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fails to terminate in the state; although some of
Schism is the prolific parent of heresy. The establishment of the Christian Church, is the best security for the preservation of the Christian faith. Separation from it leads, sooner or later, to confusion and error. It does more in the words of Mr. Baxter, to whose authority you will pay respect, it not only leads directly to apostacy from the faith, but shakes states and kingdoms, having a lamentable influence on the civil peace. In a word, (says he) the scripture tells us, that where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work."*
Should you not be too confirmed in your opinions to take a leaf out of any book, there are two publications, particularly relative to the present subject, which you will thank me for pointing out; because they will tend to furnish you with more correct ideas, upon some subjects, than you now appear to possess. I mean Bishop Stillingfleet's Unreasonableness of Separation, and Dr. Maurice's Defence of Diocesan Episcopacy: publications which, I trust, you will think not unworthy the attention of
* Baxter's Christian Directory, page 739.
those separating ministers, whose chapels you occasionally frequent, should they (as it is most probable) be at present strangers to their merit.
Admitting that the Church of this country is not what it ought to be, every sound member of it will be thankful to you for your endeavours to make it such. But for that purpose, let me beseech you not to attempt to unmake it; for, in so doing, you fight against God, who best knows the condition of his own Church, and how to manage the concerns of it. He has not removed his candlestick from among us: we may hope, therefore, that as yet he has not seen cause for so dreadful a judgment. At the same time, we are deeply sensible, that, as members of the Church, we are far fallen from our first works.*
But the indiscriminate abuse of the clergy, a disregard of the established order in the ministry, the speaking disrespectfully of those grand sources of national information, the Universities, cannot tend to bring things into a better condition. Taking experience for our instructor, our conclusion must be, that they will be productive of the very contrary effect.
Error, indeed, both in principle and practice, as to this point, seems to pervade our system. For what proof is it in the power of any of us to give, that a due care for the preservation of the esta blished Church, does form, generally speaking, any part of the character of the members of our execu tive government? Nay, I am not sure, that were the question put to me, how it appears, that the
* Rev. ii. 5.
heads of our Church themselves, are sufficiently impressed with the conviction of the dreadful consequences, that cannot but follow from that schismatic rage which has of late years broken forth in this country, and which seems now to know no bounds; I could give such an answer as would be satisfactory even to myself.
Far from meaning any offence, I trust none will be taken at my going on to observe, that government ought to be sensible, and the heads of the Church must know, that the establishment in every country stands upon the broad basis of public opinion; and that when the great body of the community shall be drawn from it, neither dignity of character, superiority of learning, nor eminence of station, will prevent its fall.
You, Sir, as a professed supporter of that establishment of which we now boast, must feel yourself interested in this subject. You must, moreover, be sensible, that the security which the legislature has granted to private opinion in religious matters, ought at least to prove an equal security to the established opinion of the community; and that those who enjoy their own liberty in worship, ought not to be permitted either to write down, or preach down, the establishment of their country. At present, I am sorry to say, that an act of indulgence granted in favour of conscientious Christians, to whom the benefit of such an act ought in all reason to be extended, is now, through abuse, become in a great degree, an act of hostility against that constitution by which it was originally granted. And I am inclined to think,
that if the licentious practices now carrying on under the countenance of that much-abused act, shall continue increasing upon us as they have of late years, the established Church of England will be that society of Christians, which, of all others in this country, will stand most in needs of protection and support.
If you, as a legislator, can devise any plan consistent with true liberty, and that right of private judgment in religious matters, which must to a certain degree be admitted, to prevent the prostitution of the Toleration Act to practices it was never designed to countenance; if you can be instrumental in reviving that discipline of the Church, so necessary to the effectual administration of its spiritual government; and if you can find out a way to restore to the respectable parochial clergy, that weight which their character ought to have in the scale of public estimation; you will, Sir, in a most essential degree, serve both Church and state.
The melioration of the morals of the community must depend on the joint exertions of the minister and the magistrate. What each may endeavour to do in his separate character, will be more effectually done, when both act in concert. As the object they have in view ought to be the same, namely, the promotion of God's honour and their country's welfare, their method of promoting it ought to be regular, uniform, and consistent. It were to be wished that the clergy had no ground for complaint on this head but this is a subject upon which, as a clergyman, I do not wish to enter. My only reason for introducing it has been, to take off at least
a portion of that heavy burthen, which is so generally and unmercifully laid upon the shoulders of my brethren, as responsible for the morals of the community; by observing, that however zealous they may be in their ministerial exertions, the state of things is such, that they are for the most part reduced to the necessity of being witnesses to irregularities, and of lamenting over corruption, which it is no longer in their power to counteract or prevent.
I have the honour to be,