페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

period of the reformation, and then say, whe ther any one of them hath been so honoured of God as the Church of England? Whether any one of them hath opposed such a barrier to the progress of infidelity, or hath produced such a volume of genuine piety, profound learning, sound words, and erudite theology, as the Church of England? That Church which was founded and established by confessors and martyrs in the presence of the Christian world. Every man who is qualified to take a large and liberal view of the present state of the Church of Christ, and who knows what has been passing in it since the first century, will be able to answer this question. Such an one will be able to acknowledge the peculiar favour which it hath pleased God to manifest towards. the established communion of England; and which hath been so manifested for the accomplishment of great and important purposes in his providence. And this divine favour hath also been extended, as it respects purity of faith and tranquil duration, to the established church of Scotland, Scotland is our sister in church and state; and she would now consider an injury done to the Church of England, as being fatal ultimately to herself. What then, let us inquire, have been the purposes of the divine providence in this permanent establishment of the true faith in this kingdom? These purposes

[ocr errors]

begin to be unfolded in the developement of events. They appear in that GREAT WORK now imposed on our nation; I mean, in the contest she is maintaining with the enemy of mankind. Since, whatever honour is assigned to the state for its defence of the rights and liberties of men, it is derived ultimately from the duration of the national church. For in this warfare, and in the spirit and motives which animate it, we cannot speak of the state as distinct from the church. The honour of the GRAND DEFENCE is due to that union of great power and pure doctrine, which we before noticed. It would be fatal to the state, if the church were overthrown. How much more fatal would it be to religion: to the peace and purity of religion in this country! Consider, for a moment, the consequences which would ensue, if the constitution of our church were at this time to be destroyed. There would follow, probably, a scene of religious anarchy and licentious opinion in this land, no less to be dreaded than if the monarchy itself were dissolved. Let every man, then, who loves his country, and knows how to appreciate religious liberty, pray for the stability and permanency of the church of England.

2. Another subject of devout gratulation on this day, is the increase of true religion generally throughout these realms, among all de

nominations. Though it be true, that infidelity, and superstition, and enthusiasm, and corrupt doctrine, are to be found in many places, yet it is probable that there never was a time, since the era of the Reformation, (judging from the most authentic records of our history) when there existed more unfeigned piety and true scriptural religion than at this day; I mean that "pure religion and undefiled," which proveth itself by its fruits; which adorneth the Gospel with good works, and sheweth forth, in a conspicuous manner, the Christian graces and virtues in the conduct of its professors. That there exists an increased attention to religious duties, and an amelioration of morals, among the lower orders of Society in many places, will be admitted by every one who has had the means of forming a competent judgment on the subject. It may be profitable and interesting to inquire, what have been the causes, under Providence, of this improvement.

The principal means of this moral improvement appear to be these ;-the INSTRUCTION of the POOR, and the more general DIFFUSION of the HOLY SCRIPTURES.

It is now about twenty years since the establishment of the schools of instruction, called SUNDAY SCHOOLS; and it is not easy to calcu late the sum of good which hath been produced

to this nation by that simple institution. The period which hath elapsed is just sufficient, or nearly sufficient, to shew its operation; for the effect is now visible among a generation who have grown up.

1

Of the general happy operation of this religious instruction, I have myself, I think, been a witness. Upon my return lately from India, after an absence since 1796, I travelled through a great part of the kingdom, and I perceived a change of circumstances, since I left the country, which I could not contemplate without admiration. As religious instruction seemed evidently to be the chief cause of the beneficial change amongst the lower orders, so there were concurring causes, which had an influence also on the higher classes, amongst whom, likewise, an amelioration was conspicuous; namely, the salutary discipline of a protracted war, the alarm of invasion, and the spirit called forth by the active preparations for defence. For it is to be observed, that the nation's assuming a military character, though attended by partial evil, doth not seem to have had any tendency to lessen its virtue. But the effects of the general improvement were manifest in the following particulars; first, in an unaffected LOYALTY to the sovereign;-2dly, in an unity of sentiment, (which seemed indeed almost universal) as to the DUTY of the country

in the arduous contest in which she is engaged; -and, 3dly, in an increased sense of the importance of RELIGION, and in a more serious attention to its duties.

No wonder, I said to myself, that this people are so easily governed, amidst fluctuating administrations. They are governed by themselves. They are governed by the ascendant good sense of the nation; and by the knowledge they possess of what is passing in the world; and chiefly by the knowledge they possess of the value of the Christian religion, and of its concomitant blessings. It is evident, that no statesman can acquire the esteem and confidence of such a people, who possesses not at least some fair claim to truth, integrity, and religion, as well as to good sense and talents.

Such being the general state of the people, it is not to be wondered at, that they should have looked forward with delight to the celebration of this Jubilee. It is because they know how to appreciate the virtues of the sovereign. The virtues of the sovereign have, indeed, been a great blessing to the nation; but the greatest blessing is the GRATITUDE of his people; I mean their ability to value his virtues, and their possessing a just and grateful sense of the benefit. And this gratitude we aver, is founded on KNOWLEDGE; chiefly, on that religious and moral knowledge, which

« 이전계속 »