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ferent interpretation which is given to its meaning ?” In reply, it was asked, if a different interpretation of a statute law was ever known to destroy its validity or authority? or if the different opinions which philosophers entertain on the primary cause of motion was ever known to disturb popular belief in the djurnal revolution of our earth? These questions were put, not to evade the difficulty which my friend proposed, but to remind him that a conflicting opinion did nct of itself possess sufficient weight to set aside the force of any law, or destroy the truth of any proposition which came attested by its own proper evidences.
“ It was observed also, that the very manner in which the truth is revealed in the Scriptures, by requiring a more patient and deliberate investigation than is usually given to it, admits of a great diversity of opinion on many of its subordinate points, even while there is a perfect conformity on those which may be regarded as its essential. It does not reveal the scheme of redemption in a compendious form; advancing first principles, and then proceeding to advance others, in a strict logical order, till the whole is completed; but employs history, narrative, parable, local customs, and the phenomena of nature, as the medium through which it conveys, in a detached manner, one doctrine, with its evidences one precept, with its sanctions-one promise, with its securities—one privilege, with its obligations, at one time, and another at another; admitting, from its very plan, of a partial obscurity, and of seeming contradictions, amidst the splendour of its glory, and the amplitude of its harmony; and thus giving an incidental sanction to a difference of interpretation on our part, even while there is a latent continuity of truth preserved through the whole of its apparently unconnected communications."
Mr. Llcwellin. “ And, Sir, facts and experience confirm the correctness of your statement. It is true, that there are many separate and distinct bodies of professing Christians, who are regarded by the ignorant and the bigoted as the abettors and disciples of very opposite religious creeds; but, if we inquire into the actual state of the case, we shall find that by far the greater part of them agree in all that they deem essential, and vitally important in the Christian scheme, and differ only on what they regard as subordinate, and comparatively unimportant."
Mr. Roscoe. " But, Sir, do not the greater part of the dissenters in this kingdom reject the supreme divinity of Jesus Christ—the atonement which he made for sin--and the necessity of a supernatural influence to enlighten and renovate the mind? And if these doctrines are rejected as unimportant, what will you consider to be essential to Christianity ?”
Mr. Llewellin. “I readily grant, that where these doctrines are rejected all is rejected that may be considered as belonging exclusively to Christianity, but they are rejected by very few dissenters. The Socinians reject them; but they are neither a numerous nor a flourishing denomination amongst us; and though they have made, and still are making some efforts to foroe their meagre system of belief on public attention, yet it appears doomed to have only the select few for its advocates. The Podobaptists, and the Baptists, the Arminian and Calvinistic Methodists, the Moravians, and the unostentatious Society of Friends, form the immense bulk of dissenters in this kingdom; and though they each imbibe some peculiarities of opinion which are exclusively their own, and which keep them in a state of amicable separation from each other, yet on those great and essential doctrines of revelation which you have enumerated they agree with the evangelical members of the Established Church.”
Mr. Ingleby. “It was very much doubted, a few years since, if there was any spirit of union subsisting amongst even the spiritual members of the different denominations of professing Christians; but now we see them united together in harmony and peace.”
Mr. Roscoe. « This union is a very gratifying and auspicious event; but would not the entire abolition of the distinctive denominations, and their union in one undivided body, be more conducive to the honour and prosperity of religion?”
Mr. Ingleby. This I conceive to be impracticable during the partial obscurity of the present dispensation; and I must confess that I do not think it advisable. I have no objection to those divisions of opinion which separate us into different and distinct denominations, though I deplore the spirit which they sometimes engender.
I think that a variation in belief, on some of the minor questions of religion, preserves our attention awake and active-tends to keep the more important truths in a purer state ; and the action and reaction of one Christian society on another, prevents that stagnation of feeling, and that inertness of principle, which an unbroken and undisturbed uniformity admits of.”
Mr. Roscoe. “But do you not think, Sir, that the visible church would assume a more imposing aspect, and display a more powerful agency, if she could unite all her members in one undivided body, under the immediate vigilance and authority of one Head, than she does now she is broken into so many disjointed parts ?"
Mr. Ingleby. “Yes, Sir, if she could preserve her purity uncontaminated by evil; but we ought never to forget, that while the religion we profess is divine in its origin, and indestructible in its nature, it is human in its forms and in its administrations. Hence it alternately displays resistless power, and exhausted weakness--the sanctity and grandeur of its Author, along with the infirmities and imperfections of the agents to whom it is intrusted; sometimes exciting the profound veneration of the multitude, and at other times their contempt. And it is this admixture of what is human with what is divine, that renders it expedient that there should be some exposure to the influence of that reaction of distinctive opinions, and social attachments, which, by keeping us alive to the purity and extension of our separate communions, tends to promote the purity and extension of the faith which we hold in common."
Mr. Stevens “Your opinion, Sir, exactly accords with my own. Hence, instead of regarding the Established Church and the various denominations of orthodox dissenters as hostile foes, who are mutually aiming at each other's humiliation and destruction, we should look on them as subjects of the same Monarch, bearing the respective insignia of their own order, yet reciprocally supporting each other without the formality of a visible contact, and advancing, as his wisdom directs, each in its own way, in reclaiming to a state of allegianco the thousands and tens of thousands who have revolted from his authority.”
Mr. Ingleby. “Or, to vary the figure, we may view them as so many servants belonging to the same Master, who are employed in cultivating the great moral vineyard, whose reward at last will be in proportion to their fidelity to him, and their affection for cach other. If this comparison be just, which I have no doubt every good man will admit, I do not hesitate to say, that if we cherish a complacent feeling for those exclusively who belong to our own class, and attempt to lord it over our fellow-servants who may belong to another, or treat them with indifference or contempt, we dishonour ourselves, and offend against the law of our invisible Lord, who has commanded us to love each other as brethren."
Mr. Llewellin. “When I consider the fallibility of the human mind—the prejudices of education—the influence of accidental reading and associations and the extensive prevalence of erroneous opinions, instead of being astonished by the shades of difference which
prevail amongst us, I am surprized that we think so nearly alike. We may, and we do agree on the substantial facts, and doctrines, and precepts of revelation, while we may, and we do differ on some of its established forms, and ceremonial enactments. But shall these trifling differences, which do not endanger the safety, nor add to the stability of our faith, which more frequently tarnish the lustre of the Christian character than increase its moral splendour, produce an alienation of Christian affection, as though we were avowed enemies? No. When this is the case we give a decisive proof that we do not possess the spirit of the Gospel; or if we possess it we do not display it, which aggravates rather than extenuates our crime.”
Mr. Ingleby. “In the last prayer our Saviour uttered, before he presented himself as the expiatory sacrifice for human guilt, he earnestly entreated that all his disciples, in every future age, might be one, even as he and his Father were one; and he assigns the following reason, That the world may know that thou hast sent me. • For some ages,' to quote the language of an elegant writer, the object of that prayer was realized
in the harmony which prevailed amongst Christians. whose religion was a bond of union more strict and tender than the ties of consanguinity; and with the appellation of brethren thcy associated all the sentiments of endearment that relation implied. To see men of the most contrary characters and habits; the learned and the rude--the most polished, and the most uncultivated the inhabitants of countries alienated from each other by institutions the most repugnant, and by contests the most violent, forgetting their ancient animosity, and blending into one mass, at the command of a person whom they had never seen, and who had ceased to be an inhabitant of this world, was an astonishing spectacle. Such a sudden assimilation of the most discordant materials, such love issuing from hearts the most selfish, and giving birth to a new race and progeny, could be ascribed to nothing but a divine interposition: it was an experimental proof of the commencement of that kingdom of God—that celestial economy, by which the powers of the future world are imparted to the present.
Mr. Roscoc. « Yes, Sir, it must have been a spectacle no less delightful to the eye of the Christian than astonishing to the unbeliever; and had the visible church always exhibited such a spectacle of union and affection, she would have resembled, in the brightness of her glory, the angel of the Apocalypse, who was seen standing in the sun; and her history would have - been the records of her spiritual triumphs rather than of her persecutions, and her miseries. But her bonds of union have been broken asunder, and her love of the brethren has been quenched in the bitter waters o. strife. We are the descendants of the holy men who first caught, and first displayed the spirit of the Prince of Peace; but how little do we resemble them! We imbibe the same faith-plead the same promises-claim the same privileges-participate in the same spiritual enjoyments -- bear the same distinctive and relative character and anticipate the same high destiny; but we too often act as though we were released from the obligations which they admitted and discharged; and instead of attempting to prove to the world the truth of our Lord's mission, and the moral efficacy of his