« AnteriorContinuar »
in the power of this Reverend Author, who is of great dig
nity in the Church, and as like as any man I know to be • inclined thereunto, to give indulgence unto them in their • abstinence from the least ceremony enjoined. Wherefore * the question about lay-communion is concerning that which
is absolute and total, according to all that is enjoined by the • laws of the land, or by the canons, constitutions, and orders • of the Church. Hereby are they obliged to bring their
children to be baptized with the use of the aërial sign • of the Cross; to kneel at the Communion; to the religious i observance of Holydays; to the constant use of the Liturgy
in all the public offices of the Church, unto the exclusion * of the exercise of those gifts which Christ continues to
communicate for its edification; to forego all means of public edification besides that in their parish churches, where, to speak with modesty, it is oft-times scanty and
wanting; to renounce all other assemblies wherein they have • had great experience of spiritual advantage unto their souls;
to desert the observation of many useful Gospel duties, • in their mutual watch that believers of the same Church
ought to have one over another; to divest themselves of all ' interest of a voluntary consent in the discipline of the church * and choice of their own pastors; and to submit unto an * ecclesiastical rule and discipline which not one in a thousand
of them can apprehend to have any thing in it of the authority • of Christ or rule of the Gospel; and other things of the like
nature may be added.
Such, then, were the grounds on which the Nonconformists of those days rested the necessity and lawfulness of their separation from the Church of England. The terms of communion were such as they could not in conscience comply with; and the guilt of the schism, therefore, they justly contended, lay at the door of those who imposed those terms. It was not that they scrupled to communicate with the Church in many things; the act of kneeling at the rails excepted, (and many did not scruple this,) they had no objection to receive the Sacrament according to the forms of the Church; nor did they, for the most part, object to the use of the Liturgy, but only to its imposition exclusively of all other devotional exercises. The grand argument, however, for lay-nonconformity, was, the sacrifice which the Church demanded, and still demands, of both con science and personal liberty, in the matter of the choice of a pastor and the means of public edification. In other words, they could not consent to forego the privilege of attendance on a faithful and evangelical ministry, and, when the Establishment had iniquitously and cruelly cast out of her bosom the Baxters
and Howes, the Owens and Flavels, the Bates's and Charnocks of those times, content themselves with an attendance at the parish church, where it was a chance that they did not hear the doctrines of the Gospel perverted and impugned, or where, at the best,
• The hungry sheep looked up and were not fed.' They would not desert those who had apostolically exercised the rule over them, for · blind guides' and ' dumb dogs,' the hirelings of a persecuting hierarchy. The grand object of the original establishment of separate assemblies, the standing reason for Dissent, that for which alone, comparatively speaking, it is, as a cause, worth supporting, is the perpetuation of an evangelical ministry. We are far from undervaluing the advantages connected with the more Scriptural constitution and discipline of congregational churches; but still
, apart from a faithful ministry, the frame-work of such churches becomes as empty and worthless as the mere forms and services of an Establishment. With respect to all outward arrangements, how Scriptural soever in themselves, it may truly be said, that “ the letter killeth : it is the Spirit that “ giveth life.”
Much as we value Dissenting institutions, we regard them merely as means subservient to an end, an end more excellent than the means,--the perpetuation and extension of the Church of Christ. But wbether we be right or wrong in this view of the object and grounds of our separation, this, in point of fact, is the only practical reason for Dissent that can be brought to bear on the minds of the laity in general. I cannot but believe,' remarked Dr. Doddridge, that if the Established clergy and the Dis
• senting ministers in general were mutually to exchange • their strain of preaching and their manner of living but " for one year, it would be the ruin of our cause, even though • there should be no alteration in the constitution and disci
pline of the Church of England.'
It is very possible, that Mr. Kingborn may be filled with horror, and his friends of the Establishment may exult, at what they may deem our concessions. Why then, we hear our worthy antagonist shouting out again, does not the Eclectic Reviewer go to the Establishment at least when the preacher is evangelical ? As we have something further in view than replying to Mr. Kinghorn's questions and exposing his mistakes, we entreat the patience of our readers while we state the reasons which, in our judgement, bind the Dissenter to his own communion even under such circumstances. We have reason to know that, in cases where that most happy accident,
the induction of an evangelical rector, or the appointment of an evangelical preacher as curate, has taken place in any particular locality, the flock of the Dissenting teacher have been very usually plied with that argument,—there is no occasion now for you to desert the Church.' But surely the reply is sufficiently obvious: What reason does such a circumstance furnish for deserting the meeting-house,-unless evangelical instruction is no longer to be obtained there? In our judgement, the worship, the discipline, the quality of the pul. pit services, the constitution of congregational churches, all unite to give Dissenting institutions an exceedingly strong claim to preference. In fact, all the reasons for lay-conformity except one, would remain in full force, and that one would be by no means nullified. For, let us suppose that the Dissenter so applied to does not prefer the extemporaneous mode of conducting the public services to the liturgical,- that he is not a 'member of the congregational church with which he worships,
- that he has not studied the subject of the constitution of a church,-and that the discipline of our societies is unattractive to him,-(which is the case of thousands in our congregations) -still, if he is sensible of the value of an evangelical ministry, and reasons at all about the matter, he must reason thus : What security does the Establishment hold out to me, that, if I desert the Dissenting community to-day, because an ecclesiastical appointment over which I have no control, chances to furnish me with the means of edification within the pale of the Church, I may not be deprived of that benefit, on the death or removal of the incumbent, to-morrow? Or what security does the system of patronage which is the life-blood of the Establishment, afford, that my children shall not be deprived of an evangelical ministry? If I join the Church, that Church probibits me henceforth from consulting my highest interests by attendance on any but the ministers it may choose to appoint. I must renounce all other assemblies of Christians, separate myself from all other communions; my parish church, whether the gospel be preached there or not, must be, if I follow the advice of my new leaders, the only place in which I may enjoy the means of grace. And in the mean time, what is to become of the Dissenting interest, to which, up to this time, I have been indebted for the only efficient provision of religious instruction,-of the system which, under God, has perpetuated the doctrines of the Reformation in this country in the form of living oracles, when the Establishment was dead down almost to its very root, where the life yet lay hid in her Articles ? No, while I rejoice that the pulpits of the Establishment are now made to resound with the doctrines of Paul instead of those of
Epictetus, yet, for my children's sake, and for the Gospel's sake, I must stand by that ecclesiastical polity which has alone proved capable of keeping pace with the moral wants of the population, from which have emanated those institutions which are the glory of the country, and which presents the only security that the revival of religion within the Establishment, shall not be succeeded by a relapse into secularity, lethargy, and dark
But good men are not always good reasoners, and we can conceive of circumstances under which such just but remote considerations as these would fail to have their due effect. Should an evangelical ministry in the church be found in combination with a non-efficient discharge of the ministerial function in the meeting-house,-should strict communion be the law of the Dissenting community, and strict communion be associated, as it sometimes is, with relaxed discipline,-should the most exemplary Christians be found among the number excluded and repelled from communion, while among those within the jealously guarded enclosure are found many who are not harmless, and blameless, and without rebuke,--placed in such a situation, we can conceive of a pædobaptist going to the Establishment, from what may seem to him the same necessity that drove his forefathers from the Church, and for similar reasons; the relaxation of godly discipline, and the adding • of other conditions of church communion than Christ hath
appointed.' Nay, we can conceive of a Baptist's being led to waver in his non-conformity under such circumstances, on finding himself excluded, by the anti-Christian narrowness of the imposed conditions, from communion with those whom he regards as the excellent of the earth ; for he, not less than the Churchman, is bound by those terms, to renounce fellowship with every other Protestant communion. He is not less required to make a personal surrender of his Christian liberty to the bigotry of his sect. And should he be placed where no Baptist society is within reach, he must forego altogether one important means of public edification, and, so far as regards that ordinance which is the seal and symbol of Christian fellowship, shut himself out from the communion of saints.
As Mr. Kinghorn has chosen to raise the alarm that, on Mr. Hall's principle, Dissent is in danger, we have deemed it not irrelevant to shew how far Dissent may be endangered by the principles and practice of Mr. Hall's opponents. It is no impossible, no imaginary case that we have drawn; and every churchman who is a man of sense, will not fail to see the advantage which Mr. Kinghorn has given him. The Baptist refuses communion to a churchman because he regards him as
unbaptized : can he complain if the clergyman refuses what is termed Christian burial to the children of the Baptist? The Baptist excommunicates all who scruple immersion : has he reason to complain at being himself excommunicated? The Baptist requires that, in order to join his society, the Pædobaptist should give up his judgement and his conscience, admit his Christian profession to have been hitherto invalid, and re-enter the Church as a newly converted heathen or restored penitent. The Church of England did not require quite so much as this, when they exacted re-ordination from those ministers who would otherwise have retained their cures. And if the thing required be, after serious and sober inquiry, judged unwarrantable by a man's own conscience, be it more or less that is required, the sin and mischief of the imposition are much the same. The Act of Uniformity, and the uniformity contended for by Mr. Kinghorn, both involve the same principle,—the making human opinions the conditions of church communion. For, though Baptism itself cannot be termed a human opinion, yet, the primitive mode and proper subjects of the ordinance must be considered as coming within the range of fallible opinion, unless the power of making terms of commu• nion, claimed by our strict Baptist friends, is connected with the mysterious prerogative of an inspired interpreter, having authority in controversies of faith.
So much, then, for Mr. Kinghorn's attempt to identify the practice of strict communion with the principles of Nonçonformity,-principles which we cannot believe that he would so singularly have misrepresented, had he given himself the trouble to understand them. That he has completely misrepresented them, so far as regards the views and sentiments of the great body of the Nonconformists, the extracts we have given, will place beyond the reach of doubt. It is, indeed, difficult to account for the utter confusion of ideas which seems to prevail in his mind on this subject. He speaks as if the nonconformity of the Baptists had no other object than to uphold the doctrine and practice of immersion. If we dis
pense with an acknowledged institution of Christ,' he says, • for the sake of admitting those who do not believe it is their . duty to obey it-(a gross misrepresentation, for there are no Christians who do not believe it to be their duty to obey an acknowledged institution of Christ-)' how can we plead that
we forsake the Established forms of religion for the sake of . adhering to the plan of the New Testament ? Let our readers contrast this meagre exposition of the Dissenter's plea, with the tangible, cogent, and unanswerable reasons for their separation, urged by the venerable founders of Protestant Non