« AnteriorContinuar »
tionately, instructing them carefully and assiduously in the ground and foundation of their faith in Christ, and in the doctrines of that truly apostolical church in which they have the happiness to be born and educated; impressing strongly on their minds all the various duties of their high and heavenly calling, rebuking the bold, impenītent offender, encouraging the humble and the penitent, seiżing eagerly every opportunity that sickness or misfortune or affliction affords, of softening and subduing their hearts with the power of religion, and inspiring them with a resolution to repel with vigour every attempt that shall be made to seduce them from their belief in the gospel, and their allegiance to their heavenly Sovereign.
A conduct such as this, will, I am persuaded, be a sovereign antidote to the poison of that continental dépravity which might otherwise diffuse itself over this island, and contaminate the minds and manners of its inhabitants. ;.
But beside this, which is unquestionably our principal object, it will have another effect, of no small importance in the present times. It will tend greatly to check the progress of
every species of enthusiasm, and to restrain those unjustifiable schisms and separations from the established church, which have of late been too much prevalent among us. . · It is, I believe, a fact which admits of little doubt, that when the itinerant preacher goes forth upon his mission, he commonly looks out for those parishes where either the shepherd has entirely deserted his flock, and is employing or amusing himself elsewhere, or where he unfortunately pays so little attention - to it, is so indolent, so lukewarm, so indifferent
to its welfare, as to make it an easy prey to every bold invader. There that invader finds an easy access, and a welcome reception; and • soon collects together a large number of pro
selytes. But, in general, he very prudently keeps aloof from those parishes where he sees a resident minister conducting himself in the 'manner I have above described; watching over his people with unremitting care; grounding them early in the rudiments of sound religion; guarding them carefully against the false glosses and dangerous delusions of illiterate and unauthorized teachers; bringing them to a constant attendance on divine worship in
their parish churches; and manifesting the same zeal, activity, and earnestness to restrain his people in the church of England, which he sees others exert to seduce them from it. Into parishes so constituted, the self-commissioned preacher seldom, if ever, enters; or, if he does, he rarely gains any permanent footing, any settled establishment in them *. He is in most cases forced to give way to the superior weight and influence of a regular, a learned, an exemplary, and a diligent pastor. This, then, is the true, the most effectual way, of counteracting the progress of schism and fanaticism. There are numbers, I am persuaded, here present, who can, from their own experience, and their own laudable exertions, bear testimony to the truth of this position: and whenever this remedy is universally applied, (as I hope and trust it gradually will) I do not hesitate to predict that the evil complained of will be considerably lessened, in some instances entirely subdued t. Indeed, it would, I think, be degrading to the honour and dignity of our ancient and venerable establishment, to suppose that a church founded on the gospel of Christ; cemented with the blood of its martyrs; constructed by some of the wisest, most learned, most pious, most eminent of men of that or almost any other period; a church which has stood the test of ages and the shock of persecution; which is the great bulwark of protestantism in Europe, the admiration of foreign nations, and the glory of our own; it would, I say, be paying but an ill compliment to such an establishment to suppose, that a church so constituted, and at the same time supported and protected by the state, can be shaken, or in any material degree injured, by the invectives or misrepresentations of any adversaries that we have to contend with. No, my brethren, let us think better of ourselves; let us be true to ourselves; let us make the beșt use of the vast advantages we possess ; let us exert ourselves in our several stations with diligence, with vigour, with energy, and with perseverance, and we have nothing to fear *
the • The reader will easily perceive, that some of these observations cannot, for obvious reasons, be strictly applied to the very populous parishes of London and its immediate vicinity.
+ See note (A) in the Appendix, p. 324.,
... . We * See note (B) in the Appendix, p. 327.-It is with great satisfaction I can state, that the number of young
persons religion. persons confirmed in the course of my last visitation in 1803, exceeds that of any former one; a circumstance which affords, I think, a fair presumption that in the diocese of London at least) the members of the church of England are not diminished in their numbers, and have not lost any thing of their accustomed reverence for the solemn ordinances of the church to which they belong.
We have, indeed, in the present times, peculiar reason for cherishing and protecting our national church, and adhering to it with inviolable fidelity. We have seen, in more countries than one, the fatal consequences that have arisen to morals and to religion from the subversion of ancient religious institutions; from dissolving the natural connection between the church and the state; from depriving religion of all support from the public, and leaving it entirely to the pious zeal and spontaneous generosity of individuals.
About twenty years ago we were told, in a variety of publications, written by men of considerable talents, dissenting from the church of England, that all ecclesiastical establishments were unchristian and pernicious things; that they were a check to all liberality of opinion, all freedom of inquiry, and hurtful to the interests of morality and