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While the Earl of Strafford was Lord Lieutenant of that kingdom, a law was made for the consecration not only of churches, but of churchyards 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.*
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 authorised by the legislature. Is it then illegal ? That word is capable of a twofold 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 either
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.
* A detailed account of this more than semi-popish and absurd ceremony will be quoted in this chapter.
6th. For this reason I never wished that any
Bishop should consecrate any chapel or burialground of mine. Indeed, I should not dare to suffer it; as I am clearly persuaded the thing is wrong in itself, being not authorised 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 churchyard as the Bishop. * 7th. With regard to the latter, the churchyard,
I know not who could answer that plain question : You say, this is consecrated groundso many feet broad, and so many long; but pray how deep is the consecrated ground ? Deep! what does that signify? Oh! 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? « 8th. I take the whole of this practice to be
a mere relic of Romish superstition ; and I wonder that a 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 bg SCRIPTURE and REASON.”
The Rev. John WESLEY's Works,
Vol. X. pp. 509–511.
“I cannot but deplore,” says Evelyn, in his • Silva,' (speaking of the devastations committed by the great fire of London) “that when that spacious area was so long a rasa tabula, the churchyards had not been banished to the north walls of the city, where a grated