Obrazy na stronie

" infants were undoubtedly taken into the church " by baptism, yet the main body of the baptized “ were adult persons; who, flocking over daily in

great numbers to the faith of Christ, were re« ceived in at his door. Usually they were for “ some considerable time catechised, and trained

up in the principles of the Christian faith, till, " having given testimony of their proficiency in « knowledge, and of a sober and regular conver« sation, they became candidates for baptism ;" or as a greater author says,*"The catechumens

enjoyed not the privileges of the faithful till " they had, in a sense, merited them ; which was “ when through a considerable time of trial, « they had evidenced the sincerity of their hearts

by the sanctity and purity of their lives : and “ then, as Origen says, We initiate them in our

mysteries, when they have made a proficiency in " holiness, and according to the utmost of their

power have reformed their conversation. When

they had changed their manners, and rectified « their irregular carriage, then they were washed « with the water of baptism, and not before. « For, as Tertullian observes, we are not baptised " that we may cease to sin, but because we have al

ready ceased.” Now, when this was the case, and immediately after baptism, copfirmation was administered, there was some decency and propriety, in the bishop's or presbyter’s(for presbyters also ihen confirmed) addressing Almighty God as having couchsafed to regenerate these his servants with water and the Holy Ghost, and

to grant them the forgiveness of all their sins, But how different, alus vastly different is the case at present with ibe muliitudes who fock to our mo. dern confirmations. With what levity and rudeness do they rush to receive this episcopal grace! In how slight and careless a manner is.

• Inquiry into the Constitution,

&c. Part

P. 1920

the ceremony performed! What riot and disorder frequently conclude the day! This is too obvious to the world, and it would seem perhaps invidious, were 1 to dwell longer upon it.

Your laboured apology for the bishop's making that very weighty and solemn declaration over a promiscuous assembly, which is supposed to include many vicious and corrupt persons, is effectually overthrown by your own just concession, “ that if he were indeed to declare to each “ individual person by himself, that God had regenerated him in particular with the Holy “Ghost, and forgiven him all his sins, it would « be a different case. Such a person might be

tempted thereby to entertain better thoughts " of the state of his soul ihan he had reason for, “ and to delude himself with deceitful hopes."* Behold this in effect, is indisputably done! For, each individual person, after having beard this solemn declaration pronounced over himself in common with all the rest, is presented separately by his parish-priest; and, kneeling before the bishop, feels his consecrating hand resting upon his head, and hears himself distinctly and personally certified (assured from the bishop's mouth) that this is a token of God's favour and gracious goodness to him in particular. What now I ask, is the obvious, the natural construction which the person puts upon all this? Why surely, unless he thinks the whole solemnity to be a farce, and that the bishop and priest (his spiritual guides, whose lips ure to preserve knowledge, and who are to be the mouth of God to himn) have conspired to put a dangerous cheat upon his soul, he must strongly conclude his soul to be in a safe and happy state, and that he is a partaker of that forgiveness which God has graciously promised in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Whether the conti

• II. Defence, page 43.

nuance of this ceremony, in its present form of administration, be either for the honour of the administrator or for the benefit of the church ; - whether it hath not an apparent tendency to cherish a delusive hope, and to speak peace to such persons as are not, by the Christian covenant, entitled to peace;-I with all humility leave to the consideration of those, whom I thank God it more immediately concerns than myself; who are to be faithful in God's house, and to watch for mens' souls as those who must give an account to the great Shepherd, who will shortly come; before whom it will be a tremendous thing to have the immortal souls of thousands require at their hands!


The Terms of MINISTERIAL Conformity hard

and terrible.-LAY DISSENT justified. The

Rise of the Separation. Next, after confirmation, I considered two other offices of your liturgy, viz. Absolution of the sick, and the burial of the dead; and shewed them, I apprehend, to be liable to great exceptions, and to have no friendly aspect

upon the morals and souls of men. I am strengthened in that opinion by observing, that amidst the variety of trifling things to which you have descended in the prosecution of this debate, you have quite overlooked these two important points, and have not so much as undertaken their defence. It does some honour to your understanding, not to attempt to defend what you know to be indefensible, but to let the forms lie under the imputations charged upon them, till God shall put it into the hearts of those who have it in their power

to wipe these unhappy blemishes from the face of the church. But as to these and some other of


additional splendours, (doing reverence towards the east, and bowing at the name of Jesus, which also, you do not so much as pretend to either justify or explain,) you observe." That these

are thing's with which, as a layman, I have no

concern. As to the form of absolution, what « has he, for God's sake, to do with it? If he " does not design to take orders in the church, " and to subscribe to the use of the liturgy, it is

no concern of his whether that form be defen“ sible or not."* But have not I, dear Sir, as much to do with your ministerial conformity as you have with my lay-dissent ? Are you not as inuch obliged to vindicate before the world your subscription to and use of these offices in your church, as I am to justify my separation from it? Yes, and I now publicly call upon you, and charge it upon your most serious, deliberate reflections, as you will soon answer it at a supremne and impartial tribunal, to remember and consider,

That you have solemnly, and in the presence of God, who searcheth the heart, and abhors all prevarication, hypocrisy, and deceit, especially in religious concerns; in the presence of this God, I say, and in the face of his church, you have declared your UNFEIGNED assent and consent to all and every thing contained in and « prescribed by the book of Common Prayer, « &c." If then there be any one thing contained in that book, any one office or form, which is ir: rational, unfit, or repugnant to the gospel scheme, and which no well-instructed Christian can heartily assent to, or unfeignedly approve, I appeal to your own conscience, I appeal to the whole world, where is the honour, where the Christian simplicity and godly sincerity of this solemn declaration! What! shall a inan, a minister, in God's presence, and appealing to him as the searcher of hearts, declare his unfeigned assent to things he does not approve, and promise his unfeigned consent to use forms in God's worship which he heartily dislikes! This is a most grievous yoke upon the necks of Christian ministers, beheid by unbelievers with the greatest ridicule and contempt, and which every friend to the Christian name would heartily wish to see removed. And,

* II. Defence, page 181.



This, as before observed, most fully justified that separation from your church, to which our fathers were compelled, (and which we at present continue) when, in a most unrighteous and schismatical inanner, she cast out above two thousand of her ministers, for not subscribing and declaring this unfeigned assent and consent. These ministers were by this deprived of what they had not forfeited ;-deprived of acting as ministers by those who had no right nor authority to deprive them of it. The pastoral relation, therefore, undoubtedly remained between them and their respective flocks, and they acted a lawful, a worthy part, in continuing their ministerial services, though thus cruelly cast out.

No, (you reply.) they ought to have con" formed as laymen, as some of them did; much “ less will this justify the laity of those times; « less still the ministers and laity of the present “ in their separation.”* To their immortal praise be it recorded, they better understood their rights as men, and their duty as subjects of Christ, the only king and head of the church; and, therefore, with great suffering and worldly loss, entered boldly their protest against this presumptuous in

• II. Defence, page 181.

« PoprzedniaDalej »