« PoprzedniaDalej »
lian Pe- parties in England, respecting the origin of some of the doc- Asia Minor.
d, 4799. trinal articles of faith professed by the Church of England,
ulgar Æra, may be said to have been decided by the most unbending of all
testimonies, that of dates. It has been affirmed by many, that
the articles in question were borrowed from the opinions which
were taught by the reformer of Geneva. A reference to the
dates when those documents, upon which the articles of this
Church were founded, were first published, will demonstrate that
the establishment was settled rather on Lutheran or Melanc-
thonian, than on Calvinian principles. This point has been
amply discussed by two of our modern divines, Mr. Todd, and
the Archbishop of Cashel.
At the time when Elizabeth in England bad peacefully re-
stored the Protestantism of our early reformers, Philip was
busily engaged in extirpating the adberents of the same opi.
nions by means of the sanguinary inquisition, and proscriptive
decrees, both in Spain and the Netherlands. So great was the
power, at this time, of the Church of Rome, throughout Eu-
rope, that it seemed'impossible but that Protestantism must be
extinguished under the universal persecution, if it had not
pleased the providence of God to grant his protection to its
sacred cause. Though we no longer witness the manifestations
of the Holy One from above, nor hear the thunders of Sinai, nor
wonder at miraculous ipterpositions; the courso of this world is
as uniformly, and as certainly ordered, now, as formerly, by
the invisible Providence of God. The designs of the Almighty
are still accomplishing. One plan it has always pleased him to
adopt for the protection of truth. When the blood of martyrs
is shed in vain, and the Church is threatened with its utmost
danger, its deliverance is effected by the elevation of some one
nation to defend and rescue the ark. If the King of Spain had
succeeded in his attempted conquest of England, the banner
which the pope had blessed, would have now waved victorious
over England and the Continent. The Protestant witnesses who
had escaped persecution, would have been reduced to the condi-
tion of the Waldenses: and so probable was the success of the
head of the cause of Rome, that it seems most rational and wise
to impute the victory of Elizabeth, to the immediate interposition
of tbe Almighty. Hitherto the Protestants had been without an
osteosible head. It was only in the moment of the greatest danger
to their cause, when the united strength of Europe was ready
to overwhelm them; that the Sovereigo of England was pre-
pared to avert the storm which must have destroyed the public
profession of the reformed religion. The errors of Rome ap-
peared, for the first time in its history, to be embodied in the
form of a general armament against trutb; and then, for the
first time, the Protestant sword was wielded by the hands of
England, never to be again returned to its scabbard, till the
danger from the same enemy, shall utterly and finally cease.
In the reign of James, an attempt was made to unite the Ro. mapists of England by the bond of a new oath of allegiance. The union was forbidden by the Pope.
The ancient jealousy bad pot ceased. The opinions of the people, and the wisdom of the legislature, are alike divided, respecting the extent of the privileges which may be allowed to the adherents of tbe corruptions of Christianity. This is not the fittest opportunity of discussing the question whether the genius of Romanism is altered, or if the liberality of the Protestants is degenerating into weakness.
When the danger which had threatened the establishment effected by Elizabeth had nearly ceased ; another evil arose, from the opposition of the partizans of that Church Polity, and of those VOL. II.
Julian Pe- theological doctrines, which had been
submitted to the world by Asiä Nint riod, 4799. the Reformer of Geneva. The monarchy and hierarchy yielded Vulgar Æra, to the tempest. 96.
During this struggle, the people had become divided into the austere and the profane. On the restoration of the monarchy, the latter were for a time triumphant. Infidelity ravaged the higher classes, and a gloomy discontent brooded over the lower ; while the intermediate ranks of society preserved the temperate attachment of their fathers, to the institutions of the country. The utmost jealousy prevailed among them, agaiust both the extremes which had thus threatened the extinction of their Protestant Church. In the next reign, the decision of the people was irresistibly declared against the appearance of the influence of Rome; and the most solemn national act, which has ever yet adorned the annals of a great country, gave the tbrone to a Protestant; on condition of the perpetual exclusion of Romanism from the councils of the State,
It was necessary thus briefly to allude to these transactions, that we may understand the manner in which the true religion, which confirms the existence of civil liberty, and perfect toleration, has been maintained among so many fluctuations, England still continues, as we have abundant reason to offer up our prayers to God, that it may continue, till Christ shall come to judgment, to be the only powerful state whose government is exclusively Protestant. It is necessary to the existence of truth, and freedom, and buman happiness, that this sublime distinction should continue.
In the mean time, when national profligacy, in the reign of Charles the Second, had usurped the place of national austerity; the restored 'Clergy distinguished themselves by endeavouring to heal the wounds wbich religious enthusiasm bad inflicted, by introducing a better style of instruction ; and to heal the wounds which infidelity bad inflicted, by devoting their own attention, and by directing the people in general, to the study of the evidences of Christianity. They thus established religion on that firm and immovable basis, from which it can never be thrown down. While they kept tbis object steadily in view; they were no less unanimous in writing and preaching against the ancient enemy of their Church, and of the religion of Christ in general. The good consequence of their exertions was effectually demonstrated, by the overthrow of the remnant of papal influence; at a moment when they accomplished the downfal of the despotism which would have fastened the yoke on the neck of England. By the labours of the Clergy, civil and ecclesi. astical tyranny fell together; and nevor was the nation so pow. erful, or the burcb so pure, as at the period of that glorious Revolution, which sealed the charter of that political and religious liberty, for which we had contended through so many centuries.
After the period of the Revolution, till that dreadfal shaking of nations, which commenced with the convulsions in France, a general religious repose seemed to tranquillize all pations. The influence which the Church of England exercised over the people was rudely shaken by the efforts of two of her ministers, who afterwards separated from her communion; and who in different ways have strengtbened the various religious parties, which stiil survived the restoration of the monarcby. Wesley, and Whitfield wore of opinion that the Clergy were inactivo, and they endeavoured to supply their defects. Tostead of attempting to interest the hierarchy and the state in the reformation of supposed evils, they appealed to the people against their teachers, whom they stigmatized as négligent; while they ap
Julian Pe-' proved of their religious opinions, and acquitted them of immoral
Asia Minor riod, 4799. conduct. The effects of the labours of ihese zealous teachers Vulgar Æra, still continue; and when the alienation of the public mind 96. from the institutions of the country, which they too much
induced, shall be removed; the consequences of their exertions
will be, increased morality, and unobjectionable good.
The results of the French Revolution are so extensive, that
I shall not enter at present into this subject.
Ten years have now elapsed since the great contest which
terminated this convulsion. We cannot so interpret the pro-
phecies of God, that we may certainly predict the future.
The present, however, is before us, and is wortby of our atten-
tion. A new spirit seems to be infused into a large number,
while elsewhere there appears to be either much religious indif-
ference, or a revival of the influence of the corruptions of the
Church of Rome. In Europe, we see its finest countries, France,
Spain, Portugal, and others, submitting to the ancient error;
and prevented from breaking their chains by the union of their
rulers; all of whom are desirous of perpetuating the dominion
of that enemy of civil liberty and true religion which tolerates
no opposite opinion, and has been hitherto refused admission
on this account, into the senate of England. The protes-
tantism of Geneva is deadoned ; its gold has become dim,
and the divinity of Christ has been deposed from the school of
Calvin. In Germany, the purity of faith has been sullied by the
speculative Deism of its more celebrated theologians. "Mi-
chaelis, Semler, Eichhorn, and many others, deserve the cen-
sure of Protestants. In Ameriea; while the episeopalians may be
called the aristocracy of the country, every gradation of reli-
gious and irreligious opinion flourishes among them. Truth
receives no sanction, and falsehood no rebuke. In southern
America there is reason to hope that the civilization of Europe
may import arts, commerce, peace, religion, liberty, as well as its
false creeds, and remaining principles of despotism. The su.
premacy of the Pope has been rejected : the tie which bound
them as captives to error is broken, and tho young eagle may be
able to soar to heaven.
Africa and the East are still lying prostrato before the altars of the dark idolatries of their Fathers. The voice of England has been heard in the recesses of their groves. It has resounded through theirtemples. Their gods are trembling in their shrines, and Dagon is falling before the ark of Jehovah. The Church and the State of England have at length adopted the only effectual plan of accomplishing good. Without repressing by useless per secution the desultory efforts of unauthorized, and sometimes of ill-judging zeal; they have clothed the truth of God with the robes of rightful authority, and invited the beatben and ignorant, whom they are able to influence, to receive the Scriptures, and become free, and happy, enlightened, and holy Cbristians.
It is difficult to speak of the actual religious condition of England, without appearing to design needless offence against some one party or class, among the people. This would be equally unnecessary and unwise; and I need not say it is contrary to my intention. I well know that I cannot even mention some few facts without offence, even though, I would speak as a Christian to all classes, not as a partizan to one. I would otherwise have observed, to what extent the three great divisions of religious opinion which prevailed in the reign of Elizabeth, still exist among us—and have attempted to form an estimate of the influence of each, both upon the people in general, upon the government, and upon the various parties in our senate. All this, however, would be misplaced, and I deser such inquiries till á
Julian Pe- future opportunity. The age is characterized by benevolent Asia Miner.
riod, 4799. intention, and active exertion. Insuperable difficulties appear
VulgarÆra, to prevent the accomplishment of the only plan, by which the
greatest, most permanent, and certain good would be effected;
namely, that all the designs of approveable usefulness, which are
now attempted by various popular societies and by pious indivi-
duals, should be conducted by a national Church in its corpo-
rate form. The spirit of Christian zeal should be made the
bond of union at bome; wbile it devises schemes of benevolence
abroad. I could suggest much on this subject, if I was not fully
aware, that the most useful and unobjectionable desigos, must be
considered visionary, when they appear to be impracticable.
With respect to the future, I consider history to be the only in-
terpreter of prophecy, and I dare not be guilty of the presumption
of asserting what God has not revealed. Some facts, however, ap-
pear to be so plaiply predicted, that we may confidently affirm
they will certainly take place. The eventual conversion of the
Jews-the overthrow of the Mohammedan power in the East-
the overthrow of Romanism, the apostacy of the West, and of
idolatry and infidelity over the whole world, may be anticipated
by every believer in Scripture. But through what variety of
untried ways it may please God, that the visible Church should
pass, is not related. The Millenium, or universal reign of virtue,
is the most rational opinion which man can form, who belieres
in a Providence, and is satisfied of the true Christian doctrine
of the original dignity, and present degradation of man, as a spi-
ritual though fallen Being. The blood of the atonement cannot
have been shed in vain. The revolted province of earth must
be recovered to the dominion of the King of kings, from the
Prince of Darkness. The time must arrive when the progress
of knowledge shall have banished ignorance; and the influence
of holiness and virtue be more prevalent, than that of wickedness
and vice. Then will the perfection of the human race be com-
pleted, and evil be overruled by good. Then tbe buman race shall
have attained to the highest state of good which this lower ex-
istence can afford them; and after the object of man's creation
shall bave thus beon answered, and the tree of life bloom again
in this Paradise, where it was first planted; the fulness of time
will have come, when tho enlarged and purified faculties of man,
shall be prepared for a higher state of existence ; and the bca-
ven and the earth shall pass away, but the word of these pro-
phecies shall last for ever, though clouds and darkness, and
thick darkness, may now veil His glory from the reasou and
curiosity of man. Thc happiness of man is the object of all the
dispensations of God; and the temporary existence of evil, can-
not counteract the designs of Omnipotence. Our Father which
art in heaven, may thy kingdom of glory come.