« PoprzedniaDalej »
posing themselves to vexatious and expensive “ suits of law."* This, you see, was the construction wbich this learned body of the clergy put upon this law; they doubtless had the best legal adviceon this subject before they made the above mentioned mortifying declaration: wemay, therefore, safely presume, that if the eminent lawyers of that time had been clearly of your opinion,
that, as the law now stands, the priest has a “power of repelling evil livers,” the clergy would not have stated to the upper house, as a griev. ance, that they suw not how they could repel them : and, if you attentively weigh all circumstances of this case, you will find that tlie difficulties respecting this question cannot be satisfactorily removed; for, there are two oppo site evils to which the clergy are exposed; both of them cannot be avoided; their only option is to take the least. If they do not comply with the orders of the rubric, to which they are sworo, they destroy the peace of their own consciences. If they do comply with the rubric, and refuse the sacrament to an evil liver, who demands it as a qualification for a place, they expose themselves to vexatious and expensive suits for depriving the subject of some of the most valuable favours of the prince.
Tindal's History of England, Vol. III. page 686. † This question, whether a clergyman can safely repel an evil liver as described by the rubric, when he demands the sacrament as a qualification for a post, or place, has been lately very particularly considered, previous to the application which was made to parliament, in March 1787, for the repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts. A case was laid before three gentlemen of distinguished eminence in the law; and, it is appre. bended, that their opinions will not only justify the author of these letters in what he has advanced on this subject; but also enable us to see the propriety of that declaration made by the lower house of convocations That they saw NOT How they “ could, in many cases, act conformably to the rubric, &c. “ without exposing themselves to expensive and vexatious “ suits."-See the statement of the case, and the answers to it in the Appendia, No. 11.
But, to conclude this point; if, as the law now stands, the priest has, as you affirm, a power to repel evil livers, pray what is the reason that the rubric and canons, which so solemnly oblige him to it, are not only not faithfully observed, but most shamefully violated, and quite trampled under foot? Whence is it that, among
the swarmi of notorious evil-livers, hereties, blaspheiners, and open unbelievers, who continually. coine to the Lord's table to qualify for places, we never hear of one rejected by the priest? What! is there no conscience, no integrity, left among those who administer this holy riie of religion? Seeing the rubric requires, and the canons oblige the clergy to reject these evil livers, and the scandal of receiving them (both to deists without, and to Christians within) is so crying and flagrant, why, in the name of God, whose ministers and stewards you profess. yourselves to be, are these enemies to his government, these aliens from hig family, these despisers of his Son, never rejected, but ever tamely received, as his children, at his table!—The reason is obvious. The parish priest feels the difficulty before mentioned, as having been stated by the lower house of convocation : he also“ SEES NOT how he can repel " such persons as are unworthy without expo. “sing bimself to vexatious and expensive suits," And this being the case, he chooses rather to throw himself upon the mercies of God, than be exposed to the indignation of man.
And now, Sir, if with this dreadful and op pressive yoke upon your neck, whilst scoffing in, fidels laugh, and discerning Christians mourn, you are easy and well-pleased, and bless
yourself and your church in the protection of this law, all I shall say at present is, that I envy not your felicity, but most devoutly thank God that I have neither lot nor share in this matter. Only
hear the word which God sent by his prophet to certain time-serving priests, Ezek. xliv. 6, 7. Thou shalt say to the rebellious house, let it suffico you of all your abominations, in that you have brought into my sanctuary strangers, uncircumcised in heart, to be in my sanctuary, to pollute it; even my house, when ye offer my bread :-they have broken my covenant because of all your abominations.
I have said so much on your first topic of church-power, that I have not either room or occasion to add many things on your last, our constitution in church and state. Herė, indeed, I observe with pleasure, that, amidst the pompous professions you affect to make of confuting my account of the regal supremacy, and of our constitution, you hardly, in one single instance, presume to contradict it. My account, Sir, was founded upon fact and upon law. After close examination, I suppose you found it to be so ; and, therefore, though, to save appearances, you would seem to say something on this subject, yet, in your whole fourteen
there is scarcely the show of any opposition to what I had advanced; but on the contrary, in one instance, a remarkable confirmation of the most material part of my argument: for though, in page 19 of your appendix, you charge me “ with false
play in citing your XXXVth article, as de" claring expressly that your church ceremonies were ordained by the civil magistrate: and ask
you find there any such words;" Yet with agreeable surprise, I find you were either so incautious, or so honest as, within a few lines, to cite the very words of the article, which support, in the strongest manner, the sense I had given; where an open and wilful violation of these cerendonies is, by the article, declared to be a hurting the authority of the civil magistrates
Can a violation of these ceremonies violate the magistrate's authority, if by his authority, they had not been ordained ?
As for the form of speaking in use among us, our constitution in church and state, that it is really an impropriety, as generally understood, I do not at all hesitate (with due submission to the great authorities by whom it is used) agaie to insist. It is a form of speaking, no doubt, drawn from the usage of popish times, before the reformation of our religion took place. For then, truly, there was a constitution in church, distinct from, and independent of our constitution in state. The church had then its laws, its rights, its officers and powers, and its sovereign, or supreme head, peculiar to itself, and apart from the state. But by the reformation, all that indépendency and distinction is abolished: it is now become entirely and absolutely a civil system. There are no laws in the church (I mean none of human enaction) but what were made by the civil magistrate, and receive all their obliga tions and authority from him; nor are there any offices in the church but what are constituted by the authority and direction of the magistrate, and are all liable to be ungade and deprived again by him. But that our constitution in church is really nothing but a civil, or parliamentary constitution, has, with incontestable evidence, been shewn in the preceding letters; and is, ina deed, a' truth so plain, that no intelligent, no sober member of your church will, I apprehend, so much as attempt to deny it.
Our constitution, therefore, having been changed by the happy reformation, this form of speaking ought, in strict propriety, to have been also altered; for to talk of our constitution in church and state, is not only putting the effect before the cause, but it is conveying an idea which your authorities could not possibly intend to convey, because not founded fin truth, viz. --That the church has a constitution distinct from, independent of, yea, prior or superior to our constitution in state. However, to abate somewhat of your attachment to this principle, even if you could establish it, I must remind you, that the presbyterian church of Scotland, is as essential, fundamental, and unalterable a part of our present ecclesiastical constitution, as the episcopal church of England can ever pretend to be.
My account of the power which our laws and constitution give to the kings and queens of this realm, in affairs ecclesiastical, to instruct, over-rule, direci, control, all the arehbishops, bishops, and priests of this kingdom, in all their sacerdotal and most spiritual concerns, &c. you do not pretend to controvert, but rather attempt to vindicate and explain it. But you unhappily forgot the one grand and material point for which it was introduced, and to which above all others, it concerned you to speak; and that is, to reconcile this constitution of the church of England, with the constitution of the church of Christ, and, to shew that dissenters cannot separate from the one, without the danger and the high crime of separating themselves from the other.. This was the point which you asserted, and on which you so copiously flourished; but you are now, I presume, too well instructed to persevere in endeavouring to support it. You must now see them, Sir, to be two distinct and quite different societies; and will be henceforward eased of those painful commiserations over the souls of your dissenting brethren, with wbich your generous mind has laboured, and be no longer terrified on account of our schism, with those direful apa prehensions, concerning our salvation.
There are some other passages in your Appen, dix, on which I must make a few observations. I hun pleased to see that you again ventare to bring