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evil come upon us? If any person approves not of religion and its ministers, he is at perfect liberty, to decline paying them any attention. He may think and act according to his own pleasure. Why then
Second's time, there were upwards of 2000. clergymen, who sacrificed their interest to principle.
Bigotry and persecution generally defeat their own purposes ! What a consequence did not this sad measure give to the dissent. ing interest in England The same foolish game was played by the bishops and clergy in the present century. Instead of encouraging moderating, and regulating the zeal of a few pious young men, in Oxford, by gentle and lenient measures, they shut their ch'irches against them, and compelled them to go out into the highways and hedges to preach to those who were inclined to hear them;
and though they were then but a small band, they are now become a goodly company, and have already overspread England, Scotland, Ireland, America, and the West Indies.-- All this weight, too, is thrown into the dissenting scale! A few more such imprudent measures, and down goes mother church !
We have spoken of pluralities and non-residence. The former, in all cases, implies the latter. We scarcely ever read an account of deaths in the periodical publications, but we find an account of one or more instances of this nature. The poet Mason, though a worthy man, and a character highly respectable, accumulated several preferments in the church. And it is well known to be the custom of great numbers of the clergy in the establishment, to procure as many as their interest will reach. This we call good management, prudent foresight, taking care for a family, and the like. If there be no God, it is all very well. But if we are accountable creatures, and are to exist in a future state, our present trading in livings and souls will not yield us satisfaction another day. It is popery, rank popery, the worst part of popery, under the highest pretensions of being the most pure and reformed part of Christ's cliurch. Burnet shewed a great deal of disinterested integrity, by vehemently exclaiming against pluralities, as a most sacrilegious robbery. And in his first visitation at Salisbury, he urged the anthority of Bernard, who be ng consulted by one of his followers, whether he might accept of two benefices, replied-And how will you be able to serve them both? I intend, answered the priest, to officiate in one of them by a deputy. Will your deputy be damned for you too? cried the saint. Believe me, you may serve your cure by proxy, but you must be damned in person. This expression so affected Kelsey, a pious and worthy clergyman then present, that he immediately resigned the rectory of Bemerton in Berkshire, worth 200 pounds a year, which he then held with one of greater value.
should any man desire to see this land involved in a destruction so complete? Be assured, whenever it comes it will be promiscuous. The generation then living will be, in every temporal sense at least, to
All the bulk of church-preferment, in this country, is engrossed by about one thousand clergymen out of the eighteen thousand. Whereas, the emoluments of the establishment are capable of providing for 10.000 persons in a very comfortable way, by abolishing pluralities, without disturbing the present order of things. Let every bishop retire within his diocese, and dwell among his clergy, as a father in his family. Let every clergyman reside upon his living, superintending his people, as a shepherd his flock. And let no man be promoted to the first livings in the kingdom, merely because he is related to or connected with some great personage; but let the most active, useful, and laborious ministers, especially when the infirmities of age come on, be accounted worthy of double honour, by being rewarded for their extraordinary services with the best living, the country affords.
But all this is visionary. It is a plausible theory, but never will be reduced to practice. I think it might be well for the great body of the poor rectors, vicars, and curates of the country, to petition government to take their distressed circumstances into consideration. If it had no other effect, it would call the attention of the public to the horrible monopolies of preferments which prevail among the bishops and higher orders of the clergy. I would recommend that committees should be formed in every district through England and Wales, to correspond with a grand and superintending committee in London. Let them investigate the business of church preferments thoroughly, and drag to broad day-light all the great offenders in this pretended spiritual com
Out of the 18,000 clergymen belonging to the establishment of this country, there are several hundreds of zealous and lively men, and the number is much upon the increase, who, properly speaking, are the only true members of the church of England. They believe, and preach, and live by her doctrines. These conscientious men, however, are almost universally dubbed Methodists, in contempt, by the majority both of bishops and clergy. This is shameful treatment. Those “ downy doctors, that recumbent virtues preach,” who will swear any thing, and subscribe any thing, no matter whether they believe it or not, for the sake of a good bishoprick, a fat rectory, are among the first to exclaim against their more zealous, useful, and pious brethren.--Master, 30 saying, and so doing, thou condemnest us. Woe unto you, ye scribes, phurisees, bypocrites ! for ye shut the kingdom of beaven against meni,
tally ruined, and no man shall be able to extricate himself from the general calamity. In that case, and indeed, in every other possible case, the gospel of Christ affords the only sure refuge. It is calculated for both
for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in! See Ezek. xxxiv.chap.
" When nations are to perish in their sins,
Hophni and Phineas may describe the rest." As a body of men, the established clergy of this country are by no means deficient in talents, or in learning of any description: and it is probable there never existed the same number, who possessed equal natural and acquired qualifications; but, we are deficient in humility, in self-denial, in piety, and in zeal for the honour of God and the salvation of souls. We want a more serious attention to the grand peculiarities of the gospel; we are deficient in various of those qualifications which are requisite to make us successful in winning souls to Christ. To our shame be it spoken, with half our literary attainments, we suffer the Methodists, and the Dissenters, to out-dous exceedingly in real and positive usefulness to mankind. We let the cause of Christ suffer and lose ground in our hands. A large part of our order is inattentive both to religious and literary pursuits. They are mere men of the world. Another part is so occupied with literary and philosophical studies, that they have neither time nor inclination to attend to the peculiar employment of ministers of the gospel. There is a third class of our clergy whose ministeriallabours are so cool and languid, and whose public discourses are so merely moral and so wholly unevangelical, that mankind are made neither wiser nor better by their feeble exertions. In the primitive ages, the divine heralds carried the sound of the gospel throughout all lands, from “the British isles to the banks of the Ganges,"in a very short space of time. But we have suffered heathenism to return again into some countries, Mohammedanism to over-run others, and infidelity to diffuse itself among all orders of society. And it is not improbable, but in the course of a few
worlds. The Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord will give grace and glory; no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. Those that live in the entire spirit, and under the full influ
more years, the gospel of Christ, through our neglect, luke-warmness, and superstition, will be in a great degree banished from christendom. We must either awake from our lethargic state, and return to evangelical principles and practices, or all is lost. Most of the higher ranks of society in this country, both among the clergy and laity, have forsaken the gospel scheme of saving a ruined world; and the supreme head of the church will ere long remove our candlestick, lay aside the great body of us parsons as a useless set of men, and deprive us of those means of grace, which we have so long enjoyed to so little purpose. The neglect of the Son and Spirit of God, is the master-sin of christendom.
I wish the reader would give himself the trouble to consider well what Wilberforce has written in his Practical View. If we had a number of such able and faithful labourers in the cause of christianity among the laity, much good might be expected to result from their endeavours. Men of this description are peculiarly called upon in the present day, when infidelity is making such rapid advances, and the clergy are in such disgrace, to exert themselves in every possible way, to stem the torrent of in:quity which is ready to bear down all before it.
The corrupt state of the established religion, is the grand and original cause of much of our immorality; and these two together are the only true and genuine sources of our national distress. Let us remove out of the way every unevangelical stumbling block, and turn unto God in good earnest. The ingratitude and rebellion of the country against the laws of the Divine Being, must terminate in our severe chastisement. The wickedness of the inhabitants is in. conceivably great. Compare the lives of all classes of people with the gospel of Jesus Christ, and how alarming the contrast! The nobles and gentry of the land, with some few exceptions, are be. come incurably immoral, as well as irreligious. The trading part of the nation are all set upon their gain. Serious, uniform, and con. scientious godliness, is only found among a few solitary individuals. The Sabbath day is fashionably, and very generally, prostituted to secular purposes. The public worship of Almighty God is griev. ously neglected by all ranks of men. The sacrament of the Lord's Supper is very thinly attended, and this only occasionally, and not as a serious duty and privilege. In short, the signs of the times are such as to give the most serious apprehension to every well-wisher to his country. The French, before the revolution, were extremely inattentive to the sanctification of the sabbath. The nobility and gentry of this island, are almost universally treading in the same
ence of this divine religion, have, even now, large enjoyments of its comforts.(3) And whether we are
steps; and have we reason to suppose we shall not, ere long, be treated in the same manner? Were I an infidel in principle, I would observe the sabbath-day, for the sake of example. For if religion could be proved to have no foundation in truth, it must be allowed to be extremely convenient for the purpose of keeping mankind in order. " I go to church sometimes,” said the late infidel earl of Oxford, “in order to induce my servants to go to church. A good moral sermon may instruct and benefit them. I only set them anex, ample of listening, and not of believing.” And what injury would his lordship have sustained, if he had both listened, believed, and obeyed? All hypocrites are base and contemptible characters, whatever specious attainments they may possess of a literary, philosophical, or political kind. It does not appear that his lordship, any more than Hume or Franklin, ever gave christianity a serious and conscientious investigation. They were all too busy in life, and had little inclination to religious pursuits. The carnal minds of a nobleman and philosopher, are equally at enmity against God.
(3) Consider the cases of Russel, Morata, Claude, Walker, Her. vey, Leland, Romaine, Bedell, and Leechman. Instead of this small number, we could have produced some hundreds of charac. ters of a like happy kind.
Burnet's declaration alone we will here transcribe, as he was a man of plety, and of large experience of men, and things, and be. cause he delivers it as his last dying speech, and the sum of all his experience :
“ True religion is the perfection of human nature, and the joy and delight of every one that feels it active and strong within him. Of this I write with more concern and emotion, because I have felt this the true, and indeed the only joy which runs through a man's heart and life. It is that which has been for many years my greatest support. I rejoice daily in it. I feel from it the earnest of that supreme joy, which I pant and long for. I am sure there is nothing else can afford any true or complete happiness. I have, considering my sphere seen a great deal of all that is most shining and tempting in this world. The pleasures of sense I did soon nauseate. Intrigues of state, and the conduct of affairs have something in them that is more specious; and I was for some years deeply immersed in these, but still with hopes of reforming the world and of making mankind wiser and better. But I have found, that which is crooked cannot be made straight. I acquainted
myself with knowledge andlearning, and that in a greatvariety.-This yielded not happiness.--I cultivated friendship. But this also I have found was vanity and vexation of spirit, though it be of the best and noblest sort.-The sum is, vanity of vanities, all is vanity, besides Hearing God, and keeping his commandments.”