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the arid desert or the pestilential vapour are produced by its unmitigated rays. Ours is still a religion of peace, though wars and contention, distress and misery, have arisen from the unsubdued passions of its professors. These are not to be attributed to religion itself, but to that depraved nature, which it has not been able entirely to reclaim. Disunion and schism are carnal sins, and carnal men will continue to encourage and commit them. The peaceable Christian however, while he learns to know such characters and shun them, will submit with patience to the evils which their unruly passions may occasion; looking forward in hope to that predicted time, when such troubles shall cease to agitate the Church of Christ; when the Spirit shall obtain its due influence over the flesh, and h❝ the work of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness "quietness and assurance for ever."
h Isaiah xxxii. 17.
MATT. Xviii. 7.
It must needs be that offences come, but woe unto that man by whom the offence cometh.
THAT the divisions of Christians are a scandal to our holy religion, and have ever tended to contract the sphere of its saving influence, is a position which few, even among the separatists themselves, have been prepared to controvert: perhaps indeed it may be asserted, that the mischievous consequences of these divisions have never been more truly a depicted, or lamented with a greater appearance of real feeling, than by those divines, who prepared the way for the separation from our own Church.
But while all moderate and reflecting
a See Note CVII. Appendix.
persons of every persuasion have agreed in deploring the breaches of Christian unity; those who have been charged with producing them have endeavoured to repel the accusation by arguments, which, if valid, would attach the guilt of disunion upon the Church herself, by proving that a longer continuance in her communion was incompatible with the preservation of a good conscience towards God. They have readily allowed, that schism is a grievous sin, and that fearful punishments are reserved for those to whom its guilt attaches but they have steadily maintained, that theirs is the suffering, and not the criminal party; and that the woe denounced against such offences must be the portion of those, who would have imposed a yoke upon the neck of their brethren, which they were not able to bear. This ground of defence, which in fact involves the whole question at issue between the Church of England and her dissenting brethren, it will be the object of the present discourse to investigate and if it can be shewn, that this Church has given no rea
sonable cause of offence to those, who have withdrawn from her communion; and that she has left no means untried, by which, consistently with her duty as an appointed guardian of the truth, she could hope to bring back her erring children to a sense of their obligations; it may be concluded, that she is innocent of that great offence, which has thus been laid to her charge.
I. It may be readily granted, that all b separation from a particular church does not, in every case, necessarily involve the sin of schism; and that, where the separatist can prove, by the clear and undoubted testimony of holy Scripture, that unlawful terms of communion were exacted from him, his conduct is not only justifiable, but such as it was his indispensable duty to adopt.
But at the same time it may be assumed, that no trivial cause, no inherited prejudices, no hastily formed opinions, should influence any man to take such a step; for
b See Note CVIII. Appendix. • See Note CIX. Appendix.