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ABRAHAMS'S ANSWER to a Sermon preached by the Rev. C. Simeon, M.A.
Watson's Aneedutes of the Life of Richard Watson, LL.B. Bishop of Landaff,
FOR JANUARY, 1818.
Art. I. 1. The Geneva Catechism; entitled Catechism, or Instruction of the Christian Religion. Prepared by the Pastors of Geneva, for the Use of the Swiss and French Protestant Churches. Translated from the French: a New Edition, 1814. 12mo. London. 1815. 2. Considérations sur la Divinité de Jesus Christ, addressées à MM. les Etudiens de l'Auditoire de Theologie de l'Eglise de Genéve. Par Henry Louis Empaytaz, Genevois. 8vo. pp. 64. Geneva, 1816. IT may be regarded as a most unhappy consequence of the divisions which exist among Protestants, arising, not so much from diversities of theological sentiment, as from opposite views of church polity, and the political jealousies which too often are blended with them, that there is so little, if indeed there may be said to be any common feeling among the members of the different Reformed communions, as PROTESTANTS; that there is no cordial recognition of each other, on the part of the rival churches, as associated in a grand moral confederacy. Those notions of ecclesiastical etiquette, which, 'in this united kingdom,' close the pulpits of one Protestant establishment against the clergy of another, so as to give occasion for even his Majesty's Cabinet Ministers to stray into the Conventicle, if desirous of hearing, on this side of the Tweed, the sacred fervours of Scottish eloquence, and which close against Protestant Nonconformist ministers the doors both of Church and Kirk, operate in a manner still more prejudicial, in dividing from each other the churches of different countries, so as not only to forbid all inter-communion, all professed and acknowledged fraternity, but even, as in the case of the late persecution of the Protestants in France, to interfere with the intercourse of benevolence and Christian sympathy. There has actually been manifested, in many instances, more disposition to extend the expression of a fellow-feeling, to the legitimate priesthood' of a Papal hierarchy, than to recognise the claims of Calvinistic Presbyters to the assistance and protection of their fellow ProVOL. IX. N. S.
testants, under circumstances which powerfully appealed to every friend of religious liberty, of all social rights the most valuable. And this deficiency of sympathy is not attributable to any suspected deterioration of religious character in the Continental churches, which, indeed, although it might present an obstacle to Christian fraternity, could not in the least justify an abandonment of their cause; but it seems to originate almost entirely in the absence of a sense of common interest, and the too strong feeling of a distinct interest: the latter relating to supposed ecclesiastical privileges, and a difference of political predicament, in which respect Protestants differ; the former relating to those grand moral circumstances in which they agree. But, indeed, general interests require to be brought home in the shape of personal interests, in order to gain any adequate degree of attention. And the fact is, that, in our own country, since the Pope and the Pretender have ceased to be objects of dismay and apprehension, since the question of a Protestant succession has been laid at rest, the interests of Protestantism have become a moral abstraction too impalpable, too remote from the concerns of the day, to occupy the public mind, or to demand a moment's consideration with our statesmen. The distinctions of Protestant and Roman Catholic, as characterizing our Continental neighbours or our allies, have become almost obsolete; nay, the very recollection of them may possibly have been felt at times as an inconvenience. The common danger which once led Protestants to rally round one standard, being past, such distinctions, it seems to be imagined, have answered their purpose, except as an appropriate feature of certain geographical boundaries.
One circumstance, however, certainly deserves to be taken into the account, and that is, that the facilities of intercourse with our Continental neighbours, have, during the last twenty years, been exceedingly lessened by the actual impediments and the anti-social jealousies of war. As a commercial nation, not only are our sympathies in great measure governed by our commercial relations, but our opportunities of beneficence, and the power attaching to national influence, are chiefly confined to the same channels, so that it has been a more practicable achievement, to send our Bibles wherever our fleets have touched, and to plant missionary stations in the South Seas, than to introduce any supplies of that kind within the sphere of the Continental system. It is to her commercial character that England is, under Providence, mainly indebted for that high distinction which it is her noblest prerogative to enjoy, as the Evangelist of nations. It is this which has placed at her disposal so rich a provision of means, and given birth to that spirit of enterprise, which, receiving a new direction from Christian prin eiples, has been carried into the projects of benevolence, and has
originated those numberless combinations of a religious and patriotic nature, by which, in the eyes of other nations, this country is most remarkably characterized. But the Continent has always occupied a considerable proportion of our com-. mercial enterprise; and this consideration, therefore, is not sufficient to explain why, till very lately, there has been so little interest excited in reference to its religious aspect, and how it has arisen, that we have ielt discharged from all concern, as Protestants, in the prosperity of a cause with which we were once identified. Should this unconcert appear to have been produced merely by our being in a state of political hostility, that would be another evil of no small magnitude to be added to the catalogue of plagues and curses, the awful fruit of war.
It has been one of the numerous important benefits indirectly resulting from the operations of the British and Foreign Bible Society, that it has served to re-open our communications with our Continental neighbours, in the character of fellow Christians, and to re-kindle our sympathies, in some degree, in the behalf of the Protestant churches. It has also been the means of developing the real state of things in respect to religion, by presenting a test of Christian zeal and Protestant consistency; and it has made us better acquainted than we could otherwise have been, with the extreme destitution of religious knowledge, which is generally prevalent. Had it, however, done only this, had it but served to expose the lamentable deterioration of the Reformed Churches, both in doctrine and in discipline, the secularity of their pastors, and the infidelity which has been long eating, as a canker, into the vitals of the Protestant churches, the disclosure would seem to have come almost too late to allow of our entertaining the hope of their revival. But, in the exertions of this most excellent Institution, Divine Providence seems to have raised up the only adequate remedy for the ignorance and irreligion which it has brought to light. In this point of view, we know it is extensively regarded by pious foreigners, who recognise it as a merciful interposition of the great Head of the Church, for preventing the utter decay of vital Christianity, and the extinction of the light of the Reformation in those very countries on which it first arose, In the simplicity of its plan, in the singleness of its object, it has furnished a basis for the most extensive combination of Christian agency, that has ever been witnessed; and, as it was the only scheme that could have been devised, commensurate in extent with the vast sphere of exertion which has opened to us, so it was the only practicabie means by which, without exciting political and ecclesiastical jealousies, the instrumentality of this country could have efficiently employed in bringing about a second Reformation of the Christian world.