« ElőzőTovább »
If Dr. Mildmay had been the pastor of a dissenting con. gregation, and had had all his present temptations to associate with carnal companions, and to live and act like the men of the world, he could not have done it. He would have received such reproofs from some at least of the members of the church, as would have rendered him very uncomfortable; and if he had persisted, either he would have been dismissed from the pastoral office, or his pious hearers would have forsaken his ministry. But in the church of England, irreligious ministers are so frequently imposed upon the people, that they congratulate themselves if their pastor possesses any good properties. This is a necessary consequence of the dependence of the church upon the state.
It affords me pleasure that something like a reconciliation has taken place between my brother-in-law and his daughter. I am no friend to contention in
form. Mr. Charles Clifford has deserved well of your family. When we have the happiness to see your daughter, I hope he will meet with that esteem he merits. If, Sir, you had utterly discarded her, that would have been no impedi. ment to his union with her. He therefore has some claim to her regard, independently of his accomplishments, of his fortune, and of his being a Christian.
I expect every hour to hear from her. I think she can be at no great distance.
Wishing you and all my kind friends a pleasant journey, and above all the divine favour, I am, dear Sir, your sincere friend,
, Mr. Neville and his family to London. I promise myself
much happiness in the company of such valuable friends. The conversation of the servants of God is a source of much consolation. Under the Old Testament dispensation, they who feared the Lord spake often one to another.
I mentioned to Mr William Neville yesterday at Mr. Barnwell's, where we dined, the hopes I entertained of his sister's writing again to you in a very little time. He told me that his father had received a letter from you, and that I had a zealous advocate in Mrs. Worthington. I ought to thank you, Madam, and all my kind friends, for your favourable opinion of me. I certainly behold an infinite excellency in the gospel method of salvation by Jesus Christ, and cannot but perceive that the spirit of all the inspired writers is similar, and their views of the divine Being as a just, a holy, and a merciful God, the same. I am also con vinced that the servants of God under both dispensations, have had the same confidence in the divine mercy, and the same spirit. These things abundantly prove to me the truth of divine revelation. Yet I am not without my fears, that I should one tiine or another imitate those disciples of Christ who went away and walked no inore with him. I earnestly pray that my God and Father will never suffer this to be the case.
You will expect, Madam, to hear what conversation there was yesterday at Mr. Barnwell's. As far as my memory shall enable me, I will endeavour to relate the most interesting part.
There were present Mi. Neville and his family, Dr. Mildmy, Mr. Law, my father, and myself. After dinner, the principal speakers were Dr. Mildmay, Mr. Neville, and my father.
The doctor began the debate with observing, that he had been considering what Mr. Neville had advanced in behálf of dissenting congregations, and against religious establishments, and that he was very far from being convinced that the latter were not both as useful and as scriptural as independent churches. The fact is, said he, the precise mode .of church government is no where ascertained and appointo
ed in the New Testament: it is therefore left to the discretion of Christians to frame such constitutions as shall best comport with their local circumstances. When a whole nation became Christian, it was the duty of the chief magistrate, if he thought Christianity likely to promote good government and good morals, to provide for the support of it: and if it was divided into sects, to give the preference to that sect which was the most numerous, because the few ought always to submit to the many. If the majority of the people of England were Independents, the religion of that sect ought to be the established religion.
It is impossible that it should be so, replied Mr. Neville, The very term, Independents, denotes that, as Christians, they do not acknowledge any human authority, nor call any man master on earth. But do you think, Sir, that if the religion of the Independents were established, the Episco. palians, after having paid their own ministers by voluntary subscription, would with a good grace contribute toward the maintenance of the Independent ministers?
Ought not the determination of the majority to be sub. mitted to ? cried Dr. Mildmay.
Be it so, replied Mr. Neville, yet the determination of the majority is not always just; and injustice will operate in time to the ruin of empires, as well as of individuals. A private trader cannot expect long to thrive, but by an upright conduct, and uniformn justice in his dealings : and what is true concerning one or two or twenty men, will be also true concerning twenty millions.
Sir, said Dr. Mildmay, you are mistaken if you imagine me to be an enemy, either to the Nonconformists or to justice. As I have a sincere love to my country, and also a considerable interest in its welfare, it is my desire that justice should be done to every member of the comnunity, since the throne can only be established by right
Nevertheless, Sir, I am a friend to religious establishments. A minister whose subsistence depends upon collecting and pleasing a crowd, and who lives in constant bondage to tyrannical and insolent directors, al
though a man of worth and ability, is but a genteel beg, gar. Many dissenting preachers, with a view of increasing their subscription, use a vehement oratory, and even adapt their doctrines to the pleasure of a capricious multitude.
I think, replied Mr. Neville, I answered this objection before ; but since you repeat it, I again say, that the post of duty is the post of honour, by whatever temptations it may be surrounded. The greater the temptations of dissenting ministers, the greater is their glory in overcoming them. But the picture you have drawn, is the picture of fancy, and not of truth. Show me, Sir, the dissenting ministers you speak of, who live in bondage to tyrannical directors, and who, to raise their subscriptions, conform their doctrines to the pleasure of the multitude. I believe that the bulk of them are esteemed and revered by their hearers. Voluntary subscriptions are not a sufficient induce. ment to men of ability, possessing an ambitious disposition, to undertake the pastoral office. Dissenting ministers are in general animated by the love of God, and of the souls of men. This stamps a dignity on their persons, and insures to them a respect from their hearers, of which those ministers are totally destitute, who, disregarding their people, and disregarded by them, cringe at the levees, and flatter the vices of the great. If some ministers of a warm temper, and of a lively imagination, use too vehement an oratory, yet proceeding from men of worth, it is infinitely preferred by their hearers to the cooler deliver ry of men who have not religion at heart.
Truly, Sir, said the doctor, I cannot view things in the same light that you do.
Interest, Sir, cried my father, has blinded millions. You are upon a bad plan in the church of England, unless the religion of Jesus Christ be considered as an invention to aggrandize the clergy. Bui if the aim of the ciergy be to gain men over to true religion, tithes form a considerable obstacle ; for while they are praying and preaching, the farmers are thinking about their grain, their wool, their
lambs, pigs, milk, eggs, apples and the like, the tenth part of which is taken from them, so much against their inclination.
I acknowledge, Sir, replied Dr. Mildmay, that there is too much reason for these remarks. But with regard to myself, I can appeal to my neighbour Mr. Neville, that I take none of these tithes in kind. For the small tithes I accept a compensation much below their value ; and every farmer rents of me, I believe to his satisfaction, the great tithes belonging to his farm. More than this I cannot do. However, I deplore the mode of paying the clergy of the establishment by tithes, as much, Mr. Clifford, as you or any person can do, because it renders them in general objects of dislike to their hearers, whom it also makes inattentive to the gospel which they preach. But the imprudence of the clergy in exacting their dues with rigour, merits a part of the blame. In consequence of my lenity in this respect, my parishioners attend upon my ministry, not only with reverence, but, if I may crédit them, with thankfulness.
I believe, Sir, said my father, you endeavour to give as little offence to your parishioners as possible: but how few instances have we of that kind! A few exceptions plead not in favour of a general evil. To this Dr. Mildmay made no reply.
Anxiously expecting to hear that you have received a letter from my dear Eusebia, I continue,
Dear Madam, your most obedient,
DEAR MADAM, IN
my last letter I informed you of my intention to es. cape from St. Omer's.