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example, have seen fit to include in their idea of a church establishment an institution which gives the civil magistrate a strictly religious function; and have even appealed to our Thirty-seventh Article in proof of their assertion, though half of that very Article was expressly constructed to correct the error of some slanderous folks"! who had adopted such an opinion. So again, in arguing for the necessity of an Establishment, our dissenting opponents must not represent us as contending for the toleration of abuses. It should be recollected that it is not any particular model of an Establishment which is at present the question: it would therefore be no answer to the argument derived from necessity, to shew, even were it possible to do so, that in the Church of England our orders are corrupt, our doctrine unscriptural, and our discipline wholly unsound. Before we enter upon any such considerations, we must first settle the preliminary question ; and if this were more fully decided
if there were none left. I do believe the power of the keys to be a distinct thing from the office of the civil magistrate.” Stillingfleet on Separation, p. 297.-Still if God is pleased to employ in any case a series of means or instruments between a cause and effect, those means or instruments may be spoken of as necessary, without meaning to derogate from his superintending and all-disposing Providence. They are necessary because God appoints them; not because he could not do without them.
in the minds of contending parties—especially among men of true piety who in the main agree in their views of Christian doctrine and are really zealous for the cause of religionfar less difficulty would occur in adjusting the details. Certainly no man who felt disposed to allow the necessity of an Established Church for the preservation of Christianity in a country, could secede on the ground of general principle, even though he should feel bound to do so on account of the real or supposed corruptness of a particular church. Much less would subordinate points—such as mere questions of ceremony, or the minuter shades of disputed doctrines-be suffered to separate from the Establishment those who acknowledge the correctness of its tenets on all essential subjects *.
“ The innumerable defects," says a living author, arising from the infirmity of our common nature are not to be charged on the constitution and ordinances of any particular church, or alleged as a cause of separation from it: the aggregate must bear the character of the individuals of which it is composed. Nothing is more easy than general declamation against a Christian community; but you must first reform our fallen nature, before such statements can have the force of argument. If, therefore, any church-I now speak generally—be established on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone; if it provide, so far as human prudence can, for a succession of faithful men to inculcate the great mystery of godliness on the people; if it duly administer the
In order to facilitate the discussion, let us take up the subject at the initial point, by sacraments of Christ's institution; if it propound scriptural articles of faith, and afford devotional formularies of public worship; it is no solid objection against such a church to state that a larger effusion of the Holy Spirit has rested on it at one period than at another,—that some things are found in it, and especially as to the actual administration of its ministers, which every sincere friend of it laments, and labours to remove,--that languor and a secular spirit are, at times, too generally apparent,--that instances of erroneous or even heretical instruction may be detected, or that local inconveniences arise from the particular effects of its general arrangements: these are points which no alteration of an ecclesiastical platform can wholly amend. To advance these objections is only to say, that the church in question is not a perfect one. Before the members of such a church can consistently withdraw from its communion, a case must be shewn, something like to that of our Reformers when they came out from the Church of Rome;--that her doctrines and ceremonies, once pure and edifying, have become decidedly unscriptural and idolatrous; that she has altered the articles and formularies of her faith, corrupted the truths of her first founders, and brought in doctrines which sap and overthrow, directly or by consequence, some of the first principles of Christianity; whilst a claim of infallibility is set up, all attempts at reformation spurned, and those who would return to her own original tenets persecuted and silenced.
“ Till this is done, each individual Christian seems to me to be in conscience obliged to submit, in matters on which the Scriptures have no where decided, to such a church as I have been describing. It is not for him to contemplate abstractedly his natural rights, to speculate on every possible improvement of ecclesiastical order, to allege minute or accidental defects or abuses, to consider himself as designated to invent a new and more pure order of discipline, and to
shewing, First, That a Church Establishmentmeaning by that expression a national one-is lawful: Secondly, That it is expedient: Thirdly, That it is sanctioned by Scripture: And, Fourthly, That it is in truth “necessary for the preservation of Christianity among the people of all ranks and denominations."
act independently of his relation to others, and the actual circumstances with which he is surrounded. Interminable confusion must arise from such a conduct; a man might almost [quite) as well act thus as to his subjection to civil authority. All society, whether civil or religious, implies a partial sacrifice of our natural liberty for the common benefit.
“ Nay, I may perhaps be thought bold in what I state; but I will not scruple to avow frankly my own opinion, that before an individual proceeds unwarrantably to disturb the unity of a church by separation and division, he should be prepared to reply to these two questions: Is he ready to subvert altogether the existing establishment of churchpolity? And, Has he a fair probability of substituting for it another decisively better?
Because the subversion of any chureh would inevitably follow, if each individual were to act after his example, which, so far as he is concerned, he authorizes and encourages ; and because, if nothing greatly superior is, in a fair prospect of human events, likely to succeed, all the guilt of disturbing without amending, of exciting confusion with no adequate countervailing advantage, will lie at his door."- Rev. D. Wilson's Sermon before the Prayer-book and Homily Society.
A CHURCH ESTABLISHMENT LAWFUL.
To persons ignorant of the controversies which have occurred on this subject, it may appear a superfluous task to prove so pery moderate a proposition as that a national established church is lawful. The early Dissenters themselves never entertained any suspicion on this part of the question; and, even in the present day, the great body of those who quit our communion do so only on subordinate grounds. They disrelish some of our doctrines or ceremonies ; they are attracted by some mode of worship more congenial to their taste; or they are re, pelled by some real or supposed defect in the life or preaching of their regular pastor; but it never occurs to them, as the ground of their practical dissent, that a national establishment; abstractedly considered, is unlawful, Yet such is at present the opinion of many « Dissenters on principle," who--in addition to the old argų, ments, that our formularies are in numerous respects exceptionable, our clergy very generally irreligious and worldly, and our whole system tinctured with popish and unscriptural practices massert as a preliminary which forbids