תמונות בעמוד

various communities, which hold the main doctrines of salvation to be parts of the catholic body of Christ's Church. With these views, I I may lament indeed what appear to me to be the errors or mistakes of the Lutheran as well as Calvinistic Churches on the continent; I

may lament some usages or sentiments of the Presbyterian Communion in Scotland, and of our Dissenting Bodies at home; but I do not therefore presume to exclude them from the pale of the spiritual church; I do not therefore refuse to act with them in a design which touches on no one point of either doctrine or polity; I do not therefore spurn the proposal of ascending above the spot where the stream divides itself, and drinking at that higher and purer torrent which rolls for the life and refreshment of the nations. Nay, Sir, the very feelings which lead me to lament over the divisions of the Christian church, only increase the ardour with which I press to the consecrated elevation where I can cordially co-operate with my Christian brethren, and look down for a moment on the differences which are left behind us on the distant plain.

I allow, that there is need of caution in employing this kind of sentiment. An intemperate zeal in support of the most innocent principles may betray an unsuspecting mind. We are compelled, I am aware, frequently to hesitate when proposals of co-operation, though

to my

at first sight plausible, may appear likely to lead on to measures which we do not exactly understand, and may not be able to controul. In fact, all general axioms require consideration when brought down to particular cases. But, Sir, I feel no hesitation for a single moment in applying the universal rule of Christian charity to the measure before us. I need not, I cannot pause, when I see my way so clearly as I do in the Bible Society. In the dissemination of the unerring word of God our project begins and ends. What danger can be secretly at work bere, I am utterly unable to discover. The moment, however, any sinister designs—which it is

— mind almost impossible to associate with such a cause—shall appear to be necessarily appended to it, that moment I reserve for withdrawing myself from this grand and simple institution.

And in taking this ground, which I have not taken lightly, I conceive that I am promoting in the surest manner the stability and glory of the Church to which I belong. I know I am here entering on a delicate topic ; but I trust I


be allowed to express, with every deference for the opinion of others, the view which has presented itself to my own mind. In every national church, and especially in those which have long been protected by the state, and which enjoy external peace, there are two · ways of advancing its interests.

The one is that of firm and enlightened attachment, which endeavours to allot to every branch of the wide subject of Christian doctrine and discipline the importance which it respectively claims; which stands immoveable on the grand peculiarities of Christianity to which all external institutions are subservient, and endeavours by every honest method to conciliate the regards of those, who, agreeing with us in the great truths of the Gospel, differ on the subordinate topics of order and polity; which, in a word, unites consistency to our own principles, with candour and moderation towards those of others. Need I say, Sir, that there is another ordet of persons who appear to me too much to incline, little I am sure as they suspect it, to the side of apprehension, timidity, coldness, aversion towards all who differ from their own judgment of what constitutes truth even on the smallest points ; who lay on matters of discipline a weight which they can never fairly bear; who pursue with a common ardour topics differing widely from each other in almost every respect, and which ought to be defended with a discriminating regard to their relative importance; and who, as a consequence of this, at times appear to be quite as zealous for the forms, as for the substance, of Christianity. In making these remarks, I mean nothing personal or disrespectful: I speak

[blocks in formation]

only of what arises from the natural and almost uniform tendency of circumstances on the infirmities of our common nature. Now, Sir, those who would uphold our Church by taking this narrow ground, seem to me not sufficiently to distinguish between nicety and wisdom: between that generous and candid temper which allows every principle to stand on its true footing; and that fretfulness which, by pushing some points of importance indeed, but inferior importance, beyond their natural limit, rather weakens than promotes the strength of the whole. The energy of the true churchman, his zeal, his love, his fervour, will ever rest on the main points of the Christian faith. Upon other subjects, and upon the discipline of the Church amongst the rest, he will fix a steady and consistent regard; but he will never so far mistake as to be over-wise; he will never obtrude minor points of truth on occasions where they have no place; he will never sacrifice to doubtful, and at best inferior considerations, some of the noblest opportunities of glorifying God. Whether any measure of this kind of feeling may, however unintentionally, have operated to the disadvantage of the Bible Society, I will not undertake to say. I will only venture to affirm, that the more maturely I have been able to weigh this great question in all its bearings, the more decidedly am I convinced that the particular interests of the Church of England will be advanced by the exertions of her members ini the circulation of the Holy Scriptures.

And indeed, Sir, if this view of the case generally were not so clear in itself, or so strongly confirmed by the uniform experience of every age of the Church, as it appears to my mind to be, I should still, I confess, be backward to believe that the apostolical Church of these realms would ever really suffer by her zeal in distributing that word of God, which first brought her out from the corruptions of the Papacy, and which can alone preserve in her the spirit by which that separation was made. And surely, Sir, to the mere surmises of those who would tell us of future and hidden evils, of secret sources of mischief, of unknown seeds of decay, it is fair to oppose surmises of a contrary nature; it is fair to avow our hopes of the bles. sing of the Almighty, of that blessing which is the real strength of the church. And indeed. I think any one who has taken even a hasty view of the proceedings of the British and Foreign Bible Society, will testify, that, so far from any of the fears of the apprehensive having been realized, those proceedings have tended to increase the piety and zeal of the members of our church, to seat her more firmly in the affections of her people, to whom she is dispensing the most im

« הקודםהמשך »