Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

or any of these, unanimity, in the balance either of his understanding or heart, would outweigh ten thousand nonessentials.

To draw towards an end, give me leave, my dissenting brethren, to observe to you, that as to the subject of conformity, you are reducible to two classes; the first, of those who think the differences between you and the established church sufficiently material to justify a separation; the other, of such as lay no great stress on those differences, either through ignorance of their merits, or because they esteem them matters of no great consequence, and therefore do not continue to dissent so much on account of those differences, as merely because they are unwilling or ashamed to quit the way of worship they were brought up in. Indulge me with a short application to each.

And first, let me humbly and earnestly beseech you, who look on the difference between us as material, fairly and calmly to weigh those differences against the sin of schism, and the infinite mischiefs, both spiritual and temporal, that do or may arise from it. When this is done, consider with the like candour, whether we differ about any thing of real moment (I speak to you only who agree with us in fundamentals), excepting the single point of church government; whether Christ himself did not govern the church episcopally; whether he gave us any reason to think he intended this method of government should be altered on his leaving the world; whether he did not rather entail it on the church by 'sending bis apostles, as his Father had sent him ;' whether they did not actually pursue the same plan; whether Timothy and Titus were not constituted real bishops, with authority over presbyters and deacons by St. Paul; whether it does not clearly appear from the first epistle of this apostle to Timothy, that he, Timothy, was to see that proper persons were appointed both for presbyters and deacons, and to govern the presbyters, though there called bishops; whether this does not demonstrate three orders in the church, first of Timothy, secondly of the presbyters, and thirdly of the deacons ; whether that holy martyr St. Ignatius, who was the immediate disciple of St. John, and whose writings were a long time read in many churches, as next in authority to Scrip

ture, does not, in his epistle to the Magnesians, and elsewhere, plainly distinguish the same three orders, assign the subordination of the two last to the first, and technically fix their titulary appellations; whether what he so delineates in this behalf, is not evidently traced in the practice of all churches down to the Reformation; whether at that period many reformers ignorantly blaming episcopacy for that which Popery the oppressor of episcopacy, had done, did not proceed rather by pique and prejudice than by reason or authority, Scriptural or traditional, in rejecting the episcopal order ; whether reformers, already as much heated against former abuses and usurpations, as the Papists were bigotted to them, may not be as reasonably suspected of prejudice in throwing out, as we in retaining this order ; whether the merits, as to this, can ever be decided by our preconceptions of either side ; or by inviduously ripping up old sores, or by bitter invectives against particular bishops, or in short by any other method than that of a cool dispassionate appeal to Scriptural authority, explained by the practice of antiquity. After having maturely weighed these things, we beg of you then seriously to consider in the last place, whether any set of Christians can warrantably lay aside the succession of orders, so plainly founded by Christ himself, and so long religiously kept up by all his churches; and begin a new succession, without even the colour of necessity.

As to you, who regard this and the other differences between yourselves and us, as nothing, surely you must look on peace and unity on one side, and schism on the other, as less than nothing, if you continue to dissent. Nay, if

you have a sufficient reason (and certainly the far greater number of you have) to think yourselves incompetent judges of the merits, your safest way must be to join with the establishment, because by that means you avoid the sin of schism at least, which must be a great and real sin in you, while you dissent, let the merits lie on which side they will, since you are conscions of your own inability to see where they lie.

I could say a great deal more on this affecting subject; but having perhaps already trespassed too far on your patience, I shall here conclude, with earnestly beseeching the

God of peace and love, to lead us, in the unity of the Spirit, to a right understanding, and a meek and brotherly disposition in all things, to the glory of our holy religion, and its blessed author, to whom, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be all might, majesty, dignity, and dominion, now and for evermore. Amen.

DISCOURSE LXXII.

LXXII.

THE CASE OF PROTESTANT REFUGEES FROM FRANCE,

CONSIDERED.

ADVERTISEMENT. Sume years ago, when the French Protestants fled from persecution in their own country, to liberty and protection in Great Britain and Ireland, and fled in such numbers, and most of them so indigent, that immediate subsistence became doubtful; the author drew up this discourse with an intention to preach it circularly at the assizes throughout the province of Ulster. This intention he submitted to a society, then formed in Dublin, on the same principle of charity. Some, however, of that society having objected, that the bishops would not consent to a proceeding so uncommon, the design was overruled, and the Discourse therefore never preached. The author nevertheless believes, his readers will judge the matter and tendency of the Discourse not wholly useless, as long as refuge shall still be sought here by our Protestant brethren on the like occasion.

HEB. XIII. 2.

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers. BEFORE I enter on the subject of this Discourse, wherein I propose to recommend our Protestant brethren, who fly hither from France to avoid the cruelties of a Popish persecution, to your farther benevolence and assistance; give me leave to observe, that, singular as I may seem to some in what I am doing, no sensible or religious hearer, I believe, will think my attempt itself needs an apology, unless it is from this consideration, that piety and goodness in distress can want no advocate with the pious and the good. Although it is certain, this undertaking speaks sufficiently for itself, it may nevertheless appear somewhat uncouth in one so inconsiderable and so little known.

But when, in justification of myself, I shall have told you, that I was born and bred in the vicinity of that French colony, which gave us the linen trade; that for some years past, I have had a better opportunity of knowing the people I speak for, than any man perhaps who hears me hath had; and that I have not only known them to be a people of great probity and worth, but have been more indebted to the friendships wherewith some of them have honoured me, than I am able to express; when these things, I say, are told you, your own sentiments of gratitude will justify and approve of mine; and you will be well pleased, pursuant to the generous intentions that drew you hither on this occasion, to hear me on a subject every way affecting, with that indulgence which your humanity is prepared to dictate, and my defects may require.

You are here assembled, it is to be presumed, rather previously resolved to obey the amiable precept in my text, than to hear reasons for so doing. Yet such is ever the

property of a good heart, that, well as it is disposed in itself, it wishes for new inducements to still greater degrees of beneficence, than its present ardors prescribe; and therefore readily turns its compassionate attention to the object where these may be found; nay, searches for them in that object with as much care as the hard heart (I speak boldly) does, for selfish pretences to arm itself with against the claim of him who gave us all, and the moving cries of human nature in distress.

If then your charity only looks for an object to kindle at, and an opportunity to dilate itself, behold them both presented full in view, with every circumstance that usually works the strongest on a soul like yours! They are human creatures, tied to you by one common, one tender band of nature, so that you cannot but be hungry, till they are supplied with food; you must be filled with apprehensions, till their fears of perishing for want of sustenance are removed. They are your fellow-Christians, united to you in the same body of Christ: your heart feels for them, as they are men ; and your conscience, as they are Christians : you feel their distress through Christ your Saviour, who suffers in their afflictions. How movingly do they work, at once, on your pity, your love, your piety! Is it possible to raise

this affection higher? Yes, when I put you in mind that they are Protestants, you cannot but feel, as the object is brought nearer to you, and is considered as the next adjoining member of Christ, a more interesting warmth for it. This proceeds, not so much from your preferring the name of a Protestant to that of a Christian, as from a full conviction, that these men have proved themselves to be true Christians, by their inviolable adherence to the Reformation, in spight of every calamity, every terror.

From the horrible effects of a cruel persecution (which, God be praised, you can only imagine), from confiscations, from dungeons, from racks, from fire, these your brethren fy for refuge to your arms; and it is justly a matter of doubt, whether the all-seeing eyes of God behold any thing in this world more pleasing to him than those arms, extended to embrace them, to feed, to clothe, to protect them, at once, from the fury of their unnatural countrymen, from the inclemency of this untoward climate, and from all the miseries of poverty and banishment together. In this lovely attitude you share the merits, without the pain, of their fidelity to Christ; insomuch that it is not easy to say, whether we should more esteem their suffering, or your protecting virtues! How honourable are the former ! how beautiful the latter! Go on, dearly beloved in Christ Jesus, and let these your brethren see, that charity, divine charity, is stronger in you, than diabolical malice in their bigotted persecutors. Let it not be said, that a false religion in any set of men can faster oppress, than the true one in you, can relieve.

Did these refugees run from a bad country, to a better; or from poverty at home, to riches abroad; we might have some reason to suspect, either the principles for which they are harrassed, or the sincerity of their attachment to them.

But when we not only know their principles to be the same with our own, but that of all men, they are the most national, probably because born and bred up in one of the finest countries on the globe; and that they are forced to leave all, or a great part of what they possessed, behind them; to what can we ascribe their removal hither, and into other parts of the world, where they are to struggle with a still harsher air, and a less relenting soil, excepting to an

« AnteriorContinuar »