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and I cannot sufficiently applaud your discernment and spirit, since you assume the denomination of a "protestant," in making and maintaining that consistent protest against all authority of man in the great affairs of religion, which can alone justisy the reformation; and that in consequence thereof you are finally resolved to be directed by your own improved understanding and judgment.
Eugenius. I am not less sensible of the satissaction which I derive from the exercise of the liberty I have assumed, than I am convinced of the right that appertains to every reasonable creature of God.
Theophilus. The right which you have claimed, and which you have justly represented as too valuable to be suffered to lie dormant; or, rather, which you cannot permit to be vested in an empty assumption of your freedom to examine for yourself, without great criminality; has probably carried you somewhat nearer to the verge of, what churchman may style, "heretical pravity," than when we last parted.
Eugenius. I know net how to give a decisive answer to your question, and I wish not to make you an equivocal one. Thus sar I have certainly advanced: I have improved and extended my charitable sentiments of ethers, and have seen occasion to doubt of many thing?, which I had considered as true, upon the venerable authority of the church.
Tmeophilus. The change of our sentiments upon particular points, naturally leads us to the extension of our charity; for when we sind that the revolutions in our own minds require indulgence and forbearance, we are more readily disposed to allow to others that liberty which we find so essential to our own happiness. In the progression from error to truth, there are many gradations; and the advancement being insinite, who shall fay to the other, " thus far shalt thou proceed, and no farther."
Eugenius. I apprehend that you are now disposed to consider my consession, as evidence of a greater progress than I" have really made. Excuse me; the very phrase, " consession," is objectionable, and offensive; and has no business in the church of Christ,—except in the qualified sense, you will here understand me to use it, in this our friendly conversation.
Theophilus. You have, it seems, made such proficiency in the spirit of protestantism, as to find out that words, innocent in themselves, have been made*the engines of much mischief in the christian world. But, all pleasantry apart, I may, I think,, now inquire whether you have not been seriously offended, in the course of the free exercise of your own judgment in the study of the scriptures, at the dogmatical air with which most christian churches have decided upon matters of faith and doctrine;
and whether, among these, it has never occurred to' you that the church of England has partaken much of the fame sbirit, and shared largely in the same practice; and thereby contributed, notwithstanding her protestant prosessions, to scandalize the purity of the gospel.
Eugenius. The conduct of the church of England, I do conceive to be reprehensible in several respects. Some of the doctrines she maintains, I consider as unscriptura!; and the imposition of them upon the consciences of her ministers, I think inconsistent with the principles of the protestant reformation. But she is countenanced, in both these respects, by the conduct of all the other reformed churches. Her doctrines were the doctrines of the reformers, in whom we make much boast; and as to the imposition of certain articles of faith, they are chiefly confined to ministers, and graduates of the two universities, and affect not the people at large. And in the expunging of particular doctrines out of her formulas, there might be so little agreement among those who are dissatisfied with them, that I sed some reluctance to hazard the experiment of another reformation.
Theophilus. There is much candour and ingenuousness in your observations; and your own natural forbearing temper corresponds with them. Without intending any depreciation of these excellent qualities, I cannot but think that they may
be carried into a criminal lethargy or timidity. They are qualities, which, if indulged with ease and supineness, may become hurtful; but, if brought forward into action, will greatly contribute to the happiness of mankind, and will appear particularly amiable, and eminently useful in theological controversy.
You will, therefore, excuse me, if, with the same temper of mind, I should vindicate the demands which truth makes upon every inquisitive mind; and insist that there lies an obligation upon every man to take her by the hand, and to accompany her wheresoever she mail lead him. In this sentiment, I apprehend that the present peace of mind and future happiness of my sellow christians are most essentially served; and that without a cool and dispassionate, but inflexible, adherence to truth and integrity in all the public (religious, civil, and social) intercourses of human lise, men become highly blameable before God, and fail to serve their generation, and that of their children after them, in their best and most valuable interests.
Eugenius. My affection for truth would, I trust, support me under any persecution in her service. But, as we may disagree in the estimate we may form, and the necessity we may sea of pursuing her, in certain cases; let us proceed to discuss a question which cannot but be interesting, and may be useful to us both.
Theophilus. I will most readily accept your challenge; and examine the obligation of truth, as it affects religious opinions and the public prosession of them,, which is the subject more particu* larly before us, and which will immediately apply, to the situation in which we both stand.
You have acknowledged that " the church of England maintains some doctrines which you consider as unfcriptural." It must, therefore, follow, that in your opinion she ought to reform herself in these respects. The governors of the church ought most certainly to enter on this good woik, from time to lime, as occasion is found to require. But it has been the practice not only of the English church, but of all established churches, to protract the work of reformation. Whether from an unwillingness to consess themselves in an .error, or from' any sear of the loss, of the lucrative endowments which are appendant to established opinions, I cannot lay, but it is a fact, that they have been so invariably averse to reformation,, that they have ever most tenaciously retained their respective systems, as long as they could; and indeed have seldom, if ever, been driven out of them, but by civil commotions, or ty some cause originally foreign, and seemingly inadequate to such an effect.
But further; the very claim of a right to establish
human formularies of religious faith and doctrine,
is so directly contrary to the design and spirit of the
E- %i gospel,