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roughly his mind and will! Though I hold these sentiments with a firm grasp, let them be proved inconsistent with the Book I have chosen as the standard of my theology, and I give thein up unhesitatingly, and, if necessary, under my own signature. You will answer for me, Mr. Editor, that I will perform what I have promised, if my brother, or any of my respected fellow-workers, will indeed show the fallacy of my principles on biblical authority,
I cannot conclude this long epistle without expressing my fears that what I presume to call the erroneous view of this promise does partially paralyse the efforts of some ministers in attaining to an accurate knowledge of the mind of the Spirit, from a latent espec. tation that an extraordinary, mysterious presence of God will mechanically attend their pulpit labours, and my deep and solemn con. viction that this error has a most injurious tendency on the minds of the unregenerate portion of our congregations, in leading them to expect a necessary blessing in their attendance on the worship of God, though their understanding and affections be wholly unemployed throughout the service; a mistake than which, perhaps, none can be more dangerous and more fatal to the soul.
The REVIEWER OF Faber.
ON CHAPEL TRUST-DEEDS, IN REPLY TO THE ECLECTIC
REVIEW. SIR,—A very acute and honest article appears in the Eclectic Review of this month on trust-deeds. Drs. Wardlaw and Halley, and an Essex minister, are supposed by the reviewer to have said things about dissenting liberty, that dissenting practice probably contradicts. It appears to me that the frank and able writer has overlooked the difference between confessions and declarations of faith and practice, and impositions of doctrine; the difference between appeals to law for its proper end-defence; and appeals to law for what is not its proper end-invasion, and that his remarks on the nature of trust-deeds, as if they were aggressions upon just liberty, prove a great deal too much, and therefore nothing at all. I must not quote as I would, or attempt to say all that might be said in reply to him, taking his statements of doubts, difficulties, and opinions seriatim. The whole purport of the article, as I understand it, is this :
As the theology of the national church is fettered by its state endowments, so the theology of dissenters is fettered by their trustdeeds. As the former stop inquiry and deny the Bible to be the rule of faith, so do the latter.
But I submit to the respected writer of the article in question, and to his readers, many of whom, I dare say, have been perplexed by it, that the proposition, as thus stated, contains this fallacy. It confounds the operation of the state endowment, which compels the members of the national church, while members, to submit to human dictation in religion, with the operation of a legal instrument which
requires--not dissenters, as such, but merely the members of a dissenting church, while members, to submit to its terms. There is this difference.
While the effect of a state endowment is to restrict the faith and practice of churchmen as churchmen; of all who hold that there should be a national church; an endowment obliging all who receive one (which they must do, who so hold) to submit to human dictation.
The effect of trust-deeds is, not to restrict the faith or practice of dissenters as dissenters, dissenters as such not being obliged to retain the property in trust; the deeds, therefore, obliging none who adopt them to deny for one moment that the Bible is the only rule in religion. Their effect is merely to secure that those who do not see in the trust-deed their own interpretation of Scripture, shall not defeat the intentions under which it was voluntarily made. The dissenter is not obliged to retain his “ interest” in his chapel or deny his dissent, as the churchman is obliged to retain the endowment or deny his churchmanship.
The member of the national church must consent to have his theology fettered or repudiate his principle that there should be a national church. The member of the dissenting church must consent to have his theology fettered, or repudiate the particular church to the faith or practice of which he objects; but he is perfectly free to burst his fetters without denying his principle that the Bible is his only rule. He is unfettered in his theology by any “ interest” he can serve as a dissenter.
The churchman, determining to be supported by the state, has an “ interest” as a churchman, in adhering to the creed to which alone the state consents that the support shall be given.
The dissenter, repudiating support or advantage from any quarter, except by free-will, and in approval of his sentiments, has no “ interest,” as a dissenter, in any thing but truth.
This is all, I presume, that Drs.Wardlaw or Halley, or Mr. Morison and the Essex ministers who approved of his discourse intended. They meant to say that, whereas a consistent churchman, upon his principle, that the state should teach religion, must submit his faith and practice to human dictation, and while no readiness on his own part to sacrifice worldly objects can possibly relieve him from the dire slavery, the dissenter, upon his principle, that the Bible is the only rule, is free to follow wherever truth may seem to lead, having no “ interest” that he can serve as a dissenter, apart from truth; however, as an honest man, he may have to ascertain the measure of his zeal and willingness to forsake something and follow Christ.
A trust-deed leaves “the dignity of truth” uncompromised, which, as Dr. Wardlaw well shows, a state endowment does not, and which the reviewer seems to think the trust-deed does not either. The trust-deed says merely-let every one who would promote truth by his property see, as he would in any other disposal of it, that he has reasonable security that his purpose shall be answered. It does not question the vitality of truth or the care of heaven; but only the wisdom and integrity of men. It does not deny that nothing shall prevail against the church of Christ, but it says nothing should be done, if it may be helped, that may possibly occasion it to be assaulted and its growth retarded. It is no more inconsistent with proper confidence in God, than any other attempt to reduce the amonnt of moral evil is so. Neither does it deny that the Spirit may teach other doctrines. It affirms only the granters' belief that it will not, and bars other application of their property than that which their belief, •when granting, would justify. It is in consonance with any other rational act, all rational acts proceeding upon present convictions of result, and being rational only in the degree in which the agent is satisfied that the desired result, the result that he would have, will most likely follow. To denounce trust-deeds as necessarily, that is, in their principle, inconsistent with a right dependence upon God, would be antinomianism, and to denounce all rational dispositions of property whatsoever.
The reviewer says, “a voluntary society, after creating for itself its sacred edifice, says, thus and thus at present I believe; this belief I never ought to alter; the Bible, and the Bible only, has been hitherto my religion; that it is to be no more;"--and he says, "there is no exaggeration in this.” But I submit that the representation that the Bible is to be the guide no more, is only not an exaggeration, because an exaggeration supposes a particle at least of truth, which the reviewer's supposed speech of the voluntary society rejecting the Bible, would not. The assertion, this belief I never ought to alter, is certainly no exaggeration; no one would say it was. It is only just what any rational person would say, and always means, when he states his belief in any thing. If it is his belief, he thinks he ought never to alter it, and that, if he should alter it, he will have adopted error. We should invariably aim to give the force of perpetnity to all our beliefs on all subjects, if we could, just in the degree of our persuasion, and of the assumed evil of opposing them. We admit the propriety of excluding ourselves from the liberty of annulling our own voluntary acts, and of protecting ourselves even from our selves in various ways, feeling that to neglect the power which the law gives us in the specific cases, would be to neglect the course which reason and duty prescribe. The voluntary society surrenders the edifice in specified circumstances, but it does not surrender its liberty to retain the Bible as its rule. It is not obliged by con. sistency with its principle to retain the edifice (the endowment) and therefore is not obliged to submit to the trust-deed, but is free to abide by the Bible. Thus the dissenter's theology is not fettered by the trnst-deed, which he may consistently repudiate, as the churchman is fettered by the endowment, which he cannot consistently refuse.
With respect to the assumed tendency of trust-deeds to prolong differences, I think the reviewer is mistaken. What dissenters are ever induced to abide by their trust-deed, in opposition to their religious convictions, because of the property? Did the reviewer ever know of a church, or part of a church, so doing? What sincere controvertist amongst dissenters ever thinks how the result of the controversy will affect the property? It is not, as in a
national church, where to be convinced of error may be the same thing as to be brought under obligation to give up £500 a year. The property of dissenters in chapels may be great as an aggregate, but is, individually, of little consequence to them. I do not see, therefore, that the property created by trust-deeds stands in the way of christian union.
As to the possible call to abandon their chapels, why should dissenters be disturbed about that? The possibility of such a call, (if what has been already advanced in vindication of trust-deeds be admitted,) proves nothing against the propriety of putting chapels in trust. While the trust-deeds can be fulfilled, they should be, unless adjudged by the legislature, on some ground, to be invalid. If we suppose a case when all dissenting churches, having left their present faith and practice, their chapels cannot be used as their trust-deeds require, we suppose only such a case of desiietude as, in the strictest integrity, and, indeed, in common sense, would justify the trustees in seeking a new use for the chapels. A building put in trust for Baptists is not to decay and tumble down because there are no Baptists to worship in it. The mere fact, therefore, that if dissenting churches should change their doctrines, they must abandon their property, according to the letter of the trust-deeds, comes to nothing." If there are other persons to fulfil the trusts, the chapels should be so abandoned. If not, the trustees or the legislature would have to determine their future use, no other alternative remaining
I agree with the reviewer in the general, that trust-deeds should be as simple as right ends will allow, and that the greatest care should be taken not to produce by them needless embarrassments or perpetuations.
I am, Sir, yours respectfully, August, 1839.
E. S. * Without entering at present upon a discussion of the whole question which is opened up by the able writer in the Eclectic Review, we wish to offer some remarks in addition to those of our correspondent upon several of the statements the Reviewer has made.
In attempting to show that chapel property constitutes an endowment amongst dissenters, he puts the case thus:
Suppose a sect to have 5000 places of worship, which are worth on an average £1000 each; this would give property to the amount of five millions; -suppose this property to be attached, by law, to certain definite opinions and practices, some of which, for the sake of argument, we will suppose to be unscriptural and wrong; would it be quite fair—would it be true-would the known principles of human nature permit the churches of this body to say, • We can have no interest in any abuse whatsoever! We are bound by no obligation to the errors of our fathers, or to our own !' •We do not admit our practices to be unscriptural, but we do say, that if they were, we could have no interest in maintaining them an hour longer than our convictions might authorize.' •With us, every church can act upon the convictions of its members ; and that church would be unworthy, which, through fear of singularity, or innovation, or any other motive whatsoever, would refuse--to renounce any un. scriptural practice, however ancient, or popular, or prevalent.' • The power of every church to regulate its own discipline, offices, &c. is a reforming principle, diffused through the whole denomination, which, confined by no restriction,
need wait for no enactments, but, independent of all considerations except truth, by its own energy, it may readily correct whatever is proved to be erroneous. Could all this be said in the circumstances supposed? Would it be true, that a body had no “interest in an error, when by holding it they retained property to the value of five millions? Would it be true, that they could carry out a * reforming principle, independently of all considerations ercept truth' when they would have to consider, that if they advanced to a certain point, they must give up five millions? Would it be true, that they were bound by no obligation' to any thing,--were confined by no restrictions'—' need wait for no enactments,' —had nothing to do with parliaments,'—when legal instruments, which nothing but the power of parliament could dispense with, bound them to the maintenance of a certain creed, and a certain discipline, at the peril of their parting with five millions ?"
Now we demur at this showing. It would be true, indeed, of the Wesleyan Methodist body, who hold all their places of worship under one uniform deed, which binds them to the same trusts, so that the great value of the entire chapel property of their connexion, amounting, it may be, to millions, might tempt a majority of their Conference to resist “any change in their creed or their customs,” and refuse to follow the truth lest they should forfeit their property. But each Congregational chapel has its own distinct trust-deed, and the question for the church that worships there, in case of any essential change of opinion, would be, do we love truth and liberty more than this freehold? Now a people that have made the sacrifices which nonconformity demands, who have voluntarily renounced the buildings and benefices of the national church, and who have cheerfully built and supported their own religious edifices, would find it no great hardship, for the sake of what they would regard as truth or liberty, to act as a Baptist church at Liverpool did, which we presume is described in the following sketch.
“ We have in our eye, at this moment, a Baptist church, which became open in its communion-one of the simplest specimens of change-one that will be admitted by most, to have advanced it nearer to what a church should be; but, after doing this, it was discovered that it was not their prerogative,' they might do it as a 'church,' but they could not as. an endowed church.' Sotee few stuck to this. Whether scriptural or not, it was law. Law was on their side. The founders of the church had given them the advantage of an argument in favour of their views, which enabled them to listen, with perfect composure, to the most convincing demonstrations of their brethren, and to look calmly at their overwhelming numbers as compared with themselves. The result was, that the majority departed, to exercise their 'undoubted prerogative' of building for themselves another sanctuary, which will probably be secured to open communion; so that, if their successors, using the rights and liberties of their fathers, should come to be convinced that strict communion is, after all, right and apostolic, they will be compelled, by force of law, to violate their cobsciences or quit the place!”
The history of many other churches, both Baptist and Pædo-Baptist, will prove that their members have been quite ready, as in the case before us, to assert their liberty by the erection of new places when moved by circumstances of change, far less exciting and still more simple than this affords?
Again, we also think that the reviewer greatly overstates the matter, when he asks, “ Is it consistent with all this, for the men of one age to fix all that is to be professed and done by posterity ?” Our trust-deeds in general do not ubdertake to determine all matters after this fashion. As to the DOCTRINAL Truths to be professed, however, we do hope that we are not, at this time of day, to consider “those things which most surely are believed" by the whole catholic church of Christ to be sub judice. Lamentable indeed is the result of all the learned discussions, the fierce controversies, and cruel persecutions of the last eighteen centuries, if we have not attained to something like a unity of opinion about the fundamental doctrines of our holy