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man, not only in distinction from, but in actual opposition to the bishop, and all the church, both clergy and laity, has authority to judge and determine these important matters; and excommunicates or absolves, shuts out or lets in, according to his sole pleasure.
And here Sir, let me stop a moment, and review the point in debate between Dr. Watts and yourself. As for the lives of the Dissenters, though God knows we have nothing to boast of, but a great deal that calls for shame and humiliation, on this head; yet, whether we are quite so deeply immersed in the deluge of profaneness, immorality, and vice, which spreads over the land; whether the blasphemies and oaths, the debauchery, riot, and guilty excesses which too generally prevail, be in proportion to our number, found as rife amongst us as amongst the members of the established church, must be left, and we freely leave it to the impartial world to judge between us.
And, as to special obligations and advantages for holy living, which you contend strenuously with the Doctor to lie on your side, what hath been above observed on your several offices for confirmation, absolution of the sick, and burial of the dead, shews them, I humbly think, to have really an ill aspect upon the morals of your people, a dangerous and apparent tendency to che, rish in them false hopes, and to give them wrong notions of the terms of acceptance and of entrance into heaven. And of the state in which your
discipline lies, (which you acknowledge to be of great moment to the edification of the church,) no enemy need to wish a more melancholy account than yourself have given of it. Upon the whole, therefore, Sir, I cannot think the worthy doctor to deserve censure for attempting to rouse dissenters from the languishing state of religion among them, by putting them in mind of the
superior advantages they enjoy, and of the peculiar obligations under which they manifestly lay to greater holiness of life.
You seem not a little displeased,* at its having been urged as a reason for our dissent, “ that
your church has shewn a persecuting spirit," and with some emotion ask, “ did the church
persecute at any time its own inembers ? Were
you, or your fathers, ever persecuted while they « continued in the church? And were they dri“ ven out of it by those persecutions ?" I confess Sir, you quite surprise me by such questions as these. What! are you only a stranger in Britain, and have never heard of the bitter sufferings of our worthy fathers the puritans? With what silencing, deprivations, fines, imprisonments, and lingering and cruel deaths, for more than a hundred years, they were terribly harassed and oppressed by your church? Have you never read, with a bleeding heart, the unrelenting rigours of your archbishops Parker, Bancroft, Whitgift, Laud; under the first of whom, above a hundred, under the second above three hundred, pious and learned men, not only members, but ministers of your church, were silenced, suspended, admonished, deprived; many of them loaded with grevious and heavy fines, and shut up in filthy jails, where they slowly expired through. penury and want? And what were the crimes which drew this dreadful storm of episcopal vengeance on them? Nothing but their scruples about the surplice and the cap, about bowing at the name of Jesus, about Christ's descent into hell, and such like momentous points !
Have you never read, Sir, what desolations Laud brought upon our fathers, whilst yet in your church? How many hundreds of them were
sequestered, driven from their livings, excommunicated, persecuted in the high-commission court, and forced to leave the kingdom for not punctually conforming to all the ceremonies and rites, and not daring to tell their people that they might lawfully profane the Sabbath by gambols and sports, and to publish from their pulpits the permission of the king to break the command of God! And yet you : ask,
your fathers ever persecuted while they con6 tinued in the church ?"
Pray, what was it pcopled the savage deserts of North America? Was it not the thousands of persecuted and oppressed families, who fled from tyrannizing bishops? Who, not being suffered to worship quietly in their native country, as their consciences directed, sought a peaceful retreat from the rage of their fellow-christians, amongst more hospitable Indians. To omit a thousand acts of cruelty, is not the act of uniformity, which, to be sure you will call a grand pillar of your church, a very unrighteous and persecuting act? Do not several of your canons breathe an unchristian and malevolent spirit? Did not your church, at last, in a most arbitrary and unjust manner, cast out at once, above two thousand excellent and pious ministers, and abandon them and their starving families, to great poverty, and distress ? To heighten that distress, did not your church by another act, banish them five miles from any city, borough, or church, in which they had before served, and thereby put them at a cruel distance from their acquaintance and friends, who might administer to their relief? Did she not, by another act, forbid their meeting to worship God any where but in your own churches, under the penalties of heavy fines, im. prisonments, and banishment to foreign lands?
In consequence of these unrighteous acts, were not vast numbers of pious clergymen, our fore
fathers, (once the glory of your church,) with mula titudes of their people, laid in prisons amongst thieves and common malefactors, where they suffered the greatest hardships, indignities, and oppressions; their houses were rudely rified, their goods made a prey to hungry informers, and their families given up to beggary and want? “ "An “ estimate was published of near eight thousand
protestant dissenters, who had perished in pri
son in the reign only of Charles II. By severe “ penalties inflicted on them for assembling to
worship God, they suffered in their trade and “ estates in the compass of a few years, at least “ two millions: and a list of sixty thousand per
sons was taken who had suffered on a religious « account, betwixt the restoration and the revo« lution."* Behold! the groans and the blood of these oppressed puritans cry beneath the altar, how long, O Lord! Yet you are deaf to all their groans; and with a stoical insensibility, were your
fathers ever persecuted ?" “ But the presbyterian and independent “churches, have each, in their day of power dis
covered as much, and indeed more of that spi“ rit.”+ Too much of that bad spirit, it is acknowledged, they have each shewn. But, surely, there is no comparison between the cruelties and oppressions of your church and of theirs. Your little finger has been thicker than their loins.
“ But, whatever the church may have been “ heretofore, you affirm, it is not now of a perse“ cuting spirit; and that there is not the least
appearance of its having disquieted and op“ pressed any on account of religion for more “ than half a century."# You had forgotten the famous schism and occasional conformity acts, which long since that date, much disquieted and
* Vide Neal's Hist. Purit. Vol. IV. page 554, + Letter III. page 61.
oppressed us. The test and corporation acts had also escaped your memory, which, at this time, deprive us of valuable and important privileges to which as faithful subjects, and members of the commonwealth, we think we have a natural undoubted right. The present governors of your church, indeed, (thanks be to heaven for it!) are too wise, and too righteous, to permit persecution to rage against us. But to their clemency and justice, Sir, not to the kind and benevolent spirit and constitution of your church, I humbly apprehend, we owe it, that we are not at this time severely persecuted and oppressed. If the act of uniformity, which you will certainly call a grand pillar of your church, is not a very un„righteous and persecuting act, yet several of your canons breathe, you know, Sir, a very
cruel and intolerant spirit. By the former, “whoever * shall declare or speak any thing in the dero
gation, or depraving of the book of Common Prayer, or any thing therein contained, or any
part thereof, he shall for the first offence, “ suffer imprisonment for one whole year, with“ out bail or mainprize, and for the second of“ fence, be imprisoned during life.” Here I affirm nothing, but appeal to the whole world: I appeal, Sir, to your own consciences, whether this be or be not, an unjust and persecuting act ? By the latter, the canons, “if any man shall af“ firm any of these things contained in the book
of Articles, Common Prayer, or Ordination," (in which, yet, there are many things acknowledged, by your own most learned divines, and I doubt not by yourself, to need alteration ;) your IV, V, VI, VII, and VIIIth canons, thunder out upon him a terrible excommunication, ipso facto,* by which he is to be cut off as a cankered
Concerning an excommunication, ipso facto, our late learned primate, Dr. Wake, has observed, “ First, that “ there is no need, in this case, of any admonition, as where