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Sin," the sin of being born; and though Christ said of children "of such is the kingdom of heaven," the Church declares that there is a "fault and corruption of the nature of every man-that in every person born into this world deserveth God's wrath and damnation." Justification by faith only, (Art. xi.) is said to be "a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort." Had not James been an Apostle, he would scarcely have escaped an anathema for asserting, that "By works a man is justified, and not by faith only." Art. xiii. is most uncharitable and unscriptural. It speaks of works done before conversion ("the grace of Christ, and inspiration of his spirit,") as "not pleasant to God," and of "the nature of sin;" thus holding up for suspicion and censure many to whom a messenger of heaven might declare, as to Cornelius, "Thy prayers and thine alms come up for a memorial before God." Art. xviii. is still more offensive. They also are to be had accursed, that presume to say that every man shall be saved by the law or sect which he professeth, so that he be diligent to frame his life according to that law and the light of nature. For Holy Scripture doth set out unto us only the name of Jesus Christ whereby men must be saved." What becomes then of virtuous Heathens who never heard that name? Or, if their existence be denied, what becomes of the very Apostle whose words are here applied in a
way which he could not contemplate, and who himself uttered the anathematized sentiment, "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that feareth him and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him"? How dangerous is it to throw about thunderbolts! How perilous, as well as presumptuous, to attempt to occupy the throne of Christ, and wield his sceptre!
Well might Paley remark of established creeds and confessions, that "they are at all times attended with serious inconveniences: they check inquiry; they violate liberty; they insnare the consciences of the clergy, by holding out temptations to prevarication: however they may express the persuasion, or be accommodated to the controversies, or the fears, of the age in which they are composed, in process of time, and by reason of the changes which are wont to take place in the judgment of mankind upon religious subjects, they come at length to contradict the actual opinions of the church, whose doctrines they profess to contain; and they often perpetuate the proscription of sects and tenets from which any danger has long ceased to be apprehended."
The professed object of these creeds was, to avoid diversity of opinions! Suppose it gained: and if the standard thus erected be not the real gospel after all; as, unless the framers were
infallible, could not be assumed without presumption; they are then found false witnesses for God; or rather against him, in his revelation; and suborners of false witness from contemporary millions, and successive generations.
If they be the truth, still that truth is held in unrighteousness when not received on the proper authority that of Christ. What is truth without inquiry; without knowledge; without those moral influences which only attend principles when clearly understood and firmly believed? Let contention rage for ever, if it can only be hushed into the silence of death.
Has controversy been avoided? Let the annals. of the Church reply. It has raged there as much as if the articles had never existed, and on as many subjects. (f)
Connexion with temporal powers, is a Scriptural sign of apostacy. To this there can be no plea but guilty; nor is there any mode of considering it, in which it does not appear unfavourable to genuine religion. The notion of an Alliance was once prevalent, though it is not often advocated now. Can Church and State ever be independent parties, forming a contract? Does Christianity release its believers or priests from allegiance, and enable them to treat with their prince? There is much more sedition in that notion than in any Nonconformist heresy. If, as is the fact, we consider the Church as dependent upon, and patronised by the
State, what are the consequences? 1. Many will suspect the whole to be a political trick. Priests hired by the State are a standing army to keep down obnoxious opinions. Hence in most countries, where religion is established, there has been a large proportion of secret infidels among the higher and literary classes. 2. The preferred sect will not be selected on account of the purity or liberality of its creed, but of its fitness for the purpose of the Civil Governor. 3. The great ends of public instruction will be too often neglected for sycophantic attendance on the great who dispose of Church honours. 4. The remuneration of the clergy will be oppressive and unequal; proportioned neither to labour nor merit. These and a thousand evils may and have resulted; and many of a political nature into which we cannot enter here. A privileged class is formed, among clergy and laity, enjoying peculiar rights and emoluments, and looking contemptuously on others, to the destruction of political equality, social harmony, and Christian liberality.
I shall only advert to three Church mysteries, by way of specimen. 1. Its Trinitarian Creed, falsely ascribed to Athanasius, which rivals any thing, and every thing in Popery, from which this forgery came, which is indeed a distilled essence of incomprehensibility. 2. The Lord's Supper. The 28th Art. declares this to be "not
only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves one to another; but rather it is a sacrament of our redemption by Christ's death insomuch that to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith receive the same, the bread which we break is a partaking of the body of Christ, and likewise the cup of blessing is a partaking of the blood of Christ." To which the Catechism adds, that "the body and blood of Christ are verily and indeed taken and received by the faithful in the Lord's supper." What this means it is hard to say. It may not be quite transubstantiation: it is not further from that than from Christian simplicity. Baptism is the third mystery; by which the child is taught to declare (Catechism) that he was "made a member of Christ, the child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven;" and of whom the priest declares (Baptismal Service), after he has sprinkled him in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, that he is regenerate. This is either miracle, magic, or superstition. Is it not deplorable that professed ministers of Christ, parents, sponsors, babes, should be brought together in the house of God, to perform such scenes, in which they affix no meaning to what they do, and believe in no reality, or else are under as gross superstitions as those of the wildest of our enthusiastic sects?
The Romish practice of invoking saints is