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severed itself from the rest of the Christian world. Perhaps the question would not be easy of solution, whether it be properly a Popish or a Protestant sect;(h) for, though claiming to belong to the Protestants, it has generally been scarcely owned by them; and it stopped so short of even what they did, and retained so much of the principles and spirit of the old superstition, as to be but of anbiguous character. Were we to review its history, the judgment passed in our hasty analysis of its constitution would be abundantly confirmed. It was the creature originally of capricious tyranny, struck out by the passion of Henry VIII., and matured by the Machiavelian policy of Elizabeth. The pride and ill advice of its prelates had their share in bringing Charles to the block; for which atonement is made by his canonization as a martyr, and by a service which makes a Christian blush at its blasphemy, and an Englishman indignant at its servility. In his son's reign was the memorable ejection of the two thousand ministers, who laid the foundation of our churches, and whose only crime was being conscientious. Against the tyranny of Charles II. and James II. no stand was made till it was ascertained that they aimed at Popery as well as tyranny ; so that the part taken by this sect in the Revolution was but little to its honour. (i) From that period, much has been gained to religious liberty ; but the State has given it, and not to oppose is the highest merit which can be claimed for the Church. Now are these altogether the lineaments of pure Christianity ? Some things may be good; but what would one of the first converts, raised from the dead, say on beholding the whole? “ Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?"
To conclude: designing men, even in the present day, have dared to represent dissent from the Church as synonymous with disaffection to the State. It is a foul calumny. The sternest and sturdiest protest against the one, may coexist with the most enthusiastic devotion to the other. England was great and glorious while her religion was Popery. She then reared her head above the nations, outstripped them all in the career of improvement, and soared above them towards the heaven of liberty. The great charter of her freedom was then wrested from unwilling power: commerce and manufactures were raising her citizens, burgesses and merchants, to wealth and intelligence, and placing them side by side with her barons: while, from contending elements, arose the harmony of representative government. She was great while that change, called Reformation, was proceeding, or retarded, or subsiding into fixedness, through successive reigns. She then began to wave her flag of sovereignty over the sea; her laws were framed in wisdom; and her literature, splendid in genius, profound in
learning, and mighty in originality, advanced with giant step. She was great at that tremendous period when the crown was trampled in the dust, a regal head fell on the scaffold, and Cromwell sat on an ungarnished throne. Episcopacy was not her religion then. The Church of England fled to the wilderness: the mitre was crushed under sectarian feet, and the crosier snapped asunder by unconsecrated hands: yet then she was great; not a nation but cringed for her friendship, and trembled at her frown. Was there persecution, oppression or insult, on the Contipent, -she lifted her voice of thunder, and Europe's hills were moved; her mountains quaked and trembled to their foundations. And while Episcopacy has been Church-of-Englandism, our country has been great and glorious still;— yes, through vicissitude, great; in adversity and disappointment, in privation and suffering, in all changes and chances, in arms and arts, in literature and benevolence. The monuments of her majesty reflect the glittering of every star of heaven; and not a wind can blow that has not wafted from her shores some freight of charity. And she would be great, were this assuming sect lost in oblivion, with all its robes, and forms, and wealth and creeds: still to her would the nations look, as to an elder sister of the earth, pre-eminent in wisdom, grace and majesty.
Yes; England, independently of adventitious
circumstances, or predominant sects, must be admired and loved by all who can rightly think and feel; nor would the hand that might not object to pull down the clustering ivy from the oak, whose strength it wasted, and impaired its beauty, touch profanely one leaf of the ballowed tree. O my country! land of my birth, my love, and my pride; land of freedom and of glory; land of bards and heroes, of statesmen, philosophers and patriots; land of Alfred and of Sydney, of Hampden and of Russel, of Newton, Locke and Milton; may thy security, liberty, generosity, peace and pre-eminence, be eternal. May thy children prize their birthright, and well guard and extend their privileges! From the annals of thy renown, the deeds of thy worthies, the precious volumes of thy sages, may they imbibe the love of freedom, of virtue, of their country! May the pure gospel be their portion! Through every future age, may they arise, as of yore, the protectors of the oppressed, the terror of tyrants, the guardians of the rights and peace of nations, the champions of civil and religious liberty; and may they be the possessors and diffusers of genuine Christianity to all countries, through all generations! Amen!
ON RELIGIOUS LIBERTY AND NONCON
John viii. 32.
The Truth shall make you free.
As the corruptions of Christianity have passed in review before us, it cannot but have been noticed how closely they were connected with ecclesiastical usurpation. There is a natural alliance between error and slavery, truth and liberty. For a time they may be dissociated; but reason and scripture, history and observation, bear witness that they cannot permanently maintain a separate existence. Freedom of inquiry and profession is the atmosphere in which pure religion breathes, or the soil in which it grows; and which it must find, or make, or itself wither away. Hence the subjects of this Lecture are an appropriate transition from the mischiefs and miseries of the antichristian apostacy, to the gospel in its native simplicity, power and blessedness.