A SERMON Preached at Newark, Iune 2. 1736. To which are added, some little Enlarge­ments.

By IONATHAN DICKINSON, M.A. Minister of the Gospel at Elizabeth Town, in New-Iersey.

Gal. iv.9.

But now after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn you again to the weak and beggerly Elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in Bondage?

New-York, Printed by Iohn Peter Zenger, 1736.

[Page i]

To the Presbyterian Congregation at Newark in New-Iersey.

Dear Brethren,

IT was in Complyance with the earnest Sol­licitations of some of you, that I first prea­ched; and then consented to publish the ensuing Discourse. It is (I must confess) very disagreable to me, to bring these contro­versial Points into the Pulpit; being sensible that there are much weightier Matters that ought to be the ordinary Subjects of our Prea­ching: Whence this is the first Sermon, where­in I have particularly insisted upon these Things in the whole Course of my Ministry. But the Reasons which were offered me; and the Circumstances of your Congregation where so many were enclined without any known Cause, to change their Profession and forsake your Communion; convinc'd me that a Dis­course of this kind was at that Time seasona­ble. And I have this to comfort me amidst all the Clamours of angry Men, that what I delivered to you and have herewith emitted, is agreable to the Council of God; and found­ed [Page ii] upon the unalienable Rights of Mankind: And therefore proper to be urged upon those, who seemed so earnest to part with the Li­berty wherewith Christ hath made them free; and causelesly to take upon them a Yoke of Bondage.

I am not sensible that I have given any Cause for those tragical Outcries, that have been made upon this Occasion; having thro' the whole Discourse handled the Argument with all the Caution and Tenderness that I could: being as careful to prevent the sow­ring of Mens Tempers, and the alienating their Affections one from another; as to esta­blish the important Truths herein asserted. However I do as heartily forgive the Abuses I have met with, as I dispise the Threatnings of those, who are willing to shew us what they would be at, if they had the Power in their Hands.

I have herein particularly insisted upon the Necessity of Charity and mutual Forbearance, in the Affairs of Conscience and Salvation; and cannot but again inculcate the same Doctrines with the most earnest Application. For tho' you have all Faith, that you could [Page iii] remove Mountains; and have not Charity, you are Nothing. 1 Cor. xiii.2. And I here forbear observing to you, that this is one of our greatest Articles of Complaint against the Church of England, that they refuse us their Communion, lay all under Excommuni­cation by their Canons, that scruple a Comply­ance with their imposed Rites and Ceremo­nies; and that their warmest Advocates de­clare us all uncapable of Salvation for want of a Prelacy, whereof we cannot find the least Account in the Oracles of God. Thus since they know that we are grieved with their Meat, they walk not charitably, in destroying him with their Meat for whom Christ dyed. Rom. xiv.15. From whence we have good Reason to conclude, that they are safest who are most charitable, and that the Error is on the damning Side. And I am willing to refer it to your own Iudgments and Consciences, who walk most agreably to that brotherly Love, Charity and Kindness, so much insisted upon in the Gospel of Christ. We that treat our episcopal Brethren with the Respect that is due to Christians and fellow Members of the Body of Christ; and are [Page iv] willing to receive them into our Fellowship and Communion, in all the Ordinances of Gods House. Or they who reject us from their Society; and put the stumbling Block of their uninstituted Rites and Ceremonies in the Way between us, that we are forced to abstain from their Communion; or to wound our own Con­sciences. These Things we take to be very great Grievances, and express Violations of the great Laws of Charity and Love. But then, since we make this Complaint of the Church of England, let us be especially care­ful, that we dont fall into any Degree of the like uncharitableness. Let your Deport­ment towards those who differ from you, be with the greatest Kindness, Friendship, and Love, that by this all Men may know that you are Christ's Disciples, that you love one another. Ioh. xiii.35. For thou art in­excusable O Man! Whosoever thou art, that judgest; if wherein thou judgest ano­ther, thou condemnest thy self; and if thou that judgest, dost the same Things. Rom. ii.1.

Let it be always remembered, that tho' we complain of the Rites and Ceremonies of the [Page v] Church of England; and especially of their being imposed upon the Consciences of those that religiously scruple them: Yet we hear­tily consent to their Doctrinal Articles; and would rejoice to find that all the Ministers of the Church of England did so too. But what represents a Conformity to that Church the most unsafe to me, is, that the generality of their Clergy are professedly Arminians; and they themselves should best know, how they reconcile those Tenets with the excellent Articles which they subscribe. I should (I confess) think there was a very dark Cloud come over our Churches, that the Glory of the God of Israel was gone up to the Threshold of the House; and that ICHA­BOD was become our Motto; if the Doc­trines of original Sin, of our Iustification by the imputed Righteousness of Christ, of the Efficacy of the Sovereign free Grace of God; and of the Preseverance of the Saints, were once exploded and ridiculed among us, as they have been by some of the most eminent Clergy of the Church of England.

I am sure Brethren these Doctrines are dear to you, they are Doctrines upon which [Page vi] you found your Hopes of Salvation; and it must therefore appear most reasonable to con­siderate Persons, to continue in Fellowship with those Churches where they are believed as well as professed, lest they or their Families, are ensnared with the Errors of the Times; and are brought to forsake the Doctrines, with the Communion of our Churches.

Finally Brethren farewel: Be perfect, be of good Comfort, be of one Mind, live in Peace; and the God of Love and Peace shall be with you.

I am your Servant for Christ Sake, J. D.
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Mark vii.7.

Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for Doctrines the Com­mandments of Men.

AS it is the Scope and Purport of the first Commandment, that we Wor­ship the only true God; so it is the great Design of the Second, that we worship him in a right [Page 2] and acceptable Manner. Our Obedience to the first is taught us by the Light of Nature: But our Conformity to the Second must be altogether directed by divine Institution: For God best knows, what Worship will be most acceptable to him and most serviceable to us. He has therefore particularly instructed us in both the Matter and Manner of his Worship, that neither may be left to the different and contradictory Dispositions, Affections and Opinions of Men; nor their fluctuating Inclinations or capricious Humours: But that all may conform to the Pat­tern that was given in the Mount, to his own Insti­tutions, which are the only Standard of the Sanc­tuary, and the only Rule of our religious Con­duct. To the Law and to the Testimony, if they speak not according to this Word, it is because there is no Light in them. Isai. viii.20. Upon this Account it is, that our Blessed Saviour so sharply reproves the Scribes and Pharisees in our Text and Context. That not contented with divine Institutions, they must add some of their own, as tho' Gods Worship stood in Need of their refining and polishing, in Order to render it more compleat and perfect. Thus did they in vain worship God, teaching for Doctrines the Commandments of Men.

If we take Notice of the special Occasion of this Crimination against the Scribes and Phari­sees, it was not for fundamental Errors in Princi­ple; nor for flagitious Lives. But only for a [Page 3] religious Injunction of what was in it self most innocent and indifferent, the washing of Hands be­fore Meat; as appears from the 2 and 3 Verses of the Chapter. And when they saw some of his Disciples eat Bread with defiled (that is to say with unwashen) Hands they found Fault. For the Pharisees and all the Iews, except they wash their Hands oft eat not, holding the Tradition of the Elders. And to this it is our Lord makes the sharp Reply, in the Words before us.

It must be confessed, that this was a cleanly and decent Custom: But it wanted divine Ap­pointment to warrant its Injunction as a reli­gious Rite. And while it wanted that, it lay open to that Reprimand, who hath required this at your Hands? And laid the Imposers open to the just Censures of him, whose Prerogative they invaded.

In the Words we may Note.

1. A declaratory Sentence against their Wor­ship. (In vain do they worship me.) Notwith­standing all their shew of Wisdom in this their Will Worship, it was in Christ Account vain, idle, trifling and impertinent. Such as would not find Acceptance with God, nor turn to their own Advantage.

2. Here is the Reason of this Sentence against their Worship. Their teaching for Doctrines the Commandments of Men.

It's observable, that these Commandments were from the Supream Authority in the Jewish [Page 4] Church. The condemned Institution, was the Tradition of the Elders. Verse 5. and by the Decree of the Sanhedrim. An Authority from Gods own immediate Institution; and therefore worthy to be honoured and regarded by all Men, while they kept to the Rules, and within the Limits of their delegated Power. But when they came to put a religious Sanction upon any Rites, Ceremonies or Institutions of their own, tho' in themselves never so innocent or indiffe­rent, they usurped the divine Authority; and therefore exceeded the Limits of their own. They certainly had as great Authority as any Church upon Earth, or as any ecclesiastical Ru­lers in the World, ever had: But yet they had not Power sufficient; to enjoin the indifferent Rite of Washing Hands before Meat, as a reli­gious Duty.

But that we may have a clearer View of the Case before us, it may be proper to consider, what is implyed in teaching for Doctrines the Commandments of Men; and how this renders our Worship vain.

I'm first then to consider, what is implyed in teaching for Doctrines the Commandments of Men.

And it must be here premised, that agreeing among our selves upon any meer Circumstan­tials and Appendages of Worship, is not teaching for Doctrines the Commandments of Men. It's impossible to attend upon any publick Worship, [Page 5] without adjusting some external Circumstances with Relation to it, such as the Time and Place of Worship; and such like Things as are altoge­ther extrinsecal to the Worship it self, and which have no Religion placed in them. This is no Addition to, or Detraction from the divine In­stitution, no Imposition upon any Mans Con­science, no lording it over Gods Heritage; and therefore perfectly Innocent and indifferent. Here Wisdom is profitable to direct, how these Things may be best adapted to the Circumstan­ces and Occasions of each religious Society. And here that general Rule takes place, Let all Things be done decently and in Order. But then,

1. Proposing and requiring as a religious Duty, what God has not proposed as such nor required of us, is teaching for Doctrines the Com­mandments of Men. This was eminently the Case of the Scribes and Pharisees in our Context. There was no Sin in washing their Hands before Meat, there was no Sin in washing what they brought from Market, or in washing their Cups and Pots, brasen, Vessels and Tables. But their Sin was in placing Religion in them, and re­quiring them as religious Observances. It was no Apology that these Things were indifferent; and were therefore to be complyed with for the sake of Peace and Order. For if they were in­different, why were they not left indifferent? By what Authority did they make that necessary, which God had left free? Why could they not [Page 6] be peaceable and orderly upon Gods Terms, as well as upon Terms of their own devising? Who are chargeable with the Infractions of Peace and Order, they that would peaceably worship God according to his own Appointments, or they that disturb the Peace of the Church with their own Inventions

What Religion can their be in doing what will be no ways pleasing to God? Or how can we suppose that acceptable to him, which he has not required? There can be no Obligation in this Case, but the Commandments of Men; and what Obligation can those Commands lay us under, that are given without Authority, as all human Institutions in Matters of Conscience and Religion are? For there is but one Lawgiver who is able to save and destroy; and who is he that judgeth another. Iam. iv.12.

God himself has given us a compleat and per­fect Rule in this Case, sufficient for Doctrine, for Reproof, for Correction, and for Instruction, in Righteousness, that the Man of God may be per­fect, throughly furnished to all good Works, 2 Tim. iii.15, 7. And if God the Supream Lord of Conscience has given us his Law for our Obser­vance, who should venture to interpose? If this Law be perfect, what Room can there be for any Addition to it?

If it be here replyed, that religious Obser­vances may be required, without any Pretence of adding to the divine Law, whilst they have a [Page 7] Relation only to the outward Polity, Peace, and Order of the Church, which are Things left by God to the Care and Direction of Church Of­ficers; and necessary to be provided for by them. I answer, if no more be intended, then meer external Circumstances either of Worship or Discipline, the Reply is just, as I observed be­fore: But then, these can't bear the Denomina­tion, of religious Observances. If they once have Religion placed in them, they lose their indifferent Nature; and from Circumstances be­come integral Parts of God's Worship; and thereby render such Worship vain.

It might be here observed, that the Scribes and Pharisees in our Context, had the same Ad­vantage to make this Plea that any Society what­soever can now have. They might have argued, that this condemned Rite was a decent Obser­vance, needful for maintaining the Peace. Unity and Order of the Church, that it was withal ve­ry significant of that Purity and Holiness, that is necessary to all the true Worshippers of God; and that it was very near of kin to those divers Washings, enjoined by God himself in the Levi­tical Law: But all these Pretences or as many more as could be invented, would not excuse their Superstition; nor acquit them from the Imputation of rendring their Worship vain, by teachings for Doctrines the Commandments of Men. However, this is certain, that such In­stitutions must be either divine or human. If [Page 8] any should pretend that they are divine, they thereby acknowledge them an Invasion of God's Royalty, and an Addition to his Law; for how came they by divine Authority. If they are human, they come under the censure in our Text. And thereforefore since they are Com­mandments of Men, they cannot lay our Con­sciences under any Obligation to observe them. For there is but one Lord of Conscience. The Conclusion thereof follows, that all Rites, all Ceremonies, all modes of Worship, not ap­pointed of God, if they have the stamp of Religion put upon 'em; and are enjoined as necessary Observances, are in all Cases unwar­rantable.

2. Enjoining Terms of Communion which God has not enjoined, is teaching for Doctrines the Commandments of Men. All true Christians are fellow Members of the mystical Body of Christ; and should therefore be joint Partakers of all the Priviledges of his House and Kingdom. If they are such as we can charitably suppose Christ will own at his Appearing and Kingdom, they are certainly such as we should now own, and admit to Communion in all his Ordinances. If they have a Right to the Kingdom of Glory, they certainly have a Claim to the Benefits of the Kingdom of Grace. And we are according­ly directed, Rom. xv.7. to receive one another as Christ also receved us, to the Glory of God. By what Authority then can any enjoin new [Page 9] Terms of Communion, that Christ has not re­quired; and whence this exorbitant Claim to put Fetters and Shackles upon Mens Conscien­ces, whereby they must be forced▪ to sin against their own Consciences, or go without the Porti­on of Meat that God has provided for them? Its enough, that we have one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism. Its enough, that we observe the Ap­pointment that God has ordained, without taking a Yoke upon our Necks, that neither we nor our Fathers have been able to bear.

There is no Place here for the Pretence, of requiring Terms of Communion that are in themselves innocent and inoffensive. For is it possible to suppose any Thing more so, than washing of Hands before Meat? And yet this as innocent as it was, exposed the Scribes and Pharisees to this severe Reprimand in our Text. And have not every Society in the World just the same Claim to this Pretence, let their Terms of Communion be what they will? For none will acknowledge that they require what is sin­ful or unreasonable; and every one have an equal Right to judge what is, and what is not so. If one Society may require what Terms they think innocent, every Society may require what Terms they think innocent, the Claim of each being founded upon the same Authority; and justifiable by the same Arguments. There can be no Pretences made by any Church on Earth for enjoining any human Institutions, that can't [Page 10] be urged with the same Justice, by the Roman Catholicks, in Favour of all their ridiculous Page­antry, and of their superstitious and idolatrous Observances.

In a Word every Degree, and every kind of Will-Worship, when made a Term of Commu­nion, is to subject the Conscience to the Commandments of Men; and to bring the scru­pulous Conscience to the sad Necessity of neg­lecting publick Ordinances, or of sinning against their own Light. To say in this Case, that their Scruples are unreasonable, is to say just Nothing; for they dont appear so to them; and they have just the same Reason to avoid these Injunctions, as to avoid the most flagitious Crimes, because they appear sinful; and therefore are certainly so to them; and every one must believe for himself, and answer for himself. If they mistake in their Apprehensions, if they esteem those Things sinful that are in their own Nature innocent and Lawful, they are nevertheless sinful to them; for he that doubts is damned if he eat; and it is evil to that Man that eateth with Offence. Happy therefore is he that condemneth not himself in that Thing which he alloweth. Rom. xiv.20.22.23. If their Con­sciences are weak, there should be the more Care not to put a stumbling Block, or an Occasion to fall in our Brothers Way. Rom. xiv.13. It is then our Duty to receive him that is weak, but not to doubtful Disputations. Rom. xiv.1; And not to destroy him with our Meat for whom [Page 11] Christ dyed. Rom. xiv.15. From all which it appears that the impleaded Practice is an unwar­rantable assuming the divine Prerogative, and a bold Invasion of Christs legal Authority.

3. Imposing any Terms of Communion by any penal Sanctions, is eminently teaching for Doctrines the Commandments of Men. Every Person in the World has an equal Right to judge for themselves, in the Affairs of Conscience and eternal Salvation. And all have the same na­tural Right to all the Benefits and Comforts of Life. By what Pretence therefore, may they be deprived of any natural Right; because they don't subject their Consciences to other Mens Dicision? What dreadful Work has been made in the World, by using Methods of Force in Mat­ters of Opinion and Conscience; and what dreadful Work would still be made if the same Methods are pursued! How must the World by this Means become an Aceldoma; and we devour and be devoured one of another! If this be al­lowed, every Mans Hand must be against his Fellow; and all that have the Power in their Hands, are authorized to oppress and destroy the Weaker Side, whatever their Principles be. If coercive Methods are used at all in this Case, it must be because the Imposers think themselves in the Right. And by the same [...], all that think themselves in the Right may justifiably force their Principles upon others. The Argu­ment is as good at Constantinople or at Rome, in [Page 12] Favour of the Alcoran or the Mass Book, as in any religious Society whatsoever.

All temporal Injuries, all Force or Violence, all Prejudice to the Estates, Honours or Com­forts of Men, on Account of their different Sen­timents in Religion, is imposing the Command­ments of Men; and lording it over Gods Heri­tage with a Witness, a direct Violation of the great Laws of Peace and Love; and directly opening the Door of all the Cruelties and Bar­barities even of a Spanish Inquisition. For every Society have the same Right to inflict what Pe­nalties they think proper; and to judge what Penalties are proper to inflict, upon those that differ from them.

But has the Gospel of the Prince of Peace, any where encouraged these unmerciful Viola­tions of the Laws of Humanity? Are we not therein directed to love as Brethren? Are we not admonished not to judge our Brother, or to set at nought our Brother. Rom. xiv.13. And are we not therein informed, that whosoever sin against the weak Brethren, (as all are esteemed that have not the Power in their Hands) and wound their weak Consciences, sin against Christ. 1 Cor. viii.12. Since therefore, no Acts of Un­kindness upon Account of our religious Senti­ments, can ever be justified by the Commands of God; it must be teaching for Doctrines the Commandments of Men.

I am now to consider in the next Place, how this renders our Worship vain. And,

[Page 13]1. Because that it is of human Original, and not of divine Institution. As I have observed before, God is the only Lord of Conscience. He has left no Authority upon Earth, to make any Laws for his Subjects, in the immediate Affairs of his Kingdom: But has directed in what Way he will be worshipped. Who then has any Business to set their Thresholds by Gods Thresholds, and their Posts by his Posts? It's enough therefore, to render our Worship vain, if it can be said of it as of Iereboams Feast, that it was devised out of our own Hearts. Whatever Appearances of Sanctity and Devotion there may be in any Rites, Ceremonies, or Modes of Worship of human Institution; yet since they are of human Original, they are therefore but a shew of Wisdom in Will-Worship, as the Apostle instructs. Col. ii.22, 23. Which all are to perish with the using, after the Commandments and Doctrines of Men, which Things have indeed a shew of Wisdom in Will-Worship and Hu­mility.

No Pretences of Decency and Order will serve in this Case; for God himself is the best Judge of what is decent and orderly in his immediate Service; and cannot be pleased with what is not agreable to his own Will: And how can we conclude any Thing agreable to his Will, but what he has appointed.

If our own Inclinations, Imaginations, or Ap­prehensions are sufficient to direct us, to what [Page 14] Worship or Mode of Worship is pleasing to God or agreable to his Will, without a divine Institu­tion, then every Worship or Mode of Worship in the World must upon that Supposition be ac­ceptable to God, since every one have a like Claim to follow the Dictates of their own Ap­prehensions in this Case, and every one may with the same Justice conclude, that their Ap­prehensions are Right. God has given the like Liberty to all Men and to all Societies of Men to judge for themselves. If some may in this Case judge one Way of Worship pleasing to God, others may on the same Grounds judge the direct contrary to be so. And what Contra­diction, what Confusion, what blending together of Light and Darkness, what a Justification of all the Worship among the Papists, Ranters, &c. would this be▪ For certainly every one have the Right to follow what appears to them must decent and orderly. But God has left us no Room for any of these Pretences, or any of these Confusions. He has not left this Affair to the Determination of any Men whatsoever; but has himself provided and particularly directed, how he will be worshipped. And thence it is that all the Commandments of Men in this Case are but vain Worship.

2. Because it's a Reflection upon the Wisdom and Faithfulness of the Lord Jesus Christ, to in­troduce our own Inventions into his Worship. It is a Character given of our Blessed Saviour. [Page 15] Heb. iii.2. That he was faithful to him that appointed him, as Moses was in all his House. And we find Moses was faithful, to keep to the Pattern given him in the Mount, to the very Taches, Pins, and Fillets of the Tabernacle. Accordingly our Blessed Lord has shewed us all the Form of the House, and the Fashion thereof, and the Goings-out thereof, and the Comings-in thereof, and all the Ordinances thereof, and all the Laws thereof, Ezek. xliii.11. And has denounced his Curse against any that shall add to, or diminish from what is contained in his Word. Rev. xxii.18.19. What Room then can there be for any new Institutions, for any Rites, Modes, or Ceremonies of Worship, which he has not appointed? Are we wiser than Christ? He has appointed what he thought sufficient; and why should not we think it suf­ficient too? Are the Laws and Institutions of Christ a perfect Rule or not? If they be, what Occasion is there of human Inventions? If they be not, where is his Wisdom, where is his Faith­fulness? Nay, if they be not, where shall we stop on this Side Rome? If there be Place for some human Inventions in Gods Worship, there is Place for all human Inventions in God's Worship, unless there can be shewn an exclu­sive Character for some, and none but they, to add what they think proper and needful. If a Protestant Church may, a Popish Church also may, invent new Methods of Decency and Or­der [Page 16] in the Worship of God. We must therefore reject all, or none, keep only Christs Institutions, or submit to all human Additions that are im­posed upon us. The Bible is our only Directo­ry; and they that set up any other, reflect egregiously upon the Author of it.

3. Because this Practice has a direct Tendency to root out vital Piety, and the Power of God­liness. They that place Religion in Form and outward Observances, are ordinarily ready to rest in those Forms and go no further. This was the Case of the Scribes and Pharisees. They had first an Itch at refining upon Gods Law by the Addition of their own Institutions; and then they came to reject Gods Law for the Sake of their own Traditions. Full well ye reject the Commandments of God, that ye may keep your own Traditions. Context verse 9. And I ven­ture to appeal to my Audience, whether it has not been their constant Observation, that there has been the least of the Power of Godliness, where there has been the greatest Attachment to human Inventions, to external Pomp and Ceremony in the Worship of God. They that place Religion in what God has not required, are ready to spend their zeal that Way; and grow careless about that Religion which he has required. We often see such as these make broad their Phylacteries, and enlarge the Hem of their Garments: But neglect the weightier Matters of the Law, Iudgement, Mercy and Faith; and [Page 17] thus they render their Worship vain. — But it's Time to make some Reflections upon what we have heard. And,

In the first Place, this gives immediate Occa­sion to gratify the Desires of some of my Hear­ers, by considering the Reasons why we cannot ordinarily join with the Worship of the Church of England; because we think they teach for Doctrines the Commandments of Men. The Time before us will not allow a distinct and par­ticular Disquisition of this Case, all that I can now do, is very briefly to offer some of the Ob­jections that have been from the beginning of the Reformation, and yet are made, against Con­formity to that Church.

We can't help but think that stinted and im­posed, Liturgies, are teaching for Doctrines the Commandments of Men. It's certain that the Scriptures have imposed none, they have pre­scribed none. And I think its impossible to produce any Direction or Warrant from the Word of God, to any Men upon Earth, to pre­scribe or impose any Forms of Prayer for con­stant Worship. We cannot therefore but sup­pose the Injunction of the Common-Prayer Book unwarrantable. For we know no Way to answer this Argument. This Book is imposed either by the Command of God or of Man, if by the Command of God, there must be some Precept for it in Scripture, or at least some Promise that God will accept it, which I think none will pre­tend [Page 18] to; if by the Command of Man, our Ob­jection against it is just; and it comes directly under the Censure in our Text. We have no Account either in the old or new Testament, of any Forms of Prayer for stated publick Worship; and we may therefore presume that there was none imposed by the divine Direction, and Per­mission. We therefore know of no Authority to appoint, much less to impose them now. And it greatly adds to our uneasiness under these im­posed Forms, that they limit both the Matter and Manner of our Prayers, prevent those pro­per Addresses to God that special Exigencies call for, and which no Form can provide for; and de­prive us of those divine Assistances that may be hoped for, in the Use of conceived Prayers thence they seem inconsistent with that of the Apostle Rom. viii.26. Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our Infirmities: For we know not what we should pray for as we ought: But the Spirit it self maketh Intercession for us, with Groanings which cannot be uttered.

It is not the Question, whether any Forms of Prayer are lawful, it is on all Hands, acknow­ledged. Forms may be very useful to such ig­norant Persons, as know not how to pray with­out them. But we would not by them be de­prived of improving the Gift of Prayer which God has given us; nor be forced to use Crut­ches, when we have the free Use of our Limbs.

[Page 19]We cannot help but think that taking a great Part of the Prayer-Book especially the whole Method and Form of it out of the Popish Li­turgy, is teaching for Doctrines the Command­ments of Men. That this is Fact is beyond Dis­pute; and may be made evident to any that will take the Pains to compare them. Whence we think that we have just Cause to complain, that the Order and Method, as well as a great Part of the Matter of these Prayers, are not only from the Commandments of Men; but originally from the Commandments of An­tichrist himself. It therefore appears to us too great a Symbolizing with Idolaters to stated­ly use them in our publick Worship, contrary to that Rule 1 Cor. x.28. and that in Cor. vi.17▪

It is true, the Prayer-Book has left out the most superstitious and idolatrous Parts of the Mass-Book; and contains some Additions to, as well as Alterations of, what is contained in the Roman Liturgy; yet we think it also true, that there might be found a better Resort than to the Pope of Rome, both for the Matter and Manner of our Prayers.

We cannot but object against the Tautolo­gies in the Common-Prayer, as teaching for Doc­trines the Commandments of Men. In one Service, the Worshippers must repeat these Words Good Lord deliver us, eight Times over; and these Words We beseech thee to hear us, [Page 20] twenty Times over. Which appears directly repugnant to our Lords Direction in Mat. vi. 7. But when ye pray use not vain Repetitions as the Heathen do.

We cannot but think the Reading of the Apo­cryphal Books as a Part of publick Worship, while there are a great many Parts of the cano­nical Scriptures never read in publick, to be like­wise worthy of the same Censure. Does not this look like casting Contempt upon the blessed Book of God, the only Oracles of Salvation, when these human, and even trifling and fabu­lous Composures, are substituted in the stead of it? Does not this look like paying a Religious Reverence to the Doctrines of fallible Men, when their Commandments are exalted to these high Places, publickly taught for Doctrines; and treated with the Regard that is only due to the Word of God? And must the inspired Pages give Way to these legendary Fables, and much of the Bible be never read in the Church! This adds Weight to the Grievance.

We cannot but think the Sign of the Cross in Baptism, is also teaching the Commandments the Doctrines of Men. The Cross is made on the Forehead in Baptism, in Token that the Party be not hereafter ashamed to confess the Faith of Christ crucified, and that he is to fight manfully under his Banner, &c. Now if this be a Token, of these Invisible Graces, it agrees with the Churches own Definition of a Sacra­ment. [Page 21] A visible Sign of invisible Grace. Since therefore it is confessed on all Hands, that the Cross as abused by the Church of Rome has been one of their greatest Idols should the Church of England who abhor their Idolatry give the Honour of a Sacrament to a Popish Idol? And I would enquire by whose Commandment is this Honour given to it? Is it by the Command­ment of God or of Men? The former is not I think pretended; and if by the latter how can it escape the Censure of our Text? I would fur­ther enquire, why this Honour is done to the Cross on which Christ was crucified, any more than to the Thorns with which he was crowned, to the Traytor by which he was betray'd, or the malicious Court by which he was condemned. I can think of no Plea that can be made in Favour of this Usage, but what may be also made for it's Companions in this Ordinance among the Papists, Cream, Salt and Spittle, and be sure none, but what might have been made for the Practice condemned in our Text.

We cannot but have the same Thoughts of Kneeling at the Lords Supper. All confess that Kneeling is a Posture of Religious Adoration: But what do we adore in the Act of receiving this Ordinance? It's true, the Church of England expresly disclaim any Adoration to the Ele­ments: But why then shou'd they use the Pos­ture of Adoration? It is known to the World, that this Method of receiving the Sacrament [Page 22] was brought in by the Papists, with their Doc­trine of Transubstantiation; and some of them have confessed that they would be torn to Pieces by wild Horses, if they did not believe Christ there bodily present. Costerus the Iesuit con­fesses, that if the Substance of the Bread remain, the Idolatry of the Papists is more intollerable than the Egyptians was, in worshipping an Ox or a Crocodile. * It is certain our blessed Master who instituted this Ordinance, did not himself use it kneeling; but in the common Table Gesture Mat. xxvi.28. And can it be Reve­rence in us, to pretend to a more suitable and de­cent Method of attending the Ordinance, than either he himself used or appointed? Since the glorious Author of this Feast is pleased to stoop to a friendly Familiarity with his Guests; and has instituted this Ordinance to that End, is it not the highest Reverence to attend it in a Me­thod agreable to the End of its Justitution, espe­cially since we have his own Example to war­rant our Conduct?

We cannot but have the same Sentiments of the Sureties in Baptism, and the Vows they lay themselves under. These promise and vow in the Name of the Child, that he shall renounce the Devil and all his Works, the Pomps and Vanities of this wicked World; and all the sin­ful Lusts of the Flesh, that he shall believe all [Page 23] the Articles of the Christian Faith; and keep Gods Holy Will and Commandments, and walk in the same all the Days of his Life. But it is not within the Compass of human Power, to make and keep these Promises. Who can pro­mise for any Infant, that it shall so much as have the Exercise of Reason, much less that it shall live in the highest Exercise of Grace. It is Gods Prerogative to give a new Heart; and to give the Grace to lead a Life of Faith and Holi­ness; It does not seem a sufficient Apology for this Conduct, that the Obligation is to be un­derstood in the more lax and general Sence of the Words; and not according to their strict and literal Signification; since all Vows are always to be taken and always to be understood, in the plain natural and received Sence of the Words in which they are made, if we would have any sincerity maintain'd in the World, either towards God or Man. Nor can I see how it helps the Case to alledge, that the Sure­ties depend upon the Divine Assistance for the fulfilment of these Obligations; for God has never given, never promised Assistance to any Man in changing the Hearts, sanctifying the Natures; and governing the Affections and Pas­sions of others. But were it in the Sureties Pow­er to fulfil these Vows▪ how come the Obligati­ons to be transferred from the Parents, to whom it belongs to bring up their Children in the Na­ture and Admonition of the Lord, Eph. vi.4. [Page 24] to Sureties that have not the Education of the Children; nor Advantages to instil into them the Principles of Holiness and Piety? Not to speak of the general unconcernedness of the most of those that take these Vows upon them, about the religious Conduct of their God-Children as they call them.

The like Objection also lies against the Ser­vice in the Burial of the Dead, The Minister is obliged at the Funeral of every one that does not die unbaptized, or excommunicate; or that has not laid violent Hands upon himself to de­clare that it has pleased Almighty God of his Mercy to take the Soul of this our Dear Brother to himself; and to commit his Body to the Dust, in sure and certain Hopes of Resurrection to e­ternal Life; and to give hearty Thanks to God, that it hath pleased him to deliver this our Brother out of the Miseries of this sinful World; Even tho' the Person has lived never so wicked and flagitious a Life, dyed in the very Act of Sinning; and lest no rational Hope of his Sal­vation. We cannot but look upon this as a mocking of God; and of a sad Tendency to harden Men in Sin, from the Expectations of Salvation, how carelesly soever they live.

We can't but think in like Manner, that the Absolution of the Sick upon a Profession of Re­pentance, is a teaching for Doctrines the Com­mandments of Men. To such the Minister must declare, that by the Authority of the Lord [Page 25] Jesus Christ committed to him, he absolves them from all their Sins, in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. But we know of no such Authority committed to any Man by the Lord Jesus Christ. We know nothing of his having put the Authority of absolving Sin­ners and forgiving Sins out of his own Hands, into the Hands of any Man or Men in the World. Nor does it satisfy to pretend, that this is but a declarative Absolution, and not autho­ritative: For whence have they a just claim even to that? I know not where to find any such Powers given by the Lord Jesus Christ, whatever Pretences are made to it. And it is hard to imagine, what Good this can do; unless it can be supposed advantageous to ignorant Sin­ners, to have their Consciences quieted in a State of Guilt, that they may securely depend upon their Absolution, as a Pasport for Heaven.

We have the same Difficulty with Respect to the Holy Days, appointed to be observed by the Church of England. The Apostle particularly complains of the Galatians, that they observed Days, and Months, and Times▪ and Years on which Account he was afraid he had bestowed Labour upon them in vain. Gal. iv.10 11. We may therefore justly demand by what Autho­rity are the Holy-Days in the Church of England enjoined. If by God's, let us see the Institution, if by Mans how are they more innocent than those complained of by the Apostle? If it be [Page 26] answered, that these were Iewish Holy-Days; and abrogated by Christs coming in the Flesh. I should again enquire what Reason can be given, if we must put off the Yoke that God himself made, why we should put one upon our Necks of our own Wreathing; and not stand fast in the Liberty, wherewith Christ has made us free?

I might also insist upon the sad Consequences of these Observances▪ there being commonly more Wickedness perpetrated upon those Days, than at any other Times, as tho' Christ was honoured by our Sensuality and Impiety.

We have the same Complaint to make of the Prelacy and it's Attendants, in the Church of England. We know nothing, the Scriptures know nothing, of any imparity in the ordinary Ministers of the Gospel; much less do we find any Warrant from the Scriptures, for a Diocesan Bishop to claim all the Power of Iurisdiction and Discipline, as well as of Ordination to him­self; and thereby deprive the Ministers of the Gospel, of exercising a great Part of the Charge committed to them by the Lord Jesus Christ. And we know nothing but the Commandments of Men, for the Arch-Bishops, Lord-Bishops, Deans, Prebends, Arch-Deacons Vicars, Curates, and the like, belonging to the Hierarchy of the Church of England.

I might here also observe, that we have like Matter of Complaint, of the Discipline of the [Page 27] Church of England. Who notwithstanding they have for above a hundred and fifty Years past, yearly confessed the want of that godly Discipline, that was in the primitive Church; yet they take no Care to restore it to this Day: But have all their Discipline managed by lay Courts, by Chancellors, Commissaries, Proctors, Apparitors, &c. Officers that the Scriptures are altogether Strangers to. And what aggravates the Grie­vance is, that instead of that spiritual Discipline appointed by Christ, theirs is carried on by cor­poral Inflictions, Imprisonments and Fines, to the vast Charge and temporal Injury of the De­linquents, which we can see no Warrant for but the Commandments of Men.

These are some of the chief Objections against our stated Communion with the Church of Eng­land; tho' many more have been made, and might be insisted on, such as the Canonical Vest­ments, the broken Responses in Prayer, Women speaking in the Churches, in vocal Responses and Repetition, contrary to the apostolical Canon, the manifest Corruptions in the old Translati­on of the Psalms yet in Use; with other like Things, that I have no Time to particularly in­sist upon.

But the chief Objection of all, is the Impo­sition of all this; and their declaring by their Canons, all those excommunicated ipso Facto, that don't approve all the Rites and Ceremonies of the Church of England; and that don't ap­prove [Page 28] of the Government of the Church of England by Arch-Bishops, Bishops, Deans, Arch-Deacons and the rest that bear Office in the same; or that pretend to groan under any Grie­vances imposed upon them, by the Church of England ▪ or that dare allow that there are any Congregations or Assemblies in the Realm be­sides the Church of England, that may challenge to themselves the Names of true and lawful Churches. Not to speak of the many dreadful Prosecutions suffered by thousands of serious Christians, for their conscientious Nonconformi­ty to these Things, hoping that those Days of Tribulation are come to an End.

What can be a greater Tyranny over Mens Consciences, than this is? What can be more contrary to the Spirit of the Gospel; or more destructive of that Charity, Love and Peace, that are the essential Characteristicks of a true Christian? How can the Reformation be justifi­ed upon such Principles? For if the Church of England have Power to impose these Things upon their fellow Protestants; the Church of Rome by the same Reason, had Power to impose their Doctorines and Worship upon them. As I have observed before. And for the same Rea­son that the Romish Impositions were condem­nable, are the English Impositions likewise to be complained of. — Tho' it be true, that there is greatest Difference in the Nature of the Things imposed by the Church of Rome and the Church [Page 29] of England: Yet I must take Leave to conclude, that there is none at all, in the Authority to im­pose them.

2. From what has been said there is just Cause to consider, what Reason there can be for those of our Profession, to forsake the Way of Wor­ship in which they were educated, for the sake of these Additions of human Invention. We have all the Essentials and Substantials of Wor­ship, that is found in the Church of England, all that Christ has made our Duty to attend upon, all that is a necessary Mean of our Salvation; and what do we want more? Are these contro­verted Points Indifferent as we are told they be, what Cause then can there be, why we should de­stroy the Peace of our Churches, forsake their Communion, and set up opposite Societies for indifferent Things? Or are they esteemed neces­sary to Salvation by any of us? Can any be so weak as to suppose any Thing necessary to Sal­vation, that wants a divine Institution, and has neither Precept nor Warrant from the Oracles of God? It is a sad Case if any built their Hope of Salvation upon the Practice of these Things. The usual Plea, that we must submit to them on Account of their legal Establishment, has no Place among us, where there is no particular Profession or Principles established by Law. I am therefore utterly ignorant, upon what Grounds our new Proselites change their Opi­nion and Communi [...]

[Page 30]Many of my Audience are the Posterity of those who left their delightful Country and pleasant Habitations, crossed the Atlantick with their Families, came into a howling Wilderness among innumerable Multitudes of barbarous Salvages, encountred the most amazing Tryals, Difficulties and Discouragements, to fly from the Imposition of these Things; and to worship God in Peace and Purity according to his own In­stitutions. And how remarkably were they owned of God! How signal were the Appearan­ces of his Providence in their Favour! Would it not therefore be every Way our Interest, to imitate their Purity and Piety in worshipping the God of our Fathers, that he may be with us as he was with our Fathers, that he may remem­ber the Kindness of our Youth, and the Love of our Espousals, when we came after him into the Wilderness, into a Land not Sown? Why then gad we about to change our Way?

3. We may also infer from the Text, that we ought to be careful not to censure one another, and not to maintain Contentions, Animosities and Alienation of Affections▪ on Account of these debated Points. If we can't join with others, be­cause they teach for Doctrines, the Commandments of Men, let us not censure others for not submit­ting to the Commandments of Men. If they without Conviction submit to our Opinions, they subject their Consciences to human, and not to divine Au­thority: And our requiring this of any is demanding [Page 31] a Subjection to us, and not to Christ. We have in­deed a Right to give the Reasons of our Opinion; and to endeavour to convince others, of what we esteem to be Truth: But we have no Right to claim their Assent without Conviction; nor to be offended with them, for not thinking as we do; any more than they have to be offended with us for not thinking as they do. For every one have the same Claim as we have, to judge for themselves.

To apply this to the present Case, what Cause can there be for any Acts of Unkindness, for any want of Friendship, Charity or Love, on Account of these different Sentiments? If these Principles on both Sides the Question, are consistent with a State of saving Grace, why not consistent with mutual Charity and Forbearance? If there may be such of each Party that are fellow Members of the Mystical Body of Christ, why should they not live in Love and Peace; and not fall out by the Way, for they are Brethren? If there be some Things in which we differ, there are much greater in which we agree; therefore wherein we have already attained, let us walk by the same Rule, let us mind the same Thing. Let it be our chief Emulation, to excel one another in Holi­ness, Piety, and Usefulness in the World.

Whatever is wrong, we are sure this is Right, to have brotherly Love continue. And let it be always remembered, that there can be no true Christianity, without Charity, Kindness and [Page 32] Love. Beware of Strife and Contention; for where there are Contentions, there is Confusion and every evil Work.

Finally, this may be improved by Way of Ex­hortation to every one, to be awfully careful, that their Worship don't prove in vain. There is a great deal depends upon the regular Practice of Devotion; and it's of infinite Importance that it be so performed, as to find Acceptance with God. There are other Things besides sub­mitting to human Institutions, that may render our Worship vain; such are in an especial Man­ner, Unbelief, Hypocrisy, Formality, and trifling Indifference in the Duties of Religion. Let us therefore be serious and solemn, earnest and Diligent, in seeking the Favour of God in all the Ways of his Appointment, depending upon the Merits and Mediation of the blessed Redeemer, to render our Persons and Services acceptable to him; and to entitle us to an Inheritance with the Saints in Light.


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