« PreviousContinue »
Mir. Indeed, Madam, I am not ; nor is that the case with the Christians with whom I associate. Only show to us from Scripture, that we practise any thing which we ought not to practise, or that we reject any thing which we ought not to reject, and we will return you our sincere thanks. We are not only open to conviction, but we are willing and able to make the proposed alteration. You cannot say the same to us: I pity you on this account. Your church admits of no improvement: none of its errors can be rectified, none of its imperfections removed ; none of its defects supplied. All the congregations in a diocese, with the clergy and bishop at their head, cannot make a single alteration; no, nor yet all the congregations, and clergymen, and bishops in a province, with the archbishop at their head. The sun might as well never shine for you ; the parish clock must never be set by it ; it must always go as it does. To us, on the contrary, the word of God is a constant directory ; and we are at liberty to obey every one of the divine commands. ro
Mrs. Law. There is, however, one jewel of which I think you cannot deprive us; and that is, the piety of those great men by whom the church of England was founded. · Mir. Their memory I shall ever revere. They performed a great deal, considering the darkness of the time in which they lived, and the short space they had to do it in. But they were reformers, rather than founders. The church of England is not a new church built, but an old one mended.We also can boast of thousands of worthies from almost the morning of the Reformation to the present time; we can boast of two thousand ministers who joined us from the church in one day, because they would not Worship God according to the commandments of men. We can tell of thousands who died in prison, merely because they were dissenters, of others who had trial of cruel mockings; and of others who'were destitute, afflicted, tormented, of whom the world was not worthy. Soon after the Reformers had begun their work, they were called to lay down their lives; and they were succeeded by men of another spirit. The Nonconformists were their true descendants, and carried on that reformation which they had only begun. Were Latimer and Ridley now upon earth, (to say nothing of bishop Hooper, who might even then be called a dissenter,) I believe that they would associate with us. The Pharisees venerated the memory of Moses, and the scribes sat in his seat: but when Moses and Elijah vi. sited our world, they associated not with them, but with men of a new sect, upon which the Jewish priests looked with contempt.
Mrs. Law concluded with saying, that she had not sufficiently considered the controversy ; but that, although she could say nothing more in defence of national churches, it would be wrong for her to infer that nothing more could be said. She wished me every blessing, and desired me to do nothing contrary to my conscience. This kind treatment was all I could either expect or wish ; and I should be glad if all religious people would terminate their dis. putes in as amiable a manner. · I attend on the ministry of Mr. Lowe, a worthy Baptist minister who preaches at Barnwell : but my father is very angry, and my mother treats me with contempt for associating with beggars, as she terms a poor but decent people who compose the greatest part of his congregation. I shall not defile my paper with her ill-natured speeches; for what better could be expected from a proud and irreligious woman.
As a Christian should live as nearly as possible by rule, and as, unless this be done, we cannot hope to make any considerable progress in the divine life, it will greatly oblige my dear friend and myself, if you will favour us with your thoughts on this subject.
I ever remain, my dear aunt,
LETTER XXV. .
From Miss Eusebia Neville to Mrs. Worthingion.
SINCE I wrote to you last, I have had many trials. In reading the Scriptures, such unbelieving and sometimes blasphemous thoughts have intruded themselves, that I have started, and shuddered with horror. I have also been tempted to think that after all I might deceive my self, and be nothing but a liypocrite."
On my informing our friend Thomas of these things, he told me that he was persuacled I had a fever, and that my complaint would be removed with my disorder : indeed I have been far from being well for some time. Thomas observed, that he had no doubt but those blasphemous thoughts, which may be justly compared to fiery darts, were caused by the wicked one, who takes occasion, from the different states and temperaments of our bodies, as well as from our various ages, constitutions and circumstances, to make use of such temptations as he judges will succeed. Thus, said he, the hunger of Christ, and the fear of Peter, were made use of by Satan, as the means by which he would gladly have destroyed them. With regard to your being tempted to fear that after all you may prove a hypocrite, know, my friend, that unreasonable fears, as well as unreasonable hopes, ought to be discarded by our better judgment. There is, continued he, a cautious, child-like fear, implanted in the hearts of all God's children ; and this fear is not quieted by any thing less than a dependence upon the Receemer alone for righteousness and strength, and a settled purpose to take up his cross daily, and to be obedient to all his commands. This kind of fear may justly by called the barometer of prayer; for in proportion as it rises, we are brought low before the footstool of the divine majesty, which is a cer
. tain prelude to our exaltation. In common the fears of God's children are not anxious, corroding and tormenting, but are over-balanced by a settled and well-founded hope. And on the contrary their hope is not of the bold and presumptuous kind, or such as permits them to do those things deliberately which they know are offensive to God. No, my dear friend, their happiest moments are balanced with fear, in order that they inay be kept from carrying too much sail, and running upon rocks and quicksands. Thus our God, if we are in danger of being exalted above measure, permits some thorn in the flesh to wound us, some messenger of Satan mercifully to buffet us ; because this transitory life is not our rest. Or if we are likely to sink in floods of temptations and trials, he puts out his hand to save us; like as our Lord saved Peter, whose faith failed him when walking on the waves.
It seems then, Thomas, said I, that if our hope of eter. nal life be such as to keep us from tormenting fears, it is sufficient for this imperfect state ; and that, on the other hand, if our fear is the mean of oui walking cautiously, humbly, and circumspectly, it ought to be considered as a blessing rather than as an impediment. To this my friend fully agreed.
O Madam, you can scarcely conceive how happy I am at times in this good man's company. I wish I could say that that was the case at home : but I have much reason to bless God that it is no worse with me. My father returned a week past ; and my sister and father Albino have spared no pains to inform him what an incorrigible heretic I am. They told him also of the letter I received fron Mr. Charles Clifford. But truly, Madam, he is the best of fathers; for instead of reproaching me, he said, my friends, this sweet lamb (for so he kindly called me) has wandered from the fold of Christ ; but instead of worrying her, it becomes us to imitate the good Shepherd of Israel, who carries the lambs in his bosom, and gently leads those that are with young. Come, my child, (taking hold of my hand and kissing it,) make the heart of your afflicted parent glad, by giving me hopes that we shall spend a long eternity together in the presence of God. Alas, my dear love, what is time? It is like a tale that is told. But eternity, how long! Think, my Eusebia, what it is which renders us capable of enjoying the beatific vision. It is holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord. And notwithstanding all that Mr. Clifford has blasphemously said against the church of Rome, its enemies must confess that a great number of its members in every age- have been famous for holiness. Now that church cannot in its own nature be bad, whose institutions have had such salutary effects : nor can the religion of protestants be good, whose lives in general are notoriously unholy. Where do you find among protestants, those who leave the world, that they may be entirely dedicated to the service of God; or any who undergo voluntary sufferings, because they have sinned against so great and so good a being? Or indeed, where do you find among them that primitive hospitality, and those almsdeeds, for which the church of Rome has always been so eminent ? These are realities. In judging therefore of things, we should not judge with prejudice, nor according 10 fallacious appearances ; but we should judge righteous judgment. There may have been many feigned miracles among us, and several other things not altogether defensible : but did a wise man ever throw away an apple because there was a speck in it? While we ourselves are imperfect creatures, we cannot with any justice or propriety expect perfection in others. This I maintain, that the church of Rome has in all ages been friendly to holiness of life, and has studied every method to promote it: they, therefore, who find fault, must do it either from captiousness or ignorance. My dear child, consider, I conjure you, these things which you know to be true, and leave those pernicious heresjes into which you have been so unhappily deluded. · This tender usage, and this zeal for my happiness, melted me into tears. After I had a little recovered myself, I took hold of my dear parent's hand, and embraced it. O