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TWELVE months ago, in our Preface to the volume for 1819, we ventured to express an opinion that a conflict was at hand in which fortitude, gentleness, and faith, would be greatly needed. Extraordinary penetration was not necessary to enable an observer to see that the rival churches of England and Rome could not long retain their respective positions, but that either a collision or a coalition must inevitably take place. The year 1850 has not passed away before the visible commencement of a struggle, the issues of which no mortal can predict, but which even now calls aloud for stedfast adherence to principle, and renewed confidence in God.
The concluding number of this volume contains an enactment of the court of Rome, dividing England and Wales into districts, and placing a bishop over each, with an archbishop as superintendent of all. In issuing this decree, the pope has only acted as popes have been accustomed to act for more than twelve centuries, taking advantage of every opportunity to extend their dominion, renewiny as promptly as practicable every claim which circumstances had compelled them to suspend, and exalting themselves above all power human or divine. The direct results of this measure are not, however, what we have most to fear, but the consequences which will accrue from the manner in which it has been received. Courses have been adopted already, under the influence of ardent feeling, which no considerate friend of truth will attempt to justify. Measures may perhaps be proposed, and carried through the legislature, which will greatly restrict our own freedom of worship and action. Some timid dissenters may incautiously seek refuge in the royal supremacy, and strengthen that union between the ecclesiastical and the civil powers from which our fathers and ourselves have severely suffered. But most of all we dread the effects of that reaction which the character of the existing excitement ensures. Nothing injures a good cause so much as to endeavour to promote it by unjustifiable means, and nothing tends so much to render a bad cause popular as to treat
its advocates with undue harshness. Thousands who are now most alarmed and indignant, will soon find that their present impressions are in some respects incorrect, and they will be led to suppose that their fear of papal machinations was altogether unfounded. Many will learn that they have been misinformed respecting some alleged facts, about which they now dogmatize fiercely, and they will then begin to regard the Romanists as victims of calumny and oppression. One step further, and the objects of vanquished prejudice will appear to them to be innocent, amiable, and worthy of admiration. It is easy to see that the classes now most vociferous in their outcry against popery and Puseyism are in a high state of preparedness for the reception of Romish doctrine. The grievous ignorance of what popery really is, which is now prevalent, and which has been prevalent the last thirty years, is that which imparts to the present crisis its most formidable aspect. We cannot suppress our apprehension that multitudes of dissenters are as little fitted for the trying scenes into which they are about to enter as their neighbours who boast of attachment to the established church.
If we are not greatly mistaken, it is especially incumbent upon us at the present time to be calm, vigilant, and prayerful. Let baptists take care to be well established in their own principles, and versed in the history of the battles that were fought by their fathers under the Tudors and the Stuarts, as well as under the Plantagenets. Let them take care also not to be betrayed into any recognition of human authority over conscience. If we are to gain the victory over surrounding evils, our trust must be in the churches' living and almighty Head, our weapons must be weapons congenial with the nature of his kingdom, our wisdom must be “the wisdom that is from above."
Hoping to witness the spread of revealed truth, and to be engaged during the remainder of his days in its promotion, the cditor subscribes himself anew, the unwearied servant of Christ's churches,
WILLIAM GROSER. Chelsea, November 25, 1850.