« AnteriorContinuar »
Christianity is far from promoting a levelling spirit in one sense of the term; but it is its professed object in another. Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill made low. In all that Christ and his apostles have done to propagate it, they have made no account of those things which men are apt to set a value upon. Had human wisdom been consulted, the first object would have been to convert those who, on account of office, rank, fortune, or talents, had the greatest influence upon others; and wbo, by throwing their weight into the Christian scale, would have easily caused it to preponderate. But though some of this description are to be found among the primitive Christians, yet they appear to have taken no leading part among them; nor is the success of the gospel even ascribed to their influence. But descending from their former heights, they took their place among the brethren, rejoicing that they were made low.
Your are ready to ask, Mr Editor, What of this ? And what is the passage you bave been comparing with it? It is as follows :
-“Greatly as I wish the reform of principles, and the suppression of vice, I am not sanguine in my expectations of either event, while rank, and station, and wealth, throw their mighty influence into the opposite scale. Then, and not till then, will Christianity obtain the dominion she deserves ; when the makers of our manners shall submit to her authority, and THE PEOPLE OF FASHION become THE PEOPLE OF GOD."
Christianity, to be sure, will never obtain the dominion she deserves, while any class of society continues to set her at nought : but if its scale should be made at last to preponderate by the mighty influence of rank and station and wealth being thrown into it, things must proceed on very different principles from what they have done. If I had no bope of Christianity obtaining the dominion“ till then," I should have little or no hope at all : for though God is able to turn them, as well as others, to himself, yet it is not his usual way of working in order to promote his own cause. Is it not much too great a compliment to pay to men of rank and fashion, to suppose that Christianity will never prevail till it receives “their mighty influence ?" Ought they not rather to be told, that if they decline to engage on her side, the
consequence will only affect themselves? “ Deliverance will arise” from another quarter, and God will cause his name to triumph without them ? According to all that has hitherto appeared, and all that we are taught in the scriptures to expect, the people of fashion will be the last that shall enter into Christ's kingdom ; and when they do enter, it will not be to take the lead, but as rejoicing that they are made low.
ON PARTY SPIRIT.
There appears to be a mistaken idea, too commonly prevailing in the religious world at present, respecting what is called a party spirit.
Many professors, while they endeavour to promote the interests of religion in general, too often neglect to pay that attention which . is due to the interest and welfare of that class or denomination of Christians in particular, with which they are or have been connected. It is not uncommon to see one of these " candid” Christian professors keep at a distance from his own denomination, or party, where that denomination stands most in need of his countenance and support; while he associates with another party, which is sanctioned by numbers and worldly influence. And when the inconsistency of his conduct is hinted at, he will excuse himself by saying, in the cant phrase of the day, 'That it is his wish to promote the interests of religion in general, and not to serve a party. I wish some of your correspondents would expose the conduct of such fawning professors in its true colours ; and endeavour to convince then, that in vain are all pretensions to Christian candour, where consistency and integrity are wanting,
A BRIEF STATEMENT OF THE PRINCIPLES OF DISSENT,
From the first establishment of the church of England on its present basis, to this day, there have been Dissenters from it: but as all dissent is expressive, rather of what is disapproved, than of what is embraced, it is natural to suppose that the objects of dis, approbation will be different in different persons. The English Dissenters are commonly distinguished into three denominations ; Presbyterians, Independents, and Baptists : but there exists, and has existed nearly from the beginning, a distinction of greater importance, and more descriptive of their respective grounds of dissent, by which also they are reducible to three classes :viz :
Those who have disapproved of the doctrine of the national church-those who approved of its doctrine, but were dissatisfied with the degree of its reformation—and those who also approved of its doctrine, but disapproved not only of particular parts, but of the very principle of its constitution.
Of the first description, there were individuals from the time of the Reformation in the reign of Edward the Sixth, to the Revolution in 1688, several of whom were put to death for their principles : but till the eighteenth century their numbers appear to have been
few. Whatever we may think of the doctrines which these peo. ple imbibed, no person who respects the right of private judgment, and the authority of him who reproved his own disciples when they would have called for fire from beaven upon his enemies, declaring that he came not to destroy men's lives, but to save them, can forbear to regret that the Reformation should at so early a period have been stained with blood.
Of the second description, were a greater part of the Puritans and Nonconformists. They were Presbyterians. They did not object to a national establishment of religion; but rather wished to be comprehended in it, provided it bad been framed after the model of other reformed churches, which they accounted more agreeable to the scriptures. Hence when they left the church, it was with reluctance, complaining of the terms of conformity, to which they could not conscientiously subscribe. The several attempts for compromising the differences, and admitting them into the national church, during the reigns of James the First, and Charles the Second, respected Dissenters of this description.
The third, and last class of Dissenters, differed not from the Es. tablished church in the main, as to their doctrine, though they might not approve of being sworu to the belief of every particuIar in a human composition, especially of so large an extent as the Thirty-nine Articles. But with respect to its constitution, government, and discipline, their objections were far greater than those of their brethren. Its being an ally, and as it were a branch of the state, and comprehending the body of the nation, good and bad, appeared to them utterly inconsistent with the nature of Christ's kingdom, which is not of this world; and of a Christian church, which in its own articles is said to be “a congregation of faithful men."
They had no antipathy to Churchmen, but considered many of them as persons eminent in godliness; nor to this church in distinction from others, though there might be in them different degrees of good and evil : but their grand objection was to the church considered as national. The temporal power of bishops, the imposition of ministers, to the exclusion of the free election of the people, the mixture of godly and manifestly ungodly characters at the Lord's table, the corruption of worship, the total want of discipline, all other deviations from primitive Christianity, appeared to them to be no more than might be expected, if circumstances admitted it, to grow out of a national establishment. They, therefore, peaceably withdrew from its communion, with the view of form. ing churches on the plan of the New Testament. But the leaders in the establishment, considering themselves as the true church, and all who dissented from them as guilty of schism, being jealous whereunto this might grow, and having the civil power on their side, thought good to prevent them. In the reign of the famed Elizabeth, in the year 1593, several of them were actually executed on gibbets : not for any contempt of civil authority, for to this they professed and yielded all due obedience ; nor for any matter of wrong, or wicked lewdness, for their lives were unblameable: but for following what they believed to be the mind of Christ, regarde less of ecclesiastical restraints. The rest fled to Holland for safety. . .
Among these exiles was Mr. John Robinson, a man who for gentleness, modesty, firmness, and solid wisdom, has been rarely excelled. He and his companions in tribulation were permitted to form a congregational church at Leyden, which is said to have consisted of three hundred members. About twenty-seven years after their residence in Holland, namely in 1620, about a hun.. dred of the younger members of the church went over to North America, and formed the settlement of New Plymouth ; and as.... every previous event to colonize that country had failed, they.. may properly be considered as the founders of the American
empire. 1. Another of these exiles was the famous Mr. Henry Ainsworth,
author of the Commentary on the Pentateuch, the Psalms, and the Song of Songs. He was a teacher of another congregational church at Amsterdam. *
* Two of his Treatises, the one entitled The Communion of Saints, and the other An Arrow against Idolatry, have within a few years been reprinted at Edinburgh ; to which is prefixed some account of the life and writiags of the author.