Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

cellence, and to how much greater extent, the attainments of mankind are carried, when men are united in society, than when they live separated from each other in a state of solitude. The operations of those higher degrees of the human abilities, and that better turn of the affections, which are to be found only in a small part of the species, thus acquire a more extensive sphere of action, and tend to improve 'not only the condition, but the mental faculties, of that much greater number, whose understandings are not of the strongest sort. For, though it is not always, yet it is generally true, that the weak are led by the wise. But this is not all. The hue man inind is incapable of attending to a multiplicity of subjects, and still more of understanding a great number with exactness. Knowledge requires repeated thought, and thought takes time, which is what we mean by consideration; and if exact knowledge is a work of time, address and dexterity of action require still more. For these can be attained only by habit, and habits cannot be attained but by frequently repeated action. Hence it happens, that the various wants of mankind are sooner, and better, and more cheaply supplied, when each matter requisite for such supply is produced, not by the separate labour of various individuals, but by the united operations of a number : because men acquire a knowledge and dexterity in attending to, and being conversant with, one object only, which they would in vain endeavour to acquire, were they employed about one hundred.

Thus plainly and thus strongly is Social Union adapled to promote the happiness of mankind. It was therefore as much intended by their Creator, that they should make use of this means to promote their happiness, as it was intended, that they should make use of their hands and legs, their eyes and ears, their bodily powers and mental faculties (which are no less adapted to promote the same end) for the like purpose.

But not only the efficacy of union in promoting the happiness of mankind by increasing and extending the benefits of those powers which God manifestly intended for this purpose; its efficacy in restraining and preventing that evil which God did not intend, but which flows from the corruption of our nature, is another, and perhaps no less powerful motive, for the devising and constituting of such an union. “ The carnal mind,” says the

Tol. VI. Churchm. Mag. April, 1301. GS apostle,

apostle,"is enmity against God;">the carnal mind; that is, the general disposition of mankind to unlimited and unrestrained sensual indulgence. The apostle might have added, that the carnal mind is enmity against man also, against human happiness, against all, who, however justly or reasonably, oppose or prevent this unbridled and ungovernable desire of sensual gratification. It is against the numerous and mischievous effects of the carnal mind that the great powers of civil government are aimed and employed.

“ The law is made,” to use the apostle's words, “ for the lawless and disobedient, for murderers," &c. It is therefore, equally the voice of that reason which God has given, and of that revelation which He has vouchsafed to his creatures, that“ the powers that be,” those powers, without which society cannot subsist ; and therefore that society itself, are equally " ordained of Him."

Power, we know, in a peculiar manner BELONGETH to God; in a manner in which it belongeth to no other Being. All power is derived from Him. The powers of the human body and mind are liis gists; and the exercise of that power which we justly exert over our fellow creatures, is of his appointment. It is called for by, and founded in, the peculiar nature of that constitution which he has given us. Man is formed for society. Solitude is an uneasy, and therefore an unnatural state to him. But no society can subsist without the exertion of power, that is, without the exercise of authority. The powers therefore that be, that is, the powers necessary to support ALL society of what sort soever it may be, are Thus ordained of God. But the persons to whom the exercise of power is delegated by a concurrence of individuals; the mode of this exercise; the times for which, and the extent to which, this exercise is to be carried ; and the persons over whom, are (where God himself does not SENSIBLY interfere) all subjects of human appointment, and must be founded in, and settled by, huMAN consent. When, however, this consent is

unquestionably given, either by actual agreement, or tacit compliance, it is not to be revoked at the caprice of every tanciful individual. These powers comprehend the powers of judging and acting for the benefit of the WHOLE, They are delegated to articular persons, because it is impossible that every individual should judge and act

upon pure

[ocr errors]

upon every occasion. He, therefore, who assumes to himself the determination of matters intrusted to public authority, assumes to himself a power which every man may claim with equal reason; and which, if every man should exercise, all society, wbether civil or religious, must soon be at an end.

In all ordinary cases, therefore, it is the duty of every man, whether considered as a citizen or a church-man, to submit quietly to the powers that be, and not to indulge himself in a fruitless, perhaps mischievous inquiry, how they might have been more wisely constituted. It was never yet agreed, what is the most convenient form of civil government; yet, in general, all have without scruple submitted to every form, while it has in almost any degree answered the principal purposes of its insti ution. But the duty and the interest of mankind point out social union as equally fitted for, and applicable to, religious no less than civil purposes. For those institutions, without the establishment of which men cannot attain the happiness God has made them capable of, and which He therefore designed for them, like those truths, which they cannot reject, without doing violence to the faculties He bas given them, are equally intended and ordained for their use and information.

Society, then, is an union of men for the purpose of obtaining such advantages, as can neither be obtained nor secured without it; civil society for the acquisition of civil, and religious society for the acquisition of religious advantages. Now, the general purposes of any society must be ascertained by the general voice of all the members of it. They unite for the attainment of certain ends. But the particular means most proper for attaining these ends, must be left to the choice of those persons, to whom the power of judging and acting has been delegated by the body at large; for the body at large, from their mula titude, are incompetent to decide upon the various matters, which

may concern the general interest. In civil society, these purposes are the security of men's persons and property; and the means by which these purposes are to be attained, are the various forms of civil government. In religious societies (at least those professing Christianity) the purpose of union we may suppose to be, the purity of the doctrine to be greceived, the propriety of the worship to be used, and the expediency of the discipline to be exercised. Those doctrines will be esteemed G g %

[ocr errors]

pure, that worship proper, and that discipline expedient, which the members of every Church choose to adopt. For every Church must of necessity think its own profession of religion to be the right; and, as there neither is, nor can be, an infallible judge of controversy, each Church * must be left, by all others, to enjoy its own profession. But the mode, by which each Church is to be preserved in that purity of doctrine, and in the use of that worship and discipline, which such Church approves, must be left to those persons, who, in every religious, as well as in all other societies, are, and must be appointed to judge for the whole. For, without such appointment, no society can ever be formed or continued, or can obtain the ends designed by such union. Perhaps, it will be asked, “What, then, is there no true, no real Church of Christ?” The answer in this case, as in many similar ones, is, that every Church formed by honest men, by men who sincerely desire and endeavour to find out the truth, free from every bias of passion, prejudice, or worldly motives, is the TRUE CHURCH, and will be found so to be, when He, who alone knows what the true Church is (John x. 14, 27.) shall come to make the discrimination. Zealous persons have indeed affirmed, that all error is, sinful; because they suppose all error is to be attributed to a neglect of using those means, which God has appointed for the discovery of truth. But will these zealous persons allow this account to be given of their own mistakes? Or, will they say, that they have no mistakes, and therefore, like the Pope, are infallible?* With equal absordity, then, does the author of the Confessional take upon himself to criticise and condemn the doctrines admitted, the decisions made, or the measures adopted by those to whom the province of judging in any religious society has been assigned. Copinon sense, common, honesty, and common Christianity call upon all, who cannot conscienliously comply with the doctrines and practices of such a Church, to quit it, and to make or find one, which is more agreeable to what they esteem to be the truth.

The same mode of reasoning, grounded on a like knowledge of the faculties and dispositions of the human mind, which shows what ideas can alone properly be annexed to the word Church, when used to signify a religious society, will also show what ideas can alone properly be annexed

See the 6th of W. Ludlam's " Essays," and Mr. Scoti, as there quoted.

to

to the words Articles of Religion; i.e. that particular interpretation of Scripture, which each individual Church professes to receive. And here again perhaps it will be asked, “Who, then, is to be accounted orthodox, and who heterodox?”. The answer is exactly the same as before: each Church must justly esteem itself orthodox, and every other, with whom it cannot conscientiously join in worship, heterodox.

All religion has its foundation in those relations, which intercede between the Creator, and His intelligent creatures. This Being, whom we call God, is the Preserver and Governor of the World, as well as the Creator of it; and, if it should appear, that He is also the Redeemer of it, and the Sanctifier, the circle of human obligations will be proportionably enlarged. Human obligations spring from a sense of the various benefits which God has conferred, and men have received from Him (Acts xiv. 17. xvii. 25.) and have their foundation in the nature and constitution of the human mind. Public worship, therefore, is a public duty; for the benefits and obligations being general and common, the acknowledgment of, and return for them, ought to be so too. But how we are to show our sense of these benefits, and our gratitude for them, is another inquiry. The inward dispositions of our minds can be shown only by our outward conduct; and, as any returns we are capable of, cannot extend to God, the mode of human worship, unless directed by God himself, must be devised by human reason, attending to the divine and the human character. The various acts of public worship must be appointed by some persons, performed in some place, and at some particular time. Public worship will, of course, be more solemn upon account of the numbers joining in it; and therefore it will be more impressive, and afford a stonger testimony, and a clearer example of the dispositions of those who join in it; and thus the offices of religion may be expected to be pérformed more regularly and more constantly; because such acts of religion, as can be performed at any time, or in any manner, are always in danger of being neglected.

Thus, then, we see, that civil and church-authority stand upon the same ground of reason; and both are equally confirmed by revelation. “Submit yourselves,” says one Apostle, “to every ordinance of man;" and another,

Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves; for they watch for your souls." There can

be

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« PoprzedniaDalej »