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ing, by passing through the hands of men differently: disposed, that the evil eventually produced may far overbalance the good originally projected. For the direct and immediate consequences of innovation of any kind are, generally speaking, the least important. Hence it follows, that reformers should be men pofsessed, not only of sound heads and honest hearts, but also of a considerable degree of forecast, a fort of anticipating knowledge with respect to future events, to enable them to see the remote as well as immediate effect of the means they set in motion. For no wise man, though sensible of an evil, provided it be not of the intolerable kind, will risk a remedy, the operation of which he cannot in fome measure ascertain; and the effect of which may, from its violence, leave him in a worse condition than it found him.
With respect to ourselves, possessed of the best government, and the most Apostolic church in the world, we are nevertheless, it must be confessed, a discontented people; owing in part to the hypochondriac feelings of fome, who know not what it is to be happy under any circumstances; the designed misrepresentations of others; and the various projected schemes of imaginary reformers, whose zeal feldom permits them to weigh coolly the possible attainment
of speculative perfection, against the probable risk attendant upon the prosecution of it. And perhaps it may
be thus accounted for: in proportion as things in this world approach nearer to that perfection beft calculated to promote human happiness, there the grand enemy of man, the disturber of his peace, and the envier of his happiness, is always most busily employed. And when this prince of darkness assumes the dress of an angel of light, by making religion the tool with which he works for the accomplishment of his purpose, he is then most to be dreaded, because then he can most successfully deceive.
Such are the general consequences resulting from a separation from the church of Christ. A more particular investigation of them would lead into a a wider field, than is propofed to be entered upon, on this occasion.
Perhaps, indeed, some indulgence may be required on the part of the reader, to excuse the disproportionate length to which the discussion of this subject has already been drawn out. Not without hopes, however, that what has been faid, though in a less complete and systematic form than the importance of the subject demanded, may be sufficient to answer the purpose in view, where it meets with a mind disposed to receive it; we haften to a conclusion, in one short but necessary word to the profeffed members of the Christian church.
Whilst we are engaged in an earnest, though humble, endeavour to preserve the unity of the Christian church, by bringing forward every confideration which may tend to prevent a feparation from it; it ought, most affuredly, to be a matter of very serious concern with the members of that church, that they do not render abortive our endeavour, by a voluntary ignorance of, or shameful indifference to, a subject, which must be regarded as involving in it their most important interests. To secure themselves against such an imputation, it is necessary that they do justice to the church to which they belong; by making them. felves acquainted with the nature of its constitution, the design of its establishment, and the privileges of which they become partakers by their admission into it. This done, they will never forfake its communion; because they will be convinced, that no plan upon which any other Christian society has been formed, is so well calculated to promote the spiritual edification of its members, as that to which they belong. But if they will not seek to make themfelves acquainted with this interesting subject, not
withstanding the abundant means graciously vouchfafed to them for that purpose; if the religion which they profess, instead of being built on the firm ground of sober and rational enquiry, is the mere result of early prejudice, and accidental circumstance; a kind of hereditary poffeffion handed down to them from their forefathers, of which they confessedly know little, and about which, perhaps, they still care less; if, when they come to a place of holy worship, they enter not into the services performed there; neither praying the prayers of the church, nor joining in the facraments; but when they ought to be on their knees, in humble supplication for pardon and grace, they remain on their seats unconcerned and uninterested in the facred business that is going forward; the necessary consequence must be, that they will be dead, not living, members of the church; and it will be no subject for surprize, if, after having continued in that state for years, without experiencing any, communication of Divine spirit from the Head to which they professedly belong, they should be per. suaded to seek unhallowed fire elsewhere.
But be it remembered, the fault in this case is not in the church, but in its members; and by cutting themselves off from the church, upon the imaginary
idea of acquiring that spiritual attainment, of which they are not in actual poffeffion, in confequence either of their abuse or disuse of those appointed means to which the Divine grace has been formally annexed; they only render their case, it is to be feared, in some sense more hopeless than it was before. A limb, though diseased, whilst it continue united to the body, may recover; which, when separated from it, muft inevitably perish,