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be entertained, no act of any hụman legislature can make it otherwise. : Separatists from the church, therefore, under the supposed countenance of Government, would do well to consider, that a civil act in this cafe (as we have above observed) respects them only as members of a civil society; but furnishes no proper standard of judgment for their condụct as Christians; in which character, they become amenable to the law of that Lord, by whom they will be judged, and from whose sentence there lies no appeal,
On the Right of PRIVATE JUDGMENT in
PON the right of private judgment in religious
matters much more perhaps has been said, than the subject will warrant. The Apostle, indeed, directs us to prove
all things,” but at the same time to “ hold fast that which is good.” From whence it may be concluded, that there is a difference between a blind and implicit obedience to authority in religious matters, and a total exemption from obligation on that head; between taking our religion entirely upon trust from others, or thinking it to be a part of Christian liberty, to make what religion we please for ourselves. The one leads back to the dark days of bigotry and superstition, the other renders the establishment of a church, as a society under regular government, altogether impracticable.
In fact, the right of private judgment in religious matters respects man in the relation in which he stands to his fellow-creatures; the exercise of which, so far as it concerns himself only, no other man has a right to control. But this consideration, though it tend to secure a privilege, claimed by every member of civilized society, must nevertheless, when applied to the subject immediately before us, be measured by a sacred standard, before it can become a safe principle of human conduct. The phrase, therefore, is open to an ambiguous meaning; and calculated, if not to offer incense to that idol of the natural man, human reason, at least to cherish an. idea, which has too often led to a dangerous conclufion. Man, in the affairs of this world, may assume a right to judge for himself in a case upon which he is not qualified to form a judgment; and fa long as his exercise of that right interferes not with the authority of the magistrate, or the welfare of the community, he may be indulged in his folly. But in religious matters no man can have a right to judge otherwise than God has judged for him. The ordinances of CHRIST, and the truths of his religion, are necessary, because he has made them fo; that necessity therefore must continue the same, whether
we observe them, or not. For the religion of Christ, whatever be man's opinion upon it, will be precisely what it is, “ the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever;" and it is at his peril, if he do not conform to it. · To say, therefore, that man has a right to worship God in the way he thinks proper; in other words, to make a religion for himself; is to place all religions upon the same level as to the Divine favour, and to render an appeal to revelation wholly unnecessary; by leading him to conclude, that he is at liberty to set up a standard of right and wrong for himself in this case, instead of accepting with humility that Divine standard which has in wisdom been set up for him. - To enter more at large into this subject, after what has been already faid, under the head of Liberty of Conscience, would be to trespass upon the reader.
It may be necessary, however, to take notice of one mode of settling the minds of ill-informed people upon this subject; which, from its plausibility, has gained much credit in the world. · There are authors, unhappily for this country, whose manner of writing, upon certain subjects,
seems calculated to confound every thing that looks like order and government in society; by setting up the majesty of the people (to make use of the absurd phraseology of republicanism) as the origin of power in the state; and the sacred right, or rather mistaken plea of Protestantism, as a fanction for divisions in the church. According to these writers, who either do pot understand, or purposely misrepresent, the principle of protestantism, the right of judgment in relia gious matters, which the church of England pleads in justification of her secession from the church of Rome, is to be pleaded, by every individual Christian, for his separation from the church of England; as if by protestantism were chiefly meant, a right of separation from the church; without regard to the cause of it. But upon examining the two cases, we thall find them to be by no means parallel; and consequently no conclusion is to be drawn from the one to the other.
The separation of the church of England from the church of Rome, was grounded, not upon the idea, that she had a right to form a church for herself upon any new plan of her own; but upon the idea, that it was no longer compatible with the spiritual welfare of her members to hold communion with a