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admired and loved by all who can rightly think and feel ; nor would the hand that might not object to pull down the clustering ivy from the oak, whose strength it wasted, and impaired its beauty, touch profanely one leaf of the hallowed tree. O, my country! land of my birth, my love, and my pride ; land of freedom and of glory; land of bards and heroes, of statesmen, philoso phers, and patriots; land of Alfred and of Sydney, of Hampden and of Russell, of Newton, Locke, and Milton; may thy security, liberty, generosity,
peace, and pre-eminence, be eternal. May thy a children prize their birthright, and well guard
and extend their privileges! From the annals of thy renown, the deeds of thy worthies, the pre
cious volumes of thy sages, may they imbibe the t love of freedom, of virtue, of their country! May
the pure gospel be their portion! Through every * future age, may they arise, as of yore, the pro
tectors of the oppressed, the terror of tyrants, the guardians of the rights and peace of nations, the champions of civil and religious liberty; and may they be the possessors and diffusers of genuine Christianity to all countries, through all generations Amen!
ON RELIGIOUS LIBERTY AND NONCON.
JOHN viii. 32:
The Truth shall make you free.
As the corruptions of Christianity have passed in review before us, it cannot but have been noticed how closely they were connected with ecclesiastical usurpation. There is a natural alliance between error and slavery, truth and liberty. For a time they may be dissociated; but reason and scripture, history and observation, bear witness that they cannot permanently maintain a separate existence. Freedom of inquiry and profession is the atmosphere in which pure religion breathes, or the soil in which it grows; and which it must find, or make, or itself wither away. Hence the subjects of this Lecture are an appropriate transition from the mischiefs and miseries of the antichristian apostacy, to the gospel in its native simplicity, power, and blessedness.
The religious liberty of Christian Churches is external and internal; that which they claim of the civil power, and that which they allow to their own members. The first consists in the absence of all interference by the magistrate; in being subject to neither penalties nor privations, on account of faith or worship: the latter, in the freedom of the individuals composing such churches, to form and avow their own opinions of what Christ taught, without being subject to censure, excommunication, or loss of any of the advantages of Christian society and fellowship, Both are of great importance. The latter, even by sincere and eloquent advocates of the former, has been too often misunderstood, overlooked, or violated. They are alike emanations from the same principle, the right of private judgment; a right which, as it ought not to be controlled by the civil magistrate, so neither should it be yielded by the Christian to the dictate of a priest, or council, or to the decision of the majority of a church: it is personal and inalienable. If the majority of this congregation were to say to any one of its members, “ Unless you believe such a doctrine, you shall not approach with us to the Lord's table, you shall not worship with us, we proclaim you to be no Christian,” they would be violaters of Christian liberty, and though not in the same degree, yet would be partakers of the spirit that dictated the damnatory clauses of the
Athanasian Creed, that brandished over Europe the thunders of the Vatican, or that kindled the fires of Smithfield. It may be said, that when Dissenting Churches exclude a heretic from their communion, they deprive him of no civil rights. True: his civil rights are not at their disposal : they deprive him of all that is in their power, the comforts of Christian society. But has not every society a right to make its own laws ? No, not Christian churches : their laws are made for them by their Master; and they cannot legislate without renouncing, virtually, the Christian character, Personal liberty of thought and opinion is essential to a Christian Church.
As many sincere friends of religious liberty do not take this view of the subject, it is expedient to advance some considerations in its proof.
It is very clearly contrasted with the more prevalent notion, by the Rev. H. Taylor, (Ben Mordecai,) in his reply to Gibbon, in a work entitled “ Thoughts on the Grand Apostacy." “ Mr. G., speaking of excommunication, says, • It is the undoubted right of every society to exclude from its communion and benefits, such among its members as reject or violate those regulations which have been established by general consent. Reply. This may be true of civil societies, but gives no right to excommunicate or banish from Christian communion; because the laws which give a right to such com
munion, are not regulations established by general consent, but laws established by Christ, the author and finisher of our faith. When the pure and humble religion first gently insinuated itself into the minds of men, the apostles claimed no dominion over the faith of Christians. The Christians of different churches were no otherwise connected with one another, than as they were all connected with Christ their head; all of them were to look up to him, and not only every church was thus independent of any other in matters of faith, but so was every individual, and consequently no one had any power over another in such matters; and they have no more power now than they had at first : I speak of matters of faith, and the right of communion, and the affairs of another world.”
A church means neither more nor less than an assembly, which may be either orderly or tumultuous, stated or accidental. In the New Testament it commonly means an assembly of the disciples of Christ, for the purposes of worship and mutual edification, from which none were excluded but those whose immoral conduct disgraced their profession.
Numerous conversions are recorded. The convert, on professing his belief in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, became immediately entitled to all the enjoyment and advantage arising from attendance on Christian worship, the Lord's Supper,