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deceptive uniformity, that blind and unintelligent, though it may be unvarying assent, or that callous indifference to truth, which are the result of the civil or ecclesiastical tyranny that prohibits the free exercise of thought, and the public expression of opinion. There are literal spots on our earth where the strife of tongues is unheard, but it is the quietness of the cemetery, the silence of death; so also there are ecclesiastical domains where if there be no din of controversy, no discordant sounds of clashing opinions, the human soul as to all its nobler energies is dead, or lives only in the grasp of a power that forbids it to speak, and even to think.
In passing along our streets and marking the varieties of our sects, as indicated by their places of worship, all flourishing in the shadow of a state-church, we may lament their existence, but still we must rejoice in their permission to exist : how gloriously do they proclaim to the stranger who visits our land, that he is treading the soil of a country where opinions are as free as the air he breathes. There, before his eyes are the palpable proofs and the impressive exhibitions of liberty in its most august and sacred forms ; there are the demonstrations given by the noblest nation upon earth of her respect, not only for the claims of religion, but for the rights of conscience. It is not the magnificence of the cathedral of which a kingdom might boast, and the demolition or the defacing of the least of whose ornaments would by multitudes be considered absolute sacrilege—it is not the safeguard and preservation of its episcopal throne, of its splendid hierarchy and gorgeous ritual from interruption, molestation, and insult, it is not the teaching there of state-authorised doctrines, and the offering of prescribed devotions, that shews the justice of our laws, and manifests the glory of our liberty; but
the same protection extended to the little unsightly and uncooth building, as some would consider it, which rears its humble brow in its shadow, and within whose mean and narrow walls a few illiterate men are permitted to listen to the teaching, which by its doctrine and its views of ecclesiastical polity assails the whole system, of which that gorgeous fabric is the visible type. Here in this unfettered liberty of preaching is our country's honour, won by the swords of warriors on the field of conflict, by the pens of writers in the study, and by the sufferings of martyrs at the stake; and which is worth all the expence at which it has been purchased. May Britain's sons prove themselves worthy of the honour thus conferred upon them, to bear witness before the world to the right, the bliss, the usefulness, of unfettered, unrestricted liberty of conscience, and consider that the least infringement of this would be a loss and a mischief for which no accumulation of territory, wealth, or power, could be the smallest compensation. We have varieties of sects and creeds, call them discordances, if you please, but with whatever evil in some views they are attended, do they, we ask, disturb the peace of our town? Do they arrest our municipal efficiency ? Do they dissolve the ties of neighbourship? Do they stop the general flow of citizenship? Do they hinder our co-operation in works of mercy or of common benefit ?
But, then, infidelity points at them with a sneer and says, “ Agree among yourselves before you ask me to agree with any of you.” Has infidelity, then, no sects and parties ? Are not its creeds as various as ours ? Is it so ignorant as not to know that human minds left to their freedom are sure to differ on any subject which does not come within the pale of the exact sciences ? Has it forgotten that various opinions are knowledge in
the making ? Ought it to have no power to soften its prejudices, to see all these sects asserting and using their liberty in seeking after truth and refusing to bow down to any authority but that which is divine? Is not the divided Christian world a great battle-field, where the sects and parties are contending, with too much fierceness, too much bitterness, it is admitted, but still CONTENDING FOR TRUTH, and truth of the most momentous nature ? truth that has respect to man's immortal soul, and his eternal destiny? These combatants often so truculent, are still the champions for principles, of which they deem the importance will remain when suns grow dim with age, and planets fade away. Or to change the allusion, and borrow Milton's beautiful Allegory, “ Truth came once into the world with its divine Master, and was a most perfect shape, and glorious to look on; but when he ascended, and his apostles after him were laid asleep, there straight arose a wicked race of deceivers, who, as that story goes of the Egyptian Typhon, with bis conspirators, how they dealt with the good Osiris, took the virgin Truth, hewed her lovely form into a thousand pieces, and scattered them to the four winds. From that time ever since the sad friends of truth, such as durst appear, imitating the careful search that Isis made for the mangled body of Osiris, went up and down gathering up limb by limb still as they could find them. We have not yet found them all, nor ever shall do till our Master's second coming ; he shall bring together every joint and member, and shall mould them into an immortal feature of loveliness and perfection.” Yes, this is our employment, we are searching after these disjecta membra, and though in the pursuits we are too envious and jealous of each other, and controvert with too much acrimony each other's pre
tentions to success in the search, and accuse each other of substituting the limbs of the meretricious harlot Error, for those of the pure virgin Truth, yet in reality we are engaged in endeavouring to find out THE TRUTH.
Nor let the advocate of church authority, who would crush the rights of conscience beneath the Papal chair, point with a sarcasm to our differences of opinion, and tauntingly exclaim, “This is Protestantism." It is its veritable, and almost necessary result. It is,—we accept the taunt, and wear it as our glory. Not that I exult in this variety of sects, or contradict my words by denying that their existence is an evil : but the liberty out of which they spring is a pure, a legitimate, yet often an abused good. Though the sects were even yet ten times multiplied, and their hostility more intense, still their existence is a less evil than the slavery that would prevent them. If error has liberty, so has truth; and as truth is stronger than error, give it time and give it room, its victory over error must be complete. But take away liberty, and truth may be in chains and in its dungeon, and error, with the sceptre of authority in its hand, may be upon the throne.
Let the Church of Rome make out by revelation and reason her claim to infallibility, and tell us where it resides, and it will be time for us then to think about surrendering our liberties at her bidding ; but till then, we will read the Bible for ourselves, judge of its meaning for ourselves, and tell to others the meaning we have gathered for ourselves, and though we should come to very different conclusions as to its import, will think it a far less evil than if by surrendering what we hold to be a privilege to be enjoyed, and a duty to be performed, I mean searching the scriptures for ourselves, we were brought to a blind and unreasoning uniformity.
My Protestantism is that of Chillingworth, whose beautiful language I now quote. “By the religion of Protestants, I do not understand the doctrine of Luther, or Calvin, or Melancthon; nor the confession of Augsburgh, or Geneva, nor the catechism of Heidelburgh ; nor the articles of the Church of England; no, nor the harmony of Protestant conferences; but that wherein they all agree, and which they subscribe with a greater harmony as a perfect rule of their faith and actions, that is the Bible. THE BIBLE, I say, THE BIBLE ONLY IS THE RELIGION OF PROTESTANTS. Whatsoever else they believe besides it, and the plain, irrefragable, indubitable consequences of it, well may they hold it as a matter of opinion ; but as a matter of faith and religion, neither can they with coherence to their own grounds believe it themselves, nor require the belief of it in others, without most high and most schismatical presumption.”
“I, for my part, after a long, and as I verily believe and hope, impartial search of the true way to eternal happiness, do profess plainly, that I cannot find any rest for the sole of my foot, but upon this rock only. I see plainly and with mine own eyes, that there are popes against popes; councils against councils; some fathers against others, the same fathers against themselves ; a consent of fathers of one age, against the consent of fathers of another age; the church of one age against the church of another age. Traditional interpretations of scripture are pretended, but there are few or none to be found. No tradition but only of scripture can derive itself from the fountain, but may be plainly proved to have been brought in, in such an age after Christ, or that in such an age it was not in. In a word, there is no sufficient certainty but of scripture only, for any considering man to build upon. This, therefore,