« PoprzedniaDalej »
told us, that his kingdom is not of this world:* that whoever will come after him, must deny himself, and take up his cross:† that not many mighty and noble are called ?1 Are not the witnesses to TRUTH to prophecy, cloathed in sackcloth, ş till the promised times of refreshing come from the appearance of Christ? Is not the pure apostolic church, the true spouse of Christ, represented in the Revelations, as a woman driven into the wilderness,ll i. e. in an afflicted and forsaken state, whilst the corrupt and antichristian church (the apostate church of Rome) is caressed and enriched by the kings of the earth, glittering in all the pomp and splendor of this world, wantoning in luxury, power, and wealth? Does TRUTH need the charms of earthly grandeur to recommend it, or the force of civil power to spread or to establish it? Was it thus the blessed gospel was at first propagated, made its way, and prevailed over all the earth: No: worldly grandeur and power, have generally, you well know Sir, if not always, been extremely injurious to it; have enervated, obstructed, and, under pretence of improving, have greatly corrupted and depraved it, and have robbed it of its native beauty, glory, and strength.
High dignities and preferments, mitres and thrones, lordships and large revenues, have a mighty force, you will own, Sir, to bias and pervert the mind in its searches after TRUTH. These are not the means which the God of TRUTH uses to draw the mind to it; but you know they are the means, which the
great enemy is wont to use, to seduce the mind from it. It is, therefore, I apprehend, Sir, no presumption at all in favour of any church, that it shines with all the glory of worldly honours and wealth. This the prophetic scriptures very clearly describes as the state of
John viii. 36. § Rev, xi, s.
+ Mat. xvi. 24.
1 Cor. i. 26.
the false church, whilst the true church of Jesus Christ, his genuine and faithful followers, are to be a little despised flock; a sect, every where spoken against ; in the world it is to have tribulation, till the expected happy period when it shall be the Father's good pleasure to give them the kingdom.
Let not then, the low estate of our interest, as to the present world, at all frighten or discourage you, Sir, from casting in your lot among us. The world passeth away, and all its glories and pomp will soon vanish like a dream before the descending Son of God, whom we steadfastly expect. And then to be found faithful, and to have adhered with unshaken loyalty to the only lawgiver, lord, and king of the church ;-to have denied ourselves any worldly bonours, preferments, or profits, out of conscience towards him;
to have been separated from men's company, cast out and reproached, because we would not make a sacrifice of our virtue and integrity, to the applause of the many, or the favour of the great,-will yield divine comfort, and procure immortal honours in the everlasting kingdom of God. Pardon me, Sir, if I am here acting a lite tle out of character, and seeming to invade your office; for, I am extremely ambitious of engaging so ingenious a gentleman among us.
These, Sir, are the prospects with which dissenters support themselves under all the disadvantages with regard to the present world. They remember whose disciples and followers they are; who it is that hath said, in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrine the commandments of men; who hath strictly charged them to call no man upon earth master, because one only is their master, even Christ; and, finally, who it is that hath promised, that, if any man shall foro sake house or brethren, or sisters, or children, or lands, for his name's sake, he shall recelve a humn dred fold, and shall inherit everlasting life.
I now conclude, Sir, with besecching you very carefully to remember, that the controversy between us depends absolutely and entirely upon the decision of this single point: Is there any other lawgiver or king in the church of God, to whose authority and command, as to things of religion, christians are bound to submit, BESIDES Jesus Christ? Or, is there not? If there be no other lawgiver besides Jesus Christ, no other king, no other authority, to whose decrees in point of doctrine, and to whose injuctions in point of worship, christians are obliged, and ought to submit, then the dissenters, in every impartial judgment, will be, must be justified; then they act right ; then they ought to be commended, and will surely be rewarded, for adhering loyally and firmly to the ONE only king and Lord of the church ; and for faithfully opposing the claims of any other power; and for refusing obedience to the injunctions of any other lawgiver; and the decisions of any other judge, who hath made other articles of faith, other terms of communion, other rites of worship, BESIDES and ABOVE those which Christ himself has made.
For, to illustrate the case-If any foreign Prince should pretend to make laws, and prescribe rules of action to the people of these realms, and should exact obedience to his injunctions, from the subjects of the king of Great Britain, I ask, would not your allegiance to him, your only sovereign, require and oblige you to make your protest against any such laws, and to refuse your obedience to them. But is not the church a province in which Christ alone is king, as much as these realms are the dominions only of the king of England ? If any human potentate, then shall rise up in the church, and shall claim authority and dominion over the consciences of Christ's subjects,-authority, as to things faith, to decree what he hath not decreed, and
dominion, as to things of worship, to appoint rites and institutions which he hath not appointa ed, I ask you, Sir, does not your allegiance to Christ, your only sovereign, require and oblige you to enter your protest against such usurped authority, and to refuse your obedience to it?
This,-(I repeat it, Sir, because I earnestly intreat your peculiar attention to it)—this is the essential and important point upon which the controversy between us entirely turns. If you can prove that there is another lawgiver, another judge, another king, in the church, besides Jesus Christ, to whose authority we are to subinit in things of religion, and that the king and parliament of these realms are this lawgiver and this judge, you will then at once gain your point; and, by that single blow, you will entirely overthrow the dissenting interest and churches. We will inmediately become your converts, and flock into the established church.
But, if you cannot prove this point, you must yield the cause to us : you must, in effect, own us justified before the world; and we will still indulge the rational and reviving hope of being acknowledged by our great lawgiver, at his return into the world, as his loyal and obedient subjects; of being advanced to peculiar honours and dignities in his kingdom, as we have here suffered on account of our duty and allegiance to him ; and of receiving from our judge, before angels and men, that sentence of applause, well done good and faithful servants, enter ye into the joy of your Lord !
I have only to add, that this principle,—that Christ is the only lawgiver and king in his church, and that no man, no body of men upon earth, has any authority to make laws, or to prescribe things in religion, which shall oblige the consciences of his subjects-is the grand, the only principle upon which the unity, the purity, and the peace of the christian church can possibly subsist. Take away this, and you let in endless discords and corruptions into it: you split it into. parties : you make christianity one thing in one country, and a quite different thing in another. In England, you make it wear an episcopal form: in Scotland, a presbyterian: in France, a popish: in Denmark, a Lutheran: in Prussia, a Calvinistic: in Russia, a Grecian, &c. But ought these things to be so? Is Christ divided? Is this the unity of his one beautiful, well-compacted body? Can these be all genuine apostolic christian churches ? Rather, are any of them so? When the powers of this world take upon them authoritatively to interpret and prescribe, in things of religion, which are Christ's kingdom and province, they act beyond their sphere: they invade the throne of another prince: the rights of christians are violated, the unity of the church is broken, and a gate is opened for innumerable superstitions and inventions to enter, and mingle with the pure doctrines of Christ; and hence necessarily flow schisms, emulations, contentions, and every evil work.
I beseech you then, by the mercies of God, and for the honour of christianity, and by the allegiance you owe your only lawgiver, Jesus Christ, to weigh these things in an impartial and unbiassed mind. May his Spirit of truth judge between us upon the point, and teach us his will. To his influence I commend you, Sir,
With great sincerity,
Your very humble servant,