Page images

highest merit which can be claimed for the Church. Now are these altogether the lineaments of pure Christianity ? Some things may be good; but what would one of the first converts, raised from the dead, say on beholding the whole ? « Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?”

To conclude: designing men, even in the present day, have dared to represent dissent from the Church as synonymous with disaffection to the State. It is a foul calumny. The sternest and sturdiest protest against the one, may coexist with the most enthusiastic devotion to the other. England was great and glorious while her religion was Popery. She then reared her head above the nations, outstripped them all in the career of improvement, and soared above them towards the heaven of liberty. The great charter of her freedom was then wrested from unwilling power: commerce and manufactures were raising her citizens, burgesses and merchants, to wealth and intelligence, and placing them side by side with her barons : while, from contending elements, arose the harmony of representative government. She was great while that change, called Reformation, was proceeding, or retarded, or subsiding into fixedness, through successive reigns. She then began to wave her flag of sovereignty over the sea; her laws were framed in wisdom; and her literature, splendid in genius, profound in learning, and mighty in originality, advanced with

giant step. She was great at that tremendous period when the crown was trampled in the dust, a regal head fell on the scaffold, and Cromwell sat on an ungarnished throne. Episcopacy was not her religion then. The Church of England fled to the wilderness : the mitre was crushed under sectarian feet, and the crosier snapped asunder by unconsecrated hands : yet then she was great ; not a nation but cringed for her friendship, and trembled at her frown. Was there persecution, oppression, or insult, on the Continent, -she lifted her voice of thunder, and Europe's hills were moved; her mountains quaked and trembled to their foundations. And while Episcopacy has been Church-of-Englandism, our country has been great and glorious still ; --yes, through vicissitude, great : in adversity and disappointment, in privation and suffering, in all changes and chances, in arms and arts, in literature and benevolence. The monuments of her majesty reflect the glittering of every star of heaven ; and not a wind can blow that has not wafted from her shores some freight of charity. And she would be great, were this assuming sect lost in oblivion, with all its robes, and forms, and wealth, and creeds : still to her would the nations look, as to an elder sister of the earth, pre-eminent in wisdom, grace, and majesty.

Yes; England, independently of adventitious circumstances, or predominant sects, must be

admired and loved by all who can rightly think and feel; nor would the hand that might not object to pull down the clustering ivy from the oak, whose strength it wasted, and impaired its beauty, touch profanely one leaf of the hallowed tree. O, my country! land of my birth, my love, and my pride; land of freedom and of glory; land of bards and heroes, of statesmen, philoso · phers, and patriots; land of Alfred and of Sydney, of Hampden and of Russell, of Newton, Locke, and Milton; may thy security, liberty, generosity, peace, and pre-eminence, be eternal. May thy children prize their birthright, and well guard and extend their privileges! From the annals of thy renown, the deeds of thy worthies, the precious volumes of thy sages, may they imbibe the love of freedom, of virtue, of their country! May the pure gospel be their portion! Through every future age, may they arise, as of yore, the pro-, tectors of the oppressed, the terror of tyrants, the guardians of the rights and peace of nations, the champions of civil and religious liberty; and may they be the possessors and diffusers of genuine Christianity to all countries, through all generations! Amen! in





John viii. 32 :

The Truth shall make you free.

As the corruptions of Christianity have passed in review before us, it cannot but have been noticed how closely they were connected with ecclesiastical usurpation. There is a natural alliance between error and slavery, truth and liberty. For a time they may be dissociated; but reason and scripture, history and observation, bear witness that they cannot permanently maintain a separate existence. Freedom of inquiry and profession is the atmosphere in which pure religion breathes, or the soil in which it grows; and which it must find, or make, or itself wither away. Hence the subjects of this Lecture are an appropriate transition from the mischiefs and miseries of the antichristian apostacy, to the gospel in its native simplicity, power, and blessedness.

The religious liberty of Christian Churchés is external and internal; that which they claim of the civil power, and that which they allow to their own members. The first consists in the absence of all interference by the magistrate; in being subject to neither penalties nor privations, on account of faith or worship : the latter, in the freedom of the individuals composing such churches, to form and avow their own opinions of what Christ taught, without being subject to censure, excommunication, or loss of any of the advantages of Christian society and fellowship. Both are of great importance. The latter, even by sincere and eloquent advocates of the former, has been too often misunderstood, overlooked, or violated. They are alike emanations from the same principle, the right of private judgment; a right which, as it ought not to be controlled by the civil magistrate, so neither should it be yielded by the Christian to the dictate of a priest, or council, or to the decision of the majority of a church : it is personal and inalienable. If the majority of this congregation were to say to any one of its members, “ Unless you believe such a doctrine, you shall not approach with us to the Lord's table, you shall not worship with us, we proclaim you to be no Christian,” they would be violaters of Christian liberty, and though not in the same degree, yet would be partakers of the spirit that dictated the damnatory clauses of the

« PreviousContinue »