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professors of Christianity, have separated from her
influence of disordered passions, and gratifying the propensities of a corrupt nature.
When the Scotch covenanters, through the unhappy distraction of the times, had succeeded so far as to break off from all connection with the Church in their own country, by setting up a form of government independent of it; their consciences, as they pretended, could not be at rest, whilst a Church continued to exist in England; and in their zeal for proselytism, the destruction of a whole kingdom was not, by these intemperate bigots, thought too dear a price to be paid for the propagation of their favourite cause.
The Puritans, in the seventeenth century, who fled from hence for the sake of enjoying a greater degree of religious freedom than was at that time to be had in this country, were no sooner established in their new settlement, than they furnished the most convincing proof, that those who go the greatest lengths to procure religious freedom for themselves, are least disposed to allow it to others. The persecution which, under the forms of law, these Puritans set on foot against some of their brethren, who ventured, after their example, to think for themselves in religious matters, was so severe, that an order from government was deemed necessary to restrain its violence. In short, this people, who in England could not bear being chastised with rods, had no sooner got free from their fetters, than they scourged their fellow refugees with scorpions; though the absurdity, as well as the injustice of such proceeding, might have stared them in the face.
These circumstances, humiliating to man, as a reasonable creature, have been brought forward to convince the reader, that separation from the Church as generally leads to further disunion among the separatists themselves, as it certainly does to the breach of that charity, by which the Christian religion, when professed in purity, binds all men together.
But, for the consideration of bigots of every description, whether in the Church, or out of it, (for the principle upon which they act is equally to be condemned) be it observed, that the honour of God can never be promoted at the expense of Christian charity; and he that maketh the glory of God the end, must take the word of God for the rule, of his actions. We are told, indeed, that "it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing;"* and we readily subscribe to the doctrine. We are, moreover, exhorted by the Apostle to “contend earnestly for the faith;"+ and God forbid, that Christians should at any time be otherwise disposed. But whilst we guard against that general indifference in religious matters, which constitutes one of the striking characteristics of the age; we must at the same time remember, that Christian zeal, under the direction of that wisdom which descendeth from above, will be "pure, then peaceable, full of mercy, and of good fruits;" in contradistinction to that furious and destructive quality, which has at different periods usurped its sacred name, but which bears the unequivocal mark of its disgraceful origin; it being "earthly, sensual, devilish.”‡
* Gal. iv. 18.
James iii. 15, 17.
† Jude iii.
In a word, the zeal of the Christian must not be of a kind with that which the Disciples felt, when they would have called down fire from heaven to destroy the city that was indisposed to receive them but must resemble, as far as may be, the holy and affectionate zeal of that blessed person, who came into the world, not to destroy men's lives, but to save them. And that man knows nothing of the Christian religion, who does not know it to be what it has been here represented; and where what is called by that sacred name, is unaccompanied with the fruits above specified, depend upon it, some poisonous doctrine has been mixed up with it, de structive of its salutary effect; or the professor, how zealous soever he may be, has substituted the creature of his own imagination, for the truth as it is in Christ Jesus.*
"It were well, (says an old writert) if, instead of wild enthusiasm, we would come to learn the sobriety of religion. In which let us heighten our zeal and Divine enthusiasm, to adhere strictly to the revealed will of scripture; to have a flaming charity for the good of the body, and the unity of the Church; that our enthusiasm may tend to heal, and not to divide; to advance the glory of God, and to humble ourselves in our own conceits; that we may be willing cheerfully to submit ourselves to our superiors both in Church and state; and not be so apt to judge others, as to censure ourselves: and then, though we had different opinions, yet we should have no schism. We should live together, as members of the same body; that though one * Eph. iv. 21. + Lesley.
were more honourable or useful than another, yet there would be no strife, no emulation, but which should exceed most in mutual good offices, and care for the whole. Such a heaven we should see, if we had no schism."
But the evils resulting from schism are not confined to men in their private character of Christians, but affect them also in their public one, as members of a civilized state.
Schism and rebellion have, in all ages of the world, been intimately connected with each other. The same disposition of mind that leads individuals to make their own Church, if uncontrolled, leads them also to imagine themselves qualified to form their own government. Hence it is, that schismatics have been at all times, more or less, what they were in St. Jude's days, murmurers and complainers. By such men this kingdom has once been brought to desolation. The ministers of the Church were driven from their pulpits by them; that the godly preachers, as they were then called, might step into their places. And the fruit of their doctrine, when ripened to perfection, was this: a most pious prince was murdered, because he would not join with them in pulling down that Church, which he had sworn to support; and the constitution of this country was destroyed, because it was not built upon a plan of their own forming.
The same leaven of wickedness, which produced those scenes of misery aud confusion in the last century, is, it is to be feared, now working in this kingdom; and it will be no breach of charity to say, that the doctrines, which are at times delivered