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1. That be confounds things which are perfectly
distinct. 2. He misinterprets both the general tenour and
particular passages of “ Common Sense." 3. He lays down with an authority to wbich be
has established no title, his opinion as to certain facts, and the policy of certain
statements. 1. He delivers, as an axiom that “piety and dissent are contradictory terms. But this is not true. Dissent and duty to God are contradictory terms; for dissent is sin, and sin cannot be duty to God. Bat dissent relates to an act, piety to the intention, of him who performs the act. If he will not admit this to be the true sense of piety, he cannot possibly deny that in this sense it is used by the editors of « Common Sense.' There is no contradiction in saying that a dissenter, really believing that by dissent he is doing his duty to God, is pious or respectable. It cannot be denied that his intention is an effort of piety. This statement at once shews the confusion of ideas which misleads your correspon. dent. The application of the terms pious and respectable* to sincere (though deluded) dissenters, far from being at variance with “catholic principle” is entirely in the spirit of it. And nothing can do more prejudice to the spread of that principle than the inaccurate and uncharitable dogmas of your correspondent, which would make it a sin to give any credit for sincerity to those wbo are ignorant of the nature of the church, and have been educated in blindness and prejudice. Neither does the “abstract sin of schism” make it inconsistent with “ catholic principle” to hold or express opinions as to the degree of guilt in the sinner; nor as to his greater or less apparent distance from that state of mind in which hopes may be entertained of his coming, by God's grace, to the right path. Neither does "catbolic principle" condemn us for estimating the comparative malignity against the church, entertained or exercised, not only by individuals, but even by different sects, or by the rulers of those sects, at different periods. Of those who take such a view of “catholic principle," as your correspondent does I must take leave to say, “Ye know not wbat manner of spirit ye are of." Would the Catholic church condemn us as wanting in her principle if we attributed pious intention to Saul, though sinning not only in dissent from, but in persecution of, the church of Christ, when, as he himself pleads, he "did it ignorantly in unbelief”? Would Jesus condemn as if we allowed the benevolent Samaritan, of his own beautiful parable, to have been pious and respectable? Yet he was a schismatic.
* The term “pious” is, of course, applied in that qualified sense in which it must always be applied to the weak and imperfect volitions of sinful and fallen man.
Or again, when the tenth leper returned to glorify God, would it bave betrayed a want of “catholic principle” to have called bim pious or respectable ! Yet the Evangelist pointedly says, “He was a Samaritan;" cr, in other words, a schismatic. Nicodemus acknowledged our Saviour's goodness and truth, yet he was a Pharisee; had not renounced bis sect; bad not joined Jesus; and had only come to bim by night. Yet, from the conversation recorded between Jesus and him, can we conclude that catholic principle forbids us to speak of him (notwithstanding his weak faith and sinful fear of man) as a pious and respectable man, or to draw any distinction between him and those of his sect, who are denounced as "hypocrites” and “vipers”? The eighteenth article does, indeed, forbid us to say “ that every man sball be saved by the sect which he professeth.” But that is very different from denying that a man believing that there is .“ only the name of Jesus Christ whereby a man must be saved," may be saved in that sect; or yet more, cannot, without a violation of
“Catholic principle," be spoken of as pious or respectable. I will cite, however on this point an authority, on which your correspondent will not look with an eye so jaundiced as upon mine. I quote from No. 51 of 6 Tracts for the Times."
“I allow (says the writer) that there may be conscientious disdissenters; nay I hope in charity there are many; but by a conscientious dissenter I mean a man who separates himself from the church because he thinks he finds something in her doctrines or discipline so far contrary to scriptural truth, and the precepts of the gospel, that, by adhering to her, he would be putting an obstacle in the way of his own salvation."
“When I say dissent is a sin, I by no means thereby imply that for that reason every dissenter is at once and necessarily & sinner, To say that a particular thing is a sin, is a very different thing from saying that every one who does it is a sinner.”
“For when a man thinks the church unscriptural, he has a, good reason for leaving it, and is (what I have called above) a conscientious dissenter; though at the same time, I am bound to say, I think his conscience a very erroneous one, which leads him to consider the church unscriptural; and while I allow him to be conscientious in one sense of the word, yet I also think him heretical ; just as those men who (as our Lord foretold) thought, when they persecuted the apostles, “they did God service,” were wrong, not in that they obeyed their conscience, but because they had not a more enlightened conscience.”
We will next deal with your correspondent's misrepresentations of the general tenour and particular passages of “Common Sense.” He attri butes to us a classification which we have neither imagined nor expressed; and also the error of condemning only the “accidents” of the sin of schism, and lauding the sin itself. We give his own
“The Editors of 'Common Sense' appear perfectly content to receive with affectionate respect all quiet, unobtrusive, courteous, uncomplaining, ratepaying schismatics, who emphatically
, acquiesce in this unchivalric motto, “Let the church alone.” The preface condemns all turbulent schismatics, not as schisma. tics, but because they are turbulent, and factious, and insolent;
* A tract which (like many others of those writers who are so ignorantly and indiscriminately condemned on account of occasional errors, while those who love truth and sound religious research are under incalculable obligations to them) is too little known.
the corn-law dissenter, the Chartist-social-radical-anti-churchrate brawlers and disturbers are denounced, but the quiet conscientious dissenter is affectionately praised-that is, the
accident' of the sin is condemned, but the essential matter, or the sin itself, is lauded.”
Surely such a grave charge ought to bave been sustained, not by a general reference to the preface, which many
readers have probably never seen, but by some passage or passages in it. Yet not one bas be produced to support it, save the words, “LET THE CHURCH ALONE;" which seem to fright bim from his propriety, and to be pregnant with more mysterious meanings than Lord Burleigh's celebrated shake of the head. I utterly deny having made any
such classification as he has invented. I 'do not withhold from the turbulent, any more than the quiet, the admission that he may be conscientious under the delusion of an erroneous conscience. I distinguish, as far as piety or conscience are concerned, the really deluded dissenter from the mere political dissenter, who uses the names of conscience and dissent for the convenience of faction. I do speak of other individual dissenters as also pious, and as more enlightened than the turbulent, in being able to see some merits in the church, and to discern the gross unlawfulness and sin of using violence and calumny to advance their own tenets, or injure the church. But in making this distinction I do not exclusively attribute to them a pious intention; and still less do I “laud” the sin of schism, of which they are guilty. Both them and all dissenters, acting under a deluded conscience, I warn of the folly as well as wickedness of “kicking against the pricks," and advise them to “LET THE CHURCH ALONE.”
I shall not imitate your correspondent in making these assertions without bringing passages to sustain them, and wish to observe generally that the semisecular character of our work does not often lead us to speak of scbism or dissent in the abstract, but that
when it does, we always condemn it decidedly. We state in the preface our intention “to give the world a faithful portrait, (not a very flattering one, your correspondent must allow) of schism drawn neither from (our) own fancy, nor from the boastings, but from the sayings and doings of dissenters themselves.” This design leads us to the special exposure of their turbulence and outrage, and to regard dissent in its fruits, rather than in its abstract sinfulness. Yet the quotations wbich follow will shew that we do not lose sight of even the latter. “They (i. e.,
the sayings and doings) are moreover fruits which shew the nature of the tree which produces them.',-Preface, p. ii.
“ Many dissenters not only disclaim but detest sedition and disloyalty. Let them come out from among parties and deeds which tend to encourage both. The fruits are evidently evil, let them look to the tree.”—Common Sense, vol. i. 154.
“When, and in what early church (if not in me) existed the form of sound doctrine, from which to dissent the Scriptures deemed it heresy, or in respect of which the spirit, speaking by the mouth of Paul, prohibits divisions? Was that church, or that form of doctrine, that of any one of the countless spawn of sects which now stand before us ?"-p.51. From Peter Plain's Vision.
My existence and commission are not matters of opinion, but facts, determined and established long ago by the Ancient of Days'--the Allwise—the Almighty! My existence is derived not from man, but from the will and fiat of Him, who said 'Let there be light-and there was light.” (Gen., i.) My commission is from that dear and great Lord and Head, (Eph. i. 22. 23 ; Col. i. 18, 19 ;) to whom was given “all power in Heaven and in earth' (Matt. xxviii. 18;) who gave me the promise of the Holy Ghost, but commanded me to wait his time, and his PUBLIC CALLING and AUTHORITY, (Luke, xxiv. 48; Acts, i. 8; Acts, xi. ;) before I should presume to act in His name; and who also set the example, of not taking upon Himself the honour of Priesthood unless called of God,' (Hebrews, v. 5.)
“ Can it for a moment, o ‘Common Sense,' have entered into thy sober imagination, that, whether there is a Church, or what that Church is, can be left as a question, to be settled by discoveries made about Sixteen hundred years after the days of the Apostles? Can it be a question, to be decided by human conceits, or by the votes of men from the ploughs or shopboards, or of women from their wash-tubs or parlours, who are to be the 'ambassadors' of Christ, and “stewards of His mysteries ? Canst thou believe that yon discordant gathering of sects are the