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you possess the genuine spirit of Christ, will you disapprove of the error, in whomsoever it is found, of placing rites and forms among the essentials of religion.
Allow me to say, my respected friends. that this is the Presbyterianism which I would earnestly recommend to you.
Not that inordinate attachment to a naine and a form which is the offspring of narrow views, sectarian feelings, and blind prejudice; but that candid, sober preference, which places ecclesiastical order where it ought to be placed, as a secondary matter ;-and which recognizes the fact, that men may entertain different views on this subject, and yet be equally pious believers, and, of course, equally safe in their hopes of heaven. This, I have reason to believe, is the prevailing sentiment, both among ministers and people, of the body to which we are so happy as to belong. May it ever be one of our laudable distinctions ! Let nothing tempt you to depart from this sentiment. Never permit even the sectarian violence of other denominations to drive you into an imitation of their unhallowed spirit. Let them denounce your ministry, and sneer at your ordinances and your hopes. Be it your resolution to return good for evil; and to love and honour them as brethren in Christ, as far as they appear to bear his image, although they may reject and vilify you. Remember that their acknowledging you, or refusing to do it, is nothing, if Christ acknowledge you. When the Judaizing teachers, in the days of Paul, urged an adherence to the ceremonial observances of the old economy, as necessary to salvation ; the apostle, who had been better taught, instead of manifesting any anxiety for the safety of himself, and his fellow disciples, who rejected the Jewish doctrine and who were thus denounced, seemed chiefly concerned for the welfare of those who were carried away by this delusion, and to guard others against its influence. In like manner, so far from being doubtful whether you may be saved out of the Episcopal church, my deep conviction is, that the danger is all the other way ;
that there is REAL DANGER—not in being found in an Episcopal church, as such ; for there I have no doubt there may be as ardent piety, and as precious, well founded hopes as in the Presbyterian any other : but REAL DANGER in being found in an ecclesiastical inclosure in which the high .church doctrine, with all its usual spirit and accompanying errors, form the prevalent system. But even toward the advocates of these, guard against a spirit of acrimony or retaliation. Compassionate their error. Pray without ceasing for their illumination. And endeavour to win them by the patient exercise of a kind, respectful, and fraternal spirit. However the manifestation of such a spirit may be received by them, it will promote your own comfort and benefit, both with God and man. No good effort was ever lost; no holy temper was ever exercised in vain.
Let none say, that the design of these remarks is to cast odium on a large, and, certainly, very respectable denomination of Christians. I again declare, that nothing is further from my design. Against Episcopalians, as a body, I have not the smallest disposition to say a word. With respect to them, as well as various other denominations around me, whom I can respect and love while I differ from them: I would say—may God bless and prosper them in all their honest endeavours to bring men to the saving knowledge, love, and obedience of the truth! But episcopacy, as a form of ecclesiastical government, and the decided preference and use of it, as marking a sect of Christians, may be distinguished, and must be distinguished from the doctrine and spirit of high-church men. They WERE distinguished by Cranmer, Grindal, Abbot, Hall, and Usher, in former days of the church of England ; and by Tillotson, Wake, Secker, Newton, Scott, and others, in later times. All these were Episcopalians, and most of them eminent prelates; none of them, however, were high-churchmen, but renounced and abhorred their doctrine, and the claim resulting from it, as much as we do. And one of the most
learned of them all, Archbishop Wake, expressly stigmatizes the advocates of this doctrine as “ madmen.” With such Episcopalians, every contemporary Presbyterian lived in peace; and with such men, we may and do live in peace now. There are points of difference between us; but nothing to interfere with Christian love and good neighbourhood. But the doctrine which is sometimes found among Episcopalians; which attained very little currency or popularity in the church of England, until the time of Archbishop Laud, of inglorious memory; which, from that time to this, we have reason to be thankful, has been the doctrine of only a minority of the Protestant Episcopal Church ; and which it is really an imposition on public credulity to identify with that church, as a Christian denomination ;-this doctrine, which but faintly disguises its Popish character, is odious, and ought to be so considered ; and I do not deny that it is iny intention to hold it up to public odium whenever I have occasion to speak of it. It is a system of belief; and of action, which not only declares war against all other denominations; but its very element is war, and so far as the views and wishes of those who wage it go, nothing less than a war of extermination. Is it inconsistent with either Christian candour or charity to represent such a system as worthy of being held up to public odium?
It militates nothing against this representation to allege, that the men who advocate this exclusive system are honest in their convictions, and benevolent in their intentions. This is not denied or doubted. But so, unquestionably, is the serious Romanist, when he proclaims eternal perdition as inevitable to all who are not in communion with the bishop of Rome; and denounces the same penalty against all who reject the penances and absolutions dispensed by his “ priesthood.” But neither the sincerity of his belief in what he tells us, nor the kindness of his intentions in warning us of a danger which he unfeignedly considers as
real, can alter the odious character of the dogmas which he urges; or diminish the obligation resting upon every one who loves the happiness or the liberty of his country, to set himself against them with fixed and firm opposition.
With the intentions of high-churchmen we have noth: ing to do ; but the spirit and tendency of their claims we are bound, as members of the Church of Christ, to understand, and to place in a proper light before ourselves and others. Fidelity to our Master in heaven demands this of us. The best interests of our children, who may be misled by their plausible confidence, demand it of us. The duty which we owe to our truly primitive and apostolic Church requires it at our hands. Nay, we are called to this duty by the obligations which, as patriots, we owe to the rights and privileges of our beloved country. Never was there a country or an age, in which the claim in question was less in accordance, than that in which our lot is cast. The happy civil constitutions under which we live, regarding with equal eye all denominations, call upon our several Churches, in the most emphatic language, to live in peace with one another. The great movements in the religious world which mark the beginning of the nineteenth century, proclaim as loudly and solemnly as the events of any period ever did, that all the real friends of Christ ought to be united against the common enemy, and in support of their common Christianity. Is this a country, and is this a day in which the very thought can be admitted, that professing Christians should spend their time in “ doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof come envy, railings, evil surmisings, and corrupt disputings?” Is this a time for “ Judah to vex Ephraim, and Ephraim to vex Judah," when there is so much common ground on which both may peacefully stand; and when the importunate cries of a dying and supplicating world—cries which ought to move the hearts and summon the energies of all Christians, to the great work of sending the bread
and the water of life to famishing millions ? Whatever others may do, my Christian friends, be it far from you to indulge a spirit unworthy of the name you bear. Be it your constant care to “study the things which make for peace, and the things wherewith one may edify another.” And then, whatever may become of this controversy, as a matter of logical discussion, you will be certain of the best of all victories,-a victory over unhallowed tempers and practices; a victory over strife and division; and over every thing that interferes with the union and edification of the body of Christ.
I am, my Christian Brethren,
Princeton, Sept. 16th, 1830.