Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

reformation is to be effected. The disease of which we complain, so far at least as the clergy are concerned, is partial; such as, we trust, the vigour of a found constituțion will prevent from becoming defperate. But an ill-judged method of cure ofttimes brings death to a patient, not otherwise in danger.

If, upon the ground of the present supposed in. fufficiency of the clergy, (a fact which their enemies know themselves to be incapable of proving) communion with our church be no longer considered a matter of Christian obligation; and it be judged adviseable, for the more effectual advancement of the Christian cause, to follow what may be deemed the found of the Gospel, wherever heard, or by whom, foever delivered; we do not hesitate to say, that in fuch cafe the remedy will, in the end, prove worse than the difease; and that those well-meaning perfons, who are perhaps most fanguine in its application, will eventually find that they have been only instru. ments in the hands of designing men for the accom, plishment of purposes, which, could they foresee them, they might be among the last to promote, “ If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?2. Pfalm xi. 3.

[ocr errors][merged small]

THE confideration of writing to my Brethren the

Clergy on a subject, with which every minister of the church is, from his profession, supposed to be acquainted, has more than once stopped my pen. But circumstances and situation may qualify one minister to speak more fully upon some particular subject than another, without his laying claim to any general superiority in professional knowledge.

It having been the will of Divine Providence to fix my residence in a place, which has given me continued opportunities of lamenting the effects produced by a separation from the communion of the Christian church; it is to be expected, that my thoughts should occasionally have been employed upon this subject. Such of my brethren as are placed in similar fituations, may perhaps be obliged to me for bringing into one collected point of view the result of my reflec: ţions upon it.

And though the office assumed by me upon this occasion, is not more honourable than that of the Gibeonites, who were but hewers of wood and drawers of water for the service of the tabernacle; yet if, by colle&ting good and sound materials, I shall prove the instrument of conveying useful information upon a subject, now as little understood as it is generally neglected, I shall hope that the merit of the design will be suffered to atone for the imperfection of its execution.

To those who are advanced, and consequently it may be supposed) well informed in their profession, these papers are not addressed; for to them nothing new can be said upon this subject; nothing that perhaps might not be better faid by themselves. But to those of my brethren who are not in the same state of advancement; who are unpossessed of the leisure or advantages necessary to the proper study of their profession, it may be a convenience to have information, which has been derived from various quarters, placed before them in some regular and connected form. Without wishing to forestall their judgment, I feel myself justified in saying upon this occasion, that if I have been deceived in the subject before me, I have been deceived with what I considered to be

the best means of information in my hand, and the sincerest intention in my mind of promoting the Christian cause. Should the ground upon which I have trodden upon this occasion be deemed unfound, it appears to me, that there must be an end to all authority on subjects of this nature.

From the general tendency of the human mind to extremes, the blind credulity of one age often leads to unbounded scepticism in another. But the implicit faith of the monk, who, as the story goes, when SATAN would have drawn him into heresy, by asking him what he believed upon a certain point, answered, of Id credo quod credit ecclefia;and to the subjoined question, “ Quod credit ecclesia,” cautiously replied, Id quod ego credo ;! is not more contemptible than the profane licentiousness of a Paine, who would make his senses the only standard of his belief.

We do not disclaim private judgment; much less do we admit the infallibility of the church. But if we have not discretion in these days to draw the line between an implicit obedience to authority, and an utter contempt of it, the experience of past ages seems to have been thrown away, and reason to have been given us for very little purpose.

.- Call no man your father upon earth; for one is your Father who is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters; for one is your Master, even CHRIST;"* is a text that has not unfrequently been strained beyond its original meaning. It was addressed by our SAVIOUR to his hearers, with the view of guarding them against the extravagant superiority assumed by the rabbies over the disciples, and the blind submission with which their doctrines were received. So far as it applies to a similar subject, either to an assumed fuperiority in the teacher, who would“ exercise lordship over God's heritage,” i Peter v. 3; or to the blind submission of the disciple, who makes his faith in man, rather than in the Divine word, the standard of his religious persuasion, so far it contains most wholesome instruction to religionists of every age. .

But when the idea, founded on this text, is carried to an extent to justify disobedience to the authority of the church, upon what ground foever it may be maintained, such a wild principle of conduct being totally inconsistent with the object of a regular fociety, may be determined not to be within the meaning of a precept, delivered by the founder of that fociety to those who were to become the members of it.

* MATT, xxiii. 28,

« PoprzedniaDalej »