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be entertained, no act of any human legislature can make it otherwife.
Separatists from the church, therefore, under the fuppofed countenance of Government, would do well to confider, that a civil act in this cafe (as we have above obferved) refpects them only as members of a civil fociety; but furnishes no proper standard of judgment for their conduct as Chriftians; in which character, they become amenable to the law of that LORD, by whom they will be judged, and from whofe fentence there lies no appeal,
On the Right of PRIVATE JUDGMENT in
the right of private judgment in religious at matters much more perhaps has been faid,
than the subject will warrant.
The Apostle, indeed, directs us to
prove all things," but at the fame time to "hold faft that
which is good." From whence it may be concluded, that there is a difference between a blind and implicit øbedience to authority in religious matters, and a total exemption from obligation on that head; between taking our religion entirely upon truft from others, or thinking it to be a part of Christian liberty, to make what religion we please for ourselves. The one leads back to the dark days of bigotry and fuperftition, the other renders the establishment of a church, as a fociety under regular government, altogether impracticable.
In fact, the right of private judgment in religious matters refpects man in the relation in which he ftands to his fellow-creatures; the exercise of which, fo far as it concerns himself only, no other man has a right to control. But this confideration, though it tend to fecure a privilege, claimed by every member of civilized fociety, muft nevertheless, when applied to the fubject immediately before us, be measured by a facred standard, before it can become a fafe principle of human conduct. The phrafe, therefore, is open to an ambiguous meaning; and calculated, if not to offer incenfe to that idol of the natural man, human reason, at least to cherish an idea, which has too often led to a dangerous conclufion. Man, in the affairs of this world, may affume a right to judge for himself in a cafe upon which he is not qualified to form a judgment; and fa long as his exercise of that right interferes not with the authority of the magistrate, or the welfare of the community, he may be indulged in his folly. But in religious matters no man can have a right to judge otherwise than God has judged for him. The ordinances of CHRIST, and the truths of his religion, are neceffary, because he has made them fo; that neceffity therefore must continue the fame, whether
For the religion of
we obferve them, or not. CHRIST, whatever be man's opinion upon it, will be precisely what it is, "the fame yesterday, to-day, and for ever;" and it is at his peril, if he do not conform to it.
To fay, therefore, that man has a right to wor fhip GoD in the way he thinks proper; in other words, to make a religion for himself; is to place all religions upon the fame level as to the Divine favour, and to render an appeal to revelation wholly unneceffary; by leading him to conclude, that he is at liberty to set up a standard of right and wrong for himself in this cafe, inftead of accepting with humility that Divine ftandard which has in wisdom been set up for him.
To enter more at large into this fubject, after what has been already faid, under the head of Liberty of Confcience, would be to trespass upon
It may be neceffary, however, to take notice of one mode of fettling the minds of ill-informed people upon this fubject; which, from its plausibility, has gained much credit in the world.
There are authors, unhappily for this country, whofe manner of writing, upon certain fubjects,
seems calculated to confound every thing that looks like order and government in fociety; by fetting up the majesty of the people (to make use of the abfurd phraseology of republicanism) as the origin of power in the state; and the facred right, or rather mistaken plea of Proteftantifm, as a fanction for divifions in the church. According to these writers, who either do not understand, or purposely misreprefent, the principle of proteftantism, the right of judgment in religious matters, which the church of England pleads in juftification of her feceffion from the church of Rome, is to be pleaded, by every individual Chriftian, for his separation from the church of England; as if by proteftantifm were chiefly meant, a right of feparation from the church; without regard to the cause of it. But upon examining the two cafes, we fhall find them to be by no means parallel; and confequently no conclufion is to be drawn from the one to the other.
The feparation of the church of England from the church of Rome, was grounded, not upon the idea, that he had a right to form a church for herself upon any new plan of her own; but upon the idea, that it was no longer compatible with the fpiritual welfare of her members to hold communion with a