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Ye are brethren;
"see that ye
that of truth. fall not out by the way;" prefer the uniformity of love to that of faith, and the diversity of opinions to that of feelings and hearts. It is only thus that a fair reply can be given to the taunts of the enemies of religious liberty. The Catholics have always said to the Protestants, "You deny the authority of our Church, and yet you are dictated to by magistrates and synods." The Establishment has always reproached sects, "You demur to our creeds and articles, yet you have creeds and articles to which you subscribe and submit." And these again say to the congregations, "You will not own the power of associated representatives of churches, and yet each church requires of individuals that they should hold certain doctrines, on peril of expulsion." Where, then, is the difference? This can never be repelled but by all churches having no creed but the Bible, and recognizing the right of all to its interpretation.
Charity," and not faith," is the bond of perfectness" in Christian Churches. It is melancholy to recollect what excellent men, "of whom the world was not worthy," have been kept out, or turned out, of the communion, not only of the Established, but of Dissenting Churches, by the use of creeds, to the destruction of liberty. How many of them would never have admitted, or would promptly have expelled, such men as
Watts or Doddridge, Lardner, Lindsey, Baxter or Robinson! Our great and good and glorious Milton, the man of whom England has most reason to be proud, was thrust back from that station in her Church which he wished to occupy, and would have adorned so splendidly. In his "Reason of Church Government urged against Prelaty," he adverts to this fact, as a motive to his exertions in the work of Reformation. "Were it the meanest under-service, if God, by his secretary conscience, enjoin it, it were sad for me if I should draw back; for me especially, now when all men offer their aid to help, ease and lighten the difficult labours of the Church, to whose service, by the intentions of my parents and friends, I was destined of a child, and in mine own resolutions, till coming to some maturity of years, and perceiving what tyranny had invaded the Church, and that he who would take orders must subscribe slave, and take an oath withal; which, unless he took with a conscience that would retch, he must either strait perjure or split his faith; I thought it better to prefer a blameless silence, before the sacred office of speaking, bought and begun with servitude and forswearing. Howsoever, thus church-outed by the prelates, hence may appear the right I have to meddle with these matters."
This exclusive spirit is unwarranted, disgraceful and pernicious. The rejection of a sincere
Christian from Christian fellowship has no foundation in Scripture authority, or primitive example. It degrades a Christian Church into a club of bigots. Were it once destroyed, sectarianism would expire. The hostile names, derived from leaders, or peculiar doctrines, would be disused, or at least would no longer describe churches, which would be only Christian. Much would be lost to the cause of a party; but more would be gained for the cause of truth, peace and charity.
In renouncing an intolerant system, let us not be uncharitable towards the many excellent persons, both Churchmen and Dissenters, by whom that system is honestly and piously supported, as a necessary protection for pure religion. We spend upon that all our hostility; and leave for them only the hearty affection of countrymen, Christians and brethren. Especially let us render the well-merited tribute of praise to those illustrious Nonconformists, who, whatever may have been their failings, were the sincere friends and bold champions of religious liberty; for it must not be forgotten that the real principle of Nonconformity is that of the right of private judgment, of universal religious liberty; and the cause of the one has generally been that of the other also. From Nonconformity has sprung Unitarianism, with which religious liberty is essentially connected; which rapidly follows, or produces
that liberty, and may therefore be called "the truth," which "shall make you free." The secession of the two thousand was a glorious protest against spiritual domination. As religious liberty is our noblest heritage, those who have vindicated it are our best benefactors; and amongst these, the English Nonconformists hold a proud pre-eminence. Their minds were powerful and enlightened; their devotion fervent; their sacrifices great and severe; their triumphs splendid; and be their memories blessed and immortal! Their principles, justly stated and consistently maintained, are our glory. They are deduced from our Bibles, and graven in our hearts. They shall be transmitted from generation to generation, a rich inheritance, and last, like hope, which ends only in fruition, till Conformity and Nonconformity alike expire in the universal brotherhood of Christianity.
ZECHARIAH XIV. 9.
In that day shall there be One Lord, and his name One.
THE doctrine of the Divine Unity is of immense importance. It is the soul of Judaism, the foundation of Christianity, the noblest discovery of reason, the glory of revelation, the centre of religious truth, the antidote of infidelity, the death blow of idolatry, the spring of Reformation, the guiding star of free inquiry, the companion of liberty, the parent of piety, the source of light in the mind and goodness in the heart, and the inheritor of supreme dominion over faith, to which it is directed by prophecy, and will be conducted by Providence, in all nations.
There can be but one God. It is impossible to associate a correct notion of the attributes of Deity with a plurality of possessors. An absolute monarch can have no coadjutors. Omnipotence, infinity and eternity, can neither be a divided