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rality, and irreligion. But the remedy for this neglect, as supplied by the zeal of methodism, is regarded as being on the whole worse than the disease. The labours of Whitfield and Wesley are described as producing a kind of paroxysm, the immediate effects of which were rather injurious than beneficial, while it was sure of being followed by lassitude, and by great moral and religious mischief. Some passages are given, which are meant to exhibit the more favourable view of that great religious movement, and of the character of the extraordinary men by whom it was originated and sustained; but the unfavourable greatly preponderates, and the general conclusion is as we have stated it.
It is to be regretted, that a writer possessing the candour and discernment of Lord John Russell, should have deemed himself safe, on a subject of this nature, in trusting to such guides as Southey's Life of Wesley, and Nightingale's Portraiture of Methodism.' Still more is it to be regretted that his own mind should have performed its office so feebly in regard to the materials which even those writers, together with the facts corning within his own observation, must have supplied. We should have been happy to have seen him distinguish, in the spirit of a high Christian philosophy, between the wisdom and the folly, the good and the evil, of the great moral revolution which was assuredly brought about among the people of this country by the labours of those said Methodists.
We see the errors, and some other faults of graver import, which belong to the earlier history of methodism, no less clearly than his lordship has seen them; but we see the truth and the goodness that were in it, as greatly outweighing their opposites. We regard that memorable outbreak against the heartless formalism, and the low profligacy of the times, not only as having given a new moral and religious character to the English people, but as having extended its leaven of improvement to classes far above the multitude. By elevating the poor, it has done much towards shaming the rich into better conduct. If our courts and baronial halls are not the homes of that factious selfishness, of that everlasting frivolity, or of that infidel licentiousness, which prevailed in them during the greater part of the last century, we owe this improvement in high places, to improvement which began much lower down. The regeneration which took place among the lowest, contributed to enforce a moral reformation upon the highest. The pulpit of methodism, moreover, has had its favourable influence on all other pulpits. Thus the character of methodism has given a strong impress—an impress greatly for the better, to our national character. We deny not that it had its
extravagances—we deny not that it has them still; but what is the chaff to the wheat ? Admitting nearly all that may be alleged against it, it has been the means of disposing millions of our people, who would otherwise have passed their life in sheer worldliness, or in the lowest vice, to give themselves to instruction, to the cultivation of high comparative moral feeling, and to the influence of those elevating affections which have respect to the Infinite and the Eternal. What philosophy has ever raised the mind of the rude multitudes of men after this manner? What established church has ever so done, except as it has become a preacher of doctrines, and has been animated by a feeling, which, we fear, his lordship would be too ready to describe as very methodistical ?
In short, we do not mean to conceal that we have long regarded the tone of would-be philosophy, in which some classes of men in this country are wont to express themselves, concerning the religion of all persons who appear to be more in earnest on that subject than themselves, with no small measure of dissatisfaction. The shallowness which frequently assumes the air of wisdom on such occasions, is to us very pitiable. The ample candour often evinced by such persons in favour of those who are enemies of religion, or of those who profess it in some of its most corrupt forms, stands in singular contrast with the want of such kindly discrimination, when evangelical piety is the matter to be judged. The philosophy which fails to see a preponderance of good even in methodism, is not a sound philosophy. It argues great want of perception, or of humane feeling, when the lesser evil is allowed to prevent men from perceiving its relation to a greater good.
We have felt constrained to make these observations, because the remarks of Lord John Russell on this subject are opposed to the distinctive truths of evangelical religion, as certainly as to some peculiarities which have been grafted on those truths by methodism. Christianity, in his view, does not seem to include anything of the supernatural. The religion of a Christian, on the theory of his lordship, is to consist in the purely natural influence of revealed wisdom on the susceptibilities of the mind. The church of England is regarded as adapted, in an eminent degree, to sustain this sober kind of goodness, while all sects are in danger of verging upon extravagance.
Puritanism, that gloomy vortex which was to attract so many of the manliest spirits * of the seventeenth century, his lordship has estimated more justly. The reason of this distinction is obvious. Puritanism was allied with far higher intellectual qualities than
Edinburgh Review, Oct. 1844, p. 396.
methodism. It stood in a more manifest relation to the progress of freedom and of society. Distance, moreover, has greatly reduced the apparent amount of its faults; while the soul which it infused into English history during the thirty or forty years which preceded the Restoration, is such as no remoteness of time can obliterate or obscure.
It is observable, also, that the sober, the properly descended nonconformists of the last century, obtain respectful treatment at the hands of his lordship. They were no brawlers. They were men of unimpeached loyalty. They were proud to lend their aid to whigs and protestants-churchmen though they wereagainst tories and papists. Their leaders were men known by their theological and general learning. They were the correspondents and friends of dignitaries and prelates. In all their proceedings there were the signs of moderation. The sight of them, especially on one of those occasions when they availed themselves of their privilege to be presented at court, and to address the throne, was as a kind of proem to all that could follow from that quarter. A courtier on a levee day, was hardly more careful about his costume and appendages than was the eminent nonconformist divine of that period. The three-cornered hat, the neatly powdered and largely projecting wig, the coat without the encumbrance of a collar, with its straight front, exhibiting its long row of large buttons on one side, and of finely worked button-holes on the other, the waistcoat descending so low as almost to serve the purposes of waistcoat and apron, and the nicely disposed buckles at the knees and in the shoes, -all were in keeping with that calm and intelligent physiognomy, with that attention to all the lesser courtesies of life, and with the generally stately bearing which distinguished our Annesleys and Doddridges a century since. Much less of a disposition to appreciate the orderly, the established, and the aristocratic, than is observable in Lord John Russell, would have sufficed to mark the wide difference between such men and the conductors of a Methodist love-feast or revival-meeting.
The parties, then, adhering to the old school of dissent, have no reason to complain of anything said concerning them by his lordship. And the more recent seceders from the established church, who have not been mentioned with the same degree of candour, will, we trust, be disposed to place the most charitable construction on representations which may seem to them to be greatly wanting in charity. Such truly Christian magnanimity would do them honour, and would be the best refutation of some of the most plausible charges often preferred against them.
With such views of religion and of religious parties, it is natural that Lord John Russell should be a steady adherent to the prin
ciple of church establishments. In his view, institutions of that nature may afford all the necessary means of religion to a people, and may preclude, in the greatest degree practicable, whatever tends to the deterioration of religion. It is proper that separatists of every grade should be tolerated, partly because toleration is founded in justice, and partly because to persecute such people would be a very impolitic as well as a very troublesome course of proceeding. But in all cases, the most competent judge in regard to points of theology and matters of religion generally, must be such assemblies as are convened nightly at St. Stephen's, and the best religion for the people must be that which has been so provided for them. Whatever shall find entrance otherwise than by that door, must be at best of an inferior quality, and, to a large extent, of a nature to do harm rather than good.
But here we are strictly at issue with his lordship, both as to the nature of the religion which the church of England was instituted to inculcate, and as to the manner in which she has performed her office in that respect. The most distinguished churchmen of the eighteenth century, such as Hurd and Warburton, Clarke and Hoadley, to whom so much honour is done by Lord John Russell
, are poor expositors of the theology set forth in the articles of the established church. By some of these men the husks of orthodoxy were retained, and hot wars were carried on in defence of them. By others, the articles of faith most open to objection on the ground of mystery, when not openly impugned, were skilfully neutralized, or systematically forgotten. The class of persons adverted to had come into the church of the reformers, but were too much the worshippers of the reputable ever to have been themselves reformers. They were men who enjoyed their literary leisure, and set a great value on the stateliness and the means of indulgence which their position afforded them, and for the most part died rich. They scarcely seemed to be aware that there had ever been such persons as Latimer and Hooper, Ridley and Bradford ; and nothing would seem to have been farther from the thoughts of these comfortable dignitaries, than the duty of conforming themselves to that example of piety, of zeal, and of obedience to the stern demand of principle, which is so observable in the history of those justly venerated fathers of the English church.
Would Lord John Russell only bestow as much attention on the devotional works of the reformers of the sixteenth century, as he has given to the literary productions of the great churchmen of the eighteenth, he would, perhaps, be surprised to find how much of affinity there is, both in the doctrines taught and in the spirit of the teachers, between the reformation from the superstitions of Romanism in the former age, and the reformation from the mere forms of protestantism in the latter. In both cases, the great doctrine was justification by faith, and the regeneration of the heart, not merely by a natural influence of divine truth, but by means of a divine power superadded to that truth. In a word, their religion was such as is denoted by the term evangelical; and the new religious feeling which has been diffused through this country since the rise of methodism, is, in nearly all that is distinctive of it, a revival of the piety of the elder puritans, and of the still older protestant reformers.
We are satisfied that this revived piety is, in its substance, the piety inculcated in the New Testament; and it is this persuasion, especially, which prevents us from sympathizing with Lord John Russell in his zealous churchmanship. We see, or think we see, many things in the church of England to which dispassionate and reflecting men may well take exception—such as relate to the manner in which its revenue is obtained, to the inequalities which mark the distribution of that revenue, and to the fact that property and position, derived in so great a measure from the nation at large, should be restricted, by a multitude of obsolete and unnecessary provisions, to no more than a section of it. But we must be permitted to say, that our great exception to the church of England relates to its failure as a religious institute. It does not inculcate, speaking generally, the religion set forth in its own articles, and still less the religion set forth in the book from which those articles are said to be derived. Whenever this is done, the good dispensation comes as so much accident and exception—the not-good comes as a matter of course, and as the rule. In stating thus much, we only state, we presume, what every pious churchman will be prepared to admit and deplore. Lord John Russell views the church of England as the best adapted agency for giving a scriptural religion to the people, and therefore is a churchman. We, on the contrary, are obliged to regard that institution in a different light, and therefore are nonconformists. We judge of it by its average, and not by its occasional fruits, and so judged we find it wanting. Instead of being the best conservator of real piety, it has been itself conserved, in great part, by infusions of that nature which have come to it from without. We are little inclined to dispute about the shape of a cap, or the colour of a vesture-greatly too much time and temper have been expended in such debatesbut on these weightier matters we have our grave conclusions. The mission of the church is a spiritual mission, and that can never be realized under the mastery of a power which is for the most part worldly. Nor is that all—to give power