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scriptural in its principles--thus supported, sanctioned, and maintained thus administered, regulated, and controlled, is designed, and appears calculated to promote and secure, are, first, an open and unequivocal acknowledgment of the only true God; a recognition of the great principles of revealed religion as unfolded in the volume of inspiration, and as centering in Jesus Christ-principles, the reception of which is thus declared, with all the authority and influence which human wisdom is capable of imparting, to be necessary for answering the highest ends of the existence of every individual in the empire. And can we doubt the importance of such an expression of the public sentiment, or the effect which it is calculated to produce upon the feelings and habits of the community? unless indeed we revert to the Monadic system, which regards man in his relation to the concerns of eternity exclusively, as an individual accountable only for his own independent self, and retired into the solitude of his own being, as he will stand on the last great day before the tribunal of the Supreme Judge.
Next to the public and combined acknowledgment of the triune Jehovah as the Ruler, the Redeemer, and the Sanctifier of the human race; the object of a national establishment for the support of religion, is the employment of suitable means to bring the whole body of the people under a course of religious instruction. To secure this end to the extent required by the exigencies and habits of the community, it is necessary that places of worship be erected over the whole length and breadth of the land, from its centre to its remotest extremities. It is not enough that a few splendid edifices be fixed in solitary grandeur, in some of the wealthier districts or more crowded marts of human intercourse. To this, and we believe to this only, is the voluntary system adequate. But a national plan, to be at all entitled to the name and adapted to the object, must on a general and comprehensive estimate be coextensive with the wants of the nation. Any thing, which comes grievously and enormously short of this, is but a mockery of a national church-establishment.
But a church is not a mere congeries of brick-work. To convert it into an edifice of living stones, the services of religion, in accordance with a fixed standard of faith immediately drawn from the Scriptures, must be regularly, devotedly, and zealously performed within its walls. To render this possible there must be an order of men educated, enlightened, and—so far as human judgment can discriminate-influenced by the principles which they are bound to profess and teach; men correct in their doctrines and exemplary in their conduct, and wholly devoted to these weighty and important duties. To enable them to devote their time and attention to the work, and to exercise adequate superintendance over the district entrusted to their charge, they must be competently, though not splendidly, supported by resources appropriated for that specific purpose, and distributed, with a due regard to character and circumstances.
This we conceive to be a brief view of what a national establishment ought to be, and of what we are convinced our own church, if duly administered, might be at this moment. But, alas! when we survey its actual condition, who, that has his eyes open to the sad realities of the question, must not perceive and, if he be alive to its vast importance, must not poignantly feel, how deplorably it has fallen below the just standard with reference to almost every one of these requirements. We mean not to underrate the immense good which we are convinced our church establishment, with all its defects and occasional delinquencies of administration, for a period of nearly three centuries has, by the blessing of God, been the means of effecting. We regard it in its early history as the cradle of infant Protestantism within these realms, and in its further progress as the ark in which the elements of piety and truth were preserved in safety through successive inundations of heresy, blasphemy, and libertinism. Its Articles and Homilies are standards of doctrinal purity and practical holiness, around which its faithful members may rally with confidence, in seasons of the deepest and most wide-spread degeneracy. They are pillars of the truth based upon the Rock of Ages, inscribed with characters transferred from the pages of inspiration, and pledging the nation by which they were recognized as containing a summary of their faith, to an unreserved profession of the principles of the everlasting Gospel. We believe, moreover, that scarcely at any period of her history did the church stand higher in spiritual effi. ciency than at the present hour; that, with a cheerful acknowledgment of the piety, zeal, and talent, which are found in other communities, she has no reason to be afraid of candid comparison; and that she has within her bosom as large a proportion of the spirit of ardent and unaffected devotion as actuates any other division of the visible church of Christ.
Still, notwithstanding these warmest feelings entwined around our hearts, we cannot refuse to perceive that there are evils so glaring and palpable attached to our communion, there are imperfections in its mode of working and administration so prominent and undeniable, that we are constrained not only to lament the comparative inefficiency caused by them, but, when we view them in connexion with the prevailing spirit of the age, to tremble for the safety and existence of the whole system to which they are injuriously attached. But shall we therefore abandon the cause and sink into hopeless despondency? Far from it. The Church, notwithstanding her surrounding difficulties, has the means of helping herself. She has resources still at her command, in her revenues—in the powerful hold she retains upon the largest and most influential part of the public mind-in the early and longcontinued associations cherished in her favour-in her immense capabilities of usefulness—in the learning and general respectability of her ministers of every order and in the fervent piety of a large proportion of her members -and, above all, in the blessing of Him who never fails to favour exertions sincerely directed to his glory, of which she has only to avail herself with honesty and energy, to become yet more deeply rooted in the affections of the people, to be employed as a mighty instrument in the hand of God in the accomplishment of his saving purposes, and to be increasingly a praise in the whole earth. It cannot be denied, however, that owing to a variety of circumstances, such as the prevalence of gross anomalies and abuses, some of them arising from the progress of time and change, and others fostered by prejudice, indolence, and self-interest, and tending to weaken the attachment of friends and to give effect to the opposition of enemies; with the widely-extended spirit of insubordination and of hostility to all established institutions, and the combined assault of Popery, infidelity, and political dissent; the Church is at this moment arrived at a very arduous crisis, and occupies a position of no ordinary danger. At such a juncture, those who regard her, not as a great engine of state policy, an instrument of corrupt patronage, or a source of personal emolument, but as a system of machinery requiring only to be maintained in vigorous and well-directed action to evolve the most important spiritual results, must watch her destiny with feelings of no common solicitude. Under such circumstances the way to be prepared to meet the storm is, assuredly, not to shut our eyes and ears to the intimations of danger; not to wrap ourselves in a mantle of security, and to cry Peace, peace; but rather to rouse ourselves from our slumbers, to alarm our sleeping prophets, and, by prompt and vigorous amendment, preserve this great fabric from the elements of destruction which are about to be let loose upon it.
Not, however, to indulge in general and indefinite statements, there are CHRIST, OBSERV. No. 365.
three departments of the ecclesiastical economy; each of which, more or less, stands in need of immediate and peremptory reform. The first is that which relates to the revenues of the church, the second to its public services, and the third to the personal character and conduct of its ministers. On each of these we purpose in some future Number to offer a few suggestions. For the present, we must leave the subject to the serious reflections and earnest prayers of our readers.
(To be continued.)
THE “TRINITARIAN” BIBLE and among them the two secretaries,) deSOCIETY.
termined to appeal to their constituents, This Society having split to fragments, and more than fifty signatures being obthe members of its committee having tained to the requisition for that purpose, divided against each other, the general the committee were obliged to summon a meeting against the committee, the auxili, meeting of the members to consider their aries against the general meeting and conduct. In the mean time, an unbroagainst each other, and almost every officer therly warfare was proceeding between and member against his neighbour, it would the two parties, in advertisements and be superfluous in us to argue the ques. newspaper paragraphs; in which, during tion any further. Time, that great teacher their mutual irritation, were disclosed at of truth, has instructed all parties in those full length, those distressing scenes of important lessons which they refused to strife and division, those musterings of learn without painful experience; and minorities and majorities, for only disthis being effected, it were best that the tantly alluding to which we had been piety and good sense of our friends should openly charged with falsehood, some even lead them, of their own accord, to abandon of our readers, we believe, thinking that an ill-judged and unhappy enterprise, with we must have exaggerated the matter. as little as may be of noise or opposition. But our desire was to promote the cause Our task therefore on the present occa- of truth, which is also that of charity; sion, as Christian observers, is merely to and many who doubted at the time the state, for the information of those of our propriety of the course we took, now readers who may expect some information thank us for those discussions, which they on the subject, and cannot procure it else- are pleased to say prevented their taking where, the chief published facts, leaving a step which they should have bitterly rethem to draw their own inferences.
pented. It is now openly admitted by both par- Though the meeting of the subseribers ties in the Trinitarian " Society, that was so strictly private, that even a few the Christian Observer was perfectly cor- gentlemen wbo had innocently strayed rect (only that its statements were far be- into the gallery were turned out by the low the truth), respecting the altercations police officers, by order of the committee ; which from the first formation of the it were easy enough to give from various Society have taken place in its committee, quarters a very full outline of this most in consequence of differences of religious unbrotherly and unedifying debate. But opinion. This altercation at length issued it were better passed over in silent sorin the resolutions advertised on the cover row; and we regret that the committee of our last Number, signed “ J. E. Gor- have determined to circulate even an outdon, V. P.,” the Secretaries refusing to line of it among their members ; we say countenance them. By these resolutions an outline, because Mr. Harding the Mr. Gordon's part of the committee tak- short-hand writer's verbatim autograph is ing the whole power into their own hands, not to be printed; but the speeches are and declining to consult their constituents, being duly “ corrected” for that purpose. ejected a large portion of their brethren, as The public have not forgotten the Socieunfit to act with them; Mr. Gordon declar- ty's memorable correction of " it may be ing again and again, that he would go on said,” in Mr. Platt's speech. making new tests, fifty, or more if neces- At the meeting, a statement of seven sary, till he brought the committee
to what closely printed pages was read, being the he considered the true standard. The dis- manifesto of the requisitionists against sentient minority, (which comprised, not the decision of Mr. Gordon's portion merely the persons sought to be excluded, of the committee. (We use this genbut many other members, not by any tleman's name, merely for intelligibility, means addicted to Mr. Irving's views, it being the only signature affixed to the resolutions.). In this remarkable paper been unequivocally asserted, that if fifty he(the production of the minority of the resies arise, fifty new laws to meet them committee, with the two secretaries, and must be formed ? The committee, therefore, some other officers, and now sanctioned to judge of its past discussions, will have in its principles by the decision of the ge. abundant employment for the future, without neral meeting), the conduct of Mr. Gor- attempting the circulation of Bibles. In don's side is argued to have been most a day famed for novelties, there is little unfair, uncalled for, unconstitutional, and doubt occasions for new laws, new interintolerant; an act of ingratitude and trea- pretations, and new definitions, will be chery towards the gentlemen sought to continually presented. The discharge, be expelled, and who bad laboured most therefore, of its legal functions, the imearnestly in the formation of the society, partial administration of its concerns, or never suspecting that two secret tests, or, the work of superintending the distribution if necessary, “fifty tests” were in reserve and translation of the Scriptures, may to expel them from the committee. In now be considered as wholly superseded short, the whole document is an illustra- by its ecclesiastical office. But is the tion of Mr. Melvill's statement, that the committee really qualified for such a duty ? committee, instead of minding their busi- Have such powers really been vested in ness and distributing the word of God, it? Does it possess the authority of an had been employed, from their formation ecclesiastical tribunal? Have the constito that hour, in quarrelling and picking tuents of this society any right to confer holes in private character. We quote the such an office? following passages, just to shew the sort “ In every point of view, the resolutions of evils which must necessarily arise are objectionable, as militating against in a Bible Society, fenced round by tests. the constitution, and altogether unjustiWould that these evils had been duly con- fiable in their practical tendency, and on sidered before the enterprise was so rashly this latter point one observation may sufembarked in! Would that now being so fice. The persons whom this interpreclearly seen and felt by the parties them- tation is intended to exclude, (as has been selves in one case, they would take warning proved by the rejection of some to whom and give up the whole scheme, before they this heresy was imputed,) these very persons become entangled in new labyrinths. assisted to frame the laws *-laboured assi
“ By the third resolution,” (namely, the duously in the formation of the societyresolutions signed J. E. Gordon, V. P.) and were foremost in upholding the doc“the committee constitute themselves not trine of the Trinity. It is obvious they only the judges of men's conduct, which never contemplated their own exclusion, is open to inspection--not only of men's of which those who have framed the new practice, which may always be compared law are aware, and therefore it has been with the standard of Gospel precept, but added to exclude the framers of the old law. a right to judge of men's religious princi- “ The committee, by their own publicaples, irrespective of the limits defined in tion, have exposed their weakness and their the laws of the society, is now assumed by incapacity,—weakness in listening to idle the committee ; which right, if conceded, reports, and incapacity in publishing their renders all the present regulations of the weakness to the whole community. For society wholly nugatory. The constitu- ascribing the publication of these resoluents have no guarantee whatever for the tions merely to policy, some strong ground religious principles of the persons whom has been given by the conduct of the comthe committee may select as members of mittee, which it is not necessary here to their own body, except the discretion of statet. .the committee, which to judge from past “ The resolutions, therefore, we maincircumstances, is not over-abounding *. tain, the circumstances of the society did Viewed, therefore, simply' on these not require; and from the very facts above grounds, the resolutions are most uncon- mentioned, there is ground of apprehenstitutional; but, if we advance, it will be sion, that this glorious institution has thus found that they have taken the society - wholly out of its course. The institution * And yet when we stated that this was formed for the circulation of the Holy was the case, how were we vituperated by Scriptures, on scriptural principles, but now Mr. Gordon's friends, and particularly by it is converted into a theological associa- the Record newspaper, which told its tion. It was founded to uphold the doc- readers, from week to week, that it was trine of the Trinity, but now it is become false and calumnious to represent the ina tribunal before which heresy is to be stitution as infected with “Regent-street arraigned and condemned. Nor is it to leaven ? " be supposed, that its labours in this new + We have some particulars of this department may be few and rare; it has statement in our possession, but we for
bear to mention them. They allude to We always thought and said so; but two points, theological and pecuniary. it was not quite handsome of our friends, In all our notices of the society we have the moment they fell out, to say so of abstained from such allusions little credit each other.
as we gained by our forbearance.
been made to subserve a purpose, very dif- all that can be required. God searches ferent from that which it was originally de- the heart, the church demands only a consigned to accomplish. We fear that these fession. A creed, therefore, in the way resolutions are rather intended as an ecclesi- of test, must be submitted; otherwise the astical censure upon heresy, for which we tribunal erected by the committee would Consider the committee wholly disqualified, throw into comparative moderation the acts than as a shield against the imputation of of ? Spanish Inquisition. No standard being identified with a particular heresy, of judgment, but the decision of the which we affirm to be needless; because, as majority. No appeal, but to their flucwe have said, it can only be identified tuating opinions. So that when pique with the constitution and operations of or prejudice may cloud the judgment the society. The interests of the institution of these persons, holy, devoted, sinhave thus been sacrificed ; and instead of being cere Christians, may become bereafter an asylum for the disciples of Christ to meet the victims of mental aberration, and that in peace, it has been converted into an engine under a motive of zeal for the glory of of controversy and a weapon of offence against Christ. In vain may Christians then particular individuals, an act, no less sub- appeal to orthodox creeds—in vain, to the versive of the principles of the institution, language of Scripture-in vain, to the fact than contrary to the dictates of Christian of there being communicants of Christian feeling and Gospel precept. Covert ag- churcbes—in vain, to their own consisgression has thus been practised under the tency of character or Christian practiceplausible profession of self-defence.". in vain, declare themselves willing to be
This document (the manifesto, be it re- tried by any accredited test, as the fiat of membered, not only of the secretaries and the committee at once supersedes creeds, the present committee, but of the general churches, profession, practice, and prinmeeting which concurred in its reasonings), ciples. The Spanish Inquisition did adopt argues the matter of tests where their own the form of hiring accusers; but the comsociety is concerned, much as other per- mittee in future will be tribunal, law, sons argued them in regard to the Bible judge, expounders, and executioners, withSociety. With us it was “ carnal reason- out fixed law, accusers, proofs, charges, ing;” “ None of your reasonings,” it was or grounds, for any of these offices. said ; "give us Scripture :" but our friends “The practical consequence of these renow begin to find that merely stringing solutions must, therefore, be very detritexts is no proof that they are well ap- mental. The confidence of the public is plied. The Gordon test, it is remarked, already shaken. The platform of conis is too much, if it excludes any not er- troversy is perceived not to be the station pressly excluded by the law, for then it is of the Bible Society. The introduction of a new law : too little, if it does not ex- a new test into the institution so immediately clude all whom it virtually excludes, for after its formation, gives but too plausible then it leaves the door open to innume- ground for supposing the predictions of its rable heretics, whom it is just as desirable opponents will be verified, and that new tests to exclude, as those specified in the reso- at every moment will be introduced. The lutions. Valentinians, Monophysites, process of detecting and denouncing all Monothelites, Eutychians, with a host, heresies that may arise is seen to be neverwhose subtleties many folios would neither ending, and the interminable field of poleexplain nor correct, should be denounced mics once entered, the work of the Soas ineligible,-—otherwise the naming one ciety is decidedly and effectually set aside.” is a tacit admission of the eligibility of all Such is the manifesto of the requisitionthe others not named.” It proceeds, ists of the Trinitarian Society, in the sen
"If the law, therefore, does not exclude timents of which the majority of the memsuch persons, these resolutions are an ad- bers concurring, the society is to go on as dition. If it does, these resolutions are originally constituted, Mr. Gordon and needless. They certainly are, therefore, his friends who wished to impose the new nugatory. Tbe heresy denounced in- tests having resigned, and the secretaries volves points the most subtle and per- who had resigned having re-accepted office. plexing, and the persons supposed to The auxiliaries are splitting in like manhold it must be tried by some fixed ner, and Mr. Gordon and his friends have
By wbat standard, then, are these formed a new provisional committee, and persons to be convicted ? Will the Thirty- are acting towards their Trinitarian friends nine Articles, the Athanasian Creed, the as they did towards the Bible Society last Westminster Confession, or any other au- year ; in short, the whole is in confusion, thorized creeds be deemed efficient? Ob- and one truth alone seems clear, that the viously not. The persons supposed to be Bible Society's plan of having no religiinfected acknowledge all these. A NEW ous test, but leaving the management of CREED, therefore, must be drawn up for its affairs to the piety and good sense of them to subscribe. But who is to draw the great body of its members and the it up? In what terms? In the words of committee elected by them, is the only Scripture, or by the power of human in practicable manner of conducting such an tellect? No church ever pretended to institution. judge the heart; a profession of faith is We have declined, as above stated, the