Imatges de pÓgina
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expressed whether Christ left any form of ecclesiastical polity, or delegated any power to his ministers; or whether they acted on any uniform plan in the organization of the Church. The apostolical succession of the ministry is also denounced as a mere pretence; the claim of the people to choose their own pastors is insisted upon; the orders of the Bishop and the Presbyter are confounded; and not only is the use of the word “Sacraments” rejected, but their spiritual grace also is depreciated and denied. These principles are in immediate opposition to those of the Romanist; and if those of the one have a tendency to despotism, those of the other have too much of the popular or democratic form. Our purpose is to delineate them in the language of modern writers, and to com

“ uncertain, the principles of ecclesiastical government

are laid down in the apostolic writings with the ut« most clearness : principles invariable, common to ás

every modification of outward circumstance, and which

are all that the divine wisdom has seen fit to render ". binding." Conder on Protestant. Nonconformity, p. 216.

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pare them with the text and the arguments of the Scriptures.

1. Dissenters, individually and separately, h'

h” “ assert the right of private judgment, the sufficiency of the Scrip“ tures, and the necessity of free inquiryi:” and it is their first principle, that “ every “ man has an unequivocal right to inquire " and judge for himself; to worship God “ according to the dictates of his con

science; to vindicate his own principles, “ and to invite others to embrace themk. This is publicly declared to be the “ right “ of every man, a right derived imme

h A Series of Letters addressed to the Church and Congregation assembling at the Great Meeting, Coggeshall; containing a complete Narrative of the cruel and unmerited Persecution of which the Rev. J. Fielding has been the subject for more than twelve months past : written by himself. p. 80.

i Particulars of the Life of a Dissenting Minister; written by himself: with occasional Reflections illustrative of the Education and professional State of the Dissenting Clergy, and of the Character and Manners of the Dissenters in general. p. viii.

k Williams's Religious Liberty stated and enforced on the Principles of Scripture and Common Sense, in Six Essays, p. 95.

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“ diately from the Almighty Creator',” and

every man, in every age and in every “ country, has a sacred unalienable right “ to worship God according to his con

science, which no individuals, or govern“ ments, or legislatures, can, without in

justice and oppression, directly or indi“ rectly infringe it is from heaven"." “ No one is at liberty to concede a supe“ riority of a legislative nature to another “ in matters of religious duty, or to sur“ render any portion of that moral freedom “ which is the basis of accountableness. Power, in relation to conscience, cannot “ be delegated; the will of another cannot “ become our law; the usurpation is im

piety. The free agency of man not only “ involves a sacred unalienable right, which “ the magistrate cannot lawfully infringe ; “ but it imposes upon every individual a

duty, from which there is no discharge"."

p. 183.

1 Resolution passed at a Special General Meeting of the Unitarian Fund, Aug. 20, 1813. Compare Williams,

m Protestant Society for the Protection of Religious Liberty. See Evan. Mag. 1815, p. 512. Williams, p. 2, 3. n Conder, p. 75.

“ I infer the right of free inquiry from the “ duty of investigation, and I do not ex

pect that any person who admits the lat“ ter will dispute the formero."

It is remarkable, that in these assertions there is but a cursory reference to the authority of a scriptural rule, to which, when they are made subservient, we do not deny the duty of investigation, nor the right of private judgment. But when we read that it belongeth not unto the natural man to know “ the things of the Spirit of God, for “ foolishness is in him, neither can he o know them, because they are spiritually “ discerned P;” when we read also, that “ unlearned and unstable men have wrest“ed the Scriptures to their own destruc“ tion 9;" we perceive no trace of the inherent, unalienable, heaven-descended right of free inquiry. We know that the great body of the Gentiles, whom the Apostles instructed, had no means besides oral instruction of prosecuting this inquiry. Although Saint Paul exhorts the Thessalo

o Williams, p. 56. P I Cor. ii. 14.

9 2 Peter iii, 16.' rl Thess. v. 21.

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nians to “prove" and make trial of “ all

things,” he at the same time exhorts them to “ hold fast that which is good": and although Saint John instructs the disciples to “ try the spirits, whether they are “ of God,” he nevertheless prescribes the specific standard by which the inquiry should be determined. Hence we infer, that there hath been from the beginning some limit of inquiry, some rule of interpretation, some settled scheme of religious profession, generally admitted in the Church, to which the multitude were willing to defer, and from which no man could deviate without offence. This inference is confirmed by the circumstance of Timothy's being directed to “ hold fast the “ form of sound words," and to “ continue “ in the things which he had learned and “ been assured of, knowing of whom he " had learned them;" an exhortation which is of the more importance, because Timothy had not only 66 from a child known the

Holy Scriptures,” but he was also charged

s 1 John iv. 1, 2.

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