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particular texts as the Church understands them; and as their Guides, who have an interpretative authority, explain them.
This we find to be as effectual with many as taking the scriptures out of their hands. And because it is done in this gen. tleman-like manner, and gives them an opportunity of shewing their humility, it passeth very smoothly off: without their considering once the absurdity it leads to; that (as Doctors differ, and Councils too) this method lageth a necessity upon two different men, nay upon the same man in different circumstances, to understand the same text in two different, and often in two contradictory senses.
And here again, with submission, I think we greatly surpass you in your conduct. For we have the same definite authority which you have, without the reproach of depreciating the word of God; the people all the while being fully satisfied that we allow the Scripture to be their rule, and to lie open to them all. And we do indeed, in words, preserve all authority to the Scripture; but with great dexterity, we substitute in fact our own explanations, and doctrines drawn from those explanations, instead of it.
And then, one great privilege we enjoy above you: that ev-. ery particular pastor amongst us is vested with the plenary authority of an Ambassador from God; very much different from the maxims of your Church.
For my own part, I have always been an advocate for all that reverence and regard which can with any justice be claimed by them; and shall ever pay them all the respect which their character and conduct, compared together, can adinit of. But the demands of those who talk loudest among them, seem to increase upon us every day. For, upon enquiry I find, what I was not before arquainted with, that what was spoken. to the Apostles, was spoken to every one of them; that it is a crime not to attend to them, even without excepting the case of self-contradiction, mutual contradiction, and (what is of much more importance) of contradiction to all the precepts of peace and love in the gospel; that they are at length of an Angelick order; nay, that to despise them, (not excepting any cases in which contempt is as natural as hunger or thirst) is, (if I may repeat it) to despise God himself. And all this, be cause fallible men, in whom the trust is reposed, have admit ted them, according to the best of their judgment, to officiate in holy things.
Every one who thinks of himself in this light, needs no in
fallibility or impeccability, to make him as great as ever your Holiness pretended to be. His character will do without those or any one other accomplishment.
These last four or five years, our Pulpits have in a particular manner echoed with the sound of dignity, rule, pre-eminence, and the like. There are indeed, among the best and most learned of our divines, who disclaim all this; and disdain all respect but what results from the sincerity of their labors for the good of mankind. But the noisy make most noise every where ; and few care to contradict them.
This privilege I thought worth recording, in the account I am giving you of our Religious affairs; because it is very considerable in itself, and seems to be of a growing nature. is a point, which when once carried thoroughly and universally, will make every single Presbyter, or Pastor, an absolute Pope to his own congregation.
And this alone is sufficient to convince you, that at present, notwithstanding any intelligence you may have of their good inclinations towards you, they mean not you, but themselves. They may be surprised indeed, at last, to find it all end to your advantage but I acquit them of the guilt of any such design; and indeed of any other view, but that of securing an immoderate respect to a particular set of themselves. Which I would not say, were it not too plain from hence, that let a Presbyter, or a Bishop, or even an Archbishop, differ from them in any matter of speculation or of State; they have shewn the world, by their example, that all this pretended veneration is to be turned, whenever the signal is given, into personal contempt and ignominy. So that to say and unsay; to do and undo; to declare absolutely, that the profoundest reverence is due to the Clergy, and at the same time to raise a storm of ill treatment against any of their own body who displease them; and all the while to keep their countenances, and look as if all was consistent; is one signal privilege, which many amongst us have to boast of.
It is very true, what your Holiness may have been informed of; that in many instances, both of doctrine and ceremony, we have been, of late years, rather drawing nearer to you, than, departing farther from you.
It is a common maxim, and propagated very politicly by the agents of your Church, with the help of some of the zealots of ours; Better be a Papist, than a Presbyterian. This being allowed by many Churchmen, and rightly managed amongst the populace, exceedingly diminishes the horror and aversion there
used to be in our people against the very name of Popery.And this works by insensible degrees; till many a man, who at first feels himself a hearty enemy to Popery, finding it to be allowed to be better than something else, of which he knows nothing, begins to think with more patience about it; first, as not near so bad as it used to be represented; and then as an innocent matter; and then as a very tolerable Religion; and at length as better than any thing set up against it: And all by the help of this general principle, rightly managed; which takes off the edge of his former passion for the Protestant Religion, and so by degrees reconciles his thoughts to its contrary.
To the same purpose tends the revival of some matters of doctrine and practice, of your sort, amongst us. The power vested in Priests to absolve men from their sins, hath been declared by many, in such sort, as hath in effect made the will of God himself to be determined by their will, or even their hu mor. It may be summed up in these two points: "That mencan have no hopes of a pardon from God, but by absolution from the mouth of a priest, and a Priest ordained to a nicety, according to a particular notion of regularity: And that God must pardon those whom a Priest pronounces to be pardoned." That is, that they a not so much obliged by the Almighty's will, as the Almighty is by their's; and that God is never so much honored as when weak and fallible men are placed in his
Some have changed this absurdity of an authoritative absolution, (which they see they cannot so easily defend) into an authoritative intercession of the Priest, who is now become with us, a mediator between God and man; still securing to themselves the same power and privilege, in a less scandalous manner. This creates the same dependence of the Laity upon the Priests; and shews again how dextrous we are in changing words, when there is occasion, without changing things at all.
But Your Holiness will easily guess the meaning of all this, when I let you know that the same persons declare, that auricular confession, and a particular unburthening the conscience of all its secrets, must precede this great benefit. And this, you well know, is an engine of unmeasurable influence, that can rule families, overturn states, and govern the world.
Add to this, another point greatly contended for of late, and very much to your advantage, in the issue; that all baptisms, unless by Episcopal priests, in a regular line from you, are declared invalid, and of no effect to instate men into God's Pecu ftum.
We have indeed openly declared against your doctrine of making the Sacraments depend upon the intention of the Priest: But we are doing a much worse thing, (if the doctrine of some men can prevail) and that is, making them depend upon what neither Priest nor Layman can ever come to any satisfaction about; viz. the Episcopal Ordination of the Priest, in a regular, uninterrupted line of succession from Christ himself. This indeed sweeps whole parishes away at once, which perhaps have had Preachers never ordained; and unpeoples the Christian world without mercy. But it is supposed it must make the poor distressed Laity adore the men who have this privilege, of entitling them to God's favor, or debarring them from it.
Yet with some it may be turned another way; and they may begin to ask, if the Clergy of our Church, which received all through the hands of the Romish, be vested with this glorious prerogative; how much more sure is it in that Church which communicated it to ours? If we are so positive, we had it from them, by whom we were ordained, and could not have it otherwise; how much more must it be in them, who ordained us?
After this, why should I mention, what must be known to you, the zeal of many for the multiplying of ceremoniousness and bowings, in public worship; for the Cathedral pronunciation of prayers; (which is the Protestant unknown tongue, to such as are not accustomed to it) our Altars, and the neverlighted candles upon them; the decorations of our Churches, which, you have experienced, never stop where the honest men who first begin them design they should; the consecration of our Church-Yards; and the like: In which you find this benefit; that several who take the impression of these things deep into them, are easily inclined, with a little art and management, to believe that Church must be the best which hath the greatest number of these good things.
We have not indeed many images or pictures left in our Churches, besides Moses and Aaron; whose figures, though they have nothing to do in our places of worship, give me less concern, because Christians are in no danger of idolizing Jews.
(To be continued.)
Nature through her works doth praise
'Man alone can sleep supine, Midst the marks of love divine.
Morning, clad in blue ey'd beams,
On his pillow doth recline,
While the Sun his daily round
Man alone doth praise decline,
Mercy in a flowing tide
The truth-the life-all that are mine
Hear him, mortals! hark! his voice
Bids thee make him wholly thine ::
Let the world forego its hold,
When thy God-thy Saviour's thine,