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t*i» THE OBSERVANCE OF THE SABBATH, &C.
To the Editor of the Freelhinking Christians' Magazine.
*V7"OUR correspondent T: has made some desultory re■*• marks upon the Sabbath Day, a subject which appears tome, to lie within a very narrow compass. 1. Jesus left the Jewish Sabbath as he found it. 2. There is no authority, that 1 know of, foi^the Christian Sabbath; consequently Christians may meet together on any day that is most convenient.
Your correspondent observes, that " the practice of the apostles and first Christians, is a proof that they did not consider the law respecting the seventh day as binding upon them." That the seventh day was never binding upon Gentile converts, is evident enough to me ; but, where can this writer find, that the apostles, who were Jews, did not consider the seventh day as binding upon them? Who freed them from the Mosaic laws? On the contrary, it does not appear to me, that Jesus and his disciples, any more than other Jews, were ever absolved from their obligation to the observance of the law of Moses. Where, when, and by whom, was it ever abrogated? This is a distinction that ought ever to be kept in our view, and which will serve greatly to elucidate the sacred writings. We must be careful not to appropriate or apply to ourselves, as Gentiles, what was never intended for us.
Jesus and his disciples, as Jews, abstractedly considered, are no examples for us. They partook of the passover, which some have converted into the Lord's Supper; whereas we, as Gentiles, have not a single rite or ceremony to observe. But wherever Jesus and his disciples exemplified the great principles of piety and benevolence, they are models to all mankind, whether Jew or Gentile.
There is not the shadow of authority in the New Testament for Baptism, the Lord's Supper, Ordination, Keeping of Days, Public Worship, or for the order of men called the Priesthood. These priests, who are the root of all the corruptions in religion, are the modern Pharisees;.but in the kingdom of Christ all men are equal, and they have nothing to do, but to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly before God.
Sandon, Jan. 1813. G. G. F.
OW THE POVERTY, &C. OF THE CHURCH OF ENGLANB.
To the Editor of the Freethinking Christians' Magazine.
MUCH having been said lately of the church being in danger, I never knew till this week, that her danger arose from poverty; but after laying before you the following fact, I shall make it appear to you that this is the case.
I am, Sir, professedly a dissenter from the church of England as established by law, and with all my frugality and economy, scarce can get food ;ind clothing for my family, having a wife and three small children, much less find money for the hand of rapine and extortion. Judge my surprise then, when an officer belonging to the Act of Parliament Religion called on me for 10s. 5d. which he called church rates. I have also paid since last March above a shilling per week poor rates.
Thinks I to myself, how strange is this—amidst all the pomp and parade of the clerical gentry, is the church really so poor, that she cannot meet her own expenditure without calling in the aid of Dissenters to pay her debts? Having robbed the poor of their right, in the case of tythes, she has thrown that burden upon the public, and now comes forward with the daring front of an highwayman, and demands of the public, and even dissenters from her communion, to provide the ornaments of her pride, such as surplices for her priests, coverings for her altar table, bible* and prayer books, cushions and candlesticks, pick-axes and shovels, looking-glasses and urinals, with a long- et cetera of other implements equally useful!!! When my astonishment had a little subsided, I turned to Johnson's Ecclesiastical Laws, in relation to the above subject, and found the following account, which I submit to your inspection.
"THE EXCERPTIONS OF ECGBRIGHT. DCCXL.
"4. That every priest teach all that belong to him to know how they are to offer the tythes of all their substance in a due maimer to the churches of God.
"5. That.the priests themselves receive the tythes from the people, and keep a written account of the names of all that have paid them\ and divide them in the presence of such as fear [God], according to canonical authority, and chuse the first par.t for the ornament of the church, and distribute the second part to the use of the poor, and strangers, with their own hands, with mercy and all humility; and let the priests reserve the third part to themselves."
"BLFKIo's CANONS. DCCCCL.V1I.
<( %\. The holy fathers have also decreed lhat tythes be paid into God's church, and that the priests go to them, and divide them into three [parts]; one for the reparation of the church, a second to the poor, a third to God's servants whe attend the church."
This being; the law of tythes, according to their first institution in this country, I should like to know, from soma ofyour correspondents, whether a third part of the tythes are not sufficient for the maintenance of ministers of the establishment, without their making a seizure of a second part, thus throwing the ornaments of their establishment upon the public, by way of church rates: and not content with this, but they must also take that part belonging to the poor and the stranger; thus bringing upon the nation a flood of poor rates, to the ruin of thousands and tens of thousands of the community.
Perhaps it will be said, must iot the church keep up its respectability, as it is a national establishment? It must appear on a grand scale, and thus shew to the world, that our spiritual concerns lay as near our hearts as our temporal. I answer, this is a flimsy reason; besides, it is founded on ignorance.
In the first place, real respectability, arises not from any outward appearance, without rectitude of life, and true liberality of mind—thesealone render a man estimable in the judgment of his neighbours. But in vain shall we look for righteousness or liberality, in plundering the poor, and making Dissenters help to provide the ornaments of pride, and vestments of anti-christ, which they abhor and detest.
Secondly, as to the church being a national establishment, in the proper sense of the word, it is all a farce—it is a mere creature of the state, or rather the crown ; for as it was framed by the kingly power, so it can be annihilated by the blast of his nostrils. Nay, supposing we grant it to have come into existence by an act of parliament, and unanimously established by the three estates of the realm; even then it is not a national establishment, truly speaking, because the third estate does not represent half of the nation; and to impose laws and taxes on a people without their own consent, is the true characteristic of arbitrary governments, and absolute monarchies, but never can be the case where the people are free, vtheve justice reigns, and laws are founded in equity I
Thirdly, as to our spiritual concerns manifesting themtelves, by a national establishment so called, appearing on a grand scale. This also is the result of a false judgment. Spirituality is connected with the mind entirely; God'* throne is fixed in the hearts of men individually considered, and not as a body corporate; his laws alone govern the conscience, setting aside the traditionsof men—the rudiment* of the world: and persons who are dead with Christ, from the rudiments of the world, are not subject to ordinances after the commandments and doctrines of men. They kuow that pure religion and undented before God and the Father is this—to visit the fatherless and widows in affliction, and to keep themselves unspotted from the world. They see no necessity for such an order of men as the priesthood, and if the authorised version of the scriptures in this country be the pure word of God, then every man is as able to judge of its contents, and appreciate its value, as any clergyman in the nation. If it be not, we are miserably deluded by the Foreign and British Bible Society, who are compassing sea and land to make proselytes!
But I must conclude, or I shall encroach upon your pages. If you permit this paper to appear in your excellent work, perhaps I may send you, in the course of next month, a paper on the society referred to.
Your's, &c. JFilttfJan. 21, 1813. A Dissenter From Principle.
REMARKS ON THE BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER.—LETTER I.
"Whensoever false or suspected opinion) are made a piece of the church liturgy, he that separates is not the schismatic."
To the Editor of the Freethinking Christians1 Magazine.
EPISCOPALIAN1SM, or the doctrine of the church of England, has frequently, and I think very properly, been trepresented as a mixture of Lutheranism, Calvinism, and popery, incompatible with reason and scripture. We Lave, as has been judiciously observed, a calvinistic creed, a popish liturgy, and an arminian clergy—strictly speaking, their creed is the queerest compound medley imaginable, their liturgy is truly popish, their clergy perjured.
To men of ignoble minds, assertion is sufficient evidencebut with men who are sensible of the weight of imposition borne by credulity, and have therefore acquired a habit of examining the truth of every assertion, and have become in every respect perfect bereanst the case is far otherwise;
sttch men, and as such I regard you and your correspondents, require proof tantamount to demonstration. This is I know your favourite sentiment, so it is mine; I shall therefore now attempt to prdve the truth of the above assertions, which I think will be no hard matter, by a critique on the "Book of Common Prayer, &c." which would be more properly named, and more expressive of its contents, were it entitled, "The English Mass-book, or Ceremonymonger's Vade-Mecum;" for nothing «un be in more perfect unison, than is the Romish mass and the English liturgy. What an outset! What can we expect as the issue? Surely what their preaching in defence of so bad a cause daily produces—mean artifice, low subterfuge, ambiguous expressions! protesting against popery, and denying private judgment; rejecting infallibility, and commanding us to abide by their decisions; declaring charity to all men, and vehemently reading the abominable creed called Athanasius's!!! But as I am aware, that such preliminary observations as these may run too great a length, 1 shall have immediate reference to the doctrine of the church, as contained in this "Book of Common Prayer, and Administration of the Sacraments atid other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church of England;" that is, the church established by the laws of the realm, very different from that established by the gospel of Christ, and the rational preaching of his immediate successors the apostles.
Well then, immediately after the title, we are presented with a " Preface," whose main business is to inform us, that, •' the church upon just and weighty considerations her thereunto moving, hath yielded to make such alterations as in their respective times were thought convenient; yet so as the main body and essentials of it (popery) have still continued the same unto this day," which is in fact, just plainly telling us they had done nothing, nothing at all!- We are also informed, after " great importunities were used to his sacred majesty, that the said book might be revised, his majesty out of his pious inclination to give satisfaction did graciously condescend." Would to God we had at present such a piously-inclined satisfaction-giving monarch, 'tis probable a little more might now be done. "Not (to adopt the words of an admired writer) that any good can be hoped during the reign of the present ministers, who are wedded to the whole family of Bigotries, and accordingly beget nothing but disasters; but perhaps it may be reserved for the Succeeding monarch, who, of all the princes since the revo