« AnteriorContinuar »
praise of men, but shall not be partakers of " the "honour which cometh from God only." Much I have expunged, lest I should give needless or injurious offence; and, if any thing remains of this kind, I must intreat a candid construction: for, though convinced that "the fruit of righ"teousness is sown in peace of those who make "peace," I am not in all cases able to discern what may be inconsistent with this, in what I have written ; or to come up to the standard which I would prescribe to myself.
CONFORMITY TO THE ESTABLISHED CHURCH:
The following Letters were addressed to the Rev. Peter Roe, Minister of St. Mary's Kilkenny, under circumstances which he himself thus details.
"About the year 1804, the opinions of Robert Browne were revived in Dublin. This person in the year 1581 formed a church on the following principles. 'The members of it maintained the discipline of the Church of England to be popish and antichristian; they forbad their brethren to join with those of her communion in any part of public worship; and ilu-y renounced, religions intercourse with all reformed churches except such as were of their own model. They considered that every church should be confined within the limits of a single congregation, and its government democratical. The power of admitting or excluding members, and of deciding all controversies, was in the brotherhood. They did not allow the priesthood to be a distinct order, or that it could give a man an indelible character. They declared against all forms of prayer; and any brother had liberty to exhort in their assemblies: and in church discipline they were entirely opposed to every union with the state, or civil power. In short, in their view every society of Christians, or, as they termed it, every church, was a distinct body corporate, possessing in itself all powers for regulating and governing its members.'"
The ' division and subdivision' which Mr. Roe witnessed, as produced by the re-appearance of these opinions, which were ' hailed as a new discovery,' and were presented in a way well suited to allure and entangle "the artless, the unwary, and the scrupulous," led him to institute a correspondence with several of his more experienced friends upon the subject: and the answers which he received he, with the consent of the respective writers, published in a pamphlet, entitled, " The Evil of Separation from the Church of England." The first edition, printed at Kilkenny, i8i5, contained only the former of the two following letters: the second letter, with the annexed Essay on the Religious Establishment of Israel, was added in the second edition, printed for Seeley, London, 1817.—J. S.
Aston Sandford, Feb. 10, 1815.
Rev. And Dear Sir,
I lose no time in remitting to you my revised thoughts on the subject of our communication;1 though I feel, that Horace's caution to his friend is very applicable to the case; which I would also earnestly recommend to the attention of you and your friends.
'Periculosae plenum opus aleee
Did the whole, indeed, rest with the sentiments of Mr. Haldane and his associates, who are bold innovators on all ancient systems, I should feel less difficulty; because my remarks would involve comparatively a small company; and those not entitled to peculiar delicacy of opposition, of which they by no means exhibit the example. But, in stating what I have to urge, in favour of continuing in the established church, against their objections, I cannot well avoid giving my sentiments on far larger, and more ancient, and highly respectable bodies of men; among whom, in former times, many of the most "burning and "shining lights" of the Christian church were found, and indeed some are at this day.
'The communication to which the writer refers was made in the year 1813.
I am far from a disposition to join the modern outcry against the puritans—the progenitors of many of our present dissenters. Had my lot been cast in those persecuting days, I can only doubt whether I should have been found among them or not, by questioning whether I should have had sufficient courage of faith and hope to join the persecuted party. Many, no doubt, who obtained an undue ascendency among them, in the turbulent days of Charles the first, and even before that time, were factious ambitious hypocrites: but I must think, that the tree of liberty, sober and legitimate liberty, civil and religious, under the shadow of which we, in the establishment as well as others, repose in peace, and the fruit of which we gather, was planted by the puritans, and watered, if not by their blood, at least by their tears. Yet, it is the modern fashion to feed delightfully on the fruit, and then to revile, if not curse, those who planted and watered the tree!
I do not indeed think that any, in our favoured days, have so strong reasons for dissenting as the puritans had, even in the preceding times; much less, as they had who were ejected on the restoration of Charles the second. I am not disposed to vindicate, much less to panegyrize the whole body, or all their measures: but surely the guilt of the schism, whatever it was, did not wholly, or