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SERMON I.

PROPHECY OF JEREMIAH, vi. 16.

THUS SAITH THE LORD, STAND YE IN THE WAYS AND SEE,

AND ASK FOR THE OLD PATHS, WHERE IS THE

GOOD

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In one of the collects* of our Church we offer up this petition to Almighty God, “ Grant, O Lord, we beseech thee, that the course of this world may be so peaceably ordered by thy governance, that thy Church may joyfully serve thee in all godly quietness,”—a petition, at all times, most proper and necessary; but especially in these days of political and religious agitation. The Churches of Christ, by the gracious Providence of God, have long been preserved from violent and fiery persecutions; and Christians of every denomination, and under every mode of worship, through the protection of our mild and excellent Constitution, are enabled to worship God according to the dictates of their consciences, “no one making

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them afraid.” While the State has professed, and hitherto felt itself, as a Christian State, under the solemn obligation, to protect and uphold that comparatively pure and reformed part of Christ's Church to which we belong, and to secure to all the people of the land the privileges of public worship, and the means of religious instruction, in our National Establishment; it cannot be denied, that, whatever may have been the complaints of former times, it has given full toleration, and entire liberty of conscience, to those who refuse to conform to its doctrines, discipline, or worship; and has removed those tests and distinctions, which then seemed to constitute the only serious grievances of which they were disposed to complain. Well would it be for the interests of true religion, if the Churches of Christ in our land, though differing in form, discipline, and government, were united, both in the maintenance of the true faith, and in the cultivation of Christian charity ; if, striving together for the faith of the gospel, they would unceasingly endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.* I feel assured, that I am not claiming too much for the National Church of which we are members, and, I think, that I am not speaking uncharitably of those who separate themselves from her communion, when I assert, that at no period, since the Reformation, has the Church of England manifested a more tolerant spirit, or more firmly maintained the sound principles of the Christian faith, or more faithfully inculcated the pure doctrines and precepts of the gospel through the preaching of her ministers, than at the present day; and, that at no period have different denominations of professing Christians had less cause forcomplaint; although, supported by heretics and infidels, in their apparent eagerness to level distinctions and to increase their political importance, they rail against her with more bitterness, and assail her with greater violence.* We readily admit the imperfection of the best human institutions, and their natural tendency, under the necessary administration of imperfect and sinful men, to corruption and abuse; but have the defects or abuses of our Church, whether real or imaginary, been, of late, more encouraged ? or, have they been continually multiplied ? Has she been more repulsive or more domineering over those who embraced not her creed? Has she been more encroaching on the rights of conscience, or less disposed to listen to the complaints, and to concede to the claims, of those who considered themselves unjustly aggrieved? Is it not manifest, that, as important concessions have been made, fresh demands have been more urgently pressed ? that, since distinctions have been removed or lessened, a more bitter spirit of hostility to the Establishment has been exhibited, and increasing efforts have been, and still are, made to break down every barrier, which the piety and wisdom of our Reformers deemed necessary, for the support and maintenance of religious worship and instruction ? Our active assailants, loud in their claims, and bold in their assertions, demand the entire separation of the Church from the State, contending, that a national religious establishment is unscriptural, and therefore unlawful that 'it is an evil, which ought not to be tolerated, much less encouraged.* It is neither my habit nor inclination, in general, to enter upon the consideration of questions of this nature in the pulpit; but the times, in which we live, are, in many respects, extraordinary ; the circumstances, under which we are placed, are strange and peculiar" It has been truly observed, that, in matters of religion especially, men have generally a natural veneration for antiquity, and that, when they are not influenced by better motives, their prejudices are on the side of that which has been long established: but now a spirit of innovation, encouraged where it should have been

* Ephes. iv. 3.

* See Note A.

* See Note B.

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checked, is in active operation; directed, in many quarters, not only against the well-being, but also against the existence both of civil and ecclesiastical Establishments. A restless desire of change prevails—a lust of experiment, on the most momentous subjects, affecting not merely the temporal, but the spiritual welfare of our fellow ' subjects : ' the doctrine, comparatively new, is enforced and propagated, that a Christian Government, as such, should make no provision, bý a national Establishment, for the maintenance of the true faith and the due celebration of Christian worship, and that every man should, in this respect, be left to walk in the way of his own heart, subject to no other restraining or persuading influence, in matters of religion, than that of the voluntary teacher. Unceasing attempts are made, in all parts of the land, to induce men to despise and forsake the old' ways, and to place themselves under the guidance of superior and more spiritual leaders, and by the assistance of new lights, to seek and walk in new paths. Accustomed, as we have been, to venerate that Established Church of which we are members, not merely from education and habit, but, I trust, from conviction of her excellence ; we shall not, perhaps, find it unnecessary or unprofitable, under existing circumstances, to enter upon the consideration of those principles on which she has been founded, and of those claims which she

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