« AnteriorContinuar »
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 dispute would be surrendered as unimportant; 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:❞—a position, which, could it have been established, would have removed at once the ground of every controversy, and provided an effectual remedy for religious dis1 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 defend
ers 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.
gitimate, or that his chosen friends were loyal and brave. And little, it is to be feared, will it avail our excellent Church, that she is sound in the faith, if the love of her members have waxed cold; or that her clergy are able and zealous, if a prevailing lukewarmness have deadened the hearts of their flocks against the influence of their ministrations.
It is this general indifference, the fatal offspring of ill regulated attempts to secure a blessing at present unattainable, which awakens our fears, and too often palsies our exertions. He whose word is truth has declared, "that a kingdom divided "against itself falleth." Where then divisions are to be found, little does it matter, whether they are caused by open hostility, or encouraged by passive neutrality; their existence, in either case, is incompatible with the safety of that spiritual kingdom committed to our charge; and it becomes us to be prepared to remedy the latter evil, as we are, I trust, yet fully competent to resist the former.
That then the zeal of those who are
professedly members of our venerable establishment may be neither cooled by indifference nor misdirected by enthusiasm, let us be ourselves examples of that steady perseverance and indefatigable watchfulness, which we would recommend: let us endeavour to convince them, that the peace they covet is not to be attained, as they have been unwarily prevailed on to seek it; and that real union never can be purchased by concessions made to the sons of confusion and disorder. Let us remind them, that God alone can m❝ tame the "unruly wills and affections of his sinful "creatures;" and that it is his peculiar province, to "" make men of one mind in "an house." If then they look forward with hope to that day, when it shall please him to build up his kingdom upon earth 。" in "righteousness, and peace, and joy in the "Holy Ghost;" if they are anxious to prepare the way for its establishment, their duty has been plainly marked out in the Scriptures; they must continue in the faith
m Collect, fourth Sunday after Easter.
n Liturgy. o Rom. xiv. 17. P Col. i. 23. ii. 7.