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TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
SIR ROBERT PEEL, BART.
I AM induced to venture to address these pages to you, because, from the position in which it has pleased Almighty God to place you, and from the talents with which He has endowed you, it is likely to be far more in your power than in that of any other individual in the kingdom, to promote the welfare of His Church. That He, who can bring good out of evil, and cause all things to work together for good to them that fear Him, will, out of our present troubles, promote His own glory, and the edification of the Church, is a hope which every good man will find comfort in entertaining. It pleased Him, Sir, in 1828 and 1829, to permit you to be instrumental to the removal of the earthly barriers which the State had placed around the Church, and on which, as it should seem, her members had accustomed themselves too much to rely, in
forgetfulness of their dependence upon Him. May it please Him now, Sir, to dispose you to assist in far more than recompensing that loss, namely, by restoring His Church in this kingdom to her spiritual liberty, of which, since 1533, she has been deprived. It was chiefly in consequence of the defenceless condition in which the Church was placed by the Statutes that were passed in that year, that our ancestors subsequently found it necessary to provide the civil protection furnished by the Test and Corporation Acts, and the Roman Catholic disabilities. These restraints upon those who are hostile to the faith and worship of the English Church having been withdrawn, justice itself seems to demand that the restraints which fetter the Church, both in defence and usefulness, should be likewise removed; and that the same liberty, and the same protection which all other religious communities receive from the State, both in spirituals and temporals, should be extended to her.
There is a principle connected with the last of these two points (the temporal endowments of the Church) which it seems of importance to call to mind at the present time; and, perhaps, even you, Sir, may not think it unworthy your consideration. It is this: that the property which has been dedicated by the worshippers of
Almighty God for the maintenance of His altar, and of those who minister at it, is placed in the hands of those Ministers; and that any attempt to meddle with it, without their concurrence, savours of irreverence.
This principle has obtained under all the dispensations of His grace. So fully was it recognised under the Mosaic, that we find even a heathen king paying deference to it; I mean Artaxerxes, who, in his decree to his treasurers in Judæa, cautions them that " touching any of the Priests and Levites, singers, porters, Nethinims, or ministers of the house of God, it shall not be lawful to impose toll, custom, or tribute upon them." The same principle is recognised under the Gospel. The Acts of the Apostles inform us that all the great offerings which were made for the service of God, were "laid at the Apostles' feet 2." And St. Paul, by his instructions to the first Bishop of Ephesus, as to what persons should be entitled to a double portion, teaches us that this control over the goods of the Church was not confined to the first Apostles, but was designed by them to be exercised by the Bishops, their successors. Accordingly, the Canons of the Church before
2 Acts iv. 35-37. v. 2.
1 Ezra vii. 24.
3 1 Tim. v. 17.