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joined to the dissenters, as members of the church; the ground is laid for most of our other difficulties. I have, however, so rarely seen the power of the church, or the communicants, among the dissenters, impartially exercised, especially in respect of the affluent, that I am rather the better satisfied with things as they are. Yet, it is highly desirable that a steady discipline should be introduced in the establishment, chiefly under the inspection of the parish ministers, but with appeal in doubtful or difficult cases to the diocesan.
Aiming at too much in this respect, commonly defeats the end; as it excites prejudice and opposition, gives the whole an air of sternness and spiritual pride, and makes way for attempts to shelter the offending person. Thus the penal attendants on excommunication have rendered it terrible and hateful in the eyes of men in general. Even simple exclusion from the Lord's supper, however mildly done, should be enforced on those only who are evidently improper persons: for no discipline can exclude plausible hypocrites. The very idea, of man's being capable of exactly distinguishing believers from unbelievers, is a presumptuous intrusion into his province, who " alone "trieth the hearts of the children of men:" while it extremely exposes those who act upon it to the danger of "rooting up the wheat with the "tares," or perhaps instead of the tares.
As far as I can recollect, Mr. Haldane's plan (for I have not his book at hand,) aims to exclude unbelievers, not only from the Lord's table, but also from public and social worship; which is altogether, not merely unscriptural, but antiscrip
tural, as it prevents their attendance on those means of grace, by which God works conversion.1 ( I had understood that Mr. W. refused to admit any but the church in time of prayer and praise: 'but this does not appear to be accurate. I have 'heard that the church and spectators are in dif'ferent rooms, or have a visible mode of separa'tion. If so, I believe it is far from the spirit of the gospel.-The spirit of the gospel resembles 'the principle of attraction in the natural world; 'but this spirit is like the principle of repulsion, 'which would crumble the whole church into dis'cordant atoms.'2 Surely, it also coincides with· · the language of those in ancient times, who said, "Stand by thyself, come not near to me, I am "holier than thou." 3 66 God, I thank thee that I "am not like the rest of men, (,) or even "as this publican." 4-The reasoning from
prayer and praise, to the Lord's supper, is, I think, sophistical. These are moral duties, binding on all. Whether they join in them or 'not, they ought so to do. But baptism and the 'Lord's supper are positive institutes, and which are not the immediate duty of unbelievers.' 5 Yet, in respect of these positive institutions, it is surely presumptuous to suppose, that we can certainly know true believers from others: for the Lord alone can search the heart.-When engaged
in prayer and praise, and using plural pronouns,
'as when I say We desire, &c.; I consider myself
as joining with as many as do join in it; and that
1 Cor. xiv. 23-25.
3 Is. lxv. 5.
Rev. A. Fuller.
2 Rev. A. Fuller.
4 Luke xviii. 11.
all others are mere spectators." May not a minister of the establishment do the same, in respect of the admirable petitions and thanksgivings of the liturgy? And is not this enough for his complete satisfaction?
Whether it be in the public worship, or at the Lord's table, the presence of either openly wicked persons or hypocrites will not prevent the acceptableness of our services; if their presence be not the effect of our sin. We should chiefly look to ourselves if duly humbled, we shall not be disposed to reflect on others as worse than ourselves: and surely, it too much resembles the Pharisce, to be eying the Publican with disdain, saying “Stand by thyself, I am holier than thou," when we ought to be pouring out our souls in humble prayer to God! or, indeed, in any way to think of the poor publican, except to lift a prayer to God in his behalf also.
In respect of liturgies: if all ministers were eminent in grace and gifts, perhaps they might be dispensed with. Yet they were of early use in the church and I cannot but think, in modern times, that our liturgy, when reverently and distinctly read, forms the most spiritual and scriptural public worship on which I ever attended; and I have been, as I trust, a candid observer, nay a worshipper, in many places where it is not used. Except on special occasions, the general wants of a public congregation will continue the same from week to week, and the general topics of adoration,
intercession, and thanksgiving: so that we do not so much require new words as new affections of the heart, excited, not by new words, but by "the "Spirit of grace and of supplications;" in order to "worship in spirit and truth." Even they who use no liturgy have either some plan formed in their own mind, if not proposed to them; or their worship becomes confused and partial, perhaps not unsuitable to a private circle, but defective at least as public worship. They who attend where a liturgy is not used, if strictly observant and impartial, cannot but acknowledge that the same ground is gone over by the officiating minister, almost as regularly as with a liturgy. And indeed it ought to be so; except as to occasional variations, and in cases of peculiar emergency: and then able, wise, and pious men may be allowed to have some advantages. But our liturgy contains every general subject of worship, in most simple and suitable words, in the genuine language of devotion: in most parts, especially in our beautiful litany, it comprises, with perspicuous brevity, multum in parvo; and I must declare, that I seem to enter into the spirit of it with far greater satisfaction and delight in my old age, than I did in my younger years. Indeed, no authoritative injunction prohibits us, from using, in few words, petitions, supplications, or praises, as special circumstances require, in the pulpit, before and after I say, in few words; for any thing beyond this does not suit the general nature of our worship, and makes way for unedifying repetition.
The reading of the holy scriptures also in our worship, if properly performed, is an honour due
to the word of God, and tends exceedingly to interest and edify the congregation; and to prepare it for the faithful preaching of the gospel.
But the most difficult part of the subject yet remains; I mean what relates to establishments, which many condemn as wholly unscriptural, if not antiscriptural: and which, I must impartially own, are often defended, and even extolled, in an unscriptural manner.
If no way of defending our establishment can be devised, which would not, if fairly applied defend the establishment of popery, of Mohammedism, or pagan idolatry, by the authority of kings and rulers; I must acknowledge the cause to be desperate. Yet if it be a right of kings and rulers to prescribe the creed and manner of worship, with its appendages, to their subjects, and to enforce their concurrence; it must be equally the right of all kings; for they all think, or profess to think, their own religion to be the true religion.Again, if it be the duty of kings and rulers, to prescribe these things to their subjects, it is equally the duty of all kings, and for the same reason. This is the palladium of those who oppose establishments: and how shall we deprive them of it? Surely not by pleading the excellency of our own establishment, as if in all respects faultless, and as such entitled to be considered as distinct from that of other nations: for this will not be admitted by any party, ourselves excepted; or, rather, some among ourselves.
Let us then try if another view cannot be taken of the subject. "Improvement of talent" is es