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against the undoubted rights and constitution of the Christian church, against God, against Jesus Christ, against reason and common sense. But, if you say that he has not, you then sin against the church of England, against its laws and constitution. You are a dissenter, at least, in principle; but, perhaps, have not fortitude-enough to sacrifice what you call your snugness, by openly professing your dissent.
Having thus considered the former part of your self-repugnant scheme, 1. That the magistrate has not,- And, 2. That he has the authority which he claims and exercises in your church; I should now proceed to the other, viz. That it is lodged in the church's pastors and governors. But, here, to the surprise of every attentive reader, you content yourself with asserting, without paying them the compliment of so much as attempting to prove that they are possessed of this power. The Bible, I thought you knew to be the religion of protestants, and the scriptures the only rule of their practice and faith. But, behold! a protestant, a divine, claiming a high power for his pastors and governors, a power in which the peace and purity of the Christian church are essentially concerned, and yet not able, nor when called upon even pretending, to produce one single text of scripture in support of this claim.
I have pointed out to you several express commands of the sacred law, which directly forbid and condemn this pretended power,--have shewa you, that Christians are the Lord's freed-men ; that they are, each for bimself, to study and search the scriptures,-to examine and try the spirits,--to call no man upon earth master, and are not to be called RABBI, i. e. are neither to acknowledge, nor to claim, any authority over others in matters of religion, because On E only is our Lawgiver, and Master in these things,
even Christ! and all Christians are brethren; that though the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they who are great exercise authority upon them, it SHALL NOT BE SO AMONGST YOU.What have you replied, Sir, to these plain and direct commands ? Have you 80 much as attempted to evade their force ? No: but with conscious impotence stand still, and see this scripture artillery demolishing the boasted thrones of your pastors and governors, and beating down the high places to which your imagination had raised them, without so much as extending a feeble hand for their support.
From what has been said on the pointof church. power, you see how little reason you have to arrogate to yourself, and your brethren of the establishment, the honour of being the only champions that are able to encounter the church of Rome. Little reason, indeed, have you to boast as you do in your Appendix, that, “ Upon the “ head of heresy, Schism, Ordination, Traditi
on, Church-unity, and Catholic coinmunion, « no Protestant is so well qualified to write upon " these, and so likely to do it to the conviction of “ a papist, as one of the church of England, but " to be sure not a Protestant Dissenter."* What Protestant Dissenters can do on the popish controversy, the Salters'-hall lectures will shew, to their lasting honour. And, in truth, all your mighty champions, Chillingworth, Hales, StilJingfleet, Middleton, &c. in all their conflicts with the church of Rome, have been ever forced to quit their own, and to borrow our weapons; and to these alone have owed the triumphs they have gained.
No Protestant can safely meet a sagacious and learned Jesuit, if his principles oblige him to maintain the authority of Councils, Fathers, and
• Appendix, p. 11.
the chureh's power to decree rites and authority in controversies of faith. It is the sufficiency of scripture, the right of private judgment, (our distinguishing principles as dissenters, (which supply us with such arguments as no advocate for the Romish system can ever successfully oppose. These, Sir, you must admit, have been the principles upon which your own learned doctors have defended the reformation, and the principles on which alone it is capable of defence. But then you are to remember also, that they are principles on which the church of England can never possibly be defended; and which, if faithfully and duly followed, would have brought Chillingworth, and Hales, and Middleton, among us; and would make every intelligent and honest Protestant in this kingdom a Dissenter from the established church.
For, if the scriplare be, indeed, a sufficient and perfect rule, what becomes of your additional splendors (as you are pleased to call them) and of your improvements upon Christianity! What of your church's power to decree ceremonies and rites! What of sponsors, and the cross in baptism, kneeling at the Lord's supper, bowing to the East, &c. of which the scriptures, the sufficie ent and perfect rule, say not a word! And, if the right and the duty of private judgment be acknowledged, what becomes of the church's boast. ed authority in controversies of faith! It is instantly annihilated. Your learned doctors themselves must have felt the difficulty of the part which they had to act. And, it is really pleasant to observe, bow, in their attacks upon Dissenters, they appeal to the opinions of councils and of the fathers, speak in the inost pompous terms of the power and authority of the church, and pathe tically expatiate on the sin and the danger of schism; but no sooner does a crafty Jesuit come forth armed cap-a-pie, with the same weapons, but they immediately change their ground, retreat to our quarters, and avail themselves of our arguments: then the bible, the bible only is the religion of protestants, and every man is to read and to judge for himself: then not those who separate from a church that imposés unlawful (unscriptural) terms are guilty of schisın, but the church alone is guilty that imposes such terms.
The slightest attention will shew you, with how extremely ill a grace the divines of the church of England must appear upon the subject of schism, tradition, and church-unity. They who, by the traditions of men, (sponsors, the cross, &c.) have notoriously made void the commandment of God, (to receive one another, but not to doubtful disputations:)*_who break, in a flagrant manner, the unity of the Christian church, by setting up new terms of fellowship and communion in it, casting out such as Christ receives into it, declaring before the world against Catholic communion, by refusing to admit any to the two sacraments of religion, unless they will submit to new rites, which themselves have ordained, as being improvements upon the plan which Jesus Christ and his inspired apostles have left
Are these the men to encounter Romish emissaries :-Must they not go forth with infinite disadvantage, and feel their own weapons turned violently upon themselves? But the dissenter, who stands fast to his distinguishing and proper principles, (sufficiency of scripture, and the right of private judgment,) at once beats them from the strong holds of councils and fathers, (where you have been long assaulting, but not able to dislodges them,) and makes all their learned sophistry fall before the sacred force of the BIBLE and COMMON SENSE. And hence is it, as before
• Rom. xiv. I.
observed, that the many unhappy proselytes, which these seducers are said to make, are all drawn from your (not one, that I ever heard of, from our) churches: your doctrines and forms too naturally preparing them to take that fatal step.
But it is time that we now quit the subject of church power. I have treated it more largely, because it enters into the essence, and is, as must be universally acknowledged, the one single point upon which the whole controversy turns. Your other two points, the sacramental test, and the regal supremacy, I shall dismiss in fewer words.
As to the sacramental test, you still maintain, “that, as the law now stands, the priest has a
power of repelling evil livers when they come
to receive the sacrament as a qualificatiou for “ a place." By this apprehension, you are prevented from seeing the mortifying situation in which you really stand, otherwise you would groan under this disgraceful yoke, the Test act; and for theshonour of Christianity, and the ease of your own conscience, would most anxiously wish for its repeal. The lower house of convocation, in the year 1704, saw this difficulty, under which the clergy lay, in the same light as I have represented it. And though they are to be justly ranked among the most determined champions for the church, yet they did not deny this to be a grievance, as you have done; but in their address to the upper house, they state, among the gravamina cleri, the grievances of the clergy to be redressed,--" The increasing difficulties of the
parochial clergy, about administering the holy sacrament indifferently to all persons who de“ mand it, in order to qualify themselves for offi
ces, because they SEE NOT HOW THEY “'COULD, in several cases, act conformably to “ the rubric and the canons of the chiurch, in re
pelling such persons as were unworthy, and particularly notorious schismatics, without ex