Page images

and by complying with its high behests, put ourselves under the guardian care of God. If without looking forward, or giving ourselves any concern what is right or what is wrong, we are determined to defend, through thick and thin, whatever in former ages has received the sanction of law, and, in our own day, the force of custom, we must take the consequences. We shall, most assuredly, in due time, share in the general wreck of the nations. I have no more doubt of this, than I have of the authority of the Sacred Writings.

The animosity and uncharitableness, which have evermore prevailed among the different denominations of Christians, is another cause of the growing Infidelity of the present age. It is not said now, as in the days of old, “ See how these Christians love one another;"_but" See how these Christians hate one another." Catholics damn Protestants, aud Protestants revile Catholics *. One sect of Protestants

* What a horrible curse bas Popery been to Christendom in point of population! France alone, we have seen, before the Revolution, contained upwards of 366,000 secular and regular Clergy, besides an immense number of Nuns. This vast body of males and females were all enjoined, by the laws of the church, to continue in a state of celibacy. In the whole of Christendom there were no less than 225,444 monasteries about a century ago. How much greater the number before the Reformation? Now, reckon only twenty persons to one monastery, there must be, in these several sinks of sin and pollution (see GAVIN's Master Key to Popery) upwards of 4,500,000 souls debarred from all the comforts of the married state, and living in direct opposition to the great law of nature-Increase and Multiply. Hasten the completion of the 1260 years, O GOD! which thou hast determined for the reigu of the MAN OF Sin; and whatever it may cost us, let us see his destruction with our own eyes; so will we praise thy name, and shout, Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Babylon is fullen! is fallen! with concordant hearts and voices !

When WILLIAM the Conqueror came over into England, he found about a third part of the lands in the possession of the Clergy.

Upwards of three thousand one hundred and eighty religious houses were suppressed by HENRY VIII. and his predecessors.

It is computed that fifty thousand persons were contained in these several religious houses.

In some respects these religious institutions were useful, in others extremely pernicious.

Such a number of persons, living in a state of celibacy, when the country did not contain more than three or four millions of inhabitants, if so many, must have had a most pernicious effect upon

its population.

The sun total of the clear yearly revenue of the several religious, anathematizes another sect; every one holding forth the peculiar doctrines of their own party as the truths of God, in houses, at the time of their dissolution, of which we have any account, seems to have been, 140,7851. 6s. 31d. And as the value of money is now seven or eight times what it was in the days of HENRY VIII. we cannot reckon the whole at less than a million sterling a year.

Besides this, there were many other religious foundations dis solved, of which we have no account. The plate and goods of different kinds, which came into the hands of the king at the same time, were of immense value.

A good general view of all these matters may be seen in an extract from Bishop Tanner's Notitia Monustica, in: Mr. Justice Burn's Ecclesiastical Law, under the article Monasteries [*].

[*] It cannot fạil of being entertaining to the reader to be presented with the preamble of the statute for tlie dissolution of the smaller Monasteries, 27 HEN. VIII. c. 28, as extracted from the Parliament Roll, by Mr. GWILLYM, vide his: Treatise on Tithes, p. 23.) especially as it is not usually printed in our statute books.

“ Forasmuch as manifest synne, vicious, carnal and abominable living, is dayly used and committed, commonly in such little and small abbeys, priories, and other religious houses of monks, canons, and nuns, where the congregation of such religious persons are under the number of twelve persops, whereby the governors of such religious houses and their convent, spoyle, destroye, constime, and utterly waste, as well their churches, monasteries, priories, principal houses, farms, granges, lands, tenements and hereditaments, as the orpaments of their churches, and their goods and chattels, to the high displeasure of ALMIGHTY GOD, slander of good religion, and to the great infamy of the king's highness and the realm, if redress should not be had thereof. And albeit that many continual visitations have been heretofore had, by the space of two hundred years and more, for an honest and creditable reformation of such unthrifty, carnal, and abominable living, yet neverthelessé little or none amendment is hitherto had, but their vicious living shamefully increaseth and augmenteth, and by a cursed custom so rooted and infected; that a great multitude of the religious persons in such small houses, do rather choose to rove abroad in apostacy, than to conform them. selves to the observa!ion of good religion; so that without such small houses be utterly suppressed, and the religious persons therein, conimitted to great and honourable monasteries of religion in this realu, where they may be compelled to live religiously, for reformation of their lives, the same else be no redress por reformation in that behalf. In consideration whereof, the king's most royal majesty, being se preme head on earth, under God, of the church of England, dayly studying and devysing the increase, advancement, and exaltation of true doctrine and virtue in the said church, to the only glory and honour of God, and the total extirping and destruction of vice and sin, having knowledge that the premisses be true, as well by the accompts of his late' visitations, as by sundry credible informations, considering also that diverse and great solemn monasteries of this

opposition to the peculiar doctrines of those who differ from them. It is needless to specify particulars. We have all been to blame. Instead of turning our zeal against the immoralities of the age, we have frequently turned it against men, who, in every moral and religious point of view, were, perhaps, better than ourselves. A spirit of infallibility, in a greater or less degree, pervades all parties. In this unchristian strife, the pure spirit of the Gospel has been banished from the great bodies of professors, and has taken up its abode among a few solitary individuals, dispersed through the several churches of Christendom. Men of discernment, seeing this to be the state of things through all denominations, are led to suppose that there is no truth among any of them. The fact, however, is directly the contrary. They have all gotten the saving truth, if they would hold it but in piety, charity, and righteousness. They all believe in the SAVIOUR of the world. Let them only observe the moral and religious precepts of his Gospel, and I do not see what more is necessary to entitle them to our Christian regards. They may not come up to the full orthodox belief of the Gospel; but they are such characters as our SAVIOUR himself would not have treated with severity. And until religion is reduced to the

realm, wherein (thanks to GOD) religion is right well kept and observed, be destitute of such full number of religious persons, as they ought, and may keep, hath thought good, that a plain declaration should be made of the premises, as well to the lords spiritual and temporal, as to other his loving subjects, the commons in this present Parliament assembled: whereupon the said lords and commons, by a great deliberation, finally be resolved, that it is, and shall be much more to the pleasure of ALMIGHTY God, and for the honour of this his realm, that the possessions of such small religious houses, now being spent, spoiled, and wasted for increase and maintenance of sin, should be used, and committed to better uses; and the unthrifty religious persons, so spending the same, to be compelled to reform their lives: And thereupon most humbly desire the king's highness that it may be enacted, &c."

It is singular that so very religious a prince, could in so short a time after this, consent to the total suppression of all those“ great, honourable, and solemn monasteries, wherein (thanks to God) religion was so right well obseryed.” With so much pure and disinterested zeal for true religion, and so little regard to his own interest, how can we account for this conduct? Why, it seems, all these morasteries, weary of their existence, humbly implored their own destruction, and Henry, poor man, what aiternative had he, but to consent that it should be as they required. -EDITOR.

[ocr errors]

siniple form in which he left it, there never will be an end to the bickerings and uncharitableness of party, and Infidelity will of course prevail.

The general wickedness and immoral conduct of Christians so called, is another grand cause of Infidelity. For let men profess what they will, they never can persuade any thinking person they believe their own principles, while they are seen to transgress every rule of moral and religious obligation, and, in various of their transactions between man and man, conducting themselves in a manner of which abundance of the Heathen, both ancient and modern, would be ashamed.

All these circumstances, with others of a similar kind, are the causes why so many persons are now found, who reject the divine misson of JESUS CHRIST*.

But, my COUNTRYMEN, can we justly argue from the abuse to the disuse? Is Jesus the most moral and divine of characters, an impostor, because many of his ministers and servants have proved unfaithful and treacherous ? Were the other eleven Apostles all knaves and rascals, because JUDAS was a traitor? Are the eternal truths of the Gospel to be exploded, because men have been presumptuous enough to adulterate them with the profane mixtures of human ordinancest. Or doth our obstinacy alter the nature of evidence and render the situation of Unbelievers inore secure ? The course of things is fixed and unchangeable. The sun will shine, the fire will burn, water will drown, the wind will blow, time will ny, the tide will flow, maugre all the scepticism of Philosophers.

* Sir ISAAC NEWTON is reported to have said, that Infidelity will overrun Europe, before the millennial reign of CHRIST com

The corruptions of religion in all the Christian Establishmnents cannot easily be purged away in


other manner. They must be subverted by violence and blood. There is much reason to fear it will be impossible to remove them in any

other WHISTON'S Essay on the Revelation of St. John, p. 321, edit. 1744. Dr. HARTLEY also seems to have been of the same opinion respecting the spread of Infidelity as Sir Isaac, in his Observations on Man, Part ii. sect. 81.

+ " Who that ever really professed the Christian religion, from the times of the apostles to the present moment, ever considered it as a human establishment, the work of particular inen or nations, subject to decline with their changes, or to perish with their falls ?"ERSKINE, p. 56.


way. See of men.

The moral relations of things are not less invariable; and our being inconsiderate enough to deny those relations, and the obligations that arise from them, will neither destroy them, nor render our situation more secure. My being so foolish as to reject the existence of God, and so infatuated as to suppose there is no REDEEMER, 10 SANCTIFIER, no Heaven, no Hell, no Devil, no Soul, no Angel, no Spirit, and that the Bible is all a grievous imposition upon mankind, doth not prove, either that there is no God, or that there is no reality in the representation made by the Gospel*. Every man inust allow, I think, that it is possible for the AlMIGHTY to reveal his will to the world, if he thinks proper so to do. It will be further granted, I suppose, that some revelation seems desirable to allay the fears, and confirm the hopes

If then it ever should be made, what stronger evidence could be produced of its coming from God, than

* If the various opinions, sects and parties, which prevail among Christians are considered by Unbelievers as an objection to the Gospel itself; let them call to mind, that there is not a smaller number of contradictory opinions prevalent among those who reject Christianity. This may be seen with strong conviction in STANLEY's History of Philosophy, and in the Posthumous Works of the late King of Prussia.

The author of the Connoisseur hath thrown togetlier a lew of the Unbeliever's tenets, under the contradictory title of

THE UNBELIEVER'S CREED. " I believe that there is no God, but that matter is GOD, and God is matter; and that it is no matter whether there is any

GOD or not. I believe also, that the world was not made; that the world made itself; that it had no beginning; that it will last for without end.

“ I believe that a man is a beast, that the soul is the body, and the body is the soul; and that after death there is neither body nor soul.

“ I believe there is no religion; that natural religion is the only religion; and that all religion is unnatural. I believe not in MOSES; I believe in the first philosophy: I believe not in the Evangelists; I believe in CHUBB, COLLINS, TOLAND, TINDAL, MORGAN, MANDEVILLE, WoolosTON, HOBBES, SHAFTESBURY; I believe in Lord BOLINGBROKE; I believe not in St. PAUL.

“ I believe not in revelation; I believe in tradition; I believe in the Talmud; I believe in the Alcoran ; I believe not in the Bible ; I believe in SOCRATES; I believe in CONFUCIUS; I believe in SANCONIATHON; I believe in MAHOMET; I believe not in CHRIST.

“ Lastly, I believe in all unbelief."

ever, world

« PreviousContinue »