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language of the primitive Church, that "it is no part of religion to force religion." "Non est religionis cogere religionem." And, on following the history of the Christian Church from its earliest days down to the present time, it will be found, that to be intolerant and uncharitable has been more the characteristic of error than of truth. To contend earnestly for the truth, then, and to be wanting in charity towards those who unhappily do not possess it, are dispositions of the mind, between which there is certainly no necessary connection.
But if a minister of the Church is to refrain from teaching the fundamental principles of Church government, from a consideration of thereby giving offence, by appearing to pronounce sentence on those who separate from it; for the same reason he must refrain from insisting decidedly on any doctrine whatever; for there is no doctrine of the Church which will not meet with parties to whom it is obnoxious. The preaching up, for instance, the being and providence of God, will be offensive to atheists and worldlings, (of whom, it is to be feared, there is no small number) because they are thereby concluded under damning unbelief. The authority of the Scriptures, and the certainty of revealed religion, are points equally offensive to deists and sceptics. The union of the divine and human nature, as preparatory to the great work of atonement, is a doctrine not to be insisted upon; because of its alarming consequence to Arians, Socinians, and Unitarians. The * Tertullian ad Scapulam.
doctrine of the Christian Sacraments must, in like
This sacrifice of principle, by the adoption of an accommodating system, from a desire of not giving offence, (which, by a misnomer, characteristic of the present age, is called liberality) certainly bears no affinity to that Christian charity to which it pretends. For Christian charity has for its primary object the salvation of souls; which is not to be effected by humouring men in their error, but by making them see it; and with this view, writing them up to the truth instead of writing, as the manner of some hath been, the truth down to them. And the great excellence of Christian charity consists in its making a proper discrimination between the sinner and the sin, condemning unequivocally the one, whilst it is, at the same time, desirous of of sparing, and even doing all manner of good, to the other; after the example of our truly charitable Saviour, who, though he severely rebuked his disciples for their desire to call down fire on a village of Samaria as a punishment for its refusal to receive him, yet, when he had occasion to speak of the religion of its inhabitants,
did not admit that they were within the pale of the true Church, by decidedly declaring that they knew not what they worshipped, and that salvation was of the Jews.
* John iv. 22.
With such an example before me, I claim the right to which a Minister of the Church is entitled, of maintaining the ground on which she stands, and of reasoning for the benefit of her members, in conformity with those premises which she has authoritatively laid down, without being considered answerable, in any way, for consequences which may attach to a denial of her premises, or to a separation from her communion. These consequences it is my utmost wish, from a general love towards my Christian brethren, to prevent; though I dare not indulge a hope that any feeble efforts of mine will turn to much account, after the arguments of so many wise and learned men have proved ineffectual. Still, when I see so many apparently idle and unconcerned, whilst the enemy is digging and undermining the very ground on which they stand; and at the same time consider that they who help not to support the Church when she is in distress, do in reality contribute to pull her down; in writing as an honest minister of that Church ought to write on her subject, I feel that satisfaction which must ever accompany a conscientious discharge of duty.
All I request of my reader is, that he would lay aside every prejudice, and with becoming reverence and humility of soul, take his instruction from God; since to be wise above what is written, whether in matters of doctrine or discipline, is to throw up the reigns to inordinate affection, and to multiply error without end. Adverting to the effects the latitudinarian principle has already
produced in the world, its progressive nature, and the extremity to which, if not counteracted, it necessarily leads; let him consider the growing indifference to the divine institution of the Church, the contempt of its order, and the indiscriminate assumption of its sacred ministry, to be, what it is much to be feared it is, a part of that wild philosophy, "which inculcates on every individual this dangerous principle-that his own capricious and uninformed notions are to supersede those ancient rules which are taught by Divine Wisdom, or established on the basis of human experience, and which have been hitherto regarded with reverence, and considered as the tests and the bulwarks of morality; a philosophy, which, on the ground that every man is to erect a standard of right and wrong for himself, maintains the most criminal and destructive actions to be justifiable, provided their perpetrator have so depraved, a judgment and so vitiated a heart as sincerely to think them meritorious." philosophy which, regarding with supercilious contempt the established systems of policy, morality, and religion, by which the conduct and opinions of mankind have been hitherto regulated, has been long employed in sapping the foundation on which all submission to government stands, with the view of thereby so unsettling the human mind on this important subject, as to dispose it not to leave one stone upon another of those venerable edifices, which it hath been
"View of the Moral State of Society," by J. Bowles,
the labour of so many ages to raise and to complete. And unless, by suffering his reason to become the dupe to such a licentious principle, he has learned to think with the senseless philosophers of the day, that the maintenance of true religion is a matter of no moment to a state; he cannot remain indifferent to the present increasing separation from a Church, which, from its distinguished excellence, has been considered, by those who had no personal attachment to her, as exhibiting the most perfect specimen of reformed Christendom.
But when it is considered that the most fatal errors derive their origin from the little attention that is paid to the constitution of the Church; the indifference with which this subject is now regarded, even by those whom we must suppose to be interested in it, is not more the cause of astonishment to us than of concern. For, admitting that a regular form of Church government was once established by Divine authority, it requires no argument to prove that all those various forms with which the choice of Christians is now distracted, cannot be right. In fact, on the ground of such admission, all must be wrong which deviate from the original model; because our Saviour, who, through the medium of his Apostles, laid that model down, was alone entitled to construct the platform on which his own kingdom should be built. But what adds still greater weight to this consideration, by proving that it is a circumstance by no means of small importance whether Christians adhere to this Divine