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Were the Dissenters of this country to abstain from all interference in “contested elections,” and to leave both church and state to the care of others, such a course of proceeding might be very agreeable to Mr. Perowne, but I question whether it would be serviceable to civil and religious liberty.  If, however, there be any guilt in this matter, it does not lie exclusively at the door of nonconformist “teachers and members,” and when Mr. P. offers to feel their pulse, and to write out prescriptions for them, he ought to remember p. 21the proverb, “Physician heal thyself.”  Party politics have, I confess, no charms for me; and I very earnestly desire that all religious men who come in contact with them, whether Church-people or Dissenters, may so conduct themselves as to give no “occasion to the enemies of God to blaspheme.”
Utterly forgetful of the strife which is often manifested at the “vestry meetings” of his own church, he ventures to attack our “church meetings,” at which, he says, “peaceful and loving scenes sometimes take place.”  I dare say that if Mr. Perowne knew much of the history of “church meetings,” from those which were held in Corinth, during the apostolic times, down to our own days, he might tell of some in which peace and love were not very apparent.  A thinking mind will perceive, however, that an ecclesiastical system may be good in itself, and even divine in its origin, as that at Corinth was, and yet it may be very imperfectly and improperly exhibited and administered by human beings.  In such a case the fault is not in the system, but in the men.  But whatever exceptions to peace and love may have occasionally appeared in our church meetings, I deny that Mr. Perowne’s description is applicable to their general character.  Our churches are formed on the principle that none but those who profess and practise the gospel of Christ are eligible for membership; and when any person of contrary character is discovered among us, he is excluded from the society, and, as a matter of course, falls into the Establishment.  Taking them with all their imperfections, I believe not only that they are formed according to the apostolic model, but that they are among the best societies of men to be found in this sinful world—“and no man shall stop me of p. 22this boasting” on their behalf.  The church of which I am the pastor, was formed about sixteen years ago.  It then contained thirteen members, and since then between three and four hundred have been added.  Our church meetings are held monthly, for the purposes of devotion, of receiving additional members, and, occasionally, for the transaction of business, necessary to preserve the order and purity of the church.  I do not, of course, expect that Mr. Perowne will believe my testimony on this subject, but I confidently appeal to the members of my church for evidence respecting the character of our meetings.  Those “hallowed influences,” to which Mr. Perowne so contemptuously refers, have abundantly blessed them, nor do I expect to witness any scenes more truly “peaceful and loving,” till “the general assembly and church of the first born” appears in heaven.
Another charge, which Mr. Perowne vehemently urges against Dissenters, is that they are aiming to destroy the church to which he belongs.  “The leading organs of dissent,” says he, “openly avow that nothing but the destruction of our church will satisfy them.”  I should think my own church destroyed, if it were to be overrun with infidelity or heresy, or if it were to be broken up and dispersed as a society of Christians.  But, as Mr. Perowne is acquainted with “the leading organs of dissent,” he knows very well that Dissenters have no desire to see the Church of England brought into such a condition; and that all they wish is that the Established Church would support its own ministers, and pay its own expenses, without taxing other churches.  And this, if I understand him rightly, he would call “the destruction of the church.”  If so, all the dissenting churches are destroyed p. 23already.  They have no connection with the state, as a controlling power—they choose their own ministers—and they pay their own expenses.  They are therefore, according to Mr. Perowne, in a state of “destruction”—they are “things which are not,” and he may perhaps be aware that such things are sometimes employed “to bring to nought things which are.”
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