« PoprzedniaDalej »
Of our Constitution in Church and State.
You seem a little displeased at my doubting “ whether the church were an essential and a “balf-part of our constitution ? and whether “ church and state here in England are so incor“porated and united as that, like the married “pair, they must stand or fall together? And “allege, that, in all the conversation, as well as “in the writings of Dissenters and others, we read “ and bear continually of the ecclesiastical as “ distinguished from the civil constitution : yea, “ even from the throne, and both houses of
“ jurious to the interest of Protestant Dissenters; or, that “ I am persuaded it would rather injure than strengthen our interest,"
Which is giving the passage a very different turn. And, when that gentleman asks, “ Is there an absolute “ incapacity of being virtuous in high stations ?"-I answer, no: but if there be a great danger of being vicious, this will justify surely an indifference, a non solicitude, about them ; and will excuse, at least, a doubt, a fear, as to the event. And, when he farther asks, “ Would any man think his con“ duct justifiable, should he refuse a large estate merely be
cause of the greater danger of his being corrupted by it ?" -I answer, 1. There have been instances of such refusal recorded, and, perhaps, justly, as instances of heroic virtue. But, 2. To refuse it, when offered, is a thing extremely different from being solicitous to obtain it. Public offices and trusts, when offered by those in power, ought not to be refused by such as think themselves capable of rightly discharging them, because this would be to reject an opportunity of public service, to which their country calls them. But this may be done without a solicitude to procure them.
The passage on which this ingenious author has stepped aside to remark, speaks but the very same sentiment which himself has elsewhere, perhaps, more strongly expressed : Comment, &c. page 138. “ An indifferency to the honours, “ riches, and pleasures of this world, a contempt of and vic
tory over them, is the independency and supremacy which " the true religion and church can boast, the resignation (or « loss) of which must be infinitely dangerous to her, her " poison, her death wound.” Again, page 131.
“ Though ." it may be thought I am pleading for the introduction of Pro. * testant Dissenters into places of profit and trust, I am fully “ persuaded that their having such places, would not make “ them more religious men, nor, from numbers of them so es employed, would their societies appear with greater reputa. “ cion as religious societies."
parliament, we often hear of our constitution in s church and state."* But divest yourself, for a moment, of worldly attachments, which insensibly warp the mind, and you will see it, I believe to be a very rational doubt; for, our ecclesiastical, however it may be distinguished in common language, is really no other than a civil constitution.t It is a system, or frame, contrived, disposed, and enacted by the civil magistrate, as much as the constitution of the treasury, of the army, or of the courts of Westminster-hall. These all, Sir, have their constitutions (that is, their several parts of the public business assigned them to dispatch, and their several officers and forms, and methods, of proceeding in them) as really, as truly, and as much, as the church. The army is the constitution and order of the civil inagistrate relating to the direction of the military force. The treasury is the constitution and order of the same magistrate relating to the collection and disposal of the public money. The courts of Westminster-hall are the constitution of the same magistrate for the dispensing of public justice. And the church is the constitution and order of the same magistrate relating to the manner in which the public worship is to be performed. The officers in each are all entirely made, instructed, controled, by the power of the civil magistrate. It is by his authority alone, that they are all qualified and empowered to act in their respective stations ;
• Letter I. page 11.
II. Defence, pages 9, 10. + This I have fully proved in my first letter, to which no.
reply has been made.
and it is in that manner, and by those rules only, which his wisdom hath 'prescribed, that, in all their respective offices, they severally proceed.
You cannot, therefore, deny, that the ecclesiastical is really no other than a branch of the civil constitution; and that what you call the church is in truth no more an essential, much less a half part
our constitution than the treasury, the army, or either of the courts of Westminster-ball. If, therefore, the wisdom of the legislature should think proper to new-form any of these constitutions, (for instance, the inethod of dispensing justice in any of our law courts,—which courts, by the way, are all of much longer standing than the constitution of our present church,) would you not smile to hear some zealous gentleman of the long robe stand forth and insist, that these courts were an essential and a half part of the constitution; and that, therefore, whoever moved for, or so much as wished an alteration in either of them, could not be safely trusted with any share of the public power, and was really in truth an enemy to the state? The learned gentlemen of that robe, Sir, no doubt, equally smile to hear you thus reasoning as to the church.*
" the constitution in church and state, then, “ of which we often hear, even in speeches and “addresses from, and to the throne,” can be meant nothing else than that order, or form of government, respecting all persons and things, which is
• That the account here given of the nature and constitution of the church of England, agrees with the sentiments, of our first reformers, the founders and framers of it, appears from the determination of a select assembly of them, convened at Windsor, by King Edward VI. by whom (as may be concluded from Archbishop Cranmer's manuscript) it was declared :
" That all Christian princes have committed to thein, “ immediately from God, the whole care of their subjects, as « well concerning the Administration of God's word for the “ cure of souls, as concerning the ministration of things of
established by the laws and customs of this realm. A constitution, by which the king or queen, as the supreme head of the church, is the fountain of all power and jurisdiction therein; authorised to instruct, over-rule, and controul, all the archbishops, bishops, and priests, in this kingdom, in all their most spiritual and ecclesiastical concerns : -a constitution, by which a lady, when such fills the throne, is empowered to compose public prayers for the church, to stop all preaching therein, to fill vacant bishoprics with what persons she pleases, or not to fill them at all;* to direct all ecclesiastics what they shall, or shall not preach; and, even in the most abstruse and metaphysical points, to be the final judge of heresy ; whose judgment must stand as to what shall, or shall not
deemed heresy in this church, even though it happen to contradict that of all her learned clergy in convocation convened.
" political, and civil governance. In both these ministrations
they must have sundry ministers under them to supply that “ which is appointed to their several offices.
“ The civil ministers, under the king's majesty, in this “ realm, be those whom it shall please his highness, for the « time, to put in authority under him; as for example, the
lord-chancellor, lord treasurer, lord-admiral, &c.
“ The ministers of God's word, under his majesty, be the “ bishops, parsons, vicars, and such other priests as be " appointed by his highness to that ministration; as, for “ example, the bishop of Canterbury, the bishop of Winches"ter, the parson of Coynwick, &c.
" All the said officers and ministers, as well of the one sort
as of the other, be appointed, assigned, and elected, in “ every place, by the laws and orders of kings and princes." Vide an extract from Abp. Cranmer's MS. Stilling. Iren. Part II. ch. viii page 391.
• Any of the bishoprics may be kept vacant by the princes of England, as those of Ely and Oxford were by Queen Elizabeth : the latter had no bishop for 12 years. The parliament dissolved the rich bishopric of Durham in King Edward VI.'s reign; and gave the profits to the crown.
And it had remained so to this day, probably, had not Popish Queen Mary restored it.
Thus, that renowned lady, Queen Elizabeth, in the fulness of her ecclesiastical power, herself composed a prayer, Archdeacon Eachard * in, forms us, for the use of a greal number of her nobility and gentry, as well as her soldiers and sailors, in the expedition against Cadiz, directing it to be used daily in every ship. And by virtue of her supremacy, she might, I presume, , if she had pleased, (as any future Queen may,) compose prayers for the use of the archbishops, bishops, and all the clergy of the land ; and enjoin their solemn use every Sunday in the church; and the use of such devout feminine compositions, no bishop nor priest can, agreeably to our constitution, in any wise refuse.
The same royal lady, by virtue of her proclamation only, put an entire stop to all preaching of ministers and others, throughout the kingdom; and the people were charged to hear no other preaching or doctrine but the epistle and gospel of the day and the ten commandments, without any exposition, or paraphrase thereor. And should any future queen think proper to do the same, I humbly apprehend that all her bishops and clergy are, by our constitution in church and state, obliged to obey.
By the same constitution, King Charles I. put forth a proclamation, (if a woman had worn the crown, she also might have done it, as any future Queen may,) commanding the clergy not to preach or dispute about Arminianism. The learned bishop Davenport, presuming to preach upon the docirine of predestination, was forced to appear upon his knees before the council; and, being severely reprimanded, hardly so escaped, though he alleged he had preached nothing but the XVIIth article of the church of Eng
• Hist. of England, page 367.