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the Dissenters themselves. The modern historians * of the Dissenters claim, first for the Puritans, and next for certain Sectaries, to have been the sole depositaries of those doctrines which the Evangelical Clergy now preach, and they maintain that the Church of England was in a state of heresy and apostasy from her own articles, till the doctrines of the Calvinistic Dissenters were introduced by the Evangelical Clergy. They quote, in confirmation of this, the declaration of an Evangelical Clergyman t, that “the bulk of the kingdom lay under the judgment of an unregenerate ministry, and the people were perishing for lack of knowledge." They hold now, that true religion exists no farther than where it is shared with them, by what they term, “a new party in the Established Church.” They describe the majority of the Church and its hierarchy, as a set of bigoted, irreligious, and illiberal men, restrained from persecuting the Evangelical party only because “ they dare not give the Dissenters the majority, by adding such formidable hosts to their numbers."
It is obvious what effect this affinity, this claim of priority, and this charge of irreligion, especially if sanctioned by the language and the conduct of a party in the Church itself, must have in producing dissent.
And these historians thus acknowledge the effect.
* Bogue and Bennett. # The late Rev. J. Newton, Rector of St. Mary Woolnoth.
Assuming that the Gospel is preached and practised only by them, and by the Evangelical party in the Church, and that on the removal of an Evangelical Clergyman, the only place where his flock can find truth, is at the Meeting House ; they say, “ and though at first their prejudices against the place may be strong, they are gradually overcome, and the once zealous votaries of the Church, with their families, become members of a Dissenting congregation. In some instances, where the converts of an Evangelical Clergyman are numerous, they SECEDE FROM THE PARISH CHURCH IN A BODY, and form themselves into a society, retaining the use of the Liturgy and the Forms of the Church in their worship; but they become virtually Dissenters, protected by the Toleration Act, and cordially uniting with Dissenters, both in ministerial and Christian communion. In a course of years they are brought to esteem every thing external in religion only as it is conducive to the spiritual edification of Christians.”
As they declare this positive consequence in the production of dissent, so they declare the negative ; they allege that evangelical preaching does not diminish their numbers, or stop their increase in a parish, but say they, “ that very preaching has in ordinary cases given it (the dissenting congregation) as many hearers as it has taken away.”
I am assured that my brethren of the evangelical Clergy will deprecate this consequence as strongly as we do; some may doubt it, others may attribute
it to our not preaching the Gospel. On this last point I shall have occasion to speak presently; but if they deny this consequence, another testimony, which I shall produce, is entitled to consideration from them. It is the testimony of a late evangelical clergyman, of great influence, and perhaps of more extensive acquaintance with their operations, than has been possessed by any of their body either before or since. It is the testimony of the late Rev. Thomas Scott *, of Aston Sandford, and tallies precisely with that of the dissenting historians just quoted.
He says, “ They, who have been used to hear the doctrines called evangelical, in which the question, - What must I;' a lost sinner, · do to be saved ? is constantly asked and clearly answered ; if they at all pay attention to it, will never after endure another doctrine, in which this question is not answered to their satisfaction. However attached to the Establishment, they will at length seek at the meeting that instruction which they cannot find at Church; and though this at first be the only inducement; yet, becoming acquainted with dissenters, and hearing all their objections, (having at the same time no person at hand to answer these objections, they will gradually imbibe the esprit du corps, and perhaps at length become more zealous dissenters, than they are to whom they join themselves. Thus hundreds often become dissenters, simply by the .
* Remarks on the Refutation of Calvinism.
removal of an evangelical clergyman, and the substitution of one of contrary sentiments, who has the mortification of officiating in an almost empty Church; while his sole relief consists in declaiming against Calvinists and Dissenters, which makes the case still worse. All this would be prevented if a competent evangelical man were appointed, if not as Rector, yet as Curate, to succeed one of his own sentiments, and the person of contrary tenets were more comfortably provided for elsewhere."
These testimonies shew the concurrence of all parties in the fact, that dissent results from the formation of an evangelical congregation. But it cannot be expected that the orthodox party should acquiesce in the reason assigned, or in the remedy proposed. We, whether justly or not, attribute it to very different causes, and must (without entering now into the controversy,) firmly and decidedly deny, that the majority of the pastors of our Church are unregenerate, or that they do not preach the Gospel. We must distinctly maintain that the question, “ What shall I do to be saved,” will be answered in most of our Churches as clearly, soundly, scripturally, and satisfactorily, as in any Evangelical, or Calvinistic congregation ; or in any Chapel, or Conventicle of any sect, or denomination of Christians whatsoever.
And it is undeniably clear, that Mr. Scott's remedy, of always appointing a Calvinistic successor to every Incumbent or Curate of the same sentiments, is utterly impracticable. It would have the effect of
rendering the benefices in which they were once established, a sort of heir loom to the party, and would be constantly enlarging, but never contracting their circle, till the Church should be entirely absorbed in it. It is not easy to understand how this policy could be followed by those of our Hierarchy, (and they are not only the majority, but eminent for their talents and theological knowledge,) who do not subscribe to the Calvinistic sense of the Articles. Neither does it appear that those Bishops who have adopted this sense, have (though the minority) set the example of the policy proposed, by always supplying the place of an orthodox pastor, with a successor of similar principles.
The scheme also of appointing in the same benefice a Rector and Curate of opposite tenets, seems open to no less palpable difficulties. Each party evidently considers the interests of religion best promoted by the employment of men of congenial sentiments.
This is what is naturally to be expected, and from this must result that consequence which both parties deplore ; and for which, as neither party can be required to abandon principles conscientiously adopted, the only remedy or palliative is, for both to approach as nearly as possible, and make to each other such concessions as we can without compromise of principle.
In considering these I shall begin with that side on which I have taken my own station.