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has authority from God to decree in his church what ceremonies and rites, and to make what terms of communion, he thinks edifying and fit. Nor has any neighbouring bishop, no, nor any power upon earth, authority to control bim. For, as the Apostles were all equal, their successors, the bishops, must also be equal: and, as the former were not accountable to any temporal prince, for their jurisdiction in the church of Christ, the same exemption may their descendants and representatives also claim. How excellent a scheme of government and holy discipline is this! With what beauty and uniformity, unity and peace, is it calculated to bless the church! as we shall presently see. But,
Thirdly. Acknowledging this high power to be. really vested in the church's bishops, as governors and pastors of it, I again ask, how far does it extend? Is it limited or unlimited ? May they enjoin whatever rites they think decent and ornamental, and decree whatever ceremonies or new terms of communion they judge to be conducive to the edification of the church ? As they have now in the church of England, decreed, we will say, only four ceremonies to give additional beauty and splendour to its public worship, may they not, if they think it farther conducive to this worthy end, decree four, or even forty more? Yes, and make that forty, four hundred, if they should suppose them to be useful, and calculated to promote decency and order in the worship of their respective flocks. But do you not plainly see, Sir, bow dangerous a power this is a power which, in all ages, hath proved the bane of the Christian Church! A foodgate which hath leg in a dreadful deluge of animosities, corruptions, and superstitions upon it! Hence sprung that enormous mass of profane and foolish rites which to the scandal of the Christian name, now grie, yously oppresses both the Greek and the Romish
churches. One bishop, or perhaps a junto of bishops, fancying that there ought to be a trine immersion in baptism, another the signation of the cross, another an unction with oil, another milk and honey, and the imposition of hands immediately after it; another insufflation, or breathing upon the person's face, to exorcise the devil; another washing of hands before prayers;-hence, also praying towards the East, sponsors in baptism, kneeling at the Lord's supper; first the veneration, then the adoration of relics and of images, which, though they were at first erected only as memorials of some saints, soon after became the objects of religious worship. Thus, I say, that inundation of abominable corruptions, which at present overwhelms the Greek and Roman churches, gradually came in at this very breach you are now zealously maintaining, namely, the bishop's power to decree rites and ceremonies in the church.
It is a most dangerous and important power, not fit to be trusted, and therefore we may be assured, never was trusted, with any fallible unin. spired men. Jesus Christ, surely the supreme bishop and only head of his church, well knew what institutions were most for its edification, and what ceremonies and rites would best promote the order and decency of its worship; and either by himself, or by his inspired Apostles, has left a perfect plan of both. For any weak and uninspired men, therefore, to rise up in after ages, and fancy that they can improve the scheme of worship which Christ bath left, -that they can add greatly to its beauty, its splendour, and perfection, by some ceremonies of their own,-is certainly a rude invasion of Christ's throne, which every sober Christian ought highly to detest.
But with great acuteness, you observe, “ though those church governors have power to 6 decree ceremonies and rites, yet not fopperies,
" and superstitions.” This is extremely pleasant ! But, when I ask you by what criterion I am to distinguish rites from fopperies, and ceremonies from superstitions, you will not satisfy my curiosity ;-and no wonder; for I defy all the common sense and ingenuity of the nation (to borrow one of your own expressions) to shew the consecration of earth, to cover the body when dead, to be an edifying and decent rite, but the consecration of water to sprinkle it when living, to be a ridiculous and foolish foppery. I defy any man to say, why spittle and salt, in baptism, are not ceremonies as instructive as the sign of the cross; and why a bishop may not now continue the absurd ancient custom of exorcising the devil before baptism, as well as the laying on of hands after it, so as thereby to impart the graces of the Holy Spirit, which, you say, he does in confirmation.
Superstition, Sir, is ever restless, insatiable, incroaching. Every zealous bishop will be ambitious of adding some rite or ceremony of his own, to beautify divine worship, and render it more brilliant. Thus, when your holy bishop Laud was governor of this church, you had lighted candles upon its altars, copes for the priests, with crucifixes and images of the Trinity upon them, consecrated knives to cut the sacramental bread, incense-pots, canisters for wafers lined with cambric lace, with a deal of other furniture, all solemnly consecrated for the service of Almighty God, and for the comfort, instruction, and editication of his church, to exalt and enliven the beauties of holiness therein. And, had it not been for the noble and heroic stand, which the Puri. tans and their successors have constantly made against this rite-making spirit, there is no reason to doubt that the church of England, by this time, had fallen little short in these holy decom
rations and additional splendours, of the church of Moscow, or of Rome.
I have dwelt longer upon this point, because it is undoubtedly the capital and fundamental one on which the debate between the church and the dissenters entirely turns. Prove your church Sir, to have this power and authority from God, which she exercises and claims,-a power to de cree new rites and ceremonies in christian worship, to make new terms of communion, and to determine controversies of faith,---and you need give yourself no farther trouble; all other things in controversy, sponsors, absolution, the sacramental test, and every thing else shall be immediately given up. Make good but this one point, and, if your church commands us to sign ourselves all over with a significant and instructive cross, we will reverently do it. If it bids us worship towards the east, and to think the omnipresent Deity to be more there than in the west, and to bow at the name of Jesus, we will humbly submit:
: or, if it requires us to believe that an amorous devil was forced away from his beloved maid, by the fume's of a fish's liver; or, that the most profligate wretch that lives, if the king gives him a post, hast a right to eat at the Lord's table, and that when he dies, he rests in Christ, and is taken to God in mercy, we will cordially believe it all. There is nothing your church can enjoin, or deeree, but you shall find the dissenters will dutifully submit to it, when you have once clearly shewn it to have this power from God; and have told us plainly, and without reserve, what you mean by the church; and distivctly pointed out who the persons are in whom this power resides.
It is, indeed, consummately ridiculous in you, Sir, to talk of the “ church's jurisdiction and au” thority over dissentersof the subjection we u owe it,---of the damnableness of tbe sin of. re. * fusing obedience to it," when you have not yet
told us, and cannot openly and plainly tell us, who, and what it is you mean by the church : or, who the persons are to whom God hath committed this high and important trust? Is it the king and parliament; or, is it not? Is it the clergy met in convocation; or, is it not? Is it each bishop in his respective diocese, by himself alone, or in conjunction with his clergy ; or, is it not? Is it the whole body of christian people, the congregation of the faithful; or, is it not? Open yourself freely, Sir, and be not afraid of truth. Truth will never hurt you. It is a most innocent and lovely thing : it may rob you of some emoluments and possessions of a worldly nature; but be assured, it will give you something more substantial in their stead. Be ingenuous then, and tell dissenters in whom God hath lodged this power, to which you say they owe subjection; and by revolting from which, they are guilty of a dangerous and damnable sin. If you write again, but will not explain yourself distinctly on this point you yield the cause to us before the world. You make it evident that you write neither for our conviction nor your own, but that you
have something else in view besides finding out the truth. That something, perhaps, you may find, but it will continue with you but for a moment; whereas, if you find and do the will of God, it will give you a possession that will endure for ever!
Of the Sacramental Test. " THAT the law called the Test is not, as you suggest, the innocent occasion only, but the plain, the notorious, the culpable cause of those prosti