Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

conformity to the Establishment in the name of the State, find themselves unable to retain the population of rural districts in subordination to even the civil government, the Methodist and other Dissenting teachers, who insist upon civil obedience in the name of Religion, not upon religion as a part of civil obedience, succeed, wherever their congregations are numerous, in maintaining order and tranquillity. Thus, then, the Establishment policy, the Church-and-State system, which reverses the Apostolic mode, is demonstrated by facts to be a failure, as it is in theory a blunder. Mr. Stowell's political reason for being a Churchman is not only an unsound one, but it is worth nothing for his purpose, for it is scouted by the common sense of the people.

His other twelve Reasons, which we cannot now stop_particularly to notice, may be briefly summed up as follows: I AM A CHURCHMAN,' because my Mother Church is old ; '-because I know of no better ;--because the primitive Church had bishops, priests, and deacons, very much like ours; (though how St. Paul came to leave priests out of his salutation, Phil. i. 1., I cannot tell ;)-because no Church has produced more able champions and martyrs ;--because no Church surpasses ours in moderation and charity ;-because the Established Church is remarkable for the care she has taken to provide for the young, godfathers and godmothers, a catechism which makes them to be all members of Christ and children of God, and that most useful rite of Confirmation ;'-because I find nothing like the liturgy for public

worship; '-because 'our Church does so honour the Bible,' that she never likes it to go unattended by the prayer-book as a guard of honour;-because I love unity; -because the Establishment is so much hated by the infidel and other bad people ;-' because ' I see that God is blessing our Church,' by reviving his work in the midst of her ;-because, though my Church has many ' faults, other Christian bodies have many blemishes also; and I feel persuaded too, that, since God is purifying the Establishment, her principal imperfections will be done away.' We have not the slightest wish to disturb the unlearned Churchman's attachment to his own Church, and will therefore leave him in quiet possession of these twelve most cogent and invincible Reasons. We would only take the liberty of suggesting, that several of them are borrowed from the Roman Catholics, and would be equally available as reasons for adhering to the unity of the more ancient Grandmother Church.

We must now turn to Mr. Meek's Reasons for Attachment and Conformity to the Church of England, which we find, at p. 132, summarily expressed as follows.

• The Church of England, of all the members of the universal true church, appears to the writer to present the only centre around which Christians in this country can rally and unite. 'Her articles of faith

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

a man.

serve as a standard of unity; she enjoins no terms of communion which are sinful and anti-scriptural; she secures to the people the fullest measure of Scriptural instruction ; she is established by that authority to which Christians are required to be subject; she is the body from which all other denominations have sprung and separated ; and though last named, it is not the least among her many interesting claims ;God is with her, and in a remarkable manner blessing her ministers, to the revival of religion in our own land, and for the extension of its triumphs throughout the world.”

All this appears so clear to the Writer, that he is quite at a loss to conceive how any one can be of a different opinion from the Rev. Robert Meek. His having conformed to the Church is itself a demonstration that she enjoins no terms of communion which can reasonably be objected to; and the ejected Ministers who affected to think differently were a set of idiots and knaves to

There is an inimitable simplicity and naïveté in Mr. Meek's manner of reasoning, which marks the confidence of a man strongly fortified in his own self-esteem. The Church appears to the Writer to present the only centre round which Christians can rally and unite; therefore it is the only centre, and all ought so to rally: 9. e. d. What a short way of terminating a controversy of two centuries' standing ! There is nothing like a figure when you want to conceal the fallacy of an argument; and this metaphor of a centre is a very considerably pretty one. But will Mr. Meek explain how any member of the universal Church can be a centre to the other parts ;-how a mere planet can be the centre of a system? We had supposed that the Bible was the rallying point of all Protestant Christians in this country; and before we can consent to accept the Thirty-nine Articles as a substitute, we must be made to see that they form a standard of unity among those who subscribe to them. When there is unity within the Establishment, then will be time enough to invite other denominations to make experiment of the virtue of a human standard of faith.

But let us examine the other claims of the Establishment to exclusive attachment. • She secures to the people the fullest

measure of Scriptural instruction. And yet, till Wesley and Whitfield raised the standard of Methodism, any thing but scriptural instruction was furnished by the Establishment, for the mechanical reading of the scripture lessons at church has never availed to instruct the people, in the absence of an evangelical ministry. Moreover, till societies of voluntary benevolence were formed, which the majority of the Established clergy, with their rulers, discountenanced, there was a shameful dearth of the Scriptures; and it is not owing to the Establishment, that the people are now more generally furnished with the sacred volume. She is established by that authority to which all Christians

are required to be subject. We have already disposed of this anti-scriptural reason. Suffice it here to remark, that the authority which establishes' the Episcopal Church, has also firmly established on a basis of legal right, other denominations; and we desire nothing better than that all good churchmen will prepare themselves meekly to acquiesce in the decisions of that same civil authority in respect to the secularities of their own Church, and the claims of their loyal fellow-subjects, the Dissenters.

'She is the body from which all other denominations have sprung and separated. What an unnatural Mother, to wish to see her daughters exterminated! There have been cases, however, in which a matronly belle has discovered a jealousy of the opening beauty of her blooming daughter, shrinking from the unwelcome conviction that her own reign was drawing to a close,that she was, alas! growing old. But, if Mother Church would but tolerate a rival near the throne, and shew herself disposed to live on good terms with her grown-up daughters, and let them enjoy their honest earnings, while she reposes on her own rich jointure, why might they not live peaceably together as one family ?

Lastly, 'God is with her’; -Mr. Meek ought to have added, (to make good his argument,) And with no other denomination. If he does not mean, if he would not dare assert this, the Established Church can found no exclusive claim upon the allegation. That God is with all who faithfully preach the truth of his Gospel, whether they be of Paul or of Peter, no Dissenter will feel disposed to deny; but, that the Divine efficiency more remarkably attends the labours of the minority within the Established Church who preach the evangelical doctrine, than those of Dissenting and Wesleyan ministers--or, that the Gospel Propagation Society has in a more remarkable manner extended the triumphs of the Gospel in other lands, than the Dissenting Missionary Societies have done,-is what we certainly are not prepared to admit. Nor should we deem very highly of the discretion or integrity of the Episcopalian who would affirm it.

Mr. Meek adduces one very curious argument in proof that the Church of England enjoys a peculiar measure of the presence and the blessing of God. Whitfield and Wesley, the most active ' in extending the effects of the great revival of religion some

years back, were ministers of the Establishment'!! And were not Owen, Howe, Baxter, and Bates ministers of the Establishment? Admirable proof of the apostolic character of the Church, drawn from the piety and zeal of those whom she persecuted to the utmost! By the same process, might the Reformation of Luther be made to furnish demonstration strong, that the presence and blessing of God were and ever have been with the Church of Rome. That revival too began in halls and monasteries, in the midst of forms and articles.

Our readers will by this time be able to appreciate the argumentative powers of this new champion of wholesale conformity. Like all weak men who turn renegade to their former principles, Mr. M. can find no security for his new faith but in the extermination of all difference of opinion. The existence of Dissent troubles him, like the apparition, in a dream, of an injured friend. It is not enough, that, with those who have been born and educated within the pale of the Establishment, he prefers and is attached to the communion of the Episcopal Church. Preference is not, with him, a feeling strong enough for that only allowable mode of worshipping God, that only church which ought to be suffered to exist in this land. In his estimation, that is not true love which is not exclusive, and which does not hate all other than the object of its fond idolatry. He has no notion of a unity that admits of diversity, of a union that is not subjection. He aspires to the blessedness of uniting God's Church in this country, and his plan for effecting it is, the extinction of two thirds of the provision made for the evangelical instruction of the people, and the conformity of all religious teachers to a system which forbids the preaching of Christ in unconsecrated places, or by ministers chosen and supported by their own flocks. No body, no denomination of Protestants ought to exist or to be countenanced in these realms, but the Church of England as by law established and limited; for, as to any scheme of comprehension, we find not a word. Nay, Mr. Meek deprecates the mistaken zeal of certain of the clergy who have deplored the abuses in the Establishment, and shewn a pious anxiety for

reformation.' No, he doats on the moles and freckles on the fair face of the church, and would not wish one wrinkle less. The Church as it is, unreformed of a single abuse, unchanged in the slightest attribute, is to be like the rod in the hands of Moses, which swallowed up all the other rods, when they had first been converted into serpents: this one sect is to devour and to merge in itself every other. Would it be able to digest its prey ? Has the Church a pouch large enough to receive back all her full-grown progeny ?

Alas! for the interests of the Church of Christ, were this the only practicable plan for rendering visible in the eyes of the world its true and essential unity! The error of confounding unity with uniformity, communion with conformity, agreement with compulsion, the fundamental error of the church-polity of the English Episcopacy, would seem to have been pointed out by Lord Bacon, by Jeremy Taylor, by the wisest and best of churchmen, hitherto in vain. After trying the experiment of this compulsive scheme of union for more than two centuries,

6

still, the Church Established dreams of success in that miserable state-alchemy by which she hopes to transmute the iron and brass of other sects into her own pure gold !

Those advocates of the Established polity, however, who in the seventeenth century insisted upon the duty of conformity to the Church, when Dissent existed only as a proscribed fugitive, might entertain rational hopes of success. But in what other light can we now regard such Reasons for Conformity as are here adduced, than as miserable driveling, or worse than driveling, from the sinister purpose which blends with this madness? Can there be a greater enemy to Christian union, than the man who has the folly and audacity to demand as the price of that union, the breaking up of a system of voluntary exertion in the cause of religion unparalleled in the history of the world, the abjuration by thousands of pious ministers of Christ of their sacred vows and office, and the prostration of religious freedom at the feet of an aristocratical despotism which has usurped the most sacred rights of the people? If, before Wesley and Whitfield had sown the land with the seeds of evangelical truth which have matured into the compact form of Wesleyan Methodism and orthodox Nonconformity, it was found impossible to succeed in bribing or forcing the ministers and members of Dissenting churches to conformity, is it any thing short of insanity to imagine, that, the system of the Establishment remaining unchanged, Nonconformity can now be extinguished? Yet, on this one point, many otherwise sane persons would appear to be stark mad.

The greater part of Mr. Meek's volume, consists, like the works of most modern advocates of the Establishment, of an indictment of the Dissenters. The stronghold of the pleader for conformity, who has himself had to shut his eyes when he opened his mouth, and bolted objections which it was not so pleasant to taste, lies in the alleged defects, abuses, and evils connected with Dissenting communions. We know of no one who can really gain any thing by this argument, but the infidel. The abuses of the Established Church are notorious and flagrant; they have been exposed by the great inquest of the nation; they concern the whole nation, for every one, whatever be his sect, is interested in the abuses of a system towards which he is compelled to contribute, and which claims to be part and parcel of the State. The abuses of Dissenting churches concern only their own members. No conformist is injured by them; no infidel or profane person is called upon to contribute to their support. To expose, then, with malignant exaggeration the defects of voluntary churches of Christ which maintain themselves, is to be guilty of a gratuitous violation of charity, at the expense not so much of the honour of a sect, as of the interests of Religion herself. Whatever the votaries of Establishments may think,

« AnteriorContinuar »