Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

him for establishing the worship of the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent, in place of the classical superstitions of Greece and Rome? And how is it that the early fathers, who lived so near the apostolic age, and had never been perverted, as we may be alleged to be, by early prepossessions in favour of an established church, are not recorded to have protested against the first innovation? How again is it that the unlawfulness of the practice was never discovered, we will not say by our own immediate reformers and martyrs, who were firm advocates for an established church, but by those to whom our dissenting brethren might with more presumptive confidence appeal ? How was it that such men as Calvin and Beza on the continent, or Knox in Scotland, never made the discovery? Their complaint, as well as that of our own Puritan divines, was that the existing governments of their respective countries were hostile to a pure form of religion; that they would not give their co-operation to the cause of God; but it never once entered their imagination, that if such co-operation were proffered, it was to be peremptorily refused on account of its abstract unlawfulness. Calvin taught, that if bishops conducted themselves as true servants of Christ," there was no anathema which

C

seceders did not deserve." The divines of the Augsburgh Confession professed that they were reluctantly obliged to dissent, “ because the popish bishops persecuted the poor people with unheard-of tortures.” They strongly deprecated the idea of dissenting without palpable necessity. Melancthon, Luther, and Bucer, were equally advocates for an establishment, and an episcopal one alfo. Beza himself professed that he never intended to prescribe Geneva as a model for other churches. Indeed, so notorious is the fact, that Bishop Stillingfleet did 'not scruple to affirm that all the old Non-conformists did think themselves bound to communicate with the Church of England, and did look upon separation from it to be sin, notwithstanding the corruptions supposed to be in it.” : “ This I have proved,” continues the Bishop, “ with so great evidence in the foregoing discourse, that those who deny it may, with the help of the same metaphysics, deny that the sun shines *.!! Indeed, in quitting even the grossly corrupt communion of the Church of Rome itself, the chief Reformers professed to do so only for the same reason, to use their own expression, for which “ they would pull down a house when the next was on fire." Men

* Stillingfleet on Separation, p. 73.

like these wept day and night over the real or Supposed defects of most of the then existing national church establishments; but it remained with their successors to discover that the principle itself was as unscriptural as the details. They wished for nothing more than " a scourge of small cords” to purify the temple: they never suspected that the whole edifice ought in duty to be destroyed. And, indeed, He to whom this allusion naturally leads us—He who was our great Exemplar -- was a constant frequenter of the national church of his native land : and what would have been his language if, when he stood in the temple, and proclaimed, as on the great day of the feast, the words of eternal life, he had been told by any of his professed disciples, in the language already quoted, that “ though he preached the Gospel, and preached it faithfully,” and “practised what he preached," yet that they could not in conscience attend his ministry," because they had an objection to an ecclesiastical establishment,” and “ discerned the unlawfulness of all religious establishments whatever”-of course the Jewish included ?:

It has been piously, and not unaptly, remarked, in reference to the Established Church of England, though we do not urge it as a regular argument, from its liability to abuse, that “the frequent interpositions of Divine Providence in

the preservation of our church justify the persuasion that its establishment is lawful. If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when men rose up against us; then they had swallowed us up quick, when their wrath was kindled against us.' Can we look back, and contemplate our church at first drawing its infant breath, after having narrowly escaped destruction, in the reign of Henry VIII.; as losing its indulgent nurse by the premature death of Edward VI. ; as nearly destroyed with fire by the cruelty of Mary; as cherished, protected, and reared to manhood by the fostering care, prudence, and wisdom of Elizabeth ; and not acknowledge the hand of God in keeping it alive amidst such manifold dangers? And if we call to mind its astonishing deliverance from destruction in the reign of James I.; its distressed condition under Charles I. ; its restoration to its former honours on the return of Charles II. ; its perilous state from the popish superstition of his brother James; its increasing prosperity after the Revolution; and the lively interest for its welfare manifested during the reigns of the house of Hanover; we must confess that Jehovah has been unto it a wall of fire round about, and the glory in the midst of it*.”

* Custance's Survey of the Reformation, p. 279.

SECTION II.

• A CHURCH ESTABLISHMENT EXPEDIENT.

BUT, not to insist longer on so obvious a proposition as the foregoing-namely, that an established church is lawful, some further arguments for the truth of which will incidentally occur in the progress of our remarks-let us advance to the second consideration; for, as the Apostle observes on another occasion, many things may be lawful which are not erpedient. In the present case, however, the expediency is as demonstrable as the lawfulness; and though expediency is not itself a sufficient, or even in many cases a legitimate, argument in moral questions, yet it is always pleasing to find that what the mind approves as allowable in principle, experience verifies as beneficial in its tendency.

It would be unworthy of a Christian advocate to rest the expediency of an established church upon its social and political benefits ; though in a subordinate view these are of no trivial importance. Religion is intimately connected with the best interests of a State; and heathen legislators themselves' discovered the expediency of strengthening the one by

« AnteriorContinuar »