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point; they resolved as to hold fast toge" ther," thật thus they might be enabled to establish at home that doctrine and práctice which they had witnessed in the reformed congregations abroad; publicly affirming, that the sufferings of the Church were to be considered as a punishment inflicted upon them for their former negligence in this respect.
Such was the origin of that fatal discord, which from that time' continued to trouble the Church, and had once nearly effected it's destruction. The introduction of a purer doctrine, of a more scriptural liturgy, and a more efficient discipline, were the professed objects of its first promoters ; and in charity we must suppose that they were persuaded, that the alterations for which they contended were real improvements; we must believe them to have been sincere in their intentions, though mistaken in their conduct. But had their
á See Letter from the Church at Geneva to the Churches of Arrow and Frankfort. Phenix, vol. ii. p. 181.
b Ibid. Phoenix, vol. ii. p. 182.
zeal been tempered by discretion, had they duly weighed the value of that humble mind, which thinks soberly of itself and its own attainments, surely they would not have refused to sacrifice their own private fancies to the collective wisdom of those who had the rule over them. Had they considered, that the peace of the Church is not to be wantonly disturbed, and that the guilt and punishment of strife and division will ever attach to those who unnecessarily resist established authority, would they not at least have hesitated, before they suffered their intemperate opposition to appointments, confessedly lawful, to, involve them in a responsibility so tremendous ?
But such unhappily was not the temper of those, who could boldly set themselves in array against institutions which fịfteen centuries had sanctioned, and denounce them as antichristian and superstitious; as if it had been reserved for them alone to discover, how God ought to be served, and his Church to be constituted and governed! Apparently under the influence of this persuasion, they proceeded blindly in the work of confusion and disorder p too confident of their own sagacity, to doubt the lawfulness of their object too deeply impressed with a false conceit of itsriime portance, to regard the certain i mischiefs attendant on its pursuit. Their writings and their language evinced a presumptuous conviction of their own eminent ho. liness and superior attainments ; they were the clearned and the godly; theirs was the only perfect model of public worship and ecclesiastical discipline; their conduct alone was modest, humble, peaceable, and devout; while all who opposed them were : cruel tyrants, enemies of Christian liberty, of the glory of God, and the edification of their brethren. Could these misguided men have foreseen the whole of that evil, which their opposition would eventually! bring upon their Church and country 31 we may believe that they would have shud-: dered at the prospect; that they would not willingly have been the authors of
those dis strange and dangerous innovaGotions, of those monstrous heresies, of the rebellion and murder, the blasphemy and sacrilege, which followed in the train of that schism, first engendered by their contentions. They soon indeed began to perceive, that the principles which they too hastily had laid down, led to conclusions far more dangerous than they had anticipated : and some of their e leaders bitterly repented of their conduct; and wished, when it was too late, that they could have repaired the mischief they had occasioned...
7., 23.17 3 This however they found to be impossible : when the spirit of party is once awakened, and the prejudices and interests of men are engaged against established order, it is vain to endeavour to recall them, by the force of reason, to that subs mission which they have unreasonably re. nounced: and they, whose authority has easily prevailed to the introduction of strife and division, will infallibly discover,
d Hooker's preface to his Ecclesiastical Polity.
to their confusion and disappointment, that it is utterly incompetent to the restoration of union and peace. Such was the case in this instance; the disciples of the first nonconformists soon learned to think, themselves wiser than their teachers. They had been instructed to believe, that Church was not sufficiently, reformed, that its government was antichristian, and its service superstitious; they therefore concluded, that it was their duty to forsake it, and to form themselves into separate congregations, where they might freely use that discipline and worship, which had been recommended to them as perfect. Thus persuaded, they utterly disregarded the admonitions of their original leaders; who would have prevented them from reducing those principles to practice, which they themselves had inculcated; considering them to be f« false apostles and de“ ceitful workers," or at best weak and timid men, who dạred not to accomplish the work which in their consciences they approved. Thus did the evil continue to
f 2 Cor. xi. 13.