Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

of Massachusetts Bay. The former were the members of Mr. John Robinson, who had peaceably separated from the church of England, and with his friends retired to Holland, for the sake of liberty of conscience: but the Massachusetts people had never relinquished the principle of national churches, and the authority of the magistrate in matters of faith and worship. And it was among these people, and owing to this principle, that the persecutions in America were carried on. Of this there is a full account given in Backup's History of the American Baptists, Vol. I. ; and as the Baptists bore a large part of those persecutions, they may well be supposed to know who were their persecutors, and what were their avowed principles.

The work of Messrs. Bogue and Bennett is considered by this writer as a liir specimen of Dissenting principles in the present day, or as " representing the general temper of those to whom it is addressed." But so far as I have had the means of judging, it is considered among Dissenters in a very different light. Some few/ may admire it; but all that I have heard speak of it, consider it as deeply tinged with party-zeal and revolutionary politics, and being rather an eulogy on their own denomination than a History of Dissenters. 1 am not aware that the French revolution has promoted the cause of dissent; and if it were so, an increase on such principles is of no value. Men may leave the national church, not on account of what is wrong in it, but of what is right, in which case dissent itself must be wicked. Dissent is not a cause for a Christian to rejoice in, any further than as it includes the cause of Christ. It is ground on which may be erected a temple of God, or a synagogue of Satan.

That there are many among Dissenters who feel that "moral expatriation" which the reviewer laments, is admitted; but the same is true of Churchmen. The numbers, however, of both, have of late years considerably diminished—Dissenters must ever be friends to civil and religious liberty, as it is their only security : but they may be this without turbulence, or envy, orspleeD. or any of those unamiable qualities which this writer attaches to dissent. I believe it will be found, that from the beginning, those T)issenters who have separated from the Church of England for

A

the purpose of forming churches according to what they consider as the mind of Christ, have been of a much more pacific spirit than those, who, retaining the principles of national churches and the authority of the magistrates in matters of faith and worship, were always lingering after a comprehension in the establishment, and finding fault with particular ceremonies and forms that kept them out of it: that this was the case among the first settlers of America has been already noticed: and so far as my observation ex. tends, it is the case to this day. Those who dissent for the sake of being at liberty to follow up their convictions in promoting the kingdom of Christ, will not be averse to the civil institutions of their country; and as to the ecclesiastical, unless called to defend themselves against the charge of schism, and such others as are heaped upon them, they would cherish no hostility. Being allowed to follow the dictates of their own consciences, they are willing that others should do the same. They dissent, not so much from antipathy to what they desert, as from love to what they embrace; and they love and pray for the government that protects them in the enjoyment of it.

They cannot approve of making the political prosperity of their country the supreme object of their pursuit, nor consent that the religion of Christ should be rendered subservient to it; and this, in the esteem of those who are otherwise minded, will often be ascribed to the want of patriotism: but a wise and good government will know how to distinguish a contumelious behaviour towards them, from a conscientious obedience to God; and while they properly resent the former, will not fail to respect the latter,

V»l. Vllr. $2

[ocr errors]

MISCELLANEOUS ESSAYS,

&c.

CIRCULAR LETTERS,

Addressed Jto the Churches of the Northamptonshire Association. 1782—1815.

THE EXCELLENCY AND UTILITY OP THE GRACE OF HOPE.

Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Dear Brethreh,

On this delightful subject, we feel great pleasure in address* ing you. We congratulate you amidst all your sorrows, on your possessing such a hope; a hope which has foundations the most solid, and objects the most substantial. Ood has not put this jewel into your hands to be made light of. He would have you to understand it in order to prize it. His bestowing upon you a spiritual illumination is to this very end. He does not open your eyes to present you with mere spectacles of misery, nor call you by his grace as having nothing to . bestow upon you: no, blessed be his name, the eyes of your understandings are enligktened, that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.

To assisting your meditations on this cheering subject, by showing its excellency and pointing out its great utility, we devote this epistle.

We trust that what we have already communicated to you on various important subjects, has not been received in vain. We would not wish to trifle with you, and we trust our letters to you have not been trifled with. Having therefore confidence in your readiness to examine and receive what we communicate, we are willing to impart unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because u# are dear unto us!

Hopb, or an expectation of future good,* is of so extensive an influence, that whether true or false, well or ill founded, it is one of the principal springs that keep all mankind in motion. It is vigorous, bold, and enterprising. It causes men to encounter dan* gers, endure hardships, and surmount difficulties innumerable, in order to accomplish the desired end. In religion it is of no less consequence. It is claimed by almost all ranks and parties of men. It makes a considerable part of the religion of those that truly fear God: for though in all true religion there is and must be a love to God and divine things fp- their pw» excellency ; yet God, who knows our frame, and draws us with the cords of a

* Hope, as its objects arc future, is distinguished from enjoyment. Herein the portion of the saints is unlike that of the worldling, and even that of saints in glory. Also from love, the objects of which are past and present as well as future, whereas hope is confined to the last. As they are good, it is opposed to fear, which is the dread of evil. As they are both future and good, and merely so, it is distinct from faith. We may be said to believe things past, as that the worlds were made; and things evil, as the wrath to come ; but cannot be said to hope in either. As it is an expectation, it is distinguished from desire. We may be said to desire what it is not possible we should ever enjoy; but we cannot hope unless there appear at least a possibility, and generally speaking some probability, of our possessing the object hoped for; and in proportion as this probability appears U the mind great or iBjn.!!. bepe or expectation is strong or wetK.

[graphic]
« AnteriorContinuar »