« PreviousContinue »
partial favour, and other feelings, if not also imperfections, which make a part of the human character, encourage a species of anthropomorphism, and their followers are disposed to worship him with the same degree of servile adulation, with which they would pay court to an earthly superior. Thus is the Evangelical or Calvinistic system accommodated to the gross conceptions of uninformed minds, or those whose information is very confined.
In the next place: that the words and phrases of the common translation of the Bible are more generally adopted in the discourses and conversation also of Evangelical divines, is a presumptive argument in the apprehension of common minds, that their preaching is more conformable to the Gospel of Christ. On this subject
may be observed, that a too literal translation of figurative terms, or of the popular language of the times, as also such a mode of interpretation, as seems to apply to the case of individuals certain passages, that had a reference only to the cause of the Gentiles, and the rejection of the Jews from being the peculiar people of God, have given to the common version of the Bible an appearance of Calvinism; and were the occasion, it is probable, that sentiments of a Calvinistic tendency were often professed by the first reformers, who would have viewed with abhorrence the conclusions, which yet unavoidably followed, which has caused that ambiguity in ascertaining the sentiments of the early reformers, that has appeared in the controversy which has been lately instituted on the subject. We may add, that common minds are generally disposed to close with the most obvious and literal sense of a passage, which cannot always be the true, sepse in a writing, that must be interpreted by a reference to the manners and customs of a distant era, to local incidents, and the then popular sentiments and expressions, which contributes to enhance the popularity of those divines, who, while they quote much from Scripture, commonly adopt the most literal construction. To the above causes it may be attributed, that many of tbose preachers, who have been most ambitious of gaining popularity, and most successful in their endeavours, even those that have maintained the Arminian principles in opposition to the Calvinists, have yet in their popular harangues almost adopted the phraseo
logy of Calvinism*. The same reasons may be assigned for the origin of that moderate Calvinism, which is professed by a great part of those who are now called Evangelical divines, who appear to adopt the language, if not also to maintain the principles, of Calvinism, while they deny the natural and unavoidable consequencest.
Another circumstance that adds to the popularity of the Evangelical preachers, is the use of what is commonly, though perhaps rather inaccurately, denominated extempore preaching. It is certainly better calculated to keep up the attention of the parties addressed, when the preacher immediately directs himself to his audience, than when his own attention is confined to his manuscript. The language will generally be more familiar which is used in this
mode of address, and more approximating to the conversation which the preacher would himself adopt in his private intercourse with his hearers, and much more intelligible to the generality of his congregation, than that kind of language which a man of education would choose to introduce into a written discourse. A person who composes his own sermon, is more likely to adapt it to the characters and circumstances of his congregation, than a discourse would be, which is calculated rather for the press than the pulpit. And one that delivers his discourse without notes, or previous composition, would probably do so still more." It is likely too, that, by the frequent practice of extempore preaching he would acquire the art of varying his mode of expression, according to existing circumstances, perhaps repeating the same sentiment in different terms, till 'he found himself generally understood. When a sermon is read, the preacher's chief object is merely to deliver it with a common degree of propriety. When he addresses the congregation without a written discourse, and watches the expression of the countenances of his audience, then his tone of voice, his action, and gesture, are all much more calculated to excite attention, as he himself, 'probably, feels more the force of what he delivers. However, as it is an attainment which many learned men do not appear to be pos
• Wesley acknow ledged, that he had leant too much to Calvinism. + The propriety of this remark may be considered hereafter.
sessed of, while it is practised, in such a way, at least, as to attract the attention of the ignorant, by many illiterate persons, that have a larger share of confidence and presumption than often alls to the lot of the wise and pious, it is regarded not only as a token of superior zeal, but as a singular gift of Heaven, and an argument of the truth of the doctrines they enunciate. Various objections are made indeed to the extempore preaching of many, who are accustomed to this practice; but they are not sufficient to prove, that it is not a most impressive and interesting mode of address, when properly conducted, as it is more generally found to engage the attention of our congregations, and particularly of the lower orders of the people. It is not indeed recommended to every clergyman to attempt it, that has not been accustomed to it, and finds that he cannot acquit himself with propriety. But it is certainly to be wished, that every person designed for the church were initiated in the practice of it from an early period, and that it were a part of his education; and the early habit would then obviate the effect of that timidity, which is so natura) • ļo'men of real worth.
(To be continued.)
STATE OF METHODISM IN CORNWALL.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCHMAN'S
September last, page 196, has called on the clergy and others, to oblige the public, through the medium of your excellent Miscellany, with a statement “ of the condition of the Church of England, in different places," on the plan that the Methodists and other sectarists do, in their different journals : which I the readier comVol. XI. Churchm. Mag. for Nov. 1806.
ply with, as my opinion is in unison with his ; that if such a plan was adopted from time to time in your Magazine, the progress and views of the different sectarists in different parts of Great Britain, would be ascertained by a single glance of the eye over your pages: and then we should be able to inform ourselves easily, whether they are making the rapid progress, and the church is in that real danger, it is often reported to be; at least, if such a plan was adopted, the commonalty, the great bulk of the body of the people, as well as the clergy, would be able to acquaint themselves, with the causes and reasons why Dissenters so much prevail in some places, and why they decrease in others; what means are found successful in opposing them; and what the best to advance the interests of the church in increasivg our congregations, procuring a larger number of communicants at our sacraments; and, lastly, the best way to be pursued in order to reconcile separatists to the church.
The Arininian Methodists, who have deprived our congregations of more of the common people than any other sect, are subject to great fluctuations: this, doubtless, must originate in some specific cause; and this being known, it would greatly aid the clergy, in bringing those plans, which have been adopted with success in other places, to bear in their own parishes against Methodism, which could not fail, in the end, to advance the views of the establishment. Still, at the same time, I hope I shall never see your pages stained with those fulsome conversions, we see in some of the Methodistical journals, particularly the Arminian : which ever sets forth, how little the means and ordinances of the church comparatively availed in the relief and happiness of the convert, as their own views and notion of faith did; where the odious system is pursued even to the assassination of some clergyman's character, who is sure to be designated as a monster in vice, and all this to advance their own party : " I trust you will ever consider such ways of promoting the interests of the church as highly dishonourable and unchristian-like.
So far back as 1803, in your number for May of that year, you were kind enough to allow some strictures of mine, to appear, on certain strange assertions of" Mr. Benson’s, respecting the inhabitants of Cornwall, where
in I besides gave you some account of the number of Arminian Methodists in this county. For having kept an observant eye on them ever since the year 1801, their progress amongst us must be better known to me, and I must consequently be the better able to comply with Cyprian's request; hoping that both the clergy and laity of other parts will follow my example.
In the year 1801, and the year preceding, there was a controversy betwixt the clergy of this diocese and Dr. Hawker, supported by some of the preachers of the Wesleian connection, which turned chiefly on Dr. Hawker's itinerancy, and the views and conduct of the Method ists at that time in this county; and though disagreeable, as all wrangling must ever be about religious matters, yet, I believe, it powerfully operated to check enthusiasm from encroaching further amongst us, for they have since been dwindling; and we do not hear of ihe numerous conversions, and the immense con course of people, flocking after those self-constituted preachers, as we then did. Religion is now a soberer ihing amongst them. All these circumstances consider ed collectively, tend to shew, that the bulk of the people are coming to their right senses with regard to Methodism, and perceive that no ways are like the old way of the church, which teaches us “lo worship God in Spirit and in Truth.”
In the year 1800, the number of Arminian Methodists in this county was 9659, as given by the Conference in that year, viz. In the district of?
In 1806, July 28.
Launceston Do, Redruth 2000
In 1802 their num- Camelford Do. Truro 2050 ber amounted to 8259. Redruth Do. St. Austell 1410
Truro Do. Penzance 2100
844 378 1438 1213 909 288 1278 824
It appears from the above statement, that the Methodisls in this county have added two new districts to those they had before, yet since the year 1800, the number of Methodists in connection, hás gradually decreased ጊ Z29