« PoprzedniaDalej »
Your advocates for church power, I know love always to deal in generals, and will twist a thousand ways rather than explain their scheme, and be forced to speak out: but you, Sir, being a gentłeman of singular intrepidity, and affecting to do things in what you call a soldierly manner, when your late Appendix came forth, professing to treat expressly of church power, and in whom lodged, I hoped to see the point, all disguises apart, openly and frankly handled, and that a certain judgment might now be formed what your sentiments were. But alas, vain were these hopes! Not all the invitations and provocations I have used, can draw you from that cover where you artfully lie concealed in darkness and obscurity. Though the regard you owe to truth, to justice, to the
souls of your dissenting brethren, and to your own reputation, most strongly obliged you to it, yet you have not, durst not, honestly and fairly tell us, who the persons are whom God hath trusted with this power; nor have you produced the least shadow of a charter from hea ven investing them with it.
In most manifest contradiction, indeed, to our constitution, our laws, our articles, and canons, to which you have solemnly sworn and subscribed, and even to your very self (as I shall presently shew,) you continue to affirm:“That this power " is not at all in the civil magistrate; that he hath “ declared and recognised it not to be in himself, “ but that it is solely in the pastors and governors “ of the church." But, when I repeatedly press and provoke you to say, who these governors and pastors are-(are they the archbishops, or the bishops, or the deans and chapters of every diocese, or the priest in every parish, or the clergy met in convocation :) you are sour, and will not answer. No: if dissenters must have these knotty points solved, let them seek it from other hands.
But, what idea, Sir, will the public form of a scholar, a divine, some-time fellow of a learned college, arraigning us before their bar as guilty of high crimes in not submitting to church power, writing tract upon tract to persuade and reduce us to it, coming forth with an Appendix professing to treat expressly of church power and in whom lodged, but who, with all this parade, canhot be induced to say, who it is he means by these pastors and governors, to whom, under peril of everlasting damnation, we are bound to submit!
I observe you rank yourself with the learned, and claim precedence among them. “I, and “ another learned gentleman." (Ego, et Rex meus.) But will not the learned disclaim you. and treat your lucubrations as an egregious impertinence, who can thus double and evade, and meanly refuse to speak to the one single point on which they must all see the whole controversy turns ? Must not all your pretended charity and lamentation over our straying souls appear in a high degree ridiculous, and perfect grimace ? Dissenters dangerously sin in rejecting a power ordained by Almighty God. They profess themselves ready to yield it submission if shewn where it is. Mr. White, their pretended friend, knows the grand secret; but no prayers can wrest it from him; he is close and demure, and leaves them to wander on, and sin, and perish in the dark.
But to examine your romantic scheme as far as conjecture can develop it. The church's pastors and governors are alone possessed, you say, of this power. By its governors, it is presumed, you mean its bishops; and, by pastors, its priests. Every parish priest then, (your good self, Sir, among the rest,) and every bishop of this land is vested with this high power, viz. a power of decreeing other rites and ceremonies in divine worship, and of enjoining other terms of Christian
communion, than either Christ or his apostles de creed or enjoined, and of pronouncing authoritatively in controversies of faith. This, you will note carefully, is the power in dispute between us: this the power which your church exerts : this the power you claim for her: and which you affirm is vested solely (if I understand your scheme) in its bishops and priests.
But pray give me leave to ask, how do they possess it?-separately or conjunctly? It must be -one of these. Has every parish priest, within his parish, and every bishop within his diocese, a right to exercise this power separately and apart from others? Or, must they assemble in common council, and, by joint suffrage and consent, issue forth their determination, to which the consciences of all the faithful are bound to submit? Not separately and apart, it is presumed you will say, but in convocation convened.
Accordingly, you lay, I observe, a mighty stress upon the convocation's consent to the act of uniformity, and the present established forms; and seem to represent this as that which alone gave authority to both; and that, as long as this consent of the convocation was withheld, (as for a considerable time it was,) so long the reformation was a measure not quite canonical nor “ ecclesiastically right :-That it was a going a « little awry into some illegal,or extra-illegal ways: " --that the king's supremacy, on that occasion, " was raised to an undue height, and such as
ought not to be drawn into example at other “ times:--that most, if not all the reviews and “ alterations which have been since made, have “ been made by the bishops and clergy in, or by " the authority, or with the concurrence of the “convocation, (your great mistake here you will
presently see,) and, if our governors shall at any “ time think fit to subject it to any other altera“tions or reviews, you will not suffer yourself to
“ doubt but they will be made, by ecclesiastica) “ and even synodal authority, before the civil “ sanction be added to them.**
The authority of the convocation is, I see, the phantom that haunts your mind, and has strangely confused your thoughts on this subject of church power. I will candidly endeavour to enlighten you with regard to this point, which, I have the satisfaction of hoping, I have attempted not without good effect with
regard to some others. Before you had taken upon you, Sir, to write about church power; you ought to have known, that, by the constitution and laws of England, the convocation is really no part of its governa ment, no branch of its ruling powers, has no share of its legislative authority at all. To be amply convinced of this, I shall lead you to authorities which you will have neither courage nor ability, however strong your inclination may be, to con test. To some great ones in the law, you have already been directed,+ which you have very wisely not presumed to dispute. Turn your attention, now, to some of your own bishops, the ornament, the support, the glory of your church, who were honoured with the first rank among those pastors and governors with whom alone you declare church power is lodged.
A gentleman of your erudition hath, no doubt, heard, at least, of the writings of those venerable names, Burnet, Kennet, Nicholson, Hody, and particularly Wake, your late excellent archbishop, on this subject of the convocation.
A due attention to their learned researches on this point will effectually free your mind of the errors it labours under. From the last of these great persons, I shall present you with a few exa tracts, to set right your misapprehensions as ta
• Appendix, pages 8, 9. Examination of the Codes, see note, page lille
the real constitution and nature of our church, 'with which you seem (excuse my freedom) to be extremely unacquainted.
To root up, and destroy for ever the dangerous absurdity of two independent powers, (i. e. the power you are claiming for your pastors and governors, independent of the civil magistrate,) the wisdom of our legislature hath enacted and decreed" by the statute, 25 Henry VIII. called the “ act of submission, 1st. That the convocation “ should from thenceforth be assembled only by " the king's writ. 2dly. That it should make no “ canons, or constitutions, but by virtue of the “ king's licence, first given them so to do. 3dly.. " That, having agreed on any canons, or consti"tutions, they should yet neither publish nor ex"ecute them without the king's confirmation of " them. Nor, 4thly. By his authority, execute
any but with these limitations ;-that they be “ neither against the king's prerogative, nor " against any other commod or statuie law; nor,
finally, in any respect, contrary to the customs a of the realm." Vide Wake's Appeal, &c. page 4.
The learned metropolitan farther informs you, " That Christian princes have a right (and, frowa « Constantine the Great, down through succes“sive ages, have exerted the right) not only of " exercising authority over ecclesiastical persons, co “ but to interpose in ordering ecclesiastical af“ fairs :--that, when the civil magistrate advised “ with the clergy about calling a synod, it was. " not looked upon, as a matter of right, but that “ he often called synods without such advice : " and, when the bishops have earnestly desired
a council, and it has been refused by the ma
gistrate, they have submitted, and not reckoned “ themselves to have a right to meet without his « leave.--When a synod was resolved on, the
Wake's Authority of Christina Princes, &c. page 1.