תמונות בעמוד

tion, but to show as much zeal in the cause incumbent on me to support, as many

others have in wounding it, not perhaps so much through ill design, as from deluding example. If it could be proved essential to your eternal salvation, that you should go about preaching, or following a variety of teachers in unconsecrated conventicles, the Church must necessarily fall into disesteem, and in a degree appear useless, since other places are judged to do as well for public worship; and in sad truth, it becomes daily more and more neglected, from the superior estimation that is given to the numerous places appropriated to religious purposes; but as my sentiments do not accord with such proceedings, I judged it right to deliver my mind according to the principles I profess. After all, though it is indisputably the duty of every minister to plant, and sow, and build, it is God alone that giveth the increase. We can only direct to the most favourable soil for growth of the word; and if this be done conscientiously in the church, I cannot see any ar-, gument either from reason or revelation, why people should go out of it, in search of better . nourishment for their souls, than they might most certainly find within the pale of their own communion; or, why the Lord should be expected to give less success to the humble exertions of bis faithful servants of the Establishment, ear

nestly disposed to promote the eternal welfare of their flock, than to any other description of labourers, that profess to consult his honour. Whilst I am persuaded that this is gross delusion, I cannot avoid condemning the blameable practice of deserting the Church service, and preferring other modes of obtaining Christian knowledge. If I am wrong, I hope God will vouchsafe me full conviction of my error, equally for your important interests and my own; at present, it appears to me, that both his word and providence are clearly on the side that I uphold.

Let unprejudiced experience speak to the fact. Are the generality of those who express indifference, and often disrespect, towards the regular mode of teaching in the Church, more chaste, more humble, more industrious, and more contented with their lot in life, since it has been the fashion to follow favourite teachers of various denominations, than when it was reckoned a reproach to forsake the Church, and when the regular minister was alone considered as their spiritual counsellor and cordial friend? The answer would not prove favourable to the conduct of many, who, in preference to new ways, have turned their back upon the customary worship of their ancestors; but it would be justly reprehensible to hazard public censure, without advancing adequate reasons

[ocr errors]


to support the charge, I ingenuously confess my judgment is confirmed by the following weighty observations.

It must readily be granted, by all who are conversant with the practice of the rigid favourers of innovation, that any efforts of zeal in the regular way, do not usually meet with that becoming encouragement which might be naturally expected by persons professing extraordinary piety; whereas, any exercise of irregular instruction immediately claims the character of an extraordinary call, and of course is rigidly followed: so that uniform regard to the one is stigmatized with the appearance of mere formal compliance, while the boasted importance of the other is rendered matter of such indisputable consequence, that nothing will be admitted in competition with it.

Let us next examine the behaviour of many, in another article of serious import. Does not the awful idea of God's presence, when we are publicly summoned to assemble in his house, too often fall short of its due effect, from want of respectful attendance in point of time, at the usual hours of common prayer; and that by those, who rigorously contend for exemplary decency in religious duties? whereas, if the honour and service of the Deity are the objects of invitation in any other place, where they are supposed to be more eminently consulted, too early attendance and due veneration cannot be exhibited. I submit, whether these remarks are not founded upon truths too general to be denied, and, consequently, whether they do not show a prejudice and preference wholly inconsistent with rational and pure devotion? Such conduct seems to imply, that God is not considered to be equally present in the church, as in the meeting, otherwise a deportment so exceptionable would not be risked, as clearly argues greater respect to the creature than to the Creator. These distinctions are irreconcilable with a proper sense of God's universal notice of our actions, or with that commendable submission we are bound to pay to the authority of our religious pastors. Nay, the preference is so great with some, in this instance of singular partiality, that many excuses are accounted valid, for declining the continuance upon regular ordinances, whilst every engagement must give way to the encouraging of favourite innovations; it being well known, that the most solemn rites of Christianity have been held cheap by some, as having more of form than spiritual influence to recommend them, though positively of evangelical institution, and warranted by the most sacred promises. To slight the hearing of any celebrated lay preacher, would be considered as an indisputable proof of an unconverted state ; but to make every sacrifice rather than lose the opportunity of the benefit, would be construed as a certain mark of a religious frame of mind. These things are not agreeable to sound reason, genuine piety, and the principles of godly union; they are rather the effects of that prevailing rage for novelty (to which I shall call your further attention in its proper place), which levels all distinctions, and makes the people wild.

Another symptom of this misguided spirit may be adduced from a circumstance not uncommon in places where the votaries of disaffection to the Establishment abound. If a professional and conscientious caution is occasionally delivered by the regular minister of the parish, to those committed to his peculiar charge, advising good order and uniformity of worship; it is too apt to be interpreted into pointed and illiberal reflection against those who feel themselves affected by the admonition : but whatever aspersions are cast upon the body of the regular clergy, by any of these self-created teachers, are generally softened by the qualification of well-intentioned zeal and purity of sentiment. This inconsistent jealousy is sometimes so powerful, that the impressions which have actually taken place through the exhortations of the regular minister, have been disputed as a matter scarcely credible or possible ; and the success is attempted to be ascribed to

« הקודםהמשך »