p. 882.

of constitutional authority in the approving adoption of the catechism, for it neither revoked, altered, nor changed our Articles of Religion, nor established “any new standards or rules of doctrine contrary to our present existing and established standards of doctrine." All the definitions of the catechism are in concord with the Methodist consensus of creed, commentary, treatise, and discourse; nor has any Methodist preacher the legal right to impugn or attack them, unless he can show their dissensus from the other standards.

ART. III. – SHAKESPEARE: HIS WORKS AND HIS

EDITORS.

Folio.

Tre Dramatic Works of Shakespeare. Revised by George STEVENS. 20 vols.,

London: Printed by W. Bulmer & Co., Shakespeare Printing Office. For John and Josiah Boydell, George and W. Nichol. From the Types of

W. Martin. 1802. The works of William Shakespeare. In Reduced Facsimile. From the Famous

First Folio Edit on of 1623. With an Introduction by J. 0. HALLIWELL Phil

LIPS 810, pp. 993. London : Chatto & Windus. Piccadilly. 1876. Shakespeare's Comedy of the Merchant of Venice, etc. Edited with Votes by WILL

IAM J. ROLFE, A.M., Formerly Head Master of the High School, Cambridge, Mass. With Engravings. 37 vols., 12mo, square. New York: Harper &

Brothers. 1880. The Works of William Shakespeare. The Text Revised by Rev. ALEXANDER DYCE.

In Nine Volumes. Third Edition, 8vo. London: Chapman & Hall, 193 Pic

cadilly. 1875. The Dramatic Works of William Shakespeare. With a Glossary. A New Edition,

Corrected and Improved. 8vo, pp. 1124. London: Henry G. Bohn. 1863, The Complete Works of Shakespeare. From the Origin4l Text. Carefully Collared

and Compared with the Editions of Halliwell, Knight, and Collier. With Historical and Critical Introduction and Notes to each Play; and a Life of the Great Dramatist, by CHARLES KNIGHT. 3 vols., Royal 8vo, pp. 1725. Now

York; Jobpson, Wilson & Co. Critics have spoken at times extravagantly of Shakespeare's songs and sonnets. There is much that is admirable in both; but the gems which give to “Venus and Adonis” and “The Rape of Lucrece” their radiant beauty are not the foundations on which his fame is built. If he had only sung in these songs and charmed in these sonnets he would never have "lifted us over all seas and mountains”-he would never have taken us, as he has, to the very summit of the highest heaven of genius-inspired and genius-inspiring rapture.

Shakespeare's fame, undying, overwhelming, transforming,

« ПредишнаНапред »