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Dissenters not inconsistent in submitting to some
ceremonies, and refusing others. THIS
HIS is another charge which you strenuously advance against us. You say, " the ceremonies “ of marriage and of burial, to which we con“ form, are enjoined in the same manner, by the “ same authority, and in the same place, (the “Common Prayer,) as the other ceremonies and “ rites against which we protest.” And you state it as a difficulty which you seem to think will surprise and counfound us," Where and when “ the magistrate prescribed the marriage cere“ monies otherwise than he did those of baptism " and the Lord's supper.”* I am truly surprised Sir, that so mere a cobweb should entangle you. Pray, what is your Common Prayer? Is it any thing but a mere statute, or act of parliament; as really and truly such as any statute in our books of law, and nothing more. Now, as the magistrate has in this statute enjoined the manner in which the marriage ceremony is to be performed, pretending that he hereby gives the best legal securities, both to the contracting parties and their issue, we, who consider the ceremonies of this contract as being merely of a civil nature, and as such within the magistrate's province, (as much so as are the forms prescribed by law for making a good title on an estate,) submit to it as an ordinance of man, notwithstanding, we are sensible of the objections which may be justly urged against some parts of the service which he has appointed for this purpose. Yet, as he has also enjoined, in the same statute, other things merely of a religious nature, (relating to baptism
• Defence, p. 30.
of Letter III. page 6.
and the Lord's supper,) which, in our opinion, belong to another kingdom, viz. that of Jesus Christ, to whom God has delegated all authority in his church, we think ourselves justified in withholding our submission to those things which are not within the province of the civil magistrate. We choose to obey God rather than man; and if you, Sir, will calmly attend to this distinction which we make, you will perceive that no difficulty or entanglement attends it.
“ But, you observe, that, upon this supposi" tion, all our objections to the burial-office, as
reasons against conformity fall to the ground. “ For, if the whole transaction be a political “thing, and the gentleman officiating is, in that,
no other than an officer of the state, how is the “ church, for the Lord's sake, concerned in any
thing he either says or does on that occasion ?"* Certainly very much. The church is, indeed, nothing but a branch or limb of the state: But, if the state exacts of those whom it deputes to officiate in this part of its administration, unreasonable and shocking things; if it commands them to say that black is white, to pronounce solemnly a man saved whom they think verily to be lost, and to thank God that in his great mercy he hath taken to himself an abominable sinner, when, in their consciences, they believe that God took him away in wrath, and bath driven him from his presence to eternal darkness below,-is the officer, will you say, who is to pronounce and to do this, not at all concerned therein; nor that branch of the administration in which he officiates at all wounded thereby in its honour and reputation ? Most deeply, no doubt : and all virtuous and good men, by the eternal regard they owe to righteousness and truth, ought openly to protest against such public violations of them,
* II. Defence, page 82:
and to declare their dislike of such prostitutions of sacred things.
“ The church," your learned Warburton* tells us, has, by contract or alliance, resigned up “ her supremacy in matters ecclesiastical, and “ her independency to the state.” The state, in consequence of this, hath drawn up for her, articles of faith and forms of public worship, which it requires the church to subscribe, and to use. Hard fate of unhappy church! To come as a pupil to the state, to ask what she must believe, and how she must worship; yea, to be forced solemnly to subscribe articles which she by no means believes, and to use forms of public worship which she greatly dislikes! But, is there no prevarication nor hypocrisy in all this? No, you will say, the state hath commanded it; and we are to be subject to the higher powers, and to obey those who have the rule over us. It is not for an individual to oppose the public voice, but, if any one dare say "that either of the articles " is in any part erroneous, or that the book of “ Common Prayer, contains any thing in it con
trary to scripture," your IVth and Vth canons thunder out upon him ipso facto, a most terrible excommunication, and cut him off as a wicked wretch, from the body of Christ. Excellent constitution this! quite holy and apostolic! most heavenly and divine ! bearing upon every part a lively and glorious impress of the character of Jesus Christ! What wonder if the dignity of the priestly character sinks. If religion is ridiculed, and its sacred things, treated with drollery and jest? It is impossible, we are told, but of fences will come, but wo be to, that man! wo be to those christians, whose hypocritical and coryupt conduct lays these stones of stumbling in the way of infidels and papists! and by whom the offence cometh.
Alliance, &c. p. 87.
The egregious absurdity of rejecting PRESBYTE
RIAN and admitting Popish ordinations. We come next to your abservations on ore ders, or ordination, about which you make a very solemn parade, boasting of your fancied superiority over us in this respect. The severity with which you speak of the ordination of the dissenters, though the very same with that of all the illustrious cburches of protestants abroad, whilst at the same time, you are so complaisant as to ac. knowledge the validity of the ordinations of the church of Rome, is a conduct so extraordinary in a protestant divine, that I never yet saw even any plausible reason for supporting it. The hands and the devoutest prayers of a company of truly virtuous, religious, and christian presbyters, in Scotland or Geneva,are not so efficacious, it seems, to send a man forth a true minister in the church of Christ, as the bands and superstitious prayers of an antichristian, idolatrous, persecuting, and wicked bishop of Italy or of Spain. No: let a priest, ordained by one of these, come over to the church of England, he shall be received as a valid minister, rightfully ordained; but let ano ther, ordained by the most learned and religious presbytery, which Germany, Hungary, or the whole world can boast, come over also to this church, this protestant church, his orders shall be pronounced not valid; he must submit to be re-ordained. The former is admitted as one rightly and duly entered a pastor in the Christian church, because a bishop's hand was laid upon bim, though with a great many ridiculous su perstitious, and foolish rites; and, though he was really no christian bishop, but an apostate from christianity, an open and avowed idolater, and a persecutor of the flock of Christ; yea, though. the church also into which, by that ceremony, he was entered, was so fur from being a true church, that for nine hundred years past, nothing can be more.* But the latter, though set apart to the ministry by the most fervent and holy prayers; though he has long laboured in the church of God with great diligence and success; has suffered, perhaps, the loss of all for the sake of Christ and his truth, and is fed bither from the rage of idolatrous and cruel bishops; yet, (strange to relate !) not having had the hand of such an idolatrous and cruel bishop in the ceremony of his ordination, he is considered only as a mere layman in this protestant church of England; he shall not, cannot be acknowledged by us as a minister of Jesus Christ. How mysterious and quite astonishing is the partiality of this conduct !
But let us hear your censure on this head.” Our “ ministers are not duly ordained to their office. “ Their ministrations are most certainly irregu“ lar; an unnecessary and wanton, if not a face « tious departure from the primitive order, and " therefore, those who attend them cannot de“ pend that such ordinances will be blessed to “ ihem, nor can they be pleasing to God.”+ And concerning the established Presbyterian church of Scotland, you affirm,“ That having renoun“ ced episcopacy, and, their ordinations being
irregular, their communion can veither be safe “ nor lawful." A most schismatical and rash judgment, which equally condemns all the illustrious reformed churches of France, Holland, Switzerland, Germany, Poland, Hungary, Denmark, &c. They all likewise have renounced episcopacy: their ordinations, therefore, must
The words of the Homily which every clergyman subscribes his solemn approbation of.
+ Letter I. pages. 73, 74. * II. Defence, p. 145.