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"and Blood." So cautious and provident has our Holy Mother been to obviate (if possible) the Cavils and Misconstructions of Ignorance, or Infirmity, or of Malice and Obstinacy, upon these Heads.—If, after all such wise and tender Precautions taken, any Scruples jtill remain, there are but two Alternatives, that I know of, in this Case; either to retain such Customs and Ceremonies, notwithstanding these Scruples, or to give up at once all Authority, Ordinance?, and Institutions whatsoever.
But let us briefly inquire, how far this Charge of Superstition is retortible upon the Dijsention. Is the above-mentioned Act of kneeling, for instance, superstitious in itself? If it be, the universal Gesture of Adoration is superstitious; if it be not, why is it more superstitious in the Case of the
Lords Supper, than fitting1? We may safely
aver indeed, that while it is undoubtedly more decent and reverent, it is also much less superstitious. For if it be of the very 'Nature of Superstition most exactly and minutely to copy the Customs and Practices of our Saviour and his Apostles in Things by no means appertaining to the Essence of Religion, the Manner of receiving the Sacrament siting, in the Afiemblles at least of the most considerable Body of Dissenters, is apparently more superstitious than the Gesture of hteeling ordained by the
Church Church of England. The Reasons for this
Practice of the Separatists (if they give any) must be in effect the fame which the Bishop of Rome gives for his annual Custom of warning such a Number of poor Men's Feet; a Custom very plainly and obviously of most filly and superstitious Nature. —And again, to pursue the Point of Recrimination in one other Instance, how comes it to pass that there is more Superstition in a Surplice than there is in a Bands Is there any thing really more precise, formal, distinguistring, emblematical, (call it what they will) in some Yards of Linen, than there is in half a one?—It is in truth difficult to write upon such a Subject as this with any Seriousness; and therefore I will quit it with one conclusive Remark, that the Customs, Usages, Rites, Ceremonies, Habits, and, in a word, the whole external Apparatus and Polity of our Church are worthy to be retained, as of discreet and pious Appointment, unless it can be demonstrated that they are ridiculous and superstitious in themselves, or in their necessary Consequences, or that any Branch of the Separation serves God in a more pious, reverent, prudent, and rational Manner.—It is really strange that the over earnest Desire, or Affectation of being at as great a Distance as possible from Popery (which ever ivas, and will be the Ground of Dissension from the Church of England) should carry Men to such undue and indiscreet Lengths; an Affectation that is too often known to terminate in Infidelity itself. —But how utterly frivolous and inconclusive is all Argumentation from this Topic ?—The Church of Rome makes use of the Sign of the Cross upon numberless Occasions, and abuses it to a thousand Purposes of Folly and Superstition; therefore the single Use of it in Baptism, for weighty Reasons
assigned, is foolish and superstitious too. The
Romanists receive the Lord"s Supper kneeling to express their Adoration of the Elements, which is Superstition, and Idolatry into the Bargain. The Sons of the Church of England receive the same kneeling " for a Signification of their humble and "grateful Acknowledgment of the Benefits of "Christ therein given to all worthy Receivers, and "for the avoiding of such Profanation and Disbr"der in the holy Communion as might otherwise "ensue;" therefore they likewise are guilty of Superstition and Idolatry.—The Clergy of Rome have a most ridiculous and superfluous Variety of Vestments, Ornaments, and Decorations; therefore it is ridiculous to distinguish the Clergy from the Laity by any Habit at all.—The Roman Religion consists, in a great measure, of Pomp, Pageantry, and Parade; therefore Decency, Order, and Solemnity,
are Things absolutely foreign to Christianity.- .
Such Reasoning as this, is most apparently absurd; and yet such Reasoning as this is in fact at the Bottom of all that can be urged against the
Hierarchy, Hierarchy, the Rites and Ceremonies, and whole established Constitution of the Church of England. In short, the most material Objections to this Constitution are, 'tis hoped, removed; and to what we have hitherto advanced to prove the Safety and. Lawfulness of communicating with the Church, we might farther add, by way of Argument and Encouragement too, both the spiritual and temporal
Benefits, and Advantages of Conformity. But
these will naturally occur to every Mind divested of it's Prepossessions against it.
I hope I have not discovered, in the Course of these Disquisitions, any unreasonable Zeal for the Cause of the Church, or unchristian Animosity against her Adversaries; though I will own that I have written with the greater Freedom and Plainness, because many among us, (I can scarce call them of us) are apt to handle this Argument too tenderly; so tenderly indeed, that they rather encourage and support, than invalidate and overturn the Principles of Non-conformity.—It is with this probable View, at least certain Consequence, that we have heard some of the first Rank in the Church exclaiming against the Vanity, and almost Wickedness, of all mere human Ordinances and Institutions, and decrying all ecclestastical Jurisdiction and Authority from the very Station in which they Jkould defend them; sometimes resolving all Religion
into pure Morality, and Works of Holiness and Charity; and sometimes dissolving the fame into mere personal Opinion, and Sincerity in that Opinion. That the conscientious Sincerity of the Heart is the only Ground of Pretension to God's Mercy, through the Merits of Christ, in Men of all Religions and Denominations, is indeed a Doctrine I have already endeavoured to inculcate as rational, comfortable, and scriptural; but then it will not follow that therefore it is a Matter of absolute Indifference of what Persuasion a Man is of; or that he need not make any Inquiry into the Reasons and Grounds of his Persuasion, and do the best he can to satisfy himself whether he is sincerely in the right, or sincerely in the wrong. For though involuntary Ignorance and Error will be Objects of Mercy, yet Obstipacy and Prejudice (as such) are far from being io.—To tell People then that if they are sincere in their Persuasion it is sufficient, may, in a Multitude of Instances, preclude their Inquiries, and confirm their Prepossessions; whereas Sincerity, to have any Virtue in it, should be the Result of Mature, sober, and dispassionate Examination into the Principles and Foundations upon which an Opinion is built. And this, I trust, is the Sincerity of every true Son of the Church of England.
Again, those who affect upon all Occasions to lay so much Stress upon Sincerity, or upon Morality