« AnteriorContinuar »
4 nister of Christ take any comfort, or can he think that
* the dignity of the holy office which he is performing, 4 is preserved in such management. In all parishes where 4 baptism at the church is generally left oft", the people are
♦ so ignorant of what is to be done and said at the bap4 tism, (...) that if a child be brought to church to be
* baptized, neither are the congregation sensible of their
• duty of joining in the prayers, nor do the godfathers
♦ know what answer they are to make; but there are holy
* questions publicly put without any one to answer; 4 which, however it passes in a bed-chamber, is a great 4 scandal and absurdity when a sacrament is administring 4 in a christian congregation.'
More of this kind may be seen in the pages before reserred to. But enough has been transcribed to shew what evils naturally result from a church's laying aside the purity of Christ's institution, and substituting instead thereof such traditions and inventions of men, Mark vii. 7, 8. as are neither worthy of the christian name, nor profitable to the souls of mankind. For when men once depart from the scripture rule, their seems to be no end of their degeneracy; one innovation making way for another to succeed, till in the issue, they get into such superstitious and irreligious extremes in the use of them, as are enough to turn the Jlomach of any serious Christian; while the ministers themselves are scandalized by the practice, even in the opinion of Dr. Wall himself. No wonder therefore that irreligion abounds, for such things must of course cherifli a spirit of infidelity; and make men think, that if they are scripture ordinances, there can be nothing in Christianity, which is in the least worthy of their regard. And hence we may also plainly learn the absolute neceffity of a reformation, in order to maintain and perpetuate the christian religion to rising posterity, with that veneration and esteem, it justly deserves, which cannot be done, without returning back to the primitive practice of this divine ordinance, in exact conformity to the scripture rule. For besides them any profanations accompanying infant-baptism, as above recited, it may perhaps,when most decently administred, be nothing better than prostituting, or profaning a solemn institution, by applying it, contrary to the design of our Lord Jesus, to such unfit subjects, as are no ways capable, nor in the least worthy of it, for want of those moral qualifications, which are by him made necessary to the beneficial administration of this
ordinance ordinance to all his true disciples and followers. And as that, which I have transcribed above from the catechism and rubric of the church of England, is no where expressly revealed in the New Testament, which is the only justifiable authority, by which a protestant church of Christ can consistently support their religious rites: so to do those things, as acts of religion, in the name of the Lord, is expressly forbidden in scripture, and with a severe penalty too, because the Lord hath not commanded it, Deut. xviii. 15—20.
And moreover, to use the words of our Gentleman,
* * This is further illustrated by the instance of musick, 4 and the case of him who wants both taste and an ear.
* Needless are all these arguings; for impossibilities are not 4 expected from us, either by God or by any reasonable
* man; and persect incapacity affbrdeth a persect excuse.' And the Oxford Reply with the greatest truth affirms; 9 4 That infants have no reason, nor are they theresore capable os religion; and yet they proceed in their name, and as their act, by sponsors whom they never did, nor were ever able to substitute, to ask an infant void of understanding, Dosl thou renounce, &c I dojl thou believe, &c? and wilt thou be baptized, &c ? and then, notwithstanding it is utterly incapable of speech, to make it answer by such proxies, I renounce them all. All this 1'Jledfajlly believe, and that is my desire. After which, tho' the child be quite destitute of every prerequisite essential to the ordinance of baptism, as it is plainly declared in their catechism, yet the minister with much absurdity and little truth says, J baptize thee, when instead thereof, he only sprinkles a sew drops, or just wipes his wet hand upon the face. Is not all this monstrously absurd, as well as false? And what signifies their disowning, and giving up such corruptions in words only, as unscriptural and unchristian, while in fact they continue to practise them, as an essential part of their religion, tho' not of the christian religion? Is this consistent, or are such answers the way to satisfy infidels, to silence their objections, and bring them into communion with their church ?*
And whereas our Cambridge Gentleman fays, 1 4 Hap
* py would it be for man, in his present and future state, 4 were these promisesduly regarded by those whose business « it is to instruct, and did good instructions make a last.
Page 11. 9 Oxford Reply, p. 8. 1 Cambridge Letter, page 5.'
* ing and proper impression when they are given would not these good effects be much more likely to attend the due administration of this ordinance to the proper subjects of it, who well understand what they promise, and personally engage to fulfil the same? This is all the answer, which seems to be particularly designed by the Cambridge young Gentleman, to this objection. For in the next paragraph he falls of, and aflerts, that, « The mate4 rial and most important particulars of religion, are 4 truths allowed and acknowledged by all, Atheists ex
* cepted.' If amongst Christians, till the present age, this be true of baptism, which according to scripture is such an important duty of our religion, that the pardon of sin is by promise annexed to it; we are very sure it is not true of infant-sprinkling, which is indeed 4 adistin
4 guifhing point [ with some ] parties, more ear
4 gerly and industriously inculcated than the weightier 4 matters of the law. By a zeal for [this] have not
* men in [many] ap,es and places of the world attained 4 to high fame and reputation,' [withsome deluded and inconsiderate admirers of it, who have not made that] 4 proper distinction and separation,' [between truth and error, between divine and human appointments, as might
justly] 4 be expected ;' [notwithstanding that priejlly reproach, in part borrowed from this infidel writ er,and cast by him upon his fellow mortals, whom he calls] 4 the bulk of rnan
* kind;' \JVhofe] 4 heads are only turned to the confused
* sound of words,' as if the powers and faculties of mind in most men were not so good as his own; nor capable of distinguishing themselves so eminently under the like culture and advantage of education. But from his own consession afterwards it does not appear, that our abilities, our integrity, or our attainments are much, if at all, inserior to many of his learned brethren, of whom he fays,
* 4 Even in the learned world, I mean, those who have had
* a learned education, how inconsiderable is the number
* who are either able, orwilling, or dare to think? Now 4 since such as these are almost wholly passive, having no 4 desires, no designs, to setch in materials for thinking, 4 what happeneth to this idle, and indolent herd, is of 4 small importance. They never can be possefTed of real 4^knowledge. Insignificant sounds are their only accom4 plifhments. As for those who consider and shew them4 selves men, who accustom themselves to reflections and
* reviews, and who are under no terrors, either from tem
E 4 poraj
* Page 28.
4 poral or spiritual powers, with them prepossession is not a
* very important point.' And he appears to have much juster notions of God, and his dealings with such confused heads, as we laymen are represented to be, by adding,
* And when this is owing to the want of capacity and op
* portunity, they are excusable before 'the great ruler of 4 the universe, who only expects returns according to the 4 talents we have received. As for those who by their
* state and condition are in full possession of the means of 4 information,' meaning, I suppose, himself and his brethren of the Universities, with the rest of the learned world ; * on them it is incumbent to review the sugges
* tions of education, and to practise care and impartiality 4 in the important affair of religion.' And it is the more necessary lor them to do so, that this complaint of God by the prophet may no longer be applicable to them. The leaders of this people cause them to err, Isa. ix. 16. For, if by their Canons and Church authority, any errors have been propagated, any human appointments established, instead of those which Christ instituted, as set forth in the holy scriptures; and they are now convinced, that our holy religion cannot be desended against the attacks of an infidel, without giving up such human establishments, as no where expressly revealed in the New Testament: they are bound in conscience, as they will answer it in the great day
'of account, to repeal such canons'; and make use of their power and authority, not by penal laws to establish, but by christian methods to promote the truth, and the practice of every christian ordinance, according to the rule of scripture, in order to persect that reformation, which was in part begun many years ago. Nor can there be the least reason for our established church to be afraid of setting about so good and necessary a work, because it would only be acting entirely conlistent with her own articles j in which every one of her ministers has, in a very solemn manner, declared his stedfast and firm belief. And may she not very justly expect, that all her other members likewise will peaceably and quietly acquiesce in such a reformation, for as much as her xxth and xxxivth articles fay expressly, that * The church hath power to decree rites or ceremo
* nies, and authority in controversies of faith: and yet it ? is not lawful for the church to ordain any thing that is
* contrary to God's word written, neither may it so ex4 pound one place of scripture, that it be repugnant to 4 another. Wherefore, although the church be a witness
* and 4 and a keeper of the holy writ, yet as it ought not to de1 cree any thing against the fame, so besides the fame 4 ought it not to enforce any thing to be believed for ne4 ceslity of salvation.
4 It is not necessary that traditions and ceremonies be
* in all places one, or utterly alike; for at all times they
* have been divers, and may be changed according to < the diversity of countries, times and men's manners,
* so that nothing be ordained against God's wonl
* Every particular or national church hath authority to
* ordain, change, and abolish ceremonies or rites of
* the church, ordained only by man's authority, so that 4 all things be done to edifying.'
And we have reason to hope for this reformation, not only from the frequent and open concessions they make us ;-but also because this learned member of one of our Universities in behalf of himself and others assures us, » that 4 The practical points of Christianity being plain
* and evident, as to these there can be no alteration,
* when we are resolved to be and to do good.' This character I therefore hope they will justly deserve; and pray God it may be fully manisested in him, and in all the other members of our two famous Universities, till pure and simple Christianity, free from all human mixtures, is strictly adhered to, and universally practised in their churth. And we have also the like encouragement to hope for this from the Oxford keply to the fame objection: which I will next coniider.
TH E Oxford young Gentleman in the beginning of his letter assures us, 4 His opinion is, that a reli4 gion intended for men must be a reasonable religion. 4 That we arc not to take things always upon trust; but, 4 so far as our abilities and opportunities will carry us, to 'examine and-judge for ourselves; and to this end, 4 (which, fays he, of all others I look upon to be the most 4 weighty and important) I told you my resolution was to
* bend all my academical studies.' And for ibis he has
E 2 given 'Cambridge Letter, p. iz.