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self, nor any of his right reverend brethren, uttered a single word upon these subjects, till they saw the bill was lost? When this ugly brat, which was begotten, nursed, and brought up, by the bishops, appeared in public, the dissenters seized and strangled it; and its unnatural parents, when they saw that all attempts to save its life were fruitless, confessed that it ought to die.
All the inferior clergy have cause to dread the suppression of Methodism. Preaching against the sectaries has for some years been the high road to preferment. A young man who wishes to better his situation, has only to obtain an appointment to preach before his superiors, and to improve the opportunity by a violent philippic against the dissenters, and he is sure to gain his object. How many now enjoy fat benefices and bishoprics as the reward of their zeal against the enemies of our apostolic Establishment ! No other qualifications are necessary to rise to distinction, than an acquaintance with a few cant phrases, and a good pair of lungs.
For instance: To compose an excellent visitation sermon, take a few rattling words for your materials, such as schismatics, atheists, rebels, traitors, miscreants, monsters, fanatics, enthusiasts, hypocrites, apostolic Church, excellent Establishment, holy priesthood, sacred order, pious clergy, impiety, blasphemy, damnation : “Stir these together in a warm head, and, after a very little shaking, bring them out, scum and all; distribute them into several periods, and
work is done.'* Take this precious composition into the pulpit, bellow away with all your might before patrons, doctors, and bishops, and you have made
It is a matter of vast importance, that the dissenters keep united. The late attack was upon the whole body; when this was perceived, all parties joined and defeated it at a single stroke. Should another attempt be made, it will most probably be made against a single sect, in the hope that the other sects will look on as uninterested spectators. But if the wolf of persecution be permitted to tear a single sheep, it is foolish to talk of the rest of the flock being in safety : he will not leave the fold while one remains alive. First divide and then destroy, has always been the policy of the prince of darkness; and he has generally taken his measures with so much caution and secrecy, that his object has not been perceived, till it was too late to defeat it. But after the late conspiracy against our religious liberties has been detected, exposed, and crushed, if one party can be lulled to sleep while another is robbed of its most valuable privileges, and thus, in succession, the ruin of all denominations be effected; posterity, instead of pitying their fate, will contemplate with holy indignation, that criminal indifference to each other's interests by which it was merited. The recently formed society for the protection of our religious liberties, is a laudable and necessary institution; it ought to be, and it is hoped it will be, joined by every religious community, that the influence of all may be exerted in the defence of each, and then our privileges will be preserved inviolate.
Those who wish to stop the progress of Methodism by restriction, or coercion, ought to know, from the experience of all ages, that persecution has never weakened a sect, but when it has been conducted upon the broad principle of extermination, and not always, even then. During the three first centuries, the bush
and flourished in the fire. After all the sufferings of the Puritans, under Elizabeth and the two succeeding princes, instead of their being suppressed or diminished, it turned out that more than half the nation had embraced their religious system.
And though the Nonconformists were treated with greater rigour than the Puritans, their interest gained ground daily, and was sufficiently strong at the revolution, to turn the scale on the side of liberty. In a word, persecution will defeat its own end; if it do not, to use a common and vulgar expression, hang them all up together; but those who are for using this summary method of extirpating heresy, ought to reflect, that Haman swung upon the gallows which he had erected for Mordecai.
The dissenters have hitherto prided themselves upon their loyalty and patriotism ; and it is astonishing how few of them, in comparison of Churchmen, have been convicted of disaffection to the government, or of any crimes against the peace and good order of society; yet they have often been charged with conspiring against both Church and state. All this abuse has been patiently borne, under a persuasion that pious, venerable, and much esteemed Sovereign knew the contrary, and did not love them the less on account of their nonconformity. His olfactory nerves were not so delicate as to smell Jacobinism in every creed which differed from his own. His Royal Highness the Prince Regent, it is believed, entertains the liberal and enlightened sentiments of his august Father; and while he exercises the royal authority in the equal protection of all classes of his subjects, in the free enjoyment of their civil and religious rights, he will not find the dissenters behind the most bigoted Churchmen, in affection to his person, and zeal for his government. But were the abominable lies of a set of incendiaries to obtain credit, and were an abridgment of our religious liberties to be the consequence, they would, most probably, cause the very evil of which they so loudly complain ; for it is no easy matter for a man to retain his loyalty when it is tried by a prison, a pillory, or a halter.
The practice of persecution by any church, is serious objection to its title as apostolical
. Chrysostom has a pertinent remark upon this subject : “Does the sheep," says he,“ ever persecute the wolf? No, but the wolf the sheep. So Cain persecuted Abel, not Abel Cain; so Ishmael persecuted Isaac, not Isaac Ishmael; so the Jews Christ, not Christ the Jews; so heretics the Christians, not Christians heretics."* Dr. Jortin observes, that "to banish, imprison, plunder, starve, hang, and burn men for religion, is not the Gospel of Christ; it is the gospel of the devil. cution begins, Christianity ends. Christ never used anything that looked like force or violence, except once; and that was to drive bad men out of the temple, and not to drive them in.”+
The following pages are not committed to the press with a view to serve the interests of any one denomination of Christians in particular, but to defend the practice of dissenting ministers and churches in general. Though the author has not replied to any single work which has appeared on the other side of the question, he presumes to think, that he has more than answered fifty publications in support of bigotry and intolerance.
And what is this D. Isaac, who volunteers his services in behalf of the whole body of dissenters? The Author has no wish to draw public attention from the book to himself; but as he is aware that readers are usually inquisitive after authors; and that, consequently, it will soon be known beyond the sphere of his acquaintance to what sect he belongs; he will ticipate all inquiries by an open avowal, because it will furnish him with an opportunity of explaining a point which otherwise might lead some people into mistake. Know then, that this D. Isaac, is an itinerant preacher in the Wesleyan connexion. “A Methodist preacher!” exclaims one; and another, “ Why we always thought that Methodists were staunch Churchmen; This is the point to be explained. A peculiar excellence
* Quoted by Jewel, Apol. p. 543. + Jortin's Sermon on Persecution.
in the constitution of Methodism is this : People are not required to withdraw from other religious communities when they become members of the Methodist societies : A Churchman may remain a Churchman still, and a Dissenter a Dissenter still. Mr. Wesley was a Churchman. Nine-tenths of those who joined his societies had made no previous profession of religion at all. He advised them to go to church; and most of them complied. As the greater part of his people thus became Churchmen, the preachers, who were selected from among them, were generally well affected towards the Establishment, and exhorted their hearers to attend the ministry of the regular clergy.
This was the state of things for some time. In point of fact, the greater part of both preachers and people were Churchmen; but this was owing to the circumstances stated above, and not to any law of the connexion requiring the members to profess Churchism: Liberty was all along allowed; and a few from the first dissented from the Establishment.
It is also a fact, that of late years, many of the Methodists have become Dissenters; and it is doubtful with the Author, whether it be proper now to designate them generally as Churchmen. The principal cause of this increasing secession from the church is to be found in the conduct of the clergy. They have preached away so lustily against Methodism, that though the people crouched and fawned for some time, like spaniels under the lash, they were obliged at last to take to their heels and run away.
The author is a Dissenter in principle. He is sensible, however, that many sentiments contained in bis book, have no place in the creed of a respectable number of his brethren ; and as some of them have written him on the subject, and expostulated with him on the impropriety of publishing opinions which are not gene