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Should they endeavour to do it, you may remember that this is itself a sign that they are in the wrong.'
."* Does it follow, I would ask, that, because a parent, who is a worthy member of the Established Church, prevents his children from reading Socinian productions, it is a sign he himself is in the wrong? Rather, is it not a sign, that, after having examined the arguments in favour of his own system, he is convinced of its truth, and that he is afraid lest the principles of his children should get contaminated, from their inability to combat error in its various forms?t To apply this remark in the present case, would be deemed unnecessary; it applies itself,
You will perceive, Sir, by the last quotation from the “Address," in hastening so soon from the third to the thirty-third page, that it is not my design to follow the author regularly in his various windings, but to finish the same subject which is touched upon in different places, and to class together particulars closely connected with each other.
* p. 33.
f « A man,” says an eminent writer, “ arrived at a certain degree of knowledge, is confirmed in the faith even by the objections, which are proposed to him to engage him to renounce his religion. If you answer this description, read without scruple Lucretius, Spinoza, and all the other enemies of religion. The darkness with which they pretend to cover it, will only advance its splendour in your eyes. The blows, which they give it, will only serve to convince you that it is invulnerable. But if you be yet a child in understanding, such books may be dangerous to you; poison without an antidote will convey itself into your vitals and destroy all the
Having just led you, dear Sir, to the entrance of the intricate path of controversy, I must leave you, promising, however, in the course of time, to conduct you to the TEMPLE of TRUTH.
LETTER II. DEAR SIR,
You, no doubt, have frequently heard . “The Church is in danger.” I shall not now detain you with an inquiry into the cause of its danger; whether it is not in as much danger from within as from without.
In the latter part of the "Address," the author éarnestly exhorts the Methodists to return to the Church, and to forsake the errors and practices of their present teachers.* Had he defined the term church, we should have been in less danger of missing our way. Perhaps we may stumble upon his meaning in the following charge;"Many of
you have entirely left your parish-churches.”ť From this it appears, that as it is the parish-church they have left, it is to it they are exhorted to return. The opinion, alas! is too common with many, that a steeple-house, if I may be allowed to quakerise my expressions, is the true church of God. Than this, they look no further; nor do they wish to be united to any other. Happy union! body and spirit united
* p. 46-48.
+ p. 46.
to stones and timber! And yet, their affection for the venerable pile is so strong, that,' were it to moulder into ruins, they would pine away in secret, and would consider the Divine Being as 'destitute of a church in the place. For a man gravely and publicly to confute such an error, would be to lay a heavy tax on the patience of his hearers or his readers. Patience, however, in some cases, should give way to compassion; for out of pure compassion to the ignorance of individuals, it is necessary to impart a little apostolic light. St. Paul, you know, Sir, writing to Philemon, speaksiof! The church in his house."'* It surely never entered the mind of the apostle, that Philemon had permitted a large parish-church to be erected'in his private dwelling. The thought, in fact, of one house
within another, is perfectly ridiculous. The apostle speaks also, of“The church of God, which he hath purcha. sed with his own blood.”+ But we cannot suppose that the apostle ever thought that God had shed his blood to purchase stones, mortar, and wood. These could have been procured at a much less expense. It was not for buildings but men that Christ died. Since the term church, therefore, cannot be applied to buildings, without offering violence to the sacred text, it will be necessary to inquire into its genu
The Greek word, as used in the New Testament, and which is translated church, is derived from another word which signifies to call qut;I hence, the church is an assembly called togeiher -called out of sin and the world, by the preaching
+ Acts xx. 28. * See Parkhurst's Greek Lexicon--and Leigh's Critica Sacra.
of the word, and the operations of the Spirit.* Supposing the author, then, to exhort the Methodists to return to the church in this sense, the ex.. hortation can only be considered as pregnant with absurdity; for thousands of the Methodists evince by their morals, their tempers, their conversation, and their devotional exercises, that they actually constitute a part of Christ's church. To tell them, therefore, to return, is to tell them to return to sin and the world, from whence they have been called out.
But it would appear from the “Address,” that it is the duty of the Methodists to attend the service of the Establishment. This may be inferred from the "Address" itself, which supposes the Methodists to have abandoned the path of duty-to be out of their proper sphere of action. But the author's own language will be still more determinate on this point. Hence, he devoutly says, “ I earnestly beseech Almighty God to enable me to write to your hearts and consciences; that these papers may have the good effect desired and intended, that they may give you a just sense of the disorders and errors you have been led into, and recover you to the practice of your duty.”+ If the writer comprehends in the term duty, private, family, and public prayer-searching the scriptures—the main
* Locke, in his “ Letter concerning Toleration,” keeps the definition thus given perfectly in countenance. “ A church, then," says he, “ I take to be a voluntary society of men, joining themselves together of their own accord, in order to the public worshipping of God, in such a manner as they judge acceptable to him and effectual to the salvation of their souls." Quarto edit.
tenance of public worship, &c. he might have saved himself considerable trouble; for these are duties which the Methodist Preachers constantly enforce upon their hearers, and to which the members of society are expected to adhere. It is evident therefore, that the author refers to the duty of attending the service of the Established Church. But on what is the supposition of this being a duty founded? Is it founded simply on the ground of its being a national Establishment?* This being the case, should not the “Address” have been more general? Should it not have extended to all other sects, since, on the same principle, they ought to be brought back to the observance of their duty? But does not the author perceive, that the church of Rome, might, on the same ground, having once been the Established Religion of the nation, urge the present Establishment to return within her pale? But has the author of the “Address" candidly examined the reasons which each party has advanced in favour
*« No body,” says Locke, “ is born a member of any church; otherwise the religion of parents would descend unto children, by the same right of inheritance as their temporal estates, and every one would hold his faith by the same tenure as he does his lands; than which nothing can be imagined more absurd. Thus therefore that matter stands. No man by nature is bound unto any particular church or sect, but every one joins himself voluntarily to that society in which he believes he has found that profession and worship which is truly acceptable to God. The hope of salvation, as it was the only cause of his entrance into that communion, so it can be the only reason of his stay there. For if afterwards he discover any thing either erroneous in the doetrine, or incongruous in the worship of that society to which he has joined himself, why should it not be as free for him to go out as it was to enter No member of a religious society can be tied with any other bonds but what proceed from the certain ex. pectation of eternal life. A church then is a society of members voluntarily uniting to this end." Letter on Toleration, p. 38.