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Loentiousness of the mass of the execution of all good laws and people in that age may be prov. ordinances against the same. ed; the testimony of the West- 5. “That there may be a minster Assembly of Divines. thorough and speedy proceeding which will hardly be questioned against blind guides, and scandaby those, who are the loudest in lous ministers ; and that your their complaints of the degene wisdom would find out some way racy of the present generation, to admit into the ministry, such when compared with our ances- godly and hopeful men as have tors.
prepared themselves, and are willOn the 7th of July, 1643, soon ing thereunto; without which, after the Westminster Assembly there will suddenly be such a had convened, they presented a scarcity of able and faithful minpetition to parliament, requesting isters, that it will be to little that a day of fasting migbt he purpose to cast out such as are appointed; and that steps might unable, idle, or scandalous. be immediately taken to effect 6. “ That the laws may be a reformation in the following quickened against swearing and “particulars :"
drunkenness, with which the land. 1. “That the brutish igno- is filled and defiled, and under rance, and palpable darkness pos- which it mour is. sessing the greatest part of the 7. “That some severe course people in all places of the king- be taken against fornication, aduldom, may be remedied, by a tery, and incest, which do greatly speedy and strict charge to all abound. ministers, constantly to cate- 8. “ That all monuments of chise all the youth and ignorant idolatry and superstition, but people within their parishes. more especially the whole body
2. “That the grievous and and practice of Popery, may be heinous pollution of the Lord's totally abolished. supper, by those who are grossly 9. “ That justice may be exeignorant and notoriously profane, cuted on all delinquents, accordmay be henceforth, with all ing to your religious vow and prochristian care and due circum- testation to that purpose.”-Hisspection, prevented.
tory of the Puritans, vol. Ill. p. 60. 3. “ That the bold venting of Such is the complaint which corrupt doctrines, directly contra- was made by the Westminster ry to the sacred law of God, may Assembly, of the state of religion be speedily suppressed.
and morals in their day. Can a 4. “ That the profanation of more hideous description be justany part of the Lord's day, and ly given of the present state of the days of solemn fasting, by religion and morals, either in buying, selling, working, sport- England, or in Massachusetts ? ing, travelling, or neglecting of And what are the present comGod's ordinances, may be reme- plaints, but stories repeated, died, by appointing special offi- which are more than 150 years cers in every place, for the due old ?
It is, however, to be observed, been taught to look back, to see that the Westminster Assembly, whence they have fallen, and hon in enumerating the vices of that far they have degenerated. It was age, omitted to mention the most in the course of the half century atrocious crimes which were then wbich has now been concisely prevalent, and which were as reviewed, that the first settlers common as any in their black of New-England emigrated from catalogue; namely, the crimes of Great-Britain, and came to this publick oppression and robbery, country; and it was on account violence and murder, which re- of the wretched state of society sulted from civil war, and the in England that they left their spirit of persecution. What vi- native land, exposed themselves ces and crimes did the Assembly first to the perils of the ocean, mention, of a more crimson dye and then to the perils of a wilthan these? And to what errours derness, inhabited by beasts and of opinion could they refer, more savages. Had the state of soci. dangerous and fatal than those ety, of religion, and of morais in which led to such crimes, and Great-Britain, been then as fawhich they themselves supported vourable as it now is, or half so with all their influence, their ex- favourable as it is at present in hortations, and their prayers ? this country, those who first setThey mention “the bold vent- tled Massachusetts would proba. ing of corrupt doctrines;" but did bly have lived and died in Enthey not boldly vent dectrines gland, and the settlement of this. which justified both civil war country would have been deferand persecution ? And what doc- red to a subsequent period. trines can be more corrupt” or It has not been the object of more subversive of the gospel, the preceding remarks, to call in than those which justify perse- question the piety of the Westcution, revenge, and murder ? minster Assembly, nor the piety
But such for ages has been the of the Puritans or Presbyterians melancholy blindness of Chris- of that age; but to undeceive tians in general, that doctrines, those wlio have imagined, that which have little or no relation our ancestors of that period were to Christian practice, or to the more enlightened or more pure love of God or man, have been than their posterity of the present the constant topicks of conten- time; that we may feel grateful tion and denunciation ; while to God for the benefits we enjoy, opinions, which justify the most and that we may be led to look intolerant, abusive, revengeful, to the instructions and example and even murderous conduct, of Christ, for purity of doctrine have been swallowed by whole- and practice, rather than to sale, or passed over in silence. our ancestors of the seventeenth
We have now before us century. sketch of the state of religion and It is very certain that the morals, at that period to which Westminster Assembly partook the people of New-England have of "the spirit of the age," in
which they lived; and as the cious practical errours, vices and spirit of war and revenge, of in- crimes,-the mass was in a state tolerance and persecution, was of fermentation when they sepastrangely interwoven with the re- rated from it, and it would have ligion of all the noted sects of been extraordinary indeed, had that time, we must naturally ex- no taint of the general pollution pect to find, in subsequent inqui- adhered to them. If we may find ries, that the emigrants to this them among the purest and most country were not free from errour, enlightened of the age in which either in opinion, temper, or prac- they lived, this is as much as can tice. The hive from which they be reasonably expected. Swarmed, was polluted with atro
THE LEGAL AND EVANGELICAL DISPENSATIONS COMPARED.
ATTEMPTS to detach an Isra- mission, as left no doubt on minds elite from the worship of Jeho- acquainted with it, and such as vah, and seduce him to idolatry, no rival could pretend to equal. was, under the legal dispensation, There were also appointed ways a capital offence. It was made in which God might be consulted, the duty of the tempted to give and answers obtained, to make testimony against those who plain the path of duty on difficult should endeavour to seduce them, and pressing emergencies. and to be first in executing the law Such was the spirit of the Law upon them; however nearly they -Let us now turn to the Gospel. might be related, however closely Under the Gospel, every man united with them in bonds of friend- is not only called on to judge of ship and affection.* Not that himself what is right, but allowed Israel were forbiuden to judge for to communicate his views and themselves in matters of religion. sentiments to others, that they Without this liberty, there could may judge of their rectitude, and be no religion. Religion is the the evidences of their truth. If result of the free choice of an en- any embrace errour, the proper lightened mind--But none were consequences will follow,and they allowed to draw others from the must abide them-If they reworship of the God of Israel. The sult from a corrupt bias, God will national government was a The judge them; but man has no right ocracy-giving that honour to to do it-Judge nothing before the another which was due to God, time, till the Lord come, who will was rebellion-seducing to it, was bring to light the hidden things of High Treason. But this was not darkness, and make manifesit the made capital, without such evi- counsels of the heart. Much less dence given of Moses' divine may man presume to punish spe
*Deut. xii. 6.
+ 1 Cor. iv. 5.
DEMNED OF HIMSELF.
culative errour—The heretick* is remotest tendency to correct erinded to be rejected, after a first rour-Strange, that it should ever and second adınonition—but this have been imagined! and stranger is not punishment-it is only still that Christians should resort withdrawing from him, and leav- to such measures, while professing ing him to himseit.— And this is to obey the Gospel !—That Gosall the excommunication the pel which every where enjoins church has, on any occasion, a a temper and conduct wholly diright to exercise- -nor this, till
The spirit of the Gospel means have been used to reclaim is love-lt declares gifts, knowthe erroneous, and been found ledge, faith, yea, even martyrdom unavailing. Neither do s;secula- for the honour of Christianity, tive errours, agreeably to this text, vain without it! justify even this-errour must be- To the truth of Christianity come practical to justify exclu- there is a cloud of witnesses—No sion, or separation. This is as- impartial enquirer can doubt it. signed as the ground of rejection But though honest minds must - knowing that he that is such is believe the Gospel, they may put subverted and sinneth, BEING CON- different constructions on Scrip
A person ture ; and as there is now no inmay mistake, and err in senti- spired person to teach, no URIM ment, and yet act sincerely, not and THUMMIM to consult, a difbe condemned of himself-Such ference of sentiment may be ex. must not be rejected.
pected. The best may errThe Church in past ages has act- They doubtless often do erro ed differently-considered doc- Christians, enveloped in darkness, trinal errour as highly criminal, may doubt, and differ in opinion. apart from the views of the erring Dare those who consider such to in sentiment. For several cen- be their situation, censure and turies, those who ruled in the condemn all who differ from church, doomed those whom they them? The good will put on denominated hereticks, many of charity, which is the bond of perwhom were Saints of the Most fectness ;looking forward to the High) to death in its most fright- world of light, where darkness ful forms ! and called on civil and doubts will be no more. But, rulers to execute their decrées ; alas ! how often are those, who and some, when so employed, bear the Christian name, found thought themselves doing God ser- censuring and condemping one vice. Strange ! Destroy for sen- another; not for sinful practices, timent! and think it serving God! but for supposed errours in senti
-Sentiment is the effect of light, ment; and often on account of real, or supposed, let into the different views respecting matmind. Pains and penalties carry ters confessedly dark and difficult, no light in them-have not the yea, mysterious ! matters which
* Tit. ij. 10.
11. Cor. 13.
John xvi. 2.
Col. ü. 14.
have no relation to practice ! mat- suspicious, if not criminal. Pea ters which those who contend ple of this cast would have been about them, do not pretend to com- any thing different from what prehend, and relative to which, they now are, had their lot been the most zealous differ widely differently cast. The principle among themselves ! and how ma- which renders them zealous for a ny are there who wish to impose particular sect of Protestants, their Creeds on the Churches, would have made them equally and are ready to exclude from so for Popery, Mahometanism, or their communion, all who cannot Paganism- To rise above vulgar pronounce their Shibboleths !
prejudice, and judge righteous Christians may write summa- judgment, judge of truth, and ries of their Faith, for their own what is truth, by the light of reause ; but have no right to impose son and revelation, is a great and them on others, or to censure and good, but not perhaps very comreject those who cannot receive mon attainment. The excellent them. Deductions in Divinity are Mr. Robinson, Minister of the dangerous. We should do well first settlers at Plymouth, lamentto keep to the form of sound words;* ed and testified against this spirit and should receive, as brethren, of Bigotry, which he discovered all who so do, though they may among Protestants at so early a speculate very differently from period, and warned his dear fock ourselves. Suppose our senti- against it. “ I charge you before ments to be correct, (which doth God, and his blessed angels, that not hold of some who have no
you follow me no farther than I jealousy of themselves) and that follow Christ-If God reveal any others mistake, and err, what in thing to you by any other instrujury shall we receive if we bear ment of his, be as ready to rewith them, and walk with them, ceive it as ever you were to rein discharge of duties confessed ceive truth by my ministry : for by all ? If we claim a right to I am verily persuaded that the judge of doctrines for ourselves, Lord hath more truth yet to break, we must grant the same to our out of his word. I cannot suffibrethren.
ciently bewail the condition of It becomes us to search the the reformed churches, who were Scriptures, and form our senti
come to a period in religion, and ments from them. Are there none
will go no further than the instruwho study them less to know the ments of their reformation. The truth, than to defend systems Lutherans cannot be drawn to go which they have adopted ? sys- beyond what Luther saw : whattems which have been hauded
ever part of his will our good God down from Ancestors, or which hath revealed to Calvin, they will are commonly received as ortho- rather die than emhrace it, And dox ? Respecting such systems, the Calvinists stick fast, where some are afraid to doubt; yea, they were left by that great man are ready to consider inquiry of God, who yet saw not all
things." * 11. Tim. i. 13. Vol. IV. No. 7.