« ZurückWeiter »
riage union ; yet our Lord says, concerning it, “ Those whom God hath joined together, let no
man put asunder.” I will not say, that no earthly power can deprive a minister of his office, who has forfeited it by his misconduct; but no record is given of the transaction in the New Testament; and I cannot conceive that the churches, over which the apostles, and Timothy and Titus ordained pastors, (by whomsoever chosen,) were competent, without consulting either apostle or evangelist, or other pastors and churches, both to set them aside, and deprive them of the office conferred " by the laying on of the hands of the
II. I proceed now to the last subject on which I purpose to give my thoughts; namely, the advantages arising to the cause of true religion from our national establishment, its provisions, liturgy, articles, and homilies ; whatever faults, real or supposed, may be found in its constitution and its administration.
Supposing at the beginning of the last century, or towards the middle of it, the same number of pious ministers and Christians had been found in the land as there then were, and no more ; and these without any advantage from an establishment, either of one kind or another; without churches, or episcopal chapels, or services on the Lord's day, or any thing Christian even in appearance, except in the places of worship belonging to this select company, separated from the rest of the nation, according to the form of independent churches, of a more ancient or more modern description : and supposing this to have been the case for a length of time preceding it; would the bulk of the population have differed much from the inhabitants of heathen countries? Would not even the more common notions of Christianity have been almost obliterated? Would not the very observance of the sabbath, especially as to attendance on public worship, have been nearly worn out; and all other regard to it, except as supported by the disallowed weapons of legal coercion? Would not the supply of truly pious ministers from our schools and colleges have been in a great degree, if not entirely, prevented ? Or, if any young man, educating for some other profession, becoming attentive to true religion, should have chosen the work of the ministry, must he not have been shut out from the opportunity of exercising his ministry, where it was most wanted : For, without some legal and strong measures from the secular arm, it cannot be supposed that the chartered seminaries of learning would have shared their funds with the religious party. How far some kind of idolatry would have sprung up in such a desert, I cannot say; but example shews that it commonly does return, in one form or other, under such circumstances. All, however, who had not been led to join the independent churches, and either to receive admission into them, or to attend at their places of religion, would have greatly resembled heathens in ignorance and ungodliness: and it is not without many lamentable exceptions, that even the
1 Tim. iv. 14.
independent churches have preserved, in any good measure, the evangelical faith among them. The office of minister in such circumstances must have greatly resembled that of a missionary in Pagan or Mohammedan countries ; except as the small number, at the time above stated, of these churches were concerned: and I believe it will be allowed, that, under God, the increase of them has been much owing to the labours of ministers in the establishment. Every thing inculcated concerning the grand truths and duties of Christianity must have been either wholly new, or considered as the notion of comparatively a small party; and, have mèt with as decided opposition, at least, as from Mohammedans. But now our parish churches and parish ministers, and Lord's day services, and various other observances, even when formal and inefficient, keep up in men's minds some idea of Christianity: and, when a minister who is earnest to do good, and “ well instructed to the “ kingdom of God,” is brought into any place, he finds a great many things ready prepared to his hand, which missionaries excessively feel the want of: a place of worship; a general conviction that the Lord's day should be observed ; a cessation of most kinds of labour; leisure to those who choose to attend on public worship ; an extended opinion, at least, that the scriptures are the word of God; with many other advantages, not to be found in heathen countries, and greatly relieving those difficulties under which missionaries at first labour, and over which they mourn.
Even that degree of attendance on public worship, which is found in the most formal or neglected parishes, gives a great advantage to a pious minister, who seldom fails greatly to increase it; while some attend from a partiality, ignorant indeed, to the parish church, who would not hear the same truths in another place on any account; and while they continue to quarrel with the preacher and his doctrine. Yet it is often found, in the event, that some of these very persons are at length won over. Though the manner in which the liturgy and scriptures are read in too many places greatly prevents the good which, apart from preaching, might be expected from them, as means of instruction ; they certainly produce in men's minds such a general knowledge of Christian truth and duty, as missionaries would gladly find in the heathens among whom they labour ; and which opens the way to their understanding of instruction which would otherwise be wholly unintelligible : while quotations from the liturgy, the articles, and the homilies, give the preacher an advantage which he otherwise could not have. It may be said, this arises from preju
dice.' Be it so: but he who will not avail himself of men's prejudices to attempt their good, as far as he conscientiously is able, has not well studied the state of the world, and could not imitate the apostle in “ becoming all things “ to all men, that by all means he might save
Even the administration of the sacraments (though, alas! too generally formal,) keeps up in men's minds ideas of Christian doctrine, to a de
1 Cor. ix. 19--21.
gree that is not generally considered. Original sin, regeneration, or å renewal to holiness by the Holy Spirit, the doctrine of the Trinity, and many other coincident points of Christianity, are continually brought before the attention of the members of the establishment by the administration of infant-baptism, and by the catechism generally taught their children: and, when a pious minister comes among persons who have even these mere inefficient notions, no tongue can express how much labour is spared, which, without them, would be indispensible and most discouraging. He can appeal to the liturgy, the catechism, and the form of baptism, and its professions and exhortations : he can argue, persuade, and expostulate with children, parents, sponsors, and all concerned, on the ground of them; he can silence the charge of novelty by arguments of which they must feel the force, whether they will or not. The same may
be said of the doctrine of the atonement, and faith in the Lord Jesus, by means of the Lord's supper; and of “ the great mystery of godliness" by means of both sacraments : while the confessions, both in the general service and at the communion, and the collects, and litany, afford him a never-failing source of illustration, explanation, and argumentum ad hominem; which often is more silencing and convincing than any other argument. In short, he performs his journey on a road formed to his hand, while the missionary must urge his course through forests and morasses, over rivers and mountains, as well as he can : and who does not perceive, that these are vast advantages arising from an establishment?