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by some of those irregular preachers, with which, unhappily for us, this country so much abounds, tend in a great degree to spread the mischief. In contempt of former experience, and in defiance of an existing example, the most wretched in its kind that the world ever produced of the effects attendant upon a general dissolution of order in society; there are not wanting men, who, either from vanity or design, are desirous of making hazardous expe riments, under the plausible idea of improving a science upon which few heads are competent to form a judgment; and to the consequences of a mistaken theory upon which, the very existence of a state may eventually fall a sacrifice.
Reformation, it shall be readily granted, is at all times a desirable thing, when the honesty as well as judgment of the reforming party are fully to be depended on. But there is a further and very important consideration belonging to this subject, which is seldom taken into account; and against which neither honesty nor judgment are a sufficient security. In politics, the most important events are ofttimes unforeseen, and derived from causes with which they have no immediate or apparent connection. Circumstances in proof of this position are to be met with in the history of every country. A plan set on foot by wise and honest men may be so distorted in its working, 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 possessed, not only of sound heads and honest hearts, but also of a considerable degree of forecast, a sort 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 some 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 some, 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 seldom 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 best calculated to promote human happiness, there the grand enemy of man, the disturber of 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"
Perhaps, indeed, some indulgence may be re quired 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 said, 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 hasten to a conclusion, in one short but necessary word to the professed 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 consideration which may tend to prevent a separation from it; it ought, most assuredly, 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 themselves 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 forsake 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 tö make themselves acquainted with this interesting subject, notwithstanding the abundant means graciously vouchsafed 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 possession 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 sacraments; 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 sacred 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 surprise, 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 persuaded 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 possession, in consequence 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, must inevitably perish.