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other Christian society; yet, considering you as a body, or (according to the modern phrase) an Interest, there is a kind of uniou and association among your ministers, which has a greater effect than some people are aware of, and which, I apprebend, may in some instances be rather unfriendly to the liberty you so highly prize. Some of your ministers, from their situation or connexion,

, have more influence than others. They have opportunities of assisting poorer ministers; and are, J suppose, in many cases, the judges whether they shall be assisted or not, and how far. They who best know human nature, are best qualified to judge how far the professed independence of your churches may be abated by this influence of connexion; and whether the weight of a board of ministers may not be occasionally felt by those who pity us for beings subordinate to a bench of bishops. I own I have upon some occasions, been led to compare your ministers to a company of soldiers in their exercise ; where every one must move in a prescribed line, keep the same pace, and make the like motions with the rest, on pain of being treated as refractory. Ministers in the establishment know nothing of these restraints. We are connected in love, but not upon system. We profess the same leading principles and aims, but each one acts singly and individually for himself.

I think we are likewise more independent of our people. The constitution of your churches, which you suppose the only one agreeable to the Scripture, appears to me faulty, in giving a greater power to the people than the Scripture authorizes. There is doubtless, a sense in which ministers are not only the servants of the Lord, but for his sake the servants of the churches ; but it is a service which implies rule, and is entitled to respect. Thus

the apostle says, “ Obey them that have the rule over you.” Their office is that of a steward, who is neither to lord it over the household, nor to be entirely under subjection to it, but to superintend and provide for the family. Scriptural regulations are wisely and graciously adapted to our state of infirmity ; but I think the power which the people with you claim, and attempt to exercise, is not so. Many of them, though truly gracious persons, may, notwithstanding, froin their situation in life, their want of education, and the narrowness of their views, be very incapable of government; yet, when a number of such are associated according to your plan, under the honourable title of a church of Christ, they acquire a great importance. Almost every individual conceives himself qualified to judge and to guide the minister ; to sift and scrutinize bis expressions, and to tell him how and what he ought to preach. But the poorer part of your flocks are not always the inost troublesome. The rich can contribute most to the minister's support, who is often entirely dependant upon his people for a maintenance; their riches likewise give them some additional weight and influence in the church; and the officers whom you call deacons are usaally chosen from among the more wealthy. But it is not always found that the most wealthy church-members are the most eminent either for grace or wisdom. We may be rather sure, that riches, if the possessors are not proportionably humble and spiritval, have a direct tendency to nourish the worms of self-conceit, and self-will. Such persons expect to be consulted, and that their judgment shall be followed. The preaching must be suited to their taste and sentiment : and if any thing is either enforced or censured which bears hard upon their conduct, they think themselves ill-treated. Although a faithful minister, in his better hours, disdains the thought of complying with the caprice of his hearers, or conniving at their faults; yet buman nature is weak, and it must be allowed, that in such circumstances he stands in a state of temptation. And if he has grace to maintain his integrity; yet it is painful and difficult to be obliged frequently to displease those on whom we depend, and who, in some other respects, may be our best friends and benefactors. I can truly say, that my heart has been grieved for the opposition, neglect, and unkindness, which some valuable men among you have, to my knowledge, met with, from those who ought to have esteemed them. very highly for their work's sake. The effects of this supreme power lodged in the people, and of the unsanctified spirit in which it has been exercised, have been often visible in the divisions, and subdivisions which have crumbled large societies into separate handfuls, if I may so speak. And to this, I am afraid, rather than to the spread of a work of grace, may be ascribed, in many instances, the great increase of the number of your churches of late years. Now, in the establishment we know but little of these difficulties; we are not so much at the mercy of our hearers for our subsistence; and though we probably preach to some who are wiser and better, as well as richer than ourselves, we have no hearers: who assume a right to direct us, or whom we should stand in fear of if they did. For my own part, I wish to have a spirit willing to profit by a hint even from a child, and to pay attention to the advice of any person who speaks to me in love, and in a right temper. But humble, loving Christians are more disposed to find fault with themselves, than with their minister, and to receive instruction than to offer it. But should a conformist to the world, or a zealot for a party, expect me to accommodate my preaching to his practice, or to his Shibboleth, I could give him an answer without being afraid of consequences.


I may add, that I apprehend we have more liberty with respect to our pulpits. At least I remember to have heard sermons from some of your pulpits, the strain of which has been so very different from the professed sentiments of the proper pastor of the church, that I have thought to myself, How came this minister to preach in this place ? Upon inquiry I found at one time, that the gentlemen belonged to the connexion ; at another, that he was asked to preach at the desire of a principal person in the church or congregation, who, it seems, approved him, though, I was persuaded, the pastor did not.

I esteem it likewise a branch of my Christian liberty, that I can hear whom I please and form what acquaintance I please, among the various denominations of Christians, without being called to an account for it. I hope the Dissenters are likewise growing more into this liberty. However, as I know some among your people who would willingly hear us occasionally, were they not afraid of their ministers, so I know some of your ministers who would be willing to hear us, but do not because they are afraid of their people.

Thus much (though more might be said) by way of comparing our advantages in point of liberty. I am well pleased with my lot ; if you are equally pleased with yours, I am glad of it. I write only on the defensive ; I neither expect nor wish to alter your views. Enjoy your liberty; only allow me to enjoy, and be thankful for mine.

I have now acquainted you with my two principal reasons for not being a Dissenter. The first cocnerned my conscience. For, though my regard to the authority of the great Lord and Lawgiver of the churcb, did not directly oblige me to unite with the establishment, it discouraged me from uniting with any of the parties who pretended an exclusive right from Him to enforce their own particular church forms. When conscience did not interfere, my second reason, though rather of a prudential kind, was of considerable weight with me. I loved liberty, and therefore gave a preference to the church of England, believing I might, in that situation, exercise my ministry with the most freedon. I have made the experiment, and have no reason to repeat of it. These points being cleared, my way was open to attend to another consideration, which had a further influence in determining my mind. This I am about to offer to you as a third reason for my being where I am— The PROBABILITY OF GREATER CSEFULNESS. This probability, as to myself and to others who can conform with a good conscience, seemed to lie on the side of the establishment, upon several accounts.


1. Great multitudes in this Christian nation (so called) are grossly ignorant of the first principles of religion, inattentive to the worth and welfare of their souls, and lamentably destitute of the proper means of instruction. I hoped for opportunities in the establishment of preaching to many who could not bear the Dissenters. The children of God, known to bimself

, are scattered abroad far and wide ; and as faith more usually comes by hearing, I admire His condescension and goodness in permitting his ministers to think differently on some external points, that they may, with an upright heart, serve him in the different departments of his vineyard. They who are Dissenters upon principle, would act against their judgments and consciences, were they to conform for the sake of usefulness. I am well content that they should remain as they are ; but it has been proved a mercy to thousands, that all who are called and qualified to preach the Gospel, are not like-minded in this respect.

2. The spirit of bigotry and prejudice is too prevalent on all sides. As there are Dissenters who would think it sinful to be seen within the walls of a church; so there are other persons who place a principal part of their religion in an ignorant attachment to our forms, and could not easily be prevailed upon to enter within the doors of a meeting-house. But their prepossession in favour of our churches, gives the ministers who can conscientiously ineet them there a great advantage ad hominem, by confirming the truths of the Gospel (which, when first declared, are generally disliked and opposed) from the tenour of our Liturgy and Articles, to which they profess some regard. A large part of our auditories, especially in places where the Gospel is considered as a novelty, consists of persons of this description. But the Lord has been pleased, in very many instances, to honour service amongst them with his blessing. By the power of his Spirit, the truth is made manifest to their hearts; they are turned from darkness to light, and from the bondage of sin to serve the living God. Then their former prejudices subside ; insomuch that many, who once despised" and hated the Dissenters, have been afterwards persuaded to join with them. The Dissenting Interest would probably have been much weaker than it is at present, if it had not been strengthened by the accession of many church-members, and more than a few of your teachers and pastors, who had no inclination to hear your ministers, until they were first awakened under ours. The words of our Lord may in this sense be applied to many of your churches, “ Other men laboured, and


have entered into the fruits of their labours.” The aim of my ministry, I trust, is not to promote the interests of a party, but to win soul for Christ. We kave, however, the comfort to find, that a number are not only called, but edified and established, by the blessing of God on our preaching ; and that many of the most judicious and spiritual of our people, are proof against the insinuations which prevail on some to sorsake the church of England, in hopes of enjoying a purer and more acceptable worship among the Dissenters. As to those who do leave us, if they are truly benefitted, if they really grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord, in humility, meekness, benevolence, and deadness to the world, more among you than they vould have done amongst us, I can sincerely rejoice. But I think

your brethren have no just reason to be either displeased or sorry, that God has raised up ministers to preach to thousands to whom they would never have had access.

3. I saw, likewise, that the Lord had been pleased, of late years, to return, by the power of his Spirit, to the church of England ; which, I believe many Disseniers thought he had so utterly forsaken, that he would return no more. Tbis leads me to a tender point; and I wish to touch upon it with great tenderness. We have none of us any thing to boast of. Our warmest exertions in the service of such a Master are far too cold; and our greatest success falls very short of what we ought to pray for. We preach no other Gospel than you do; we love and respect many of your ministers for their knowledge, piety, and exemplary conversation. But I believe you will allow that the general state of your churches at present, is not so lively and flourishing as it was in the days of the old Non-conformists. I believe the best of your people were long ago sensible of a decline ; that they sincerely lamented it, and earnestly prayed for a revival, Their prayers were at length answered, but not in the way they expected. A great and spreading revival of religion took place, but the instruments were not Dissenters. At the time when I was ordained, there was a considerable number of regular parochial ministers who preached the doctrines of the Reformation. The number has been greatly increased since, and is still increasing. I could not but judge, that the Lord's presence with his word in awakening sinners, and in applying it with power to the heart, was more evident and striking on this side than on yours. Not because we are better than you ; but because the work with us is rather new, whereas amongst you it is of an older date. The history of the church of God, and of human nature in past ages, teaches us to expect that revivals of religion will seldom stand long at their primitive height, but will gradually subside and degenerate, till things return in a course of time nearly to their former state ; though a name, perhaps first imposed as a stigma by the world, and a form, which owed all its value to the Spirit that Vol. III.


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