And The Clergy Who Signed The Petition To The House Of Commons For Protection1
[The following paper, printed now more than eight-and-thirty years ago, speaks for itself. It was sent privately to the Archbishop and Clergy, having been written some time before it was printed, and withheld, from anxiety as to the justness of the step; the course of the Archbishop and Clergy, with which I had from circumstances nothing personally to do, having greatly tried my spirit, and I was about twenty-six years old at the utmost, when it was written. I may mention that just at that time the Roman Catholics were becoming Protestants at the rate of 600 to 800 a week. The Archbishop (Magee) imposed, within the limits of his jurisdiction, the oaths of allegiance and supremacy; and the work everywhere instantly ceased. I remember Mr. R. Daly, since a prelate of the Establishment, saying to me after receiving it, You ought to become a Dissenter. I said, No; you have got into the wrong, and you want to put me there—but that you will not do. I attach no importance to the paper, which I have never read since, but as the first germing of truth which has since developed itself in the Church of God. It is published therefore just as it was first printed. All the actors are passed, everything is changed, so that there is no indiscretion in publishing it now.]
My Lord and Brethren,
I submit to you the following thoughts, occasioned originally by the Metropolitan Charge and Clerical Petition; but suppressed hitherto, from anxiety to take no step which I could not maturely judge to be taken according to the will of God. I do not publish them, because my object was to bring before the minds of those concerned the view which pressed upon my own, and by no means to make the world a judge of the conduct of Christ’s ministers, which it is not, unless they err from their principles; and if they do, it would be my part, while I might state my mind to them, to cover the. fault as it regards the world, where I supposed there was a fault committed. This feeling has guided my conduct on the occasion, and I cannot but feel happy at the delay, as it has given the opportunity of bringing forward some other things, which will, I think, assist in determining the true character of the views from which they originate. If there should be anything harsh in the expression, I beseech your forgiveness, and that you will attribute it to the anxiety of a mind actuated only by the desire that the conduct of those he loves and looks up to should be free, even from the imputation of error. I send it to the Archbishop, not presumptuously, but with the respect due to his station and office, and with the earnest trust he will weigh the matter fully: and I send it to the Clergy, because, by their petition they seem to have recognised and taken advantage of the supposed support claimed in the Charge; and I earnestly commend it to their attention, not suggesting any particular thing (which I do not feel to be my part), but calling their minds to weigh the place they stand in themselves.
I have long felt deeply anxious on the subject, and it seems to me that a sincere and deep interest in the work of the Spirit of God which is going on in this country, and a consciousness that (while the Spirit of God distributes to every man severally as He will, and my prayers are offered up that He may do so freely and abundantly) the ministers of the Established Church have many of them been partakers of His energies, and acted in the furtherance of them, call for an inquiry into the principles contained in this Charge. No man whose mind has been informed on these subjects can doubt (and least of all those to whom I address myself, who have themselves borne witness to it by their heartfelt interest in its progress; nay, the world, which can know nothing of the real work, has been compelled to own in its effects) the manifestation of the power of the Divine Spirit which has begun a work in this country, which I fully hope will not end in it, and is of ho country, but of the power of that kingdom which shall fill the whole earth. Under these circumstances all who enter into the work of God, as ministers in the power of the same Spirit, are urgently called upon to recognise their just place, to consider, as far at least as their own conduct is concerned, what the order of the operation is, that they may follow in simplicity, and unhindered by any inconsistency of personal or assumed character, the guidance and workings of the Eternal Spirit. They are bound to hold themselves (I speak this not as urging a claim, but expressing the assumed conviction of their own minds) as servants of Jesus Christ, and who therefore cannot consistently yet please men. They will feel it their faithful and zealous concern, therefore, as far as in them lies, in order that they may be the servants of all men to their eternal welfare, to be free from all men, not to be “the servants of men” as in the world, that they may minister, preaching not themselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and themselves the servants of such as have ears to hear for His sake. With this view they are called (I do humbly suggest to them) to owe no man anything; called therefore with jealousy to judge, authorised by their obligation to their one Master who has an undivided claim to their service, anything that would prejudice that claim and the consistency of their own conduct with the blessed work which in His grace He has committed them to do: and I do persuade myself, that they have too deep an interest in the work and reign of Him who redeemed them, not to consider with attention any suggestion which reaches them relative to the interests of His name, and the free course of His word to souls. These considerations weigh with me to induce the communication of the following thoughts. The Charge and Petition appear to the public, with the sanction of their names; and bound as I must be to suppose, that this must carry to the world a representation of their sentiments, which they might find difficulty in gainsaying, I am emboldened to bring these documents under the maturer consideration of those who are disposed to avow, however humbly as individuals yet openly as servants, their identification with the interests of the Son of God, who loved them and gave Himself for them. I do feel, if they assume such an office and character, they are bound to approve themselves in it throughout, in that world where they must have every motive and all their conduct canvassed, and where the honour of their Master’s name, the name of the Lord, who gave Himself for the church, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, will be charged in their persons, with every even error of theirs, while they will be used as proofs against them, that they cannot be the ministers of God, seeing they are in such and such things contrary to the character imprinted on the ministry by their Master, and thus their ministry hindered as towards those who might receive it, and who, in fact for the most part, judge by such very means. I am indeed persuaded that it has pleased God too decidedly (and I have entire faith in the continuance of it) to manifest His power to shew forth the character of those who are His, to suffer the work itself to be countervailed by any particular act, though inconsistent. But I am equally persuaded that this work will be carried on by the maintenance of that same sincerity of service, ministering the truth in love, which the Lord has ever used for its promotion, and that those who look for a part in the heavenly work, who look to be owned as labourers with Him in that day, so that he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together, must look for it in the consistency of their own labour with the spirit and judgment and actual work of Him with whom they seek to rejoice. Impossible that they can gather the fruit of His blessed suffering and divine labour, so as to be glorified with Him by the display of it as the fruit of the travail of His soul, but as His labourers as working in conformity with the spirit in which He wrought. I turn from this, which I speak as the undoubted sentiment of those who are engaged in the work and labour of love, to consider the consistency of certain views and acts with these acknowledged principles; if they be acknowledged, they are unquestionably paramount to all motives, and we are able and bound to judge all acts by them, so as to regulate our own conduct with certainty before God: itself a matter of solid comfort to those who find their exercise in proving what the good and acceptable and perfect will of God is. And surely it does become those who, under the influence of the sense of God’s mercies of which they have been made partakers, are disposed to present their bodies a living sacrifice, and not to be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of their minds, if in anything they may have seemed to have acquiesced in conformity to that which crucified the Lord of glory, to let judgment have its free course in their own minds, lest they be further entangled in error, lest the clearness and decision of their moral judgment, on which under God their efficient service, to say the least, in the work of God so much depends, should be impaired.
To apply myself then to that which has given occasion to the expression of these thoughts. We have the following public acts—a Charge from the Metropolitan, stating the ground on which the Church stands, and then Petitions forwarded by the instrumentality of the hierarchy, seeking the exercise of civil authority for the protection of that Church as a body in this country. To these I beg attention. It is to be remarked that the Charge is stated to be published at the request of the Clergy, and the Petition is signed by a numerous body of them to say the least, and ostensibly is the act of them as a body interested in the cause of true religion in this country. As there are, thank God! many in the orders of the Church of Ireland who are zealous ministers of divine truth, and as they might seem included in the above general body, it is to them particularly that I address myself. I am not going to discuss the merits of the Archbishop’s Charge at all. I purposely decline it. My business is with the principles contained and expounded in it. It amounts to a claim on behalf of the Established Church to protection from the civil Sovereign, founded on these two positions—that the civil Sovereign is bound and has accordingly the right to choose the best religion for his people, and that the Established Church has every character on which such a choice ought to depend; but, in doing this, the Charge gives a statement of the foundation, nature, and office of the Church, in the principles of which no clergyman zealous in his office as a minister of the Church of Christ, could, I submit, acquiesce.
What is the Church of Christ in its purpose and perfection? And our Lord has taught us to ascribe whatever is inconsistent with this to the hand of an enemy. It is a congregation of souls redeemed out of ‘this naughty world’ by God manifest in the flesh, a people purified to Himself by Christ, purified in the heart by faith, knit together, by the bond of this common faith in Him, to Him their Head sitting at the right hand of the Father, having consequently their conversation (commonwealth) in heaven, from whence they look for the Saviour, the Lord of glory; Phil. 3:20. As a body, therefore, they belong to heaven; there is their portion in the restitution of all things, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord. On earth they are, as a people, necessarily subordinate; they are nothing and nobody; their King is in heaven, their interests and constitution heavenly. “My kingdom is not of this world: if it were, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews.” As such, consequently, they have no power. The result is, that they are formed into a spiritual community; they are raised, by their Head and centre and source of hope and object of allegiance being in heaven, to be heavenly. They are delivered in spirit out of this present evil world, and become heavenly, spiritual, in their connections, interests, thoughts, and prospects; while their habits on earth are those, by necessary consequence, of pilgrims and strangers, adorning (by consistent humility, gentleness, patience, and kindness) the grace of which they have been made partakers, through faith which works by love, while they avow and are in their own persons witnesses of the divine dominion. Their personal and common delights are correspondent, and their activities flow from this spring and have their motive and their order in the interests of this kingdom of divine love and grace.
What is the Papacy? Satan’s fiction to answer to all this. While men are kept down in the lowest desires of a depraved world, in the bondage of the corrupt affections of a nature alienated from the gift of God, it presents a head on earth, earthly in his interests and in his objects, knitting together in a body, not a people separated out of the world to spiritual objects, but one tied by the closest interests to maintain his earthly supremacy, and with it their own importance upon earth, and in an earthly way; and by this universal and astonishing scheme of antichristianity, which is antitheism, precluding the application of the divine word, the instrument of divine sovereignty, to the souls of men. In short, the system of Popery I look upon as an entire counterpart of the Christian scheme, set up by Satan on the decay of faith to hold its place, uniting men to an earthly head and to each other by those interests from which Christianity delivers, and keeping the world in bondage, instead of leading men to heavenly things out of those interests, to be humbled in the presence of the world’s dominion. The members of the papal system will accordingly be found, in their interests, objects, and activities, such as would result from such a system. We know, blessed be God! that, in result, the kingdom of His Son will be glorified in the splendour of its great Head, and the destruction of that antichristian counterpart, by which Satan has deceived the nations under the pretence of Christianity.
Further, what is the ministry of the Church of Christ? They are as ambassadors in Christ’s stead, beseeching men to be reconciled to God, and ministering that grace and truth of which the fulness is in Him, according to the wisdom given unto them, gathering that very congregation of souls of which I have spoken, and edifying them when gathered. They are even in the language of an office, which, in its main purport, looked to all being outwardly, at least, within its own cure, “on the one hand, to teach, premonish, to feed, and provide for the Lord’s family; on the other, to seek for Christ’s sheep that are dispersed abroad, and for His children who are in the midst of this naughty world, that they might be saved through Christ for ever.” Their ministry is coextensive with their Master’s grace; their testimony with His claim of dominion over the souls of men. I am not now speaking of the order of its exercise, as between two or more working within their own rule; but as regards the nature of the duty of all, the place which they all occupy as ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God, there is a solemn obligation on them as ministers of Christ; and if there be anything in their present position, or the exigency of the season, which would imprint a special, I do not say an exclusive character, on their office, it is the renewed manifestation of the gospel of Him, whose Spirit and word have commission to the ends of the earth. This, while it constitutes their office, constitutes their obligation, gives a decided, formal principle of action, more or less developed, according to the measure of faith. In the execution of this office of ministering the word of grace and truth, they are met by the great system which Satan has raised to blind men’s hearts, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine into them. They, therefore, find themselves in collision with the Papacy, as a system of darkness, in collision with its influence on the souls of men; and it becomes their business in consequence to contend against its delusion, and expose the artifices of Satan, by which souls are kept from coming to God by Jesus Christ; and in this they are the ministers of Christ, working in His spiritual strength to the fulfilment of the purposes of His grace. What then does this Charge propose as the position of the Clergy? It views the Papacy, in its practical operation, exercising that intruding spirit, and proposing that claim, however modified or concealed for the sake of expediency, which necessarily flows from the character which it assumes as holding the authority of Christ, the Pope gerere personam Christi (seeking to impersonate Christ), while it is altogether earthly, and I cannot avoid saying, the instrument and plan of Satan, exercising dominion here by his delusions—here, the only place where by his delusions he can, under a false name, wear the robe of authority, which he once openly exercised in the plenitude of heathen mythology. It views the Papacy, I say, making inroads by this power in its earthly shape, and calling by seducing arts the kingdom which has been delivered from its direct authority, again to give his power to it. It views it in its results as affecting the State as proposing a dominion inconsistent with the supremacy of the civil Sovereign. To what does it lead the Clergy thereupon? It holds them up to public view in their relation to the State, as formed upon principles which make them useful to the State, subservient to its purposes, in resisting subjection to this renewed satanic dominion over the world. If counselling the State, this might be all well; if it were a speech in parliament, it might have its place; on temporal, grounds its arguments might be strong, why the State should uphold the interests of the Established Church. With this I have nothing to do. It presents itself as specifically calling on the Clergy to recognise their own due position. It is on this ground I enter on the consideration of it. And what place does it give them? The result of the whole is this—they are harmonised with the State and subservient to its supremacy for the effectuation of its. moral government in order to the happiness of the subject people; and it is its adequacy to this, as being loyal, social, Protestant, etc., which is proposed as its claim on the Sovereign for his support, while it is (being thus embodied with the State) harmless, as not affecting any independent authority. In result, in order to its claim of support, it must be subservient to the interests of the civil Sovereign, its movements and conduct’ must fee governed by the interests of the Sovereign to this extent; in a word, the Clergy in their office become “instituted orders of the State,” and the ecclesiastical supremacy is made to consist;, not only in the Sovereign’s duty, and therefore right, to choose what he deems a true religion for his people, and thereon be a judge of faith so far, but further, in having the ordering of the ministration under his control, and being the head of discipline. In one sense the former part of this may be true, but, on the principles of the Charge, is a mere substitution of the civil Sovereign for the Pope, such as Henry VIII introduced, and which made the German Protestants refuse to ally themselves with him. And in truth he is an illustration of the words of the Charge; he threw off the supremacy of the Pope in the assertion of his own supremacy as Sovereign, and chose what he deemed to be a true religion for his people.
I quote one passage: “The Sovereign cannot prescribe in favour of a system that maintains a spiritual supremacy independent of civil government,” pp. 29, 30. There is a spiritual supremacy independent of civil government, the spiritual supremacy of Christ, of which the Clergy are ministers —not an earthly dominion, but the very contrary. But when our Lord was brought before Pilate and charged with being a king, He did not affirm the harmlessness of His religion, by stating its amalgamation of interests with the State, or that it was merely “another aspect of the same body,” but unqualifiedly assented to the position, “witnessed a good confession,” that it was a kingdom, but not of this world.
The statement of the Charge is in plain hostility to the view and judgment of our Lord, when Satan was endeavouring to bring Him into jeopardy by the very imputation.2 But the Scripture is as plain as possible; it presents God claiming in the Person of the Son the homage of spiritual faith. So that, “he that believeth not should be damned,” for he rejects divine authority claiming obedience to the faith. It presents civil Sovereigns instituted for the purpose of controlling outward evil, to use its own words, “for the punishment of evil-doers, and for the praise of them that do well”—so that they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation, for they resist the same divine authority. And thus viewed, there is no possibility of collision; for the ministers who claim obedience to the faith from all nations are the ministers of the same authority, and whose business is the claim of subjection to that authority from which the other flows. Neither God, I speak with reverence, nor His Spirit in His ministers, is divided against Himself, and he who denies the authority of the Sovereign in the things which belong to Caesar cannot be speaking by the Spirit of that God who gave the Sovereign that authority, or He would be divided against Himself. The truth is, the apprehension of the heavenly kingdom perfectly clears the whole matter—it has no right place in the world but tribulation and trial, or its casual rest is of the supreme mercy.
But to give up the rightful dominion of the Son of God, in order to avoid the imputation of seeking civil power, or rather to preserve ourselves from the inroads of one who seeks it on apostate grounds, is surely inconsistent, I do not mean in intention but in fact, with fidelity to the glory of the great Head of the Church, humbled for our sakes, and resulting (where taken as a principle of conduct) either in opposition, however mitigated or modified, or at least in the dread of the spiritual energies by which that kingdom of eternal blessing is maintained and promoted. Does not the system of Christian faith “assume the inherent right to establish itself in every country? “Is it not, by authority more than human, “essentially supreme in spiritual matters over all? “Are not both “prince and people bound to submit to its mandates, as to the great Head of the Christian Church?” And are not “they who refuse to do so rebels against a rightful sovereignty?” Are not all in truth and reality the subjects of its sway, whether they will acknowledge it or not? And am I, because Satan has imitated this in an apostate earthly dominion carried on under its name, to give this up (could Satan wish better?) and to dwindle Christianity into a system harmonised with a particular community, for the purposes of its moral happiness? Is not the great authority of Christian faith as much relinquished by this as by anything else? It is surely, for this is the result— a strange way of opposing Satan’s wiles, to give up the claim and possession by which alone he can be overcome. The apostate dominion of the Papacy is not to be met therefore on the part of the Clergy, by calling the aid of the State to resist its temporal dominion, but by their overcoming the strong man armed as the active, forward ministers of Him who is stronger than he; not by waiting till they are attacked, as if their interests were the thing in question; but now that God has been pleased to shed3 forth His Spirit, in their due places ministering the spiritual sword, by which they are called upon to deliver poor fellow-sinners from thraldom, going, and actively opening men’s eyes, and turning them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive the remission of sins, and an inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith in the Lord of glory. If this be not the place of the Clergy, what place have they? If they are not bound to establish Christianity wherever the Lord opens a door, what are they for? Or, are we to rest in that position which Dean Tillotson, on reflection, wept over, “that no man has a right to establish Christianity in any country, without the consent of the civil government, except he had miracles to support him?” This, I really think to be the genuine result of the principles of the Charge, and indeed to flow from the right of a Sovereign to choose the religion he deems best, in the sense the Charge gives it: in one sense I have said it is his duty. My meaning is this—where the divine authority promulgates the faith of Christ, i.e., reveals the Son of God, a submission to Him is an obligation resulting as necessarily as that of obedience to God generally revealed, and the Monarch, or civil Sovereign, is as much bound to recognise it as the dominion of God Himself; and thus, if this be called a duty to choose a religion, he certainly has his choice, being founded on a proposal of obedience to faith in God, similar to that on which the salvation of an individual depends; but all this is a consistent assertion of the dominion of Christ, not an escape from it. But I have said, that the placing the Church in this relinquishment of the high calling of God does practically tend to stop its active exertions; indeed, it has no pretence for it else. They may be ministers of moral order, as they have been too often degraded to; but their active, zealous exertions, as Christian ministers, would be intolerable, if Christ had not committed such a ministry to them. It is true, it is brought to soul as an offer of grace, because God is not only supreme, but supreme love; but while they, in their conduct, neither against the law of the Jews, nor the temple, nor yet against Caesar, offend anything at all, they bear a direct authoritative message from God, to every one who has a conscience by which he is subject to God. They may, in consequence, be brought to suffer from those who reject their Master, and the divine authority; they may shew their innocence when called to answer thereupon as troublers of the common peace; but this done, their proper vindication is, when He shall appear for whose name they have suffered: here they appear but as doing well and suffering for it.
But what is the result of such a position as to the Clergy? They confine themselves within the bounds of social order whose interests they support. They protest against the encroachments of the adverse powers, which would upset the system to which they are attached, and themselves along with it, if it had its way; but there they stop. They cannot honestly attack Satan’s kingdom; for to do that, and then cry out because they are abused by his agents, seems to me unworthy conduct, inconsistent with the honour of, and their integrity to, Him (an integrity manifested by conformity flowing from the influence of His Spirit) who was hated, persecuted, spoken all manner of evil against, for the very same reason. It may be the interest of a body who are maintaining worldly order to keep up their worldly credit, in order to that general influence which will cement society, and which is exactly the office which the Charge proposes to the Clergy. But, with this in view, it is manifest they must let Satan alone; for do they expect to attack him, and him to hold his tongue, and leave them in credit, if he can help it, and suffer the prey to be snatched out of his hands? It is therefore expressly the business of a minister of God the Saviour to approve himself such, in honour and dishonour, evil report and good report, whether Christ, or they, for His sake, be blasphemed on the enemy’s part, or on the believer’s part be glorified; and it seems to be a direct flight from following Christ in this, to claim a refuge from the persecution and dishonour which attend His name; and this is the result (O consider it! brethren) of attaching yourselves to a system, to which worldly credit is necessary, in order to maintain its influence, or whose members at least identify themselves with the honour and security of the world. A civil Sovereign may indeed afford a refuge in such a case, but it can be only by the desertion of that reproach which will ever attend the name of Christ when it is brought into the trial of the enemy. I cast no reproach on those who look for it, who do not (let me be forgiven for so speaking) see it with the eye of faith: ill would it become me, and most far from my feeling to do so. I only entreat those who believe, who in principle do judge with me, who esteem the reproach of Christ, who look to the ministry of His kingdom, and speak the words of His blessed grace, or those who may be willing to weigh them, to weigh these things. I write for them. I have, I trust under the guidance of the Spirit, discussed these principles merely as they affect their conduct; but I say, it does suppose (I mean, recourse to the civil Sovereign for protection as a body; for remonstrance against the unjust exercise of the magistratorial power is another thing), that they confine themselves to a ministry of moral order, which will be found never to go beyond this world, or to be of faith, of real subjection to Christ; as contrasted to seeking a people for Christ from the dominion of Satan, as Christ’s servants.
And here I am led to the Petition, which, as well as the Charge, bears me out; the latter calling it “manly protests,” which is exactly the limits of self-defence as a national, and therefore earthly constituted body; the former, by suggesting, as the very ground of the application for protection, their “confining themselves to the quiet discharge of their proper duties.” The language of the Petition bears out, in a way I had not myself previously adverted to, the view I had taken of the principles of the Charge to be accurate. It shews that the petitioning Clergy, “influenced by a love of peace, and by a desire of avoiding even the appearance of political discussion, have been hitherto withheld from approaching your Honourable House, against the hostility and calumny with which they and their religion have been, for a length of time, systematically assailed, under the pretence of seeking civil and religious liberty, but with the real design of obtaining powers subversive of both, and with the hope of overturning the established religion, by the defamation of its Clergy, and the misrepresentation of their faith. While any doubt could remain that such designs and such hopes existed, your Petitioners were desirous, though exposed to daily vexations, and insults, and injuries, to submit in silence, and endeavour, by the quiet discharge of their proper duties, to soften the violence of their enemies, although they had but too good reason to be convinced, that these their enemies were such from being enemies to their Church.”
This is clearly a Petition for protection against defamation of the Clergy, as tending to destroy the Establishment; laying as a ground for it their having confined themselves to the quiet discharge of their proper duties. Either this means their duties as members of the Establishment, which in fact it does mean, and then the result, especially when we join it with the Charge, is to confine the whole energy of the Clergy by the measure of its consistency with their relation to the State; or. else leaving it open to the Clergy to use their utmost endeavours’ for the conversion of souls to God from blindness and error, and then, when interfered with, which we may admit, it appeals for protection from this, on this ground, that they were only quietly discharging their proper duties in their volunteer efforts in the cause of delivering men from antichristian darkness. Surely they ought to count the cost before they engage in such an enterprise, and not, when they begin to feel the brunt of the enemies’ violence, to apply to extrinsic aid, alleging they were only quietly discharging their proper duties. I entreat those who value the representation which God gives in the scripture, of the state, refuge, and resources of His Church and people, as owned by Him, to compare that (I could not bring myself to do it) with the position here given them. I do own, when I consider this whole matter, and the bearing of scripture upon it, connected with circumstances on which I will not venture to touch, I could weep at men whom I love and respect, having unwittingly put their hands to this Petition.
In short, I do feel that ministers of God are called upon to entertain the question—is it our duty or calling, according to the gift bestowed upon us, to enter into conflict with the power of darkness? or do we believe that the Roman Catholic system in this country is a manifestation of it? If they do, let them fairly look to it; and count whether with ten thousand they are able to meet him that cometh against them with twenty thousand; or else let them send embassies of peace: if not, let them hold themselves to their own flocks, and instruct them as well as they can, if they are allowed by God to do so; but the fact is, that they have come forward—rather let us say, that God has manifested His light in the world, and I do feel something of the applicability of that sentence, “He that is not with me is against me.” But if this be so, surely their place is the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ—their business, to endure hardness as good soldiers of His. This patience is one of the characteristics of His servants, a necessary one in the conflict with darkness. One peculiar snare stands in their way in the present times, by which Satan would mix and so destroy the proper character of this work, one which his own subtlety has provided—this is that, having mixed Roman Catholic interests with this world and so given other men an interest in this world against them in preserving their freedom, he has added a political question to the religious one: from this snare in its broad lines the Clergy have kept themselves free. I propose to them, whether in a weaker shape apparently, though in my mind a worse one, as affirming themselves as a body acting on their own interests, and claiming alliance with the State to support them, such a claim of protection be not the same; that is, whether it leave them at perfect liberty to pursue, according to the wisdom of God, the guidance of the Spirit, in the energies that are mercifully exhibiting in this now highly favoured country. As far as my recollection goes, they will find nothing scriptural to bear them out. The ministers of Christ go on steadily then in their own course, as bearing God’s commission, and suffer with Him, whom they have no reason to expect to be above finding their solace in sympathy with Him and one another, and the consciousness that herein they were partakers of the sufferings of Christ, and workers together even with God. Why should my beloved and honoured brethren (actuated, I fear not to say, by the same spirit) choose a lower place, choose not to have the fellowship of His sufferings? I know they would not—I persuade myself, at least, they will listen with candour to a very obscure brother, in suggesting the inconsistency of the principles I have been considering with this willingness, and the simplicity of faith in Him. The instances of remonstrance in Scripture are where one commissioned with the civil sword has exceeded his power by injustice against an innocent person, who bore the spiritual commission of the same master— a marked confirmation of, and not an exception to, the principles I have suggested.
Let me be permitted to recur to the general grounds on which I have gone—that the Papacy is the organised system of Satan for keeping men’s souls, where the light of Christianity had entered, as far as he possibly can, under the same bondage in which he held them under heathenism. I shall not enlarge upon this view, though full of interest, as I feel at liberty to use it as true—that it is a part of this scheme to hold nations in subjection to it. There may be therefore a twofold opposition to it; one, of the civil Sovereigns to the claim of supremacy in any shape; the other, the ministration of the word, which is God’s instrument in pulling down the strongholds of Satan; but it is impossible for the minister of the latter to claim the protection of the former, on the ground of his interest in supporting him, and remain the unshackled servant of Jesus Christ.
I respectfully suggest, therefore, the double ground of the present wisdom of faith, and the consideration of the principles on which these things rest, as both leading to the conclusion, that those who have the cause of God at heart should, while they fulfil the duty in which God has cast them, unless called specially to any peculiar work, keep themselves unequivocally free to minister His grace, according as God shall give them opportunity and strength. Surely God calls them to it, calls them by the work that He has wrought, to be exceedingly wise, lest they should in any way put a hindrance to themselves. They may be sure that Satan will try every method to divert the matter from the application of that word, which goes forth with power to the very foundation and heart of his kingdom. I do earnestly and affectionately call upon the servants of God, trusting they will not count me presumptuous, that whenever they are not simply ministering the word, under the guidance of the Spirit of wisdom, they should, as specially bound by His peculiar grace to us at present, weigh the bearings of every act with patience and wisdom. That they have done so in many instances, I doubt not. It becomes members of the Establishment, to whom Christ and the interests of His people are the centre and rule of affection and judgment, to exercise discerning wisdom on this side as well as others; because on this side, however advantageous to the Church as against evil, under divine Providence, they are in connection with, or at least brought where there may a claim on them be made by, what has no common principle of action. And especially now that so many who so long sat in darkness are coming forward to see what these new doctrines are, is it incumbent on them to present themselves as ministers of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. I have stated the principles on which my views of the whole case are founded, to which, though I believe them just, I attach no great importance; and I have ventured—what is much nearer to my heart—to urge the present work of faith, not as though I were an adviser (for I know how many are every way before me in the Lord), but as one, however unworthy, who has obtained like precious faith with them, and therefore enters into all the interests which they are desirous of promoting. If I have erred in any matter of judgment, I am willing to be corrected; and I can only trust, that as I have undertaken it with the single desire of ministering to the strength of those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, if it conduce to this end, I shall feel deeply the gainer: to their love I beg to commend myself, perfectly, as I trust, united with them, striving together for the faith of that blessed Gospel which has been committed to us.
After all, what am I contending for? That those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, the desire of whose heart is to fulfil the ministry which they have received, to testify the Gospel of the grace of God, and who will feel that conformity to their Master will be the order in which this testimony will be effectual, should not be precluded from such little share of the fellowship of His sufferings as may reach them in then-present circumstances, and may stamp them with the Christian
character. To my mind, and I suppose to theirs on consideration, the judgment of faith is clear on the subject; and I would solemnly and anxiously urge upon them, that the adoption of the principles contained in the Charge and Petition (for they will be found one thing on consideration of them together) will preclude them from coming forward on Christian ground, and having their proper share in using this blessed opportunity for the delivering souls—I might justly say the world—from the power of darkness, and setting up the kingdom of the §on of God, as far as it is permitted to us to do it before His appearing, on its own stable and sure foundation of faith in the Lord of glory.
I will conclude with one remark. I think it will be found that practically a right faith mainly consists in seeing the glory of Christ in His humiliation—I mean, that by which a redeemed soul lives in the flesh. The Church has its being and character in this faith— “Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” He formed it that He might present it to Himself a glorious Church without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing—not to the world. Glory in the world is essentially contrary to faith. This latter character of glory in the world is the character stamped on the Papacy: they even avow and affirm it: their glorying is in their shame, minding earthly things: they evidence themselves in consequence to be Satan’s church, whose theatre is the world. The very essence of the grounds they take is setting aside faith. They make the Church, make faith, unnecessary. They will have the inheritance, like their elder brethren, the Jews, after the flesh, which is not God’s way—now more deeply culpable in it, for that the nature of the inheritance is declared. But with what comfort or consistency can we, in the sight of God, when we have been delivered from this terrible delusion, oppose its progress, or pretend to deliver others from it, while we in another shape are seeking, in the least degree, the objects which are not of faith, which give the character we reprobate in them, or seek refuge from the accompaniments of faith? Our reliance, then, brethren, must be on the promises; and the consistent exhortation from God to us is, “Thou standest by faith: be not high-minded, but fear.” There is a constant tendency to depart from this principle: it is not a principle of ease till the time of our rest comes, when the hope of faith shall appear. If the kings of the earth shall take us up, we may thank God for the goodness of His providence; but let us not attach ourselves to them, or fall into their principles, but let us be peculiarly watchful that it leave us what it found us— an humble, holy, self-denying people, trusting in the name of the Lord; still (while we own and accept the present blessing, as honouring our Master’s name as well as comforting us) living on what is our sole strength, the faith of the Son of God.
Affectionate confidence, mixed with fear, has made me bold to offer these thoughts to my brethren. I remain their affectionate brother and servant in the Lord.
Postscript.—The following circumstances seem to me connected with the above considerations, and will assist in conveying my views.
The oath of supremacy is proposed by the Archbishop to the converts, which, instead of opening the door of Christ to the soul in bondage, makes the admission into the Establishment a necessary condition: and I would suggest, that such a measure is exceedingly analogous to the conduct which created such difficulty at Antioch, on the admission of the Gentiles, and puts a stumbling-block in the way of a weak believer. I own myself unable to understand the fitness and still less the necessity of such a step. It is a closing of the door of Christ against weak souls; and is, on the principles of the Charge, a pledge on the part of the convert to the religion which the civil Sovereign may choose for his people. While it is on the part of the Clergy a natural consequence of the Charge and Petition; for if they propose themselves as candidates for the favour of the civil government, in order to obtain its protection, and then seek for its aid in the character in which they have proposed themselves, it is at once their interest, and I must add, their obligation to support its interests in their ministry, and bind others to the same system: but how will this consist with their duty to Christ, and the souls which He has purchased with His own blood, and gathering them for Him? Further, the admission is “into the true Catholic Church, established in these realms.” This ends in the same thing; for, instead of bringing them to graft them into the vine, the liberty and security of Christ, to pledge their souls to that which (if the civil Sovereign should choose wrong) would be Popery, and is in fact a denial of union with Christ being the vital principle and bond of the true Church, that general assembly and Church of the first-born whose names are written in heaven, which is the true Church, the fulness of Him, that filleth all in all. Here is true catholicity, and to affirm it of anything else is Popery, however modified: and Protestantism is the manifestation of faith in the word, when Satan has hidden the true Church, the assembly of believers, in a system of this world; and such a system, in a modified shape, is that maintained in the Charge.
The sermon of the Archbishop, as reported, speaks of “the scriptures as rightly interpreted”: this, I conceive, is an unperceived acquiescence in Popery; for if there be an interpreter, he must, if anything, be an authorised one; which is Popery. The assertion of an interpreter is exactly contrary to the testimony of the Spirit, manifested in scripture and asserted by Protestantism, that the Scriptures are able to make wise unto salvation through faith; and to give light and understanding to the simple; so that men thereby become wiser than their teachers. But it will be said, You discard a ministry. God forbid. I look upon it as so much as is committed by the Holy Ghost of the offices of the Redeemer to men; but the system against which I remonstrate puts them in the wrong place. That of which they have a portion is all revealed to faith by the same Spirit in the Scriptures. Their order is, therefore, whether in their evangelical or episcopal characters, the representatives of the Apostle of our profession and Bishop of our souls, to preach the truth of Christ, according to their proportion of faith, and then those who have the Scriptures, and receive the word, will search whether these things are so, and become wise unto salvation. In their episcopal character they will guide the conduct of believers, who will again find their assurance and security in the Scriptures, which make the man of God perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
1 Dublin, 1827; not published.
2 Wetstein mentions a hymn, “Veteris Ecclesiæ.”
“Hostis Herodes impie
Christum venire quid times?
Non eripit mortalia
Qui regno dat ccelestia”
Translation—Hymn of the early Church.
“O wicked Herod, impious foe.
Why dost thou fear Christ’s coming here?
He snatches not at transient thrones
Who heavenly kingdoms can confer.”
3 I do not alter anything, though the expression is incorrect.