Obrazy na stronie

dangerous and unjustifiable innovations. This liberty, however, ought to be as extensively enjoyed, as it is universally claimed: for that same measure of it, which is, in any country or under any circumstances, exercised by one body of christians, is equally the right of all.

But, more particularly in all voluntary christian societies which are not previously cramped by any contradictory engagements with the state, the enjoyment of this gospelliberty by all its members, must be a constituent principle in its formation, and essential to its existence. No apology will excuse the deprivation of it for a moment; nor any pretence of preserving peace justify the interruption of it. The principles of religious liberty are iníeparable from the principles of christianity, of general protestantisin, and of a protestant dissent from state-protestantism. A christian church ought not to be exclusively connected with any civil

government as such, but is entitled equally to the protection of all.

This short and general statement of the extent of the principles of your christian liberty,

, and of my own, is a sufficient justification of our assembling together in this place to worthip the one only living and true God. And so long as we entertain these principles of christian liberty, and a conviction that religious adoration and thanksgiving Thould be paid to Jehovah alone, and to none other, I trust we shall be permitted to meet together for the purpose of religious worship, and religious instruction. Were it posible to imagine the time to come when our minds shall relinquish these leading characters of christianity, and of protestantism, then, but not till then, it will be our duty to follow our new convictions, without any imputation of apoftatizing from the religion of the gospel, or the principles of protestantism. In the mean time, we are bound to follow the truth according to our present serious persuasion concerning it, and to judge for ourselves.

The present subject was suggested by the new situation in which, for the first time, I this day stand before you.

When I resigned my ministry, and all my prospects in the church of England, I relinquished, from a principle of duty, a situation most desirable to me in respect of personal accommodations, personal friendships, and family and local attachments ; but, from the tenor of


the doctrines of the established church, and more especially from the trinitarian forms of its worship, it was utterly inconsistent with integrity, (under my convictions of the proper unity of God, and that he only is to be worshipped,) to remain a minister, or a member, of a church to whose articles, creed, and liturgy I could not give my assent. This resignation, made under the pressure of difficulties and discouragements almost peculiar to myself, has, however, been the source of the greatest comfort and happiness to my mind, from that hour to the prelent, and I am persuaded will continue to be fo to the end of my life.

Upwards of ten years have now elapsed since I became affiftant-minister to this congregation. The support which your countenance and approbation afforded me in the hour of trial, and the affectionate attentions I have experienced since the commencement of our connection, are entitled to this grateful acknowledgment : and I trust, that the same good understanding which has hitherto improved with our acquaintance, will not be impeached by our still better knowledge of, and nearer relationship to, each other,


[merged small][ocr errors]

It is, therefore, no small satisfaction to me, that the unexpected resignation of my late worthy colleague, who is very deservedly esteemed by you, has been followed by my being appointed his successor : and I the more readily accepted of this voluntary and unanimous appointment of the trustees of this chapel, because I had an assured persuasion that it would meet with your general concurrence. I should now be unjust to you and to myself were I not to add, that the truth of this persuafion has been confirmed in very satisfactory and unqualified terms. I enter upon my charge, not indeed without much anxiety and solicitude, but with all the satisfaction that an honest mind

inay be allowed to derive from so honourable a connection: I enter upon it with an ardent desire to promote the better knowledge of the truth and purity of our common christianity, and the practice of all virtue ; and, I hope, with that just diffidence also of my own abilities to discharge these important duties with credit to you and to myself, as will' awaken the most unremitting attention, and vigorous exertions on my part.

We are generally agreed in believing the unity of the one supreine cause of all things,


and that he is the only object of religious praise and adoration; that to fear God and keep his commandments, and to love our neighbours as ourselves, comprise the whole duty of man; and that there will be a resurrection of the dead. Let us - add to our faith, virtue, knowledge,

temperance, patience, godliness, brotherlykindness, and charity : for, if these things be in us, and abound, they will make us tilat we shall neither be barren, nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our lord Jesus Christ."*

Let us jointly endeavour to promote, by every word and deed, christian charity and brotherly love among every description of men. May we, by cultivating these virtues among ourselves, become distinguished examples to others. The harmony of our society arises from our reciprocal good opinion and confidence ; and our recent connection is established, I trust, by our previous mutual knowledge of each other. May this great source of our common comfort and edification remain, under the blessing of God, in uninterrupted peace and icve. May it equally resist the boldest attacks of our open enemies, and every secret and


2 Pet. i. 5-3.

« PoprzedniaDalej »