Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

as liable to this deduction. Nor, indeed,, ought they to be so given; for the tithes and other similar imposts on estates, having existed from time immemorial, no more belong to the owner of the estate, than the rent belongs to the farmer, instead of the landlord. If the plan in countries now professing Christianity, or in countries hereafter to be evangelized, require other funds; these, if raised by general taxation of any kind, ought, no doubt, to be impartially administered. And, even if the establishment should be rendered as comprehensive as can well be conceived, some may be supposed to dissent from it: and, I own it as my opinion, not only that all such persons as act peaceably in dissenting should have full toleration; but also that, with some limitations perhaps, (as idolatry in worship, or grossly immoral principles, or heresy subversive of the great mystery "of godliness," or principles subversive of civil government,) the funds raised by general taxation, at least, should be applied to support in part the quietly dissenting, as well as the established worship.

These are indeed Utopian thoughts of a possibly existing establishment: and I only adduce them to shew that establishments are not antiscriptural in themselves; and that we may lawfully worship, and officiate as ministers, in an establishment; provided that establishment does not require of us things in other respects contrary to our consciences.

Whatever we determine of the right and duty of kings in this respect: popish, Mohammedan, and pagan kings will establish their several religions, as far as policy or bigotry dictate ; notwithstanding our speculations. But shall we, on that account, use all our influence with a Hezekiah, or a Josiah, that we may induce him to "bury his "talent in the earth?" Or shall we, with the prophets of old, encourage him to go on and prosper; only keeping close to the oracles of God, as the rule and standard of all his measures? . I therefore am of opinion that, in the approaching happy days, something like establishments will take place: but how far they may accord to, or differ from, our establishment, I would not presume to determine. In the mean time, I would be thankful for our present advantages, and counsel my younger brethren not to be induced on slight grounds to forego them, but to endeavour to improve them to the utmost of their ability.

I remain, dear Sir,

Yours, &c.

THOMAS SCOTT.

LETTER II

Aston Sandfard, Nov. 23, 1815.

Dear Sir,

Before I received your note, I had thought of writing to you, with a view to a second edition of your pamphlet, a few additional remarks on establishments in general, and on the advantages of our establishment; which are not, as it appears to me and to some others, sufficiently valued, or their value sufficiently appreciated in the general argument. I would, however, introduce them with a few previous remarks.

They who oppose all establishments aver, that they plead for primitive Christianity: but this assumes, as if indisputable, the very point about which the controversy is maintained. None, I hope, who love our holy religion, mean to deviate from primitive Christianity; we only would have it stated in what this consists, with conclusive proofs to establish the point.

Even in respect of the external form and government of the primitive church, to this hour sub judice lis est, whether it were episcopal, presbyterian, or independent; or something different from all of them, and combining some parts of each system. And, as we have long been in full possession of all the evidence which we are ever likely to have, it is clear that something beyond outward evidence is needful to produce coincidence of opinion, amidst the contenders for different systems; even, "the pouring out of the "Spirit" of truth and love upon us all. One thing indeed is certain, that in the primitive Church there was no establishment: for as there was ho emperor or king so much as calling himself Christian, even an establishment like that of Jeroboam was impracticable.

There are some who, in vindicating their attempts to draw off pious and conscientious ministers from the establishment, plead that they 'have 'to do only with those of whom the establishment 'is ashamed, and of whom it labours to get rid.' Yet they at the same time own, that these are the very persons whose preaching and labours most accord to the liturgy and articles of the church? Now what do they dignify in this argument as the establishment, but that party of its rulers and ministers, or members, whom they consider as most opposed in doctrine and living to the authorized writings of the church of England? Whether they be so or not, they are so by this concession or statement. But, however the fact may be in this respect, were all the archbishops, bishops, and clergy unanimous, they are not the establishment: even if they were all sound in doctrine and holy in life, and exemplary in labour, they would not be the establishment; but merely the officers and administrators of the establishment. Even the king, lords spiritual and temporal, and commons, assembled in parliament; though possessed of authority, to make alterations which all the bishops and clergy combined have not; are nevertheless not the establishment: any more than they are the British constitution, or Magna Charta.— The books of the church of England, as authorized by act of parliament, and administered by the executive power, so to speak, are the establishment. So long as these are for us, the establishment is for us, how many soever of the officers or administrators are against us: and, were all the rest of the whole company against half a dozen ministers, as decidedly and unanimously as Caiaphas and the chief priests and rulers were against Christ and his apostles; the establishment would be no more against that half dozen, provided these books were for them, than the Mosaic establishment was against Christ and his apostles. Nay, should the parliament interfere materially to alter these books, and make them to be against that half dozen, it would, in fact, make a new establishment, quite different from that under which they entered and continued as members or ministers in the church of England; and they would then be warranted and required to withdraw from it: so far are things from being left to the mere arbitrary will of any rulers of the church, as many seem to think, or are willing to state, that they are.—It does not appear, however, that there is at present any disposition in our parliament to alter the establishment; and it is far from the truth, that its administrators are all ashamed of us, and desirous to get rid of us. But on the supposition that the party, of which some are ashamed and

« AnteriorContinuar »