« AnteriorContinuar »
out it, by finding a sort of conversion, which will answer the same end. He will lead you from outward means to inward testimonies : texts will be misapplied; and the evidences of Christianity will all be reduced to personal experience; of which experience another person knows nothing, and in which the person himself may be grossly mistaken. The consequences are very bad; for some think they have this experience, . and proceed with confidence to farther errors : others wish for it in vain, and not being able to perceive it, fall into despair, and sometimes into distraction; they are left without the witness which they are taught to expect, and therefore think they are lost. But the witness which the Scripture teaehes, is that of faith and a good conscience: faith is the witness to ourselves; and obedience, which is the fruit of it, is the witness to others. In this doctrine there is no danger.
Before I conclude, let me forewarn you, that good people are in danger (perhaps in most danger) of being imposed upon by strange appearances; supposing them to be new, when they are not. Above two hundred years ago, the party that began to trouble
this kingdom, and at length completed its ruin, began with setting up the spirit, and decrying the order and authority both of Church and State. The people that troubled the Christian Church, in its earliest days, were always of the same fashion; they never failed to despise government, and taught their followers to do the same*. They boasted of superior gifts in praying, preaching, and converting : but the Apostle settled that Argument for ever with the Church of Corinth. They were disputing, and dividing themselves. into parties, upon the reputation of their gifts : but he
. Pet, ii, 10. Jude, 8.
shewed them, that although it was a good thing to have good gifts, there was a more excellent way of salvation, the
way peace and charity; without which all their gifts, however great and wonderful in the sight of the people, would be of no value in the sight of God. It signifies not (argues he) what I have and what I understand; if I have no charity I am nothing. How extremely dangerous is it then, to break the order and peace of the Church; even though it be done with a sincere desire to promote faith and piety' for whatever good appearances may attend it for a time, they will not end well. If we do evil that good may come, we sball find, sooner or later, that the evil will remain and the good will be lost: which might be confirmed by the recent example of a large body of people, who are now divided from us without being united among themselves. Division is not the way to unity: all experience teaches us, that it leads to more division; and that there can in fact be no security, no pillar and ground for truth to rest upon, no stability, no certainty, but in that Church, with its doctrines, institutions, and orders, which God hath appointed in the word. I therefore end as I began; I say, Hear the Church. Let the Churchman understand, that he then only hears the Church as he ought, when the christian forms lead him to the christian life. And let others learn, that if they would have the christian life, they must have the christian forms. These hath God joined together as soul and body. No man ever had, or ever will have, any authority to put them asunder; and I have given you my reasons why it can. not be attempted without danger to the christian cause, and to the salvatiou of christian people.
USE AND ABUSE OF THIS WORLD:
ST. BENE'T GRACECHURCH,
CITY OF LONDON,
On Sunday, Oct. 9, 1796,