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Containing Remarks on the DEFENCE of
your THREE LETTERS.
The preceding Letter having been sent to the press before your defence, &c. was advertised, its publication was deferred till I had seen what occasion it might have given me either to retract or support what was offered in my
first letter. You seem moved at its pretending to be an answer to your three letters, when so small a part of them is considered therein. And, with airs quite suitable to the cause you are pleading, ecclesiastical authority, you give me to understand, that your taking any notice of this performance, is to be considered as a condescension to which you were not'obliged, and which I had no right to expect from you. Bat pray recollect, what was the avowed design and purport of your letters? Was it not to refute the great and popular objections of the dissenters, and to bring me over to your chureh? But, upon reading your letters, I found you had scarcely touched upon the principal objections which kept me from your church. Was it not then my part to state my objections to you, and set them in their full light? As, upasked, you had taken on you to be my instructor in this affair, bad I not a right to lay my difficulties before you, and to demand your solution of them? What, must I confine myself to the pleas which you had seen fit to dress up for the dissenters; and if I presume to offer others, will you magisterially call them ramblings, in which you are not obliged to for low me? Very pleasant indeed !
Here, therefore, I now put in my claim, Sir, and give you to understand, that I expect your plain and full answer to the several objections against your established forms, presented in the preceding letter ; some of which, though you knew them to be of great weight with dissenters, you dexterously avoided bringing into the debate. To this you are most clearly and indispensably obliged by the province you have taken upon you. · If there be any parts of the liturgy indefensible and absurd, this (1.),condemns your own conformity, who not only declare, but som lemnly subscribe your unfeigned assent and consent to all and every thing contained in, and prescribed by the book of Common Prayer, &c. And (2) it justifies the separation, by proving it to have been a severe and cruel measure, when you cast out above two thousand of our ministers from the church, for not declaring and subscribing this unfeigned assent and consent, &c. which began the separation.
This being premised, we come to the point of church authority, upon which the controversy turns, Here, I observe with pleasure, that you are for inutilating your XXth article, ridding your hands of one part, and holding only to the other. “The church's authority, in matters of “ faith, (you say) you have nothing to do with.”* But this authority, you know, your church claims as much as the power of decreeing rites and ceremonies; and, against this part of its claim, I as. much excepted, as against the other. When, therefore, you declare that you have nothing to do with it, I must consider you as wisely declining to undertake its defence. But then, is it not highly reproachful to your church, that it should
• Defence, p. 18,
still inflexibly maintain its claim to this authority; should force its clergy to subscribe and ac knowledge this claim, and keep dissenters from a share in those emoluments, "after which" (you say) “ they languish," partly for refusing their solemn subscription to an article which even one of its warmest advocates is unable to defend ?
“ By the church's power to decree rites and ceremonies, is meant, a right in the pastors and governors thereof to ordain and appoint such things, so as to make it ordinarily the duty of " the people to conform themselves to them."* You have artfully declined to say, whom you understand by its pastors and governors; but, from other passages, it is evident you mean the bishops and clergy; for the civil magistrate, you declare, has no such power at all. I Now,
1. That the clergy have no power nor autho. rity at all of this kind over the laity, I proved, beyond all doubt, from the express command of our great lawgiver. Call no man' upon earth master : ONE is your master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren. The princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion and authority over them, but it SHALL NOT BE so amongst you.ll What have you said in answer to these texts ? Not a single word! You' leave them to stand in full force against you: and, without one text of scripture to support this authority of the clergy over the laity, you go on to treat it as a thing indisputable and allowed, and labour hard in raising a pompous structure upon the sand. What you say, as to the kiss of charity, has been considered above, page 60. Should even this be allowed to be a merely ecclesiastical and prudential institution, it will by no means establish the authority you claim for your pastors and governors; the orders,
Defence, p. 10. of Letter II. p. 14. I Defence, p. 18.
§ Matt. xxiii, 8, 9. Il Matt. XX, 25.
decrees, and appointments of those times, being by the common consent and suffrage of the whole church, in which the laity had an equal, if not a far greater share of authority than the clergy. * But,
2. Your lodging this power in the pastors and governors absolutely, contradicts the articles themselves. For, as the XXth article claims'it for the church, so the immediately preceding ar-' ticle (XIX) expressly defines what it means by the church, viz. " A congregation of faithful
men, where the pure word of God is preached.” It is to the whole body of the faithful, then, that this power of deereeing ceremonies, if any such there be belongs. How then do you presume, Sir, to wrest it from them, and to vest it solely in the clergy? And,
3. When you add, " that, to this right of the
pastors, to decree ceremonies, it is the people's “duty, ordinarily, to conform themselves :"--the word ordinarily seems to be brought in with the view of darkening the point, and of preparing a salvo in case the argument should press too hard upon you. What mean yoù, Sir, by ordinarily? How shall the people know when it is, and when it is not their duty to submit to these injunctions of their spiritual governors ? Are the people themselves to judge, and always to judge of the fitness and expedience of the enjoined ceremonies, or are they not? If they are not, then they are absolutely to resign themselves to the direction of their governors, which is palpable and gross popery, and leads directly to Rome. But if they are to judge, the Babel of church authority is at once overthrown; for, then the authority resides no longer in the decrees of the governors, but in the judgment of the people. It is the judgment they form of them which alone makes them bind
• Vide Examination of the Codex, page 120.
ing upon them or not. Of their number, whether they are too many, and of their nature, whether they are superstitious, foppish, and vain, you seem sometimes to allow the people are to judge. But, if they have a right to judge, they have a right also to act in consequence of that judgment; and to withdraw from those churches where such ceremonies are enjoined as they think foppish and vain; and to join themselves to others, where they think the worship of God is performed in a more scriptural and proper manner. So that, after all this solemn parade about church authority, you see it turns out to be a mere shadow. It is an authority to command, which no one is una der any obligation to obeyThis power of making ceremonies must be either limited or unliinited. If it be not unlimited, (which you seem to disavow,) pray what limits it? what prescribes its bounds, beyond which it shall not pass? If the church has power to ordain five ceremonies, why not ten? And if ten, why not more? Who shall pretend to say how far it may go ?
Your illustration" as to the king's injunction," &c.* will not reach the case, þecause the constitution and laws of England empower the king to make such injunctions: but you have not yet proved, and I presume never wilt constitution of the christian church empowers its pastors to decree ceremonies and rites.
You ask, + " Where does the church pretend “ to be alone the proper judge, or where disallow “ private christians to judge for themselves in " these matters?” I will tell you, Sir. It is in its XXXIV th article, which decrees, that“ Who
prove, that the
soever, through his private judgment, willingly " and purposely, doth openly break the tradi« tions and ceremonies of the church, which be " not repugnant to the word of God, and be or
of Ibid. page 13.
# Defence, page 14.