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popularity and success, and partly by an ill-judged opposition to them, into some unjustifiable measures; and yet had been instruments of great usefulness in the world.
This was the case with some of the reformers from popery. With regard to these men, he thought some of their errors were pitiable, rather than blameable: That some of them were to be imputed to faults in their education; the want of being led through a regular plan of lectures in divinity, and into an orderly method of studying the evidences, doctrines and duties of christianity. He hoped that further knowledge of themselves, the world and religion, would give them more judicious sentiments; and that the censures and contempt, which they met with from so many of their brethren, would make them more humble and eautious. He was well aware that there was some enthusiasm in them and much among their followers: But he thought that, nevertheless, they might be useful, as he knew they had been, in rousing men's attention, engaging them to bend their thoughts towards their eternal concerns; in leading them to read and study the scriptures, and attend religious worship in places, where they might be better instructed and edified. "In some extraordinary conversions, saith he, there may be and often is a tincture of enthusiasm: But, having weighed the matter diligently, I think a man had better be a sober, honest, chaste, industrious enthusiast, than live without any regard to God and religion at all. I think it infinitely better that a man should be a religious methodist, than an adulterer, a thief, a swearer, a drunkard or a rebel to his parents, as I know some actually were, who have been wrought upon and reformed by these preachers." This was the sentiment of one of the most judicious divines of the last age, Dr. Whichcote; "I am much of his mind, who did thus apologize for those who did dissent, though they were in an error; they do not err in their affection to God, religion and goodness though perhaps they are mistaken in their choice. But then it is far better for men to have some mistakes in their way, than to be devoid of religion. It is better for men to be in some mistakes about religion, than wholly to neglect it. These very things argue that the persons are awake, and are in search after truth, even there, where they have not attained to it*.
When Dr. Doddridge saw some of these persons running into errors, he was cautious of giving them any encouragement. Many friendly and faithful admonitions he gave them; and it was no inconsiderable evidence of the humility and can
Select Sermons, p. 240.
dour of some of their leaders, that they desired him freely to tell them, what he thought amiss in their sentiments or conduct, and that they received his admonitions with thankfulness. He endeavoured to shew them their errors and to regulate their zeal ; which he thought a more friendly part and more becoming a christian minister, than to revile or ridicule them. He saw some persons acting under the sanction of their names, who were both ignorant and licentious; and these he discouraged to the utmost. He often expressed his wish, that ministers, instead of railing at them from the pulpit and the press, and endeavouring to expose them, would imitate them in what was truly commendable. As they saw the common people struck and captivated with their address and appearance of zeal, he wished their wiser brethren would plainly and seriously preach the gospel, take due care of the souls committed to them, and labour more abundantly in their Master's work; and thereby secure yet greater popularity and acceptance by means, which they themselves must think just and laudable: For these he thought it their duty to use, whatever their particular sentiments and stations were.*
He was severely censured, especially by some of his brethren, for the civility and encouragement he shewed to some of the leaders of the methodists, and several angry letters were sent him on this subject. To such censures he thus answered; "I wish there were less zeal and rage against these men. It has always been a maxim with me, not to believe any flying story to the prejudice of those, whom I had apparent reason, from what I knew of them, to esteem. I am ready to hope and believe the best of those, who seem to have the cause of religion so much at heart. But I am very far from justifying them in all the steps they have taken, or approving all the lengths they have run; and with their anathemas and uncharitable censures I am greatly displeased. I see some of them running into extravagancies, which grieve me to the heart: And if any will be
Perhaps this important hint may come more unexceptionally from a wor'thy clergyman of the church of England; "The nation hath been much alarmed of late with reports concerning the growth and increase of methodism. Would we put a stop to the farther progress of it? There is one way by which it may be done : And let us of the established clergy join hand and heart in the work; viz. to live more holy, pray more fervently, preach more heavenly, and labour more diligently, than the methodist ministers appear to do. Then shall we soon hear that field-preaching is at an end; and christians will flock to the churches to hear us, as they now, flock to the fields to hear them." Andrew's Scripture Doctrine of Grace, in answer to the Bishop of Gloucester, p. 222. n.
so unjust as to impute these things to me, because I dare not join in reviling, censuring and judging them, as some do, amidst their acknowledged infirmities and mistakes, I must wait quietly till the day of the Lord and I humbly hope that he will, in the mean time appear to support my character, as far as his glory and the good of souls is concerned in it; and further than that, I am not anxiously concerned about it." By acting in this tender, candid manner, he might, perhaps, commend and encourage some, who appeared to be zealous for the salvation of souls, before he had sufficient opportunities of knowing what their principles and views were ; or the accounts he had received of the success of their labours might be exaggerated; or they might represent him, as encouraging them more than he did. He might also think some of their errors of much less consequence, than his brethren did. But these are often the weaknesses of the best minds; and, as a good judge of human nature says, "Ut quisque est vir optimus, ita difficillimè esse alios improbos suspicatur*. The better a man himself is, the less will he be inclined to suspect others of bad designs."
His Catholicism, Moderation and friendly Behaviour to Persons of different Sentiments and Persuasions.
Dr. DODDRIDGE had diligently studied the gospel, and had just ideas of the extent and importance of christian liberty. He had impartially examined the controversy between the established church of England, and the protestant dissenters, and thought it his duty to adhere to the latter. He thus wrote to one of his fellow-students on this subject; " Iam now more fully studying the business of conformity; and for that purpose am reading the controversy between Bishop Hoadly and Dr. Calamy ; as indeed I think it necessary to examine into the affair, before I determine upon being ordained among the dissenters. Upon the whole, I must say, that, as nothing hath had a greater tendency to confirm my belief of christianity than the most celebrated writings of Jews and deists; and my adhering to the protestant cause than the apologies of many of the roman catholics; so the study of the best defenders of the church of England, which I have yet seen, hath added a great deal of weight to my former persuasion, not only of the lawfulness but expediency of a separation from it. Yet when I see how many plausible arguments may be advanced on the contrary side, I am not in
Cic, Ep. ad Q. Fratr.
clinable to censure those, who yield to the force of them." His generous heart never confined truth and goodness to one particular sect, nor in any other respect appeared bigotted to that, or uncharitable to those who differed from him. The principles on which he acted will be seen by the following extracts from his writings. "I look upon the dissenting interest, saith he, to be the cause of truth, honour, and liberty; and I will add, in a great measure, the cause of serious piety too. It was not merely a generous sense of liberty (which may warm the breast of a deist, or an atheist) but a religious reverence for the divine authority, which animated our pious forefathers to so resolute and so expensive an opposition to the attempts, which were made in their days to invade the rights of conscience, and the throne of God, its only sovereign. And if the cause be not still maintained on the same principles, I think it will hardly be worth our while to be much concerned about maintaining it at all*.”
In his dedication of a Sermon to the pious Mr. Hervey, he thus expresseth himself; "You being, I doubt not, persuaded in your own mind that diocesan episcopacy is of divine original," and that "the church hath power to decree rites or ceremonies and authority in controversies of faith," have solemnly declared that belief; and in consequence of it, have obliged yourself to render canonical obedience to those, whom you thereby acknowledge as governing you by an authority delegated from Christ; that thus you may be subject to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, and thereby approve your submission to him. I have declined that subjection; not from any disrespect to the persons of the established ecclesiastical governors (many of whom I hold in the highest esteem and number among the most distinguished ornaments of our common christianity) and least of all from an unwillingness to yield subjection, where I apprehend Christ to have appointed it; for, so far as I know my own heart, it would be my greatest joy to bow, with all humility, to any authority delegated from him: But I will freely tell you and the world, my non-conformity is founded on this, that I assuredly believe the contrary, to what the constitution of the church of England requires me to declare, on the above-mentioned heads and some others, to be the truth. And I esteem it much more eligible to remain under an incapacity of sharing its honours and revenues, than to open my way to a
*Free Thoughts, &c.
possibility of obtaining them, by what would in me, while I have such an apprehension, be undoubtedly an act of prevarication, hypocrisy and falsehood; reverencing herein the authority of God, and remembering the account I must shortly give in his presence." -Yet he behaved with the utmost candour to the members of the established church. "I would be far, saith he, from confining all true religion to the members of our own congregations. I am very well aware, that there is a multitude of excellent persons in the establishment, both among the clergy and laity, who, in their different stations, are burning and shining lights; such as reflect a glory on the human nature and the christian profession." He always spoke of the established religion of our country with respect.
In explaining those texts of scripture in his Family Expositor, in which he could not avoid shewing his sentiments in some points of discipline, different from those which generally prevail, he conscientiously abstained from all reproaches; "To which indeed, saith he, I am on no occasion inclined, and which I should esteem peculiarly indecent, where the religious establishment of my country is in question; and above all, where a body of men would be affected, many of whom have been, and are among the ablest advocates and brightest ornaments of christianity. I have been also careful to adjust my expressions with as much tenderness and respect, as integrity and that reverence, which an honest man would owe to the judgment of his own conscience, were it more singular than mine, would admit*.He never made any petulant objections against the worship or discipline of the church of England, nor uttered any severe or unkind reflections upon it. Indeed he very seldom mentioned the grounds of the difference between it and the dissenters in the pulpit; and when his subject naturally led him to it, he took occasion to shew how small the things in debate were, compared with those important principles and truths, in which they agreed.-He always spoke in the most respectful terms of the worthy clergy of the established church; thought himself happy in the intimate friendship of some of them, and kept up a friendly correspondence with others, even with some of the highest rank in it. Upon the same principles, he rejoiced, when he had opportunity, as he sometimes had, of serving any of them in their secular or ministerial interests.. He deeply lamented, that separation from the communion of that church was, in his apprehension and that of many other
*Expositor, V. 3. Pref. p. ix. 4to. ed.