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with only the prospect of these corrections, I am ready to maintain that conformity is the duty of every subject of the crown.
I have heard much of high ground. I trust that it is God's ground; and high as that may be, I hope the ministers of the church will never be so treacherous to the cause of the Gospel and the souls of men, as to yield one inch of that sacred eminence to the clamorous ignorance and licentious passions of the times. I have drawn copiously and impartially from the writings of the most esteemed nonconformists professing Protestantism, and if I have subverted their sophistry, our point in dispute with them is established. The separatist has long used his liberty to bring false and railing accusation against the church, and to treat her ministers with much cruelty and injustice : all we ask is liberty for truth, both in its promulgation and reception.
And I cannot commit this little work to publication, without requesting my christian readers to offer continually to Almighty God, in the name of his Son, their most fervent petitions, that it may
be instrumental to the propagation of his holy will, to the extension of his kingdom.
WHISSONSETT, February, 1836.
SCRIPTURE THE ONLY RULE.
PROTESTANT separatists from the Church of England constantly assert that the Scripture is their sole authority. None can admire this profession more than the true churchman, as he places his own adherence to the establishment on the same ground. One of their most enlightened and standard writers has declared." The dissenters appeal to every candid and impartial inquirer who will attend to the subject, whether their dissent from the Church of England is not founded on the most weighty and cogent reasons. They have only one principle on which they rest their cause, that the Scriptures are a perfect rule of faith and manners." (Towgood, p. xxxv. xxxvi. Harlow edition, 1809.) Another author, inferior to few or none of them in learning and talent, has confidently affirmed, that the distinctions of the Independents “are the results of a simple submission and a close adherence to the sole authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, declared in the Scriptures of the New Testament." (Pye Smith's Letter to Lee, p. 14, 2nd edition, 1835.) And a third, of very high consideration amongst them, has laid down as one of the first principles of Nonconformity, “the all-sufficiency and exclusive authority of the Scriptures as a rule of faith and practice.” (J. A. James, “Dissent and the Church of England,” p. 10, 3rd edition, 1831.) It is the profession of all those dissenters who are believers in their divine origin, and it is never questioned by the charitable censor of their conduct, that multitudes of them are sincere in making it. The object of this work is to demonstrate that they, notwithstanding, act in opposition to Scripture, by that very separation from the establishment which they maintain it sanctions, and to call upon them, in consistency with their profession, to unite with its ministry and members.
But though it is morally certain that there ought to be no separation from the church, it is not in. tended to deny to men the liberty of hearing any other person than the ministers of the church expound the Scriptures, whom they deem better instructed in divine knowledge than themselves, provided these labours of the laity, whether public or private, do not interfere with the services of the church ministry. It is every man's right and duty to endeavour, as much as in him lies, to enlighten his less informed neighbours under certain restrictions. Those restrictions principally are, that he does not break the unity of the church; that he and his hearers belong to the episcopal body as a matter of prior obligation
with that worship and with that communicate ; and that they hold their separate assemblies only in subordination to the ordained teachers. It is in conjunction with this liberty that I would be understood to maintain the indispensable connexion with the church; and it is only when combined with ecclesiastical union, and the acknowledgment of the superior claims of an episcopal ministry, that the license of lay preaching can be supposed allowable.
It appears, I think, from Scripture that such liberty as we have just stated is allowed. It may be doubted whether it would be used to any great extent, were the claims of the church ministers duly admitted by the people; but connected with their services, it would probably be productive of more good than evil, as whatever false views of Scripture might be advanced by the ignorant, the consultation of a learned ministry would have, at least, a tendency to correct.
ON THE CONCURRENT TESTIMONY OF SCRIPTURE,
OF REASON, AND OF THE APOSTOLIC FATHERS.
It may probably be with perfect truth affirmed of the Bible, independently of the prophetical portion of its contents, that it is by far the most difficult of all intelligible books to understand. Those who are acquainted with biblical criticism can, I conceive, very readily admit the justice of the remark. Disputed however it is by many, who would gladly justify their own exaltation into the chair of instruction without episcopal license. It is even asserted, that the passage in Isaiah xxxv. 8, is a proof of the facility of interpreting the New Testament: “ And an highway shall be there
and it shall be called the way of holiness; the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein." Whereas it is certain, as may be seen by a reference to the place and its context, the Scripture is not mentioned, nor, except in a very remote degree, alluded to, and much less its private interpretation by individuals; the words signifying in effect, that God would be with the true disciples and followers of Christ, and that his reli