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brethren: if they would go about doing good in all condescension and humility through their several districts, preaching the word of life, in an evangelical. strain, among the people, after the example of the
bloody zeal of the catholics, united the protestants in their own defence, for the protection of their lives and property:
There are twenty-two of these bishops who preside over the established church in Ireland, at the expence of 74,000 pounds a year; that is at the rate of 3,368 pounds per annum a man, besides all their other preferments. Some of them are known to be very worthy characters; but others, like the one just mention. ed, are extremely to blame, though surely not in the same degree. While such are the shepherds, no wonder if the sheep go astray. Ought we to be surprised if the Dissenters and Methodists succeed in making converts ? if infidelity abound and run like wild-fire among the people ? they complain, wish to overturn such a system of corruption, and rise in rebellion for the purpose? Nothing but true religion, or a sense of the impolicy of the mea. sure, can restrain them. I do affirm, that the slothful and tem. porising bishops and clergy of Europe, are the main authors of the
present miseries of Europe, and we may justly and infallibly expect, divine Providence will ere long kick us off our perches, as has been the case in other countries, and give our offices and emoluments to those who have been more worthy of them. Nothing can save us, unless we become alive to the interests--not of the church, as a secular institution—but to the interests of pure, disinterested, evangelical religion. What might not the 18,000 clergymen in this country do, were all but zealously concerned for the honour of the Lord Jesus, and the salvation of the people committed to our care? The face of things in every moral point of view, would be extremely different.-Wha: an horrible hell shall we parsons have when we leave our present beds of down ? How will the devils exult over myriads of full-fed bi. shops, doctors, and dignified dons, who have rioted upon the spoils of the church, and neglected or abused their holy charge?
Among other causes of complaint in our sister kingdom, many of the bishoprics are filled up by the viceroy from among the English clergy, and the best livings are possessed by Englishmen. Hence a very frequent non-residence. Every in partial person must consider this as a real grievance. The Irish clergy are, with some few honourable exceptions, in a state truly deplorable, and the great mass of the laity not less so, What wonder, if the people, left to perish by their ministers for lack of knowledge, should rise up and cut the throats of those ministers ? This is a just re-action of Providence. We talk of the Wild Irish, and
great Shepherd and Bishop of souls, and his apostles: if they would renounce their pomp and splendour, and set their faces in good earnest against all monopolies of livings; against non-residents; against all immoral, disorderly, and irreligious clergymen: if they would be the zealous and avowed friends and patrons of laborious pastors, in particular; and of good men of all descriptions, in general; then would the church of England soon become, more than ever, the glory of the churches, and the bishops of that church would be the glory of all bishops.
It is, however, not to be doubted, that men, possessed of the loaves and fishes, will laugh at all this as visionary and enthusiastic.
“ I know the warning song is sung in vain,
That few will hear, and fewer heed the strain." I have only to reply-Look at the bishops and clergy of France !—They now think themselves hardly treated.-But, as a body, they have been excessively to
speak of them as being little raised above a state of nature. Let it be considered who is to blame for all this. The bishops and clergy, I vow. But the fault is greatly in the ecclesiastical part of the constitutions of the two countries, which will permit the clerical order of men to receive the emoluments of the church, without performing the duties for which we are paid. No man can surely say, that a reform here would do us any harm! But if a reform in church-matters is never to be brought about till the bishops and clergy themselves embark in it, there is reason to fear the event is at no little distance. I must however, do my own or. der the justice to observe, that in former periods, whatever refor. mations in religion have been brought forward, some of the clergy have been the most active and effective instruments. God send us again a few more Wickliffs, Cranmers, Latimers, Ridleys, Hookers, and Gilpins, to deliver us from the remaining dregs of Popish superstition which cleave to us, that the British churches may be the glory and envy of the whole world.
“ Triumphant here may Jesus reign,
And on his vineyard sweetly smile;
Adorn the church and bless our isle."
blame; and their present sufferings are proportionate to their former culpability. Happy will it be for us, if their negligence and misfortunes inake us wise and cautious! The fate of the Jewish clergy of old, and of the French, Dutch, Flemish, Italian, and Swiss clergy of our own times, comes, like a peal of thunder, preaching reform; real, and effectual, and speedy reform, to the clergy of every country.
I, for one, give up all these abuses as indefensible. Every man of common sense and observation, whose eyes are not blinded by prejudice, and whose mind is not closed by sinful habit and self-interest, must see that they are wrong. But, whatever means Divine Providence may use to correct them for corrected in due time they must be--the gospel of Christ is not to be blamed for them. It gives them nocountenance; it predicts their rise, their countenance, their downfall: and it denounces nothing less than the most extreme condemnation against all those, who pervert the divine ordinances to secular and self-interested purposes. It is neither emperors, nor kings, nor popes, nor archbishops, nor bishops, nor clergymen of any inferior description, that shall escape the just sentence of the universal Judge. He will make no distinction. He knows no difference between man and man, but what moral and religious qualifications make. Whatsoever a person soweth, that shall he also reap. Mighty sinners shall be mightily punished. Eminently good and useful men shall be eminently rewarded.
Discerning men, observing the conduct, character, and precepts of the Saviour of the world, and comparing them with the conduct and manners of our churchdignitaries, cannot help seeing a very striking contrast. His kingdom was not to be of this world: but the conduct of our bishops, is secular. His meat and drink was to do the will of himn that sent him. He literally went about doing good. He preached every where, and to all descriptions of men. A genuine patriot, he was never weary of contributing to the happiness of his country. He was frequently in the temple, but never in the palace, unless when dragged thither by force. Our learned prelates,(9) however, are so occupied in the great council of the nation ; in dancing attendance at court; in guarding their secular emoluments from waste ; in visiting the nobility and gentry of the land ; and in other worldly engagements of various descriptions; that they have but little time lest, either for reading the Scriptures, for private retirement, or for preaching the gospel to the poor of the flock, in their respective districts.(40)
(9) Among the bishops of the church of England, may be found some characters the most respectable for every moral, literary, and religious attainment; and the country is under the utmost obligation to them for their exertions at different periods of our history. But were any individuals among them ever so desirous, they have it not in their power to rectify abuses, and reform what they may conceive to be amiss. The system is too compact and well digested. Their hands are tied behind them. The prejudices of some, the interests of others the supineness of not a few, and the fears of disturbing the long established order of things in most, form an insuperable barrier against every reform; insomuch that nothing can accomplish any considerable change for the better, but a convulsion. If the archbishop of Canterbury, and the whole bench of bishops, had discernment and humility, and public spirit, and self-denial enough, to come for. ward of their own accord, and with one consent desire an ameliorated state of things, there might be some hope. But that six and twenty interested men should be brought to concur in a business of this sort, is an impossibility. The sacrifice is too great! Human nature is too frail to make it.
(40) Bishops ought surely to reside in their dioceses among their clergy, preaching in season and out of season; counteDancing and encouraging the good; reproving, exhorting. warning, punishing, the unworthy and immoral part of their clergy. The contrary to this, however, is the case. If a man happens to have got a little more zeal than ordinary, and labours to do more good than the generality of his brethren, immediately they are all in arms against him. And nothing is more common than for his ecclesiastical superiors to frown upon him, and to stigmatize him as a Methodist, and to oppose his interest in every way they can contrive. Whereas, a clergyman may be a man of pleasure and
a bishop preach is a sort of phenomenon in the country. And, if any of that body-some of whom are great and good men, do vouchsafe, once in a way, as an extreme favour, to indulge the people of their dio
dissipation, gay, foolish, silly, trifling; he may spend his time in the diversions of the field; drink, swear, and live as foolishly as the most foolish of his flock, and yet no harm shall happen. He is no Methodist, and, therefore, every favour shall be shewn to him which he can desire. Methodism is like the sin against the Holy Ghost; it is neither to be forgiven in this world, nor in the world to come!
Be it observed, that the increase of Dissenters, and the spread of Methodism, are both entirely owing to lukewarmness, or neg. ligence, or disorderly conduct, or bigotry, or the persecuting spirit of the clergy in the establishment. And there is no way un. der heaven of preventing the most mischievous consequences, but by adopting new measures, reforming what is amiss, and outpreaching, out-labouring, and out living all our opposers. The pride of office has injured us extremely. The disdain frequently expressed by us against the several sectarists, has been highly impolitical and sometimes unchristian. -Has not every man living the same right to worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience tbr we have? To his own master each one must give an account. He that worships God most spiritually, and obeys him most universally, believing in the name of his only-begotten Son, is the best man, and most acceptable to the Divine Being, whether he be found in a church, in a Quaker's meeting-house, in a dissenting place of worship, of any other description, or upon the top of a mountain. How long shall we be carried away by weak and superstitious distinctions?-In every nation, and among all denominations of men, he that feareth God, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. And if God will accept, why should not man?—The Saviour of the world him. self hath given us an infallible definition of the gospel-church : Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am 1 in the midst of them.-Let any man consult Locke on Tolera. tion, and he can have no doubt on his mind concerning the liber. ality of the genuine gospel of our blessed Saviour.-It has been the custom of the established clergy of all countries to arrogate to themselves a kind of infallibility. Nay, there is scarcely a parson among us all, whether Churchman, Methodist, Quaker, or Dissenter of any other description, that has not got a church, a chapel, or a meeting house in his belly. We are all Popes in our own way: every denomination has its imperious and overbearing dictators. -Let no man think the worse of the New-Testamentreligion, because of the different hobby-horses which we parsons