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For by withdrawing the parishioner from the charge of his appointed minister, it has introduced a way of thinking more suited to the frequenters of conventicles, than to the members of the established church; by which the office of the parish priest is in a manner superseded by that of the preacher.
Considering, therefore, that we live in an age, in which many, who neither know the scripture, nor the nature of Christ's church, think they can make their own religion, their own church, and their own ministers, it is not to be wondered at, that it Daould by degrees become a matter of indifference with Christians where they are assembled, provided they like their teacher. But this plan of erecting chapels for the emolument of individuals not only introduces among us extra-parochial assemblies of an anomalous kind, destructive of the connection which ought to subsist between minister and people; but being incompatible with that principle of unity upon which the church of Christ is founded, and subver. five of that order and discipline by which it ought to be maintained, tends to undermine the establishment itself. We are told by a celebrated writer* of the present day, that should the diffenters from the esta. blishment become a majority of the people, the establishment itself ought to be altered. This must be allowed to be a very summary, though to many it will appear to be neither a very fatisfactory nor very practicable way of settling a most important concern. How far an old proverb, though not construed literally, ought to weigh in this case, thinking men will be apt to consider.
* Archdeacon PALEY.
“ Eft turba semper argumentum poifimi.” Indeed this strange and novel idea of putting the establishment of the Christian religion, as it were, to the vote, by making it dependent on the voice of the majority; thus bowing the knee to popular opinion, rather than to the God of our fathers; (in conformity with which the protestant government of this country may be called upon to desert the cause of protestantism, and become the establisher* of Romilh error and superstition;) is an idea, which as it was not to be expected from a minister of the church, must, it is to be concluded, not have been considered by the Archdeacon in all its bearings.
* In Ireland, upon a moderate calculation, there are four Roman Catholics to one Protestant. In conformity therefore with the idea here advanced by the Archdeacon, the Roman Catholic ought to be the established religion in Ireland. To detail the operation of fuch an unlimited principle, would be an insult to the reader.
That such should be the ground upon which Dr. Priestley places this subject, can be no matter of surprise to us, when we consider that such is the ground upon which he builds his projected reformation of our church. In the character of a decided sectarist, a bold and open enemy to our ecclesiastical constitu. tion, he tells us plainly, that means are preparing for its destruction; and that the final accomplishment of the undertaking waits only for the time, when the majority of the people shall be separated from it.
Now though I do not think Dr. PriesTLEY'S religious tenets calculated to gain him many converts among the people, and consequently no serious apprehensions are to be entertained on that score; it may not, however, be amiss to draw a leffon of prudence from the Doctor's information on this occasion. 6 Fas est et ab hoste doceri.”
Certain it is, that separation from the established church of this country has of late years abundantly increased; and it is equally certain, that in proportion as this is the case, the establishment itself is weakened. For whatever be the different opinions of different sects, and what enmity soever they may bear towards each other on that account, the destruction of the establishment is a point upon which they are at all times ready to join hand in hand. Now, if to this consideration we add the circumstance of that die vision, which is growing up as it were within the church, by which the parochial connection between minister and people is destroyed; in consequence of which, all ideas about a church establishment are every day growing more and more out of fight; we must not be surprised, if an evil, which every
think, ing well-wisher to his country deprecates, should advance upon us with more hasty steps than we may at present be willing to believe. This appears to be an object that well deserves the attention of those whose office it is to watch, “ ne quid detrimenti ref. publica capiat.
Should our governors think as they ought upon this subject, that our ecclesiastical establishment has in the present, as in every former day of trial, proved the firmest support to the government of this country, they will of course conclude that it is worth preserving, To speak with an immediate reference to those mad doctrines, the unhingers of all regular society, which have of late been circulated with such pernicious in. dustry, the clergy of the establishment may say with OTHELLO, that they have “ done the state some ser. vice," Indeed, to constitutional government at all
times they have felt it their duty to promote the firmest attachment. It will therefore be but a prudent exertion of political wisdom, to provide all means, consistent with sound judgment, for the more general extension of the benefits of an establishment, to which the government of this country confeffedly stands indebted, with the view of counteracting as much as may be the present plan of limiting and contracting them.
The most decisive experiment having been made, that the principles of non-conformity ultimately produce faction in the state, and infidelity in the church; those to whom the guardianship of our constitution has been committed, cannot better discharge their trust, than by giving all possible encouragement to the building additional churches in all populous places, where those already built prove too small for the accommodation of the inhabitants.
Whereas, if to remedy this inconvenience, the present mode of erecting chapels at the charge of individuals, with an eye to private emolument, continue to be adopted, we are promoting the very object which Dr. PRIESTLEY has before him; for we are thereby separating the great body of the people from the established church; and in a manner