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dulge in censure, where it can no longer be repelled. We judge them not, we condemn them not: with humble confidence in the justice and the mercy of him, before' whose tribunal they are called, we hope that on that awful day, when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed, no perversity of will, no voluntary blindness may be laid to their charge. But, 'though we h« judge “ nothing before the time,” it is our duty to inquire what was the fruit of their exertions. And if by this criterion we may ascertain, that they i“ laboured in vain, and
spent their strength for nought;" where will be our excuse, if we neglect to profit by the example which has perhaps been recorded for our admonition? what shall we plead in our defence, if, by seeking to gather as they did, we also be found to have scattered abroad ?
But if we would learn the whole of that lesson which such an investigation may be capable of teaching, it will become us to consider the effects of these pacific efforts
h i Cor. iv. 5.
i Isaiah xlix. 4.
in all their bearings. We shall find, it is to be feared, that their evil consequences have not been limited to the disappointment which has been experienced by their authors, nor to the temporary increase of bitterness and contention which has
generally attended their
progress. When the advocates of peace persuaded themselves, that some latitude of interpretation, even on important points, might fairly be allowed for the sake of reconciling conflicting opinions, that those who could not agree in discipline, might compromise their differences by uniformity in doctrine; or that, where the same form of ecclesiastical government was preserved, doctrinal points should not be too severely investigated; they raised their hands to remove the barriers of the faith, and exposed the sanctuary of Christianity to the inroad of its adversaries.
It may be granted, that the first concessions were, in themselves, comparatively unimportant; that Cassander would not have surrendered what he considered to
k See Note CXLVIII. Appendix.
be the apostolic constitution of the Church; nor ? Grotius, what he believed to be the fundamental doctrines of the Gospel : but certain it is, that those who followed in the track which they had marked out, imitated neither their moderation nor their caution, Too soon did it become apparent, that where peace was the great object of desire,' every doctrine which had occasioned disea pute would be surrendered as unimpor, tant; and our holy faith itself would soon! be resolved into that cold system of philosophic, deism, which has been dignified: with the title of uncontroverted Christianity.
Such was the tendency of that system, which declared, that “a man's title to God's “favour cannot depend upon his actual
being or continuing in any particular “ method, but upon his real sincerity in - the conduct of his conscience:”. sition, which, could it have been established, would have removed at once the ground of every controversy, and provided an effectual remedy for religious dis- i
1 See Note CXLVIII. Appendix.
sension, by involving the faith, the worship, and the discipline of the Church in one common ruin.
Such attempts have indeed met with opponents, acute in discovering, and active in repelling the danger which they menaced. But let it not be supposed, that they were harmless, because they were defeated. The Church has hitherto, by the blessing of God, survived the contest ; but she has suffered from the struggle. The advocates of truth have retired conquerors from the field of controversy; but the number of those who rejoiced in their triumphs has, it is to be feared, rather diminished than increased. Argument, 'however in itself convincing, can seldom effectually arrest the progress of popular delusion : for error accommodates itself to minds, which are impervious to truth; and the plausible sophistries of its teachers will be greedily adopted by those, who have neither inclination to receive, nor ability to comprehend the deductions of reason. Hence have the unthinking and unwary been taught to regard the resolute defenders of primitive truth and order with an eye of suspicion or dislike, as the real disturbers of the Christian world ; and, wearied with the contests, which the continual incursions of the enemy have rendered unavoidable, they have hailed the tranquillity of indifference, as their only refuge from the turbulence of controversy, and the rancour of polemical disputation.
Such then is the great, the growing evil with which we have to contend. The sanctuary of the Church of England is yet inviolate, her doctrines uncorrupted, her constitution unimpaired : surrounded as she is by enemies, and exposed to dangers, she still cherishes within her bosom a host of defenders, of integrity unimpeached, of vigilance unwearied, in ability preeminent. Where then, it may be said, is the ground for apprehension or alarm? Alas! when Absalom had m stolen away the hearts of the men of Israel; and the multitude, who should have ranged themselves on the side of David, turned and fought against him; little did it profit him, that his title was le
m 2 Samuel xv, 6.