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VOT. VILJuly 1836
For the Methodist Magazine and Quarterly Review. THE CHRISTIAN SPECTATOR versus JOHN WESLEY AND
THE WITNESS OF THE SPIRIT.
BY N. BANGS, D. D. This, our readers must know, is a Quarterly Review, published in New Haven, Connecticut, under the supervision of New School Congregationalists. Not content with maintaining their own doctrinal peculiarities, for doing which they have an unquestionable right, they have manifested no little solicitude for Methodism, as though to them were committed the high responsibility of taking it under their special guardianship. Were it not for the rude manner in which they have on some occasions heretofore treated us, we might feel under no small obligation to the conductors of that work for the fraternal care they have at times exemplified in our behalf. As it is, however, we shall leave it to our readers to determine on which they have the greatest claim, our gratitude or our patience. Giving them all the credit they have a right to demand for the goodness of their intentions, we cannot yield to them the palm of superior discernment in espying those delicate lines of distinction which divide us from other Christian denominations.
As a proof of their warm solicitude for our welfare, we remark that, not many years since, they expressed no little self-satisfaction from the hope that Dr. Clarke would set us right on a mooted point of Christian doctrine, and that the influence of his example would tend to excite among us a love of science and literature. For these pious wishes, however much of reproach they may have implied, they will accept of our gratitude and it would be unmixed, were we not constrained to accompany the remark with that significant but, which is so often used to mark the infirmities of our fellow beings.
But, then, in spite of all these good wishes for our welfare and respectability, they could not help mingling with their ardent aspirations, many reproachful epithets. Their pages, indeed, were rife with severe strictures upon Dr. Adam Clarke's Commentary, upon his Sermons, as well as upon the entire structure of Methodism; and their remarks were mingled with much sneering contempt and no little vituperative misrepresentation and flippant caricature. With an air of magisterial authority, as though they were authorized to deliver lectures on Methodism ex cathedra, not altogether becoming the meekness of Christian gentlemen, and with a partial regard to truth not perfectly in character with candid spectators,
Vol. VII.-July, 1836. 26
they affirmed that “the doctrines of Wesleyan Methodism were miserably defective,"—that whatever is peculiar in its government and economy, is not only “confessedly without Scripture authority," but also “in open contempt of its testimony;" and that its ministry were guilty of descending to a peculating management to attain their objects. These heavy charges were a trial of our patience.
Coming, however, from the quarter they did, and reiterated through the medium of several other public vehicles of periodical literature, though of themselves so manifestly unfounded and ridiculous, they were considered by our friends to be worthy of notice ; they were therefore met, their falsity exposed, the assertions and reasonings by which they were attempted to be supported, refuted and overthrown by an appeal to facts and arguments derived from sources of unquestionable authority. Here both our patience and gratitude were called into exercise-patience in wading through the mass of evidence requisite for the refutation of alleged facts, and managing the arguments necessary to overthrow their false reasonings-and gratitude to find ourselves sustained by so ample materials and by the impartial readers of our wearisome controversy.
From the termination of this bloodless warfare, the Christian Spectator, until quite recently, had observed a modest silence, so far as Methodist doctrines and usages are concerned. Whether its conductors became conscious that they had done us an act of injustice, and on that account refrained from a repetition of their offence, or whether they only rested for a season with a view to recruit their exhausted strength for future use, we determine not. Be this as it may, and we have no solicitude as to the fact or its results, in their number for September last they have renewed the combat in an article headed " JOHN WESLEY AND THE WITNESS OF THE SPIRIT." In comparison with their former numbers, this is mild and conciliating, though the writer could not, it seems, conclude his remarks without giving utterance to the following very offensive sentence:“ Hitherto, our Methodist brethren have shown a morbid sensitiveness whenever their favorite writers have been reviewed, or their favorite doctrines controverted. We would remind them, that, astonishing as it may seem in their eyes, we have no more confidence in their infallibility than we have in that of the pope.”
Now we are not at all astonished at this want of confidence in our infallibility ; but we are somewhat astonished that any writer should have given utterance to such a reproachful sentence, as though “the Methodist brethren" had in reality laid claim to “infallibility," and were so secure in the belief that the claim was yielded them by these Congregational reviewers, as to make it a matter of astonishment that it should be withheld. Whenever the time comes to make it expedient to set up for infallibility, we may apply for some lessons on the subject of human impeccability to those whose disagreements among themselves are of such notoriety and irksome perplexity, as to make it extremely desirable to have some infallible standard of truth by which their orthodoxy may be tested, and their disputes brought to a close.
But the “ Methodist brethren manifest a morbid sensitiveness whenever their favorite writers are reviewed.” This personal reflection comes with an ill grace from those whose sensitiveness is so