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“ all must grant, and it can be only ignorance and
soul, who submits himself to the instructions, “ and devoutly attends all the administrations, “ of an able and orthodox minister, by whomso
ever provided. And it will be confessed, you
suppose, that the king and bishops, lord-chan“cellor, nobility, and gentry, who are our great
patrons, are more competent judges of the abi“ lities and particular orthodoxy of clergymen, " and of their fitness for stations, than the con
mon run of men, especially the vulgar.”+ But imagine yourself, Sir, for a moment, on the other side of the water, preaching this wholesome doctrine to the good protestants in France. If kings, bishops, &c. have authority and right to appoint pastors to the people, then the people are bound io receive and attend the pastors they send. But, if this be right in one country, (I must again put you in mind,) it is righi also in another, unless one kingdom can produce a warrant, or charter, from heaven, giving it such authority, which other kingdoms have not. If this doctrine be truth in England, it is truth also in France. The brave protestants then have rashly and unwarraptably withdrawn themselves from the pastors whom their king and bishops had set over them. They ought to return, and submit to their established guides, and not proudly attempt to find ministers, more able and orthodox than those their superiors had solemnly deputed to that trust. Will you stand, Sir, to this doctrine? If not, you must allow, every man a right to judge for himself.
To the common and just plea, " That every " man has as good right to choose his own pas
• Lowth on Church Power,
+ Ibid. p. 9.
tor, to whom tu commit the care of his soul, as “ to choose his lawyer or his physician, with « wbom he intrusts his body or estate," you reply," physicians, in many places, are provided
by governors for those who are sick, as in Chel. “ sea and other hospitals, whilst nobody dreams “of any encroachment upon their natural rights.” But tell me, Sir, would you not complain, if, whenever you were sick, you were obliged to accept of this public provision, and must commit yourself to the care of those gentlemen of the faculty who officiated in the hospital, supposing you lived near it, whatever notion you had of their fidelity or skill? Or, should a physician be provided and established by law in each parish of this kingdom, would you not call it an infringement of your natural right to be obliged to call him in, (however ignorant or incapable you took him to be,) and to commit your health to his care, especially if there was at hand another licensed by authority, whom you thought to have better judgment, and from whose prescriptions you bad received frequent and signal relief? I am persuaded, in this case, you would strongly and very justly complain of the restraint. But every man, surely, is as capable, and has as undoubted right to judge and to choose what minister to attend for the edification of his soul, as what physician to consult for the recovery of his health.
“ No, (you reply,) there is a difference in the “ two cases. Your pastors are your guides and
governors, to whom you owe subjection in spi“ ritual things: and it is not, I think, quite so “ reasonable to challenge to yourselves the choo
sing of these as of the other, who have no au“thority over you." But, I beseech you, good Sir, who made them my governors ? Who gave them this rule and authority over me? Does e. ry gay stripling, just emancipated from the college, that can get himself to be inducted into a good living, (and there are various ways of getting, you know, Sir, not fit here to be mentioned) does he, I ask, thenceforward become governor of all the souls dwelling in his parish, to whom they owe subjection in spiritual things ? What must all the learned, the wise, the grave, and experienced persons, residing in that parish, consider the enrobed youth as their spiritual ruler, vested with authority over them, in things pertaining to God, to conscience, and to eternity ! Yes, he has authority, you say, over me; I owe him spiritual subjection. But how far, Sir, does the authority of my young ruler extend ! Most I believe whatever he tells me because he hath said it; or do whatever he commands me because he hath enjoined it? Or follow my spiritual guide wherever he shall lead me, without considering, examining, and judging for myself, whither the course tends? And, if I happen to think he is leading me wrong, must I still obey, and subinit to my ghostly director, and trust God with the event? Am I to deliver myself up entirely, or only a little, and in part, to his sacerdotal authority? And must I see things in religion only and always by the eyes of my overseer, or ought I not also sometimes, at least, to see with my own? Will you please to inform me also whether, as my young governor undertakes to judge for me now, he will also undertake to be judged for me hereafter, and to be condemned for me too, if I happen to go astray by going as he directs ? A certain nobleman, not half a century ago, got his huntsman inducted into a good living;
and, from the care of his hounds, advanced him to the priesthood, and to the care of souls. Now, from the time of his investiture with this new character and office, he became the governor and guide, it seems, of all the souls in his parish, and they owed him subjection in spiritual things. If a Locke then, a Newton, or even his lordship himself, who gave him the living, had dwelt within its bounds, they ought reverently to regard him as their spiritual governor and director, and to submit themselves to him as having the rule over them, and watching for their souls. But are these claims to be supported, or is this doctrine to be -preached, in this age of liberty and light? Let them, for the honour of christianity, be eternally suppressed.
To return, Sir, to the point whence I set out. After the considerations which I have suggested, I still hold myself justified in asserting the right which every man has, in things of religion, to call no man upon earth master, but to examine, and judge, and choose for himself.
As to the manner in which the choice of our ministers is conducted, against which you except, I believe no elections, of any kind, are transancted with greater fairness and equity than these. And the nature of the thing speaks that it must be so: for, ours being assemblies formed only by consent, and supported only by voluntary contributions of their members, any oppressive or iniquitous management would throw them presently into confusion, disband, and break them up.
Bút it is time, Sir, that I now release your patience and attention, having, I fear, strained both to their utmost extent. There are many other parts of your letters as exceptionable as those I have taken notice of, but I would not be tedious. I might have expostulated with you largely on your reading, as parts of your public worship, the fabulous and gross legends of Bel and the Dragon, of Judith and Susannah; and, above all the magical romance of rescuing a fair virgin from the inchantments of her infernal lover, and conjuring away the amorous devil Asmodeus by the fumes of a fish's liver. Is it for the honour of the christian name, think you, Sir, to have such spurious and idle tales read solemnly in our churches, (if solemnly they can be read,) and made parts of our public worship? What will an unbeliever think when present at such worship! When he sees such things not only bound
up with the holy scriptures, but commanded to be read as such in the order of the common prayer, will it not' heighten his contempt of the credulity of believers, and establish his prejudices against the history, the miracles, and the doctrines of Christ?
I might also have asked you, Sir, to what oriental deity you pay your devoirs, when, from the North, the South, the West, the worshippers in your church, on certain solemn occasions, turn reverently towards the East, and make their
peculiar honours ? To whom, Sir, I beseech you, are these peculiar honours paid ? Not surely to the immense, omnipresent Jehovah! He is an infinite Spirit, you know, alike present in all places, not more confined to one quarter of the heavens than to another. To represent him as being so is to dishonour and offend him, to detract from the glory of his immensity, or omnipresence, and to give men very false and unworthy notions of God. This worshipping towards the East, is not, I think, ordered by any canon of your church, which is now generally received; but it is (if I mistake not) its common and prevailing practice. I should be glad to be informed, (for, I assure you, Sir, I am quite ignorant,) what shadow of ground, either from reason or scripture, you can possibly pretend for this unaccountable superstition ; for such you must allow me at present to think it. If you say the worship is paid toward the altar, this seems to make the matter more inexplicable. still. For, what is there in the altar to make it a proper object of religious veneration ? Indeed, while the breaden god was