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Popery to be effectually opposed on
popery, by pursuing the consequences of the
formists, and strenuous opposers of the estab-
in honour of the Divine Being, who is ac-
Of the consecration of churches and church-
yards.-An account of the manner in which
SERIOUS AND FREE THOUGHTS ON THE PRE-
SENT STATE OF THE CHURCH AND OF RELI-
GION, IN A LETTER TO THE BISHOPS, first
printed in 1755, 269..
PostsCRIPT, containing Dr. Stebbing's honest
censure of the doctrine of sacerdotal absolu-
use a hundred distinctions, as to its being
so as to be understood it is nothing"-Also
APPENDIX, No. I. Observations on the restora-
tion of Charles H.-Testimonies from Bur-
Reverend Mr. WHITE'S THREE LETTERS, &c.
SIR, I SHOULD not have chosen a debate of this kind in the present situation of our public affairs :* but, as you have done me the honour of publicly addressing to me three long letters for my conviction and edification, gratitude and good manners constrain me to answer.
As worldly considerations are very strong on your side, I assure you I have an ear always open to any thing that may shew conformity to be my duty. Dissenters are not men of so peculiar a turn of mind as to love suffering and reproach, or to despise the dignities, preferments, and lucrative posts, to the amount of millions a year, which are shared among their fellow-subjects, could they with a good conscience partake. of them as they have a natural right to do.
But notwithstanding this prejudice in favour of your argument, and all the ingenuity with which you set it off, I cannot say it has wrought in me the conviction you seemed to hope. So far, Sir, from this, that the more carefully I examine the grounds of my separation, the more thoroughly I am convinced of its lawfulness and
These letters were first published in 1746, the year in which, notwithstanding this kingdom was so happily delivered from some of its distresses, by the defeat of the rebel army at Culloden, yet it was still engaged in a war with France and Spain.
expediency, of its being a debt I owe to God, to Liberty, to Truth, and an act of homage and allegiance due to Christ, the only Lawgiver and King in his church.
I shall not enter upon the inquiry on which you largely expatiate, which are the best livers, Churchmen or Dissenters, and amongst which the best means for holy living are to be found. Let the world judge between us. Would to God that both of us had greater reason to boast !
The controversy between us, Sir, I apprehend, may easily be brought to a plain and short issue, if you will heartily join in it. It turns upon the single point of the XXth article of your church, viz. That the Church hath power to decree rites and ceremonies, and authority in matters of faith. For, if the CHURCH hath really this authority and power, then all objections of ihe Dissenters, about sponsors, the cross in baptism, kneeling at the Lord's-supper, and every other thing, are impertinent and vain : the
church, having this authority, ought reverently ?:78xxtv to be obeyed. And if, instead of two or three
ceremonies, it had enjoined two or three score; and if to the thirty-nine articles it had added á hundred besides, we ought meekly to have bowed down to her spiritual jurisdiction, and to have believed and practised as the Church had taught and enjoined.
But if, on the contrary, the church hath really and in truth no power at all, nor authority of this kind; yea, if CHRIST, the great Lawgiver and King of his Church, hath expressly commanded that no such power shall ever be claimed, or ever be yielded by any of his fol. lowers, then your church is reprehensible and highly criminal before God, for usurping this power; and consequently, the Dissenters are justified, and will have honour before God for entering their protest against such usurpation ;
for asserting the rights and privileges of the Christian Church, and for standing fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made them free.
You are pleased to represent our separation from the establishment in very black and terrifying colours, as a sin of nearly the first magnitude." Our ministers," you say, “ have guilt.
lying heavily upon them, on account of their “ sohismatical and uncatholic proceedings.“ They are notoriously peccant, (i. e. are great
sinners,) in throwing off the authority of those “ whom they ought to obey and submit them66 selves to.—Their conduct is such as you chal
lenge all the wit and ingenuity of the nation ever to reconcile with holy living.--You represent them as carnal, evil, and deceitful
workers, disorderly walkers, whom God will " undoubtedly, for these things, bring into judg“ ment;* and the faithful far from being per“ mitted to enter into any pastoral relation to
them, are not permitted to have any Christian communion with them ; no not so much as any intimate unnecessary acquaintance and fa
miliarity with them in common life;"4 with much more to the same purpose.
You speak also of the lay dissenter as having “ stained his soul with guilt ;I and of the doc“trine on which our separation is built, as being “ false and dangerous. This you wish me to lay " to heart, and seriously to consider.”
I have, according to your wish, Sir, laid it to heart, and seriously considered. The result of my consideration I shall now freely give you: and in return, heartily wish, that laying aside all prejudice and worldly attachments, you would iinpartially consider~What is the true vature and constitution of the Christian Church;
* Letter I. p. 82, 83. t Letter II. p. 8. Letter II.
Ś Letter III. p. 59.