« PoprzedniaDalej »
Christian church to watch over the lives and conversations of their pastor, and of each other, and to consider themselves as one body, of which Christ is the head. They jointly partake of the Lord's supper, thereby professing to be members not only of Christ, but of each other. When men destitute of the Spirit of Christ come in among them unawares, and when this is manifested by their ungodly conversation, provided they do not put away the unclean from among them, they may expect that the candlestick of the gospel will be soon removed, and that they will become a mere worldly society. When this however happens, such societies, although exceedingly corrupt, are not antichristian, in the same sense with national churches, as they are described in the epistle to the Thessalonians, and in the Revelation.
Permit me to ask you, Sir, interrupted Dr. Mildmay, whether it is not a fact that God has greatly blessed the preaching of the gospel of late years in the church of England?
I grant it, Sir, answered Mr. Neville; and you will not deny thạt God has also raised up some ministers in the church of Rome who have preached the gospel, and whose labours have been blessed. God may see fit not to leave himself without witnesses in the most corrupt communities; and while they are there, we rejoice that they bear - so much of a testimony for bin as they do : but the precepts of God, and not his providence, are the rule of duty. What passed between Jonah and the mariners appears to have been blessed to their conviction, if not to their conversion : yet Jonah was at that time where he ought not to have been. God has commanded, say, ing, Come out of her my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. The people of God who live in the neglect of this command, may do so for want of considering its import, and the spiritual nature of Christ's kingdom ; and God may suffer this partial blindness to happen to them for wise and gracious ends; it may be, among other things, for the
Calling of a greater number out of those very communities : yet while they continue to partake of their sins, it behooves them to tremble lest in some way they receive of their plagues.
I cannot deny, Sir, said Dr. Mildmay, that there is some appearance of truth in what you say. Yet I think that religious establishments are and have been useful. I do not, however, maintain them to be of divine appointment. For a church to be an ally of the state is certainly a defect, which necessarily ensues from the interference of government in religious matters. At the same time, I cannot but think that learned men, set apart from the common vocations of life, have been and are still serviceable in the defence, illustration, and propagation of the Christian religion. Now the maintenance of such men must be provided for, either by the community at large, in which case individuals must be compelled to contribute their different quotas, or by voluntary subscription. An answer to the question which of these two ways is the most eligible, will I think determine - whether national churches are a blessing or not.
I am aware, answered Mr. Neville, that a compulsory contribution is preferred by many to one that is voluntary, especially for its rendering the clergy independent of the people : but this independence is purchased by a much greater dependence on their superiors, which constitutes i no doubt the very reason of the partiality that statesmen have commonly felt towards a national church. This dependence on the great will be certain to lead numbers of them to pay court to vicious characters, and to associate with them in polite vices. Were Congregational ministers to act in this manner, they would lose their hearers. I do not say that they are not influenced by higher mor tives ; if they are true Christians they certainly will be so: but it is an argument in favour of any constitution of things, that instead of encouraging conforniity to the world, it co-operates with the exhortations of Scripture to a holy life. .. It has often struck me, said Dr. Mildmay, that poor dissenting ministers, whose dependence is often upon two or three opulent hearers, must be under greater temptations to unfaithfulness, than those whose incomes are rendered certain by the laws of the country.
And did it never strike you, answered Mr. Neville, that poor curates, whose dependence is often upon their rector, or whose hopes of preferment rest upon the favour of some irreligious patron, are under equal temptations ? The truth, however, is, that we must expect temptations in every situation ; and it should be our concern that they may never meet us out of the path of duty. If we keep that path, we may hope for strength equal to our day ; but if we leave it, though we should escape one temptation, we shall fall into many others. The church, as you well know, originally supported its ministers by voluntary contributions, and then it was that the Lord blessed it. The support of a gospel ministry is enjoined in the New Testament; and a compliance with Christ's injunctions is made a test of love to him. A constitution which precludes this test, must have an ill influence both on ministers and people; while that which gives scope to it, has a tendency to unite them. I have heard dissenting ministers speak of the liberal donations of their people with tears of pleasure ; not merely, as they said, on account of the temporal comfort it afforded to them and their families, but because fruit thereby abounded to the account of their brethren. And you, Sir, are not ignorant that persons un. friendly to the gospel, as all men naturally are, confound tithes and other church rates compulsorily levied upon them with Christianity, and are thereby hindered from paying a proper attention to it.
Whether the doctor was at a loss for a satisfactory reply, or whatever was his reason, he concluded with observing, that numberless imperfections are attendant upon every thing in the present state, and that it becomes each of us to act as well as we can in the sphere in which Providence has placed us.
Mr. William Neville has seen what I have written, and
has copied it, that he may add it to his sister's collection of our letters. He desires his dutiful respects to his dear aunt. Accept the same from, Dear Madam, your dutiful niece,
From Miss Eusebia Nevillc to Mrs. Worthington.
DEAR MADAM, I HAVE left France, and do not expect to see England any more. I have been cruelly treated, but I am thankful it is no worse with me. Since my escape from St. Omer's I have been robbed of my clothes and money, and, which I exceedingly lament, of our correspondence, which I had fairly transcribed. I long to hear how my brother does. I hope my much loved but misguided parent treats him with more tenderness than he has done me. I pray that God may renew him in the spirit of his mind, and my sister also, and Signior Albino. May the unkind treatment I have received from them never be placed to their account. I think I have a prospect of supporting myself by my industry. God has been very kind to me. When I can inform Mrs. Worthington how to direct a letter to me I intend to write to her again. My love to Miss Barnwell, to my dear brother, &c. I have had but a minute or two to write in, and I am informed that unless I finish my letter this mo-ment I cannot send it. Most affectionately yours,
From Mrs. Worthington to Mr. Charles Clifford.
DEAR SIR, I RECEIVED the enclosed letter this morning by the penny-post. It is impossible to describe the surprise and perturbation into which it threw me. I had scarcely power to open it. Who could have expected that my dear Eusebia was in the land of the living! What joyful news will it be to her father! I was afraid to send it to him, and I therefore send it in this cover to you. You, Sir, can open it to him by degrees, as you perceive he is able to bear it. What poor weak creatures we are! Good news or bad alike distress us. Well, my dear Sir, it is our God who preserves us when we go down to the sea in ships, and do business in great waters.
But I cannot learn from her let. ter whr her she was robbed by sea or land. How strange that she has not mentioned where she was when she wrote ! She does not expect, she says, to see England again. I hope she has not been taken by an Algerine corsair. I think that cannot be the case ; for she says that God has been very
kind to her, and that she has a prospect of supporting herself by her industry. She had but a minute or two to write in. It is surprising that the person who received the letter was so unkind as not to stay four or five minutes. It is evident that she would have said more if she had had time. It is a mystery which time only can unravel. She intends to write again, and to inform us how to direct to her.
You, Sir, I understand, are to dine with Mr. Neville to-morrow. I have been thinking that you will not receive this letter before dinner. I wish you could have it soon enough to take it with you. I have thought what to do. Mr. Neville receives his letters about six o'clock in the afternoon. I will get my servant to direct it to you at Thornton Abbey, as I doubt not you will be there.
You will please to tell my friends how much I rejoice with them. Assure them that I will not delay a moment to communicate any further intelligence. We must wait patiently till it arrive. I wish you every happiness, and am,
Dear Sir, your sincere friend,
P.S. It will be some hours before the post goes out. I