Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

Ceremonies, and to the Establishment, of your religion. We object to it, and dissent from it, upon this ground;-and not to your's only, but to all religious establishments. Can it then be imagined, for a moment, that persons, whose distinguishing religious tenet is the disavowal of all human authority in religion, could ever be tempted to impose their religion on others? We think that Christianity wants no such exterior, no such aid; that it flourishes most when left to itself, like « a little leaven, leavening the whole" mass of mankind; that it is divine in its original, and, having received the marks and impress of the Deity, it maintains and displays its own native divinity; that it is a moral and spiritual dominion, not so much affecting the outward condition, as influencing and transforming the hearts of all who embrace it. Our Lord and Master said "My kingdom is not of this world." "The princes of this world exercise dominion, but it shall not be so among you." His immediate Disciples "could not receive this saying." They were very apt to cherish notions of pre-eminence, and to connect worldly honours and emoluments with his kingdom; and he takes pains to correct these mistakes; indeed, some of his sharpest rebukes are directed against this temper. Inverting the usual order and maxims that obtained in the world, he declares, that whosoever will be greatest" must become the least. When his Disciples were engag ed in one of these contentions, he takes a little child, and sets it in the midst of them; and tells them, that unless they humble themselves as that little child, they could not become the subjects of his kingdom.

We believe that genuine, unmixed Christianity, being mild, lovely, and persuasive, can effect nothing by violent measures; but is like the shining light, shining more and more to the perfect day, enlightening the minds of men, subduing their prejudices, softening the asperities of their nature, and leading them to love and to consider each other as brethren.

2. If you, Sir, had understood the plan and nature of our religious Societies, you would have seen that their form and model precludes all such notions and designs as you impute to us, of gaining the ascendancy, and procuring the establishment of our modes of worship. They consist of so many distinct and separate parts, called churches; each Society manages its own affairs, without being at all amenable to any other; they are all voluntary asso

ciations of Christians; a number of faithful persons are united' for the benefits of Christian fellowship and communion; all power and influence in the church emanate from them-it is a delegated authority; they choose their own pastor, and officers called deacons, who manage the business-part of the Society, in collecting the salary for the pastor, in preserving order, in visiting the sick and relieving the poor, but exercise no influence or authority out of the sphere of their own particular church. The conduct of one Society is not cognizable by any other. And this we consider the primitive state of Christianity,-that form in which it first flourished, and subsisted for ages, before it was corrupted by Popery, or established by Constantine. All the Societies agree, it is true, in holding one Head of the Church, and wanting no other; but it is an invisible head: "One is our Master, even Christ;" and him we consider always with us, according to his gracious promise, "Lo! I am with you always, even to the end of the world."

Now, Sir, from this brief statement of our principles, and of the form and constitution of our churches, you will see no reason for any alarm or apprehension, should "the making and the administering of the laws in this country 3 be equally extended to all religious parties," that our ministerswould wish either to usurp,

This accords with the definition in your Nineteenth Article, which says, "The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in the which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly administered according to Christ's ordinance," &c.

In those early times, every Christian Church consisted of the people, their leaders, and the ministers or deacons; and these, indeed, belong essentially to every religious Society. The people were, undoubtedly, the first in authority; for the Apostles showed, by their own example, that nothing of moment was to be carried on, or determined, without the consent of the assembly. (Acts i, 15. vi, 3. xv, 4. xxi, 22.)

Manheim's Eccl. Hist. cent. I. part ii. p. 80.

3 These privileges we consider our birth-rights, as men and as Britons; and which we never forfeited, but which our ancestors voluntarily relinquished in loyalty and attachment to the Constitution: for it is a wellknown fact, that in 1673, Alderman Love (a member for the city of London) and the friends of the Dissenters in the House of Commons, in zeal for the public good, supported the passing of the Test Act, under promises and assurances from Government that a Bill should soon be passed for the relief of the Dissenters; which pledges have never been redeemed.

or to share, your honors and emoluments. They would be deterred from such attempts, if they had no other reason than the Apostle's injunction, "Be not lords over God's heritage, but ensamples to the flock:" or, if they were not, they would cease to belong to us, and to be the objects of our choice. Neither is it possible, in the very nature of things-there is an incongruity in the supposition-for Societies so modelled, without any connexion or dependence, and whose first and elementary principles are diametrically opposite to such claims and pretensions, to seek for domination. Principles like these, producing such feelings of soul, are too pure, spiritual, elevated, and refined, ever to admit of such debasement, as to become the creatures of the State, and to be mixed with the selfish plans and views of worldly policy and aggrandizement. No, Sir! The whole fabric of Dissenting principles must be broken up, and new forms, modes, and discipline instituted, before this could be accomplished; and which none among us, but the wildest visionary and enthusiast, could ever contemplate as likely or possible.

I sincerely hope and trust you will not impute these reflections to any bitterness or hostility of Party-Spirit-nothing being more the object of my aversion; but that you will merely consider them as a true statement of our principles, which you do not appear to have examined with your usual care and attention. That you have wilfully misrepresented us, I cannot for a moment conceive your liberality on other occasions absolutely prohibits every suspicion of this kind. You are certainly entitled to every mark of respect for your gentleman-like conduct towards the Dissenters, not only in your Literary capacity, but also as a Townsman and as a Neighbour.

I am, Rev. Sir,

with every consideration of regard,

Your's, &c.

A PROTESTANT DISSENTER & A LAYMAN.

CAMBRIDGE,

March 11, 1813.

LETTER OF EXPLANATION

TO THE

DISSENTER AND LAYMAN,

WHO HAS LATELY ADDRESSED HIMSELF TO THE AUTHOR

ON THE

Views of the Protestant Dissenters :

IN WHICH

THE AUTHOR'S OPINION, AS IT WAS STATED BY HIMSELF,

IS CONTRASTED WITH

THE OPINION ASCRIBED TO HIM,

AND THE AUTHORITIES ARE PRODUCED

ON WHICH HIS OPINION WAS FOUNDED,

BY

HERBERT MARSH, D.D. F. R. S.

MARGARET PROFESSOR OF DIVINITY IN THE
UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGE.

1813.

[blocks in formation]

THOUGH the title of your pamphlet announces only in general terms, that you are a Dissenter and a Layman, yet the present importance of its subject, and the gentlemanly, indeed friendly manner, in which you have treated it, induce me to give an explanation on various points, which I should otherwise have thought unnecessary for an anonymous correspondent. If I have misunderstood the views of the Dissenters, I am ready to acknowledge and to correct the mistake, especially at the present period. A Petition from the Dissenting Ministers of the three denominations, Presbyterians, Independents, and Baptists, is now under the consideration of Parliament; and the prayer of this Petition is " for the repeal of all the penal statutes, now in force, whose operation extends to the province of religion." The Protestant

[

This Petition was voted on the 2d of February last, at the Library in Red Cross Street, the regular place of assembly for the Dissenting Ministers in London and Westminster; and was presented to the House of Lords on the 4th of March. Indeed a similar Petition from the same body was presented last year, having been voted on the 21st of April, 1812. It is unnecessary to mention the numerous Petitions, which other bodies of Protestant Dissenters have presented to Parliament for the saine purpose.

« ZurückWeiter »