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Yea, farther, they have power to forbid all preaching for a time, as did King Henry VIII. King Edward VI. Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth. To limit, instruct, and prescribe to the clergy, what they shall, and what they shall not preach, as did Queen Elizabeth, King James 1. King Charles I. King William, &c. Finally,—To the King or Queen only, does it pertain to declare what is heresy, and authoritatively to pronounce what doctrines and tenets are, and what are not, to be censured as such. Nor have all the bishops and clergy assembled in convocation, the least authority to censure any tenet as heretical, if the prince on the throne refuses his consent,
Now, here Sir, I am pressed with an insuperable difficulty how to reconcile this constitution of the church of England with the constitution of the church of Christ. Are they not most indisputably two different societies, subject to two different, sometimes opposite authorities, animaied and governed by two different heads ? In Christ's church, himself is the only sovereign and head: he only hath power to decree ceremonies and rites, to fix terms of communion and authority in points of faith : nor hath any earthly prince power to make laws in his kingdom, which shall bind the consciences of his subjects, or sovereignly to dictate to his servants and ministers what they shall believe, and what they shall preach. Yea, his subjects are expressly commanded and charged to receive nothing as doctrine, or parts of religion, which are only commandments of men.*
But in the church of England, there is another sovereign, lawgiver, supreme head, besides Jesus Christ; an authority which commands things Christ never commanded, which teaches doctrines Christ never taught, which enjoins
• Matt. xv. 9.
terms of communion, and rites of religious wor. ship, he never enjoined. Now what can I judge Sir! What do you yourself judge! but that the two churches are two distinct and quite different societies, (for in one and the same society, surely there cannot be two supreme heads) that they are framed after different models, consist of different members, are governed by different officers, statutes, and laws; consequently, my separation, or dissent from the one, does by no means infer may separation from the other. Yen, what am I to judge, but that, by the allegiance I owe to Christ, my only supreme head and king in spiritual matters, I am obliged to enter my protest against the pretensions and claims of any other supreme head ? For, can a man serve two masters? Can he be subject at the same time to two supreme heads? Can he be faithful to Christ, the only king of the church, and yet acknowledge another king as a fountain of all magistracy and power therein. Surely he cannot.
Permit me, Sir, to exercise your patience a moment or two more upon this remarkable contrast, and I will dismiss the unpleasant subject.
By the constitution of the church of Christ, it is expressly ordered and declared, that the woman shall not be suffered publicly to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man.*
But, by the constitution of the church of England, the woman is permitted publicly to teach; yea, to limit and control in spiritual and religious matters, and authoritatively to instruct the bishops and clergy, and all the mea in the land. Thas did Queen Elizabeth, thus did Queen Anne, and thus hath every Queen authority to do that sits upon our throne; authority to prescribe and dictate to all, both ministers and people, what the one are to preach, and the other
• Tim. ii. 136
to receive. And was it not Sir, a very comely and edifying sight to behold the two houses of convocations waiting upon Queen Anne,* in the case of Whiston's books upon the Trinity, to be instructed by her majesty whether they were to be condemned as heretical or not? That venerable and learned body had solemnly decreed them to be dangerous and heretical; but this their censure was of no force till they had laid it before the Queen to have her judgment upon the point. Upon her majesty's determination it entirely depended, whether Whiston's tenets were to be rejected by the church of England as erroneous, or not. Her majesty, in this case, was of a different opinion from her two houses of convocation ; she thought not fit to censure the books. So her single opinion, strange to relate, her single opinion carried it against that of her bishops and clergy; she over-rules and sets aside all their proceedings, restrains and counter-acts them, in one of the very chief of their pastoral functions, the guarding against errors and heresies in the church.
Behold here, Sir, a woman exercising spiritual, ecclesiastical authority over the man! Yea, behold the representative of the clergy of the whole land, a most learned, grave, and venerable body, waiting upon a woman, to learn from her mouth what the church is to believe, and what to reject, as to this great mystery of faith : upon a woman, whose sole determination (I repeat it with astonishment, and you hear it, no doubt, with perplexity and grief,) your church was uncontrolably and authoritatively directed in this deep and mysterious point.
I ask you, Sir, in the name of God, is this the constitution and frame of the church of Christ ? Is it not a constitution of a quite different pature;
a suciety not divinely, but humanly instituted ; and therefore by your own definition, not the church of Christ; And may not, think you, a person separate peaceably from it without any, the least danger, of thereby separating himself from the holy scriptural, apostolic, and catholic church?
When you stript the pope of bis supremacy, and gave it to our princes, you should have taken care not to have left his infallibility behind. An infallible head and director of the church, be it woman or nian, be it a he or a she bishop, is a thing plausible enough, and carries a good face: but to lodge the absolute direction of the consciences, the faith, and the discipline, of the church with a fallible head; to give a prince, yea, a lady bred up in all the softnesses and diversions of a couri, an uncontrolable dominion over the religious conduct both of clergy and laity, authoritatively to direct what those are to preach, and what these to believe as to the docirine of Christ; to make her the sole judge in all controversies which shall arise upon any, the most mysterious and inexplicable points, so that all the priests are to ask knowledge at her lips, and whatever she determines is to be received by the church as christian verity and truth ! This is such a constitution as quite shocks the understanding, and comes not a whit behind transubstantiation itself. Hence doubtless, Sirs the triumphs of popish priests over you! Hence, their inroads upon you, and the thousands, they are continually carrying captive from your tents! And hence the sad increase, and the insults of Deists, who taking the scheme of the church of England to be that of the christian church, are authorised by common sense, they think, not only to reject, but to treat it with contempt!
And now Sir, having so largely discussed this point, I presume you are convinced, “That this
* same peaceable separation of ours is not," what
a piece of arrant nonsense and - contradiction;" and that you will cease to be so displeased at our treating your grave lectures upon the heinous sin of schism as solemn cant and ecclesiastical scare-crows. You see, likewise, how extremely unapt, and quite wide of the point, are the two instances you bring to illustrate our case, viz. “ of a wife separating from o the bed and board of her husband, or of two “ or three counties disliking a monarchical go
vernment, and throwing off their allegiance to " the king."* Has the church of England, Sir, any such power or authority over us dissenters as the husband has over the wife? Pray who gave it that authority? Have we ever plighted it our troth; or bound ourselves by a solemn vow to honour and obey it to the end of our lives? Or have we ever sworn allegiance to it, or do we owe it any homage, as the counties have sworn and do owe to the King?
Amongst the peculiar excellencies of your church, you reckon-" The use of the three “ creeds in public worship, as one of the most “ effectual and powerful means both for teaching “ and preserving the christian faith entire and un"corrupt, which we have not in our churches.”+ o The creed, called the Apostles', we have in constant use amongst us : and, as for the two others, especially the Athanasian, we are content you should have the honour of its being peculiar to yourselves. But methinks, Sir, it should a little check your triumph over us here, to remember, that some of the wisest and most illustrious members of your church, both clergy and lai account the use of this creed your great sin and reproach, and with archbishop Tillotson, wish you were well rid of it.
Letter I. page 72.
Letter I. page 5.