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Powers; fo that the People muft either be without Minifters, or take one they had thus ordain'd, however unqualify'd they might think him.

It's a Thing indifferent in itself, whether Men meet to pray in this, or that Place; but the Chriftians out of a fuperftitious Reverence to the Reliques of the Martyrs, ufually praying at their Tombs, came by Degrees, as their Reverence for them increas'd, to offer their Prayers to them; which was a great Change from their praying for them among the other dead, as was in the first Ages a general Practice; and which, fome of our High-church Priests are zealous for restoring, and pretend we have better Proof for its being a Catholick Doctrine, than for the Authority of feveral Books of Scripture.

THE primitive Chriftians frequently confulting their Clergy in relation to Marriages, gave them a Handle to fet up for Judges by divine Right in all matrimonial Causes; and many prohibited Degrees as well as spiritual Relations, fuch as God-fathers and God-mothers, &c. were introduc'd, to give the Clergy frequent Opportunities to grant, at their own Price, Difpenfations; by which Means the Succeffion and Inheritance not only of private Estates, but of Principalities and Kingdoms, in a great Measure depended on them: And as an Appendix to this spiritual Ufurpation, they hook'd in the Cognizance of all carnal Caufes, Incontinence in single as well as married Perfons. Thus you fee, how eafily Mankind may be abus'd, where 'tis believ'd, that Religion can require any Thing inconfiftent with the Rights and Liberties God has allow'd them by the Law of Nature; and how dangerous 'tis to truft any Thing with Men, who pretend a divine Right to whatever they can lay Hands on. To give an Inftance how feverely this divine Right was exerted by

the

Puffend. Intr. the Pope, as Head of the Church: "Robert, King of

to Hiftory.

P. 170.

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France, having marry'd a Lady of the House of Burgundy,

a Match very advantagious to the State, and tho' he had "the Confent of his Bishops, yet he, and the whole King"dom were excommunicated by the Pope, because this Lady was in the fourth Degree of Confanguinity, and the

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King had been God-father to her Child by a former Hus« band; which so distress'd the poor King, that all his Servants, except three or four, deferted him; and no One "wou'd touch the Victuals which came from his Table, " which were, therefore, thrown to the Dogs.

I shall give one Instance more, Men are oblig'd to avoid as much as conveniently they can the infectious Conversation of immoral Perfons; and it was, no Doubt, at first a Duty in a special Manner, for Christians, compafs'd round with Pagans, to observe this Rule in relation to their own Body, and agree to fhun any fuch Perfon as One who had his Father's Wife; and tho' this is no more than what is daily done in private Societies, and was eafily practis'd amongit Christians when they were but few; yet because the Minifter might collect the Votes, and declare the Opinion of the Affembly, the Clergy by Degrees not only excluded the Congregation from this their natural Right; but claim'd, as giv'n them by Heaven, a Power to excommunicate whom they please, even their own Sovereign; and that too for Things relating to their own Intereft: And they forbid not only their own Congregations, but all Christians, on Peril of their Salvation, to avoid all Commerce with the Excommunicated, and ordain'd, that if he did not in forty Days give the Church Satisfaction, the Magiftrate was bound to imprifon him, and confifcate his Eftate: And the Princes, intead of resenting these Incroachments on their Power, had

fo

fo little Sense as to pass this into a Law; not imagining this Treatment wou'd reach them; but they foon felt, that the Church claim'd the fame Power over them as over other Christians; looking on all to be alike fubject to their fpiritual Power. And accordingly Kings were often excommunicated, their Subjects abfolv'd of their Oaths of Allegiance, and their Dominions given to more orthodox Princes to be held of the Church; which, no doubt, was in a flourishing Condition, when the, as often as her Interest requir'd it, abfolv'd Princes of their Oaths to their Subjects, and Subjects of theirs to their Sovereigns; and by Virtue of her spiritual Power, difpos'd, as the thought fit, of Mens Eftates, Honours, and even Lives. What has been may be ! And in all Probability wou'd be, were the Clergy as united among themselves as formerly.

In a Word, there's nothing in itself so indifferent, either as to Matter or Manner; but if it be engrafted into Religion, and monopoliz'd by the Priests, may endanger the Substance of it: This has been plainly fhewn by those Divines, who, at the Reformation, and fince, have argu'd against all Impofitions; they have prov'd that most of the Corruptions of Popery began at fome Rites, which feem'd at first very innocent; but were afterwards abus'd to Superstition and Idolatry, and fwell'd up to that Bulk, as to oppress, and ftifle True Religion with their Number and Weight. And, indeed, there's no Sect, but complains how fuperftitiously Rites and Ceremonies are us'd by all, except themselves; and fince I am defending the Liberties given by God to Mankind, and which, without Ingratitude to the Donor, as well as Injury to ourselves, we can't give up; I do not doubt you will hear me with Patience, because if I prove my Point, I shall, it may be hoped, in fome Measure

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put an End to those otherwise endless Disputes, which divide, and diftract the Chriftian World.

WHATSOEVER is in itself indifferent, whether as to Matter or Manner, must be so to an All-wise Being, who judges of Things as they are; and for the fame Reason that he commands Things which are good, and forbids those which are evil, he leaves Men at Liberty in all Things indifferent; and 'tis in These only, that our Liberty of acting as we please confifts.

THINGS, which are of no Value in themselves, can be no Motives to an All-wife Being to punish us; or to clog our Happiness with any fuch needless Obfervances: And confequently, Men, as far as they affert our future Happinefs, or any Part of it, to depend on fuch Things, do fo far derogate from the Wisdom and Goodness of God; and from thofe Motives we have to love, and honour him. The arbitrary Commands of a Tyrant may be obey'd out of Fear, but just and rational Laws alone can move the Affection of rational Creatures.

Is it reasonable to believe, an All-wife and Gracious Being is fo fond of indifferent Things, that he subjects his Children to fuffer even in this Life on their Account? And yet you must own, if he has made these the Subject of his Commands, they ought to fuffer every Thing rather than not observe them; but if God will not have Men punish'd in this World, and much lefs in the next, upon the Account of Things indifferent; they can never be the Subject of his Commands.

THO' a judicious Author fuppofes a Form of divine Worfhip in itself indifferent, may be requir'd by God for the fake of Peace and Unity; yet at the fame Time he contends, that "God does not expect we fhou'd comply with That

Form,

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to his Prev.

"Form, if it brings Mifery on ourselves, or Confufion to Chub's Suppl. "the Publick; because that wou'd be preferring a Thing Queft. 27, 28. "in itself indifferent to the Happiness of our Lives, and the

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"Peace of the Publick; and that to fuppofe the contrary, "wou'd be breaking in upon the spotless Character of our "heavenly Father, by reprefenting him not as a Wife and "Good, but a peevish and ill-natur'd Being; who takes an "unreasonable Refentment at the prudent Conduct of his "Children. But will not This as ftrongly infer, that God cou'd not command the Observing fuch Things, which, if obferv'd, wou'd destroy his moral Character; and which, instead of preserving Peace and Unity, wou'd bring Mifery on private Persons, and Confufion on the Publick; whereas thefe Bleffings of Peace and Unity can never be obtain❜d by a forc'd Conformity, nor by any other Method than allowing People their natural Liberty in all fuch Matters. And,

IF Religion confifts in imitating the Perfections of God, what Perfection of God do the superftitious imitate, when they contend, as pro Aris & Focis, for Forms, Rites, and Ceremonies ?

If in Heaven there's no Room for arbitrary Precepts, to incumber that moral Goodness which is the fole Business of the Blefs'd above; what cou'd hinder us, did we but make That too our only Concern here, from enjoying a Sort of Heaven on Earth, free from all tyrannical Impofitions, and endless Quarrels about indifferent Things?

IN a Word, If there's nothing in a Religion which comes from God, but what is most excellent; what Room can there be for indifferent Things? Can such Things as have no Worth or Excellency, contribute to the Worth, or Excellency of Religion? If they cou'd, the more they abounded, the more excellent wou'd Religion be; which yet

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