« PreviousContinue »
But our church needs defence as well as purification by God's continual pity. Our present privileges arising from our connection with her are invaluable, and worthy of the most fervent prayers for their continuance. And their continuance depends intirely on the continued pity of our Lord. For we have by our sins, private and national, long forfeited every advantage spiritual and temporal which Britain's bountiful Lord has bestowed on us. The extinction of those advantages is threatened both by foes without and foes within our citadel; and nothing but the “conti“ nual pity" of our merciful Lord hath hitherto prolonged them, or can yet preserve them.
The external dangers of our Zion from its open assailants will not be deemed small by those, who have duly considered the origin of the present confusion which has overspread nearly all Europe, and has threatened the destruction of every throne and every altar. Those persons who have read the histories of the Abbe Barruel and Professor Robison, and have thereby been led to trace effects up to their causes; who have considered the inveterate hostility of Voltaire and his associates, from whose writings the French revolution and all its horrors originated, to Christ and His religion, will be able to appreciate with some exactness the magnitude of the danger from which the “continual pity" of God hath hitherto preserved us, and will have learned to use the prayer of our collect with increased fervency of soul. The alarm which the menace of invasion by an immense host of foreign enemies lately produced, is yet
fresh in our memories; and while we contemplate what the consequences would have been, had the menace been permitted to have been
carried into execution, and shudder at the phantasms of our own imaginations, surely it becomes us to add to our grateful acknowledgments of past protection, renewed supplication that God may continue to defend His church. For though the dark cloud is in some measure dispersed, it may soon gather again and overwhelm us with destruction, unless continual pity interfere on our behalf.
But it is not only from external violence that we are exposed to danger; for the perils of our church within are neither few nor small. It was not many years ago declared by a celebrated heresiarch, in a letter addressed to the Right Hon. William Pitt, that a train of gunpowder was laid for the overthrow of our ecclesiastical government, and the explosion sure and near. Hitherto, 'blessed be God, the threatened evil has been averted from us. But let it be remembered that Socinianism still lives and is mighty. And let it also be recollected that our church is not only endangered by the hostility of those who oppose her essential doctrines, but also by that of those who, whether pretended friends or acknowledged foes, either dissent from her creed or her mode of worship. Of either class the name is Legion, for they are many. And it cannot be denied that the latter daily increase in numbers. Whether the cause be, as some have asserted, a defect of evangelical preaching in the church, or a growing love of novelty, the fact is undoubted, and calls for serious attention. May our prayers be more fervent than ever, that God would remove the cause of dissension whatever it be, and reunite the subjects of this empire in that mode of scriptural and apostolic worship which is established by law among us.
That neither the church to which we belong, nor our own souls, can continue in safety “ without Divine succour," hath, it is presumed, been made apparent by this and the preceding essays.
And Oh! that they may be the means of exciting every reader to greater fervency in prayer, that both the church and our own souls
may be preserved evermore by God's help and “ goodness." His help is essential to our preservation; and that help must be the result of Divine goodness, to which only we can appeal with any hope of success. As a church, and as individuals, we can urge no plea that is not derived from the mere bounty of our God.
Should the present essay be censured for the exposure which it makes of the pollution and danger of our ecclesiastical body, its vindication is easy. It will be sufficient to observe that an attempt at concealment is folly, either when the fact is glaring, or when a disclosure is calculated to be productive of benefit. A Physician is surely blameless for endeavouring to rouse a lethargic patient to the use of the means prescribed, by such information of his danger as is necessary to effect it. Charity consists not in silence but in faithful admonition, when silence may prove fatal and fidelity be conducive to salvation. While Philistines encompass us round about, and discord prevails within, shall we sleep on and take our rest! God forbid ! Rather let us rise and pray that God would “cleanse and defend “ His church." Let every standard-bearer in the holy army erect the ensign of the cross, and call aloud to all within the reach of his voice to rally round it. Let us preach the word, and be instant in season and out of season in publishing the
gospel of peace. It is not by clamorous and virulent abuse of her enemies that the church will be benefited, but by increased zeal and fidelity in her pastors. If we would truly subserve her interests, it must be done by outpreaching, out-praying and out-living those who
The purity of our doctrine, the holiness of our lives, and the disinterestedness of our conduct, must attract the attention, gain the affections, and secure the esteem of our people. And if at any time the unhallowed weapons of furious bigotry are employed against us, let us not return railing for railing, but contrariwise blessing, and commit ourselves to Him that judgeth righteously.
THE SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.
Lord, we pray thee, that thy grace may always prevent and follow us; and make us continually to be given to all good works, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
T has frequently been observed in the course
of these essays, that holiness and happiness are inseparably connected. This is one of those truths which are every where deducible from the dogmas of Scripture and from the forms of our church. “ Blessed are the undefiled in the way,” and they only, “who walk in the law of the Lord. Bles“sed are they that keep His testimonies; and " that seek Him with the whole heart. They “ also do no iniquity, they walk in His ways. But while a full conviction of this occupies the bosom of every Christian believer, he is painfully conscious of his own defects, and therefore is earnest in supplication for an universal conformity, both of heart and life, to the will of God. “O that my ways were directed to keep thy sta" tutes !” For he is thoroughly persuaded that the advantages to be derived from universal holiness are neither few nor small, while he feels his own inability to maintain it. " Then shall I not “ be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy “ commandments. I will praise thee with up
rightness of heart, when I shall have learned
thy righteous judgments. I will keep thy sta“ tutes: O forsake me not utterly.” (Ps. cxix.