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authority, sets the seal of election on the saints with infallible assurance, defames the clergy and traduces their doctrines with the bitterest revilings, raises an indignant outcry against the most innocent amusements, whilst every atrocious offence is sheltered under the cover of human inability and divine predestination ; since he affirms that the imputed righteousness of Christ cleanses the heinous sinner from all his iniquities at once, and that the virtuous believer is irrecoverably lost, if he think otherwise; since, in a word, he represents the Deity as an arbitrary tyrant, and man as the passive object of his love or hatred, who must await the elective call, which, without any regard to his own will, word, or work, summons him instantly and irresistibly, to the assembly of saints, numbers him among the children of God, and consigns him to eternal bliss : Surely the same spirit of infatuation which impelled the father of this sect, still rules in his misguided children.
They may have prudently tempered their language in some respects, have lowered their pretensions in others, and have improved their Catholic scheme, of converting the world to their opinions by a variety of new expedients : expedients better calculated to gain over the ignorant, the wicked, the melancholy, and the timid to join their meetings and adopt their creed. But in the same degree as their folly or madness is diminished, their art and cunning may be in
creased, and what is subtracted from the former, added to the latter ; there may be less imputable to the ramblings of the brain, but more to the deflexions of the heart. But whether the errors of the head or of the heart preponderate, is a question of little importance in comparison with the momentous consequences to which they lead. “ The great preservative of religion, and of order and regularity in the exercise of it, is the provision that is made for the performance of public offices, by persons lawfully appointed within particular bounds and districts; and if these be taken down, nothing can follow but disorder and confusion. This nation in the time of our forefathers had sufficient experience of the mischief and contempt that may be brought upon religion by inspired tongues and itching ears. When the holy spirit was alleged to sanctify the greatest extravagances, and the most ridiculous fancies; when the most ordinary actions and incidents of life were ascribed to the influences of the same spirit; when the doctrine of justification by faith alone was carried into an utter exclusion of the necessity of good works, and under that notion grew to be the distinguishing mark of a whole sect; and when the bounds of order and discipline were broken down, and the settled ministries and offices of the church depreciated and brought into contempt, as dispensations of a low and less spiritual nature.”*. ii.
*Gibson's Fourth Pastoral Letter, p. 279.
Were we willing to take counsel from the example which our ancestors have bequeathed to us, there is terror enough in that example to alarm the apprehensions, and excite the vigilance of the bravest, the wisest, and the best. But this is an age in which the experience of those who have gone before us is esteemed of no account; and the wisdom derivable from the observation of former events, the most instructive and least fallible that mere reason can attain, no longer regulates our judgment or our conduct. We contemplate without dismay the dangers of the coming storm, and stupidly forget the fury of the past. The records of history are to us a dead uninteresting letter. To the melancholy relation of those miseries which sprung from a fanatic zeal we pay no regard, or peruse with philosophic apathy the awful lesson which it teaches. “ But the judgments of God are for ever unchangeable," says a learned and sagacious writer,“ neither is he wearied by the long process of time, and won to give his blessing in one age to that which he hath cursed in another."*
The same disastrous consequences which were occasioned by the excess of puritanic violence in a former period, will undoubtedly ensue again, if we are subjected to the ascendancy of a similar enthusiasm.' And-surely our apprehensions of it will not be allayed by the consideration of those religious tenets which it has heen the purpose of
* Raleigh's Preface to his History of the World.
these pages to unfold: tenets which are alike repugnant to moral virtue, 'sound wisdom, and christian charity. .
The danger which threatens the ecclesiastical, and together with it, the civil establishment of this happy country from the angry spirits of contending sects, will not appear less imminent,* because the predominant spirit of Methodism is
* That this spirit will submit to no controul,' is evident from the temper and language of those who entertain it. Some restrictions on itinerant preachers having been proposed, a writer in the Evangelical Magazine, on the supposition of their being enacted as a law, thus declares his sentiments:
“ The ministers of the gospel, who, in compassion to the souls of men, think it their duty to preach in the villages, will not be silenced by unjust and persecuting restrictions: they will unquestionably persist in preaching, whenever they think themselves called to do it; and should severe punishments be enacted, the prisons would be filled with persecuted Methodists and Dissenters, as in the days of the Stuarts they were with persecuted Puritans and Quakers. . : si .
si Evang. Mag. Oct. 1809, p. 437. Mr. Styles, in observing on the Barrister's suggestion, that self-appointed teachers should not be exempt from the militia ballot, says, “ You indeed seem chiefly to depend on the efficacy of subjecting evangelical ministers to serve in the militia. This would perhaps be the most effectual way to shut our pulpits'; but we should go into the army, and preach there you will not be able by any means to quench this new spirit.”* What a presage of public calamity does this intimation, which is not obscure, convey! A fanatic army, impelled by designing agitators, immediately presents itself to the imagination: the troubles which preceded Cromwell's usurpation,
swallowing up all the rest. Our fears will rather be frightened, when we consider the gigantic strides and the malignant looks of that religious spectre; when we observe the desire of pre-eminence, spiritual and temporal, concealed by the shallow disguise of holy zeal for Christ, and Christ alone; when we see a system of proselytism regularly arranged throughout the British empire, and a multitude of converts seduced by doctrines, most agreeable indeed to our depraved nature, but utterly subversive of all social and private duty: When the influence of fanaticism is thus exciting the passions of the ignorant and vulgar against the best interests of mankind, and the venerable institutions by which those interests have been effectually secured, are we not justi. fied in' calling the attention of our countrymen to the progress of that evangelism, which profanes the gospel of Jesus Ohrist, under the sanction of its hallowed name?! . ...
Far be it from us to awaken an intolerant disposition towards any description of our fellow Christians, or to cherish an uncharitable senti: ment towards any man: the principles, not the persons, of our opponents are the just object of our censure and aversion. With the most sacred
and the baleful ipfluence of that gloomy superstition, which almost extinguished the light of science and of truth during its continuance, occur at once, on the bare mention of army preachers, and forewarn us to defend ourselves from the malignity of this new spirit, if it cannot be quenched.