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Thou whose architect is God;
All, like Christ, their Lord on high,
City, of thy Maker blest, On the Rock of Ages placed! Fair and safe thy havens are; I salute thee from afar :
I can only sigh for thee,
REVIEW OF NEW PUBLICATIONS.
Sermons by EDWARD MALTBY, D.D.
Vol. i. 12s. London: 1819.
THIS Volume, having reposed, unread and uncut, upon our shelves for more than ten years, is beyond the ordinary retrospection of a review: it were therefore but fitting that we should state, both why it has so long been left unopened, and why it is opened at last.
Our reply to the first question is, that our recollections of Dr. Maltby's former publications did not incite in us any wish to peruse a volume of Sermons from his pen and as we had already, on several occasions, expressed our views of his theology, it seemed no necessary duty to repeat a process from which we expected no great advantage to ourselves or our readers. In the very first volume of our work, nearly thirty years ago, in reviewing Dr. Maltby's "Illustrations of the Truth of the Christian Religion," we felt ourselves constrained to lament the unsoundness of the author's theology, as indicated in many parts of that work-as, for example, where he says that "the faith which Christ insisted upon was entitled to remuneration, as being the evidence of a virtuous disposition;" where he makes a high degree of moral excellence," not the result of
submitting to the Gospel of Christ, but the cause of that submission ; and where he speaks of deserving the favour of God by faith and obedience;" and of "rendering ourselves worthy of admission into the kingdom of God." The unscriptural character of these declarations we need not pause to exhibit.
In 1812 we reviewed the author's Anti-Bible-Society pamphlet; in which, to the extreme affliction of all good men, whether members of the Bible Society or not, he grievously disparaged the revealed word of God; declaring, that, out of threescore and six sacred books, there are not more than seven in the Old Testament, and eleven in the New, fit or necessary for general perusal. With the exception of Genesis, Exodus Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Isaiah, the four Evangelists, the Acts of the Apostles, the First Epistle to Timothy, Titus, Philemon, St. James, 1 Peter, and 1 John, the whole of the Bible-that blessed book, which was given without any restriction, and was intended for the welfare of a sinful and perishing world—is likely, he considers to do harm, rather than good. And even of these favoured selections he is unwilling to admit that they may not be likely, in some parts," to produce material error."
All that is necessary to be known, he says, is found in those few books; as if God had given the remainder with a foolish superfluity, which man's wisdom was to correct; especially in the case of the Epistles of St. Paul, the doctrinal statements of which Dr. Maltby treats with almost as little ceremony as do the Socinians themselves. The mass of mankind, he says, can no more understand them than the tragedies of Eschylus." Indeed, of the Epistles in general he remarks, very much in the style of Belsham and Priestley, that they are valuable when considered as mere matters of record connected with the introduction of Christianity:" but beyond this partial praise he does not seem inclined to commend them; especially far the greater part of them," he says, relates to controversies agitated at the time," but with which he gives us pretty plainly to understand we have now no concern. What is really "practical" in them, and therefore of general use "-the rest being, of course, mere chaff may be just as well learned, he intimates, from the Book of the Proverbs, or the lessons of our Lord: therefore, so far as the bulk of mankind are concerned, pare down the Bible to these limits; or, better still, substitute some human syllabus instead in practical sequence with which he recommended for popular circulation, in place of the word of God," a volume judiciously selected from Cappe's Life of Christ" —the work of an avowed Socinian! We need scarcely add, that Dr. Maltby seemed to be as little pleased with many parts of the Liturgy and Articles of the Church of England, as with the corresponding parts of the Inspired Text from which they are borrowed; and that he was anxious for a revision of them.
With these painful recollections fresh in our mind we had no great disposition to peruse the volume now before us; the character of which we had no reason to suppose otherwise than in accordance with the author's
former sentiments: or, if we had doubted on the subject, the eulogies which it received from writers whose praise is no honour would have determined the point. The Monthly Reviewer, for examplea Socinian Reviewer-says, that "he has carefully read all these discourses, twenty-four in number;" and that he highly commends them, as not contaminated by any of that evangelical mixture which has been falsely denominated Christianity." This obnoxious "evangelical mixture" the reviewer characterises as pervading "the most objectionable of the Thirty-nine Articles;" which, he complains, the clergy, goaded on by Mr. Wilberforce and Bishop Horsley, have during the last quarter of a century more generally adhered to than formerly, having before wellnigh forgotten them. He particularly specifies the Fall of man, and the Atonement, "original sin, and the expiation of that sin by the death of Christ;" which fanatical notions, he says, have of late years gained such currency among the clergy," that it required some energy of character not to be carried away by the stream." There are some, however, he tells us, who have that energy; and then he concludes, with much gratification, " We are happy to add Dr. Maltby to the honourable band who have not suffered their sermons to be tinctured with this infusion; "-the infusion of the doctrine of "original sin, the expiation of that sin by the death of Christ, and other doctrines of mysterious import."
Such were candidly our reasons for not cutting open Dr. Maltby's volume ten years ago. Our reason for cutting it open now, and for reading it over with much care, though beyond our ordinary_range of critical retrospection, is, that we lately saw in the newspapers a statement that Dr. Maltby was likely to be made a bishop. Not that we had implicit faith in such newspaper announcements; for with almost equal confidence the same veracious intelligencers told us that an undergra
duate of Cambridge, an illegitimate son of an actress, whose only alleged claim to distinction was his mother's profligate connexion, was to be made a bishop too!-as if the present cabinet had lost all sense of public decency, all regard to their own reputation and the reputation of the King, the interests of religion, the popularity of the church, and the stability of the common weal. Was it not enough, that, when Dr. Bird Sumner was so justly raised to the Episcopal bench, a late cabinet availed themselves of the right of the Crown to present this Cambridge undergraduate to the benefice vacated by that much esteemed prelate? Even this was not gratifying to those who, for the sake of our beloved Church and for the interests of religion, wish to see the ministers of the Crown bestow its patronage in a manner becoming their high responsibility: but to have made this young man a bishop would have been so utterly preposterous that no statesman of any character could have seriously contemplated it. Of the individual whose name has been thus publicly thrust upon the world our feeling is, that, if he be eminently qualified for a bishoprick, or any other high office, the way should be open to him as much as to others; but, till this is known, the unhappy circumstance of his birth ought not to be made a plea for placing him in offices the duties of which he has not given proof of his ability to discharge. Some of the newspapers were much displeased with what we wrote before on this painful subject. They accuse us of narrow-minded prejudices. Why, says the Morning Chronicle, should not Mr. Fitzclarence be made a dean, or a bishop, if he is qualified for the office? But this begs the question. Our objection was, that he or any other man should be raised to church offices without due inquiry into his fitness, merely from court favour. If a late cabinet had wished, as faithful stewards, to select some individual who might succeed to Dr. B. Sum
ner's living, on the same honourable and conscientious principles on which a stall was bestowed, by Bishop Barrington, upon that eminent divine, as a mark of gratitude and respect for his invaluable writings and exemplary character, they needed only to have consulted the Right Reverend bench in order to find proper persons. The Bishop of London has on these principles just presented Mr. Hartwell Horne to one of the few dignities in his gift, a stall in St. Paul's cathedral. Some admirer of facetiousness and the Edinburgh Review has been less scrupulous in sending to this metropolitan chapter a divine whom the Church could very well have spared from her dignities.
But, to return from this digression: though not crediting all newspaper announcements or popular rumours, yet upon the late mention of Dr. Maltby's name, knowing that strange ecclesiastical appointments have sometimes happened, we turned to the neglected volume of his discourses, with a view, as the last of his works which we happen to have heard of, seriously to inquire, in case the writer should ever chance to be made a bishop-which we hoped was a most unlikely event— whether we might at least have the consolation of tracing some germ of change in those erroneous opinions which he once undoubtedly cherished. It was possible, notwithstanding the insidious panegyric of a Socinian reviewer, that, at least in some of the later discourses, we might find some traces of improvement, some nascent approximation towards a better line of doctrine; and in that case it was our wish to hail it as a favourable omen, and to indulge the hope, that, if Dr. Maltby should perchance ever be raised to the mitre, we should not have a prelate among us who wished deliberately to banish from our schools and cottages nearly three-fourths of the books of the Inspired Volume; to substitute for them a Socinian Life of Christ as the Jewish Socrates; and to cleanse our pulpits from the fanaticism of
the Thirty-nine Articles, particularly (if the Monthly Reviewer is not too sanguine)" original sin, its expiation by the death of Christ, and other doctrines of mysterious import."
It would be disingenuous to say that this volume has given us this satisfaction; or that, if Dr. Maltby still retains the sentiments which it conveys, that it would be otherwise than an offence against the Word of God and the Church of England to raise him to the episcopal office. We are plain men, and shall speak plainly; and as Christians, and friends to the Church, it is our duty to do so.
It is not the worst evil of these discourses, that we can shew many passages in them positively and seriously erroneous in sentiment. Their worst character is their extreme defectiveness; the habitual absence from them of some of the most obvious and essential verities of the Gospel: so that, if there were not a single particle of actual poison to be detected in the compound, it would still be incapable of supporting spiritual life; so that those who were depending upon it for religious sustenance must perish from inanition. There are whole discourses which are as barren of any reference to a Redeemer as if Christ had never lived or died. In short, there is throughout the work a lamentable. dearth of Christian doctrine, which forms little or nothing of the basis of the author's system, and has scarcely even a tacit influence upon his moral exhortations.
Dr. Maltby has not, however, left us to negative evidence: in proof of which it becomes our duty to point out a few passages, as specimens of the general tenour of his volume.
In the very first sermon we find no allusion even to the name of the Saviour, or to any of the peculiar doctrines of Christianity. It is an ethical panegyric upon the good character of Joseph; and, as if expressly to prevent the reader imagining that this excellence was de
such, we suppose, as the fanatical notion of faith in the vicarious sacrifice of Christ-but by "our anxiety to deserve [Dr. Maltby's own italics] his favour." The joys of heaven are for those "who honestly strive to be good," but "the bad are unworthy to share them." Our Lord, in Matt. xix. 23," had just been describing those who should be worthy of admission into his kingdom." But it were as superfluous to multiply instances of this kind, as to bring a brick as a sample of a house. is only necessary to add, that this "bad" and "good," worthy and " and unworthy," relate only to human virtue, and not to any supposed modifications of phrase dependent upon what the Christian is in reference to the imputed merits of his Saviour, or the renewing influences of his Holy Spirit. The author's system is direct, unabated Pharisaism, self-justification, and, to speak truly, practical Heathenism. It is a mystery which we must leave him to adjust with his own conscience, how, with such views, he can subscribe to the Articles of our Church, or read her Liturgy, or eat her bread, or remain in her communion.
We turned to the third sermon, on "Religious Wisdom," where, if any where, we might expect to learn that religious wisdom is godliness; being wise unto salvation; a prac
tical knowledge and reception of the Gospel, which is "the wisdom of God in a mystery." But, instead of this, we have nothing better than such meagre moralizing as the following:
"Of religious wisdom, we learn from the text (Prov. iii. 17), that it is capable of removing those difficulties which lie in the way of happiness; of presenting us with materials, upon which we may build the hope of substantial comfort; or, at least, that it may so mould and
fashion the mind of man, as to enable him to discover and secure inward satisfaction, and to keep at a distance those cares and anxieties, which too frequently invade his peace." pp. 42, 43.
We learn from Sermon V. and elsewhere throughout the volume, that Dr. Maltby still retains his pristine dangerous notion, which renders useless a large portion of the Bible-namely, that this large portion refers only to subjects of temporary interest or importance. For example:
Those, who take into their hands the
New Testament with a virtuous wish of
drawing from it rules for conduct, rather than of finding encouragement for some preconceived theories of faith, cannot fail to observe that a great part of the Epistles turns upon subjects, connected with the history of that particular age, and has no relation whatsoever either to the opinions or to the practice of Christians at the present day. They will also observe, that some passages of the same kind occur in the Gospels; more, perhaps, than a careless or superficial reader would be apt to imagine." pp. 84, 85.
The reader may judge from one such passage as the above what defective and erroneous notions Dr. Maltby entertains relative to the character and objects of the word of God. A very intelligible preference is given, in the first place, to those who "search the Scriptures," not for such fanatical or temporary reasons as those mentioned by our Lord -" in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me "--but " with a virtuous wish of drawing from them rules of conduct," as good M. Rousseau and others have nobly done; greatly admiring their moral precepts, which even surpass, if without offence to philosophy it may be said, those of Epic
tetus himself. After this panegyric on the "virtuous" people who resolve Christianity into a code of good moral maxims divested of strange mysterious doctrines, and a rebuke of the enthusiasts who look into their Bibles for "some preconceived theories of faith"-such, for instance, as those in our intemperate Articles and Homilies-we find Dr. Maltby harping on his old onestringed story of the virtual supercession of far the larger part of the sacred records: books proper indeed to be read by learned divines, and doctors, by amateurs of antique customs, and poets and linguists and deep moralists and philosophers, much as one would read "Eschylus;" but as little fit as Æschylus himself, for the unlearned multitude. But these are not the whole of the memorabilia
of the above brief passage, for there is one point more memorable still; which is, that, even in the books most
favoured by Dr. Maltby, those which he considers the most proper, or rather the least improper, for popular perusal-even in the Four Evangelists themselves-there are “more passages than a careless or superficial reader would be apt to imagine" of that unprofitable class which composes "a great part of the Epistles”
namely, passages "connected with the history of that particular age," but "having no relation whatever either to the opinions or the practice of Christians at the present day;"-good neither for life nor doctrine: therefore, only a waste of paper and print; and causing grievous bewilderment in the minds alike of all virtuous and all theoretical readers. Should Dr. Maltby ever arrive at a mitre, as the newspapers gave us room to hope for, his first effort, after amending the PrayerBook, and burning the Homilies, should be, to get all these uselessly puzzling passages expelled from the canon of Scripture; or, better still, getting a judicious abridgment of Cappe's (Socinian) Life of Christ" legislatively substituted in their place. After nearly three fourths of