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SHORT VIEW, &c.
HE excellent Hooker, in the Preface to his Ecclesiastical Polity, gives us a curious and clear account of the zeal and artifice with which the first Puritans maintained and recommended their schism against the Church of England.But every member of this Church should see, within as short a compass as may be, how the same cause (allowing for the difference of times and fashions) is maintained now.
A worthy Divine distinguished himself some thirty years ago, in Three Letters to a Gentleman dissenting from the Church of England; which Letters were much attended to at the time, and procured
procured the author the notice and encouragement of Archbishop Secker. He afterwards reduced the substance of them into a small manual, addressed to a dissenting parishioner, with the pious desire of guiding him to the Church of England: and an excellent little piece it is. But as the zeal of our Dissenters permits nothing of this kind to pass, without the appearance of an answer, it is probable they set one of their best hands upon the work of writing a short reply to it; that the dissenting parishioner might not be guided to the Church of England. This reply, which was printed at Birmingham, (that modern mint of base money, and false doctrine) I have, with some difficulty, procured; and I shall produce, in their order, such arguments as I have found in it; from which it will be seen, how the Dissenters of the present age defend their separation.
1. They make very light of the sin of schism, as a thing which has nothing frightful to wise people; although it be dressed up by us in a frightful form, to terrify the ignorant, and such as are children in understanding.
Such is schism, when it is committed against us; but when it comes home to themselves, they have entertained a very different opinion of it, and have carried the principle of unity as high
as the most zealous of the Church of England. Liberty of conscience, when it operated against themselves, was called, cursed Toleration, that hideous monster of Toleration, in a book subscribed by the ministers of the province of London, Dec. 14, 1647*. We are then agreed, that schism must be of pernicious. consequence, and that it is a grievous affliction to the Christian society; though we are not rightly agreed as to the objects of schism. If considered in itself, it is the opposite to St. Paul's virtue of charity; as any intelligent person may see, who reads the 13th chapter of the first Epistle to the Corinthians as a continuation of the 12th chapter. And if charity is the greatest of all virtues, its contrary, which is schism, must be the greatest of all sins; therefore we justly pray against it in the Litany. Whether the Dissenters ever follow our example, is more than I know; though it can scarcely be expected
* See a friendly debate between a Conformist and a Non-conformist. Edit. 3, p. 76. That the Dissenters are, to this day, of the same intolerant spirit, is not to be doubted; and I have had repeated demonstrations of it under my own eye, who have seen a small minority of dissenters, though unprovoked, stir up such a furious opposition against a Church, and its minister, that a good man, of a peaceable temper, made this reflexion upon it to his clergyman: Sir, I perceive we should not have so much as a barn to worship God in, if they could prevent it."
ed that they should pray against, while they continue in it, and think it hath nothing frightful to wise people. But if we may judge of it by its fruits (and there is no better rule), what envy and hatred, what disputings and railings, what cruelty and persecution, what rebellion and sacrilege, hath it not produced in this kingdom? and they who acted these things were so far from taking shame to themselves, that they laid all the guilt of them upon the Church, which they persecuted and plundered! We should be glad to forget these things, but that there are some amongst us who delight in the memory of those unhappy times, and chew all the murder and the mischief of them over again, which is the case with the author of the Con fessional, and other writers of the same spirit. As to the corruption of doctrine, which follows upon schism, it was so apparent to the actors in the schism of the last century, that it forced from them that testimony above mentioned, against the cursed nature of Toleration. Threescore different sects, some holding monstrous and blasphemous opinions, rose out of the Presbyterians of that time. Now, to make light of all these things, as if schism, which is a root of bitterness, i. e. an active principle of mischief in the mind, were but a slight offence, a mere