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ment, poffefses some decided judgment in favour of the doctrine and government established in it. By him therefore it cannot be considered to be a matter of indifference, whether men believe that doctrine, or submit to that government, or not.
If he believe himself to be in the truth, he must of course think those who differ from him in opinion to be in error.
And whilst he makes all due allowlowance for those who differ from him; (and large allowances will be made, when, to borrow an idea from Lord Bacon, it is considered, that the human mind takes such plies from education, and a thousand other causes, that even wise and good men rarely think exactly alike upon any speculative subject whatever ;) he will nevertheless conclude, if he be confiftent with his profession, that where there is a standard for the regulation of human judgment on Divine subjects, two opposite opinions upon them cannot be true.
There is indeed, we are sorry to think, a wild sectarian spirit growing up in this country, which, if not properly counteracted, will work to the utter fubversion of its constitution. For (as it has been excellently observed by a late writer, whose opinion I am proud to think perfe&tly corresponds with my own on this subject) “ fects in religion and parties
in the state originate in general from fimilar principles. A fect is, in fact, a revolt against the authority of the church, just as a faction is against the authority of the state; or, in other words, a fect is a faction in the church, as a faction is a fect in the ftate: and the fpirit which refuses obedience to the one, is equally ready to refift the other."* A pofition which will not be controverted, but by thofe who feel themfelves indifpofed to admit the regular establishment of authority in either cafe.
But upon this head, it is to be feared, it may be faid, “Iliacos intra muros peccatur. What from the loose writing of fome of the clergy, and the general filence of the body, upon the conftitution of the Christian church, the subject is so grown out of knowledge, as to have loft almoft univerfally its influence upon the mind. Afk an ignorant man, why he feparates from the church, his anfwer probably will be, that he lives in a land of liberty, where he has a right to worship GoD in the way he thinks proper. Ask a man of reading and understanding, and he will quote respectable authority for the fame opinion: whereas both one and the other might, it is probable, have continued members of the church,
BOUCHER on the American Revolution. Difcourse II.
had they been taught to form a correct notion of it. But when they have been led to consider the church as a word of general and indiscriminate application, and religion itself as a subject of mere private opinion, independent of all authority; it is not to be expected that they should feel disposed to restrain a licence, of which, from the latitudinarian way of thinking and acting, in which they have been educated, they conceive themselves born in rightful possession.
The minister of the church however, who prays constantly against Schism, should in consequence think it is duty to prevent Christians, as far as may be, from falling into fo dangerous a sin. And whilst he remembers of what spirit a Christian ought to be, the means made use of by him for the purpose wil be no other than what a Christian ought to employ. “ Following,” (to make use of the words of the celebrated Mr. LOCKE)“ the example of the Prince of Peace ; who sent out his soldiers to the subduing of nations, and gathering them into his church, not armed with the sword, or other instruments of force, but accoutred in that best armour, the Gospel of peace, and the exemplary holiness of Christian conversation.'
Without pronouncing sentence therefore upon, or disturbing, those who are without the church, his object will be to preferve those that still remain in it. This he will do, by enabling them to form correct notions of the nature and constitution of the Christian church; and by giving them such an explanation from time to time of its services, as may produce in them a rational attachment to its communion. Considering the church as a society, which has God for its founder, and Christian faith as the offspring of Divine revelation, he will regard the varying opinions of mankind upon those subjects, rather as proofs of the weakness and incapacity of the human mind, than as illustrations of the truth. At the same time, therefore, that he is desirous of laying no unneceffary restraint upon human judgment in religious subjects; he will take care to point out the standard by which it should be regulated; a standard which draws the line between faith and credulity; between a sober inquiry after truth, accompanied with a proper respect for authority, and that licentiousness of opinion which knows no authority but its own; in a word, between that liberty with which CHRIST has made us free, and the liberty which the natural man is at all times disposed to make for himself.
But the clergy, fome individuals of the body at least, have still more to answer for on this subject.
A freedom of opinion on church matters has led, as
it might be expected, to a freedom of practice. Whilst fome by their writings have put the establishment of the church, as it were, quite out of fight; others by their conduct have openly withdrawn Christians from it, by becoming, in fome cafes, officiating ministers in the places of public worship independent of epifcopal jurisdiction; in others, by their attendance at places of worship which are in an actual state of separation from the established church of their country. How fuch conduct is confiftent with the established government of the church; how the circumstance of a minifter of the church taking upon himself to preach in a place of worship unlicensed by the bishop, is to be reconciled with canonical obligation;* with what propriety fuch a minister can, in the liturgy of the church, pray against fchifm in the place where he is in the actual commiffion of the fin; are points upon which I feel myself
*If the oath of canonical obedience mean any thing, it means obedience to the bishop according to the canons of the church. Taking it in this light, I do not fee how those of the clergy, who renounce epifcopal jurifdiction, by officiating in, or attending in direct defiance of the canons, at places of worship separated from the establishment, can be fecure from the charge of at least virtual perjury.