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And as forms of worship, so matters of faith are enacted into laws, judged, and punished, entirely by the civil magistrate, without any intervention, or assistance of the clergy. By the statute of 9th and 10th of William III. it is enacted ;-That, if any person shall be convicted in the courts of Westminster, or at the assizes, of denying any one of the persons of the Trinity to be God: or, of maintaining that there are more Gods than one: or of denying the Christian religion, or the authority of the scriptures, he shall forfeit, be imprisoned, &c. Here again, you see that the jurisdiction and decision of the great articles of faith are declared by parliament to be, not in the convocation, but in the civil courts of law.
As to the punishment of vice and irreligion, the statutes against drunkenness, cursing, swearing, the breach of the Sabbath, &c. sufficiently shew that the parliament and common-law courts have taken to themselves the cognizance of these. What, then, becomes of your ecclesiastical dominion and canonical settlement for above two hundred years, when it has been, and might, in innumerable other instances be shewn, that the king and parliament have all along claimed and exerted a supreme right in matters of religion, faith, worship, and practice? Your ecclesiastical courts, indeed, are sometimes permitted to take cognizance of some of these matters, but then it is to be remembered, 1. That these are the king's courts, to be held only in his name. The judges in these courts often are, always may, and (as many of your most learned
clergy say) ought ever to be laymen. And, 3. The king, whenever he pleases, stays their proceedings, grants prohibitions, takes causes out of them, and removes them into his courts of common law. Such is the original radical jurisdiction which you claim for your pastors and governors !
But, to return to the convocation. Our excellent constitution, you see, hath with great sagacity circumscribed its power, and reduced it to a mére shadow, to just nothing at all. Sad experience hath shewn that ecclesiastical synods, from the famous council of Nice, down to the not-famous convocation of London, anno 1717, have been little else than the pests and troublers of mankind, mints where pernicious errors have received the stamp of authority, and been sent out to corrupt the church; and that for the most part, they have been conventions of interested, ambitious, factious, and angry men; who, under a fair pretence of zeal for the Lord of Hosts, have frequently set the world in flames, by drie ving furiously and foully on in pursuit of their own worldly views, and, with an affectation of being thought contending earnestly for the faith, have been only contending who should be greatest among themselves. This our legislature knew to have been the manner, the practice immemorial, of ecclesiastical synods, and therefore guarded, with great discretion, against the portentous evil
, denied them all legislative power, subjected them entirely to the authority of the civil magistrate, and thus, with no small difficulty, has restrained them from throwing, as they have often done, the world into confusion, and from filling the church with everlasting debates !
And now, Sir, having thus attempted your edification, in a point of high importance, where it is certain, you greatly needed it, by this time you must begin to see not the futility only, but the presumption and the real danger of your scheme. That it is a suggestion as groundless as it is ungrateful and ill-timed, “ that our reformation
was not effected in a right and legal manner.” You must see, that, by representing the magistrate as having no power in the church, you undermine your
glorious structure, and betray it into popish hands; by your laying, therefore, so essential a stress upon the assent of the convocation to the Act of Uniformity, by which the reformation and the present church were established, you supply the crafty jesuit with unan, swerable arguments for destroying that foundation upon which both are built. For, pray, (the jesuit will ask,) how was that assent of the convocation obtained? Was it not by the magistrates depriving the holy bishops, and by thrusta ing out the church pastors from those seats, and from that authority, which God has given them therein! And can the assent of a' convocation, thus packed by the magistrate, make that legal, canonical, and ecclesiastically right, which was before illegal, uncanonical, and ecclesiastically wrong?
Besides, when you talk of the convocation's assent and concurrence, you adopt language altogether unconstitutional these are terms much too assuming and presumptuous. Submission, Sir, and obedience, is all that the convocation was capable of giving. The king may give his assent, and either house of parliament may give their assent, and thereby confirm and give authority to any act: but should the magistrates of a country town talk of farther confirming it by their concurrence and assent, which would they most provoke, your indignation or your mirth? And yet the corporation of a Cornish borough, Sir, has as much right by our constitution, to talk of ratifying by their assent, any law of the land, as the convocation itself.*
• The Convocation never gave their assent at all to the articles of religion in King Edward's reformation. And all the assent they cver gave to Queen Elizabeth's (as far as I can find) was the setting forth the articles, which was not done till Janua ary, 1563 ; whereas the reformation was established by the first of Eliz. January, 2558. Vide Fuller's Ch. Hist. Book IX. pages $8 and 79.
And hence, by the way, you see the extreme vanity of your imagination,—" That the civil “ magistrate, by ratifying the XXth article, “ hath recognised and owned the power to be
not in himself but in the church:* i. e. as you are pleased to understand it, in the clergy. By what logic, Sir, do you make the church, in that article to mean the clergy? Are not the laity also an essential part of the church? Does not the very preceding article, the XIXth, expressly declare that they are defining the church, to be a congregation of faithful men ? But, would you impute to the magistrate so tame, so absurd, so ridiculous a part, as publicly to disown himself to have any power in church matters; yea, to deny himself to belong to the congregation of the faithful? Yes, with astonishment be it seen, this is what you are not ashamed openly to impute to him. “ But, the king and par“ liament (you say) have plainly disowned any “ such power as we are speaking of in them“ selves, and recognised it to be in the church; " and nobody imagines, that, by the church, " they mean themselves.”+- But, if by declaring it to be in the church, they have disowned it to be in themselves, they have thereby also disowned themselves to be of the congregation of the faithful; for, this congregation they declare to be the church, to whom this power be- . longs. Besides, this is supposing the king to disown and give a power which the whole legislature hath solemnly vested in him, and which every bishop and ecclesiastic in the kingdom (till the time of King William) did swear, that he believed in his conscience to be true, under the penalty of a premunire, viz. “ That the king is " the only supreme governor of this realm as
• Defence, p.17. Appendix, p. 59
+ I. Defence, p. 17.
“ well in all spiritual or ecclesiastical things, or
causes, as temporal: and ihey will assist and de“ fend him in such jurisdiction and authority.”
See now, the hopeful state to which you have brought the civil magistrate! You have made him to divest himself of all power as to churchmatters, and to recognise it to be in you, the clergy. He is now, therefore, in all these affairs, to be subject to you bis higher powers. You have authority from God to make laws, and to prescribe rites, which kings and parliaments are to obey; to bind your kings in chains, spiritual, ecclesiastical chains.-Rise up, O ye kings, to these your pastors and governors! be instructed, and pay homage to their spiritual decrees ! This doctrine was the happy engine which hath often lifted humble bishops to the high places of the earth, and hath made kings and emperors bow with abject submission at their feet!
Ecclesiastical affairs, Sir, you are too sagacious not to know, take in a mighty compass, and very naturally comprehend the principles, the manners, the whole social and moral conduct of those over whom these holy pastors are to watch. Thus the priests of the church have exalted themselves for many ages, to be princes of the world ; and, by claims of spiritual power, have artfully possessed themselves of enormous shares of temporal grandeur and wealth. But is this a proper time, think you, to revive and to press pretensions of this kind? Thank heaven, that darkness is passed! The light of Christian liberty dawns gloriously upon us, and exposes all such fanatic claiins to just scorn and reproach.
But I press you no farther. You begin to relent. Having urged you with the weight of your XXXIVth article, which you have frequently subscribed, and of your XXXth canon, to which you have solemnly sworn, both which declare positively your church ceremonies to be