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earnest pleaders for indulgence to tender consciences when themselves under authority, in the time of their power they were the decided 2 opponents of toleration.
It was also well known, that their views were not limited to a revision of the Liturgy, or an abolition of a few indifferent ceremonies; that they
that they contemplated an alteration of the very constitution of the Church; and that nothing less than such an adoption of the Genevan model, as might have paved the way for their return to ecclesiastical power, would have satisfied their demands.
To have yielded to such persons would have been rather reprehensible weakness, than Christian moderation. It is indeed the duty of the Church to bear with the froward, and to a “support the weak;” but she is also ordained to be bo the pillar and
ground of the truth :” for this purpose authority was committed to her; and had she surrendered it into the hands of those, who sought it that they might introduce
z See Note CXXVIII. Appendix. a i Thess, v. 14.
bi Tim. iii. 15. 1
their own imaginations into God's service, and mingle their own opinions with the doctrine of Christ; she would have been guilty before God and man of having betrayed that Gospel, which she had been raised up to preserve
and defend. Relying therefore for support upon the wise provisions of that national constitution, with which her polity is inseparably interwoven, her object has since been to maintain her own doctrine and discipline unimpaired. And with that temperate spirit of true charity, which becomes the moderation of her character, she has ever been ready, as far as a due regard for her own security would allow, to promote every measure of toleration proposed for the benefit of those, who must now be considered as formally separated from her fold. To the candid and impartial among this class of Christians we may confidently appeal for the full confirmation of this truth. The sense of political inferiority may irritate the ambitious, or the decent splendor of our national establishment mortify the envious; the tongue of the adversary may be sharpened by occasional controversy, or temporary clamour may be excited by the firmness with which every attempt to remove the barriers of our ecclesiastical constitution has been resisted: but the wisest and the best of our dissenting brethren have never been unwilling to acknowledge, that they have always felt themselves most secure under its tolerant supremacy; and that, if political power or influence must be bestowed exclusively on any one class of Christians, to the Church of England alone it can be safely confided.
Matt. xii. 30.
He that is not with me is against me ; and he
that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad. IT has been strongly, though somewhat coarsely observed by an eminent nonconformist a divine, that “there is no part of “ religion that Satan does not endeavour “ to destroy, under pretence of promoting “ it.” Those who have most attentively considered the history of the Church, may perhaps be inclined to admit the truth of the position to its full extent; as that his-' tory will suggest to them many reasons for believing that the cause of Christianity has suffered more injury from the labours of its pretended advocates, than from the persecutions of its avowed enemies. The opposition of the latter has generally tended to
a Baxter. Cure of Church Divisions, p. 270.
confirm and strengthen that faith, which they designed to destroy; while the former, by insidiously mixing themselves with the friends of religion, by misleading their judgment, misdirecting their zeal, and misapplying their exertions, have seldom failed to perplex its doctrines, and counteract its salutary operation on the human heart.
In no instance perhaps has this been more strikingly exemplified, than by the attempts which have been made, from time to time, to weaken or destroy the very foundations of Christian faith, under pretence of restoring unity among its professors.
Every well informed disciple of the blessed Jesus is persuaded, that b« envying and “ strife” are unbecoming his holy calling, and is anxious to promote a better spirit among his brethren. Upon this predisposition therefore in favour of unity, the enemy has presumed; and, well aware that its real nature is in general but imperfectly understood, and that its most zealous advocates are not always fully instructed in
b i Cor. ii. 3.