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R. Stebbing, in his late instructions of a Parish-minister, Part II. owns - That the doctrine of sacerdotal absolution has no foundation in scripture :-" That some of the methods,
practised in the primitive church, with regard "'to restoring penitents, had very much the air " of a farce; that for the first thousand years, " the forms of absolution ran all in the form of
a prayer, and not in the form of a peremptory ! definitive sentence, as it now stands in the po
pish forms, and in one of our own forms from “ ihem (the visitation of the sick.) The popish " form of ordination also," the learned doctor observes," is retained in the church of England. “ These two forms are relative to each other, and “ cannot stand separately; for the one conveys “ the power which the other exerciseth, and they
are novelties alike, and it is very much to be “ wished that they were both properly altered. - Dissenters would find less matter for censure, " and infidels for profane raillery."
“ The late bishop Bull (he says) who was one “ of the ablest scholars, the staunchest church“men, and the best Christians of his time, when “ he was upon his death-bed, refused to have “ this form read; and ordered the minister that « attended him, to use that form which stands in " the office for the holy communion in its stead."
The worthy Doctor“ freely blames those who
grasp at the shadow of an authority which, in “ iruth and substance, we must all renounce. “ What else do we when we pretend to absolve “ conscience? We may use a hundred distinctions if we please ; we may say that the abso
* lution is not authoritative, but declaratory; or ! 21 " that it is not judicial, but ministerial: but if “ you would speak to be understood, you must
say that, with respect to any real internal ef« fect, it is notHING: and you
will “ too; for, all the rest, if you will preserve to God “ his prerogative to forgive sin, are words with“ out meaning.” Vide pages 37, 38, 39, 51, 52.
Yet at this shadow every clergyman in England presumptuously grasps. He publicly claims, and when called upon, presumes to exercise this power of forgiving sins, which is the prerogative of Almighty God alone.
But if the absolution, as to any real effect, be acknowledged by our own learned doctors to be NOTHING, what must be the public claim and the exercise of it? What it is I forbear to say.. The enemies of Christiany will, with insulting pleasure tell.
I shall only add, that there is one remarkable instance in which this sacerdotal absolution bas been given, under such circumstances as rendered it peculiarly indefensible.
When Charles II. came to the close of his. profligate life, three bishops attended him; who, severally, by very free and serious admonitions, endeavoured to alarm his conscience, and to rouse: him to some sober and penitential reflections. The king gave them the hearing, but answered not a word. He was six or seven timnes pressed to receive the sacrament, and a table, with the elements, was brought into the room, but the king refused. Bishop Ken then asked him if he desired ABSOLUTION OF HIS SINS:: which the king not declining,-behold! in, this. unimpressed, iinpenitent state of mind, the bishop pronounced it over him; and, in the name of the sacred Trinity, and as by authority from Almighty God, gave HIM THE FULL FORGIVENESS OF SINS. Bishop Burnet, in the History of his own
Times, 8vo. edit. Vol. II.* says, “ Bishop Ken “ was very much blamed for pronouncing abso “ lution over the king, as he expressed no sense “ of sorrow for his past life, nor any purpose of “ amendment. It was thought to be a prostitu“ tion of the peace of the church to give it to one “ who, after a life led as the king's had been, " seemed to harden himself against every thing “ that could be said to him, and soon after died, " recommending his mistress and illegitimate " children to the care of his brother, but said not
a word of his queen, nor of his people, nor of “ his servants, nor of the payment of his debts,
nor a word of religion.”
• Page 312.
The Restoration of Charles II. and the Act of Uniformity, which was passed soon after it, are two of the most important parts of the Eng. lish history. By these events, the character and the state of the dissenters were greatly affected: but it is a part of our history which is either little understood, or much wisrepresented, especially in many of the sermons which are annually preached on the thirtieth of January. Since, therefore, this unrighteous Act of Uniformity, which silenced and ejected two thousaad of our brave and virtuous clergy, is the foundation on which the present church of England is built, and the cause of our separation from it; we beg leave to represent to the impartial public some of the disgraceful circumstances which attended that event; circunstances, which will sbew the baseness, ingratitude, and iniquity of those transactions ; which ought to be transmitted as a proper warning and instruction to indignant posterity.
To this purpose we observe, in the first place, , that the puritan, or presbyterian clergy, were the only body of men, in the whole kingdom, who had the courage to oppose and to protest openly against the trial and condeinnation of Charles I. With great danger to themselves they presented a bold remonstrance to the General and Council of war, the then ruling powers, warning them in the name of God, and conjuring them in the most solenn manner, to desist from their violent proceedings against the king. This long and spirited protest was signed by above fifty of the
principal presbyterian ministers in and about London, and presented Jan. 18, 1648–9.* * The « presbyterians, and body of the city, (says Bi
shop Burnet) were much against it, and were “ every where fasting and praying
for the king's “ preservation.”+ Archdeacon "Echard, says “ Cromwell first pulled down the presbyterians, " and then destroyed the king, and that almost " all the presbyterian ministers in London, and
very many in the several counties, and a few of “ the independents themselves, declared against ► the design, in their sermons, in conterences, in
monitory letters, petitions, protestations, and
public remonstrances: they earnestly begged, " that contrary to so many oaths and impreca
tions, contrary to public and private faith, &c. “ they would not defile their own hands and the
kingdom with royal blood.”+ Abundant proof of the same might be brought from Clarendon, Rapin, &c. We proceed to observe,
Secondly: That the presbyterians had the principal hand, and were the chief agents, in restoring King Charles II. to the throne. This appears, beyond doubt, from the united testimony of the history of those times.
When Charles Il. came to Scotland, Lord Clarendon says, expecting force from that kingdom to restore him, “ to his father's throne, and “ the parliament of England resolved to send
army against him, all the presbyterian party greatly opposed it—they were bold in
contradicting Cromwell in the house, and “ crossing all his designs in the city."S
The first solemn conference which was had with General Monk, to induce him to restore the
* See the whole. Protest, Neal's Hist.
Purit. vol. iij.
f Burnet's History of his own Times, vol. ii. page 31.
Echard's History of England; page 654.708.