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Be not offended, reader, if we remark that a professing man may talk well of Christ, and may do homage to his name, and build up his cause, and promote his kingdom, and yet rest short of having Christ in his heart, the hope of glory. It is not the talking about religion, or ministers, or churches, nor an outward zeal for their prosperity, that either constitutes or indicates a truly spiritual man;-and yet how much of this in our day passes current for the life of God in the soul! Oh that among God's dear saints there were less talking of ministers, and more of Jesus; less of sermons, and more of the power of the truth in their souls.
We have thus endeavoured to bring to view some of the prominent characteristics of a state of incipient declension of the life of God in a believer. It will be seen that we have referred to those only which mark the hidden departure of the heart from God;
that state that is so concealed, so veiled from the eye, and wearing so fair an exterior, that all suspicion of its existence is lulled to rest, and the soul is soothed with the delusion that all is well with it.
Dear reader, is this your state? Search and see, as in the presence of a heart-searching God.
"Let none," says Dr. Owen, "deceive their own souls; wherever there is a saving principle of grace it will be thriving, and growing unto the end. And if it fall under obstructions, and thereby into decays for a season, it will give no rest or quietness unto the soul wherein it is, but will labour continually for a recovery.
"Peace in a spiritually-decaying condition is a soul-ruining security. Better be under terror on the account of surprisal into some sin, than be in peace under evident decays of spritual life."
The Letter Box.
PLAIN TRUTHS FOR PIOUS CHURCHMEN.
THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND IN BONDAGE.
FELLOW-CHRISTIANS,-A church of ference with this liberty, whether it be Christ is a purely spiritual institution.made by an individual, a corporation, He himself has emphatically said, "My or a state, is a wrong inflicted on the kingdom is not of this world."
The men of this world are not its subjects, and therefore have no right to interfere with its government. Christ is its head; Christ is its lawgiver; the New Testament is its statute-book; and Christian men are its executive-that 13, they are the parties who are entrusted with the carrying out of Christ's own laws in his own kingdom. The duty to do this is one of the most sacred obligations by which a Christian man is bound; and the liberty to do it is one of the highest privileges with which he is entrusted. Every inter
Christian, and a sin against Christ. Hence it becomes every Christian to "stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made him free." If this be the duty of single Christians, it cannot be less the duty of Christian churches. The Christian church that consents to an invasion of its freedom, not only consents to its own injury, but also to an encroachment on Christ's claims, and a violation of his law.
This is one of the evils endured and sanctioned by your church, as the result of its connection with the state. The state pays a portion of its reve
nues, and it claims, in return for that, the right to interfere with its government. And it does interfere: it makes laws for the church, and then compels the church to obey them; it nominates the church's rulers and a great number of its ministers, and then compels it to receive them. Thus, for the pottage of state-support, your church has sold its birthright; and every one of you who remains in it, so long as it continues in its present degraded position, gives his sanction to the bargain. Do you question the truth of the statement which represents your church in bondage, and declares it deprived of its liberties? Then listen to the testimony of the church's own friends and advocates. The Quarterly Review is a periodical that has always been numbered amongst the firmest supporters of the church. I will give you its testimony on the point in question, borne at three different times, extending over a period of more than twenty years. In No. LXI., published January, 1823, the Reviewer says:
"We consider, then, the clergy as trammelled and impeded in their labour by many difficulties, from which they cannot, by any activity or zeal, emancipate themselves; and the Dissenters, as possessing certain advantages, which the situation, the character, and the necessary habits of the clergy, as well as the peculiarity of the church establishment, render unattainable by its ministers."-P. 231.
According to this testimony, our ministers possess advantages which yours can never attain. And why? Because ours are free-with no sovereign but Christ to obey, and no laws but his to follow; free to do whatever Christ commands, to go wherever duty
calls, and to labour in any way that circumstances may require;· while yours are impeded" and “trammelled" by " difficulties," so many and so enslaving, that they cannot, "by any activity or zeal, emancipate themselves." And who is it that throws these difficulties in their path ?-who that puts these trammels on them? Their earthly rulers, to whom they have sold themselves by their union with the state. If they and you were willing to part with state patronage, they might, by one single act, tread their difficulties in the dust, and break their bonds in sunder. If your church had never bartered its liberties, your ministers might have been as free as ours are; but so long as you leave it where it is they must be content to work in chains.
Sixteen years had passed away, when in March, 1839, No. 126 of the Quarterly appeared. During that interval, no improvement in the condition of the church had taken place, but, on the contrary, it had waxed worse and worse. After speaking of the church's "accepting office in the state," that is, of its being united to the state, one of the Reviewers proceeds thus:
"In so doing the state must assume a certain right of interference, necessary not only to prevent a corrupt church from trespassing on the civil power, but also to check the tendency of corruption in the church itself, by in some degree limiting its independence."-P. 559.
In this passage the Reviewer admits that the state does "interfere" with the church, so as to "limit its independence." This interference he represents not as an accident, but as a
natural and necessary result of the union. So that, according to the admission of this champion of church establishments, the church that consents to be established, must consent to a limitation of its independence.
Having asserted that "the state formerly interfered as a member of the church," and "not as an alien," he continues:
“This was the state of things before the removal of the Test Act; but since that time, step by step, the state has begun to withdraw itself from the church, and yet the same interference continues. Though nominally the crown is still within its communion, the advisers of the crown, and especially parliament, on whom they are professedly dependent, may be anything, may be its deadly enemy"-P. 559.
The state withdrawn from the church, and yet continuing to interfere with its government!-Its rulers may be anything, may be its deadly enemies! Is not this shocking? You would not allow "a deadly enemy" to interfere with your business, nor to regulate the affairs of your family, then why submit to such a thing in your church?
The Reviewer goes on to inquire"Now what would be said either by Romanists or any dissenting body, properly zealous as they are for the independence of their spiritual functions, if they were placed in such a position as this? If the crown, being a member of the established church, had the power of forcing upon them the Dissenters, bishops, or pastors, under a prœmunire; if it could suspend and stop altogether their synods, conferences, and other opportunities of deliberating on spiritual matters; if it
retained the appointment of ministers to their chapels, who could not be rejected even for ill conduct, unless some of the very gravest offences could be formally substantiated in a court of law, at the expense of the parties rejecting, and with damages against them if they failed in the proof; if a power thus alive, perhaps hostile, claimed a right to suppress their spiritual offices, and commenced operations by suppressing them when they were most needed, and their opponents were most strong; if it then appointed a commission of its own to rearrange the revenues of their chapels, to alter the districts of their teaching, to interfere with the internal discipline of their teachers, and to mutilate their most important institutions for preserving what they held to be truth ?" -Pp. 559, 560.
"What should we say ?"-Why that if we consented to put ourselves in such a humiliating position, we must submit to such humiliating treatment; but as we have not sold our ecclesiastical freedom, the crown never has interfered with the government of our churches, and is never likely to do so. If it were to attempt such a thing, we should, as with the voice of one man, deny its right to do so, and resolutely resist the invasion. "What should we say?"-That in all that belongs to Cæsar we cheerfully render obedience to the crown; but that in all that belongs to God, we have "another King, one Jesus;" that "we ought to obey God rather than man;" that we should be guilty of treason to our Sovereign to allow any earthly power to interfere with his prerogatives; and that therefore we cannot, dare not, will not, come what may, permit the
hand of the state to meddle with the functions than such atrocious tyranny." spiritual affairs of our churches.
Throw back your eye, my fellowChristians, on that last-quoted paragraph again; take notice of every case of interference mentioned; ponder well its meaning; get a correct view of the assumed power of the crown, and the supposed degradation of the churches which would submit to it, and then listen to the faithful testimony of your own friend and advocate.
"And yet this is the present position of the Church of England." Your bishops forced upon you; your church councils liable to be suspended or stopped altogether; your ministers fastened on you, whatever their conduct or character,-unless a charge of some grave offence can be proved against them by a process of law your spiritual offices suppressed; Jour ecclesiastical districts altered; your internal discipline interfered with; and your most important institutions mutilated; and all this done by a power that may be "alien" or "hostile" even by "a deadly enemy!" You are wont sometimes to talk of your church as though, by its union with the state, it occupied a prouder position than any other church in the kingdom; whereas there is not another whose bondage is so perfect, and whose spiritual degradation is so complete.
Such was the plain truth proclaimed by the Quarterly Review, in 1839. Six years later we find no change of opinion on this point, for in the Number published March, 1845, we meet with this sentence:
"It is unnecessary to observe that a total withdrawal of all civil protection from the church would have been infinitely less injurious to her spiritual
How long, my friends, how long, for the sake of this “civil protection," do you mean to writhe under “such atrocious tyranny ?" The Reviewer, in No. 126, asks
"Can it be wondered that men who think deeply on such things should feel keenly, and speak strongly ?"
The wonder with us is that you do not feel it ten thousand times more than you do; and that you do not, with a voice of many thunders, tell the government and the country that you will submit to such bondage no longer. The Reviewer asks again
Nay, who will deny that to strive to correct the anomalies in the present relations of the church and the state, or even to form plans in anticipation of a separation which possibly may be forced on us, is a great duty in this crisis ?"-P. 560.
We believe that it is "a great duty, binding both on us and you, to strive to correct the said anomalies; and hence we are Dissenters, and hence we have formed "The Anti-StateChurch Association." Our advice to you is, as you regard your honour as men, and your consistency as Christians, do not wait until such a separation is "forced on you," but come forward yourselves and help to effect it.
Pious Churchmen, ponder the plain truths contained in this letter, and remember that by remaining in the church, in its present position, you are not only suffering loss yourselves, but you are sanctioning the evil, and helping to perpetuate it.
CHURCHING OF WOMEN.
SIR-It is a prevailing practice in churches of all religious denominations to present public thanksgivings to God on behalf of all persons who express a desire to acknowledge the Divine goodness during the trying season of childbirth.
ings for mercies of a character so distinguished; but "let all things be done decently and in order;" let the unenlightened and church-ridden portion of our flocks know that such things are not to be done as "matters of course," or because the church, in her wisdom, has so appointed it; and, more than all, let it be understood that, by being "churched," with or without the "accustomed offerings," they are not to consider themselves at "liberty" to forsake the sanctuary, as is too frequently the case, but as under
At first sight it may be thought strange that an objection should be taken to a practice so apparently scriptural; but a more mature reflection will, I think, enable every unprejudiced mind to perceive that, with some ex-stronger obligations to make it the ceptions, the "churching of women" is scene of their more frequent visitation, based on superstition and ignorance, and of their more sanctified efforts. and ought, on that account, to be greatly modified, or entirely abandoned. In rural districts especially, I believe, conformity to this custom not unfrequently involves the pastors of our churches in considerable difficulty, while its effects upon the minds of the parties concerned are not of a kind which, as ministers of Jesus Christ, we wish to see produced. Persons whose lives are known to be immoral, and who are seldom or never seen in our places of worship, will come on such Occasions when, perhaps, the minister is in his pulpit, with a request to be "set at liberty." What is to be done? the persons are present. He does not like to refuse, and yet he scarcely knows how to frame his petitions so as not to convey a false impression of their state, and, at the same time, to avoid furnishing any ground for observation on the part of his hearers on retiring from the sanctuary.
In confirmation of the preceding observations, I beg to transcribe the concluding portion of an article upon this subject contained in the Congregational Magazine for 1842, p. 2426, which may not have come under the notice of all the readers of the "FRIEND OF THE PEOPLE." The writer of that article remarks:-" As
It appears to me that we have been much at fault in this matter. We have not called the attention of our congregations, and especially the female portion of them, to the reasons which should induce them to come forward with such requests at such seasons. My deliberate impression is, that a very large majority of those who desire the "prayers of the congregation," after delivery, do so from no higher motive than that it is customary, and would be considered as a great violation of propriety were it to be omitted. Far be it from me to put a check upon the cultivation of grateful feel
we separate ourselves from the ritual of the Established Church, it is our peculiar duty to see that all the observances we practise are free from that uninformed, if not superstitious state of mind, which we suspect prevails with very many who go to be churched.' We would respectfully ask whether there is not, on the face of many of the notes sent to dissenting pulpits for public acknowledgments, such indications of ignorance as to excite the suspicion that the party is not about to perform an intelligent service, but is conforming to a custom strenuously enforced by monthly nurses, and performed at chapel rather than at church, in order to escape from the accustomed offerings.' It is worthy of consideration, therefore, whether it would not be well to prepare a perspicuous tract, to be
addressed to mothers in such circum
stances, who should be requested to read the same before public expression of thanksgiving be offered on behalf of persons of whose state of heart and conduct the preacher knows nothing. In all cases the parties should be required to add their names and addresses, that the pastor may recal the