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These things, Sir, appear to me to form the only real differences in what you term our respective systems: for, as to the body of your charges against us, which, to a careless reader, would make your case appear so strong, they are beside the purpose altogether; they are charges of irreligion and immorality; of imperfection in our duty to God and man. These, you must well know, are not our system, although it suits you to represent them as such; they cannot be our system, or the system of any sect of Christians whatsoever, nor ever were. They are those things wherein we fail in acting up to our system. They are the things in which every body of Christians that exist, or ever have existed, have more or less failed in acting up to their system, for the system of all has been, in these things, alike; a theory of perfect piety and perfect morality. Ours is unencumbered by superstitious ceremonies, and the Gospel is sufficiently known, to render it impossible that we should be deceived by an interested priesthood. Or, if such things are, why have you not pointed them out? But what means all this? why are these things called our system? Ours contrasted with whose? What is all this confusion of nominal Christians and real ones? Why, Sir, if "he who does righteousness only is righteous," and those only are real Christians who do perfect righteousness, why, then, every
body of Christians that ever existed, have, as a body, been only nominal Christians! But the real fact is, (though doubtless with a perfectly good intention) you are acting a double part all through the book, and endeavouring at the same time to preach to us perfection, and to advocate the supremacy of a particular sect, for whom you assume a far nearer approach to this desirable perfection, than what has been attained by any other body of Christians.
Could you prove that all who agree with yourself in peculiar opinions were of necessity like you in every other respect, this might have some weight; but you can neither prove this, nor can you prove
that there have not been and are not Christians of my opinions, Greeks, Papists, Quakers, sectarians of a thousand shades, nay, even Unitarians, all equally good as yourself, or the one you would point out as the very paragon of your sect? I hesitate not to affirm that such have been, and are, and might equally be held up as examples of the truth of their peculiar opinions. The truth is, Sir, you have confounded peculiar opinions with zealous sincerity. A good Christian is a good Christian, let him bear the name of what sect he will. in your zeal for that party whose cause you
espoused, and among whom you doubtless know many good Christians, have forgotten that Christ
ianity is not peculiar to them alone; and like a Spaniard, who, when he says "Buen Christiano," has no other idea than of a Papist; and even though he might give a perfectly correct description of what that Buen Christiano ought to be, would still hold the term as by no possibility applying to any other than a Papist. So it is with you, although no doubt you would not openly and directly defend such opinion; yet you never can thoroughly disconnect the ideas of "real or true Christian" and "one of us." Nay, you indulge in this fancied identity so long, and so constantly, that at last you fairly assume it as an axiom, although you certainly have never actually ventured, in so many words, to claim perfection, even for those you designate as "real and true."
This unfortunate overstraining of partiality has led you, I must suppose unwarily, into a permanent strain of unjust insinuation against that part of the Church of England which you look upon as your immediate antagonist. It pervades even your best and otherwise unobjectionable preachment; all has a tone of contrast, unfair, because as you put it, the contrast is not ostensibly with the theory of Christianity, or even with certain individuals; but with another equal body of men, under similar circumstances, but which body is not proved to exist, and I fear, does exist but in your imagination. Indi
viduals of your sect may certainly be found, who, as far as man can, may support your contrast, but these can be no fair contrast even for parallel numbers from the body of a national Church, which must naturally comprise within its pale a host of the most giddy and thoughtless of society; and their superiority, even were it ever so well established, as it by no means is, could never be any admissible argument against the opinions of the general body of adherents to such national Church. You, however, scruple not to assume all this, and upon your own mere assumption, to indulge in a strain of most unlimited abuse; and for no other reason than that, as a body, we are imperfect, and that you suppose us, generally, not to understand certain intricate propositions exactly as you do, you pronounce us not Christians. In asserting our ignorance, you first, by insinuation, condemn our clergy, who are our instructors, and then openly deny even to them the title of Christians, for no other reason, that I can see, than that they preach the Gospel in the language of the day instead of that of two hundred years back, and devote about two-thirds of their discourses to the practical realities of obedience, and to the exposition of the less intelligible parts of Scripture, instead of always harping upon articles of faith, or confusing the imaginations of their hearers with strings of ob
scure but high sounding texts. Surely, the Liturgy having so amply provided for this part of the devotions of the congregation, in assigning so large a portion of the Psalms' to every service, might serve rather as the excuse than as the condemnation of the minister in this latter particular. You carry this abuse direct and indirect against us, under the title of nominal, as contrasted with real, Christians, in the double meaning of the term, to such lengths occasionally, as oblige me to call you to order in terms I regret the necessity of using; and herein I would by anticipation apologize if I appear to go further than is consistent with the respect I profess to feel for you; but the tone you have unfortunately adopted has rendered my retort indispensable.
You require your readers, if you should appear needlessly austere and rigid, not to condemn you without a fair enquiry whether your statements do or do not accord with the language of the Sacred Writings. This is cautious enough, certainly, and well may you have confidence in such test! From the word of God, when definitely understood, cer
1 Do not let me here be supposed to speak slightingly of these, many of them most beautiful compositions, when used as what they really are: but when put as prayers, as addresses to the Deity, into the mouths of a Christian congregation, they certainly are not always either suitable or intelligible.