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the children of men; and I consider it as a which they live. These are, under God, farther ground of hope that he will not give elecus et tulamen, the glory and the defence us up.
of Great Britain. They are lights shining III. Why would he not give up degenerate in a dark place. They are believers, and Israel, when strict justice demanded their their faith worketh by love. But as they destruction? Two reasons are assigned in follow the example of their Lord and Master, my text for his forbearance, which are well the world knows not them, because it knows suited to encourage the prayers and hopes not him. Here and there, individuals, by of those amongst ourselves who love and an unblameable consistent conduct, in a course fear him.
of years, if they cannot change the hearts of 1. I am God, and not man.—If we had gainsayers, are enabled to stop their mouths, offended men, or angels, as we have offended and put their ignorance to silence by wellour Creator and Redeemer, and they had doing, 1 Pet. ii. 15. But many persons depermission and power to punish us, our case spise them in the gross, and affect to deem would be utterly desperate. Only he who them (perhaps in defiance to the checks of made ns, is able to bear with us. All the their own consciences,) either hypocrites or attributes (as we speak) of the infinite God, visionaries, credulous fools, or designing must of course be equally infinite. As is his knaves. But their record is on high. They majesty, so is his inercy, Ecclesiasticus ii. 18. have access to God, and communion with What is the puny power of man, compared him, by the Son of his love. They have the with that almighty power which formed and spirit of prayer, and their prayers are heard. upholds the immense universe? The dis- The ship in which Paul sailed to Italy, was proportion is greater than that between a preserved from sinking, though apparently single drop of water and the boundless ocean. in the utmost danger, because the apostle Thus his thoughts are higher than ours, as was on board her. Not only was this ser. the heavens are higher than the earth. Who vant of God as safe in a storm at sea as if can set bounds to the exercise of patience ? he had been on shore, but for his sake the When sentence was denounced against Nine- Lord preserved the lives of all who were in veh, they humbled themselves before him, the vessel. The state ship of this nation is and he suspended the execution. There is now in jeopardy, she is brought into deep at least a peradventure in our favour, "Who waters, tossed with tempests, and her rowers can tell if God will turn away from his fierce (Ezek. xxvii. 26,) are almost at their wits anger that we perish not ?" He has said, end; but there is a precious depositum on “At what time I shall speak concerning a board. A people dear to the Lord are emnation, or a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull barked in the same bottom with the rest, down, or to destroy; if that nation turn from and we hope their prayers will prevail for their evil, I will repent of the evil that I the safety of the whole. The French, who thought to do unto them,” Jer. xviii. 7, 8. know little of christianity but as they have We do not suppose that all the inhabitants seen it through the corrupt medium of poof Nineveh were savingly converted; but pery, having triumphed over and melted they humbled themselves with one consent, down the golden and silver images of their they cried for mercy, and they were spared. tutelary saints, promise themselves an easy We do not expect a national conversion, and victory over us. They know not that the I fear we have little prospect of a national Holy One of Israel is in the midst of us, and humiliation. But,
that there are a people here who are under 2. I am the Holy One in the midst of thee, his special protection. They know not that -Next to the consideration of his infinite like Sennacherib, their success is wholly mercy, this is our strongest ground for con- owing to their being instruments of his will, solation. The Holy One is still in the midst like saws or hammers in the hand of the of us? Degenerate and wicked as we are, workman; and that when they have accomGod has a people, a remnant amongst us. I plished his purpose, he can and he will say have spoken of these already. Their num- to them, Hitherto thou shalt come, and no ber is small if compared with the bulk of the farther. They have succeeded beyond their nation; but if they could be collected to- own expectations, far and wide upon the gether, they would form a considerable body continent: but all their attempts and de(I trust it is an increasing body,) who, though signs against our favoured land have hitherto distinguished by different names, and dis- been rendered abortive. We hope they will persed far and wide into different parts of prove so. the land, are united, by a faith of divine At all events, it shall be well with the operation, to one head, and in one common righteous, Isa. iii. 12. Rejoice, believers, in interest and design. They belong to that the Lord. You may be assured upon the kingdom which is not of this world, and warrant of his faithful promise, either that which (unlike all other kingdoms) cannot be he will preserve you from the evils which shaken. But their principles 'ead them to our sins give us such cause to apprehend; seek the welfare of the cor punities in or if he should appoint you to share in a
common calamity, he will make your strength with confidence apply for help in time of equal to your day, and will prepare your trouble. Death, at least, is inevitable ; and shoes of iron and brass, (Deut. xxxiii
. 26,) will you dare to die (yet die you must) if when any part of the road, on which you your hearts be unhumbled, and your sins travel through this wilderness towards your unpardoned? We preach to you gracious, heavenly home, shall prove very difficult and powerful Saviour, who invites you to seek rugged. Pray for grace to sit loose to the him, and has said, “Him that cometh to me, world, and you will have nothing to fear. I will in nowise cast out.” Seek him then The first christians rejoiced in the spoiling to-day-whilst it is called to-day. Now is of their goods; and so shall you, if the Lord the accepted time, now is the day of salvation. calls you to the trial. You have the same Tomorrow is not your own. Saviour to support you; and you likewise have But let believers rejoice and be glad. The treasures, (Heb. x. 34,) far better and more Lord reigns-your Lord reigns, Ps. xcvii. 1. enduring, out of the reach of violence. The He who loved you, and gave himself for you, Lord teaches us to consider even the loss of possesses and exercises all power in heaven life as comparatively of small importance, and earth, Matt. xxviii. 18. Though clouds when he says, Fear not them that can kill and darkness are about his throne, and his the body, but can do no more. They cannot paths are untraceable by us, we are sure do that without his permission. The very that he is carrying on his great designs, for hairs of your head are numbered, Luke xii
. the glory of his great name, and for the ex4; Matt. x. 39. And most of those who tension and establishment of his church in a have suffered death for him who died upon way worthy of himself-worthy of infinite the cross for them, have thought the honour wisdom and goodness. Make his name your of dying in his cause more to be valued than strong tower (Prov. xviii. 10,) of refuge. a thousand lives.
Hold out faith and patience. Yet a little My feelings are painful for you who live while, and we hope to meet, “where the without God in the world. I do not wonder wicked cease from troubling, and where the if your hearts tremble like the leaves of a weary are at rest,” Job iii. 17. And to hear tree when agitated by a mighty wind, Is. those welcome words, “Come, ye blessed of vii. 2. You know not what may come upon my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you, but you forebode the worst: and should you from the foundation of the world,” Matt. it
prove so, you have no resource, no hiding xxv. 34. place, no Almighty Friend to whom you may
FOUR LETTERS TO A MINISTER OF AN INDEPENDENT CHURCH,
BY A MINISTER OF THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND.
-Quid me alta silentia cogis
For in Jesus Christ, neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by love.
Rom. xiv. 19. G.L. v.6.
be a little misunderstood by some persons
whose good opinion I prize, rather than trouMY DEAR FRIEND AND BROTHER,—You ble the public with what more iminediately have more than once gently called upon me relates to myself. But something upon this for the reasons which induced me to exercise subject seems expedient in the present day; my ministry as a Clergyman of the Church not so much by way of apology for one or a of England, rather than among the Dissent- few individuals, as with a view of obviating ers, where my first religious connections prejudices, and preventing, or at least abatwere formed, and with many of whom I stilling, the unhappy effects of a party-spirit. maintain a cordial friendship. Hitherto I There was a time when the Non-conformhave usually waved the subject, and content ists groaned under the iron rod of oppression, ed myself with assuring you in general terms, and were exposed to fines, penalties, and imthat as the preference I gave to the establish- prisonment, as well as to cruel mockings, ment was the result of serious, and, I trust, and the lawless rage of a rabble, for worimpartial inquiry; so I had never seen rea- shipping God according to the light of their son to repent of it, no not for a minute, since consciences. Yet I apprehend their non-conthe day of my ordination. I now purpose to formity was rather the occasional and ostensie give you a more particular answer. And as ble, than the real cause of the hard treatment you are not the only person who has express they met with. The greater part of the Noned a friendly surprise at my choice, I shall conformist ministers of that day were the communicate my reasons from the press, that light and glory of the land. They were all my friends who have been at a loss to ac- men full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, penecount for my conduct, may have such satis-trated with a deep sense of the Redeemer's faction as it is in my power to give them. I glory and love, and of the worth of souls. shall, however, keep you particularly in my Their ministrations were accompanied with eye while I write, that a just sense of the can- unction and power, and they were instrudour and affection with which you have mental in turning many sinners from the always treated me, may regulate my pen, evil of their ways. It is no wonder that the and preserve me (if possible) from that harsh world hated such men; that snares were and anary spirit, into which writers upon spread for their feet, their liberty abridged, controversial points are too often betrayed. and that many said, Away with them, they
I confess, that as in this business my con- are not worthy to live! It is probable that science is clear in the sight of him to whom if these servants of the Most High could alone I am properly accountable; I could have enjoyed that freedom for their persons wish still to continue silent, and submit to and assemblies, which, in answer to their
prayers, is now possessed by those who bear kingdom. At present, when I consider the the same name, they would have been well various names, views, and sentiments, which satisfied that the Established Church should obtain among those who form this aggregate, have remained in peaceful possession of its styled the Dissenting Interest, I am at a loss own order and ritual. And several among what sense to put upon the term. May I them, not the lowest in repute for wisdom not say without offence, that it is, at least, a and piety, continued long to worship occa- very heterogeneous body? May I not hope, sionally in the Parish Churches, after they without presumption, that though you and I had been ejected from them as preachers. are not agreed on the subject of Church GoBut things were studiously carried against vernment, yet I am related to you by a much them with a high hand. The exaction of nearer and stronger tic than that which binds re-ordination, and the little time allowed for you to the Dissenting Interest? I confess subscribing the book of Common Prayer, ihat so far as it is the interest of those who which many of the ministers had not been depreciate the person and blood of the Saable to procure when the law called for their viour, and deny the agency and influence of assent to it, were two circumstances which the Holy Spirit, or the total depravity of fall. greatly contributed to swell the Bartholo- en man, so far I cannot (in a religious view) mew-list. It was well known to some of the be a friend to it. On the other hand, so far leaders in that unhappy business, that there as it regards those who love, avow, and were among the Non-conformists wise and preach the doctrines, experience, and pracmoderate men, who were not disposed to 'tice, which both you and I include in our quit their parochial cures, unless they were idea of the Gospel, so far I can truly say, constrained by the harshest and most violent though not a Dissenter myself, the Dissentmeasures; such therefore were the measures ing Interest is dear to my heart, and has a they adopted.
share in my daily prayers. And in this I am It is our mercy to live in more quiet times. persuaded I speak the sentiments of many We are on all sides freed from restraints in both ministers and laymen in the Establishreligious concerns; and every person is at ment. We are sorry, therefore (at least I am liberty to protess, preach, worship, or print as sorry,) though not angry, when books are he thinks proper. But it is still to be lamented written, or declarations* (perhaps in the that they who are united upon the same most solemn occasions of worship) unseasonfoundations, and agree in the same important ably made, which seem not so much designed leading principles, should lay so much stress to confirm Dissenters in their own principles, upon their circumstantial differences in sen as to place those who cannot accede to them timent, as to prevent the exercise of mutual in an unfavourable light; the ministers espelove and forbearance, and that, instead of la- cially, who, according to some representabouring in concert within their respective tions, must be supposed to be almost destitute departments to promote the common cause, of common sense, or else of common honesty. they should be at leisure to vex and worry When I write a leiter, especially to a each other with needless disputation and un- friend, I think myself released from that atcharitable censure. I hope, amongst us, the tention to method which I might observe it High-Church principles which formerly pro- I were composing a treatise. As my heart duced unjustifiable and oppressive effects, dictates, my pen moves. I therefore hope are now generally exploded. But may we you will bear with me if I do not come dinot lay a claim in our turn, to that modera- rectly to what I proposed; which was, to tion, candour, and tenderness, from our dis- give you some account of the motives of my senting brethren, which we cheerfully exer- own conduct. It may not be improper to cise towards them? But as we (I think) are premise a few preliminary observations. I no longer the aggressors, so they seem no shall not weary you by attempting to justify longer content to stand upon the defensive. every thing that obtains in our way, nor call We wish to join them with heart and hand your attention to all the minutiæ which in supporting and spreading the great truths might furnish subject for debate to those of the gospel; and such as you, my friend, ap- who know not how to employ their time prove our aims, and rejoice with us, if God is better. It would be mere trifling to dispute pleased to give us success. But there are for or against a surplice or a band, a gown or those among you, whose persons and general a cloak, or to inquire whether it be the size, conduct we respect, from whom we do not or the shape, which renders some of these find equal returns of good-will, because we habiliments more or less suitable for a miniscannot join with them in the support of a ter, than the others. But perhaps a few palladium which bears the name of the Dis- strictures upon establishments and liturgies senting Interest. I know not whether this may not be wholly impertinent to my design. phrase was in use a hundred years ago; but That national religious establishments unwere I to meet with it as referring to that der the New Testament dispensation are period, I should understand by it little more Or, less than the interest of the Redeemer's * Some of these letters were written in the year. 1777..
neither of express divine appointment, nor mising constitution, for preserving the rights formed in all points upon a scriptural plan, I of conscience, and for promoting the welfare readily admit. Whether upon this account of souls. I believe, therefore, that the church they cannot be submitted to without violating of England, as by law established (for it the obedience we owe to the Lord Jesus as claims no higher title,) though it be not a head and lawgiver of his church, I shall con- perfect institution, and notwithstanding its ader hereafter. At present permit me only real or supposed defects, and the faults of o hope (for my own sake,) that such submis- individuals within its community, has been ion is not absolutely sinful; and in that view upon the whole, and will be, a blessing to the to offer a word in favour of their expedience. nation ; and that its preservation is an effect
plead not for this or that establishment, or of the wise and gracious providence of the he administration of one preferably to ano- great Head of the Church universal. her; but chiefly for that circumstance which From the expediency of parochial order, 1 I suppose is common to them all: I mean, the would farther deduce the expediency of a parcelling out a country, the government of rubric and liturgy. For I cannot conceive which is professedly Christian, and certain an established church, without including, in listricts, analogous to what we call parishes, my idea, some determinate rule or line reand fixing in each of those districts, a person specting doctrine and worship, by which it is with a ministerial character, who by his otice, discriminated from other churches which are :8 engaged to promote the good of souls not so established. As to our liturgy, I am within the limits of his own boundary. I far from thinking it incapable of amendment; think the number of parishes in England and though, when I consider the temper and spiWales is computed to be not much fewer rit of the present times, I dare not wish that than ten thousand. The number of dissent-! the improvement of it should be attempted, ing churches and congregations in England lest the intended remedy might prove worse and Wales (if those whom I have consulted than the disease. As I am not called to deas the most competent judges are not mis- fend it, I shall only say, what I believe will taken,) will not be found greatly to exceed be allowed by many candid persons on your one thousand. In how many, or in how few side, that the general strain of it is scriptural, of these the old Puritan Gospel (if I may so evangelical, and experimental. It recognizes call it) is preached or prized, I deem you a with precision the one great object of worbetter judge than myself. It is certain, that ship, in his personal distinctions, and glorious the number of Dissenting ministers who are attributes: the honours and offices of the Revery willing it should be publicly known that deemer, the power and agency of the Holy they differ widely from the sentiments of Spirit, the evil of sin, the depravity of man, their forefathers, is not small. However, we and all the distinguishing doctrines of the will take them all into the estimate. Now, gospel. As to the composition, I question if let us for a moment suppose the establishment any thing in the English language, (our verwith all its provisions removed and annihi- sion of the Bible excepted,) is worthy of belated. In this case, some of the Dissenting ing compared with it, for simplicity, perspiministers might indeed change their situa- cuity, energy, and comprehensive fulness of tions, and fix in places where they might expression. But I suppose the objection does hope for more extensive influence; but as not lie so much against our liturgy in partinone of them could be in two places at once, cular, as in general against the use of liturabout nine-tenths of the kingdom would be gies of any kind. And for aught I know, if deprived, at a stroke, of the very form of the compilers of our liturgy could have expublic religion, and reduced in a short time pected, that all the parishes in the kingdom, (for any relief the Dissenting interest could and from age to age, would be supplied with afford) to a state little better than heathen- ministers competently acquainted with the ism. That there is any regard paid to the mysteries of the gospel, and possessed of the Lord's day through the greater part of the spirit of grace and supplication, they might land, that the Holy Scriptures are publicly have left them under less restraint in conread to thousands who probably would other- ducting public worship. I believe many of wise know no more of the Bible than they do the Dissenters take it for granted, that a conof the Koran, are good effects of the national siderable part of our clergy are not only establishment, which I think can hardly be unable to pray in public to the edification of denied, even by those who are most dis- their hearers without a form, but are unpleased with it. For this reason, if I could fit for the ministerial office in every view. not conform to the establishment myself, I Should this be true, it is a truth which I think I should speak respectfully of it, and hope would excite lamentation rather than bless God for it. Some established form of ridicule or invective, in all who profess a rereligious profession, with a full and free gard to the glory of God, or love to the souls toleration for all who think they can serve of men. But upon this supposition I should God more acceptably upon a different plan, think an evangelical liturgy a great blessing; appears to me the most desirable and pro- as it must secure the people, (that is the bulk