Page images
PDF
EPUB

Indeed, to many well-informed persons, it seems extremely questionable, whether the religion of Jesus Christ admits of any civil establishment at all. They rather suppose, it is inconsistent with the very nature of it, and that it was never designed to be incorporated with any secular institution whatever * Certain it is, that it made its way at first, not only without human aid, but even in opposition to all laws, both civil and religious, which then prevailed in the Roman empire. This was the state of it for upwards of 300 years, It seems too, to be the intention of Divine PROVIDENCE to reduce it again to the same simple and unconnected state. America hath set the example. France, Italy, Holland, and Switzerland are going the same way. And it is highly probable that all the other states in Europe will, in due time, follow the same steps. As things now are in this country, the reli

The next serious effort for reformation in our church, was soon after the Restoration. CHARLES II. behaved handsomely at first upon the occasion; but, acting under the controul of a number of bigoted and high-priestly Bishops, whose minds were still sore with resentment, he afterwards forfeited all his merit, as the guardian of religious liberty, and became a vile and cruel persecutor. Is not this too an indubitable mark of the Beast?

After this again, a very serious attempt was made to remove the things objected to in our church, soon after the Revolution, under the auspices of those excellent men, TILLOTSON, PATRICK, TENNISON, KIDDER, STILLING FLEET, BURNET, and others; but being opposed by a larger number of old-wifeiy Bishops, all their efforts came to nothing. They had been accustomed to read numpsimus all their lives, and nunpsimus it should be, they were determined; and the two Houses of Parliament were disposed to acquiesce in their papis, tical and superstitious views. We shall rarely have again, at one time, such a consteilation of learned, pious, and liberal minded Bishops as then adorned the English church.

* It is a remarkable fact, lately brouglit to light, that the im mense empire of China, which is said to contain 333 millions of inhabitants, has no established religion. And, in the opinion of many, the Gospel of JESUS CHRisT will never have its full and proper effect upon mankind, till it is completely disentangled from every human institution. Leave it to itself; let it have fair-play; clog it not with civil pains and penalties; let it stand 6r fall by its own intrinsic worth; let neither kings or bishops lay their oflicious hands upon it; and then see how it wili make its way among men.

The greatest possible motive, by which man can be animated, is, the salvation of his own soul. If this will not move us, nothivg else will be

avail. These are the sentiments of some very sensible and well-informed persons. Whether they are right in this respect, I leave others to judge. To me there seems some weight in ihem.

of any

gion of Jesus CHRIST, which was not only not to be of this ; orld*, but in direct opposition to itt, is certainly in a great degree, a temporal, worldly, civil institution. At least, it is a strange mixture of things, secular and religious. It is Hearly as much so, as it is in the Catholic countries.

* See Jobn xviii. 36, 37, where Christ claims a kingdom.

+ Compare Matt. v. 3--12, where he asserts the nature of that kingdom, and the qualificatious of his subjects.

One of our English Poets, who was even a bigot of the church, hath expressed bimself on this subject in the manner following:

“ Inventions udded in a fatal hour,
Humay appendages of pomp and power,
Whatever shines io outward grandeur great,
I give it up--a creature of the State.
Wide of the Church, as hell from heav'n is wide, .
The blaze of riches, and the glare of pride,
The vajn desire to be entitled Lord,
The worldly kingdom, and the princely sword.
But should the bold usurping spirit dare
Sull higher climb, and sit in Moses' chair,
Pow'r o'er my faith and conscience to maintain,
Shall I submit, and suffer it to reign?
Call it the Church, and darkness put for light,
Falsehood with truth confound, and wrong with right?
No: I dispute the evil's haughty claim,
The spirit of the world be still its name,
Whatever call'd by man 'tis purely evil,

'Tis Babel, Antichrist, and Pope, and Devil." It is a curious circumstance in the history of Religion in the present day, that while light, and knowledge, and liberality of sentiment are rapidly diffusing themselves among mankind, a respectable clergyman should be found among us, who cuts off from salvation most of the foreign Protestant churches, and the whole body of Dissenters of every description in this country, but by the uncovenanted mercies of God. This is a most serious and important consideration. Yet, this hath been done by Mr. DAUBENY, in his Guide to the Church; and seemingly too with the full approbation of the Editor of the British Critic [*]. It certainly is incumbent upon Dissenters of all denominations to consider well what this learned gentleman has advanced, and either to refute the force of his arguments, or conforıp to the established religion of the country. Sir RICHARD Hill, in his Apology for Brotherly Love, has given such an Answer to Mr. DauBENY's Guide as that gentleman will not be easily able to refute. If the doctrine of the Guide be right, I do not see how we can be fairly justified in leaving the Church of Rome. The capital mistake" of the whole seems to be, a substitution of the Church of England,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

As to the King, or Queen of any country, as the case is, being Head of the Church, and having the appointment of Bishops, and the nomination to church-livings, it is conceived by many to be utterly inconsistent with the very essence of the evangelical dispensation, and the unalienable rights of mankind.

They will tell us, that neither his Majesty-WHOM GOD PRESERVE!-nor the Lord Chancellor, nor his Majesty's Ministers, have, or can have, any concern in the government of the Church, or the appointment of officers in it, or to it, directly or indirectly, according to the spirit of the Gospel, but only in their private capacities as individual members of the Church. No man upon earth, as it seems to them, is entitled to any such power. They scruple not to say, it is one of the very worst traits of Popery, and an infallible criterion of an anti-christian assuming. Mat. xx. 20—28, and xxiii. 1-12, are usually referred to upon this occasion.

As the law now stands in this country, the King is absolute Head of the Church, and the fountain of all ecclesiastical power; but, so far as the patronage of benefices goes, this is more nominal than real; for, in truth, there are as many heads as there are patrons of livings. A drunken, swearing, libertine Lord Chancellor, who is living in open fornicatian or adultery, contrary to every law human and divine, if such chance to be his character, as sometimes is the case, has the appointment to a large number of livings. A corrupt, vile, unbelieving, immoral, wicked, Minister of State, if such happens to be his character, has the nomination to abundance of others. A Roman Catholic, or some of the most immoral of the Nobility or Gentry of the land, very frequently have the patronage of others. In not a few instances Ladies have the presentation to church prefer ments. These are all virtually and substantially so many Heads of the Church; while the King or Queen is only nominally and partially so. This is surely a lamentable state of things. Can any man wonder at the spread of infidelity and irreligion? Can we justly expect other than the downfal of such a system of corrupt, worldly policy? It is well known how harsh and disagree

for the Church of CHRIST, exactly in the same manner as the Catholics substitute the Church of Rome for the Church of Christ.

[*] The Editor begs leave to refer to the masterly review of this author's writings in the Christian Observer.

U

able these melancholy truths will sound in the ears of interested men, and men who swallow every thing as gospel, to which they have been long accustomed; but I affirm it with all possible seriousness, again and again, that, as I understand the Scriptures, a radical reform, and the removal of all these secular circumstances alone, can save us, for any length of time, from national distress. I refer our Bishops and beg they will seriously consider the awful declaration—to Dan. ii. 35, 44, before mentioned. Is not the time for its accomplishment fast approaching, and near at hand?

I have spoken above of the patronage of church livings. Some of my readers may be in a great degree strangers to the state of it. I have taken some pains to inform myself upon the subject, and I find that it stands nearly in the following proportions. I speak generally, but yet accurately enough for the purposes of common information. It is well known then, that the church livings of England and Wales make together, speaking in round numbers, about ten thousand. Of these, near a thousand are in the gift of the King. It is customary, however, for the Lord Chancellor to present to all the livings, under the value of twenty pounds, in the King's Book, and for the Ministers of State to present to all the rest. Those under twenty pounds are about-780, and those ubove, near 180. Upwards of 1600 pieces of church preferment, of different sizes and descriptions, are in the gift of the 26 Bishops: more than 600 in the presentation of the two Universities: about 1000 in the gift of the several Cathedrals, and other clerical institutions: about 5,700 livings are in the nomination of the Nobility and Gentry of the land, men, women, and children: and 50 or 60 there may be of a description different from any of the above, and nearer to the propriety of things. These are all so many Heads of the Church, in a very strong sense of the words, the King or Queen of the country being a kind of Arch head*

* Bishop Jewel, in a Letter dated May 22, 1559, writes, “ that the Queen (ELIZABETH) refused to be called Head of the Church; and adds, that title could not be justly given to any Mortal, it being due only to CHRIST; and that such titles had been so much abused by Antichrist, that they ought not to be any longer continued.”

Bishop BurŅET's Travels, Let. 1. p. 52. Cardinal WOLSEY, under HENRY VIII. was head of the English church, and one of the greatest tyrants over the consciences of men

Moreover, the Bishops of the Establishment are, contrary to all ancient usage, chosen by the civil power, the Clergy and People over whom they are to preside, not having the least negative upon their election. When they are chosen too, they take their seats in the upper house of parliament, and act in most respects, like unto the temporal Lords. I will not say, that this may not be good human policy, supposing the kingdom of Christ to be a mere worldly sovereignty ; but it appears to me utterly inconsistent with the spirituality of our Saviour's empire, and has had for many ages a most unhappy effect upon the interests of his religion in the world *. Their emoluments are of such a nature, their worldly engagements so numerous, and the temptations to the pleasures, honours, and amusements of life so strong, that their minds become secularized, and they lose all lively relish for the peculiar duties of ministers of the Gospel; which they, therefore, very generally commit to the inferior orders of the Clergy. They are nearly as much officers of the crown as the Judges and Magistrates of the land. They are chosen by the civil power, they are virtually paid by the civil power alone, the clergy and people not possessing the least controul. And then, as to the titles, by which they are designated, they appear to carry the most indisputable marks of the anti-christian apostacy. His GRACE, The Most REVEREND PATHER ÎN GOD, WILLIAM, by DIVINE PROVIdence, LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY!--The Right Reverend FATHER IN GOD, Jonn, BY DIVINE PERMISSION, LORD Bishop or LONDON! What is there in the titles of the Pope of Rome t, that is more magnificent than the sound of these words ? How unlike is all

[ocr errors]

that ever existed. Blessed be God for the Reformation! and the present liberty we enjoy!

If the Gospel of Christ gave encouragement to such a state of things as this, much as I now adinire it, I would reject all its pretensions, as a divine scheme, with indignation. I do not wonder that the world abounds with Infidels and Infidelity! What pity, however, men will not distinguish between the use of the Gospel, and the abuse of it? between the Gospel itself, and the additions which have been made to it by interested men?

Mr. PAINE, speaking of the Reformation, says sensibly enough, "A multiplicity of national Popes grew out of the downfall of the Pope of Christendom.--And Í add, Rome itself scarce ever had a

« PreviousContinue »