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1. To this assembly, collected from numerous congregations of Protestant Dissenters, I cannot but think it right and seasonable to remark, that the fundamental PRINCIPLES of our DISSENT from the Church of England are the very same as those of our PROTEST against the Church of Rome. Those principles are,—the sole supremacy and legislative authority of Christ over the faith and the consciences of men ;-the unrestricted use of the Bible, and its sufficiency as the rule of religious belief and obedience ;and the unlawfulness and impiety of human dictation in matters purely belonging to religion.
These are the principles on which Mr. Chillingworth, and all the best defenders of the Reformation, have, with greater or less explicitness, rested their arguments : and the sober and consistent application of these principles appears, to our most serious judgment, to require a conscientious separation from the religious establishment of our country. To the civil government of our country we pay the cheerful obedience, not of mere duty but of choice and affection, in all civil matters; but " to GOD we must render
the things that are God's.” We pay respect and honour to the pious and upright members of the Church of England; and are their ready coadjutors, so far as we are able, in the numerous works of patriotic and christian philanthropy. But it is even a part of the respect and honour
due to them, to tell our brethren why we are constrained to differ from them. We rejoice that their church is purified from the grosser errors of the Romish community: but we lament that she still retains an unscriptural conformity in many points of doctrine, constitution, and worship. We especially lament that her constitution involves a denial, virtually at least, * of
By the claim of "authority in matters of faith ; by putting its own laws and constitutions on a par, and in many cases a superiority, of obligation with the laws of Christ revealed in his word; by styling and owning the civil Sovereign for its Head; and by employing secular power and penalties for the maintenance of its clajais. Still closer conformity, or rather identity, with the vital doctrines of the Church of Rome, appears in the high-flying notions propagated by a certain party in the Church of England. A sort of manifesto of those notions may be seen in an anonymous pamphlet just published ; 66 The Claims of the Established Church, considered as an “ Apostolical Institution, and especially as an Authorized
Interpreter of Scripture; Rivingtons, 1815.” Passing by the false allegations, and the illogical, and evasive reasonings of the writer; passing by, also, his attempt to bolster up the often exploded plea of uninterrupted successiou, which, upon his own principles, could be derived by the Church of England only from that community which she herself contrasts with the true church of God, as “ not only a harlot --but also a foul, “filthy, old, withered harlot,--the foulest and filthiest that
ever was seen;"--and declares that, as it is presently, and “ hath been for the space of 900 years and odd, it is so far a wide from the nature of the true church, that NOTHING CAN “ BE MORE" (Homil. folio, Lond. 1726, pp. 153, 279.) passing by all this, I would merely point out this writer's unequi
the three GREAT principles of Protestantism; and that she is so tied and bound with the iron fetters of a merciless uniformity, imposed by the most profligate prince of the arbitrary house of Stuart,—50 tied and bound with those heavy chains, that Improvement and Melioration are doleful and forbidden sounds to her! We cannot, moreover, be insensible to the strong fact, that the Church of England rejects communion with every Protestant Church upon earth, but owns and exercises it with the Church of Rome. Does she not, by this her own act and deed, incontestably stamp and proclaim herself, the daughter of the spiritual Babylon ?*_Our being
vocal approval of persecution ; (p. 100.)—his using exactly the common popish arguments of the alleged difficulty of scripture and its liableness to misconstruction, in order to inculcate our implicit subjection to the church as a living interpreter ; (pp, 57—60.) - his plainly intimating that our faith cannot be sound, nor our worship acceptable, unless founded upon this interpreting authority of the church; (p. 61.)--and, to crown all, his expressly concluding that, if a man," by thus confiding " in the church, should in some respects be led into error,-he “ would be free from responsibility for that error!!!” (p. 127.)
* " The greatest part of the tenets, and most of the ceremo“ nies, of both churches, are so nearly allied, as to be consid“ ered, by other Protestant sects, as sisters of the same
family; and ought, therefore, to be in constant harmony 6 with each other. Though we have not the same number of “sacraments, yet, except one, we observe the forms of all the “ others; and, although auricular confession is not enjoined, it
Dissenters, then, is nothing but the result of our consistency as Protestants.
2. Finally, I would inculcate it as the duty of all persons, so far as they have opportunity, to expose and refute these most lamentable and pernicious perversions of the christian religion.
To this duty we are bound by every consideration of fidelity to God, gratitude for our own deliverance, and compassion for our blinded and enslaved fellow-christians, The means of attempting this most desirable object are, not the copying of their excluding spirit and persecuting practices ;—but the shewing of justice to their doctrines and kindness to their persons; the abolition of unjust and irritating disqualifications; the promoting among them of education,
bi is strongly recommended. And even in our service of the 66 Visitation of the Sick, the complete absolution of the ca“tholic priests, copied word for word from their ritual, is to “ be found. This same remark holds equally good, with the
greatest part of our Liturgy. Their Canon Law is still, in a great measure, the rule of our judications. We have our
spiritual consistorial courts, decrees, and ceremonies, from o them. We have our subordinate church-governments, our “ primates, prelates, archbishops and bishops, deans, preben“daries, canons, and other dignities; provinces, dioceses, “ parishes; cathedrals and common churches; benefices, “ tythes, perquisites, Easter-dues, and free-will-offerings." Speech of His Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex, in the House of Peers, April 21, 1812: published by Asperne, p. 21.
liberal knowledge, and inquiry; the exhibition to their view of holy, useful, and beneficent lives; and constant prayer that the Father of mercies may open their eyes, and dispose their hearts to acknowledge the TRUTH. Then may we hope to abate their prejudices, and arouse their attention. Then will they be likely to unfetter the imprisoned truth which they in profession still hold, * and to experience its sacred energies in bursting through the corruptions which have so long oppressed and buried it. Then the door will be opened, wide and effectual, for the circulation of the genuine WORD of heaven, and the faithful preaching of the pure and scriptural doctrine of salvation by the free grace of Gov, through the ONE and ONLY sacrifice, righteousness, and intercession of the True MEDIATOR. This was the capital theme on which the illustrious Reformers delighted to dwell. This was the chief instrument by which the Holy Spirit, through their preach
* Of this fact we should never lose sight in our controversy with Catholics. In the Collects, Prayers and Hymns of their service books, (though in a language unknown to the bulk of their people, and unhappily mixed with frequent portions of a very different description) the essential doctrines of the gospel are expressed clearly and in a most tender and impressive strain of devotion. Many of these striking passages have been transferred into the Liturgy of the Church of England.