« AnteriorContinuar »
subjects continued idolaters, or even a much larger proportion. Suppose also that he should form an establishment, with the consent of his counsellors and senators, by which places of worship should be built at proper distances throughout his dominions, and a decent maintenance allotted to officiating ministers, left in many things to their own discretion, but with certain general rules and principles, to which their voluntary consent is required; and, on the supposition of episcopacy, some bishops, with rather larger allowance, to superintend the other pastors, to ordain, and under certain limitations to appoint to cures, &c. Suppose, again, schools annexed to these places of worship, and Christian schoolmasters decently maintained, to teach the elements of learning and the principles of Christianity to all the children in the vicinity, whom their parents should voluntarily, or influenced merely by argument and persuasion, send. Suppose all the population were invited and exhorted to attend the public service and instruction; but none compelled or hired. Suppose, also, that none were admitted as members of this established church, but such as had been baptized on a credible profession of Christianity; with those of their children who were too young to choose for themselves; all the rest remaining at the highest as catechumens. Suppose all those, and none else, who had been thus baptized, were admitted to the Lord's supper; and their children, when they, after proper instruction, themselves had made a credible profession of Christianity. Suppose that none but these persons were so considered as a part of the church, as to
and the mighty opposed her: but neither does she haughtily disdain the assistance and countenance of either the one or the other, if afforded without interference in those things which are peculiar to her true prosperity and glory. Yet many, who readily accept the assistance of the wealthy, and glory in the concurrence of the ingenious, and learned, and noble, in accomplishing plans of Christian benevolence, seem decided against receiving the most unexceptionable aid from the powerful of the earth.
If it was, as I suppose, the design of Providence, to leave Christianity so unencumbered, that it might be capable of accommodating itself to outward circumstances, whatever they might be, in every land in which it was propagated: it cannot be expected that an establishment, arranged under a variety of particulars, as under the Mosaic dispensation, should be found in the New Testament; but are we thence to conclude that Christian kings ought not to do any thing to promote the religion of Christ among the inhabitants of the countries which they govern? Must they alone, of all men, "care for none of these things," and merely confine themselves to temporal matters ?
But we read in prophecy, that "kings shall "be nursing fathers, and their queens nursing "mothers" to the church. Now, in what manner shall this prophecy, and others to a similar effect, be accomplished, if Gallio be indeed, as some appear to think he was, the model even of a Christian magistrate? Should it please God to raise up
Is. xlix. 23.
kings, like Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and Josiah ; who should, according to the genius of the new dispensation, imitate their example, as it has been above stated, the way in which the prophecies would be fulfilled must then be plain to every one. But I will not absolutely decide, whether what is now called an establishment would be one part of their plan, or not: perhaps nothing could give them so great advantage, in providing instruction and the means of grace for the population of any country, and a Christian education for the lower orders in the community, as something of this nature would do. Nor can I think it altogether impracticable, for the broad ground of the New Testament to be proceeded on, in nearly the same manner as pious kings of Judah proceeded upon the broad ground of the Old Testament: nothing required, as a term of communion, but what wise and pious men in general allowed to be scriptural; things indifferent left so; and much latitude allowed in respect of expressions, forms, postures, and all such things, as evidently conscientious pious persons may be supposed to view differently.
In countries professing Christianity, the places appropriated for public worship, and the funds devoted to the cause of religion, might, in such a case, come greatly in aid of the design of thus giving to all parts of a nation' the means of grace.' Those funds are incumbrances under which estates have been bought, sold, and inherited for ages, and are a kind of public property; and, if not employed for religious, will be seized on for secular purposes, and never given to those who possess the estates, which they inherited or purchased
have their infants baptized. Suppose all who evidently acted inconsistently with their profession, or renounced the faith, or its leading truths, were excluded by an easy process, and no other harm whatever attempted against them, but a continual watchfulness exercised over them to bring them to repentance, and restore them if penitent, with all temporal kindness, which did not imply approbation. Suppose that, some professed Christians still objecting to this arrangement, a full toleration should be granted them; and, under certain limitations, an allowance made to them for their places of worship, and maintenance of ministers. And, finally, suppose the rest of the community were ruled with equity and lenity, and no advantage, except spiritual advantages, granted to the members of the church above others. Would, I say, this church imply comprehension instead of selection ? And would it not tend to make Christianity known to the whole population in a degree not easily to be calculated?
It does not indeed appear, that any thing of a secular nature (unless the decent maintenance of ministers be secularity,) would be at all connected with such an establishment. In fact, the political effect of our establishment, though probably considerable in the higher circles, is scarcely at all felt by the lower orders even of the clergy and I have certainly been taught to understand the source, nature, and effects of that political tendency, far more from the writings of dissenters, than either from my own experience, or the discourse and conduct, or writings of my brethren in the church of England. I do not think,
that my conduct, even in respect of an election of a member of parliament, was ever different as a churchman, from what it would have proved had I been a dissenter; according to the views that I deem myself bound to act upon as to kings and all in authority, whether in the establishment or out of it.
There may, however, be some exceptions even in our circle and company; but the most of us, at least in England, have little secular advantage from an adherence to the church. I have been used oecasionally to associate with dissenting ministers who had much more than double my income; and it might sometimes occur to me, that possibly I might in this respect fare better by leaving the church than by continuing in it. In fact, political matters have been so little in my thoughts while reflecting on these subjects, that in my strictures on Messrs. H. and their party, I never once thought of their political creed, but merely adverted to their conduct as to establishments, and to those ministers who adhered to them; and indeed as to every thing which had the stamp of antiquity. I have heard, with pleasure, that they have changed their political views and conduct much for the better; and I am sure I have no personal disrespect to them: though, in defending what they have assaulted, some notice must be taken of them; and perhaps this was done too strongly. ́
Some also compare our reference to the Old Testament, in respect of establishments, with that of the papists in support of their persecuting principles. But where in the Old Testament is