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done on our part to promote or encourage such wild deviation from the paths of true religion, the ways of unity, peace and love, which our blessed Redeemer marked out for all his faithful followers. It is true we are separated, and must continue to be separate from the establishment of this country; not as influ. enced by a spirit of opposition to whatever is eftablished either in church or state (which seems to be a prominent feature in the doctrine of these new apostles) but because we act on principles, which require and justify such feparation ; and which, if well understood, and duly adhered to, would ensure stability to every sound establishment, and prevent those unhappy divisions, which serve only to multiply error, and drive men farther and farther from the truth as it is in Christ.
Such as I have now described it, is evidently the situation of the land in which we live, with respect to the religious character of a great majority of its inhabitants, very much resernbling the state of things in the Jewish church, at the time of our Saviour's first coming in the flesh, when the true religion was either totally set aside by the infidelity of the Sadducees, or fadly corrupted by the vile hypocrisy of self-conceited Pharisees. The former led away, like our modern Illuminati, with a vain affectation of superior discernment, could not bear the thoughts of submitting their enlightened understandings to the familiar tenets of a vulgar faith. They must have a creed of a different form, perfectly fuited to
what they are pleased to call Reafon, and the Fitness of things. This has been the idol of the unbeliev. ing race, in all ages and places of the world. And though the vanity of their scheme has been often exposed in the clearest manner, and to the full satisfaction of every serious, fober-thinking person; yet it would seem to require the same divine eloquence now as it did formerly, to " put the Sadducees to “ filence.”
But though it were possible, and with God it cannot be impossible) to check the licenrious rail. ings of these“ bold disputers, who even deny the Lord “ that bought them;" denying, either that they are bought, or that he who bought them is the Lord
the eternal, Almighty Jehovah; the true faith has yet another sort of enemies to combat with, in the imitators of those pharifaical pretenders to religion, of whom St. Paul gives a most just and striking description, in these words “ For I bear them “ record, that they have a zeal of God, but not ac“ cording to knowledge. For they, being ignorant 6 of God's righteousness, and going about to esta“ blish their own righteousness, have not submitted " themselves unto the righteousness of God.”* Submission to the righteous will and appointment of God was no part of the religion adopted by that zealous ignorance, the effects of which are here so minutely described ; and similar effects are still flow. ing from the same unhappy cause. The pride of in
fidelity, fidelity, we may well suppose, is not a little cherithed and supported by the gross absurdities, which prevail among many of those who profefs to believe the great truths of the gospel; and who, in flying from the ruinous paths of the impious sceptic, are often sadly bewildered in ways of their own devising, and plunge themselves into all the follies of the wild enthusiast. There seems to be a strange propensity in many of our countrymen to be misguided by such as thus go about to deceive; and who, to carry on their deceit the more effectually, lay it down as an undoubted maxim, very flattering to the vanity of the human heart, that any man who can read, may, with the scriptures in his hands, be able to know and do every thing necessary to falvation. But this, though partly true, is not the whole truth; and well meaning people ought to be put on their guard against such an artful misrepresentation. Had the fcriptures contained only a few moral precepts, tending to preserve the peace of society, and to regulate man's conduct towards his neighbour, without prescribing any sacred rites and institutions, as a testimony of his submission to the will of his God, the maxim I have mentioned might have been assumed with more propriety. But is this really the case ? Has a man, in order to be made a Christian, nothing more to do, than to go to a bookseller's shop: and purchase a bible, that he may peruse it at his leisure, and interpret it as he thinks fit? With all the liberality which this age poffelses, no one has yet
* Rom. y. 2. 3.
ventured to affert so much in plain terms, although the loose opinions, which so generally prevail, clearly shew, that too many are guided by no other principle.
In tracing these and many other growing evils to their proper source, we may easily find their original in that lamentable ignorance of the true nature and constitution of the Christian church; and of consequence, that total want of regard for the order and succession of its ministers, which have, of late years, so wofully prevailed among us; encouraged and countenanced by a numerous set both of preachers and authors, whose interest it is to flatter men in this fashionable error, and take advantage of it. Hence it is, that the Christian world has been bewildered and led astray by so many unfaithful histories of the church, and such ill digested lectures on that subject, as could only come from persons, who found it necessary to touch these things very tenderly, because the ground, on which they stood in their official character, was not so firm as to bear them up in any other language than that of the false prophets of old, “who spoke smooth things, and prophesied “ deceits, because the people loved to have it so.” A writer of another stamp, the late pious and learned Bishop of Norwich, in laying before his clergy a brief account of the great fundamental doctrines, which they were to inculcate, as essential to Christianity, and without which, it cannot be considered as a religion true in itself, or beneficial to us, takes care to include in the number of these important doctrines, the Constitution and Use of the Church ; "a “ subject on which,” he says, men's principles for fome years past “ have been very unsettled, and “ their knowledge precarious, and superficial.”* We need not wonder that this should be the case, when men are at so little pains to acquire that sound substantial knowledge, which is absolutely necessary to settle their principles, and give them juft and suitable ideas, on a subject of such serious and striking importance, as was ascribed by the blessed author of our religion, to the way and manner, the pur. pose and design of his building or raising that fociety, which he was pleased to call his church, and which he no sooner entered on his public ministry, than he began to establish.t
Now that this church of Christ, thus established by himself in person, and afterwards enlarged by his apostles, on the plan which he had laid down for their direction, ought to be considered as a regular, well formed society, is evident from the names and allusions, by which it is described in the sacred writings. It is there represented as a body, a household or family, a city, a kingdom ; and must certainly bear some kind of relation to what these terms are gene. rally known to imply. Indeed no one, who reflects for a moment on the nature of these figurative ex. pressions, can be ignorant wherein it is, that this relation, or connection takes place. The church is
a body * See Bishop Horne's charge, p. 21. + See St. Matthew, xvi. 18. 19.