Imágenes de páginas

j"ections, replies, and proofs, which, as we are not reviewing the tract, we shall not go into; but we copy a few detached passages which bear upon our argument. . "Mr. G. I admit that a church establishment was lawful under the Old Testament, but not under the New. - "R. And how do you prove this? Did our Lord or his disciples ever say so? Did his Apostles forbid rulers or governors forming Christian institutions among their people, and doing all that was in (heir power to secure the administration of Divine worship? Did He, or did they, teach that under the Christian dispensation it was unlawful for kings to be nursing fathers, and queens nursing mothers to the church of Christ?

"Mr. G. And fine nurses they have sometimes proved! Witness our own bloody queen Mary.

"R. Yes; but she was doubly to blame; for she was not content to use her just influence ; she exercised intolerance and cruelty; besides which, even her just influence was exerted in favour of a corrupt church. Her predecessor, Edward the Sixth, used his authority rightly. A Christian government is bound to promote true religion; and if its members mistake as to what is true religion, that has nothing to do with the present question. A father ti bound to instruct his children, and it is no proof to the contrary that many fathers have misinstructed them. Guilt is upon the heads of those who use any talent committed to them unlawfully; but this does not prove that they ought to have hid their talent in a" napkin, and buried it in tjie earth.

"Mr. G. I see the fairness of this distinction; and if you can shew me that the national establishmentof a scriptural church is lawful, I will not reply that many unscriptural ones have been established also.

"R. You say, if I can shew you that it is lawful; but it is rather for you to shew me why it should be unlawful. What law of God does it contradict?" pp. 16, 17.

"Mr. G. What say you to our Lord's words,' My kingdom is not of this world?'

"R. I say they have nothing to do with the question.

1 " Mr. G. Do they not shew that our Lord disclaimed the assistance of the secular arm?

"R. They shew that he did not wish his servants, as he himself directly adds, to fight to deliver him from his betrayers and murderers. They forbid using the sword as Mohammed and the Papists have often used it, for the purposeof persecution, or to make converts; but what has this to dowith the present question? How does this forbid the Christian magistrate using bis just influence and authority in promoting a godly object? A Church Establishment ought not to be ' of this world,'

in our Lord's meaning of the expression; it is not designed for worldly purposes, but for spiritual; it may, indeed, be abused and made worldly, as may any thing else; but this does not prove that there is no right or scriptural use of it. Worldly men will debase for secular advantage what is religious in its intention, and theirs is the crime and the guilt; but still this makes nothing against the legitimate use of what they have misapplied. You may write ' My kingdom is not of this world,' as much on the green cloth pew at Mr. Dickson's, as on the dean's stall or bishop's throne, and, perhaps, quite unjustly in both instances." pp. 21, 22.

"R. In the only nation for which Jehovah condescended directly to legislate, he saw fit closely and inseparably to unite the ecclesiastical with the civil polity. We find temporal governors, as tor instance David, Asa, Jehoshaphat, and Josiah, frequently spoken of with approbation for their acts of legislation in favour of religion. Our state, therefore, as Hooker remarks, is in this respect 'according to the pattern of God's own ancient elect people: which was not, part of them the commonwealth and part of them the church of God, but the self-same people, whole and entire, were both under one chief governor, on whose supreme authority they did all depend.'

"Mr. G. There is, I confess, something pleasing in that idea: and I observe throughout the Bible, that God deals very much with nations as he does with individuals.

"R. I am glad to hear you say so, for there is much ignorance in the present day on that point. If we are a Christian nation we profess Christ to be our Head; we view our kings, and legislators, and all public authorities, as his ministers; the federal bond of religion runs throughout every thing; and to take a different view of the matter, is to render us, as a nation, unchristian ; and to reduce us to the same condition as a Pagan nation, among whom there may be individual Christians, though the nation, as a nation, is infidel. But to return to our question: I have brought down the scriptural sanction to the time of the New Testament; it is for you to shew that it has since been done away. But where are you told that what had been scriptural before has become unscriptural now?

"Mr. G. I admit no where directly; and such passages as ' My kingdom is not of this world,' do not, I must now allow, apply to the case, except a church establishment becomes worldly in its character, and not for the religious-welfare of

"R. And that is not our present inquiry; for we are not now entering into the merits of any particular church-establishment, bat whether all such establishments are wrong.

"Mr. G. But why, if a national churchestablishment was consistent with our Saviour's intention, did he not clear up the point?

"R, Why did he not do so in many other things? Why did he not in so many words forbid slavery? Why did he not clear up the question of supernatural appearances, when his disciples thought he had been a spirit? Why did he not expressly say whether it was lawful to be a soldier? It is not, then, correct in such matters to reason from negatives. There are many things wrong which he did not expressly mention. He in general gave rules, principles, and motives, to be applied as occasion may require; and none of these oppose a" church establishment. But I am not content with this answer, for I can shew that there might be important reasons why the New Testament should not go much into the question.

"Mr. G. And what are those reasons?

'' R. The first is, that it was not at all necessary. Wby'should our Lord tell his disciples that a church establishment was not sinful? they never suspected that it was. Why should he tell them it was lawful and scriptural? They had never had any doubt on the subject. All their feelings and habits must have been in favour of a national church; they had themselves been educated under one, and could never suspect that under the Christian such institutions had become unjustifiable. Had they themselves been made rulers over a heathen country, their first feeling would have been to set up the service of God in the land; and they would probably have rather needed to be warned not to do too much, than against doing too little. But our Lord was not speaking to rulers, nor were his Apostles.

"Mr. G. And what difference does that make?

"R. Why this, that it is the general rule of Scripture not to teach one class what are the duties of another, but only what are its own. It tells husbands to love their wives, and wives to obey their husbands; but it does not tell husbands to exact obedience, or wives, love. It tells children to submit to their parents, and parents not to provoke their children; servants to obey their masters, and masters to be kind to their servants; but neither class is urged to insist upon the compliance of the other. Now in the days of our Lord and his Apostles, there was no Christian king or legislature in the world; none such, therefore, are directly addressed; had they been, I doubt not they would have been exhorted to favour the public worship of God. There are many good things which rulers ought to do, and many evil things which they ought to put down, concerning which no directions are given in the New Testament." pp. 24—26.

"Mr. G. But why may not Christianity

firopagate itself? Or, at least, why not eave it, under the blessing of God, to

the voluntary efforts of individuals? Isthere any danger of any thing being lost that is found to be really valuable? You have not a national establishment for the propagation of wheat, or the growth of potatoes, because we find these to be of value; and if men value Christianity, they will preserve it without a national establishment; and if tbey do not, an establishment will do little good. ( "R. I am sorry to say the cases widely differ. If I could in a single sermon prove to my farmers how they might grow rich, they would readily follow my advice; but I may preach a hundred sermons to shew how their souls may be saved, and they will reject all I can urge. Religion, I grieve to say, though infinitely import: ant, stands in need of every possible support, on account of the natural enmity of the fallen mind of man to all that is like God, and leads to God. It requires the effort of every good man, if I may so say without irreverence, to keep it in countenance. Few persons comparatively feel deeply the necessity, or arc fully conscious of the blessings, of the Gospel. If religion were not brought home to their doors they would scarcely ever think of it, or inquire into it. Besides, the public sanction supports it as a national system, and many who are thus introduced into its visible pale, and who might never otherwise have paid any attention to the matter, become its spiritual converts. Why, Mr. Grainger, are you at the cost and trouble of erecting yonder fence round your paddock?

"Mr. G. Because my plantations require protection from injury. • "R. And Christianity in this world is as it were a tender plant, and public religious establishments are a sort of fence thrown around it.

"Mr. G. But you forget that God watches over bis church.

"R. No, my friend; God forbid I should forget that; it is my highest comfort and stay; but he uses means, and one means I think is a public church-establishment. You pray to him for his blessing on your labours; you know that every thing depends upon him; but still you plough and sow seed; in short, you use the proper means. Your argument would go to set aside not only a church establishment, but preaching, and the sacraments, and every religious ordinance, under the notion that Chnstianity needs nothing for its preservation and extension but the providence of God, without human agency,

"Mr. G. What keeps up religion among the Dissenters?

"if. Dissenters owe much to church establishments. I believe, that if all the established churches were done away, the proportion of religion which is found among Dissenters would- in the course of time, unless preserved by extraordinary interposition, which we have no warrant to hope for, gradually decay and come to nothing. In the course of centuries there would be great danger of errors, heresies, and, above all, of utter indifference. Piety would not be found hereditary; the sons of religious parents would too often go over to the world, till, in the end, both the form and the power of godliness might be extinguished.

"Mr. G. And how does an established church prevent this?

"R. In many ways, &c., &c." pp. 81 —33.

"Mr. G. But are not Dissenters in general more religious than Churchmen; and if so, what need is there for an established church?

"R. I suppose you consider all the irreligious people in the parish, all persons of no religion at all beyond the outward profession of Christianity, Churchmen; and then you cull all the picked men amongst the Dissenters; but is this a fair comparison? All are not Israel that profess to be of Israel. So far as this argument goes, I am not willing to call a bad man a Churchman at all; he is practically of no religion: and if he were a good man, I do not think he would be made better by becoming a Dissenter. 1, therefore, do not admit, that Dissenters are more religious than Churchmen, if you take on both sides those only who can fairly be brought into the comparison." p. 34.

"Mr. G. But is not all this interfering with the providence of God? The great object is the salvation of men: forms and ceremonies are of little importance.

"R. True; the great object is the glory of God and the salvation of mankind; and forms and ceremonies arc of no value for their own sake, but they may be valuable in their relation to something higher. "Mr. G. But why not leave it to the ence of God? He needs not man's

"R. We do leave it to the providence of God, when humbly, and in dependence upon his grace and blessing, we employ the means which he has put into our power, one of which we bebeve to be an established church. We do not substitute human means for the Divine blessing. But it pleases God, in his providence, generally to make use of second causes; and one of these is disposing the hearts of men, especially of rulers and persons in authority, to accomplish his designs. He might act without means; he might have preserved the fire upon the Jewish altars -without a national priesthood to watch over it; he might have carried into effect his promise to save the ship's company who sailed with St. Paul, without their using the means of safety; but yet they were commanded to use those means as necessary to the end. And thus we do not set aside his over-ruling providence when we speak of the necessity of a church establishment; we only mean that it is necessary as a means of spiritual utility, which he is pleased to consecrate and employ.

"Mr. G. But there were no established churches in the first ages of the Gospel.

"R. No; nor could there be, for there were no nations converted to Christianity. Besides, the two cases are altogether different, and the gift of miracles assisted to effect those very objects which we humbly think may now be promoted in the ordinary course of Divine Providence by means of a public church-establishment for preaching the word, and the administration of the sacraments, and the duties of the pastoral charge. You must not say that the primitive church rejected a church establishment, till you can shew that its members had it in their power to form one ; which they had not, as the nations among whom they dwelt were Jews or heathens." pp. 36, 37.

"Mr. G. I should be glad to learn what have been the lessons of experience upon this important subject. . .

"R. Well, look at the lesson of experience in our own church. I have been much struck with the principle of endurance and preservation which it has exhibited. How great have been its struggles and trials! yet it has survived all, and will, I believe, survive many more. In the sixteenth century it had to cope with a foreign hierarchy; in the reign of Charles I. it bore up against the disgrace brought upon it by some of its professed friends; it afterwards withstood the fanaticism of some of its enemies; it survived the deluge of profligacy, which would have ruined it in the reign of Charles 11. ; and at length, after various alternations of prosperity and adversity, of good report and evil report, it has of late years aroused itself to new vigour; clothing itself with the garments of its ancient sanctity; promulgating with youthful zeal, yet with the wisdom of mature age and holy discretion, the sacred truths, which are the standards of its opinions, and which amidst every vicissitude, have remained imperishable, in its confessions of faith, its formularies of instruction, and its manual of prayer. How often during these periods, have the Dissenters themselves kindled their torches at our altars. And when any remarkable instance has occurred of increased earnestness in religion amongst the body of the people, what has usually formed the centre of it, but our own Protestant establishment? Surely all this is not as if God would not vouchsafe to bless a system of national-church worship.

"Mr. G. But then you must allow that a bad church perpetuutes error, as well as a good one truth.

"R. It does; but then what is wrong in such a church is not that it is established, but that it is corrupt, and I am not pleading for what is corrupt.

"Mr. G. Does any other historical lesson occur to you on the subject?

"R. Yes, many. There is a very remarkable. one in the case of the Syrian Church in India," &c. pp. 36, 30,

provid nelp.

We now turn to Chancellor Dealtry's Charge, the whole of which would not be too much to quote, as bearing powerfully and convincingly throughout upon the important question under discussion. And to this question we ought to add that it is nearly confined; not, however, we feel persuaded, from any want of interest in the writer in regard to those higher and weightier matters for which alone an ecclesiastical establishment is of any value; but because he considered that the peculiar exigency of the times required of him this particular line of argument, for the instruction especially of the churchwardens under his jurisdiction, who probably were in general ignorant of the matter, and might have no other opportunity of being put in possession of its real nature; for want of which information they might be led to join the popular outcry against church establishments, to the subversion of that very system which it was their official duty to uphold. After all the lamentations which from year to year we have penned on the secular character—often in a great measure necessarily so—of the majority of visitation charges, we can only admit the plea of pressing urgency and extreme necessity as a reason why the Reverend author should have chosen this exterior topic rather than some one of those spiritually and practically edifying subjects which he is so well able to discuss. Unwilling as we are that any opportunity should be lost which might be improved to the setting forth of matters directly connected with the human soul, the way of salvation, and the glory of God, as exhibited in the scheme of Divine mercy; we must, of course, admit of that variety of subjects which peculiar exigencies may require: and if, therefore. Dr. Dealtry, while preparing to trim the fire on the altar, or to penetrate the holy of holies, was aroused by the sound of mattocks and battering rams at the buttresses, and rushed out to repel the invader, we can only lament that there should

ever be cause for this diversion from subjects of higher interest, and that the ministers of Christ are sometimes obliged to carry a sword for defence in one hand while they are building the spiritual walls of the city with the other. Less we could not have said in regard to our own consistency; more would be unfair to the excellent author who has selected the topic which, under all the circumstances, appeared to him at the moment most urgent; and his discourse, now committed to the press, will be found extensively useful, as embodying in a small compass a variety of strong arguments and important facts, from which we proceed to copy the following.

"Important as it is for the maintenance of order in our places of public worship, there are other questions which seem now to call for more peculiar attention;

Questions not pertaining merely to the ecent order of the church, but affecting the principles of its existence. The subject includes some topics on which I should not voluntarily dwell in a meeting like the present: the circumstances of the times must be my justification or apology. It is, I think, incumbent upon us to shew, as publicly as we can, that we are not ashamed of our cause, nor destitute of arguments to defend it.

"That religion is of importance to a community and to every member of it, is a position which no Christian will be inclined to controvert. I assume that the Holy Scriptures are a revelation from God, and that the glad tidings which they communicate are of inexpressible importance to every human being, involving the best hopes of the life that now is, and the imperishable interests of the life to come. In what way, then, can religious knowledge be most effectually and permanently diffused? How can it be best brought to bear upon the great mass of the community, and to produce, under the Divine blessing, through all ranks and gradations of the people its genuine fruits? This is the question which I purpose briefly to consider.

"The case obviously requires, from the very statement of it, a system of religious instruction which shall pervade every part of the country: and therefore, a body of religious teachers, to whom the whole population is readily accessible. It will not suffice to plant a few ministers of religion merely in the centre of a large population, or in certain favoured places which hold out peculiar attractions; a system must be adopted which shall-be capable of providing these teachers in sufficient numbers to meet the spiritual -wants of all classes of persons, however humble their pursuits, and however scattered their habitations. No plan of itinerancy, however valuable it may be as an auxiliary, can fully answer the purpose. The minister of religion must, for the complete discharge ot his trust, be resident among the people whom he is to train for heaven; he must be conversant with them on the week days, as well as preach to them on the Sundays; he must personally feel, and the people likewise must be led to feel with him, that he is the distinct shepherd of the district in which he dwells; in order to adapt himself profitably to their several conditions, he must be well acquainted with their moral and religious characters, with their views, principles, pursuits, and peculiar trials; commencing his cares with the young, and never intermitting his ministerial labours while there is affliction to be soothed, and Christian knowledge to be imparted, and Christian hope to be invigorated; 'warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that he may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.' By this daily and kindly intercourse, he will see what are the subjects of instruction which at any given time are particularly required; and he will learn to apply his exhortations, both public and private, in the best possible way; his words will be emphatically words in season; in the simplicity of Christian truth he will speak to the understanding and the heart; and will commend himself to every man's conscience in the sight of God.

"But how, then, are these teachers to be provided? By what means shall we secure the object of planting and perpetuating Christian instructors, in a manner adequate to the spiritual wants of a country through the length and the breadth of it?

"' Apply,' it has been said, ' the principle which is known by the name of free trade. It is admitted, that in general commerce, the demand and the supply will eventually accommodate themselves to each other; in proportion, then, as the people are ignorant will be the demand for instruction, and in answer to that demand instructors will readily be found.'

"To shew the unsoundness of this reasoning, little more is wanting than simply to state it. Those who apply to literature and religion the system just mentioned, assume tacitly as the very basis of their argument, that the want of instruction will be as keenly felt by the ignorant and the irreligious, as the want of food by the famishing, or of medicine by the sick; that the morally destitute will be as distressingly conscious of their necessities as are the physically destitute; whereas nothing can be more contrary to all experience; so little is it the tendency of ignorance, more especially on spiritual sup

jects, to awaken a desire for knowledge, that, in general, the very reverse is notoriously the fact. One of the most awful but most certain consequences of such ignorance, is to make the unhappy subjects of it contented with their degradation j there is among such persons no spontaneous movement towards a better state: unless they be acted upon by some powerful extraneous impulse, they will, in general, scarcely make the slightest effort to acr quire any knowledge of religion. Every large town in the kingdom, and not a few country parishes, will abundantlv illustrate and confirm this assertion. With such opportunities of instruction as to leave ignorance altogether inexcusable, many are to be found who seem well satisfied to live and die with little moral or even in, tellectual superiority above the beasts that perish.

"Hence the manifest necessity of some regular aggressive plan for penetrating into every inhabited district of the couhtry, both to shew the ignorant their need of being taught, and to lead them to the fountains of knowledge.

"Now private zeal will never be able to accomplish this object. A Christian society may doubtless send forth a number of well-qualified and useful missionaries, or it may plant in certain localities a stationary minister; but neither can it, in an extensive and populous country, provide the funds requisite to overspread the land with any adequate supply of religious instruction, nor can it give permanance to its own arrangements. Not only ought a Christian teacher to be settled in every small district, but in a vast majority of instances he must be rendered independent of the voluntary contributions of his hearers. Without some independent provision, it is certain that many extensive districts must remain without a minister; and as little can it be doubted that places which have been partially enlightened, would often be again plunged into all the intensity of moral darkness." Dealtry, pp. 8 —18.

Dr. Dealtry goes on to shew, that under these circumstances some plan must be adopted independent alike of the zeal of individuals, of the exertions of societies, and of the voluntary contributions of the people; and that, if noadequatemeanscanbedevisedwith* out the intervention of government, it becomes the paramount duty of the state itself, as the guardian of the public welfare, to see that a system of Christian instruction, and especially of public worship, be established and supported which shall be accessible to all its subjects. In proof of these positions, he refers to the argu

« AnteriorContinuar »