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SUBSTANCE OF A DISCOURSE,
DELIVERED AT THE
ABBEY CHURCH IN BATH,
ON THURSDAY THE 31st OF MARCH, 1814.
DISTRICT COMMITTEE ESTABLISHED IN THAT CITY;
DECLINING A CONNECTION
AND NOW MOST RESPECTFULLY ADDRESSED TO
The Parent “ Society for Proinoting Christian knowledge ;"
BY THE REV. CHARLES DAUBENY,
ARCHDEACON OF SARUM.
SUBSTANCE OF A DISCOURSE,
M AN, from his natural propensity, is an imitative being. A circumstance, which must at all times render it a matter of primary importance with whom he associates, and into what connection he enters. Hence the conclusion is, that by an injudicious association, principles not less than manners are liable to be corrupted. A consideration which ought to lead to general caution : whilst to determine the application of such caution to the particular case or subject in question, should be the exclusive province of sound judgment and discretion.
To associate for the prosecution of any cause, in which the interests of true religion are concerned, with persons professing religious principles essentially differing from our own, must at all times be a venturous experiment. For that zealous affection to a cause, which goes a great way towards misleading the best of men in their judgment, concerning those with whom they are engaged in the prosecution of it, tends by degrees so to approximate the parties to each other, that those differences which, while principles remained unshaken, were thought to be irreconcileable, begin to be seen through a more favorable medium; till at
length they are not unfrequently regarded as matters of mere private opinion, on which sincere men of all descriptions may be allowed to think differently, without being subjected to the unwelcome imputation of thinking wrong. Hence it happens that those two generalizing systems, which have become the hackneyed theme of itinerant orators, and the in. censed idols of the passing day, are insensibly generating among us, under the prostituted name of Liberality, that looseness of sentiment, which bids fair in process of time, if not seasonably and powerfully counteracted, to remove the sound apostolical principles of the Church of this country from off that firm ground, on which they have stood from the days of the Reformation to the present time; and to place them, as it were in their shipwrecked condition, on that troubled sea of popular opinion, which is in an almost continued state of agitation from every wind that blows. Whereas principles in religion, if sound, ought at all events to be maintained; whilst, if not so, they cannot be too readily discarded ; but principles can in no case be compromised, for then they must cease to be principles.
It is not here meant to be asserted or implied, that honest and well-intentioned men may not preserve their principles under every circumstance of disadvantage to which they may be subjected; for some there ever have been, and doubtless still are, happily possessed of firmness of mind and penetration of judgment, sufficient to prevent their being led away from their established standard by any association, into which they may think it expedient to enter. But these, it is conceived, are rare cases. Whilst by far the most common case is that of those, who from the simplicity and integrity of their own character, being least disposed to suspect others of artifice or design, are on that account frequently betrayed into dangerous errors by that misplaced charity, which is seldom found to operate so strongly even on good men, as when they pass judgment on the proceedings of those, with
whom they happen to be engaged in the prosecution of one general cause.
But exclusive of the preceding considerations, and admitting that conscientious and well-principled Churchmen may feel themselves justified in risking a possible evil, for the sake of promoting what they consider to be an essential good; still it is to be observed that good and well-intentioned men are concerned that their conduct, on particular occasions, should not only be right in heir own opinion, but that it should also appear so to be, in the opinion of those, who may be in a condition to be influenced by it. For every one, it is to be remembered, is more or less accountable both to God and Man for the evil of those consequences, to which they may have been, however inadvertently, instrumental. And though this remark be inapplicable to those cases, which respect the fundamentals of the Chris, tian Religion, on which every sound member of the Church, having formed for himself an opinion, must be expected to bear decided testimony to what he considers to be the truth, to what consequences soever such testimony may lead : still in a cause, to which equivocal circumstances are attached, and on which the judgment of some of the most religious and best-intentioned men has been found widely to differ, it is surely a subject for prudent consideration, to what conclusions in the public mind a commitment in such a cause may eventually lead. And when, as members of the Church of Christ, we have been cautioned by an apostle against being “ unequally yoked together with unbelievers, ” we feel ourselves called upon to consider, how far the cause of genuine apostolical truth is likely to derive advantage from the association of its professors with those, some of whom at least are its open and declared enemies ? And if no advantage to the cause of truth can be reasonably expected rom such an anomalous association, entered into for the pur
pose of promoting, what in the imposing language of the day is called general religion, for the advancement of which plausible, though deceitful system of liberal comprehension, on what has been called the broad basis of Christianity; Churchman and Dissenter, Heretic and Schismatic, Jew and Mahometan, may be laudably, though unequally, yoked together ; it, I say, no advantage to the cause of genuine truth can reasonably be expected from such an association, the next point which presents itself to notice is, whether some essential, and probably irremediable disadvantage may not be derived from it, by leading the great mass of the uninformed community to conclude, that apostolical truth stands no longer on that settled ground on which it was placed by our venerable Reformers; and that as every sect appeals to the Bible for the standard of its religious creed, therefore every sect, (so far at least as the parties in question are qualified to judge) has the authority of that Bible for the creed which it promulgates ; and consequently that instead of the one only apostolical Church established in this country from the lips of whose priests, as authoritatively commissioned for the purpose, the people are directed to seek knowledge, there are as many churches as there are different meetings of associated religionists to be found among us. The obvious inference from this circumstance in uninformed minds will be, that God has left every man at liberty to make his own church and his own religion; or to make use of the absurd language of the day, “ that every man has a right to worship God in his own way.”
The consequences eventually derivable from such a licentious principle, I stop not to point out, because they cannot fail to present themselves to the mind of every considerate Christian; for an exemplification of which, should such be required, he has but to appeal to the history of his own country ,