Page images

these christian heroes! Future generations will rise up and call them blessed!

To their ministers, thus unrighteously and cruelly ejected, it was the duty and the honour of tire christian laity to adhere. It was partly for their liberty, and that the gospel might be continued in its primitive simplicity and purity anong them, that their ministers thus suffered. It would therefore have been inglorious, ungrateful, and in the bighest degree injust, had the laity forsaken their ejected pastors, and not borne their witness with them against the imposing spirit wivich then lifted itself up, and was fastening a disgraceful yoke upon the disciples of Christ. Through the favour of heaven, a noble spirit of christian fortitude was awakened also in lay-breasts, and, its merey be praised, still lives, beats high, and, we hope, finally advances to the everlasting overthrow of bigotry, chuch-tyranny, and persecution from the earth. They saw and detested the dangerous and fatal schism, and the usurpation upon the rights of conscience,

of lordly men were setting up in the church of Christ: they firmly adhered to their injured ministers, and to the principles of christian liberty. And God hath eminently blessed their churches for the promoting sincere piety, sobriety, and virtue, in all succeeding times.

This was the rise of that separation from the establishment which I am defending in these letters:---a separation, which, as it was founded upon ehristian and just principles, so it has marvellousty subsisted under great worldly discouragements, strengthened and upheld, we trust, by the mighty power of God. And, by the same mighty power, we hope, will still be upheld, till his mercy shall dispose the hearts of our brethren, who have cast us out, to receive us again.

As a layman, Sir, I consider the gospel, and christian liberty as a sacred deposite, committed

which a party

to me by God, for which I am to be accountable at his tribunal hereafter. As to these, he hath expressly charged me, and every Lay-christian, to watch to stand fast,

--to stand fast, to keep what is committed to me,- -to fight the good fight of faith, &c.---If I see then the simplicity and liberty of the gospel corrupted and infringed by the inventions, traditions, and commandments of men; the unity of the church broken by new terms of communion, and new articles of faith imposed upon the disciples:---if I see things ridiculous,.* superstitious, + erroneous, brought into the church, and made a part of christian worship,---things dangerous to men's souls, and which give thein wrong notions of the terms of salvation and acceptance with God, and which manifestly tend to cherish a false and delusive peace, g---in this case, though a layman, I am bound to enter my protest, and to declare openly my dissent, as. I would not be condemned as a betrayer of my sacred trust, and would stand before my Judge with confidence at last.


Several gross MISREPRESENTATIONS of the Dis

senters corrected.

I proceed next to what you seem to glory in as the peculiar excellence of your letters, but which will soon appear, to your very self, their peculiar foible and disgrace, viz. Your retorting upon Dissenters their own pleas and objections; particularly your charge,g--That they not only have, but impose cereinonies in divine worship, and that there are various impositions amongst ourselies.

* Reading the spurious, romantic, apocryphal fables.

+ Bowing at the name of Jesus, and worshipping towards the East, &c.

Several of the articles, especially the XXth, and the dansnatory clauses of the Athanasian creed.

The Absolution of the Sick, the Burial-Office, and Cona firination.

You here force me to call you forth, Sir, to undergo the mortification of seeing yourself proved before the world a false accuser of your brethren. Sitting at the Lord's supper you have, at several distinct times, and with great variety of language, most confidently asserted to be really imposed " by us,---to be constantly, invariably, and unis

versally practised among us:---that it is never " allowed to be departed from :---that our minis" ters insist and refuse to abate it:"*---with much more to the same purpose. This now is a charge not only absolutely false, but (which is a very aggravating circumstance, and must shock greatly your character and credit, before the world) you had seen it to have been false. For, you had actually read in Dr. Calamy's Brief Aca count, &c. a most express declaration that no such thing was at all imposed among us, but that our communicants were at liberty to use their own posture. I again put you in mind of this, because you have not yet been so ingenuous as to own the falsehood of this charge, and publicly to retract it. I can assure the public, that there are no less than seven or eight dissenting churches, in my own neighbourhood, in which the posture either of standing or kneeling at the Lord's supper has constantly been practised for many years past, (though in some of them the persons are now deceased, and this without the least of fence to any of the congregations, or dislike of the ministers. Judge, hence, reader, what regard is to be paid to the representations of this zealous censor, and horv justly he describes frimself "encountering with ghosts, and groping in " the dark!"


* Letter II. pages 56, 57, 58.

Letter III. pages 8, .

With expial rashness you affirmed, and still stoutly maintain,---- That kneeling in family

prayer is always practised by Dissenters: that “ it is imposed and commanded by the master of “ the family, upon his children and servants, by “his signifying his mind to them, and letting " them know, once for all, he would have them kneel.*

Upon a particular enquiry, I assure the public, that I cannot find the least trace of any such impositions or signification of the master's mind in any family of Dissenters; but that, in their family-devotions, standing is a posture very frequently used, and not avoided, in point of conscience, I believe, by ten Dissenters in the kingdoin. The matter is too trifling to merit many words. But, to let you see how utterly unfit you are for the office you assime, I will take yon from the darkness, where you miserably grope, and lead you to a light which will a little disconcert your countenance, by acquainting you, that, at three of the principal dissenting academies in England, viz, Northampton, Taunton, and Bridgewater, it hath been the general, if not the constant, unvaried usage both of tutors and students, to stand at family praver. These are the nurseries where most of the dissenting gentlemen and ministers in England have been formed; whose custom, therefore, must naturally have a wide and strong infinence upon multitudes of dissenting families throughout the land. See now with what truth, with what honour and discretion, you bolt your random censares at the religious conduct of your neighbours, and feel the just pain with which they rebound and wound your own head!

* II. Defence, pages 70, 71.

But what heightens our perverseness and inconsistency is this:---That, at the same time that we thus always worship kneeling in our families, and the master commands and imposes it upon all its members, “ Yet,in our prayers at church, “there, it seems, we always stand; and it is little “ less than imposed upon our people; for, so

great and general is the discountenance that kneeling lies under, that it requires some courage

and resolution for anyone to venture upon “it; and if any one does, (you say it again, he “ will be censured for it."* A charge not more bold than it is groundless and false.

« One congregation, (you have said,) you can name, “ where great offence was given by a person “kneeling at her prayers.” But you have publicly been told, by an authority of great weight, which I presume you durst not contradict, that the-whole account is a MISREPRESENTATION, of which the most authentic evidence is ready to be produced.+ Did I not justly say that your informers had served yoù ill? A man conscious of his own blindness, should be cautious into what hands he delivers himself up.

Besides, could you have inade good the charge not against one only, but even a hundred of our churches, will this justify the universality and positiveness of your assertion, that, "if any one kneels among us, he will be censured for it?" This publicly accuses not one only, nor a hundred, but all the dissenting churches, of this ridiculous weakness, which you cannot prove upon any single one of them all. The reproach, therefore, comes back with great force upon yourself. I have made no extensive enquiries on this head, but can take upon me to assure you, there are no less than six or seven of our congregations near me (I believe there are many more) where kneel

* Il. Défence, page 72. + Chandler's Case of Subscription, page 14.

« PreviousContinue »