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opinion be soundly or unsoundly formed: they indicate that the maintenance of the Established Church, though not yet abandoned, has ceased to be held as an object of paramount and vital importance to that undefined, but well understood body, called the public; whose judgment, though gathered from various circumstances, rather than expressed in any conventional forms, irresistibly controuls the measures of our rulers: they prove that those who are slightly attached, those who are indifferent, and those who are hostile to the Church, are increasing in political power.
I will not aver, that among the advocates of the measures alluded to, some of her warmest friends and well-wishers may not be numbered, who are convinced, and perhaps justly, that in the existing state of things, her very strength lies in these concessions ; but I do contend, that these formed but a comparatively small portion of that influence by which his Majesty's Ministers were urged, perhaps I may say, compelled to adopt them.
The existence and the strength of this influence, and not its mere effects, is one of the great sources of danger to the Church; the measures themselves are but symptoms, to which it is our wisdom to attend. We should contemplate them, connected as they are with other, and not equivocal signs of the times.
Among these signs may be numbered the very urgency for reform of the Church. I speak not of moderate alterations, suggested by sober advi
sers, but of that eager clamour excited against her institutions and her ministers, at a time when it may be fearlessly affirmed, that the attainments of the clergy as a body (though there may, and ever must be exceptions) are higher, their deportment more exemplary, their usefulness more extensive, their zeal and activity more general, ardent, and conspicuous, than at any one period of our ecclesiastical history; when, in short, the exertion and diligence of her pastors, from the Archbishop to the Curate, seem almost to compete with the restless censoriousness and inquisitorial vigilance with which the public scrutinize their conduct, and cavil at their pretensions to support and respect.
When we combine this eagerness of censure in quarters whence other sentiments might have been expected, this clamour for reform, swelled as it is by the sudden friendship, the officious zeal, and reverend care for the Church, so loudly professed by some, whose attachment was never before known, or even suspected ; when we combine these with the spread of indifference to the Establishment, with the increase of the religious or irreligious principles upon which the usefulness of a National Church is denied, with the visible workings of an avowed spirit of blasphemous hostility, not only to the Church, but to the Gospel itself, advancing daily in the formidableness of its encroachments, in the audacity of its demands, in the malignity of its calumnies, and in the undisguised iniquity of its plans ;-we cannot but call to mind that association, with which every his
torical record we possess has represented Church Reform to have been clogged and disgraced. Church Reform and Church Plunder have, I believe, uniformly gone together.
Many, like the vile followers of a camp, joined the holier and nobler band, to profit by the confusion, and fly upon the spoil. Not only did the lust of gain contaminate the proceedings of the unbridled and rapacious Henry, but it also tempted the cooler and more principled Elizabeth ; it overpowered the meek integrity and holy purpose of our Edward, and defied even the uncompromising zeal and controuling enthusiasm of John Knox. I know not what reasons we can discover in the present times, to presume that this sordid and inauspicious satellite of reformation, will be less close in its attendance than heretofore, that its cravings will be less importunate, its modesty less complaisant, or its scruples and honesty less accommodating.
Observe the mode in which “ friends” of the Church, whether injudicious or pretended, demand reform, as though she were the corruptest Church in the whole world. Mark the ignorance, the short-sightedness, the misrepresentation, the malice, which pour in their tributary streams to swell the torrent roaring round her foundations. What proportion to these do the sober and sincere friends of the Church bear-what influence will they have in stopping or directing this torrent, when the mounds shall once have been thrown down, and the waters have begun their course.
The feverish spirit of change, and the mode in which it is demanded, denote an unsettled state of public opinion,-a state in which the simple are made the tools of the crafty—the sincere, the dupes of the hypocrite—the timid, the followers of the reckless—and the indifferent, of the rapacious.
In these times, then, when an assault is threatened by enemies, when old defences have been taken away; when our very defenders are doubtful of the issue, and of the positions to be defended, let us ponder these words of our text—" A house divided against a house falleth.”
In treating of this caution, and bringing its application more directly home to our situation, we come into contact with a delicate and painful subject. But I shall freely and boldly approach it, feeling strong in a spirit of charity and integrity of purpose. Important interests are at stake. To dissemble, or to slur over our real state, can produce no good effectfree examination may.
A division notoriously prevails in the Church :it is idle, it is uncandid, it is impolitic to attempt to shut our eyes against the fact. The existence of a party of Clergy and Laity, denominated Evangelical, places the Church in the very situation described in the text, and that in a time of no ordinary peril. We are “a house divided against a house."
But in these plain and frank statements let me not, I entreat, be for one moment supposed to speak unkindly or irreverently of those from whom I may have the misfortune to differ ; nor let it be imagined, that in the following remarks it is intended to cast the entire blame upon them. I am fully sensible that, in all cases where human agents are concerned, there must be faults on both sides. And I am desirous, as far as the bias of my own opinions and the infirmity of our nature will permit, to look at both sides of the question ; to suggest remedies rather than dispense censures. If I attempt to probe, it will be with a desire not to hurt, but to heal. And here I beg to observe, once for all, that not only reverencing conscientious scruples, but also aware of the subtle and mysterious character of those matters on which our doctrinal controversies hinge, as I may, for convenience, use the terms Evangelical, Calvinistic, or Orthodox, in their conventional designation of either class, I POSITIVELY DISCLAIM their application as terms of reproach, or derision on the one hand, or of dogmatism and presumption on the other, I believe, (and shall adduce evidence to shew that my belief does not rest entirely on my own partial views) that the ultimate consequence of the formation of an evangelical congregation is the serious increase of dissenters, and consequently of danger to the Church.
And in this view of the subject I would press upon your consideration, whether there may not be some points in which, if we cannot meet, we might approach each other, without any compromise of principle, or any sacrifice of consistency, on either side. . The first testimony which I shall cite, is that of