« PreviousContinue »
These, and the like expressions, together with repeated and continued addresses by prayer to Jesus Christ, and even to the holy spirit, instead of the one true God, who hath no equal, or sharer, in the creation or government of the world, and who alone can hear the prayers of his creatures, are, according to my apprehension, in no way warranted by,the word of God, as we read it in the old and new Testament, the only authority upon which, as christians and protestants, we can depend. But on the contrary, they appear to be in direct opposition to the express declarations of that Being, who declared himself, by Moses, to be'oNE Lord (Deut. vi. 4.), and* of Christ himself, whose words, borrowed also from Moses, are, Thou Jhalt worship the Lord thy God, him enly shalt thou serve. (Luke iv. 8.) And who, on all occasions, prayed to, and called upon the one God, the common father of all, who was his father and our father, his God and our God. (John xx. 17.) And who also declared, that he came not to do his own •will, but the U/ill of God who sent him; (chap. vi. 38.) that he honoured his father, and sought not his own glory; that he wrought all his wonderful works, not by his own power, but by the power of God; and further, who, in order to prevent misapprehensions of his proper character, renounced the bare appellation of good, given to him by the scribe in the gospel, saying, there was none good but one, and that was God. (Markx. 18.}
Besides these particular, clear, and determinate authorities, my convictions of the divine unity are not founded upon single and detached passages, but on the whole tenor of the sacred scriptures, which speak one uniform and consistent language concerning it. There is one God, writes St. Paul, and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ 'Jesus; ( I Tim. ii. 5.) and all the declarations of Christ himself, and of all the writers of the new Testament, fay the fame thing.
It is indeed very true, and ought to be observed, that there are to be found expressions in the new Testament, which may seem, at first sight, and even to some liberal persons, to favour the considering Jesus Christ as an object of divine worship; and whereby some may be induced to look upon him to be really and properly God. But all the countenance and assistance which the expressions of scripture alluded to give to such a doctrine, is derived either from the ambiguous use of the term worship, or from other alike doubtful phrases; or from the single instance of the protomartyr Stephen; all which have been often demonstrated by learned inquirers, to yield little satisfaction for the introduction of such a new object of worship: and especially when it is considered, that Christ never taught or enjoined men to worship himself, but the Father only; nor ever gave any instruction to his disciples, to teach such a doctrine to the world as that of worshipping himself, their mnjler and lord, as he declares himself to be to them,, but not their God. (John xiii. 13.)
Under these convictions, the road of duty lay plain before me, hard as the measure might seem; worldly considerations alone remained to prevent me from taking the direct path,, and following the dictates os' my conscience. And these temptations I h?.d in no imall degree. The just claims of an infant family pleaded hard not to be neglected. Nor could I refrain from thinking upon their situation with all the anxiety of parental asfection, and, possibly, with more solicitude for their temporal provision, than the nature^ of my own difficulties ought to have admitted. I was agreeably situated in the circle of relations, and several esteemed friends, and have lived in a constant kind intercourse with all my parishioners, among whom I ever found my ministry acceptable. I had extended my usefulness among my neighbours in all the ways I was able. Nor was I forward to think that I could be equally useful under any change of situation which removed me to a different sphere of action. And I may add, that I was not insensible even to an acquired partiality to the place of my residence, where, on many accounts, and for reasons of a private nature, I could have wHhed to have con-* tinued, to the end of my lise, in the enjoyment of every desirable accommodation and comfort which a reasonable mind could wish for.
These considerations deserved some thought, and th;y have had their full weight. But they are, after
all, all, considerations of subordinate and inserior importance, when contrasted with the positive duty I owe to God, to the gospel of Jesus, to my fellowchristians, and to myself.
It is no light matter to prosess our religion in insincerity and hypocrisy. We are enjoined by high authority to worship God in spirit and in truth. And shall worldly temptations prevail upon any one, who seriously prosesses himself a christian, to worship any other than the one true God, Jehovah, the Father of all, while he believes that fame self-existent and all-powerful Being to be God, and none other besides him? Or, shall we approach the great searcher of hearts with that duplicity and deceit which is not to be allowed in our dealings and intercourse with our fellow men? Or, shall we think to amend the matter by addressing our private prayers to the God and Father of our lord Jesus Christ, in compromise for our having publicly prayed, in the language of the church, to a trinity of Gods, or to the man Christ Jesus, who lived among us, and died upon a cross, and who himself renounced all adoration and worship? Shall we pray unto a man, though the most holy and excellent that ever lived on the earth, and thereby elevate the creature to the dignity of the creator, and take, from the unchangeable and only God and governor of the world, any of that praise and thanksgiving which we are enjoined to give unto him, and unto him only, and which are so peculiarly and eminently his own? Or, through our earnest desire
to to continue in the established church, shall we prove our faith by mental reservations in the course of public worship, so that while we assent to one prayer, we reject another, or, possibly, divide a third, approving the former, and rejecting the latter part? Or, rather, shall we not, in all true simplicity and singleness of heart, as St. Paul writes, pray with the spirit and pray with the understanding also F (i Cor. xiv. 15.)
I am ready to own, that my compliance in the use of those things which I did not approve, was at one time relieved by the consideration, that such compliance was only official, or ministerial. This argument, however, failed to afford satisfaction, on further reflection upon the strict integrity and sincerity absolutely necessary for divine worship.
I never did read, in the public service, the creed', vulgarly called the creed of Athanasius, considering it, to fay the least, as entirely foreign to every good end of christian edification. And it is now about ten years since I entirely omitted the litany and Nicene creed, without giving any offence to my congregation, confining the exercise of my ministry 1st the morning service to my parish church of Swinderby, and an adjoining one in the county of Nottingham; thinking, at that time,, that by taking upon myself the penalties of the law, I thereby released myself from my engagement to conformity. This expedient of omitting some of the most ofsensive parts of the public liturgy was afterwards superset