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and was taken away in wrath. You are to give God hearty thanks that he hath taken this your brother out of the miseries of this sinful world, though you have the strongest reason to believe that he is gone down to realms of greater misery below. And you are to profess before God, that you hope the man rests in Christ, and pray that you yourselves may rest in Christ in the same manner as this your brother doth, even though you have every reason to think that he died in his sins, and is therefore not gone to be with Christ, where nothing that is defiled can ever be admitted. Strange! and extremely shocking! What can the people think, Sir! what must infidels and deists think? when they hear you in the morning denouncing from the scriptures, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man that doeth evil, and assuring them, that, without holiness, no man shall see the Lord; but, in the evening, shall hear you, from the common prayer, declaring, before God, your hope of the eternal happiness of one of the most debauched and profligate men in your parish; and applying to him such lofty expressions
of confidence and hope, as can be applicable only to a person of the most shining and exemplary life! Do
you imagine, Sir, people do not think? Can you wonder deism prevails ? that the priesthood is ridiculed? and that your good sermons are not more effectual to reform a corrupt world? To me (and doubtless to thousands of your own church) this appears to be a most indecent pros.. titution of your sacred character and office, a trifling and prevarication with things of everlasting moment, and laying a fatal snare in the way of many, who seeing their debauched neighbour dismissed to the other world, with such confidence of his good estate, suppress their just
lears, and say, I shall have peace, though I add drunkenness to thirst.*
But there is a farther very strange and extraordinary circumstance attending this matter, viz. that it involves the church in a manifest contradiction and absurdity; for it damns and saves the same individual persons. Whom it damns when Jiving it saves when dead. Arians and Socinians, you know, Sir, your church declares without doubt to perish everlastingly. But let these very men die, and your church as solemnly declares that God hath, in his great mercy, taken them to himself, and that it hopes they rest in Christ; or in other words, that the man whom I pronounce without doubt to be damned, I yet hope that he is saved ; i. e. I hope without hope !
I shall press you no further on this point, but proceed to your next observation, in which you endeavour to establish not only the use, but the church's divine right, of making ceremonies from the instance of the holy kiss.t « The kiss of charity, used in the apostolic church, you ask,
it a rite of Divine appointment, or was it “ not?” I answer, that I apprehend this kiss of charity cannot properly be called a Divine institution, nor be said to be ordained by the apostles. The greeting with a kiss, was an ancient established usage, not only amongst the Jews, but the Gentile nations also. This usage, therefore, or ceremony, was not ordained by the apostles, but only by their advice regulated and directed to a moral and religious end. It is as if they had said, “it is your custom when you meet to salute each
• Two of our most eminent archbishops, Drs. Sancroft and Tillotson, have expressed their strong disapprobation of some parts of this office; the former of whom declared, “ that he ic was so little satisfied with it, that, for that very reason, he
never took any pastoral charge upon him." Vide Calamy's Defence of moderate Nonconformity, Part II. page 222.
+ Letter II. page 2.
in other with a kiss; see that it be a pure, a “ chaste, or holy kiss, a token of unfeigned cha“rity, friendship, and peace.”
“ But, if this ceremony of the holy kiss was "not of Divine appointment, (which probably,
you say, is the truth of the case,) but a merely “ ecclesiastical, prudential institution, ordained “ by the apostles without any precept from the “Lord, or any particular direction of the Holy “ Spirit:"—then Sir, I, without the least hesita tion, say, it was not at all obligatory as a law apon the consciences of Christians; they might, or they might not practise it, without sinning against God. Even the apostles had no dominion over the faith and practice of Christians, but what was given them by the special presence and spirit of Christ, the only lawgiver, lord, and sovereign of the church. They were to teach only the things which he should command them. Whatever they enjoined under the influence of that spirit, was to be considered and obeyed as the injunction of Christ. But, if they enjoined any thing in the church, (which I can by no means admit,) without the peculiar influence and direction of this spirit, i.e. merely as fallible unassisted men, in that case, their injunction had no authority over consciences: every man's own reason had authority to examine and discuss their injunc. tions, and, as they approved themselves to his private judgment, to observe them or not. Should we grant then what you ask, " that the church " in the present age, has the same authority and "power, as the church in the apostolic age, con“ sidered as not being under any immediate and “ extraordinary guidance of the Holy Ghost;"What will you gain by it? The same authority and power is, you see, Sir, really no power nos authority at all.
I. proceed next to the point of discipline, #the want of which, you say, is objected to your “ church; but you will represent the real state of “ it, and then shew that we really as much want « it ourselves."* We will attend to your own account of it, which cannot be suspected of being too severe. You acknowledge " that the dis“ cipline of the church is of great moment to“wards the edification of its members; and that " the fault is unpardonable when church gover
nors let it fall, through a supine carelessness “ and neglect that there is a great prostration “ of discipline in the church of England:-that “ it is ruined amongst. you :—that the distem
pers of the times are evidently too strong for “ it :that those who sit at the helm find it pru. " dent not to bear up too much against the in“ petuosity of the storm, but to give way till the "madness of the people be still that the dis“cipline of the church has not been carried to
any degree of perfection, and now lies under
a general relaxation.—That your people are of"ten indulged in all unreasonable demands and “ disorderly ways, to prevent their putting in exe“cution their threat, that they will go to the “ meeting: and, finally, that you have at least “ the shadow and form of discipline, and trust in “ God that these dry bones will
one day live.”+ This, it must be owned, is very ingenuously and frankly spoken. And can you blame then the dissenters, Sir, for joining themselves to churches where that godly discipline is observed, which you confess to be of such great moment to the edification of christian people, and which your church is continually wishing for, but never attempts to have restored. But here you retort, and intimate as great a want of discipline amongst us. “ What, are there no scandalous sinners, you.
* Letter Ill. p. 12.
Letter II. pages 12, 13, 14. 17. 29. 98.
" ask,* no fornicators, adulterers, extortioners, « &c. received into your churches ! I must beg
your pardon if I demur upon this. For, I could
never perceive the doors of the meeting were “ ever shut against any. And, if such profligate persons
be not admitted to sit at the Lord's ta“ ble, they need not fear being admitted to all “ other parts of your worship.” And is not this, Sir, exactly right? Ought not our church doors to be always kept open, that whoever will may come, and be witness to our way of worship. Such profligate persons, therefore, may come if they please, and hear their sins reproved, and be exhorted to repentance and amendment of life. They are then where they ought to be, under the preaching of the word; the means appointed by God, to convince and reclaim the profligate and corrupt. Were not the doors of the church at Corinth kept open in the apostles' days, for infidels to come in, and be present at their worship? Vide I Cor. xiv. 23.6 But, to the table of the Lord, to partake of the children's bread, you seem convinced, that, in our churches, such profligate persons are not suffered to come. And is not this ihe true order and discipline of the christian church? But, is it the same, Sir, in your church? Are not some of the most profane and abandoned of men, rakes, debauchees, blasphemers of God, and scoffers at all religion, often seen upon their knees around your communion-table, eating the children's bread, and partaking of the holy elements to qualify for a post? Dare your ministers refuse them? No! they dare not refuse the most impious blasphemer the three kingdoms afford, when he comes to demand it as a qualification for an office in the army or fleet, without exa
Letter III. page 23. + If therefore, the whole church be come together into ons place and there come in those that are unbearned, ar yra believers, &C.