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The wit of the orator was worthy of the sentiment. If it was a meeting for the purpose of sending relief to the starving Irish or the Scotch highlanders, nothing could be more proper than for all persons to unite; and any reference to difference of religious opinion on such an occasion, would have been most ill-timed. But, if the meeting was for religious purposes, and the dissenter came and spoke in the character of minister of his sect, then the scene was not only laughable but mischievous. The comparison between my lord Bishop and Mr. Bishop,which all would make, even without the coincidence of name,-could only serve to degrade the former from his just station as the successor of the Apostles. Of course the dissenter would see no sort of degradation or impropriety; but the Churchman, if he had ever thought seriously on the solemn commission which God's ministers receive at their ordination, would, one should think, be ashamed to hear an ordained priest or bishop of the Church placed on the same footing with one, whom he must conscientiously believe to be an intruder into the sheep-fold. And this is obviously not a moral question of liberality or or illiberality, but a mere matter of belief as to
fact. The Dissenter considers one man to be as fit for the ministry as another; and, therefore, consistently places the minister of the Church and of the sect on an equal footing. The Churchman, on the other hand, believes that they only are authorized to exercise ministerial functions, and receive the title of God's ministers, who have been lawfully ordained by the successors of the Apostles; and, therefore, any thing which tends to obliterate the distinction between those who really are, and those who are not ministers of the Church, appears to him a profanation.
It is also most mischievous ;—for how can it be expected that well-meaning persons, who have been encouraged to listen to a dissenting minister speaking to them on religious subjects from the platform, should discern the sin of separating themselves from the communion of the Church, and attending the pulpit ministrations of the same teacher. If, for the sake of a little popularity, or from the fear of being thought illiberal, I thus contribute to throw dust in the eyes of those who do not think very deeply on these matters; then, instead of acting liberally, I think my conduct would be most illiberal and selfish. But it is not usually from selfish motives, so much as from mere inconsiderateness and good nature that this inconsistency arises. A good-natured easy clergyman,-fearful of giving offence, attends one of these miscellaneous meetings. A resolution is thrust into his hand, and he makes a bungling address about his willingness to come forward on such an occasion, but for his inability to speak in public; then up jumps Mr. Bishop, or some other ready, quick-witted Dissenter, who has been making a professional circuit of the country, and has got his speech at his finger's ends; and of course the audience, besides confounding the distinction between an ordained minister of the Church and a Dissenter, draw a comparison to the disadvantage of the former. I am far from wishing that clergymen should not speak at public meetings; only let them first learn to speak, and then maintain their proper station. In fact, the most splendid speakers now living, are clergymen of the Establishment. But I must own that I dislike exceedingly to see them placed in a situation, which must inevitably mislead a great number of persons as to the vital doctrine of Apostolic ordination.
This is an insuperable objection in my mind to the Bible Society. With regard to its ostensible object--namely, the distribution of the
word of God, which is the same with that of the Christian Knowledge Society, of course no Protestant Christian can do otherwise than wholly approve of it. But then there is another object which, though not so openly avowed, is, nevertheless, a fundamental principle of the Bible Society, — namely, to “ pocket differences!” with Dissenters. To this I altogether object, because it is contrary to the plain precept of Scripture, and cannot do otherwise than tend to obliterate the principles which are essential to the unity of the Church, and confound the distinction between the ordained ministers of the Church, and those who have no right whatever to the title.
1 This is the expression used by a distinguished speaker at the last meeting of the Bible Society at Exeter Hall. But surely it is quite contrary to such texts as the following. “ Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine that ye have learned, and avoid them.” Romans xvi. 17.
“Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which ye received of us.” 2 Thess. iii. 6.
The mild St. John is even more severe than the zealous Paul. “ If there come any unto you (he says) and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God-speed. For he that biddeth him God..speed is partaker of his evil deeds.” 2 John 10, 11.
CHURCHMEN AND DISSENTERS.
“ The food-gates open wide,
And headlong rushes in the turbulent tide
And old imperial Rome
Her seven-horned head :
Blend in one pestilent star,
They went on to discuss the subject of Dissent.
RIDLEY. Much is said in the present day respecting the beauty and excellence of Christian charity, the unreasonableness of quarrelling about mere forms or points of doctrine, and the duty of living peaceably with all men.