Page images
PDF
EPUB

Calvinists : and the Calvinistic Clergy of the Church of England are generally members of the modern Society. Now a man, who adopts the doctrines of Calvin, cannot be zealous?;, attached to our English Liturgy. A Calvinist may in many respects have a great regard for it: but he canuot have much pain in parting with it, as it abounds with passages so decisive of conditional salvation, that no ingenuity can torture them into the language of absolute decrees.' Indeed we know that the English Liturgy was so offensive to the Calvinists of Scotland, that the very attempt to introduce it in that country produced an insurrection, which ended with the solemn League and Covenant, to which the English Calvinists acceded. And this very Assembly of Divines declared, in the Preface to the Directory, that “ the Liturgy used in the Church of England, notwithstanding all the pains and religious intentions of the compilers of it, hath proved an offence, not only to many of the Godly at home, but also to the reformed churches abroad." Now the foreign churches, which go by the name of reformed churches,” are Calvinistic, the others being called Lutheran : and the persons, to whom the term “Godly," is applied, whether in ancient or in modern times, are easily understood.

Lastly, let us remember, that the language holden by the Calvinists in the reign of Charles the First exactly corresponds with the language now holden by many of the advocates of the modern Society. For a more intolerant and more persecuting spirit was never witnessed, than is frequently displayed in their writings and speeches, as sufficiently appears from the examples only, which are quoted in this Inquiry. The only difference is in favor of the ancient orators, who had the candor to declare their meaning, and to exclaim without reserve « Take heed of Toleration."

Should it here be asked, whether, arguing from analogy, and the experience of past ages, I am apprehensive, that the same measure

" When our Liturgy teaches us to pray, that the rest of our life may be pure and holy so that we may come to eternal joy ;-that the ministers of Christ may so prepare the way, that we may be found acceptable in his sight ;--that we may so pass through things temporal as finally to lose not the things eternal ; --that we may so faithfully serve him in this life, that we fail not finally to attain his hea. venly promises ; such and similar expressions it is impossible to reconcile with Calvin's doctrine of salvation, which entirely excludes conditionality,

which was finally adopted by the Assembly of Divines, will be adopted in the present age, and that a direct attempt will be made 'to abolish the Liturgy by a formal appeal to the Legislature, I would answer that I do not suspect it. But I am not without apprehensions, that something similar will be attempted. We know that the Liturgy, by the laws of this country, is the Test of the Churchman; and, that a repeal of the Test Act is a thing, which has been already attempted, and is certainly not abandoned. Since therefore the indirect mode is the most practicable, we have the most reason to apprehend it. And here let me ask every cool and impartial observer, whether any thing can be better calculated to prepare the way for a repeal of the Test Act, than the rapid progress of the modern Bible Society. In proportion as the Liturgy is disregarded, in the same proportion must the Test, which in other words is the Liturgy itself, appear unimportant. Indeed, if the Liturgy is of so little consequence, as is now represented, the Church Establishment cannot be worth retaining, for it is the Liturgy, with its rubrics,

whicconstitutes the service of the Church. That the Dissenters should unite under the banners of this modern Society is not a matter of surprise. And, if they unite under its banners for the very purpose of obtaining a repeal of the Test Act, no one has a right to blame them. It is their interest to do so, and, if Churchmen encourage them, the Dissenters themselves are free from reproach. But beside the Dissenters, it is well known that a considerable body of Churchmen are friends to a repeal of the Test Act. And, if they consider the progress of this Bible Society, as affording the means of obtaining their favorite object, they have a two-fold advantage in view, one of which is the removal of a restriction, which they consider (whether truly or not) as impolitic and . unjust.

That there are Churchmen and Statesmen, who are not only desirous that the Test Act should be repealed, but consider the present progress of the British and Foreign Bible Society, as the most effectual means of obtaining that repeal, can hardly admit a doubt. The speech of Mr. Whitbread, at the late meeting at Bedford for the formation of an Auxiliary Society, is so decisive on this subject, that further evidence is superfluous. After dwelling with pleasure on the advantages of having the Bible alone, he said, “he

firmly hoped and believed that in a time much shorter than could have been anticipated, Christians will maintain their Christian character and profession, without regarding the points of difference which subsisted among them. The barrier from this time might be considered as broken down; and it should be his endeavour, to demolish and prevent the vestige of it from being left.”; Now the barrier between Churchmen and Dissenters, the barrier interposed by the law of the land, is the Test Act. What therefore can we

conclude, when it is said, that not a vestige of this barrier shall remain, than, that a repeal of the Test Act is in contemplation ? And the progress already made toward the effecting of this purpose, by the rapid 'advance of the Bible Society, (to which we have had nothing similar, since Peter the Hermit went preaching the Crusade) was viewed, in such a light, that this barrier even then was represented as broken down.And, if it was broken down by the Auxiliary Society at Bedford, what further havoc must have been made on this barrier by the Auxiliary Societies, now established at Colchester, at Ipswich, at Huntingdon, and in the University of Cambridge!

I know indeed, that there are other Statesmen not inferior in talent to Mr. Whitbread, who espouse this Society with equal zeal ; and yet, when the repeal of the Test Act is proposed (as Mr. Whitbread intimates, and which the Dissenters are really encouraged to attempt) will think it their duty to oppose that repeal. And, as no man would designedly encourage what must tend to facilitate a measure, which he disapproves, we must conclude that every Statesman, who is desirous of retaining the Test Act, and yet promotes the progress of this Society, promotes it without apprehending the injurious effects, to which, if the arguments already used have any validity, it must ultimately lead. I sincerely lament that I have the misfortune to differ upon this subject with men of such distinguished abilities, and such acknowledged integrity, that this difference alone is sufficient to excite a distrust of my own opinion. But I have considered the subject in all its bearings, and perhaps with more at

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

"I have copied this passage from Mr. Whitbread's Speech, as printed in the Cambridge Chronicle of December 27, 1811; and, as it was inserted by order of the Bedford Committee, the Speech so printed may be considered as an official document.

[ocr errors]

tention, than can possibly be bestowed on it by men in high situations. It is of all subjects, on which I ever undertook to write, the most intricate and perplexed. And, though at various times I have instituted inquiries, which demanded close reasoning and profound thought, I never entered on a subject, which required so much penetration, as the present. It is a subject of so extraordinary a nature, that, while orators, whose wisdom never goes beyond the surface, feel competent to decide, there are points in it, which may elude the discernment of the most sagacious and profound. Nor is it difficult to assign the reason. · There is nothing, which so prevents men from seeing the danger of an object, as, when in the pursuit of that object they are animated by religious zeal. With the prospect of extending the universal church, men find it difficult to contract their views within the limits of a single church. With the prospect of promulgating the gospel to distant regions, where its light had never shone, they view, through a glass inverted, the danger at home. And to the danger, thus diminished, they are ready to close their eyes, if the removal of that danger obscures the glory of the prospect. But if I have succeeded in presenting that danger in its true light, and its natural magnitude, we have then sufficient guarantee that it will be averted as zealously, as it has been inadvertently promoted.

If I have succeeded in presenting that danger in its true light and its natural magnitude, we may then also be assured that every other Churchman, who is swayed by religious motives, will be ready to apply the remedy, which shall appear most conducive to its removal. Their regard for the general good will outweigh the private feelings, which accompany the acknowledgment of a mistake. They will recollect that the wisest and best of men are liable to error; that they are especially liable in the great and important concerns of religion; and that there is no subject, in which, from its extreme intricacy, men are so liable to error, as in the present. We have further assurance in the repeated declarations of distinguished Churchmen, who have often declared, that they never would encourage the Society, if they perceived any danger, and who are pledged therefore to seek a remedy, when they do perceive it. And those respectable Bishops, who have honored the Society with their patronage and support, to whom no man of common sense would ascribe dishonorable motives, since the higher our rank the more deeply are we involved in considerations as well of interest, as of duty, those respectable Bishops, who, as constituted guardians of the church, are more than other men responsible for every act, which may endanger it, will, I am confident, examine, with care and impartiality, the arguments which are used in this Inquiry, and, if finally they are of opinion, that danger exists, will suffer neither time to be lost, nor labor to be spared, in the application of a remedy. Nor is the responsibility much less with those, who preside in the two Universities : for if the Society is attended with evil, it receives a ten-fold augmentation, by being fixed in a seat of education. If an evil is great when only local, what must it be, when established in a place, where the youth of this kingdom will be taught to embruce it, and to disseminate that evil throughout the British dominions?

VII.

Having explained what I apprehend to be the chief danger of the modern Bible Society, I ought not to close the Inquiry, without considering what remedies may be applied. But before we consider what may be applied, let us consider what may not be applied, because the question will be thus reduced to a narrower compass, and more easily brought to a point.

If the Church is in danger from this Society, the most effectual remedy, in the opinion of its advocates, is, that Churchinen in general should become members of it, and thus obtain a preponderance over the Dissenting Interest. On this account Mr. Vansittart, in his Letter above quoted, hopes that the time is not far distant, when the Society will be patronized by the whole episcopal bench. “ This” (says Mr. Vansittart,)“ would appear to me the most effectual remedy for any supposed danger from the dissenting influence in the Bible Society ?"-But is it not owing to the dissenting influence, that, when the Society distributes Bibles at home, those Bibles are not accompanied with Prayer Books? Are not Prayer Books omitted for this very reason, that it is a joint concern between Churchmen and Dissenters ? A religious Society, consisting of Churchmen, has nothing to prevent it from distributing both Bibles and Prayer Books. But as soon as the dissenting influence is mixed with the

« PreviousContinue »