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manages his arguments, how he wrests the Scriptures, how he winds and doubles, and throws out ambiguous expressions; but above all, what pains he takes to represent the Protestant notions of the sacrament, and especially those of the Church of England, as inclinable to the error of vilifying this holy institution. If this book could once prevail among us, what might not Papists then say? Besides, you see, he makes the sacrament consist in a mere opus operatum, but does it as covertly as he can, that after we have refined away all our true and orthodox notions of this institution, Popery may be found at the bottom.
There was a fourth, who delivered it as his opinion, that the author, be he of whatsoever church, must have published the book with a design to increase the number of occasional conformists, by shewing dissenters of all kinds, that they are in the wrong to make a difficulty of conforming to a rite so indifferent in its own nature, when a place of profit may be thereby obtained. If this sacrament, said he, is supposed to be purely commemorative, to need the consecration of no kind of clergy, to require no preparation in order to it, and to have no spiritual benefits conveyed by it, I cannot see how even a heathen could think of refusing it, provided there were any thing to be got by receiving it. The elements would in that case be as common as beef or water.
I subscribe to your opinion, said one who sat next him; but I must add, that I look upon the author to be a Socinian. His notions of the sacrament are the very same with those of that heresy. As they sink the person of Christ to mere humanity, they likewise bring his ordinances proportionably low; accordingly, throughout the whole plain account, there is no mention of Christ's merit as a means of our salvation, though his subject required it, not a syllable said of his divinity. The author places no relation between Christ and his church, but that of master and servant, or disciple.
This hint was no sooner given, than the whole company unanimously gave into his opinion. When they recollected the tendency of the work, they were still farther
confirmed in it.
Since this they have ascribed it to one or other of the new light heretics; but none of them could ever think of attributing it to the bishop of Winchester.
If, however, it is still imagined, that this sink of heresy and immorality could possibly have flowed from a church of England pen, I cannot but condole with that church upon producing a treatise against the sacrament of the Lord's supper, as well as with her Protestant sister, the church of Scotland, upon producing another in favour of fornication. We live in strange times indeed, when there is only just so much religion and virtue left among us, as can afford bread or a name, by being wrote against.
I hope, since it is at present inconvenient for our clergy, to meet in convocation, that they will endeavour, each of them to find out the execrable author, and if he is a clergyman, drive him from their body, with a just zeal for religion; or if that cannot be done, refuse all communion with him. Whom can it be more necessary to excommunicate, than him who has laboured to pervert and vilify the most sacred ordinance of our religion, the very seal of our Saviour's last will and testament, and the very act of communion itself?
But if the author cannot be discovered, I hope Christ and the Christian church may expect so much from the pious zeal of our bishops, that they will not suffer the book to go uncensured, but will at their visitations publicly condemn its doctrines, and give a strict charge to their clergy to drive this wolf in sheep's clothing from among their respective flocks. While the false friends of religion shew so much art and industry to destroy it, shall its true friends shew no zeal in its defence, but stand by with a cool prudential indifference and calmly see its ruin? Shall our religion have many cunning and vigilant opposers, and none but lukewarm and inactive assertors? Shall it be thought enthusiasm or a breach of Christian charity, to stand up in defence of Christianity? Open enemies the church of Christ may boldly defy. Against such it can oppose reason enough to overthrow all their forces. But covert enemies and pretended friends are to be sought
out and treated in another manner. They should be dragged from their dark corners and exposed to the light, that they may be proved by the light; and when it is found by examination that they have been dealing in works of darkness, they should be put to open shame, and kept at a proper distance, to prevent infection; at least, till by a thorough quarantine they have purged themselves of those pestilent principles, that make it unsafe for other Christians to come near them.
FROM the report of some friends who had read your Confessional, ere I had an opportunity of giving myself that pleasure, I imagined your performance was built on a plan much nearer to that of the following elaborate treatise, than I find it is. You aim, it is true, at the same mark, and draw your materials chiefly from the same applauded authors who furnished me with mine. Perhaps it is owing to my vanity, that I still think I have better hit their meaning, and come more roundly, as well as briefly, to the point in view than you have done. If you really saw this my treatise before you wrote the Confessional, you ought to have made me a compliment on having pointed out the scheme of your whole book. As we are both but borrowers and compilers, by no means original writers, either in regard to the matter or tendency of our lucubrations, you could not surely have thought this too great an honour. Be this as it will, I must observe to you, sir, that all your lay readers at least are extremely dissatisfied with that air of worldly selfishness which runs through your whole book. You talk so much of bread, of promotion, of the wealth of the church, &c. as objects you wish to arrive at, without the ugly obstacle of subscriptions in the way, that the laity, who are to be taxed for the levy of these emoluments, think there will be little advantage gained by them in the abolition of creeds, &c. if they are to be at equal expense in maintaining your no-system, as in supporting that of the
present establishment. You may perceive, I take another course, and one infinitely more acceptable you may be sure, to them. The sort of clergy I propose will cost them nothing. Whoever you and I are, especially if we are believed to be clergymen, the world must look on me as infinitely more disinterested than you, and on mine as a more saving scheme than yours, by the entire amount of all the sums arising from tithes and glebe lands throughout England and Ireland. Take it for granted, therefore, that whenever the legislature shall think proper to change hands, they will pass by yours, and go plump into mine, as exactly the same with the drift of our favourite originals, and as incomparably more consonant to the rules of good economy, both national and domestic.