« ZurückWeiter »
forever the mortal state of suffering and bringing life and ini mortality to light in his own person as the head of every man-as the resurrection àod the life of all human nature. And the cup of blessing," which we drink, we regard as expressive of the communion of the blood of Christ, even the blood of relation the life hid with Christ in God, which shall deliver ús from the bondage of corruption, and translate us into he kingdom of celestial glory-into the liberty of the sons of God. We take this emblematic cup of salva. tion, and drink abundant consolation out of the thing signified thereby; and forget ouripoverty in the earthly state, and remember our misery no more. And as we view the Salvation of God to be a common salvation, untó which every knee shall bow, and which every tongue shall confess, we must suppose
it order!v to invite all present on our communion days, who are believers in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, to sit down with us to the table of the Lord spread among ps :-we think it right to bid them all welcome to this fease of love! concluding that no one who commemorates the sayjour's death discerning the Lord's body," will wantonly and habitually indulge in vicious and unworthy deeds, 10 bring a reproach upon their profession, and tribulation and anguish into their own hearts. And why should there be, to seriously disposed persons, any more barrier to the com munion, than to hear the preaching of the gospel ? As the gospel that we preach is a common good equally open for all, why should not the communion, which is the emblematic ex, hibition of the gospel, be accessible to:" whosoever will ?" Why should those who hope, and who rejoice in the hope of eternal life in a world to come, refuse to celebrate diving love upon earth together, because of some difference in opinion on lesser matters? · As to little children pártaking of the sacrament, by the direction and instruction of their parents, as they go to meeting, before they chuse it, or request to be admitted, I cannot say that it is at present 'my opinion. I know that small and great in the house of Israel ate the passover in celebration of deliverance from bondage, and that we baptize infants. But in baptism the subject is passive ; and thereby, the putting upon us the heavenly image in the immortal state, by the power of God, is represented, which 'we may confess confidence in for our infants, as well as for ourselves, by such an emblem applied to them, as that which God shall give to every one personally by a new dispensation. But in the communion we act by eating and drinking, which expresses the choice and acquiescence of the mind, which requires discretion is a greater degree than children possess when they begin to go to meeting, which is when about three or four years old. But when a youth of maturer age, say no more chan eight or nine years, requests to be admitted to the communion, and understands the ordinance to be a celebration of the love of Jesus Christ, I think he or she ought to be admitted and received with pleasure.
And we confess, were this a practice among us, and measures of instruction adopted to bring it forward, I doubt not but that we should have a goodly number of young professors, of whom it might be said, “Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise."
SIR RICHARD STEELE'S LETTER TO THE POPE.
Bat we have one very common, and very scandalous representation, in multitudes of our churches ; which in my opinion comprehends all possible absurdities of that sort: and that is, of the Trinity in Unity, figured in a triangle; and generally inclosed in a circle over our altars ; as it is in the pictures which are now become fashionable in our common.prayer-books. This is justly esteemed the most inexplicable and unintelligible mystery of our faith. And yet it is suffered by those who so esteem it, to be set forth, even co men's eyes, by a mathematical figure, which always supposeth the clearest and fullest ideas possible : and the EterDal Father of all things is represented to christians, as one side of an equilateral triangle. In this point, I am almost ready to give up the cause to you ; and to own that all your crucifixes, and all the figures of your saints, (who were once men and women, and therefore representable) put to. gether, have not any part of the monstrous absurdity of this single representation.
The preaching, as it is called, of our popular men, (upon
which we used to value ourselves exceedirgly) is now come to that degree of offence, that in many places, persons of sense and seriousness stay at home out of piety, and absent themselves from our assemblies for fear of hearing. For the truth of what I affirm, I appeal to the intelligence sent you by the agents of your church amongst us, who have of late been seen to take notes from the mouths of some of our followed preachers. For my own part, I have imagined myself sometimes to be at the late negociations at Utrecht, and to hear one of the French King's Plenipotentiaries setting forth the glorious and advantageous terms of peace which his master hath yielded to us : sometimes to be in the midst of commissioners of trade, hearing the terms of our commerce extolled to heaven ; sometimes at the funeral of a late Princess, and my ears filled with the sound of fulsome panegyrick ; sometimes in a cabal of malecontent Jacobites, disburthening all their spleen, as far as they dare, in invective, and satire, and insinuation, against the late revo, lution, and their present superiors ; sometimes in one of the meetings of some of our old rigid Separatists, inveighing against their Bishops ; sometimes in one of Your Holiness's Courts of Judicature, amidst the thunderings of wrath and damnation, denounced against all heretics and schismatics
i in a word, sometimes at the Bear-Garden, and sometimes at Bedlam : But at last, I have roused myself up, and found myself where I should least of all expect to hear, either such subjects or such language.
About the end of January, and the beginning of February, we are in a more than ordinary manner, called upon to knock one another on the head, because our forefathers, (and particularly the forefathers of many of our modern high church champions) happened to be great villains above sixty years ago. And this is thought an excellent topic to be insisted upon from generation to generation : nay, it is esteemed by many to be seasonable all
whether they are pleased or displeased. Some advantage, I can assure you, your Church reaps from it; that it hath created a nauseous disgust in many of the best members of ours ; and hath furnished some of our dissenters with this reason against uniting with us, that they will never be of a church that is almost always in danger.
One thing more I must here mention ; that the Church, (I mean that part of the Churchmen I am speaking of) is now in full possession of the privilege of applying God's judgments to their neighbours : which our forefathers so justly condemned, and took such pains to ridicule, in the worst of our Separatists.
Thus, the death of our late Queen, is a judgment upon a nation unworthy of so much goodness ; though some weak fanatics, on the other side, have shewed them how easy it is for any tu interpret judgments in their own favor, by obserying that she died the very day upon which the late Schism Act, designed (as they think) to rob them of a natural right, took place.
After King Charles II's restoration, the Fire which destroyed the whole city, immediately following the Plague, which consumed vast numbers of its inhabitants, furnished matter for this humor. How easy was it found to make these to be great judgments upon account of that very resto-, ration ! Now, the same impious humor, (which is the very essence of fanaticism, let it be in what church it will) can do with a thousand times smaller matters. A fire, not to be named with that ; a mortality amongst our cattle, which all Europe hath felt much more grievously : these are not only declared to be God's judgments, (as without doubt they are) but it is sufficiently and plainly insinuated, that they are judgments (not for their own sins, their own private enormities, or public ingratitude to heaven for their security ; for they never think
of themselves in this view ; but) for something at Court which should not be there : which all the world knows how to interpret.
Thus hath fanaticism its vicissitudes, like the other things of this world : sometimes reigning in the church, and sometimes out of it ; sometimes against it, and sometimes for it. And thus is it come to pass amongt us, that preaching their own passions, and indignation, and resentinent, under their
disappointed expectations, is called by too many, preaching the gospel, and delivering messages from Heaven.
Your Holiness must not judge from hence that this is universal. I can assure you we have some still amongst us who truly deserve the name of Preachers of the Gospel ;some still left of whom the world is not worthy ; and of whom the world seems to think itself not worthy : for those whom I have before described are the mighty men of popularity, that draw the affections and raise the passions of the multitude. This disadvantage however, they have, which Your Holiness's agents, (who help to move the machine) would do well to put them in mind of ; that the times are changed'; and that there is not now one at the helm, who will either support them in their exorbitances, or betray the administration into their hands.
I return now to other subjects.
One great privilege we acknowledge there is which you enjoy above us ; that your material Churches, as soon as they are consecrated to the service of God, are ex. empt from all human power whatever. They become imme. diately the refuge of the worst part of mankind; they fiiug open their doors to robbers and murderers; and cut-throats and assassins feel their salutary influence, and find within their walls, safety from force or justice. In this manner', and in this sense, do vou invite and receive sinners into the bosom of Christ's Church ; and such a charm is there in that sacred ground, that no man can attack them in their a• sylum, without being destroyed by your thunder.
But then to set against this, we have some advantages of a like nature which you are not aware of.
I have known the time when the figure of a material Church cut out in pasteboard, placed upon a long stick so artfully that it might seem to totter, and represent the danger our poor Church is in ; and carried with an awful air before a Reverend Dignitary at an election for Parliament-Men, hath been thought a sovereigoi remedy against its enemies, and of force enough to drive them headlong and spiritless out of the field. Nay, I have known the very word Church, or High Church, pronounced with a loud emphasis, and a proper accent, and repeated a due number of times ; I have known it change the countenances and voices of a numberless crowd, into something fierce and horrid, more than what is