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new Rites and Ceremonies appointed, or any Offices erected; nor in the Gofpels, Acts, or Epiftles, does any thing like an Inftitution occur, except that of Deacons; which Office is now quite laid afide, unless it may be faid to be revived by virtue of the Act of Queen Elizas beth, which appoints Overfeers of the Poor :: for as to the modern Ecclefiaftical Deacon, he: has no Resemblance to the Scripture-Officer,, who was appointed to ferve Tables, upon Com-plaint of the Grecian Widows, who were neg-lected in the daily Miniftration, which the Apo-ftles were not at leifure to attend, because of the preaching of the Word, and therefore directed: the Congregation to chufe others, whofe Bufinefs it fhould be: Afts, chap. vi.
I SHALL therefore inquire how the Popish World came to be bleffed with fuch a long Train of spiritual Equipage; and fee what can1 be found in the Scriptures, to warrant or coun tenance their prefent Pretenfions. In order to it, I fhall obferve, that Promulgation is of the Effence of a Law, which cannot be without Plainnefs and Perfpicuity: It must not be ex-. preffed in doubtful and equivocal Terms: It muft not depend upon critical Learning, or different Readings; nor receive its Explana-tion from the myfterious Gibberish, and unin
telligible Jargon of the Schools; but ought to be fuch, as a plain, open, fimple-hearted, fincere Man may eafily discover, amidst the numerous and contradictory Schemes of the Ecclefiaftics.
WEAK and corrupt Men may, through Ignorance or Defign, frame and enact Laws obfcure and unintelligible, but the Almighty cannot intend to mislead his Creatures, or want proper Words to exptefs his Meaning: Even fuch human Laws as enact Penalties, or restrain. the natural Liberty of Mankind, are always conftrued ftrictly, and extended no farther than the Letter exprefly warrants; and it is much. more reasonable, that it fhould be fo understood. in divine Laws, upon which the temporal and eternal Happiness of all the World depends; not only because of the Importance of the Subject, but as there can be no unwary Omiffion, or Defect, in Words chofen by the Holy Ghoft. We may therefore be very fure, that whatever is not expreffed in Scripture, plain and clear to common Understandings, was not intended for our Inftruction, or can become a Duty.
WITH Our Eyes thus cleared up, we will view thofe Texts and Parts of holy Writ, brought together to fupport this unwieldy Fabric. And here, for fome time, I must beg Leave of my Reader,
Reader, to ftand amazed, and be at a Loss, which most to admire, the Stupidity and Acquiefcence of the Popish and popishly-affected Laity, or the daring Insolence and Impiety of their Ecclefiaftics, that without Reason, or the Appearance of Reason, without Scripture, or the Colour of Scripture, but directly in Defiance of them both, they could be able to form fo complete an Empire over the Bodies and Minds of the greatest Part of Christendom; rob them of their Goods and Poffeffions, and make them Inftruments of their own Ruin, hug their Chains, and mortally hate, murder, or ruin every one who would fet them free.
. BUT before I enter upon a particular Difquifition of the Texts produced, I would first inquire what Benefit can accrue to Christianity by fuch Powers in the Chriftian Clergy. A Roman Judge is honourably mentioned by Cicero, for always asking Cui bono (for what End or Advantage) an alledged Action was done; by which he could make fome Judgment whether it was done or not, and who did it. The fame is a reasonable Proceeding in this Cafe; for though it be no Objection to the Truth of what God has faid, that it is not agreeable to the Sentiments of weak Men; yet whilft it remains a Question, whether God faid it or not,
there cannot be a ftronger way of arguing used, than to fhew, that it is unworthy of the Divine Wisdom and Goodness, who can fay nothing which is trifling and impertinent, or makeany Ordinances useless or mischievous to his Creatures.
NOTHING can come from God, but what is god-like; and therefore when any Number of Men, combining together, dare tell me any thing in his Name, of no Ufe to Religion or Virtue, and yet of apparent Advantage to themfelves, or their Order, I fhall always believe it to be an Invention of their own, forged to gratify their Ambition and Avarice, and shall ever vindicate the Almighty from the imputed Ca-lamny.
Now of what Ufe is it to Religion and Vir-tue, that the Clergy fhould always make one an other? Whether the Impofition of Hands be: esteemed barely a Ceremony, to denote a Person appointed to an Office, or be the Appointment itself? Or whether he be chofen by lay-. ing on of Hands, or by any other Ceremony ?? Will the fame Perfon, with the fame Qualifications, be a better Man, better Chriftian, or abler Divine, if he receive his Orders in a direct Line from the Apostles, through the Ca-. nal of a Popifh, High-Church, or Presbyterian
Priesthood, or if only from the Civil Magiftrate, or voluntary Societies? Or is it poffible. to believe, that whilst he is adminiftring the Offices of Religion, and doing the Duties of the Gospel, the devout Chriftian People shall lofe the Effects of their Piety, and the Benefit of Chrift's Promifes, for the Defect of any Circumstance, or any Omiffion or Superfluity in his Adoption; Things which they could neither prevent nor know? Sure we have not so. learned Chrift!
CAN we fuppofe, that Almighty God fhould? make fuch an Efstablishment of Chriftianity, as. must destroy Christianity itself; and put it under the fole Guidance and Direction of a Society of Men, who will have a perpetual Interest to overturn or pervert it, and ever did fo, when they had Power?
WHAT can be fuggefted more abfurd, than that the good God fhould fend his Son from Heaven, to teach Virtue and Goodness to Men,. to manumit and fet them free from the Superftitions of the Jews, and the Idolatries of the Gentiles; who, whilft upon Earth, should not only disclaim all Power and Dominion himself, but fuffer an ignominious Death,, to make Mankind happy; and yet fubject them to a Yoke, the most arbitrary and tyrannical in the World,