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a reciprocal participation of these advantages, on which the happiness of the church so evidently depends.
Another, and indeed the chief thing that excited the disgust of our dissenters at the established church, was the use of premeditated prayers and sermons. The reformers of our church laying no claim to inspiration, thought it their duty to provide, as far as in them lay, that good sense should be uttered, both to God and the people. Hence a set form of prayer : hence our printed homilies and written discourses. But the Puritans too frequently mistaking their warmth of heart, for a divine infusion, and therefore regarding all premeditation as an affront to the Holy Spirit, cared not to hear any man, either pray or preach, if they had any reason to believe, he had ever once considered beforehand, what he was to say. As they paid no respect to any original successive mission in the ministry, they expected every minister should prove his extemporaneous mission by the readiness and plenty of his effusions. As they were sometimes but very slender judges of good sense, they took that volubility and ardour, which was owing after all, to the genius of the speaker, and to premeditation and habit, for a sufficient proof of inspiration, without duly examining the justness and propriety of what was uttered. If a sanctified look and tone of voice were added, they gave a demonstrative force to this proof, which, in some instances, no defects as to the matter were allowed to refute. To this, more than every thing else, was owing the inveterate prejudice of the common people to our liturgy and sermons. It is true, that time and experience have almost wholly removed the opinion of inspiration; but unhappily the prejudice still remains, though that which gave it birth is banished. The dissenting ministers now frankly own, they con their prayers, and write their sermons; and provided they leave their paper behind them, the people ask no other inspiration, than a tenacious memory. Necessity also obliges them to have recourse to a form in their prayers, because as the matter of public prayer is always nearly the same, it is impossible for any man, to vary on that matter, every Sunday, for thirty or forty years. Inverting the order of confessions, petitions, and thanksgivings, is an expedient that soon runs out. Taking an exordium from the sermon can do no more, than give a mere initial newness to the prayer. And planning the whole prayer on the subject matter of the sermon, which must often be particular; is confining the prayer to one single point, although it ought at each time to run through all the necessary constituent parts of public worship. How can that man avoid falling into a form, who on all occasions of public prayer, confesses, petitions, intercedes, and gives thanks, in words sufficiently general to comprehend the devotions of a whole congregation? If then a form cannot be avoided; and if we'ought not to be rash with our mouths, nor let our hearts be hasty to utter any thing before God,' we cannot take too much care in preparing that form, nor have too many, too wise, or too pious assistants, in so great a work. There is no kind of composition more difficult, than that of prayer. It is not therefore every raw, every unfurnished understanding, that is qualified for such a performance, even if he were allowed ever so much time to prepare it. How greatly then must he fail, if he attempts it, without proper assistance, in the midst of that confusion, wherewith modesty is apt to be embarrassed before a multitude of people ?
These were the chief obstacles to communion with the established church, whereat my dissenting brethren, your predecessors, formerly stumbled. But is it not now high time you should see through their mistakes? Have our ceremonies led us a single step nearer to the church of Rome? Have our bishops turned popes, or even once attempted to lord it over your faith? Is our Common Prayer converted into a Mass-book? Or are either our devotions or discourses the worse for being well digested and prepared? If you now see these things with other eyes, than you did formerly, as I am convinced you do; or if you look on the causes of dissension as far less significant, than once you did, as I pray God you may; why do you still continue to keep open a breach, made by surmises, now found to be groundless; and to shut your hearts against the established profession of your country, which hath so long gloriously maintained the cause of liberty and reformation against infinite attempts made by the invaders of both? We shall neither think of censuring you, nor of holding you at the smallest distance from our hearts, on account of their aversion to us, if you will but shew us, you are disposed to think of us, and act by us, with somewhat more of Christian charity and brotherly love, than they did. But you sometimes give us such testimonies of contrary dispositions towards us, that we are often at a loss to know, whether your arms are stretched out to strike, or to embrace us.
From the time that the arbitrary proceedings of the late king James made it necessary to oppose him, to this day, you have faithfully fought the common cause of liberty, civil and religious, as often as either was struck at. The times of mutual danger, or united triumph, helped to warm our hearts to each other. You declare yourselves on all occasions less averse to our ecclesiastical constitution, and go oftener into our churches than formerly. These are pleasing symptoms of good sense and candour, that seem to promise peace and good agreement at no great distance. I hope we shall never give you reason to complain, that we are wanting on our part to such friendly advances, as may tend to promote a thorough coalition. It revives our hopes, and warms our hearts to reflect on these promising parts of
But the delightful prospect of peace is no sooner contemplated from this point of view, than we are hurried into another, from whence we can see nothing but the ill-covered embers of former animosities, glowing, in all appearance, with as high a degree of heat as ever. Attribute it not to spleen and resentment, but to brotherly freedom, and a truly pacific intention, when I tell you what I mean, by two or three instances, wherein you shew, if I mistake you not, an earnest desire to revive, and even aggravate the distaste between us. How shall we arrive at peace, if we do not on both sides amend such faults as give offence? You take the liberty frequently to remonstrate on ours. Allow us the same privilege, and hear us as calmly as we do you, that such incidents in your behaviour, as we take unkindly, may be either explained or justified, if possible, to the satisfaction of us your brethren. You cannot otherwise so well know what are those parts of your conduct that make us uneasy, as by a frank declaration from ourselves, who have too much feeling, or frailty, call it which you will, to pass them by wholly unnoticed. I solemnly protest, that, in what I am going to say, I am prompted by grief rather than resentment, and have no other end in view, than to remove, if possible, all obstructions to a happy union, and to promote, to the utmost of my little power, that openness and candour on which alone a lasting friendship can be built. Bear therefore patiently, with me for a few minutes, for freely as I may speak, God is my witness, I seek your honour and happiness as well as our own.
In the first place, I must observe to you, that while we make no distinctions between you and ourselves in matters of trade, but give our money alike to either, you generally make it a rule to throw all advantages this way, you possibly can, into the hands of Dissenters only; and seldom or never do otherwise, but when you expect a much greater benefit, than you give, in dealing with us.
What hath religion and trade to do with each other? If we differ in church, is this a reason you should excommunicate us on the Exchange? Why are the controversies about churchgovernment and forms of prayer to interfere with our business in a coffee-house or a shop? Is this brotherly, or even neighbourly? But I detest this topic, so narrow-hearted on the one side, that it cannot be touched on the other, without an appearance of selfishness; and therefore I quit it.
In the next place, it frequently happens, that when one of you intermarries with a woman of our persuasion, you often labour as zealously in her conversion, as you could do, did you think her in a state of damnation, while she continues in our communion. In like manner, if one of
your people chances to conform, you seldom shew him any share of that indulgence wherewith you are treated by us and the laws, and of which, great though it is, you are ever complaining, as if you were under a severe and relentless persecution. Is this consistent with your notions of liberty ? Is this doing as you would be done by?
Again, it is usual with many of you to conform occasionally on worldly views, often of no great importance; and yet to dissent again, or promote dissensions with as much zeal as ever. How! my brethren, is communion with us both consistent, and inconsistent, with the word of God, and a sound conscience ? How can the causes of dissension appear to the same man, both so considerable as to outweigh,
in his estimation, all the arguments for Christian peace and union; and yet so minute as to be outweighed by every inconsiderable view of worldly interest?
Again, although we have, for a long time, been almost wholly silent on the unhappy controversy between you and us, not because we are in the least afraid of being foiled, as you very well know, but that the difference which lies more in heat of blood, than force of argument, may have time to die away; you are notwithstanding, ever and anon fomenting the spleen of your people with pamphlets, wherein you endeavour to shew (God knows with what truth) that our conduct towards you hath always been, and still is, made up of little else than oppression and persecution. In these performances you usually set out with very fair and plausible professions of candour in matters of religion, and of friendship towards the established church, while nothing else is aimed at in the body of the work, but to rekindle the animosity of a declining party, and to point it directly against that church. Your famous sermon on the 30th of January, Chandler's Case of Subscription, the Candid Disquisitions, Bourn's Catechism, drawn up on purpose to teach your very children the principles of dissension and hatred to our church, the Letters to Mr. White, and many others, are flagrant instances of this. Observe, I mention, the Candid Disquisitions among the rest, because till the yet concealed authors are known to be conformists, as was in vain pretended, you will always have the honour of that performance. Never did any set of men draw up such a book against the principles and practices of a society whereof they were members; much less were they capable, after an unsuccessful attempt, to have it constitutionally considered, of appealing by a work of that nature to the world, which they knew, could not possibly have any other effect, than that of rendering its readers dissatisfied with an establishment, which it could not change, and proving to men of discernment, the deep dissimulation of the writers, who could be conformists in the teeth of such infinite objections. No professions, though. ever so often and earnestly repeated, can persuade a man in his senses that this could possibly be the work of persons who were friends either to truth or peace, to say nothing of the establishment. It will be also as hard to persuade us