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searches demand, it is confessed, a degree of leisure, and a kind of education, inconsistent with the exercise of any other profession.-But how few are there amongst the clergy, from whom any thing of this sort can be expected! how small a proportion of their number, who seem likely either to augment the fund of sacred literature, or even to collect what is already known!-To this objection it may be replied, that we sow many seeds to raise one flower. In order to produce a few capable of improving and continuing the stock of Christian erudition, leisure and opportunity must be at forded to great numbers. Original knowledge of this kind can never be universal: but it is of the utmost importance, and it is enough, that there be, at all times, found some qualified for such inquiries, and in whose concurring and independent conclu sions upon each subject, the rest of the Christian community may safely confide: whereas, withou an order of clergy educated for the purpose, f led to the prosecution of these studies by the haben the leisure, and the object, of their vocation, in the well be questioned whether the learning nainwould not have been lost, by which the reef that our faith are interrupted and defended. vect of tend, therefore, that an order of clergy is rings be to perpetuate the evidences of revelationgst the interpret the obscurity of those ancient wrovision which the religion is contained. But by contriwhich forms, no doubt, one design of then which tion, the more ordinary offices of public tebe exand of conducting public worship, call for of cations not usually to be met with amidst the s ployments of civil life. It has been acknowledg by some, who cannot be suspected of making unne cessary concessions in favour of establishments
to be barely possible, that a person who was neve educated for the office should acquit himself with decency as a public teacher of religion." And the surely must be a very defective policy which trust to possibilities for success, when provision is to be made for regular and general instruction. Little objection to this argument can be drawn from the example of the Quakers, who, it may be said, fur nish an experimental proof that the worship and
-profession of Christianity may be upholden without a separate clergy. These sectaries every where subsist in conjunction with a regular establishment. They have access to the writings, they profit by the labours, of the clergy, in common with other Christians. They participate in that general diffusion of religious knowledge, which the constant teaching of a more regular ministry keeps up in the country with such aids, and under such circumstances, the defects of a plan may not be much felt, although the plan itself be altogether unfit for general imitation.
2. If then an order of clergy be necessary, if it be necessary also to seclude them from the employments and profits of other professions, it is evident they ought to be enabled to derive a maintenance from their own. Now this maintenance must either depend upon the voluntary contributions of their hearers, or arise from revenues assigned by authority of law. To the scheme of voluntary contribution there exists this insurmountable objection, that few would ultimately contribute any thing at all. However the zeal of a sect, or the novelty of a change, might support such an experiment for a while, no reliance could be placed upon it as a general and permanent provision. It is at all times a bad constitution, which presents temptations of interest in opposition to the duties of religion; or which makes the offices of religion expensive to those who attend upon them; or which allows pretences of conscience to be an excuse for not sharing in a public burden. If, by declining to frequent religious assemblies, men could save their money, at the same time that they indulged their indolence, and their disinclination to exercises of seriousness and reflection; or if, by dissenting from the national religion, they could be excused from contributing to the support of the ministers of religion; it is to be feared that many would take advantage of the option which was thus imprudently left open to them, and that this liberty might finally operate to the decay of virtue, and an irrecoverable forgetfulness of all religion in the country. Is there not too much reason to fear, that, if it were referred to the discretion of each neighbourhood, wher
ther they would maintain amongst them a teacher of religion or not, many districts would remain unprovided with any; that, with the difficulties which encumber every measure requiring the co-operation of numbers, and where each individual of the number has an interest secretly pleading against the success of the measure itself, associations for the support of Christian worship and instruction would neither be numerous nor long continued? The devout and pious might lament in vain the want or the distance of a religious assembly: they could not form or maintain one, without the concurrence of neighbours who felt neither their zeal nor their liberality.
From the difficulty with which congregations would be established and upheld upon the voluntary plan, let us carry our thoughts to the condition of those who are to officiate in them. Preaching, in time, would become a mode of begging. With what sincerity, or with what dignity, can a preacher dis pense the truths of Christianity, whose thoughts are perpetually solicited to the reflection how he may increase his subscription? His eloquence, if he possess any, resembles rather the exhibition of a player who is computing the profits of his theatre, than the simplicity of a man who, feeling himself the awful expectations of religion, is seeking to bring others to such a sense and understanding of their duty as may save their souls. Moreover, a little experience of the disposition of the common people will in every country inform us, that it is one thing to edify them in Christian knowledge, and another to gratify their taste for vehement, im. passioned oratory; that he, not only whose success, but whose subsistence, depends upon collecting and pleasing a crowd, must resort to other arts than the acquirement and communication of sober and profitable instruction. For a preacher to be thus at the mercy of his audience; to be obliged to adapt his doctrines to the pleasure of a capricious multitude; to be continually affecting a style and manner neither natural to him, nor agreeable to his judgment; to live in constant bondage to tyrannical and insolent directors; are circumstances so mortifying, not only to the pride of the human heart,
but to the virtuous love of independency, that they are rarely submitted to without a sacrifice of principle, and a depravation of character;-at least it may be pronounced, that a ministry so degraded would soon fall into the lowest hands; for it would be found impossible to engage men of worth and ability in so precarious and humiliating a profession.
If, in defference then to these reasons, it be admitted, that a legal provision for the clergy, compulsory upon those who contribute to it, is expedient: the next question will be whether this provision should be confined to one sect of Christianity, or extended indifferently to all? Now it should be observed that this question never can offer itself where the people are agreed in their religious opinions; and that it never ought to arise, where a system may be framed of doctrines and worship wide enough to comprehend their disagreement; and which might satisfy all, by uniting all in the articles of their common faith, and in a mode of divine worship that omits every subject of controversy or offence. Where such a comprehension is practicable, the comprehending religion ought to be made that of the state. But if this be despaired of; if religious opinions exist, not only so various, but so contradictory, as to render it impossible to reconcile them to each other, or to any one confession of faith, rule of discipline, or form of worship; if, consequently, separate congregations and different sects must unavoidably continue in the country: under such circumstances, whether the laws ought to establish one sect in preference to the rest, that is, whether they ought to confer the provision assigned to the maintenance of religion upon the teachers of one system of doctrines alone, becomes a question of necessary discussion and of great importance. And whatever we may determine concerning speculative rights and abstract proprieties, when we set about the framing of an ecclesiastical constitution adapted to real life, and to the actual state of religion in the country, we shall find this question very nearly related to and principally indeed dependant upon another: namely, "In what way, or by whom ought the ministers of religion to
be appointed?" If the species of patronage be re tained to which we are accustomed in this country, and which allows private individuals to nominate teachers of religion for districts and congregations to which they are absolute strangers; without some test proposed to the persons nominated, the utmost discordancy of religious opinions might arise between the several teachers and their respective congregations. A popish patron might appoint a priest to say mass to a congregation of Protestants; an Episcopal clergymen be sent to officiate in a parish of Presbyterians; or a Presbyterian divine to inveigh against the errors of popery before an audience of Papists.
The requisition then of subscription, or any other test by which the national religion is guarded, may be considered merely as a restriction upon the exercise of private patronage. The laws speak to the private patron thus:-"Of those whom we have previously pronounced to be fitly qualified to teach religion, we allow you to select one; but we do not allow you to decide what religion shall be established in a particular district of the country; for which decision you are nowise fitted by any qualifications which, as a private patron, you may happen to possess. If it be necessary that the point be determi ned for the inhabitants by any other will than their own, it is surely better that it should be determined by a deliberate resolution of the legislature, than by the casual inclination of an individual, by whom the right is purchased, or to whom it devolves as a mere secular inheritance." Wheresoever, therefore, this constitution of patronage is adopted, a national religion, or the legal preference of one particular religion to all others, must almost necessarily accompany it. But, secondly, let it be supposed that the appointment of the minister of religion was in every parish left to the choice of the parishioners; might not this choice, we ask, be safely exercised without its being limited to the teachers of any particular sect? The effect of such a liberty must be, that a Papist, or a Presbyterian, a Methodist, a Moravian, or an Anabaptist, would successively gain possession of the pulpit, according as a majority of the party happened at each