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THOUGHTS

ON THE

CONSECRATION OF CHURCHES AND BURIAL GROUNDS.

1. It has been a custom for some ages, in Roman Catholic countries, to have a particular form of consecration for all churches and chapels : and not for these only, but for every thing pertaining to them ; such as fonts, chalices, bells, sacerdotal vestments, and church yards in particular. And all these customs universally prevailed in England, as long as it was under the Papal power.

2. From the time of our Reformation from Popery, most of these customs fell into disuse. Unconsecrated bells were rung without scruple, and unconsecrated vestments worn. But some of them remained still; the consecration of churches and church yards in particular; and many scrupled the performing Divine service in an unconsecrated church, and could not consent that their bodies should be buried in unconsecrated ground.

3. Accordingly, the consecrating of churches and church yards has been practised in England ever since. But it is a thing purely indifferent, being neither forbidden nor established by law. The case is different in Ireiand. While the Earl of Strafford was lord lieutenant of that kingdom, a law was made for the consecration, not only of churches, but of church yards also. And a form of consecration for both was inserted in the Common Prayer Book, which is used at this day; much resembling that which Archbishop Laud used in the consecration of St. Katherine Creed's church, in London.

4. But such a law has never passed in England, much less been inserted in our Common Prayer Book. However, such consecration has been generally practised, though not authorized by the legislature. " Is it then illegal ?" That word is capable of a two-fold meaning. It may mean, either, without any law in its favour, or, against law. I do not conceive it to be illegal in the latter sense. Perhaps it is in the former: I do not know any law that enjoins or even permits it.

5. And certainly, as it is not enjoined by the law of the land, so it is not enjoined by the law of God. Where do we find one word in the New Testament enjoining any such thing? Neither do I remember any precedent of it in the purest ages of the Church. It seems to have entered, and gradually spread itself, with the other innovations and superstitions of the Church of Rome. “Do you think it, then, a superstitious practice?” Perhaps it is not, if it be practised as a thing indifferent. But if it be done as a necessary thing, then it is flatly superstitious.

6. For this reason I never wished that any bishop should consecrate any chapel or burial ground of mine. Indeed, I should not dare to suffer it; as I am clearly persuaded the thing is wrong in itself, being not authorized either by any law of God, or by any law of the land. In consequence of which, I conceive, that either the clerk or the sexton may as well consecrate the church or the church yard, as the bishop.

7. With regard to the latter, the church yard, I know not who could answer that plain question : “You say, this is consecrated ground, so many feet broad, and so many long. But pray how deep is the consecrated ground ?”—Deep! What does that signify?” O, a great deal : for if my grave be dug too deep, I may happen to get out of the consecrated ground: and who can tell what unhappy consequences may

follow from this?

8. I take the whole of this practice to be a mere relic of Romnish superstition. And I wonder that any sensible Protestant should think it right to countenance it; much more, that any reasonable man should plead for the necessity of it! Surely, it is high time now that we should be guided, not by custom, but by Scripture and reason.

Dumfries, May 14, 1788.

SERIOUS THOUGHTS

OCCASIONED

BY THE LATE FARTHQUAKE AT LISBON.

(PRINTED IN THE YEAR 1755.]

Tua res agitur, paries quum proximus ardet.
[When your neighbour's house is on fire, your own interest is involved.]

THINKING men generally allow that the greater part of modern Christians are not more virtuous than the ancient Heathens; perhaps less so; since public spirit, love of our country, generous honesty, and simple truth, are scarce any where to be found. On the contrary, covetousness, ambition, various injustice, luxury, and falsehood in every kind, have infected

every

rank and denomination of people, the clergy themselves not excepted. Now, they who believe there is a God are apt to believe he is not well pleased with this. Nay, they think he has intimated i. very plainly, in many parts of the Christian world. How many hundred thousand men have been swept away by war, in Europe only, within half a century! How many thousands, within little more than this, hath the earth opened her mouth and swallowed up! Numbers sunk at Port Royal, and rose no more! Many thousands went quick into the pit at Lima! The whole city of Catanea, in Sicily, and every inhabitant of it, perished together. Nothing but heaps of ashes and cinders show where it stood. Not so much as one Lot escaped out of Sodom!

And what shall we say of the late accounts from Portugal ? That some thousand houses, and many thousand persons, are no more! that a fair city is now in ruinous heaps! Is there indeed a God that judges the world? And is he now making inquisition for blood? If so, it is not surprising, he should begin there, where so much blood has been poured on the ground like water! where so many brave men have been murdered, in the most base and cowardly as well as barbarous manner, almost every day, as well as every night, while none regarded or laid it to heart. Let them hunt and destroy the precious life, so we may

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secure our stores of gold and precious stones."* How long bas their blood been crying from the earth! Yea, how long has that bloody House of Mercy,t the scandal not only of all religion, but even of human nature, stood to insult both heaven and earth! " And shall I not visit for these things, saith the Lord ? Shall not my soul be avenged on such a city as this?"

It has been the opinion of many, that even this nation has not been without some marks of God's displeasure. Has not war been let loose even within our own land, so that London itself felt the alarm ? Has not a pestilential sickness broken in upon our cattle, and, in many parts, left not one of them alive? And although the earth does not yet open in England or Ireland, has it not shook, and reeled to and fro like a drunken man? and that not in one or two places only, but almost from one end of the kingdom to the other?

Perhaps one might ask, Was there nothing uncommon, nothing more than is usual at this season of the year, in the rains, the hail, the winds, the thunder and lightning which we have lately heard and seen? particularly, in the storm which was the same day and hour that they were playing off Macbeth's thunder and lightning at the theatre. One would almost think they designed this (inasmuch as the entertainment continued, notwithstanding all the artillery of heaven) as a formal answer to that question, “ Canst thou thunder with a voice like Him ?

What shall we say to the affair of Whitson Cliffs ? of which, were it not for the unparalleled stupidity of the English, all England would have rang long ago, from one sea to another. And yet, seven miles from the place, they knew little more of it in May last, than if it had happened in China or Japan.

The fact (of the truth of which any who will be at the pains of inquiring may soon be satisfied) is this : On Tuesday, March 25, last, (being the week before Easter,) many persons heard a great noise near a ridge of mountains, called Black Hamilton, in Yorkshire. It was observed chiefly on the south-west side of the mountain, about a mile from the course where the Hamilton races are run, near a ledge of rocks, commonly called Whitson Cliff's, two miles from Sutton, and about five from Thirsk.

The same noise was heard on Wednesday by all who went that way. On Thursday, about seven in the morning, Edward Abbot, weaver, and Adam Bosomworth, bleacher, both of Sutton, riding under Whitson Cliffs, heard a roaring (so they termed it) like many cannons, or loud and rolling thunder. It seemed to come from the Cliffs ; looking up to which, they saw a large body of stone, four or five yards broad, split and fly off from the very top of the rock. They thought it strange, but rode on. Between ten and eleven, a larger piece of the rock, about fifteen yards thick, thirty high, and between sixty and seventy broad, was torn off and thrown into the valley.

About seven in the evening, one who was riding by observed the

Merchants who have lived in Portugal inform us, that the king had a large building filled with diamonds; and more gold stored up, coined and uncoined, than all the other princes of Europe together.

The title which the Inquisition of Portugal (if not in other countries also) takes to itself.

ground to shake exceedingly; and soon after several large stones or rocks, of some tons weight each, rose out of the ground. Others were thrown on one side, others turned upside down, and many rolled over and over.

Being a little surprised, and not very curious, he hasted on

his way:

On Friday and Saturday the ground continued to shake, and the rocks to roll over one another. The earth also clave asunder in very many places, and continued so to do till Sunday morning.

Being at Osmotherley, seven miles from the Cliffs, on Monday, June 1, and finding Edward Abbot there, I desired him the next morning to show me the way thither. I walked, crept, and climbed round and over great part of the ruins. I could not perceive by any sign, that there was ever any cavity in the rock at all; but one part of the solid stone is cleft from the rest, in a perpendicular line, and as smooth as if cut with instruments. Nor is it barely thrown down, but split into many hundred pieces, some of which lie four or five hundred yards from the main rock.

The ground nearest the cliff is not raised, but sunk considerably beneath the level. But, at some distance, it is raised in a ridge of eight or ten yards high, twelve or fifteen broad, and near a hundred long. Adjoining to this lies an oval piece of ground, thirty or forty yards in diameter, which has been removed, whole as it is, from beneath the cliff, without the least fissure, with all its load of rocks, some of which were as large as the hull of a small ship. At a little distance is a second piece of ground, forty or fifty yards across, which has also been transplanted entire, with rocks of various sizes upon it, and a tree growing out of one of them. By the removal of one or both of these, I suppose the hollow near the cliff was made.

All around them lay stones and rocks, great and small, some on the surface of the earth, some half sunk into it, some almost covered, in variety of positions. Between these the ground was cleft asunder in a thousand places. Some of the apertures were nearly closed again, some gaping as at first. Between thirty and forty acres of land, as is commonly supposed, (though some reckon above sixty,) are in this condition.

On the skirts of these, I observed, in abundance of places, the green turf (for it was pasture land) as it were pared off, two or three inches thick, and wrapped round like sheets of lead. A little farther it was not cleft or broken at all, but raised in ridges, five or six foot long, exactly resembling the graves in a church yard. Of these there is a vast number.

That part of the cliff from which the rest is torn, lies so high and is now of so bright a colour, that it is plainly visible to all the country round, even at the distance of several miles. We saw it distinctly, not only from the street in Thirsk, but for five or six miles after, as we rode toward York. So we did likewise in the great North Road, between Sandhutton and Northallerton.

But how may we account for this phenomenon? Was it effected by a merely natural cause? If so, that cause must either have been fire, water, or air. It could not be fire ; for then some mark of it must have appeared, either at the time, or after it. But no such mark does appear, nor ever did; not so much as the least smoke, either when the first or second rock was removed, or in the whole space between Tuesday and Sunday.

It could not be water; for no water issued out, when the one or the other rock was torn off. Nor had there been any rains for some time before. It was in that part of the country a remarkable dry season. Neither was there any cavity in that part of the rock, wherein a sufficient quantity of water might have lodged. On the contrary, it was one single, solid mass, which was evenly and smoothly cleft in sunder.

There remains no other natural cause assignable, but imprisoned air.

I say imprisoned; for as to the fashionable opinion, that the exterior air is the grand agent in earthquakes, it is so senseless, unmechanical, unphilosophical a dreain, as deserves not to be named but to be exploded. But it is hard to conceive, how even imprisoned air could produce such an effect. It might indeed shake, tear, raise, or sink the earth ; but how could it cleave a solid rock? Here was not room for a quantity of it sufficient to do any thing of this nature; at least, unless it had been suddenly and violently expanded by fire, which was not the case. Could a small quantity of air, without that violent expansion, have torn so large a body of rock from the rest, to which it adhered in one solid mass ? Could it have shivered this into pieces, and scattered several of those pieces some hundred yards round? Could it have transported those promontories of earth with their incumbent load, and set them down unbroken, unchanged, at a distance? Truly I am not so great a volunteer in faith as to be able to believe this. He that supposes this, must suppose air to be not only very strong, (which we allow,) but a very wise agent; while it bore its charge with so great caution, as not to hurt or dislocate any part of it.

What, then, could be the cause? What indeed, but God, who arose " to shake terribly the earth ;" who purposely chose such a place, where there is so great a concourse of nobility and gentry every year; and wrought in such a manner, that many might see it and fear, that all who travel one of the most frequented roads in England might see it, almost whether they would or no, for many miles together? It must likewise for many years, maugre all the art of man, he a visible monument of His power; all that ground being. now so incumbered with rocks and stones, that it cannot be either ploughed or grazed. Nor can it well serve any use, but to tell all that see it, Who can stand before this great God?

Who can account for the late motion in the waters; not only that of the sea, and rivers communicating therewith, but even that in canals, fishponds, cisterns, and all either large or small bodies of water? It was particularly observed, that while the water itself was so violently agitated, neither did the earth shake at all, nor any of the vessels which contained that water. Was such a thing ever known or heard of before? I know not, but it was spoken of once, near eighteen hundred years ago, in those remarkable words, “ There shall be reiquor(not only “carthquakes,” but various “concussions” or “shakings”) “ in divers places.” And so there have been in Spain, in Portugal, in Italy, in Holland, in England, in Ireland; and not improbably in many other places too, which we are not yet informed of. Yet it does not seem that a concussion of this kind has ever been known before, since either the same or some other comet revolved so near the earth. For we know of no other natural cause in the universe which is adequate to such an VOL. VI.

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