Page images

dicted that the time would come, when none should be allowed to buy or sell, who had not the mark of the beast in their right hand or on their forehead. He was probably also as little aware, that, if all those whom he would treat as outlaws, and banish from the market, were to form a commercial community, they would have a very brisk trade among themselves, and that, if they were exempted from supporting the clergy and the poor of the established church, many of her zealous sons would be glad to join with them, for the sake of sharing the profits of their gainful exclusion. It is, however, painful to hear these Welch methodists complain that they were punished for the pertinacity with which they clung to the establishment, and refused to put themselves under the protection of the toleration act, by the loss of one hundred pounds in one year.

The controversial pamphlets last noticed were produced by the zeal of modern times; but an octavo volume of nearly five hundred pages must now be announced, which seems to throw us back to the age of Dodwell and the nonjurors, if not to that of king John, when priests sealed up the gates of heaven against whole nations. " A Guide to the Church," by Rev. Charles Daubeny, placed all the dissenters under the ban of the Redeemer's empire. This brutum fulmen was brought upon the dissenters by no fault of theirs, and indeed is to be traced to a cause which no one would have expected to produce such an effect. Mr. Wilberforce’s “ practical View of Christianity” alarmed Mr. Daubeny, who saw, or thought he saw, in it principles dangerous to the church and to the souls of men. “ The Guide to

+ Rev. xiii. 16, 17.

the Church," therefore, repeated the old alarm of schism, and informed the world that communion with the church of England was worth as much as their hopes of heaven. “ From the general tenour of Scripture,” says Mr. Daubeny,“ it is to be concluded that none but those who are members of the church, can be partakers of the spirit by which it is accompanied. Without, therefore, presuming to determine upon the condition of those who are out of the church, we are at least justified in saying that their hope of salvation must be built upon some general idea of the divine mercy, to which the member of the church has a covenanted claim." This ridiculous attempt, to throw the dissenters upon the uncovenanted mercy of God, with a few little tracts in the same strain, seemed designed to prove that if stout protestants think popery is always the same, the semi-popery of high churchmen is always the same. As the dissenters were not weak enough to be alarmed at this papistical thunder, nor wicked enough to have elicited these unhallowed flashes; though not necessary, it was but equitable that they should be defended from another quarter. A member of the more sane part of the church of England, sir Richard Hill, pleaded their cause in his “ Apology for brotherly Love, and for the Doctrine of the Church of England.” To Mr. Daubeny's definition of a church, which was, that it is a society under governors appointed by Christ, the baronet opposed that of the articles, that" it is a society of faithful men where the word of God is preached;" which gives him an opportunity of retorting the charge of schism upon Mr. Daubeny him. self, whose heretical words are quoted, to prove that he turns his own parochial temple into a conventicle, and his pulpit into the tub of a schismatic. Mr. Daubeny denies the validity of any sacrament not administered through episcopal ordination. Yet two metropolitans Tillotson and Secker, four heads of the church, James first, William the third, and the two first Georges, were not episcopally baptised. We have bishops appointed by unbaptised heads of the church, and consecrated by prelates excommunicated at Rome, the mother from whom the church of England inherits all her powers.

Against the repeated accusations of schism, the dissenters re-published two tracts, one by Matthew Henry on schism, and the other by Dr. Gill on the true grounds of dissent. A few charges attracted notice, though the episcopal preachers can scarcely be said to have directly attacked the dissenters. Dr. Porteus, bishop of London, ascribed their increase to the indolence and neglects of his own clergy ; Dr. Prettyman, bishop of Lincoln, was chiefly intent upon combating calvinism, whether in or out of the establishment, and the bishop of Norwich condemns only the methodistical separatists, while he says of the regular dissenters: “as they have laid aside their passionate invective, it is incumbent on us to feel for them, however differing in the form of religious worship, all that good will which they seem disposed to shew to us.” But Dr. Barrington, bishop of Durham, descended from dissenters, published a charge to the clergy in 1807, entitled, “ the Grounds on which the Church of England separated from the Church of Rome,” on which he exhorts his clergy to watch against papists and dissenters, saying to them, “ the errors of the calvinist and the anabaptist demand your vigilance, as far as they are repugnant to Christian

verity, and to our civil establishment.” “ The Causes of the increase of Methodism and Dissention, and of the Popularity of what is called evangelical Preaching,” was the title of a visitation sermon by Aclom Ingram, B. D. · Though it recommends the refusal of licences to dissenters, it rather opposes evangelical doctrines, than dissenting principles. While their work prospered in their hands, the dissenters wisely refused to turn aside from it to dispute with their numerous accusers.



[ocr errors]

The question in dispute between calvinists and arminians, which forms the gordian knot in theology, occupied the talents of dissenters during this period. The eagerness, which some have shown to condemn the gospel, on account of the controversies which alienate men from each other, has only betrayed their own ignorance or prejudice ; for, if the dispute which we have now to record, has formed Christians into hostile sects, did it not also divide heathens into different schools of philosophy ? and if the controversy has been more eagerly agitated in modern than in ancient times, it only indicates that Christianity has rendered the heart of man more sensible to the importance of his relation to a moral governor, and invigorated his intellect to perceive all the difficulties which attend the investigation of the subject.

To borrow an apostolic simile, the first Christians, “ like new-born babes," had few differences; for a grateful sense of recent deliverance from ruin attached them to their great deliverer, and to all who were fellow heirs of the same grace; so that “ the multitudes of them that believed were of one heart and one soul.” But when arianism had kindled the fire of controversy, pelagianism soon followed to feed the flames. Those who now adopt a modification of this latter system, suppose it to be that of the Scriptures, and, of course, of the first Christians; but it is undeniable,


« PreviousContinue »