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Church will be put to the severest test, and our Protestant principles tried in the furnace of probation. Looking through a prospective, the mental eye may discover future results of ecclesiastical polity, and see, at the end of a period not very remote, conscientious Protestants, exiles and wanderers for the faith of their fathers, or taunted by Romanists with sarcastic raillery, “ Sing us one of the songs of your Zion.” If, in the righteous judgments of God, a destiny so bitter be in reserve for rising generations who with honest pertinacity cling to the principles of the Reformation, well may they sit down and weep, when they remember that Church, which has been to them and to their country the source of blessings innumerable and inestimable!
Ere I proceed, it becomes me, Reverend Brethren, to crave your candour and indulgence, if, in adducing a variety of motives for a firm adherence to a Church that alone deserves the name of apostolic, I should somewhat trespass upon your time and patience. These motives divide themselves into several branches. The rise and progress of our Church under its reformed statethe insidious machinations of its enemies—the bounden duty of its ministers under existing circumstances—the antiquity of its origin—the purity of its creed and ritual—and the consequent safety of salvation in its communion, compared
with that of the church of Rome. These are the several topics, intermixed with historical events, illustrative of the subject, which, with all deference, I offer to your serious consideration.
The Church of England, reformed from Popish errors, and restored to the purity of primitive Christianity, is one part and parcel of the Catholic Church of Christ. In the advance to her present state, she has experienced various vicissitudes of fortune, and suffered much opposition, calumny, and wrong. Like a vessel tossed on the mighty waters, she has, at different periods of her voyage, been apparently overwhelmed in the raging billows; but, to use a nautical phrase, through the unerring guidance of her helmsman, the pilot of the Galilean lake, she has repeatedly weathered the storm, righted again, and still sails before the wind.
The pen of history records the sufferings and magnanimity of her sons, under various forms of trial, in exile, poverty, and death. In the days of her youth, when she first separated herself, as a chaste daughter from an unchaste mother, the persecuting hand of violence drove many of her children to seek their safety in a foreign land. Thither the crooked serpent followed, commenced his work of intrigue, and, sowing the seeds of discord amongst them, caused that dissent and schism which, in succeeding ages, ripening into
awful maturity, have brought forth those bitter fruits, which we now taste and deplore. *
At this eventful crisis of our Church, newly rising from a long night of error and superstition, some chosen vessels of mercy, noble spirits of a superior mould, resisting unto blood false doctrines and corrupt practices, were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held. But of these worthies we shall have occasion, in the sequel, to speak more at large.
Another epoch in the history of our country calls to remembrance a scene, over which charity would fain spread a veil of oblivion. That dissent, to which I alluded, commencing with the very birth and rise of our Church, in its separation from that of Rome, continued to enlarge its baneful influence, till it had, at length, engulphed in its fatal vortex the whole land. The spirit of jealousy, the pride of emulation, deeply tinctured with the bitter root of religious fanaticism, inflicted the most grievous wounds on the cause of true religion. These animosities, augmented by
* The troubles at Frankfort, (to which place the English refugees fled, during the persecution in the reign of Queen Mary,) arose from a difference of opinion concerning church government. The prejudices of Calvin, in favour of his own system, rather increased than allayed the spirit of animosity; and the artifices of Rome were strongly suspected of adding fuel to the fire.-See Appendix, A.
the common foe, blindly impelled the Separatists to join in the cry against our Church, like the children of Edom against their brethren the Jews, “ Down with it, down with it, even unto the ground.” The agents of Rome were then in the field, exulting at the sight of Protestants 6 biting and devouring one another."
Here we may venture a seasonable remark, That in all the shifting scenes of politics, from the day that our Church separated from that of Rome - that in all the troubles which, from the reign of Elizabeth to the present period, have convulsed this Protestant country, one and the same evil spirit rode in the whirlwind, and guided the storm. The crafty Jesuit- παντόιησ απατησ μιμνησκων – well versed in human nature, its foibles, its vanities, and its interests, was ever active in political commotions; an agent, indeed, invisible, but always sensibly present. With the clue of history in our hand, we trace the wily serpent in all his windings of intrigue, under all his Protean forms, and well-chosen masks of character ; -at one time wrapt in the sombre cloke of a stern republican—at another, gliding under the protection of despotic power; and now assu
The history of the Rebellion furnishes us with sufficient proofs of this fact.-See Appendix, B.
ming, like an angel of light, all the amiable and insinuating qualities of gentleness and urbanity, liberality and conciliation. The objects of all the changes and movements of this grand agent of Rome has been, and is, invariably one and the same-the downfall of our Protestant Church.With whatever fair speech, with whatever plausible words, it may suit his purpose to sooth the ear of mawkish liberality, and beguile the unwary and unstable, war is in his heart against every sound Churchman, and uncompromising Protestant, whom he designates as “obstinate heretics.”
It is no wonder that the professed members of the church of Rome unite their hands and hearts in the service of that cause, which, in all their lowest fortunes they have never suffered to be removed out of their sight: that they put on all the forms of complaisance and dissimulation, of civility and good humour, to inveigle us into our own ruin. This is nothing but what is worthy of themselves, and of that ehurch to the slavery of which they are devoted. It is no more than what they fairly and publicly profess, if Protestants will but open their eyes and see it But the wonder is, that so many who would be unwilling not to be called Protestants, much more, not to be called Churchmen, have shewn too great a readiness to join, some, their hands,