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ROMANS X. VERSE II.
I bear them record that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.
THERE is a sect which, of late years, has been growing into some importance in this country, and which, from the unwearied activity of those who guide it, has been too well received, and too hastily embraced; I mean that sect commonly called Methodists, and who (though less numerous, perhaps, than the friends of our church establishment commonly suppose) are still numerous enough, and sufficiently active in making proselytes, and sufficiently successful to justify that watchful attention which they now begin to experience from the established clergy.
Such attention is still more necessary at this period, when enthusiasm, formerly confined to the lowest ranks of the community, has sprang up among the rich, and the great; and when it derives an influence as considerable from the wealth, and consequence of those who profess it, as it does from the seductive nature of its doctrines.
Nothing can be more clear, than that any sect has a perfect right to interpret the gospel after its own manner, or to infuse, into its followers, any spirit, not incompatible with the public peace. Such are the rights of sects, as against the civil power; but against reason, and enquiry, no sect is, or ought to be, protected; and above all, that sect ought not which proclaims itself to be better, and wiser than all other sects, which says, we only worship the true God, salvation is for us alone.
In applying the term sect, to persons of this religious persuasion, and in distinguishing them from the church of England, I do not found that distinction upon the -speculative ténets they profess, but upon the general spirit they display; it is in vain to
say you belong to our antient, and venerable communion, if you lose sight of that moderation for which we have always been distinguished, and, instead of sameness of spirit, give us only sameness of belief. You are not of us, (whatever your belief may be) if you are not sober as we are; you are not of us, if you have our zeal without our knowledge; you are not of us, if those tenets, which we have always rendered compatible with sound discretion, make you drunk, and staggering with the new wine of enthusiasm.
Far be it from me, in pointing out those pernicious consequences, which I believe to result from this sect of Christians, to join with their enemies in the very unjust calumnies which have been propagated against them; I'most firmly believe that, for the greater part, they are enthusiasts, not hypocrites; that they are doing what they believe to be right, and though they, are not acting up to their very exalted professions, yet that, upon the whole, they are fairly entitled to be called sincere Christians: What may truely be objècted to them