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and paying a religious regard to houses and plats of ground?
Vic. Not religious regard neither; that would make it idolatry.
Gent. As to its idolatry, look you, Sir, to that; ---but that the regard paid is religious, admits but of little doubl : you will not call it civil. It is set apart by a religious officer, for a religious purpose, with religious solemnity, by prayer, &c. No meerly civil person is able thus to consecrate an house or piece of ground; no meerly civil person (i. e. no one who is unbaptised or excommunicated from the christian church) hath right to lie in this holy ground, it is therefore a religious, not a civil regard, which is paid our churches and their yards. And why it is not as great stupidity for christians to pay religious respect to a plat of earth or an house, as for Egyptians to pay it to an onion or a cat, I profess I cannot see; of the two, methinks the latter is much the inost excusable. There is some image of deity, there is life in these ; in the other there is none.
And as you have mentioned idolatry, you will give me leave, Sir, to ask, Why is image or idolworship so offensive to God, and so strictly forbidden: Is it not chiefly, that it weakens mens belief of the Omnipresence of the Deity, and represents him as confined more to one place than another. This God resents as derogatory to his honour, and injurious to the cause of virtue and true religion: and yet, what is that bowing towards the altar and the east, which is practised amongst us, but a dangerous approach towards this popish and pagan worship?" For when the congregation are taught to turn about from the west or the south, and devoutly worship towards the east, how natural is it for them to think that the God whom they worship is more present there,
than in any other quarter; for if he were not more present there, why should they thus solemnly and constantly turn towards it? But, if this practice tends to cherish such wrong apprehensions in the common people, (who in all ages and all countries have been too prone to debase and confine the Divine Majesty in their conceptions of bim) I shall not stick to pronounce it a very dangerous advance towards idolatry and image-worship. From worshiping towards the altar, it is but too easy to pass to worshiping the altar itself. Our learned clergy know, that in some such manner as this, the worship of images at first slid into the church; and from so small a beginning, that enormous corruption which now overspreads so vast a part of the christian world, chiefly arose.
Vic. I own, Sir, the justness of your remarks, and can only say that I wish, and am certain, multitudes of iny brethren join heartily in the wish, that our liturgy were revised; its exceptionable passages amended or expunged; that indifferent things were left indifferent; that no other terms were made necessary to christian communion than Christ hath made necessary; and that none of the Lord's ministers should be constrained to deny the Lord's table and the Lord's bread, to those whom at the same time they verily believe to be the Lord's faithful and accepted servants, and to belong to his houshold of faith.— Till the things you have now reinarked on, and some other that might be mentioned, are set right, our church can never hold up its head with boldness. Infidels will laugh, will teaze and insult; and from the absurdity of some established doctrines and forms of worship, draw prejudices and cavils against christianity itself.
Those who dissent from her will too justly retort upon her the heinous sin of schism, she has long ei ten witbal; in as much as to ber vo?ocurai nies she sakes a grievous rect or diviWin trees: 3199 ccorch, rejecting bose whom Christ receives; and castog out from her commu2100 those who a she must believe to belong to the communion of saints, and to be real members of Christ.
Gent. To speak freels, Sir, to me it seems manifest, that a church so unequally poised with the weight of immense revenues and grandeurs on one hand; and with the lightness of superstitious forms and enormous claims on the other, can never be well established; it carries the principles of dissolution in its very frame.-Its honours and wealth will keep many, no doubt, attached firmly to its interest : But-may it not be feared, that in some future age the first rapacious hand that shall find itself able, will seize the rich prey? That the revenues which now support it, will some time or other prove the occasion of its ruin; like the temple of Belus, that once richest and most sacred treasure of the earth, which Xerxes destroved to enrich himself with its wealth. But Here is company I see coming, whose presence will put an end to our talk upon these subjects.
CALM AND PLAIN ANSWER
Why are you a Dissenter from the
CHURCH OF ENGLAND?
ON ITS DOCTRINE, Spirit, CONSTITUTION, AND SOME
OF ITS OFFICES AND FORMS OF DEVOTION,
By the Author of the Dissenting Gentleman's
LETTERS TO WHITE.
BEING A SUMMARY view of the ARGUMENTS
CONTAINED IN THOSE LETTERS.
Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.
Matt. XV. 13.
[FIRST PRINTED), 1772.4