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Whilst I was engaged in preparing for the press a second volume of my “ Early Years and Late Reflections,” circumstances occurred to turn the current of my thoughts into a different channel, and I have, in consequence, postponed the lighter occupation of adorning the memory of departed friends, in order to fulfil what I believe to be a weightier obligation. It never behoved the friends of their country to make more strenuous exertions, in defence of its institutions in Church and State, than at the present hour. For “ great indeed, and manifold, are
the blessings which Almighty God, the Father of all mercies, has bestowed upon us, the people of England ; ”* and, seeing that no throne can be secure that is not founded on religion, no national nor individual blessings permanent which do not flow from a religious source, the object nearest to every pious Briton's heart will be the maintenance of pure religion. Such, therefore, as think it immaterial to what church or sect they belong, must have read Scripture History very carelessly ; for, with whatever latitude we may interpret the words of our Saviour, Luke, ix.50, “He that is not against us is for us,” they surely were never meant to lead us to infer that the interests of religion are equally secure under every form of Church government, or under none at all ; and that consequently it must be a matter of indifference whether we set aside, or uphold, those usages
* Dedication to King James prefixed to the present authorized translation of the Bible.
and Apostolic ordinances which have descended to us, in an unbroken series, from the very men who received them from the lips of their heavenly Lord and Master Himself. But since it cannot be supposed that they, who have paid little or no attention to the evidences of the Christian Religion, will give themselves any trouble about its external circumstances and forms of administration, it should be our endeavour to afford them such information as may chance first to raise their curiosity, and so lead them to the exercise of an awakened and less prejudiced judgment. “ They who come to Christ must first believe that he is.” And there is no other way, independently of such extraordinary influences of the Holy Spirit as there is no right to expect, of bringing men to Christ and to the consideration of the nature of His kingdom, but that of showing them the reasonableness of the faith which we ourselves entertain.
If it should be said that this is an affair which had better be left in other hands; I think, on the contrary, that the writings of laymen have this great advantage, that they are not open to the charge, however unworthily, yet too often, brought against the clergy, of proceeding from selfish and worldly motives. This is particularly the case at the present time, when the advocates of what is called the voluntary system, are pressing upon the ministers of our church in every possible way, and attempting most irreverently to enter upon their appropriate province. Least of all will the English clergy themselves, who, as a body, stand unrivalled for learning, piety, and moral worth, be ready to charge a lay-brother with presumption for aspiring to be a door-keeper in the house of our God. They have never, in fact, failed to do honor to that auxiliary band of pious laymen, who, with Robert Nelson at their head, have come forward, from time to time,