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340 LORD MAHON ON
the Law, as our schoolmaster, was appointed to teach in bringing us to Christ; and those that Cowper also experienced, but which Southey, and others with him, regarded as a dangerous delusion, resulting from an exaggerated idea of human depravity. If it is an evil that very many persons should be thus tormented, would ignorance of sin, and insensibility to its guilt and danger, be the smaller evil, or the preferable way? Or is there any way into the kingdom of Heaven without some experience of such pangs and agonies? There is indeed a way into the Church, smooth, easy, inoffensive; but that is not necessarily Heaven, nor does belonging to the Church necessarily include the knowledge or experience of religion. Yet such would seem to be Lord Mahon's and Southey's idea of piety, or a main element in it, and security of it; a religion established by the State; a Church, the membership of which is to be accepted as salvation. And to compel people to come into the Church by pangs and agonies, when they ought to be members of it in their own right by law, by simple baptism and morality, is a great injury and oppression !
The historian's idea of religion must be curious, indeed, judging from such complaints. Then, again, it is asserted to be presumption, an element of fanaticism and vanity, such as Southey says Mr. Teedon was inspired with, for an individual Chris
tian to suppose that God will hear and at once answer his prayers. For the immediate efficacy of prayer can be only in the way of such answer, and that is what the accusation means. A proper and respectable religion, therefore, such as is embodied in the Established Church of England, must, in the view of many, eschew and reject such an element. Prayer can be efficacious only by virtue of the Church, and can be answered only in a churchly way, but not for any individual soul by itself! Is it possible that a man of intelligence and learning, with any knowledge of the Gospel, can deliberately repose his confidence on such a piety, and believe himself insured into salvation by organic Church life, and participant in the efficacy of prayer by belonging to a Church that has an established liturgy?
It were worth while for such a person to question with himself what could the Apostle James have meant, in referring all believers to the example of Elijah, as an incontrovertible proof that any believing soul, coming to God in the confidence that He is the rewarder of all who diligently seek Him, shall be likewise directly answered. Why did James take pains to remind us of the fact that Elias was a man subject to like passions as ourselves, except for the purpose of establishing the fact that it is a universal rule, irrespective of churches and of persons, that God does hear and
EXAMPLE OF ELIJAH.
answer prayer, if presented in sincerity and faith? The case of Elias was a great precedent, interpreting this rule, first, because Elias was a man, not an angel, nor a Church; second, because he was a man of the same passions and infirmities as we are, and not a perfect man, and neither heard nor answered on account of his perfection or his prayerbook, but on account of God's mercy and his own faith. So shall any man of like passions be heard and answered.
Moreover, it were well to ask what would that personal piety be worth which was not distinguished by a belief in the immediate efficacy of prayer? Can there be such a thing as true prayer without something of that belief? If the Lord Jesus has taught his disciples to pray, believing that they shall receive those things for which they ask according to the will of God, and has even based the acceptableness of their prayers on that belief, then the disciple who has not that belief is destitute of an essential ingredient in the spirit of prayer. Perhaps Lord Mahon meant what the Duke of Wellington was wont to call fancy-prayers, that is, extempore prayers, without the prayer-book. Probably Lord Mahon, as a good Churchman, would not have ascribed presumption to Wesley, if he had prayed only out of the prayerbook; would not have accused him of fanaticism for imagining an immediate efficacy in those
prayers. It was only his prayers, Wesley's, which it was presumptuous to suppose were attended with immediate efficacy!
And it would seem from such a scheme, that even if the prayers in the prayer-book are assumed and offered by individual members of the Church, it is presumption in any one to suppose that they can be answered as the prayers of the individual, on the exercise of the individual's desires and faith; such a thing as an answer is only to be expected on the ground of the right of the Established Church to present the supplication, and only through the mediation of the Church. The Church and the prayer-book in such a case are but the Pope and the Priest "writ large;" and there is as effectual a barrier interposed between the soul and Christ, as there is by penance and the confessional, instead of prayer.
A singular conception is the true historical conception of a religion established by the State ;—a religion simply and solely of prescribed forms and prayers, with a decent morality attached to them, together with a security against all enthusiasm. A conservative religion, protecting the community from being tormented with dreadful agonies and pangs, by the assurance of being personally stereotyped into Heaven by reliance on the proxy of an accepted liturgy, efficacious on account of an organic Church-life, imparted through it to the
A FATAL DELUSION.
soul of every worshiper! How inestimable the favor of a sound religious currency established by law, as genuine and infallible as the notes of the Bank of England; an experience superscribed and minted, as the Church-and-Cæsar's appointed coin, the possessors of which shall defy all pangs and agonies, passing into the Kingdom like the Iron Duke, by virtue of the prayer-book under his arm! The holders of such coin look down with pity and contempt on an experience like that of John Bunyan, for example, as being the fever of a burning enthusiasm, from which the true Church happily exempts and defends her children.
"Very many persons have been tormented with dreadful agonies and pangs" by the undignified and cruel system of a personal experience of religion introduced by John Wesley; agonies and pangs under the conviction of being lost sinners, which might all have been avoided by trusting in the Church, the prayer-book, and the sacraments. Alas, what a frightful delusion is this! And what multitudes of immortal beings, as capable of reasoning in regard to their eternal destiny as Lord Mahon, and with the sacred Scriptures before them, are at this very day staking their all for eternity on the assurance that they are safe from perdition by the sacraments and the Church. With reference to just such a delusion prevailing in the Jewish Church, our Blessed Lord told the