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HIS REASONS FOR REFUSING TO PAY
STEEPLE-HOUSE AND WARDENS’ RATES AND
ADDRESSED TO HIS NEIGHBOURS.
PRINTED BY JOHN HARRISON, MARKET-STREET,
86, HOUNDSDITCH, LONDON.
of his age.
RICHARD CLARIDGE was born at Farmborough, in Warwickshire, in 1649: his parents were sober and religious persons of good reputation, who frequented the national worship; and having acquired a good education, at a neighbouring grammar school, where he surpassed many of his equals, he was entered a student at Baliol College, Oxford, 1666, in the seventeenth
year Whilst at Oxford, his further proficiency in learning gained him the esteem of the professors and others.
In 1670 he was ordained deacon in the Cathedral Church of Christ, Oxford, as the letters of ordination phrase it, by Walter Blandford, then Bishop of Oxford. In the month called March, 1672, he was ordained priest in King's Chapel, Westminster, by the Bishop of Worcester, and in 1673, he was instituted to the Rectory of Peopleton, near Worcester, where he was very industrious in performing the customary exercises of his office. He studied hard for his sermons; and what he collected, or composed for that end, he delivered with a show of fervency and affection, which was very taking with his auditory. He preached up repentance and regeneration, and set them forth, and recommended them to others in Scripture words and phrases, while he himself was a stranger to both. He took the words of Christ and his apostles, and put them into a method and form of his own devising.
This satisfied the people, and was pleasing enough to them, because they were in the same state with himself; like priest, like people, making some outward show of religion, but little or nothing of it in reality; for both were become vain in their imagination, and
their foolish heart was darkened; for while they professed to know God, in their actions they denied him, bringing forth works of the flesh, instead of the fruits of the Spirit, and contenting themselves with a name, without the nature of Christianity. Sin abounded in towns and villages, in families and private persons ; multitudes of all places, ages, sexes, and orders, were infected, more or less, with the contagion; so that that confession which they used in their public service
We have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts, gc.,-as it suited exactly with their state, and was easy to be said over, being made ready for the mouths of swearers, drunkards, adulterers, liars, the proud and covetous, &c., so the following absolution, as cheap a thing as the confession, did contribute not a little to the emboldening of them in their sins. For they took encouragement from thence, either to repeat their old, or run into new transgressions; because confession and absolution were so nigh at hand, and so easily to be had; that is, without leaving off their beloved sins, and parting with their darling lusts: for mere verbal confession was a very easy thing, especially in such a general form, as any one could read or say after the priest might make it: and that being made, the next thing was absolution, the priest pronouncing them absolved as penitents, within a few breaths after their customary confession.
And thus, as often as they confessed, they were absolved, even without bringing forth the fruits of repentance; which are, ceasing to do evil, and learning to do well; and every absolution being thought to discharge their former debts, these mistaken people boldly contracted more, upon a vain presumption of this easy way of payment.
Thus man was wont, as he conceived, to make composition with his Maker, confess his sins in gross or general terms, from time to time, but the heart not changed, the will and affections unrenewed; no lust mortified, nor passion subdued, but the man and woman still the same, sinning and confessing, confessing and sinning, without forsaking and amending, as many, it is to be feared, do, to their dying hour.
In this deplorable state and condition R. Claridge continued many years, but, through the operation of divine grace upon his spirit, he was brought to a serious consideration of his ways. Now began sin to appear exceeding sinful to him, and his soul was bowed under the load and burden of it. In this afflicted state, seeking rest and finding none, he took a journey to London, in the month called April, 1689, hoping to receive consolation from the ministry of some preachers there of great account. In London R. C. went to hear preachers of different denominations, he says, but to no purpose, he found them miserable comforters; yet, after making this observation, he still went to hear other preachers, of whom he gives a similar account.
Upon his return home again to Peopleton, he applied himself seriously to the work of repentance, and, through the grace of God strengthening and enabling him to co-operate therewith, he began to reform his conversation, and to lead a more sober and godly life than heretofore.
And now it pleased God to open the eyes of his understanding, and to excite him to an inquiry into the doctrine, worship, and ceremonies of "The Church of England," and to scan and examine the same by Scripture rule. In this search, many things occurred to him, disagreeable to the Holy Scriptures, being, (to use his own words,) only appointments and contrivances of men, and therefore to be rejected: as, for example, forms of prayers, invented by men, such as are contained in the book of common-prayer, a book taken out of the Romish missal, and retaining its essentials, viz. :-anti-gospel maintenance, as tithes, offerings, &c., all these things together, he thought, strongly pleaded for his renouncing a church so erroneous and superstitious, both in her doctrine, worship, and ceremonies.