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are at liberty to think and act as they please, only, as truth is so important, and they have built their edifices for its support and propagation, they secure, by a deed, its future maintenance, and therefore make the holding of it the condition and tenure of enjoying the property

Is this, then, consistent, either with the pretensions of Dissent, or the nature of Christianity ?

Dissent objects to all dependence of the Church on any thing whatever but argument and persuasion. It condemns the patronage of Parliaments--the attempts to support or preserve truth by law-and the conduct of that community which consents to be só circumstanced as not to be able to change its creed,' without appealing to the civil power, or giving up the advantages it possesses. All this it condemns, because the principle involved in it not only offends against truth, by placing its support on an arm of flesh, but is as likely to be applied to the cause of error; and if so, may perpetuate it, by enlisting prejudice and interest on its side, and by closing for ever, or for many generations, the eye, and the understanding, and the conscience of multitudes, to the light of evidence, the demonstrations of argument, and the voices' alike of apostles and their Lord. Do not, however, they who thus feel and speak, fall into something very similar to what they condemn, when, instead of confiding in reason and argument, they commit the keeping of the truth to law-to the civil courts—to parliamentary protection—to secular power? They not only, by this act, appear, at least, to put more faith in force than persuasion, in man than God, - but they gratuitously surrender into the hands of the state, their own liberty and that of their children. Established churches get something for the vassalage with which Dr. Wardlaw so unanswerably upbraids them; the property they hold, on the condition of ceasing to inquire and to learn, is given to them by those who impose the conditions ; but a voluntary society, after creating for itself its sacred edifice, voluntarily surrenders both its liberty and it, and says to the state, this I have built;-thus and thus at present I

believe ;-this belief I never ought to alter ;-the Bible, and the * Bible only, has been hitherto my religion ;—that it is to be no

more ;-I hereby declare that if I should profess to be taught by “the Bible to alter any thing I now acknowledge, that alteration will certainly be error: to secure, therefore, the truth, I give 'myself, my creed, and my property, to thee ; do thou see that I continue faithful—that I endanger not, nor depart from, the “unquestionable verities I now enumerate ; or, if I do, punish ‘me by ejecting me from my own building, and thus serve and save the truth by force.'

There is no exaggeration in this. When a creed is fixed, and attached to a certain building by a church, its operation is not only to hold other generations to it, in all coming time, but to hold to it those who impose it on themselves, so that (we speak it with deep reverence) if the Spirit of God were copiously to descend upon them, and lead them into truth, and show them some great error they had established, they would have to abandon their property, in order to obey the mind of the Spirit; or to sin against the Spirit, by concealing their convictions to retain the

property; or to violate the law by departing from the terms of their own deed-at once stultifying themselves and sanctioning posterity in farther departures.

Dissent always speaks of the Reformation as incomplete; regrets that the fathers of the English Church gave permanency and immutability to the imperfect, and still corrupted and disfigured form of truth, which was all they had attained to; and it laments that all argument must necessarily be lost upon a church, the ministers of which, whatever they may think, are committed and bound to what other ages have fixed and prescribed. But is not this the direct and necessary tendency of their own conduct? Suppose there was no established church at all, but that the whole land was completely filled with Independent and Baptist chapels; that all the people were divided between them, and that they were all in trust as such chapels now are; what would be the use, in such circumstances, of carrying on the Baptist controversy? The ministers might preach, and write books,--the people might hear and read; but if either party suffered themselves to be convinced, they must do it at their cost—the minister must leave the people—the people their place. Living beings can think and be affected,-evidence and truth may operate upon them, and alter their convictions; but bricks and mortar cannot be convinced,-a piece of parchment is deaf to argument, -it has made up its mind, -and resolutely adheres to its first thoughts; it has put a certain construction on the Scriptures; and hence, wbatever may be, in fact, the announcement of the Bible, and the Bible only,' and however they who are in the power of the parchment may profess to appeal to it, as long as they remain in the house regulated by the deed, and as long as the world itself, or the house, at least, stands, all others who ever possess it, must dip adults, or sprinkle sucklings, as the case may be! It makes no matter what turn the controversy is taking out of doors. Let it be supposed that some peculiar discoveries had been made, and that it was now obvious that one of the parties was triumphantly and demonstratively right, still it would be impossible for the other to admit, acquiesce in, and act upon this, unless it abandoned all its chapels, which would be a great sacrifice; or petitioned the legislature to give it leave to follow its convictions, and obey Christ,-- which would be a greater. Until the one or the other of these things was done, the parties in

6

grace, and

question could not ask, as if it were unanswerable, in the words of Dr. Halley, “Let any practice among us, however general, or however ancient, be proved unscriptural, and what should hinder any of our churches from immediately renouncing it?'

Still, it will be inquired, is nothing to be done to secure the trnth? Is a place to be built, and the people left to change their creed,' and alter their customs, and adopt, in fact, any thing they like? They may come to imbibe the worst errors ;they may turn, in a generation or two, hardened heretics ; or they may fall into the vagaries of modern fanaticism; or they may go back to Canturbury or Rome: are we not to take measures for preserving and perpetuating God's own truth, by forbidding the future perversion of our property to what we condemın?

Is this the way, it might be asked in reply, which the nature of Christianity-the genius and spirit of the gospel, prescribes for its preservation ? Is this the way in which Christ's promise is to take effect, that the gates of hell shall not prevail against • his church? Can Christ not take care of his own truth? Dare you not trust Him with it? Are his aids, and promises, to be withdrawn, after the present age? Is there to be no Spirit to guide your successors, that you must chalk out their way?-to enlighten and teach them, that you must put into their hands, ready made, the conclusions they must come to in all their inquiries ? 'You expect your prescriptions and enforcements of truth either to have some effect or none: if none, and the truth is maintained for its own sake, what is their use ? if some, and for their sake, therefore, the truth is maintained, what is the value of such maintenance ?—the worth of a profession resting on the dictates of a trust-deed? Still it will be thought, that it is not right, or not safe, to leave a people at liberty to adopt error. But why? Are they to adopt it merely because they may? If they have not liberty to adopt error, can it be said that they have liberty to adopt truth ? He who is free to do right, must be free to do wrong. Can God be glorified, the gospel obeyed, Christ honored, with an attempt on the part of one age, to induce the next, to maintain the truth on other grounds distinct from its own evidence and worth? But the property, it will be said, may come to be lost to the truth entirely. Well; and what then? You have to do, not with consequences, but with duty. The question is, does God require at your hands the preservation of his truth by the means you propose ? Is it consistent with faith in Him; with the spirituality of the gospel,--its reasonable service,-its appeal to the understanding of individual man ;—the constitution, duties, and, in the language of Dr. Wardlaw, the 6 undoubted prerogative of a church,'-is it consistent with these things, and such as these, for you to seek to serve the cause of religion by calling to your aid, through a legal instrument, the only to hold other generations to it, in all coming time, but to hold to it those who impose it on themselves, so that (we speak it with deep reverence) if the Spirit of God were copiously to descend upon them, and lead them into truth, and show them some great error they had established, they would have to abandon their property, in order to obey the mind of the Spirit; or to sin against the Spirit, by concealing their convictions to retain the property; or to violate the law by departing from the terms of their own deed-at once stultifying themselves and sanctioning posterity in farther departures.

Dissent always speaks of the Reformation as incomplete ; regrets that the fathers of the English Church gave permanency and immutability to the imperfect, and still corrupted and disfigured form of truth, which was all they had attained to; and it laments that all argument must necessarily be lost upon a church, the ministers of which, whatever they may think, are committed and bound to what other ages have fixed and prescribed. But is not this the direct and necessary tendency of their own conduct ? Suppose there was no established church at all, but that the whole land was completely filled with Independent and Baptist chapels; that all the people were divided between them, and that they were all in trust as such chapels now are; what would be the use, in such circumstances, of carrying on the Baptist controversy? The ministers might preach, and write books,--the people might hear and read; but if either party suffered themselves to be convinced, they must do it at their cost—the minister must leave the people—the people their place. Living beings can think and be affected,-evidence and truth may operate upon them, and alter their convictions; but bricks and mortar cannot be convinced,-a piece of parchment is deaf to argument, -it has made up its mind, -and resolutely adheres to its first thoughts; it has put a certain construction on the Scriptures; and hence, whatever may be, in fact, the announcement of the Bible, and the Bible only,' and however they who are in the power of the parchment may profess to appeal to it, as long as they remain in the house regulated by the deed, and as long as the world itself, or the house, at least, stands, all others who ever possess it, must dip adults, or sprinkle sucklings, as the case may be! It makes no matter what turn the controversy is taking out of doors. Let it be supposed that some peculiar discoveries had been made, and that it was now obvious that one of the parties was triumphantly and demonstratively right, still it would be impossible for the other to admit, acquiesce in, and act upon this, unless it abandoned all its chapels, which would be a great sacrifice; or petitioned the legislature to give it leave to follow its convictions, and obey Christ,—which would be a greater. Until the one or the other of these things was done, the parties in question could not ask, as if it were unanswerable, in the words of Dr. Halley, “Let any practice among us, however general, or however ancient, be proved unscriptural, and what should hinder any of our churches from immediately renouncing it?'

Still, it will be inquired, is nothing to be done to secure the truth? Is a place to be built, and the people left to change their creed,' and alter their customs, and adopt, in fact, any thing they like? They may come to imbibe the worst errors ;they may turn, in a generation or two, hardened heretics; or they may fall into the vagaries of modern fanaticism; or they may go back to Canturbury or Rome: are we not to take measures for preserving and perpetuating God's own truth, by forbidding the future perversion of our property to what we condemn?

Is this the way, it might be asked in reply, which the nature of Christianity-the genius and spirit of the gospel, prescribes for its preservation? Is this the way in which Christ's promise is to take effect, that the gates of hell shall not prevail against his church?' Can Christ not take care of his own truth? Dare you not trust Him with it? Are his aids, and grace, and promises, to be withdrawn, after the present age? Is there to be no Spirit to guide your successors, that you must chalk out their way?-to enlighten and teach them, that you must put into their hands, ready made, the conclusions they must come to in all their inquiries ? 'You expect your prescriptions and enforcements of truth either to have some effect or none: if none, and the truth is maintained for its own sake, what is their use? if some, and for their sake, therefore, the truth is maintained, what is the value of such maintenance ?—the worth of a profession resting on the dictates of a trust-deed? Still it will be thought, that it is not right, or not safe, to leave a people at liberty to adopt error. But why? Are they to adopt it merely because they may? If they have not liberty to adopt error, can it be said that they have liberty to adopt truth ? He who is free to do right, must be free to do wrong. Can God be glorified, the gospel obeyed, Christ honored, with an attempt on the part of one age, to induce the next, to maintain the truth on other grounds distinct from its own evidence and worth? But the property, it will be said, may come to be lost to the truth entirely. Well; and what then? You have to do, not with consequences, but with duty. The question is, does God require at your hands the preservation of his truth by the means you propose ? Is it consistent with faith in Him; with the spirituality of the gospel, --its reasonable service,--its appeal to the understanding of individual man ;—the constitution, duties, and, in the language of Dr. Wardlaw, the ‘undoubted prerogative of a church,'-is it consistent with these things, and such as these, for you to seek to serve the cause of religion by calling to your aid, through a legal instrument, the

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