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That which men have accounted religion in the several countries of the world, generally speaking, has had a great and conspicuous part in all public appearances, and the face of it been kept up with great reverence throughout all ranks, from the highest to the lowest; not only upon occasional solemnities, but also in the daily course of behaviour. In the heathen world, their superstition was the chief subject of statuary, sculpture, painting, and poetry. It mixed itself with business, civil forms, diversions, domestic entertainments, and every part of common life. The Mahometans are obliged to short devotions five times between morning and evening. In Roman Catholic countries people cannot pass a day without having religion recalled to their thoughts, by some or other memorial of it; by some ceremony, or public religious form, occurring in their way ;* besides their frequent holi
will still be true, that bodily worship is by no means to be discarded, as unuseful in exciting spiritual devotion; on the contrary, that they mutually assist and strengthen each other; and that a mere mental intercourse with God, and a religious service purely intellectual, is altogether unsuitable to such a creature as man, during his present state on earth.
* In Roman Catholic countries, people cannot pass a day without having religion recalled to their thoughts-by some ceremony, or public religious form, occurring in their way.]-"What in the former period" (when speaking of the Heathen world)" was called superstition, becomes in this" (when speaking of Roman Catholics) "Religion, and Religious forms; which the Papists pretending to connect with Christianity, and the Charge giving no hint that this is no more than a pretence, a plain reader must needs take this as spoken of the means and memorials of true religion, and will accordingly consider these as recommended to his practice and imitation." If a plain reader, at first view of the passage alluded to, should inadvertently fall into such a mistake, he would find that mistake immediately corrected by the very next sentence that follows, where the religion of the Roman Catholics, and their superstition, are distinguished from each other in express words. But the terms in question are used with the strictest propriety. The design of the Bishop, in this part of his charge, is to consider religion, not under the notion of its being true, but as it affects the senses and imaginations of the multitude. For so the paragraph begins: “that which men have accounted religion in the several countries of the world," (whether the religion be true or false is beside his present argument)" generally speaking, has had a great and conspicuous part in all public appearances." This position he
days, the short prayers they are daily called to, and the occasional devotions enjoined by confessors. By these means their superstition sinks deep into the minds of the people, and their religion also into the minds of such among them as are serious and well-disposed. Our reformers, considering that some of these observances were in themselves wrong and superstitious, and others of them made subservient to the purposes of superstition, abolished them, reduced the form of religion to great simplicity, and enjoined no more particular rules, nor left any thing more of what was external in religion, than was, in a manner, necessary to preserve a sense of religion itself upon the minds of the people. But a great part of this is neglected by the generality amongst us; for instance, the service of the church, not only upon common days, but also upon saints' days; and several other things might be mentioned. Thus they have no customary admonition, no public call to recollect the thoughts of God and religion from one Sunday to another.
It was far otherwise under the law. "These words," says Moses to the children of Israel, "which I command thee, shall be in thine heart : and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou
illustrates by three examples, the Heathen, the Mahometan, and the Roman Catholic religions. The two first of these, having little or nothing of true religion belonging to them, may well enough be characterized under the common name of superstition: the last contains a mixture of both; which therefore the Bishop, like a good writer, as well as a just reasoner, is careful to distinguish. In Roman Catholic countries, a man can hardly travel a mile without passing a crucifix erected on the road side: he may either stop to worship the image represented on the cross, or he may simply be reminded by it of his own relation to Christ crucified: thus by one and the same outward sign," religion may be recalled to his thoughts," or superstition may take possession of his mind. In the celebration of the Eucharist, the elements of bread and wine are regarded by a Papist as the very body and blood of Christ; to a Protestant, they appear only as symbols and memorials of that body and blood: what in one is an act of rational devotion, becomes in the other an instance of the grossest superstition, if not idolatry.
sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.' And as they were commanded this, so it is obvious how much the constitution of that law was adapted to effect it, and keep religion ever in view. And without some
*And when thou risest up.]-Allowing that "what Moses in this passage wanted to have effected was obedience to the moral law," nothing, sure, could be of greater use in securing that obedience than the practice here enjoined. Our Inquirer, however, is of a different opinion, and " very much questions whether his Lordship could have fallen upon any passage in the Old Testament, which relates at all to his subject, that would have been less favorable to his argument. Who shall decide, &c.?-The Bishop goes on, "As they (the Jews) were commanded this, so it is obvious how much the constitution of their law was adapted to effect it, and keep religion ever in view." Upon which the Inquirer remarks, "It was then very ill, or at least very unwisely done, to abrogate that law, whose constitution was adapted so excellent a purpose." Let us first see what may be offered in defence of the Bishop, and then consider what is to be said in answer to his opponent. The purpose for which the Mosaic constitution was established was this: to preserve, amidst a world universally addicted to polytheism and idolatry, the great doctrine of the Unity of the Divine Nature, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made. As a means to this end, the Israelites were not only to be kept separate from every other nation; but, the better to insure such separation, they were to be constantly employed in a multifarious ritual, which left them neither time nor opportunity for deviating into the superstitious observances of their Pagan neighbors. And this, I suppose, may suffice for vindicating the Bishop's assertion, that "the constitution of the Jewish law was adapted to keep religion ever in view." But the Jewish law was not only adapted to this end; we are next to observe, that the end itself was actually gained. For though it be too notorious to be denied, that the Jews did not always confine their religious homage to the God of Israel, but polluted the service, due to him alone, with foreign worship; yet, even in their worst defection, it should be remembered, they never totally rejected the true Jehovah; and after their return from captivity, they were so thoroughly cured of all remaining propensity to the idolatrous rites of heathenism, as never again to violate their allegiance to the God of their fathers. It appears then, that, in consequence of the Jewish separation, the principle of the Unity was in fact preserved inviolate among that people till the coming of Christ. When the Mosaic constitution had thus attained its end, and mankind were now prepared for the reception of a better covenant, the law expired of course; the partition wall that had divided the Jew from the Gentile was taken down, and all distinction between them lost, under the common name of Christians. And this may suffice to show, in opposition to our Inquirer,
what of this nature, piety will grow languid even among the better sort of men; and the worst will go on quietly in an abandoned course, with fewer interruptions from within than they would have, were religious reflections forced oftener upon their minds,* and consequently with less probability of their amendment. Indeed, in most ages of the church, the care of reasonable men has been, as there has been for the most part occasion, to draw the people off from laying too great weight upon external things, upon formal acts of piety. But the state of matters is quite changed now with us. things are neglected to a degree, which is, and cannot but be attended with a decay of all that is good. It is highly seasonable now to instruct the people in the importance of external religion.†
that it was both very well and very wisely done to abrogate a law, when the purpose for which the law had been enacted was accomplished.
* Were religious reflections forced oftener upon their minds.] "According to the Bishop's doctrine," then, says the Inquirer, " it should be not only good policy, but wholesome discipline, to force men in England to come to church, and in France to go to mass." And again," If externals have this virtue to enforce religious reflections, it must be right to compel those who are indisposed to such reflections, to attend these memorials." Yes; granting that the sense of the passage in the Charge is not shamefully perverted, and that we are to understand the Bishop here to speak of external force and compulsion. Whereas, by "religious reflections forced," is plainly meant no more than religious reflections oftener thrown in men's way, brought more frequently into their thoughts, so as to produce an habitual recollection that they are always in the Divine presence.
To instruct the people in the importance of external religion.] "The importance of external religion," the Inquirer remarks, "is the grand engine of the Papists, which they play with the greatest effect upon our common people, who are always soonest taken and ensnared by form and show; and, so far as we concur with them in the principle, we are doing their work; since, if externals, as such, are important, the plain natural consequence is, the more of them the better." He had the same reflections once before: "If true religion cannot be preserved among men without forms, the consequence must be, that the Romish religion, having- -more frequent occurrences of forms, is better than other religions, which have fewer of these-Occurrences. To this argument I reply, Nego consequentiam. There may be too much of form in religion, as well as
And doubtless under this head must come into consideration, a proper regard to the structures which are consecrated to the service of God. In the present turn of the age, one may observe a wonderful frugality in every thing which has respect to religion, and extravagance in every thing else. But amidst the appearances of opulence and improvement in all common things, which are now seen in most places, it would be hard to find a reason, why these monuments of ancient piety should not be preserved in their original beauty and magnificence. But in the least opulent places they must be preserved in becoming repair; and every thing relating to the divine service be, however, decent and clean; otherwise we shall vilify the face of religion whilst we keep it up. All this is indeed principally the duty of others. Yours is to press strongly upon them what is their duty in this respect, and admonish them of it often, if they are negligent.
But then you must be sure to take care and not neglect that part of the sacred fabric which belongs to you to maintain in repair and decency. Such neglect would be great impiety in you, and of most pernicious example to others. Nor could you, with any success, or any propriety, urge upon them their duty in a regard in which you yourselves should be openly neglectful of it.
Bishop Fleetwood has observed, that "unless the good public spirit of building, repairing, and adorning churches, prevails a great deal more among us, and be more encouraged, a hundred years will bring to the
too little the one leads to enthusiasm, the other degenerates into superstition; one is puritanism, the other popery; whereas the rational worship of God is equally removed from either extreme. Did the Inquirer never hear of the possibility of having too much of a good thing? Or does he suppose, with the late historian of Great Britian, that all religion is divide into two species, the superstitious and the fanatical; and that whatever is not one of these, must of necessity be the other?
* Charge to the Clergy of St Asaph, 1710.