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ened by occasional controversy, or temporary clamour may be excited by the firmness with which every attempt to remove the barriers of our ecclesiastical constitution has been resisted: but the wisest and the best of our dissenting brethren have never been unwilling to acknowledge, that they have always felt themselves most secure under its tolerant supremacy; and that, if political power or influence must be bestowed exclusively on any one class of Christians, to the Church of England alone it can be safely confided.


MATT. xii. 30.

He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad. IT has been strongly, though somewhat coarsely observed by an eminent nonconformist divine, that "there is no part of



religion that Satan does not endeavour "to destroy, under pretence of promoting "it." Those who have most attentively considered the history of the Church, may perhaps be inclined to admit the truth of the position to its full extent; as that history will suggest to them many reasons for believing that the cause of Christianity has suffered more injury from the labours of its pretended advocates, than from the persecutions of its avowed enemies. The opposition of the latter has generally tended to

a Baxter. Cure of Church Divisions, p. 270.

confirm and strengthen that faith, which they designed to destroy; while the former, by insidiously mixing themselves with the friends of religion, by misleading their judgment, misdirecting their zeal, and misapplying their exertions, have seldom failed to perplex its doctrines, and counteract its salutary operation on the human heart.

In no instance perhaps has this been more strikingly exemplified, than by the attempts which have been made, from time to time, to weaken or destroy the very foundations of Christian faith, under pretence of restoring unity among its professors.

Every well informed disciple of the blessed Jesus is persuaded, that b"envying and "strife" are unbecoming his holy calling, and is anxious to promote a better spirit among his brethren. Upon this predisposition therefore in favour of unity, the enemy has presumed; and, well aware that its real nature is in general but imperfectly understood, and that its most zealous advocates are not always fully instructed in

b 1 Cor. iii. 3.

the proper means of securing it, he has too often made it a pretext for engaging them in labours, more likely to terminate in the overthrow of religion itself, than in the accomplishment of their favourite object. It was the design of a former discourse to shew, that the Church of England, forming her idea of real Christian unity from the language of those Scriptures, to which she has steadily adhered, as the guide of her conduct, and the rule of her opinions, has employed every legitimate means in her power for its preservation. But the same wisdom which taught her how Christians should be one, enabled her also to discover, that, beyond a certain limit, it was neither safe nor right to seek their union; lest the substance itself should be lost in the pursuit of the shadow, and mutual peace should be promoted, not for the sake, but by the sacrifice, of truth.

The contests of which Christianity has been at least the pretext, if not the cause, may be ranked among the most furious and destructive which have visited the world; and, from its first promulgation to

the present hour, the folly of some, the pride and obstinacy of others, and the uncontrolled passions of the many, have presented insuperable impediments to the preservation of that unity, which it was our blessed Lord's desire to establish among his disciples. But ought we therefore to listen to any rash projector, who would persuade us to put Christianity itself to hazard, for the sake of ending the contentions by which it has been disgraced? Or should we conceive his scheme to be wise, or his motives to be who would urge the propriety of conceding even one fun→ damental article of our creed, that the offence of those, who have presumed to question or deny it, might be speedily and effectually removed?


The answer to such questions may be safely anticipated. None will consent to renounce doctrines which they consider to be fundamental, in order to conciliate the errors or the prejudices of others; and all will probably determine to maintain what they conceive to be the common faith, as a possession far too precious to be relin

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