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AN opinion, I suppose, may be expressed without offence, that there must be very many earnest and reflecting Christians at this time little satisfied with the complexion and appearances of religion in this kingdom. There must be many who, after all allowance made for favourable points of view and for particular exceptions, can draw but little comfortable hope or augury, upon the broad scale, either from the sum of positive experience in their own respective neighbourhoods, or from the language and proceedings, generally, of what is either called, or may demand to be included in the title of, the religious world. I do not speak of their abiding consolation derived from the Redeemer's promise to his Church for ever, since that belongs to a much higher and different department of the subject. But looking for the present only to
the things we see around us, it must be sure that there are great numbers of persons who are at the least desirous to love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, whose souls must weep in secret places, because the Lord's flock (as it seems to them) is carried away captive, by almost every spirit of delusion, or excess.
In saying this, and even on the supposition of the fact being admitted, it is not meant to be assumed that such persons are alone right. Their fears may be unfounded; their faith may be too weak; their knowledge may be too limited, and not of masculine sufficiency to meet and grapple with the exigences of the time. But whether they be right or wrong, wise or unwise, it may be lawfully assumed that they are neither few in number, nor of a quality to be despised or disregarded. That is to say, provided that an honest love of Christian MODERATION, and hearty and affectionate desire for the peace of our Jerusalem, combined with a continual anxiety that the "Lord of all power and might, who is the "author and giver of all good things, may graft in our hearts, as a whole Christian people, the
love of his name, increase in us true religion, "nourish us in all goodness, and of his great
mercy keep us in the same through Jesus "Christ," and backed by their own fair exertions, as dictated by faith and a desire to keep a good conscience, within their several spheres of action-may give a claim to any to be looked upon as neither valueless nor undeserving members of a Christian community.
If it be asked, who such may be-let some share of an answer be collected from certain questions in return.
§. 1. Must there not be considerable numbers, who shrink from the too probable effects (the fruits already ripening, as it appears to them) of a religious restlessness, and feverishness of speculation in divine things, of such a sort as seems not only tending to root out, but bent on rooting out, the very notion of all visible and outward bonds of unity among us ;-which little less than mocks at discipline and Church authority; nor only that, but which, in any way of natural consequence, can only be expected to unsettle or impair the personal faith of thousands, by leaving it no manner of distinct standard to which to make appeal, and under which to seek and find an honest shelter in the hour of storm and tempest?