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nymous with heretic^ is it therefore, any wonder she was beheld by me, with a reverence bordering en, if not identified with, idolatry? and that I never, for one moment, imagined, her seeming beauty and her imposing pomp, was tarnished with a speck, and still less, that she was unsound within."
It is much to be feared that there are thousands of clergymen in this kingdom, whose state of mind is mostexactly delineated by Mr. Cowan, in this short extract. Trained up from their infancy in a reverence for the national establishment of religion, which is a mere human institution: and kept in countenance by the superior numbers of its adherents, their minds become blinded to its monstrous incongruity with the fundamental principles of the kingdom of the Son of God, and they come gradually to regard its various rites and ceremonies, not merely with complacency, but in process of time even to attach a kind of sanctity to things which are altogether unknown to the New Testament. Such are the various orders of her clergy—the rites and ceremonies prescribed in her book of Common Prayer—a liturgy plainly borrowed from the church of llome, and various other things too numerous to be specified. To this nnscriptural state of things, it is Mr. Cowan's mercy to have lately had his eyes opened; and, what is still of higher importance, his mind has been enlightened "to perceive something of the spirituality of the truths contained in the mystery of godliness, and his heart consequently enlarged with Christian feeling towards all those who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity." With his growth in scriptural knowledge, his early prejudices gave way; and as he became better acquainted with his Bible, and attended to the reasonings of his Episcopal brethren in defence of the doctrines, liturgy, and discipline of the church of England, his mind grew uneasy at perceiving the difficulties under which they laboured to prove that her language did not mean, what to a plain unlettered man, it evidently does import—particularly in reference to her Catechism and Baptismal service.
About two years ago, Mr. Cowan's scruples became very irksome to him, but he continued struggling against the convictions of conscience, until,
about ten months since, he ha<i nearly determined on quitting his station as a minister of the Establishment. Still, however, he persevered, owing to the authority of names, and swayed by the arguments of his friends, who urged that, by quitting the establishment, he would be diminishing his usefulness—uneasy in his situation and yet afraid to move —cordially disliking many things, yet attached to the establishment. But the time was now come when it was no longer allowed him to trifle with the dictates of conscience. A representation was made to the Bishop of the Diocese, that Mr. Cowan was " guilty of several irregularities in the performance of Divine service at seven in the morning of a Lord's day—in consequence of which his Lordship thought proper to suspend him from his official duties! The charges preferred against him were, that on a particular occasion, "he commenced the worship of God, sri» something of his own, and not ^according to the prescribed form." This charge does not appear to us to have involved in it any blameableness had it been true, but it turned out to be wholly unfounded, and the Bishop acknowledged that he had been misinformed upon the point. Another was that in reading the prayers he had "omitted the absolution!" which Mr. G. admits to be true but not intentionally done. A third was that he changed the proper lessons tor the day, and read only one Psalm, and that one appointed for the Evening service and not the Morning. Tnis charge Mr. Cowan admits to be true, and endeavours to justify it on the ground that he thought himsclt at liberty to consult the convenience oi his hearers by reading shorter lessons, that the congregation nn|K have time to return to public worship at half past ten. A fourth complaint was that he read a verse of the second lesson twice over with peculiar emphasis—and to this he pka* guilty. Lastly "that he curtail the Service by omitting several of the Prayers, the Litany, and Communion Service"—which is also admitted to be true. _
Thus our readers have before them the "whole head and front" of Mr. Cowan's offending in this important matter, for which he was suspend* bv the Bishop from his ministers functions. Bowing submissively to the Episcopal mandate, he, nevertheless, on the 3rd of July addressed a Letter to his Lordship—couched in such language as a conviction of the rectitude of his own conduct would naturally enough dictate, but such as we suspect his Lordship is not much accustomed to receive. He might indeed be excused for complaining of the hardship of being suspended from the execution of his office before he had an opportunity of either denying the charges, or offering his apology for such parts of them as were true. But when he claims his privilege of "speaking the truth in his own defence with a holy boldness," and affirms that " it is no part of a Christian's conduct to cringe to a superior, merely because the Providence of God, or the law of the land, happens to have made him so,"—and above all, when he says "J. am well convinced, that had I, instead of preaching and I trust I may, without presumption, add, living as I do, been a jovial fellow, a hunting or shooting parson, I should never have had occasion to address this letter to you" —he speaks that which we can easily admit to be true, but for saying which we do not see how he could reasonably expect forgiveness. Our readers will be gratified with the following paragraph from this letter. Referring to some of the peculiar doctrines of the gospel, he says,
"It gives me sincere pleasure to know, that, notwithstanding all the opposition these glorious truths are meeting with, they are spreading; yes, my Lord, and spread they will, for they are doctrines according to godliness; and I am fully persuaded, that if, from the suggestions of Satan, they are prohibited from being promulgated in the Church of England, Almighty God will remove her candlestick, that she may not prove a stumbling stone, or hindrance to the dissemination of his truth. Most cordially do I adopt one of Iter own sentences, and pray, "hasten thy kingdom, O Lord, and accomplish the number of thine elect."
Having waited nearly three weeks, to afford time for the Bishop either to reply to his letter, or take off the Suspension, and receiving no intimation of either, Mr. Cowan, on the 22nd of July addressed another Letter to his Lordship, of which the following is an extract.
"It is well known to some of my friends, that for about four Months, my VOL. III.
mind has been much distressed concerning the practice of Infant Baptism, on which circumstances of a peculiar nature have particularly fixed my attention. Nine or Ten different persons called upon me, unknown to one another, about the commencement of, or rather before, the period to which I have alluded, stating their difficulties concerning that practice, and intimating a desire to be baptized. I combated their views with every argument in my power, lending them such books as I thought likely to remove their scruples, and preserve them in the Establishment. Some of the books I bad recommended on the opinions of others; but when certain extracts from these writers were brought me, and I was asked, how I could maintain such opinions, I felt grieved and ashamed at what I had done. I then examined these works myself, and though written professedly to support Piedobaptism, from their perusal, for the first time, became convinced, the arguments on that side of the question, were not quite so satisfactory, as I had been in the habit of imagining, or as I had really wished to imagine. I then determined on having recourse to my Bible alone, and 'not to have any confidence in the flesh,' but to 'search the scriptures whether these things were so.' This 1 have now been diligently pursuing for these last three months: and the result is, a conviction that the Church of England, in this particular, teaches for a doctrine the commandment of man: and consequently, a resolution of withdrawing from her communion,—a resolution, I now sincerely regret, I had not put in practice before this late business occurred.
"With my mind in this frame, your Lordship cannot be surprised, that I have esteemed the circumstances recently passed, as tending to make my way plain. While stating Baptism as the leading point of objection to the Establishment, I have long had others of a minor nature, (if, indeed, minor they ought to be called) which, though not deemed of sufficient validity to cause me to come out from among her, have yet often given me a great deal of pain; among these, I will, at present, only mention two—her Baptismal Service, and, the connexion between Church and State. As to the former, I will content myself with observing, (what has for some time been my opinion) that Dr. Mantand his coadjutors have much to say for themselves, being, as I conceive, argumentatively right, but theologically wrong. With respect to the latter;'however excellent in a political point of view such an union may be accounted, I have long considered it as unscriptural in its principle; and, permit me to observe, your Lordship has now shown, it is equally so in its practice.
"From reading the Scriptures, we should, I imagine, naturally collect that 2 x
an (Bishop) EniJKOnos of the Church of Christ, was in the place of a Father to those over whom he was the Overseer; 'not lording it over God's heritage,' but rebuking, in the spirit of meekness and love, the errors incident to humanity; and never resorting to the full power of his authority, save as an act of painful necessity, a dernier resort. I beg to acknowledge the Gentlemanlike manner, in which your Lordship has conveyed to me your ipse dixit for my suspension, for what (if it must be deemed a fault,) was surely a fault in favour of the real interests of the Establishment. I cannot, however, but be struck with the contrast now before me—I mean, the power with which a Bishop of the Church of England is invested, and the consequent exercise of that power, from what marks the spirit and proceedings of the EniSHonoi of the Church of Christ, as delineated in Scripture.
"At the same time, my Lord, though strongly impressed with this contrast, I will honestly confess, I do not think the unscriptural exercise of unscriptural authority by the Bishops of the Church of England, would have been, of itself, sufficient todissolve that connexion, which for near 18 years and a half, has now subsisted between that Church and me. When, however, it is superadded to the fundamental difference existing between us, on the paint of Infant Baptism, my mind is greatly strengthened in the resolution I have adopted; and which I take this opportunity respectfully of making known to your Lordship, viz. that I do not wish any longer to be considered as a Minister of the Established Church. •
"I trust, I shall find credit with your Lordship, when I solemnly assert, my secession from her communion is not the offspring of wounded pride, but the deliberate step of the conviction of my heart. While I unfeignedly believe her erroneous in several important points, imagine not, 1 hold her as an enemy, or that because I secede, 1 must therefore hate. No—in whatever proportion I trace ' the truth as it is in Jesus,' either in her Articles, Services, Ministers, or Members, in the same proportion will be my love; and where I conceive error to exist, there I will not hate, but pray, that those who are in ignorance may be brought into the way, and rightly believe the truth.
"Soliciting your Lordship's indulgence for having occupied so much of your time, •I remain, with respect for the Bishop of Bristol,
"Your Lordship's obedient Servant,
T. C. COWAN."
Thus our readers are in possession of the most material circumstances detailed in this interesting narrative. The remainder of the pamphlet is occupied in stating more particularly
the reasons of Mr. Cowan's dissativ faction with the establishment—the? views he now has of the discriminating doctrines of the everlasting gospel—and a concise declaration of hispresent intentions and future prospects; on each of which points we shall use the freedom of offering a few remarks, not indeed with the view of dictating to Mr. Cowan or forestalling the judgment of his readers—but in the humble hope that they may not be without their use in giving an additional stimulus to the spirit of enquiry which is gone forth, and in aiding the progress of truth among our fellow christians.
In stating the grounds of his dissatisfaction with the church of England, Mr. Cowan places in a yerj prominent view the practice of sprinkling infanta, and substituting "the godfather and the godmother" in the room of the precious faith of God's elect. It appears that his practice had for some time past been a stumbling block to him, and he was therefore led to examine the scriptures upon the subject. He honestly Cohfesses that, during the whole course of his enquiry, he had "a strong inclination to adhere to infant baptism, and a consequent unwillingness to receive any proofs subversive of this long cherished idea," p. 34. But his prejudices at lengtn gave way to the force of scriptural authority and of sound reason. And here let us add, that we could not refrain from smiling when we perceived that one of the principal sources of Mr. Cowan's conviction—and what contributed in an especial manner to make him * Decided Baptist, was a perusal of our friend Mr. Taylor's Three Letters addressed to the Deacon of a Baptist church. In these Letters he found1 "satisfactory proofs, that the custom [of baptizing infants] had not scripture for its foundation, otherwise (as he very properly remarks) quibble in argument, and the authority of mm would never have been resorted to, hai scripture proof been extant!.'" p- 35. Oh poor Mr.'Taylor! what a bolus is . this for "the Editor of Calmet's Dictionary." What! have you been wasting the midnight lamp, and rack* ing your ingenuity for no other end than to make Baptists? We are quite sure that nothing was ever farther from your intention or wishes than to do so. But perhaps Mr. Cowan had
not seen your last sixpenny worth on the subject; and we must not be unmindful of the old adage, Finis coronal opus—"'tis the topstone which crowns the whole building. But to proceed:
The indiscriminate. use of the Burial service, which is alone applicable to the case of those who have died in the faith of Christ, was another serious objection, as it cannot fail to be to every conscientious clergyman —for, as Mr. Cowan justly remarks, "to thank God that it hath pleased him to take unto himself the soul of one who had died without manifesting faith in Jesus is a rejoicing in iniquity;"—it is in truth little letter than a solemn mockery of the Almighty, and Mr. Cowan may well congratulate himself that he is freed from the necessity of doing it. He also intimates that there are various t her Services contained in the Book of Common Prayer which struck him as being objectionable, though he has not particularly specified them. He has however dwelt largely on the utter inconsistency of the scripture doctrine of particular redemption, with the Sacramental service as prescribed in the Rubrick of the church of England. And this brings us to the second particular which we proposed to notice.
Mr. Cowan informs us, that about a year ago his mind was opened to Teceive the clear and decided light of the New Testament, respecting the inseparable connection between Christ •and his elect people—his substitution in their stead, in virtue of which their sins were, by a sovereign and gracious divine constitution, imputed to him, so that, he who personally knew no sin, was made sin for them, •that through his obedience unto death, they might be made the righteousness or God in him. Keeping his eye steadily fixed upon the scripture account of Christ's death as an atonement for the sins of those with whom he took part in flesh and blood, "the many sons whom he brings to glory"—or "the slteep for whom Jie voluntarily laid down his life," and for whose "transgressions he was stricken;" he perceived that the Church of England Prayer Book departed altogether from the very character of the atonement as thus described in the word of God—and that in order to adopt the profession of
Christianity to a nation of this world, its compilers had found themselves constrained to give up this leading doctrine of the gospel—and " to make her minister declare that Christ did make a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world." On this important topic, Mr. Cowan has laid before his readers a comprehensive view of the doctrine taught by both prophets and apostles, which he closes with the following pointed remarks.
"As I cannot entertain the unscriptural idea of universal salvation, in the sense that all the world will be ultimately saved; neither can I assert with the Church of England, that Christ died for all, and yet that the end shall not be attained; believing as I do, most 1111feignedly, that' of those whom the Father hath given him, will he lose none,' but will at the last day, declare, 'Behold me, and the Children whom thou hast given me.' With a full persuasion, therefore, that the view given by the Church of England is, on this point, radically wrong, calculated to speak peace to a careless world, and to distress those who are looking for ' the consolation of Israel,' you will not be surprised, that I deem it a strong reason for withdrawing from her Communion. To all the Ministers of the Establishment, who believe the doctrine of Particular Redemption, and yet read this Sacramental Service, and teach the Church Catechism, I would address the language of Dr. Wall, -which he uses concerning the practice of sprinkling— 'Let those defend it, who use it.'—I cannot—and therefore I renounce it."
These are sentiments and declarations that do great honour to Mr. Cowan. They shew him to be a conscientious, upright Christian — one who fears the Lord his God, and eschews evil—who prefers the testimony of his own conscience, and the approbation of his divine master, to every other consideration. His conduct carries in it a more powerful argument forthe truth of Christianity, than all the Sermons he has ever preached during the eighteen years he has been engaged in the service of the national church. It is, in its very nature, calculated to reach conviction to the minds of the thoughtless or sceptical, and to impress them with the persuasion that real religion is something more than a mere form of godliness. We can,' therefore, give him implicit credit for the truth of the followjng statement.
"Those who know any thing of the force of habit, and long attachment, and believe what 1 have stated on this point, ■will not readily think that these conclusions have been either partial or hasty on my part. To acknowledge an error of so long standing may be supposed to be attended with some feeling of humiliation !—to quit an Establishment, with which I have been connected by so many endearing ties, cannot be entirely unaccompanied with feelings of another description! but the truth cannot, must not, be sacrificed at any shrine. The sweet and inestimable privileges of union with Christ, and its consequences, seem to be exhibited to my view by immersion, supported by Scriptural authority: and as 1 unfeignedly believe these principles and ideas, to be,' in simplicity and godly sincerity' the principles and ideas of Scripture, ' the inward and spiritual grace,' of which Baptism is a type, you will not be surprised to hear from myself, of what, perhaps, common report has already apprised yon, that I have fully made up my mind on being baptized; sensible that I am in the condition of those who have never yet complied with this command of our Lord; and that, as I mentioned in my last letter to the Bishop,' the Church of England, or any other Church, that prescribes the Baptism of Infants, teaches for a doctrine, the commandment of man.'"
Thus we are brought to the third particular above mentioned, namely, to notice Mr. Cowan's avowal of his present intentions and future prospects. Although he has declared his purpose of being baptized, he declines connecting himself with the Baptist societies already existing in Bristol—of which it appears there are three, under the pastoral care of Dr. Ryland, Mr. Roberts, and Mr. Holloway—preferring to receive the ordinance of Baptism at the hands of Mr. Baring—one of the ministers who about two years ago seceded from the establishment. Irom a note, at the foot of page 44. of the pamphlet before us, we learn that an intimation of Mr. Cowan's intention in this respect, has given rise to a variety of reports and to much discussion in Bristol, which has induced him to enter upon a brief explanation, with a view of justifying his conduct in this particular instance; and on this part of the subject we shall take the liberty of offering a few observations before we close the article.
Although it must ever be a source of inexpressible satisfaction to those who are themselves sincerely engaged
in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, to contemplate the progress of divine truth in the world—to see it triumphing over the prejudices of the human mind—subverting the delusions of Antichrist—and introducing the disciples of the Saviour into that freedom from the doctrines and commandments of men which is their inalienable birth-right; yet it were altogether unreasonable to expect that the human mind should be prepared to take in at once, the whole will of God concerning their duty as the subjects of his kingdom. A teachable disposition of mind is indeed essential to our being Christ's real disciples, Matt, xviii. 1—5. For while "the wise and prudent" of this world, have their minds blinded by pride, prejudice, and carnal reasonings, God reveals the mysteries of his kingdom to those who "as new born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word" —who implicitly believe what he says, and who make conscience of obeying all his commands. But the path of the just is as the shining light which shines more and more unto the perfect day: And this applies as truly to our obedience to the divine will, as it does to our acquaintance with the doctrines of the Gospel, and consequent joy in the truth. It is of tlie highest importance for a Christian to have his mind always open to conviction, and anxiously desirous to know and do the whole will of God. This, and nothing short of it, is to be a disciple indeed. Mr. Cowan, and the other clergymen who have recently quitted the establishment for conscience sake, have done nobly in that act, and are so far entitled to the unfeigned respect and affection of all their fellow Christians. We honour them from our hearts, and fervently pray that the blessing of the God of Jacob may rest upon them. They have descended, it is true, from an elevated station—but surely it ought not to excite any surprise, that they are not yet prepared to take their standing upon the coimnon level to which it is the will of Christ that all his disciples should be reduced, Matt. xx. 25—28. The doctrine of the cross of Christ can alone produce this effectually—but the more deeply they drink into that humbling, and sel£abasing doctrine, the more will they be reconciled "to take the lowest room." Let their brethren, then,