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"sake," they are the decided enemies of separation, and the friends of ecclesiastical order. But the foundation of their adherence is partial and insecure. Their principle indeed is true within certain limits, and useful in conjunction with a higher; but it is one, which of itself might serve the cause of any heresy whatever, provided it were patronized by the civil power, and established as the religion of the country.
Where the institutions of God and the laws of man, as amongst ourselves, happily coincide, the obligations to conformity are multiplied, and separation incurs the guilt of twofold disobedience: but bthey may be, as they have been, at variand then, "whether it be right in
a 1 Pet. ii. 13.
b"The laws of men in this affair of religion are of "the same obligation and force that they are in other "matters. If they command things indifferent, they "are to be obeyed for the authority of the command; "if they enjoin things in their own nature good, the "necessity of obedience is greater; but if they com"mand things unlawful, we are not to comply, but "obey God rather than man." Law's Third Letter to Bishop Hoadly, Scholar Armed, vol. i. p. 482.
"the sight of God to hearken unto men "more than unto God, judge ye."
It is notorious that the Church of Christ subsisted for several ages independent on the civil powers, and for the most part in open defiance of them. If kings have since become "her nursing fathers ";" if the Church has been generally enabled, without the sacrifice of what is essential to her existence, to form an union with the temporal authorities, and the institutions of men have, in numerous instances, been intimately blended with the ordinances of Christ; it is our part to bless God for the tranquil and unmolested course which is offered to our obedience by this auspicious union, not to forget either the essential distinctness of these powers, or the infinite disparity of their claims. Christ's “king"dom is not of this world," though the world may come into the kingdom of Christ; and should the rulers of this world either reject and oppose Christianity, or even enforce it under some form destitute
c Acts iv. 19. d Isaiah xlix. 23. e John xviii. 36.
of the essentials of a Church, or debased by destructive corruptions, a Christian's duty need not be mistaken.
One manifest consequence of establishing the Christian Church on a human rather than on a divine foundation, must be endless innovation; mutability being quite as inseparable from the devices of man, as stability and permanency are from the works of God. This consideration alone would have been a strong presumption, independently of every weightier argument, against the idea that a society confessedly of divine institution at its commencement, should afterwards be left, even in its characteristic outlines and leading principles, to the caprice and fickleness of man, to the imminent hazard, or rather to the moral certainty, of losing all those features of consistency and sameness, which are to be traced in every other operation of the Divine hand, and which it would be natural to expect in the works of that eternal and unchangeable Being, "in whom is no ❝ variableness nor shadow of turning,
e James i. 17.
who is "the same yesterday, to-day, and " for ever'.
Another striking presumption against the soundness of the principle in question, which should go far towards undeceiving those at least who have adopted it as the argument for their adherence to our Establishment, is, that, however they may find in it a motive to conformity, it becomes to others, by one natural and easy transition, the very strongest encouragement of their separation. Where the laws, like our own, merely establish and maintain a Church, and instead of tyrannically inflicting penalties on the non-conformist, wisely and humanely support and protect him in whatever profession his conscience, well or ill-informed, may have led him to embrace ; those who ground ecclesiastical authority on civil appointment, should they, from whatever motives, have fallen into schism, too readily confound, as was before remarked, legal impunity with absolute innocence, and the forbearance of human authority with acquittal in the sight of heaven.
f Heb. xiii. 8.
This is, in fact, another most prevailing modification of the latitudinarian notions of the day. Liberty of conscience, by which is usually understood a right inherent in men, and duly recognized by our laws, of choosing for themselves in matters of religion, appears to be considered by a numerous body of our countrymen, as their most valued privilege, their natural and cherished birthright. "Ask an ignorant man," says an excellent writer on this subject, why he separates from the Church? his "answer probably will be, that he lives in 66 a land of liberty, where he has a right to worship God in the way he thinks pro
per. Ask a man of reading and under"standing, and he will quote respectable "authority for the same opinions."
It really almost too nearly resembles the regular demonstration of an axiom, to set about the formal confutation of so gross a fallacy", by urging that the laws of man can neither supersede nor alter the laws of God. Let us, however, consider this prin
8 Daubeny's Guide to the Church, vol. i. p. 420. second edition.
h❝If God then has been pleased to appoint a way