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"The Particular Baptists are strict Calvinists. They believe that from all eternity God elected a certain number to everlasting life: and they maintain that the benefits of the death of Christ extend to the elect only for that if Christ had died for all mankind, with regard to the majority he would have died
"It is a remarkable fact, that the General Baptists, though not a numerous, have usually distinguished themselves as an inquisitive and an enlightened body of christians: and that some of the most learned and most liberal theologians of modern times, both at home and in foreign countries, have been members of this communion. Probably, as the principle of their dissent from their Calvinistic brethren was a desire to vindicate the divine character, which they considered as inculpated by the gloomy system of the reformer of Geneva, the same principle led them to examine other doctrines with greater freedom; and consequently to reject more of the popular errors which have prevailed in the world, and to embrace a purer and a more liberal system of faith.
"Another party has lately appeared in the christian world which has hitherto been embraced by comparatively a very small number, and is not likely ever to make many proselytes; because it contravenes the uniform practice of the christian church from the age of the apostles; I mean the party of those who deny the permanency of the institution of baptism, and who conceive of it as a rite which was limited to proselytes from another religion. The advocates of this doctrine, though few in number, have commonly been persons of considerable respectability, and some of them of great learning. Their error, for such I conceive it to be, arises from the unfounded assumption that christianity is of a nature too spiritual and refined to admit of positive institutions, and from neglecting to inquire into, or duly to appreciate, the historical evidence of what Christ and his apostles actually thought fit to practise and to enjoin.
"The last century was memorable for giving birth to two numerous sects, which from very small beginnings have advanced to great notoriety and importance. These are the two sects of METHODISTS, the Arminian and the Calvinistic.
The founders of these sects were contemporary students at the university of Oxford; who being themselves of a pious and enthusiastic disposition, prevailed upon some others of their fellow collegians to join with them in their religious exercises. When they quitted the university they travelled up and down the country, preaching sometimes in churches, sometimes in dissenting chapels, and sometimes in the streets and fields, with a view to convert and to reform the people. Soon after
these leaders of the sect had left the university, they differed upon the question of general and particular redemption, after which they separated; Mr. Whitfield becoming the founder of the Calvinistic, and Mr. Westley of the Arminian, Methodist.*
"The existence of these two theological parties, both numerous, and both active and zealous in making proselytes, has produced a considerable effect upon the manners of the country, and particularly in the lower classes of society. Many regard the Methodists of both descriptions as, generally speaking, immoral and dishonest, as wolves in sheeps' clothing, who have done and are doing much to corrupt and to deteriorate the morals of the inferior orders. And it cannot but happen in a sect so numerous that many will be hypocritical, and many immoral. And the more severe the profession, and the more zeal and bitterness there is in judgments passed upon others, the more en
* George Whitfield was a man of uncommon eloquence and fervour of spirit. He preached with great success both in England and America; and many congregations were formed under his inspection, and took their name from him. But he was a man of great simplicity of mind and artlessness of manners: he had no desire to set himself up as the head of a sect, and he framed no system of discipline to distinguish his followers from other denominations of christians. The consequence is that the Calvinistic Methodists are now very much confounded with the regular Independents. There are, however, some shades of difference. The Methodists do not adopt the rigorous discipline of the independent churches; and they are less attached to a learned ministry. On account of these differences they are called by some the fourth denomination of dissenters; and in London these have been computed to out number all the other denominations taken together.
"John Wesley was a man of a very strong and comprehensive mind, of very insinuating address, and a very mild and engaging speaker. His great ambition was to be the founder of a sect; and to this end he retained in his own hands during his life all the property which was collected from his followers for ecclesiastical purposes, and the whole discipline of the sect. He erected chapels, he educated and ordained ministers, he appointed them their respective stations, and removed them at pleasure; he divided the country into circuits, and his disciples into classes, appointing to each their proper officers, and superintending the whole himself. In this way the original Methodists (for that is the title which, though at first applied by way of reproach, they choose to retain,) formed a united and well-disciplined body under the direction of one head. After Mr. WesJey's death, the property and the ecclesiastical authority devolved by his will upon a large body of ministers nominated by him as trustees, with power to supply their own vacancies. This body takes the name of the Conference, and acting usually with the policy for which aristocracies are celebrated, the sect of Methodists under their direction remains embodied, annually increasing its numbers and extending its influence, till it has at length become a compact and numerous party, of no small political consideration and consequence. This fact was abundantly evident in the resistance made to Lord Sidmouth's bill, in which the Wesleyan Methodists took a leading part.
emies they will create to themselves; and the more will every miscarriage and every fault of the members, and especially the prominent members, of the Society, be watched, and blazoned, and exaggerated, and imputed to the whole body. But upon the whole, much as I differ from the Methodists of both parties in their speculative creed, I am decidedly of opinion that they have done unspeakable good among the lower orders of society; and have contributed beyond all calculation to reform and regenerate certain descriptions of men to whom no regular minister would have extended his notice. I particularly refer to the colliers, miners, and others, in various parts of England, who from a state of ignorance and barbarism little better than that of savages, are now become sober, honest, and industrious; and instead of being the pests and terror of the districts which they inhabit, are transformed into regular, peaceable, and useful members of society. This is a benefit of the noblest kind, the praise of which cannot without the greatest injustice be denied to the Methodists: and it is an honour which they have dearly purchased amidst innumerable hardships, injuries, and insults; and often even at the peril of their lives.
"The society commonly called QUAKERS, but who choose to distinguish themselves by the title of FRIENDS, with respect to numbers, is supposed to remain nearly stationary, the members not being much animated with a spirit of proselytism. It is to be lamented that this respectable Society has of late departed in any degree from their original liberality with regard to speculative opinions; and, with a violence bordering upon persecution, has disowned some persons of great worth and piety, for avowing opinions which a century ago would probably have passed unnoticed, if not even approved. But the merits of this distinguished and highly useful body of christians have far exceeded and amply atoned for their occasional failings. Excluded by their principle from fashionable luxuries and fashionable diversions, they have devoted much of their time and wealth and talents to the purposes of philanthropy. To their active and persevering efforts the country is in a considerable degree indebted for the abolition of the slave-trade; and to their strenuous exertion it has been principally owing, that the establishment of schools for the education of the poor was not suffered to sink in its infant state, under the vehement opposition which it encountered from very powerful adversaries. Of late this wise and benevolent Society have directed their attention towards alleviating the miseries and correcting the morals of those sinks and nurseries of every thing that is bad in the human character, the common prisons; and have undertaken the apparently hopeless task of reforming the lives of their wretched inhabitants: in
which difficult process, however, some enlightened and humane individuals have succeeded to a degree which has not only attracted the notice and the praise of royalty, but which deserves and must secure the approbation and applause of every friend to virtue, to humanity, and religion.
"In the course of the last fifty years, in direct opposition to the full tide of religious prejudice, and amidst the clamours of hosts of adversaries, the true Unitarian doctrine, under the protection of Divine Providence, has lifted up its head and made its way in a manner, and with a rapidity, which its most sanguine advocates would not have ventured to anticipate. Half a century ago it was scarcely known: or if upon any occasion mentioned, it created a universal thrill of horror. Here indeed a Newton or a Haynes, and there a Lardner, a Cardale, or a Fleming; a profound and inquiring philosopher on one side, or a learned, impartial, and judicious divine on the other,-might be seen, who to his intimate friends would venture to disclose the portentous and dangerous secret, that in his estimation pure Unitarianism was the doctrine of the gospel, and the genuine belief of the primitive church. But such disclosures were commonly received with surprise and coldness; and were secretly attributed to that pride of learning, that love of novelty, and that fondness for speculation, which so often mislead the judgment of the philosopher and the scholar, and which give him a distaste to the doctrines of the gospel, and reconcile his mind to the grossest perversion of the plain language of scripture. But, generally speaking, the truth was seldom divulged, and the light which had been kindled was concealed. Indeed, it was not very safe to make it known; and few had the hardihood to encounter the general hatred of mankind.
"The destined period at last arrived. A man was found who possessed the patience, the learning, and the impartiality which were requisite for the detection of error and the discovery of truth; the honesty and courage to avow it; the firmness and fortitude to sacrifice his worldly interests and his dazzling prospects at the shrine of conscience; and by a manly profession of his principles, and the public dedication of his labours to the promulgation of christian truth, to rouse the attention of mankind. This man was Theophilus Lindsey :--who, after he had honourably resigned all his preferments and prospects in the church, was directed by Providence to this great metropolis, where he unexpectedly found many friends, who revered his magnanimity, and embraced his principles; and who in a short time enabled him to build this chapel in which we are now assembled. By degrees the public attention was turned to the subject. First one, and then another discovered the light of
truth, and avowed their convictions. The number gradually increased. The alarm subsided. Societies, one after another, were instituted for the diffusion of religious knowledge. Congregations adopted Unitarian principles; and were superintended by learned, pious, and laborious ministers, who, discarding antiquated and obsolete formularies of faith, bestowed the most meritorious and indefatigable pains in instructing the rising generation in the purity of revealed truth.
"Thirty years ago, when I first had the happiness to discern its evidence, there were only two or three congregations in the kingdom, and here and there an individual besides, who acknowledged its truth. Whereas, there is now hardly a considerable town in England where there is not a flourishing society of Unitarian'christians, and hardly a village in which there is not some individual, who, being himself instructed in the truth, does not feel a generous desire to impart knowledge and happiness to his neighbours."
MEANS OF PROMOTING CHRISTIANITY.
WE live at a time, when the obligation of extending Christianity is more felt than in many past ages. There is much stir, motion, and zeal around us in this good cause. Even those, who seem not to be burdened by an excess of piety themselves, are in earnest to give it to others. The activity of multitudes is taking strongly this direction; and as men are naturally restless, and want room for action, and will do mischief rather than do nothing, a philanthropist will rejoice that this new channel is opened for carrying off the superabundant energies of multitudes, even if no other good should result from it.
We hope however much other good. We trust, that whilst many inferior motives and many fanatical impulses are giving birth and action to large bodies in christendom; whilst the love of sway in some, and the love of congregating in others, and the passion for doing something great and at a distance in all, are rearing mighty institutions among us; still many sincere christians are governed in these concerns by a supreme desire of spreading christianity. They have found the gospel an infinite good, and would communicate it to their fellow-beings. They have drunk from the fountain of life, and would send forth the stream to gladden every wilderness and solitary place, and to assuage the thirst of every anxious and afflicted mind. They turn with continual pleasure to the prophetic passages of scripture, and, interpreting them by their wishes, hope a speedy