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to the clergy, themselves, of the present day, I am satisfied, that the body, in general, is well fitted by education, manners, and feeling, for the profession in which they are engaged. With the sectaries this is different. I will readily admit that, on the whole, they are men who devote themselves to spiritual concerns, and that they are zealous and sincere in their intentions; but yet I cannot consider them to be well suited, either by previous habits or education, to the discharge of the sacred functions of teachers of religion. With the lower orders of these, and especially the Ranters and other Antinomians, this is notoriously the case; and they accordingly endeavour to supply the defect of all those qualifications, which the wiser and better part of mankind deem necessary, by the boldness of their claims to inspiration, by which, in their own estimation, as well as in that of their deluded followers, they are raised above the leyel even of extraordinary men, and forsaking the plain ground of soberness and truth, take their flight into the pathless regions of the yildeşt fanaticism; making it their boast that they neither rely upon, nor need, the aid of what they call carnal wisdom. * Pride, indeed, is at the bottom of all this, the pride of being thought wiser and more highly gifted than their neighbours; and thus, upon the whole, they succeed but too well in misleading their simple and unwary followers, who, deceived by the boldness and presumption with which they talk at random of religious matters, are but too apt to regard them as men, who have really been anointed with power to expound the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.
“ This want of what I consider legitimate authority, and, in so vast a body of cases, the want of proper education, also, is my first objection to the system of the Dissenters : my next is against the assumed power of their congregations to elect their own teachers, or to discharge them at their pleasure after they have elected them. This, to me, appears pregnant with most extensive evil. They will tell you that the bishops of the established church have not the power to eject an unworthy minister without a long, tedious, and expensive process: this, I must admit, is a defect, and I
* See vote p. 321,
lament that there should be no adequate remedy for it; still, for one thus unworthy, you will find a thousand not so, and the evil rarely occurs ; but this defect, even were it more general than it is, is counterbalanced by the independence of the clergy themselves, who are removed from all temptation to bend their consciences to the will of others, as too frequently prevails among the sectaries. With them, indeed, the leaders of the congregation are virtually the teachers; while the ministers, whom they employ, are the mere instruments of their will, and the expounders of their views in religious matters. I have lately heard of many instances of a certain committee of a congregation (if I may be allowed the designation) continually holding assemblies to consider from time to time the qualifications of their preachers, and to canvass and enquire into their doctrines whether they were exactly conformable to their own notions or not. If these be approved of by these self-constituted judges, presents are sent from all quarters, and in time their salaries are raised: if not, they remain upon their bare stipulated incomes. Accords ingly, men in the situation of their ministers, being in general persons of very limited means,
are obliged to consult the feelings of those by whom they live, and are under a continual temptation of making a sacrifice of their own real opinions in order to secure a favourable report from this committee. If, then, the explanation of a doctrine should be found to bear too hard upon their employers, or, if it be not sufficiently liberal, as it is called, that is, sufficiently loose and uncertain to meet their views, it is in future either kept out of sight, or, at least, very lightly touched upon, to the great detriment of truth, and to the lamentable degradation of the sacred office. When I have mentioned these things to some who are members of these societies, they have not disclaimed such interference; only, they profess never to use it but in cases of necessity; and they say, that even the church, in many instances, elects by the votes of the majority of some congregations their teachers. They overlook, however, one important difference between the cases, namely, that ministers of the church, when once they have been so appointed, cannot be afterwards removed by the congregation which elected them; and that, therefore, their independence is secured here, as well as in cases where the appointment is made in any other manner.
But my last and greatest objection is against their manner of worship, for I am the decided advocate of a standard form of prayer. People who have wants, and stand one with another in need of a common ajd, require a common prayer to express the one, and to supplicate for the other. To the mode of extemporary prayer I have the same objection with all who have refused to adopt it; that it must lose much of its proper effect from this circumstance, that in every member of the prayer the hearer has to catch at the words of the minister who delivers it, and to weigh the meaning of what he has uttered, before he can give his assent to it, and that while he is thus considering one part, and before his mind is made up to a concurrence in it, another part succeeds, requiring the same consideration ; so that it is impossible for him to form a perfectly clear idea of each portion, and of the whole. Besides all this, I never yet have heard an extemporary prayer of any length that was not full of tautologies; and though it might express the feelings of him who delivered it, and be suitable to. those for whom it was offered, yet, as it seemed to me, the hearts of the hearers could not be in