« PreviousContinue »
« the like Reasons to withdraw from publick « Communion in Word, or Seals, or Censures, is 66 unlawful and sinful,”
Had these Paragraphs been wrote, on Purpose to describe the disorderly Separations of the present Day, they could not have done it more exactly : And, at the same Time, they clearly exhibit the Opinion of our Fore-Fathers, as to the probable Iflue of these Things ; that they tend to break the Church to Pieces. And what indeed can be expected but Confusion, when Church Members will forsake their own Pastors for every wandring Stranger ; and, rather than not hear them, will break away from their own Church, forget their Duty to him that has been set over them in the LORD, and treat him with Anger and Wrath, if not with Contempt and Insult.
But notwithstanding all that has been said a. gainst this Itinerant preaching, 'tis a Practice mightily pleaded for; and many are the Things that are offered in its Vindication.
'Tis faid, much Good has been done by it. And han't there been much Evil likewise ? Han't it been the Occasion, not accidentally, but in the natural Course of Things, of uncomfortable Heats, Animosities and Contentions ? Han't Christians, hereby, been divided into Parties, One saying, I am of Paul ; another, I am of APOLLOS ; ther, I am of Cephas, to the disturbing the Peace of Churches ? Han't People, by this Practice, been led to glory in Men ? And han't they had some Men's Persons so much in Admiration, as to throw unjust Contempt upon others ? But, if more Good had follow'd upon this Kind of Preaching
than really has, it would not hereby be justified; unless it can be made to appear, that Evil may not, by the alwise and gracious GOD, be overruled for Good. The Question ought not to be, whether Good has been done in this Way ? But whether the way it self is countenanced in the Bible, or can be vindicated upon the Principles of uncorrupted Reason ? If not ; 'tis, in it's Nature, bad, and unalterably so, let its Effects be what they will.
It is further pleaded, they are good Men that go into this Practice : Their Hearts are fir'd with a holy Zeal to serve the Interest of Souls ; and 'tis to forward their Salvation, that they thus tra, vel about Preaching. And are not the Ministers, into whose Labours they enter, good Men also ? Have they not a Love to the Souls of Men, and ardent Desires of their Salvation? Or, must they be thought selfish and carnal, because they are steady, and keep within the Rules of Order in their Endeavours to do good ? I know, 'tis a specious Thing for Ministers to go about from Place to Place, professing a compassionate Concern for 3inners, a Readiness to do, or fuffer any Thing, to promote their Conversion ; especially, if this is accompanied with a bitter Zeal against all who can't come into their Measures : And they may be flock'd after, on this Account, and held in great Reputation, as more holy than their Brethren, more like to CHRIST, and his Apostles : But for my felf, I have liv'd too long in the World, and seen too much of the Wickedness of it, to be over-pleased with high Professions ; eft pecially, when they are rewarded with as high popular Applauses. Pride of Heart ; an Itch to come out of Obscurity, and to be thought fome
body ; a secret Pleasure arising from the Hofan, nas of the Multitude; an undue Self-Love, in some Shape or other, may urge on (as it actually has done in Hundreds of Instances to as zealous Pains in preaching the Gospel, as any in these Times, can pretend to ;
and from as great a seeming Regard to the Good of Men's Souls.
I mean not by what I here fay, to reflect upon ALL those, who have gone up and down the Coun, try, making a more than ordinary Shew of Zeal for the spiritual Welfare of their Neighbours; as though they were solely acted, in this Matter, from mean, and base Motives. They may, SOME OF THEM, be as good as they profess to be, for all that I know : But this Conduct of theirs, is not, in my Opinion, the strongest Evidence of their being so : Nor can it be collected from their Zeal to preach in other Men's Parisbes, thạt they are better than their Neighbours ;
or that the Practice they are in, is such as it ought to be. They may be good Men, and yet do that which is Evil : They may have a Zeal for GOD ; and yet, act without fufficient Knowledge or Prudence. Meerly their being good Men, or zealous for the Good of Souls, won't warrant this Conduct of theirs : If it can't be juftified from other Considerations, it must be condemned.
'Tis again urg'd in Favour of these Itinerants, That “when the Time of Reformation was come
on, one of the most effectual Things done to“ wards the Reformation in ENGLAND, about the “ Middle of the former Century, was to send a
bout the Kingdom certain Itinerant Preachers, with a License to preach the Fundamentals of
« Religion, instead of the Stuff with which the “ Souls of the People had formerly been familhed.” This, which is a Quotation from Dr. Mather's Magnal. Chris. American, we had printed in the Boston Weekly News-Paper to “ to give Check
as is said in the Letter introducing it to the Publick) to the great Out-cry, and the bitter and harsh Reflections made by many against Itinerant Preachers,". To which I would answer, by giving a brief Account of the Times and Itinerants here referred to, together with the present Times and Itinerants.
As to the Times and Itinerants here refer'd to, a just Account has been given of them, in the Letter to the Author of the above Quotation, in the following Words *, “ At the Time when “ the Reformation came on, which began with “ the Reign of King EDWARD the VI, and was “ carried on by gradual Steps, through the long “ Reign of Q. ELIZABETH, the whole Land was “ overspread with Darkness and Superstition : The « common People, almost every where, were “ stupidly ignorant. This may be fairly gather"ed from your Quotation, which suppofes they “ knew little or nothing of the great Doctrines " and Truths of Christianity, the very Fundamen6 tals of Religion : And indeed, it was scarce “ possible to be otherwise, when they were de“ priv'd of the Key of Knowledge ; the Scrip
: tures, which are able to make wife to Salvation, “ being lock'd up from them in an unknown 6. Tongue, in which the publick Offices of the
+ Numb. 2016. * See the Boston weekly NewsPaper, Numb. 2018.
Church « Church were also performed. And whatever “ Articles of Belief the People held, they receiv'd “ from their Priests, by an implicit Faith, which « naturally produces a blind Obedience. Nor « was the State of Things much better with “ the Clergy, who were, the greater Part of " them, grolly ignorant, and blind Leaders of the "s blind. The chief Learning they had, was from “ Acquaintance with School Divinity, and the Wri“ tings of the ancient Fathers, which,
however it « might pass for Science, in those Times, was “ falsly so called. In short, the Clergy were so
ignorant, that few of them were able to com“ pose their Sermons ; to supply which Defect, “ certain Homilies were set forth by publick Autho
rity, and enjoin'd to be read, instead of Ser. mons, to the People.
" This was the true State of Things respect“ ing Religion in England, when the Morning of “ the Reformation began to dawn: Which leads “ me to say something of the Character and Mif“ fion of the itinerant Preachers employ'd in that “ glorious Work.
“ As to their Character, they were Men of oc “ eminent Learning, and substantial Piety ; " they were ready Scribes, well instructed in the “ Things that pertain to the Kingdom of GOD; 6 and able to communicate their Knowledge to « others: In short, they were every Way qua“ lified to teach the People the great Fundamen“ tals of Religion.
“ As to their Million, it was from proper Autho
rity. They did not follow the blind Impulses “ of a wild Imagination, or run before they were