« PreviousContinue »
new Rites and Ceremonies appointed, or any Offices erected; nor in the Gofpels, Ais, or Epistles, does any thing like an Institution oc-cur, except that of Deacons; which Office is · now quite laid aside, unless it may be said to be revived by virtue of the Act of Queen Elizas beth, which appoints Overseers of the Poor : for as to the modern Ecclefiaftical Deacon, he: has no Resemblance to the Scripture-Officer,, who was appointed to serve Tables; upon Com-plaint of the Grecian Widows, who were nego li&ted in the daily Ministration, which the Apo-stles were not at leifure to attend, because of the preaching of the Word, and therefore directed the Congregation to chufe ochers, whose Bulness it should be. Alts, chap. vi.
I SHALL therefore inquire how the Popish World came to be blessed with such a long: Train of spiritual Equipage; and see what can : be found in the Scriptures, to warrant or coun• tenance their present Pretensions. In order to it, I Mall observe, that Promulgation is of the Efrence of a Law, which cannot be without Plainness and Perfpicuity: It must not be exopreffed in doubtful and equivocal Terms: It! must not depend upon critical Learning; opr different Readings ; nor receive its · Explana-tion from the mysterious Gibberish, and unin.
telligible Jargon of the Schools ; but ought to be such, as a plain, open, simple-hearted, fincere Man may easily discover, amidst the numerous and contradictory Schemes of the Ecclefiaftics.
WEAK and corrupt Men may, through Ignorance or Design, frame and enact Laws obfcure and unintelligible; but the Almighty cannot intend to mislead his Creatures, or want proper Words to express his Meaning : Even such human Laws as enact Penalties, or restrain the natural Liberty of Mankind, are always construed strictly, and extended no farther than the Letter exprelly warrants ; and it is much, more reasonable, that it should be so 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 Omillion, or Defect, in Words chosen by the Holy Ghost. We may therefore be very sure, that whatever is not expressed in Scripture, plain and clear to common Understandings, was not intended for our Instruction, or can become a Duty.
With our Eyes thus cleared up, we will view those Texts and Parts of holy Writ, brought together to support this unwieldy Fabric. And here, for some time, I must beg Leave of my
Reader, to stand amazed, and be at a Loss, which most to admire, the Stupidity and Acquiescence of the Popish and popishly-affected Laity, or the daring Insolence and Impiecy 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 to complete an Empire over the Bodies and Minds of the greatest Part of Christendom; rob them of their Goods and Possessions, and make them Instruments of their own Ruin, hug their Chains, and mortally hate, murder, or ruin every one who would set them free,
But before I enter upon a particular Dif quisition of the Texts produced, I would first inquire what Benefit can accrue to Christianity by such Powers in the Christian 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 some Judgment whether it was done or not, and who did it. The Lame is a reasonable Proceeding in this case; for though it be no Objection to the Truth of what God has said, that it is not agreeable to the Sentiments of weak Men; yet whilft it remains a Question, whether God said it or not,
there cannot be a stronger way of arguing used, than to Thew, that it is unworthy of the Divine Wisdom and Goodness, who can say 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 Use to Religion or Virtue, and yet of apparent Advantage to them. selves, or their Order, I shall 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.. lumny.
Now of what Use is it to Religion and Virtue, that the Clergy should always make one another? Whether the Imposition of Hands be esteemed barely a Ceremony, to denote a Person appointed to an Office, or be the Appothement itself? Or whether he be chofen by laying on of Hands, or by any other Ceremony ? Will the fame Person, with the same Qualifications, be a better Man, better Christian, or abler Divine, if he receive his Orders in a di. rect Line from the Apostles, through the Caa. nal of a Popish, High-Church, or Presbyterian
Priesthood, or if only from the Civil Magistrate, or voluntary Societies? Or is it possible. to believe, that whilft he is administring the Offices of Religion, and doing the Duties of the Gospel, the devour Christian People fhall lose the Effects of their Piety, and the Benefit of Christ's Promises, for the Defect of any Circumstance, or any Omission or Superfluity in bis Adoption; Things which they could neither prevent nor know? Sure we have not so hearned Christ!
CAN We suppose, that Almighty God should make such an Establishment of Chriftianity, as. must destroy Christianity itself; and put it under the sole Guidance and Direction of a Society of Men, who will have a perpetual Interest to overturn or pervert it, and ever did so, when they had Power ?
WHAT can be suggested more absurd, than that the good God should send his Son from Heaven, to teach Virtue and Goodness to Men, to manumit and set them free from the Superftitions of the fews, and the Idolatries of the Gentiles; who, whilft upon Earth, should not only disclaim all Power and Dominion himself, but suffer an ignominious Death, to make Man. kind happy and yet subject them to a Yoke, the most arbitrary and tyrannical in the World,