Obrazy na stronie


NOTE (A.) 4

The Church Authority, examined in the Comparative View, limited to Authority' in Controversies of Faith

[ocr errors]



Difficulty of defending the Authority exercised by the Church of England in Controversies of Faith, greatly increased by the diversity of the parties, against which the defence must be conducted, and the variety of the demands, to which an Advocate of that Authority is exposed. The mode adopted in the eighth Chapter of the Comparative View the only mode of meeting all objections....


[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]



Of the difficulties attending an Inquiry into the Character of Schism. Causes of the confusion, which have taken place on that subject. Only one criterion by which we can determine, whether they, who separate from an established Church, incur the sin of Schism 262


[ocr errors]

NOTE (D.). 214

Futility of the inference, drawn by the Church of Rome, from our Saviour's declaration that St. Peter was the rock, on which he would build his Church. Consequent inutility, as well as impracticability, of the attempt, made by the early Lutheran and Calvinist Divines, to shew that our Saviour alluded not to St. Peter, but to himself. The Author's opinion on this subject, which is the opinion of English Commentators in general, defended against the arguments of an objector, who has lately endeavoured to revive the long-exploded opinion of the old Lutheran and Calvinist Divines




THE readers of the Comparative View are requested to keep constantly in mind, that the eighth chapter relates to the authority of our Church in controversies of faith, as expressed in the twentieth Article, which is quoted at the beginning of that chapter. We have no concern therefore with the authority exercised by our ecclesiastical courts in secular matters, or in controversies of any kind, except those which relate to articles of faith. A want of due attention to this necessary distinction has been productive of various mistakes and our Church has been supposed to exercise an authority, which it neither does, nor can exercise. When our ecclesiastical courts exercise authority in secular matters, whether it relates to wills, or to divorces, or to controversies about tythe, or indeed to any controversies but controversies of faith, their authority is exercised indiscriminately, over Churchmen, and over Dissenters. And since every Court must have some means of enforcing its own orders, a contempt of the Court Ecclesiastical must in such cases be followed by ecclesiastical censures, whatever be the religion, to which the offending party belongs. In this manner Dissenters, as well as Churchmen, may for a contempt of Court be punished in the first instance by excommunication, and then by those additional penalties, which the civil power inflicts in aid of the ecclesiastical, and without which the excommunication of a

Dissenter would be a mere brutum fulmen. But the case is

widely different, when our ecclesiastical courts exercise their

authority over those, who impugn the articles of the established Church. For the exercise of this authority is confined to those who belong to the established Church; while Dissenters of every description, being protected by the law of the land, both in the free profession of their religious faith, and the free exercise of their religious worship, are thereby exempted from the jurisdiction of the Court Ecclesiastical in things pertaining to faith and worship. Nor does the Church of England require a more extensive authority, than in such cases it really has. For the laws of a religious Society, considered merely as such, relate immediately to faith and worship. And though the support of every Society requires that an obedience to its laws be enforced on its own members, yet no Society can require for its support an obedience to its laws on the part of those, who are not members of it.-The observations contained in this Note apply equally to every thing which is said also in the ninth and tenth chapters relative to the authority or jurisdiction of the Church of England. We have no concern whatever in the Comparative View with the jurisdiction of our ecclesiastical courts in secular matters.


Whoever undertakes to defend the authority of the Church of England in controversies of faith, undertakes a task of much greater difficulty, than is commonly supposed. For he has to defend it against two opposite parties, and to preserve consistency in his answers to both. He has to defend it against the objections of Romish writers on the one hand, and those of Protestant Dissenters on the other. If he allows too little for the right of private judgment in the concerns of religion, he is accused by the latter of pleading for the intolerance exercised by the Church of Rome. If he allows too much for the right of private judgment, he is in danger of being accused from other quarters, that he surrenders the authority, which is due to the Church of Christ. He must take therefore a station, which lies between the two extremes for it is only such a station, in which he can repel the attacks of the two

opposite parties. It was my first object therefore in the eighth chapter of the Comparative View, to find such a station and when I believed, that I had found it, my next object was, to intrench myself in that station in such a manner, that I might repel the attacks of Romish writers on the one hand, and of Protestant Dissenters on the other. In answer to the former, I undertook to prove, "that the Church of 66 England carries its authority in controversies of faith no fur❝ther, than is necessary for its own preservation: but that the "Church of Rome carries its authority so far, as to trample 66 on the rights of all other Churches." In answer to the latter, I undertook to prove, "that Protestants in general, "the Dissenters themselves not excepted, exercise their 66 spiritual authority on the same principle, and carry it to the 66 very same extent, as the Church of England." Hence I concluded, that not even the Dissenters in this country had any reason to complain of the authority exercised by the established Church in controversies of faith.

At the same time being aware of a material objection, which not only may be, but frequently has been made to the argument, which I was then conducting, I thought it necessary to obviate that objection. For if that objection were valid, it would be absolutely impossible to defend the authority of the Church of England against the arguments of the Dissenters. The pretensions of the Church of England would then be carried as high, as the pretensions of the Church of Rome: and I could have discovered no mode of repelling the charge, that our Church, though called a Protestant Church, is still infected with popery. Is it consistent (say the Dissenters) with genuine Protestantism, which professed to restore the right of private judgment, thus to imitate the Church of Rome, and claim an authority, which destroys that right? Is it consistent (they say) in the Church of England, which could not have reared its head without the exercise of that right, so far to forget its own conduct, that being now an established Church, it should claim in its turn the spiritual dominion, from which the Reformation is supposed to have delivered For that the authority of our Church, in controversies of faith, is not a mere authority of order (as it is sometimes

called by way of excuse), or an authority, to which only respect is due, but an authority of strict obligation, must be evident to every one who considers, that disobedience of that authority on the part of a Clergyman is punishable by the forfeiture of his ecclesiastical preferments. It makes no difference in this respect, whether the authority be called absolute, or relative; whether the Church, which exercises such authority, supposes itself infallible, or not. The authority is exercised and the persons, over whom it is exercised, have no more the option, whether they will obey, or not, than whether they will obey an Act of Parliament, or not. There is only one mode therefore of solving the difficulty, in which we are thus involved; and that is by having recourse to the following proposition. "If our conscience will not "allow us to comply with those terms, which are offered by "the Established Church, we may withdraw from its com"munion and profess Christianity under any form, which we "may think proper to adopt." The truth of this position. is indisputable for the law of the land, which has given to our Church an establishment, has granted to the faith and worship of all other Christians complete protection. Whether the same liberty of withdrawing from the Established Church, existed in the earlier ages of the Reformation, is a question, with which I was not concerned. I was comparing the Churches of England and Rome according to their present state. The situation of the Church of Rome is the same at present, as it has been ever since the holding of the Council of Trent: nor is there any authority, according to the principles of that Church, which can make an alteration, except another General Council. But no such authority is wanted to alter the situation of the Church of England: and it has consequently undergone material alterations. The situation of the Church of England, in respect to spiritual power, is very different now from what it was before the writ was abolished De Hæretico comburendo. This was abolished in the time of Charles II. Then came the Act of Toleration in the time

* See the Comparative View, p. 166.

« PoprzedniaDalej »