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Law on the Sacraments.
LAW ON THE SACRAMENTS.
THE first work which Law wrote in his mystic stage is entitled ' A Demonstration of the Gross and Fundamental Errors of a late Book, called “A Plain Account of the Nature and End of the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper.”' The reputed author of the ' Plain Account' was Law's old antagonist Bishop Hoadly, now advanced to the wealthy see of Winchester. The Bishop never claimed the authorship of the work, but he never disclaimed it, and internal evidence is decidedly in favour of his authorship, for both the style and sentiments are very similar to those of his avowed writings. Moreover, it is pretty clear that the younger Hoadly, who must have been acquainted with the facts of the case, was of opinion that it was his father's work.
He inserts it in full in his edition of Bishop Hoadly's works (1773), but without asserting that it was his father's composition. In his preface he quotes without comment the following passage from the Biographia Britannica (Art. • Hoadly '), the last sentence of which, it will be seen, plainly implies that Bishop Hoadly was the author. 'He [Bishop Hoadly) was the reputed author of A Plain Account, &c. As this masterly performance rationally limited the nature and effects of this positive rite to the words and actions of our Lord Himself, and to those of S. Paul afterwards (the only certain inspired accounts of it), it was consequently unfavourable to the commonly received opinions of its peculiar efficacies and benefits, and accordingly met with a very warm, though weak opposition. . . . A new edition (the fifth) was printed off when Bishop Warburton's Rational Account, &c., was published in 1761, and the publication was some time deferred, as the author designed to have added a postscript on that occasion, but his death prevented it, and we are informed no papers remain on the subject.'-- Preface, pp. xxii. xxiji.
The article on · Hoadley' in the Penny Cyclopodia says : ‘His Plain Ac.
Excitement raised by the · Plain Account.'
It seemed for awhile as if the slumbering flames of the Bangorian controversy were about to be revived. Pamphlet after pamphlet, and letter after letter, were issued from the press, in rapid succession, on both sides of the question ; but the predominant feeling was unquestionably one of deep indignation that so unworthy a view of the highest act of Christian worship could be even suspected of having come from the pen of a Christian prelate. In fact, the question of authorship created at least as much interest as the contents of the work itself. But in vain was the Bishop challenged or allured to avow or deny his connection with the book. More than one enterprising gentleman boldly took the bull by the horns, and dedicated their attacks or defences of the ‘Plain Account' to the Bishop of Winchester himself. “Never,' wrote one, 'was a book more likely to please, nor less likely to reform, the present times. The author must have had the propagation of irreligion and
vice prodigiously at heart. What he preaches has been · for some time generally practised. It has reduced the
most pernicious practice to theory. Next to the wickedness and folly of its author is the malice of those who would make us think it the work of so great and excellent a man as the Bishop of Winchester. What a scandalous and uncharitable age is this that can ascribe such a work of darkness to an apostolical messenger of light! to a bishop! to a servant and successor of our Saviour !-an imputation that would fix one of the worst books that ever was wrote on one of the best bishops that ever adorned ours or any other Church.'' The last part of this is evicount, &c., shows how rational was the view which he took of Christianity,'&c. Bishop Van Mildert unhesitatingly attributes the work to Hoadly. See Life of Waterland, pp. 161-3.
"A Vindication of the Right Reverend the Lord Bishop of Winchester against the malicious aspersions of those who uncharitably ascribe the book intituled • Plain Account, &C.,' by the author of the ' Proposal for the Revival of Christianity',' 1736.
282 The · Plain Account' attributed to Hoadly.
dently ironical ; for the author goes on to hit at Hoadly's ample income, and his share in the silencing of Convocation. His “best of bishops' is something like Junius' best of kings.' Another writer, who dedicated his work to Bishop Hoadly, and addressed him as 'Your lordship, the reputed author,' commences : It is now, from my own writing this, little more than a month since I could first allow myself to take the Plain Account' into my hands. Popular clamour had made me apprehensive that, possibly, the very touch might be infectious; but to be sure that I could not give it the reading, without running the utmost risque of making shipwreck of some principles of faith, and sacrificing the answer of a good conscience.'' Bishop Van Mildert mentions, among ‘a host of eminent writers who controverted the “Plain Account,"' the names of Warren, Wheatly, Whiston, Ridley, Leslie, Law, Brett, Johnson, and Stebbing ;? but the weightiest of all the authorities which were ranged against the work was that of the great Waterland himself, who, though he did not enter the lists on his own account, sent his humble service and thanks to Dr. Warren for the great service he had done to our common Christianity,' and complimented Wheatly for detecting the Socinianism of the “ Plain Account,” and for opening the eyes of some ignorant admirers.' Dr. Waterland is evidently of opinion that Hoadly was the author ; for he speaks of Dr. Warren 'having girded the great man closer than anyone before,' and adds, I am persuaded the principal man will write no more on that argument, for fear of exposing himself further.' The mysterious allusions to 'the great man,' and 'the principal man,' point clearly to Hoadly, who was at that time (1735-6) one of the most
1 A Defence of the · Plain Account, &c., 1748.
The · Plain Account.'
influential men at court.' The Plain Account'created an excitement immediately on its publication, and it was immediately attributed to Hoadly; for it was only published
I See Waterland's Letters, Works,' vol. vi. pp. 448, 449, also 418–20 (Van Mildert's edition) Dr. Hunt (Religious Thought in England, vol. iii. p. 56) mentions Waterland alone by name among the writers against the Plain Account, but, except in the letters quoted in the text, I cannot find that Waterland wrote ea pressly against it, though, no doubt, he had it in his eye when he wrote his Review of the Doctrine of the Eucharist, &c., in 1737. Dr. Hunt attributes, without doubt, the Plain Account, &c. to Hoadly.
The following list of some, and only some, of the writings which the Plain Account called forth, will give the reader some idea of the interest it awakened :
1. Answer to Hoadly's • Plain Account &c.' in Three Parts, by Dr. Rd. Warren, Fellow of Jesus Coll. Cambridge, &c., 1735.
2. Appendix to the above, 1736–7.
3. Christian Exceptions to the · Plain Account, &c.,' with a Method proposed for coming at the true Apostolical sense of that Holy Sacrament,' published anonymously, but known to have been written by Mr. Wheatly, 1736.
4. The · Plain Account, &c.' vindicated from the misrepresentations of Dr. Warren, &c. (Anonymous), 1737.
5. The Winchester Converts, or a Discovery of the Design of a late Treatise entitled a 'Plain Account, &c.,' 1735.
6. A Proper Answer to the above, 1735.
7. Reply to the Winchester Converts, attributed to Mr. Ayscough of C. C. C. Camb.
8. Brett (Dr. F.), A True and Scriptural Account of the Nature and Benefits of the Holy Eucharist.
9. Bowyer's True Account of the Nature, End, and Efficacy of the Sacrament, Soc., 1736.
10. A Testimony of Antiquity concerning the Sacramental Body and Blood of Christ, in answer to the · Plain Account, &c.,' 1736.
11. Letters on Baptism, to the author of the Plain Account, 1757. 12. The · Plain Account' not drawn from or founded on Scripture, 1738.
13. The • Plain Account' contrary to Scripture, being a second part to the above.
14. The Lord's Supper not a Sacrifice, or, The Doctrine of a Material Sacrifice in the Lord's Supper not founded on Scripture, being a Defence of the • Plain Account,' by T. Wingfield, Vicar of Yalmeton (? Yealmpton), Devon, 1739.
15. The Sacrament of the Altar against the · Plain Account' (Anon.).
16. Remarks on a Book entitled a • Plain Account,' by the Rev. Mr. Lamb, 1739.
17. A Letter to Mr. Lamb, occasioned by his . Remarks, &c.'(Anon.), 1740. 18. A Defence of the . Plain Account, &c.' See supra, p. 282, note, 1748
19. A Vindication of the Bishop of Winchester, &c. See supra, p. 281 note.
20. Defence of a late Book intituled A Plain Account, &C.,' in Reply
284 Law's High View of the Holy Eucharist.
in June 1735, and on July 6, 1735, Waterland wrote to Mr. Loveday, 'There is an odd piece upon the Sacrament lately published, and supposed to come from a great hand, which makes much noise.'
The biographer of Law, however, should be the last person in the world to spend time in discussing the question whose the 'great hand' was which produced the ‘Plain Account;' for, at the commencement of his 'Demonstration,' Law very characteristically rebukes the idle curiosity which was rife at the time he wrote. Who,' he says, 'this nameless author is, neither concerns the truth, nor you, nor me, and therefore I leave that matter as he has left it.'
But the fact that the Plain Account' roused so much indignation is interesting historically, as tending to show that the higher and nobler view of the Holy Eucharist was more prevalent in the middle of the eighteenth century than is commonly supposed; and Law's own contribution to the controversy is particularly interesting to us, as showing that his Churchmanship was only modified, not lost, when he became a mystic. Here we have him volunteering his sentiments on a crucial point; and on this point he evidently holds as distinctly High Church views as he did when he measured swords with (probably) the same antagonist twenty years earlier.
It must be remembered that when Law published his first mystic work (1737) he had been for at least three years a diligent student and ardent admirer of Behmenism, for which he had been previously prepared by a long course of study of the mystic writers, and, though his Behmenism is not quite so prominently brought forward in this as in
several Answers to it, as Dr. Brett, Dr. Warren, Mr. Bowyer, &c., by Thos. Buttenshaw, Rector of Addington, 1747.
21. Whiston (W.), The Primitive Eucharist Revived, occasioned by the • Plain Account, &c.,' 1736.