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For my Brethren and Companions' Sake, I will wish thee Prosperity. Yea, because of the House of the Lord our God, I will seek to do thee good.
THE three great subjects, with which a Christian Minister is
concerned, are the Word of God, the Church of God, and the Christian Life. Circumstances and occasions will sometimes direct his thoughts to one of these, and sometimes to another: but so long as any of the three are before him, he is within the circle of his duty.
I was led to the subject of the following Essay, by an accident. I am a Curate in a country parish; who make it my business, and have found it my pleasure, to teach the children of my people, privately in my own house, and publicly in the Church; and I am, for the present, the only Sunday Schoolmaster of the place. In the course of my instructions, I had occasion to observe, that the Catechism of the Church of England, though a most excellent summary of the Christian Doctrine, is deficient in one point, viz. the Constitution of the Church of Christ; the knowledge of which, in a certain degree, is necessary to the preservation of that charity which is the end of the commandment; and, for the want of which, so many are drawn away from the Church, who would certainly have remained with it, if they had known what it is. Yet is our Catechism not so deficient, but that it includes the grand distinction betwixt the World and the Church; which distinction being explained, I found we were possessed of a leading idea, which gave so much light to my young pupils, that I determined to go through the subject.
As I have been persuaded, ever since I began to think on these things, of the great importance of uniformity in worship amongst Christians: so have I been led to observe, on the other hand, the many e il co sequences of non-conformity, with the dangerous
delusions of the mind, arising from the harangues of preachers pretending to extraordinary gifts, while they are but half learned in the Gospel, which they undertake to publish, and are greatly mistaken in the spirit of it. I see how some men are cheated with the appearance of being converted to godliness; when they are only converted from one sin to another; from loving the world, to hating their neighbours; from the coldness of church devotion, to an uncharitable heat against the Church itself; from the moral philosophy of some of our pulpits, to the Antinomian faith, which gives men a license to sin; from the drunkenness of the body, to the intoxication of the mind, with spiritual pride and false doctrine.
I am well assured, that if this subject of the Church, now so much neglected, and almost forgotten by those who are most concerned to understand it, should come to be better considered; there would be more true piety, and more peace, more of those virtues which will be required in Heaven, and which must therefore be first learned upon earth.
Some amongst us err, because they know not the scriptures; and others, because they never considered the nature of the Church. Some think they can make their own religion, and so they despise the word of God, and fall into infidelity. Others think they can make their own Church, or even be a Church unto themselves; and so they fall into the delusions of enthusiasm, or the uncharitableness of schism. But, as there is nothing to enlighten the minds of men in the doctrines of salvation, but the word of God; so is there nothing that can unite their hearts and affections, but the Church of God. Ye are one bread, and one body, saith the Apostle; one body by partaking of one bread; and that can only be in the same communion.
In the weighing of these things, the prevailing spirit of the times, and the sanction which it may have given either to the pro❤ fligate sinner, or to the presumptuous saint, are of no account upon the scale. In the settling of principles, we are never to consider how the world hath practised, but how God hath taught. The practice of the multitude, how great soever that multitude may be, hath no influence upon truth: : yet it will stagger the minds of many, and carry them away, as with an overbearing torrent. Happy are they who have a better rule to direct them. They know that man applauds, highly applauds,