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decline of a cause, without the powerful affistance of which, man, though living in civilized fociety, can fcarcely be confidered as far removed from his wild ftate of nature.
Whilft, then, I would cordially join in bearing the moft public teftimony against that lukewarmness in the cause of CHRIST, that indifference, and even daring contempt for religion, which characterise the present age; and whilst I admit, as in truth I must, that fome of our clergy do not feel that intereft for the Christian cause, which they ought to feel; and by their injudicious conformity to the manners of a diffipated age, leffen that influence which their facred profeffion ought to have in the world; I ftill am inclined to think, that, taken as a body, they are more wanting in zeal than in knowledge. But upon this fubject, did I feel difpofed, it would not well become me, fenfible as I am of my own manifold defects, to enlarge.
Difallowing, however, the charge against the clergy in the extent in which it is brought, I still feel fo ftrongly what the cause of genuine Chriftianity owes to the character and abilities of this author, as to give him full credit for the fincerity of his intention. At the fame time it may be fuggefted to his
confideration, whether a defcription of the actual ftaté of our church, as destitute of the vital spirit of Christianity, in confequence of the genuine principles of it not being inculcated by its paftors, who, in their collective character, are represented as “ having forfaken the fountain of living water, and hewed them out cifterns, which can hold no water;" be not a description, in the prefent day, when establishments poffefs fuch little hold upon the human mind, which may do harm, by putting an idea into the minds of inconfiderate people, not eafy to be eradicated; and thereby preventing the clergy from doing that good, which the majority of them, I trust, are still difpofed to do.
For it may be asked, to what fuch a description of the infufficiency of our clergy (derived more from the indecent revilings of irregular preachers, than from fact;) muft lead, when accompanied with that notorious ignorance of the nature of the Christian church, which now univerfally prevails; but to a more general feparation from its communion, than we now deplore? And in proportion as this event takes place, we know, from paft experience, how to calculate the confequence. In proportion as the body of the community feparate from the established church,
the establishment itself is weakened; because every separatist becomes, upon principle, an enemy to it. And should this enmity, by a continued addition to its caufe, proceed fo far as to effect its fubverfion, we need no prophet to inform us, that our inestimable liturgy, to which, as to the most spiritual production of the human mind, we now look up with reverence, will not be fuffered to furvive the ruin.
By all who are ftudious of their country's welfare, more particularly by all who defire to fupport our ecclefiaftical establishment, every effort should be used to revive the Chriftianity of our better days." Upon the revival of primitive Christianity, there can be no diffenting opinion among those who have duly confidered the influence which religion has upon fociety; which may be regarded as the key-ftone of the arch which bears up the weight of all human government. But though the support of an ecclefiaftical establishment, as our author has obferved, depends in a great measure upon its poffeffion of public opinion, it must, nevertheless, be remarked, that the truth and excellence of Christianity become no certain fecurity for the poffeffion of that opinion. We know that the church was in its pureft condition,
* WILBERFORCE's Practical View, p. 419.
when public opinion, or the judgment of the state, was decidedly against it. We also know, that when the establishment of the church was loft in this country, that loss was not to be attributed to a decay of Christianity in it, fo much as to fome other notorious causes. From whence we are authorised to conclude, that the existence of vital Christianity in the church, furnishing no fecurity for the poffeffion of public opinion; the lofs of that opinion can become no fure criterion, by which to form a judgment of its actual corruption. Although, therefore, the lofs of that establishment which the church now enjoys in this country, may, in the judgment of GOD, be the confequence of the degeneracy of its clergy; and in this light their character must become a fubject of interesting concern with every well-wisher to the constitution; yet as this event has been, and confequently may be, brought about by other causes, it were to be wifhed that the popular publication alluded to had provided fome antidote against their prevalent effect.
With this view, I could have wished to have seen the church defcribed in its ftate of independence upon every human establishment; vefted with those fpiritual powers which it poffeffes in itself; in the exercise of which, every individual ought to be go
verned by the authority, from which alone thofe powers are derived. This reprefentation might, in fome degree, have tended to counteract that loofe way of thinking, which prevails upon this fubject; which has fent fo many unauthorised, and, for the most part, it is to be feared, unqualified, individuals into the ministry; an evil, which, if it go on increafing in the degree it has lately done, threatens more certain ruin to the establishment of this country, than is, in my judgment, to be apprehended from any other caufe.
What opinion the author in queftion may have formed upon the nature and conftitution of the Chriftian church, it is not for me to determime. But that there is no part of his publication calculated to give the reader any discriminate idea upon this important fubject, will not be deemed an hazardous affertion. There are fome paffages, on the contrary, which, if I mistake not, may lead to an erroneous conclufion upon it.
In page 379, BAXTER is claffed with HALL, BEVERIDGE, HOOKER, and ANDREWS, as among the brightest ornaments and pillars of the church of England."*
*WILBERFORCE's Practical Vew, p. 379%