Page images

the Gospel, is that of faith in Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

4. From the preceding article, which asserts that the Church of England hath imposed articles which Christ hath not imposed; it is argued, that in opposing the Church of England, they oppose an invasion of the kingly authority of Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ doth not act in person, but hath commissioned his Church to act for him, and hath promised to be with it, and support its authority, to the end of the world. Therefore, to argue for Jesus Christ against his Church, is to set up Jesus Christ against himself; and the like objection may be made against all the Churches in the world: which, so far as they act for their own just rights, under Jesus Christ, may be said to act against him. Every true Church is bound to assert and defend the faith it hath received: but its enemies will call this necessary defence an imposition, and then contend, that they are free from all obligation. But with what grace doth this argument come from the party, who imposed their own solemn league and covenant on men's consciences in this kingdom, at the peril of their lives and fortunes, and proscribed them as malignants if they refused to take it; for which there certainly is


neither precedent nor precept in the Gospel? How marvellously do the opinions of men change, when they argue for themselves, and when they argue against us!

5. To explain away the offence of schism, it is farther argued, that as there were schisms among the Corinthians, when it does not appear that there was any separation; so there may be a separation where there is no schism: be cause Christians may still be united in heart and affection, though they perform the offices of religion in different places and in different ways.

The history of facts in this country gives us à different prospect of things, and indeed it is preposterous to suppose, that if we sow in schism, we shall reap in unity: or, in other words, that if we murder and mangle the body of the Church, we shall preserve charity, which is the life and soul of it. It is true, we shall not dispute much about any thing, if we are indifferent to every thing: but misguided religious zeal is not of this insipid character. The ordinance of Parliament of the 11th of August, 1645, for putting in execution the directory, has these words:" If any person or persons "If whatsoever shall, at any time or times hereafter, use, or cause the aforesaid book of Com


mon Prayer to be used in any church, chapel, or public place of worship, or in any private place, or family, within the kingdom of England, or the dominion of Wales, or port and town of Berwick: every person so offending herein, shall, for the first offence, pay the sum of five pounds of lawful English money; for the second offence, ten pounds; and for the third, shall suffer one whole 'year's imprisonment, without bail or mainprize." This law was one of the fruits of schism; and there never was a law more severe and cruel. The king was then living, and the private worship of his family is not excepted. But these were days of religious madness; we know better now. So it is said; but I fear with very little truth. What would not that persecuting spirit do, if it had power, which is so conspicuous in the Syllabus of Mr. Robinson's Lectures, a dissenting teacher at Cambridge? How fresh is the remembrance (or ought to be) of the riots in London, which shook the kingdom, and brought us so nearly to ruin in a few days: all conducted by a fanatic Prefbyterian, with a rout of forty thousand disorderly people at his heels? And if the principles of fanaticism can perform such wonders here, even in a man without learning, without parts, without morals, without

without sense: how dreadful may their effects be upon a future occasion! and who can tell how soon that occasion may happen? especially as Dr. Priestley, another dissenting teacher, is now threatening us with impending rain, from himself and his party; who give us warning, that they have long been, and are now, conveying gunpowder under our foundation, to blow up the old rotten fabric of the Church of England? Neither is that zeal totally departed which produced the cruel edict of 1645, against the use of our liturgy; a Diffenter (to my knowledge) having been lately heard to declare, that every Common Prayer Book in England ought to be burned! and this was from a person, who, abstracted from these paroxysms of religious bigotry, was of a peaceable and quiet temper! Add to this, that practice, which is almost universal with the Dissenters, of forcing their servants and dependants into the worship of the Meeting-house, however strong their affections may be to the worship of the Church by birth and education. But our dissenting apologist assures us, Christians may still be united in heart and affection, though they worship God in different places: and that there may be separation without schism, as there was schism at Corinth without separa

tion. But these smaller schisms of the Corinthians, which did not actually separate them into different communions, were yet, according to the Apostle, very reprehensible, and of bad tendency: therefore, actual separation, being schism in the extreme, must be more reprehensible. To suppose it less, is to contradict the reason of things; as if it should be argued, that because we may hurt a man without killing him, therefore we may kill a man without hurting him.

6. However, if there should be any schism betwixt the Church of England and the Dissenters, they say the guilt of it is with the Church, who will not yield to weak brethren in things which are confessed to be indifferent and of small moment.

With what propriety can things of small moment be introduced, as objections to our communion, after it has been asserted, that the Church of England is no Church of Christ? If that objection be good, all things of small moment are superfluous. For who can be obliged, or who indeed will consent, to be a member of a Church, which is no Church of Christ? Leave things indifferent (saith this reply) as they are in their own nature, and as Christ hath left them, and the separation is

« PreviousContinue »