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A Hind Let Loose by Alexander Shields

Set up in a schismatical competition with public churches


First,

That we may more distinctly understand what is the duty here pleaded for, and what is that which these people suffer for here vindicated; let these concessions be premised,

1. Now under the evangelical dispensation, there is no place more sacred than another, to which the worship of God is astricted, and which he hath chosen for his house and habitation, whither he will have his people to resort and attend, as under the legal and typical dispensation was ordered; there was a place where the Lord caused his name to dwell, Deut. xii. 5, 11. But now, "neither in the mountain, nor at Jerusalem, the Father will be worshipped; but every where, and any where, in spirit and in truth," John iv. 21, 23, 24. And the apostle wills, "that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting," 1 Tim. ii. 8. We abhor therefore the English and popish superstition of consecrated places, and assert that all are alike in this respect, houses or fields.

2. In the constitute state of the church, or wherever it can be obtained, order, decency, and conveniency doth require that there be appointed places, sequestrate and appropriate for the meetings of the Lord's people, according to that general rule, "Let all things be done decently and in order," 1 Cor. xiv. last verse. And, in that case private conventicles, set up in a schismatical competition with public churches, are not to be allowed. But even then private

meetings for prayer and conference, are necessary, lawful, and laudable. But now the church is broken by a crew of schismatical intruders, who have occupied the places of public assemblies: and thrust out the Lord's ministers: It is these we scar at, and not the place.

3. Suppose a magistrate should interdict and discharge the public place of worship, and restrain from the churches, but leave all other places free to meet in: or if he should prohibit the houses, but leave freedom for the fields, or discharge the fields, and give liberty in houses; in that case we would not contend for the place out of contempt: though it were duty then to witness against such a sacrilegious injury done to the church, in taking away their meeting places; yet it were inexpedient to stickle and strive for one spot, if we might have another; then when only excluded out of a place, and not included or concluded and restricted to other places, nor otherwise robbed of the church's privileges, we might go to houses when shut out of churches, and go to fields when shut out of houses, and back again to houses when discharged thence. But this is not our case, for we are either interdicted of all places: or if allowed any, it is under such confinements as are inconsistent with the freedom of the gospel: and besides, we have to do with one from whom we can take no orders, to determine our meetings; nor can we acknowledge our liberty to depend on his authority, or favour which we cannot own nor trust, nor accept of any protection from him. Neither is it the place of fields or houses that we contend for; nor is it that which he mainly opposes: but it is the freedom of the gospel faithfully preached, that we are seeking to suppress. The contest betwixt him and us, is the service of God in the gospel of his Son; that we profess, without owning him for the liberty of its exercise: and therefore as an enemy to the matter and object of these religious exercises, which are the eye-sore of antichrist, he prosecutes with such rage the manner and circumstances thereof.

4. Even in this case, when we are persecuted in one place, we flee unto another, as the Lord allows and directs, Matth. x. 23, And if occasionally we find a house, either public, or a church or a private dwelling house that may be safe or convenient, or capacious of the numbers gathered, we think it indifferent to meet there, or in the field; but, in the present circumstances, it is more for the conveniency of the people, and more congruous for the day's testimony, to keep the fields in their meetings, even though it irritate the incensed enemies. Which that it may appear.


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