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For the Christian Observer.
on the ADVANTAGES ARISING FROM A DiFFERENCE OF PARTIES IN RELIGION.
Though the diversity of our religious opinions is in itself an evil, and, in some views, greatly to be deplored, there are others in which it is attended with advantage; and I think it might be argued, a priori, that it would not be permitted, by InfiniteWisdom and Goodness, to exist, were it not to answer some important ends;–
“From seeming evil still educing good.” Thomson.
To this we are indebted, under Providence, for the preservation of the Christian Scriptures, pure and undefiled; for, as a candid and pious writer * observes, “Numbers of heretics appeared in the very infancy of the church, who all pretended to build their notions on Scripture; and most of them appealed to it as the final judge of controversies. Now it is certain, that these different parties of professing Christians were perpetual guards upon each other, and rendered it impossible for one party to practise grossly on the Sacred Books, without the discovery and clamour of the rest.”
There is another incidental benefit pointed out by the same author, who observes: “ Indeed, in this respect, that is an advantage, which in others is our great calamity; I mean, the diversity of our religious opinions. It is certain, that whereever there is a body of dissenters from the public establishment, who •lo yet agree with their brethren in the establishment, in the use of the same translation, there is as great evidence as could reasonably be desired, that such a translation is in the main right; for if it were in any
considerable argument corrupted, most of our other debates would quickly lose themselves in this.” Doubtless a principal design of Providence in permitting our differences, is the opportunity they afford for the trial and exercise of various Christian graces, such as candour, forbearance, and love; candour in the construction we place on the sentiments, and especially the motives, of those who differ from us; forbearance, notwithstanding their errors and failings, towards them; and cordial esteem of their persons. But the great benefit results from the principle of emulation which this diversity excites; and in the present imperfect state of human nature, we need every stimulus to holy exertion. A very powerful one we derive from thissource, which would, in a great measure, fail, were we all of one communion. The Dissenter, to be consistent, must in this manner argue with himself:—l have separated from the established church, because I think I perceive, in this step, some advantages to the growth and exercise of my piety. It behoves me then to evince not only that I am actuated by my principles, but that these rinciples are in themselves exceli. This can only be done by the exemplary manner in which I fulfil my social and relative duties. On the other hand, the conscientious Churchman, believing that the cause of serious piety is best secured by adhering to the established form, and, reasoning in the same manner, endeavours to evince the superiority of his principles, and avoid the disgrace it would reflect on him, were a Dissenter to know more of his religion, or practise it better, than himself. This principle has not only a general effect on the several parties of Christians, but is peculiarly benefcial to the ministers of the emulating bodies. The reputation which dissenting teachers have acquired for a more accurate knowledge of the doctrines of the Gospel, and for their greater zeal in enforcing them (notwithstanding their disadvantages in other respects), appears to have had its influence in remedying the acknowledged deficiency of theological education in our universities. Hence the increasing seriousness of our students and the growing numbers of pious, and (as all parties agree to cah them) evangelical, clergy. Nor is the principle of emulation without its more direct efficacy on the established clergy; for the careless pastor has the continual mortification of seeing the bulk of his parishioners neglecting the excellent, but ill-conducted, ser. vices of his church, and preferring the more animated worship of Methodists and Dissenters; and how is
generated; her creed became full of absurdity, and her worship of superstition; and both clergy and laity necessarily sunk together into the very abyss of ignorance and profligacy; while her zeal, excepting only in the essential articles of replenishing her revenues and persecuting heretics, became languid in the extreme. And it appears worthy of consideration, whether the salutary effect of the Act of Toleration, in counteracting that which enforces uniformity, has not had its effect in preserving us from evils of a similar tendency”. It might lead us into too expansive a field, and is not so immediately within the design of this paper, to consider what o: we may have derived from our dissenting brethren with respect to our civil liberties; but these have been acknowledged by historians least favourable to their principles. We have daily experience of the beneficial effect of the spirit of Christian emulation in the formation of societies, having for their object the general good. A Dissenter shall rise up, and propose a plan of no less extensive utility than the national education. He shall, as probably so ordained by Providence, belong to a denomination of Christians, calculated from peculiar circumstances, to engage him great and high patronage. His august Sovereign, and, after him, the Prince Regent, as parents of the community, though themselves of another religious communion, shall, from a conviction of the paramount importance of the
* This point is carried much further by a learned clergyman, Dr. Edwards, who thus expresses himself:-" If we would but open our eyes, we should see that we are beholden to the Dissenters for the continuance of a great part of our theological principles; for if the High Churchmen had no checks, they would have brought in Popery before this time, by their over valuing pomp and ceremony in divine worship. So that if there had been no Dissenters, the Church of England had been long since ruined.”—Preacher, vol. ii. P.133.
object, favour his system with their powerful and benignant sanction; and thousands shall be instructed, so far as to be enabled to read the Scriptures. But still the benevolent wish of our beloved Sovereign, that “every child” in the British dominions may be taught to read his Bible, cannot meet with its accomplishment; for the prejudice against this man, as a Dissenter, will prevent the complete establishment of his system. To meet this prejudice, and that too in such a way as to accomplish the great object, it shall be ordered by Providence, in this conjuncture, that a clergymau shall step forward and revive his dormant claim to the merit of introducing the mechanism of this new plan of education, and shall combine with the common principles of it the peculiar tenets of the national church; and thus the zeal of both parties, fostered by the spirit of rivalry, shall completely accomplish the effect. The same result, from the same principle, takes place in other instances. May we not exemplify it in the different institutions for the conversion of the Jews, and in the Society of Missions to Africa and the East, which probably took the first hint of its establishment from the London Missionary Society, in the formation, conduct, and support of which Dissenters have taken so large and liberal a part; as the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge has derived amanifest accession to its energy, as well as its finances, from that excellent institution the British and Foreign Bible Society,+a society founded on principles at once so simple and comprehensive, so wise and energetic, that, while its very constitution secures its permanence and extension,it bids fair to be the greatest instrument in the hands of Providence of reforming the world. And here we may observe, that our principle flows with the most powerful, and yet most refined energy, when Christians of various denominations combine in a great design, and all their united zeal operates in one di.
rection”. It is no longer the insignificant brook or petty current, but assumes the majesty and force of a great river, bearing down all opposition before it, aud increasing continually in its progress till it expands itself into a mighty ocean. Here the little private and party views of individuals are overwhelmed in the magnitude of the objects surrounding them. Their prejudices and animosities subside. Coming into nearer contact with men of other denominations,they can perceive and admire their excellencies, and learn still more and more to approximate in spirit, till, in essentials at least, they are agreed, and their differences in non-essentials (if they do not by degrees altogether subside) serve only, in a sweet and powerful rivalry, to provoke one another to greater measures of love and of good works. J. L. ** ,
To the Editor of the ChristianObserver.
It is a great consideration to a serious and reflecting mind, in this age of angry controversy, to observe how the over-ruling wisdom of God maketh even “the wrath of man to praise him,” by promoting his sacred cause. The original controversy respecting the Bible Society, commenced by Dr. Wordsworth, brought the knowledge of that noble institution to many who were previously ignorant of it, or but imperfectly acquainted with it; it put them upon inquiring into its claims upon the public support, and eventually produced a considerable accession to the number of its members. The venerable Society for promoting Christian Knowledge also participated in the good effects of this discussion, which roused its dormant zeal, and inspired it with * It should be acknowledged, to the honour of the Dissenters, that, on some recent occasions, they have discovered a spirit which might be contrasted, much to their advantage, with that which has been displayed by a party in the Establishment.
unwonted activity; so that we may now say of it, as Florus does of the Roman empire in his time, “Movet hacertos, et, praeter spem omnium, senectus imperii quasi reddita juventute revirescit.” Similar advantages will, doubtless, be produced by the revival of the controversy by Dr. Marsh. His attack upon the Bible Society, like that of his predecessor, will add to its triumphs, and it will go on “conquering and to conquer,” wielding “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” One great advantage which may be confidently expected from the present discussion, is the distribution of the Prayer-book, by the members of the Bible Society who are of the Established Church, to a greater extent than has yet taken place. Although it is certain, that they cannot justly be charged with having neglected this duty, (and Dr. Marsh himself seems afraid to venture farther than to prove by “abstract reasoning,” that their connection with the Society ought to produce that effect, whether it actually does or not); yet they will naturally be anxious, in consequence of this unexpected objection, “to cut off occasion from them that desire occasion” to reproach them, by reJoubling their activity in the distribution of the Prayer-book: and the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge will, of course, exert itself in extending the circulation of that book to which Dr. Marsh teaches them to look “to correct the evil” of the rapidly increasing distribution of the Bible alone by the Bible Society. Thus the two Societies will “provoke each other to good works.” Happy would it be for the Church of England, and for the interests of religion in general, did they also provoke each other “to love.” This brings me to that remark, for the sake of which Ihave addressed these lines to you. I have long ebserved with great regret, in common with many other members of •ur church, that the Articles of Re
ligion are now generally omitted in the Book of Common-Prayer. What can be the reason of this omission ? Have not the Bishop of Lincoln and other eminent divines, proved that they are not Calvinistic What harm, therefore, can they do? And why should they be detruded from that station which they legally hold among the public formularies of our Church Dr. Marsh very properly pleads for the distribution of the Prayer-book amongst our parishioners, in order that they may be directed by it to the true sense of Scripture as received and professed by our church. Now to what particular portion of its formularies would those who wished to be instructed in its doctrines, especially look for information but to the creeds and the Articles Why, therefore, should not the latter be retained as well as the former? The privilege of printing Bibles and Prayer-books is properly confined to the Universities and the King's Printer, in order to secure the integrity of the text of each. Is it not, therefore, a breach of trust to publish (see Christ. Obs. p. 79) imperfect editions of either? It is with great pleasure I have heard that a Society is projected by some Members of the Established Church, for the purpose of a more extensive distribution of the Prayerbook and the Homilies. And Iconfidentally trust that they will make it a fundamental rule of their institution, that the Prayer-books distributed by them shall always contain the Articles of Religion. We may then hope that, by the blessing of God upon the use of these authorised standards of our faith, and the diligent instructions of their pastors, our congregations will be well grounded and established in those doctrines which our Reformers taught, and our Martyrs sealed with their blood. I am, &c. A. M. Oxonio NSIS.
P. S. This subject suggests to me to notice an error which is to be
found in the greater part, if not all, of the more modern editions of the Homilies. In the beginning of the Sermon of good Works annered unto Faith, we read, “and St. Paul proveth that the eunuch had faith, because he pleased God,” Heb. xi, instead of “ that ENoch had faith,” p. 38, Oxford edition, 1802, 8vo.
To the Editor of the ChristianObserver.
A constant Reader of the Christian Observer, having felt much interest in perusing Mrs. Grant's Essays on the Superstitions of the Highlanders, has been particularly imressed with her suggestions respecting the pressing want of religious instruction among the Gaelic emigrants, which appears a point well worthy the attention of those societies who are so laudably engaged in the successful promotion of the best of all causes; but having no such access to them as through the channel of your valuable work, she has transcribed the passage with a view to its publication, if it should be thought likely to do good ; or in the hope that a more judicious extract may be made, and the case so stated, as to draw the attention of such as have it in their power to relieve the wants of those to whom a little help, now seasonably assorded, promises an abundant benefit.
“In various instances, a set of illiterate peasants have, when forced to remove, gone about it in the most systematic manner. They have themselves chartered a ship, and engaged it to come for them, to one of their Highland ports, and a whole cluster of kindred, of all ages, from four weeks to fourscore years, have gone in mournful procession to the shore; the bagpipes mournfully playing before them a sad funereal air, and all their neighbours and relations accompanying them on board to bid a last farewel. Those kindred groupes have gone on with the same union and constancy be.
yond the Atlantic. Far different from the single adventurers that yearly emigrate to the states, they usually keep within the bounds of British America, and prefer going very far into the interior, where they may get as much land as will accommodate them all, to separating for a more pleasant or advantageous settlement. How desirable that those associate bands of brothers, who carry with them such a principle of union, and such adesire of preserving the sacred fire of their first principles and attachments: how desirable, I say, would it be, that they should be encouraged to preserve, as much as is compatible with removal, their former character and opinions. They cannot afford any inducements to prevail on a clergyman, or even a school-master, to accompany them; yet what a divine charity would it be, to send out a missionary, with a small salary, to preach to them in their own language, ahd support their souls in the wilderness with the bread of life. “The want of such instruction, and of such a bond of union is severely felt by those poor exiles in upper Canada. In some instances they have, for want of this and other mental indulgences,given themselves up almost entirely to the chace, and relapsed into a state little better than savages. “Last year, there was at Montreal, I know not whethera regular clergyman or a mere itinerant, who preached Gaelic, and, I think I was told, administered the sacraments in the same language. Multitudes came from all the parts of upper Camada to hear the glad tidings once more in their native language. I heard, indeed, of some that came five hundred miles for that purpose. It may appear a paradox to say, that those who went across the Atlantic, without any knowledge of the English language, were less likely to acquire it there than among their native mountains. This is, nevertheless, strictly true. By means of the schools dispersed over all the High