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and what the allegiance, which, as a subject of Jesus CHRIST, you owe to him the only Lawgiver and King in his Church, who will shortly call you to account for your conduct in this respect ?
To come then to the point.--The Church, you say, and you have solemnly subscribed, hath power to decree rites, and ceremonies, and authority in matters of faith. This is the grand hinge upon which the whole controversy turns. Now here, Sir, let me ask you,
FIRST,-What Church is it to whom this authority and power are given ? You will doubtless say, the Church of England; for the Church of England expressly claims and exercises this
you avow and defend it in this.exercise and claim: yea, this is the very basis on which its whole frame and hierarchy stand. It obliges all its ministers to subscribe to articles of faith, which it hath authoritatively decreed, and to use in religious worship, ceremonies and rites which it hath authoritatively enjoined.
But mark, Sir, I beseech you, the consequences of this claim. If the Church of England hath really this authority and power, hath not the Church of France, the Church of Spain, the Church of Rome, the very same power ? Hath England, in this matter, any privilege from God, any spiritual prerogative, any charter from Heaven, which-its neighbouring countries have not ? You can have no pretence to assert that it has. But, if it has no such privilege, or prerogative, then the Church of France, and the Church of Rome have also, you must acknowledge, power to decree rites and ceremonies in God's worship, and authority in points of faith ; consequently all the fopperies, and superstitions of the Romish Church, at least such as cannot be proved to be contrary to the word of God, are to be reverently submitted to by all the members of those churches, and to be cordially received.
But does not this power for which you contend, evidently oppose the principles of the Reformation itself, and subvert the very foundation of the Church you seek to establish? For till you can shew why the Church of England is possessed of this power, but not the Church of Rome; why a body of acknowledged fallible men in Britain have authority to make and to enjoin articles of faith, but not a body of pre tended infallible men at Trent; how England became thus spiritually gifted and endowed beyond all its neighbouring kingdoms ;- your separation from the Church of Rome is incapable of a just and solid defence.
To this; perhaps, you will reply, but our Church hathi expresslý guarded against any such abuse of the power it claims, by adding, in the XXth article, Yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain any thing that is contrary to God's word written; neither may it so expound one place of scripture that it be repugnant to another. But, upon this, I beg leave to make these two remarks:
1st. Whatever ceremony, or rite, cannot be shewn to be contrary to God's word, your Church, yea the Church of Rome hath, on your own principles, full authority to enjoy : conse-, quently, as your Church, by virtue of this authoá Xu" rity, hath enjoined the cross in baptism, it hath full power also to require you to cross yourselves whenever you enter your places of Worship, say your prayers, look towards the east, touch the bible, sit at meat.-It has full power to enjoin the use of salt and spittle in baptism, chrism, extrerne unction, and a hundred other things, which are no more contrary to God's word than the cross in baptism. As
your Church now consecrates ground, it has
every whit as much power to consecrate the other element, and to make holy water as well
as holy earth, and to order it to be decently sprinkled upon its members, (for all things, you know, are to be done decently and in order, in token that they shall keep themselves pure from sin. It hath power to consecrate holy knives to cut the sacramental bread; holy basons and ewers for the priest to wash in before the sacrament; holy vestments and robes, and a great variety of holy utensils, lighted tapers for the altar, &c. (all which, you know, Sir, was done by your admired Bishop Laud,) knocking on the breast, bowing towards the east, prostration before the altar -all these I say, and innumerable other ceremonies, your church claims authority and power to enjoin; for none of these can be shewn to be more contrary to the word of God, or to be a whit more superstitious, ridiculous, or absurd, than the crossing at baptism, or the solemn consecration of churches, and churchyards. But,
2dly. The limitation, or guard, which the article seems to put upon
of the Church, is really of no force, and is in fact no limitation at all.
For though it is said that the Church may not ordain any thing contrary to God's word, nor so expound one scripture, as to be repugnant to another, yet, of this repugnance and contrariety, the Church alone, you will observe, and not every private person, is allowed to be the proper judge: for otherwise, the article is absurd; it actually overthrows itself, and takes away with one hand what it gives with the other. For if every private person hath authority to judge of the Church's decisions, and to reject them, if they appear to him repugnant to scripture, then the
Church's authority, in points of faith, is entirely destroyed. It is an authority to decree where no one is bound to submit. But such a senseless, unmeaning impertinent claim, can never be the mà design and import of this article. It does claim, therefore, for the Church, some real authority to settle points of faith; consequently, to points thus authoritatively settled by it, private Chrisy tians its members, are reverently to submit, even though to their own judgments they appear repugnant to the word of GOD.
This, Sir, must be the real meaning and intent of the article, notwithstanding the restrictive clause. Accordingly, in consequence of this claim, your Church hath authoritatively decreed thirty-nine articles of faith, and these it declares to have decreed for the taking away difference of opinion, and to establish an agreement in true religion.* The plain language of authority. These articles it obliges all its ministers to subscribe ; Les and our princes, as heads and governors of the
Church, have authoritatively forbidden its clergy to preach any thing repugnant to them, and require them to frame their sermons according to the plan here prescribed. From all which it appears, that notwithstanding the pretended limitation, there is a real authority claimed by the Church; that is to say, by its governors, to settle points of faith. But if there be such authority really vested in them, then the people are bound to submit to their decisions, and have no right of private judgment to examine or reject them; for there cannot be two contradictory rights ; a right in governors to prescribe, and a right in subjects to refuse. But, if the Church of England has really this authority and right, the Church of Rome had it before her; and as the elder and mother church, ought to have been obeyed. The reformation, therefore, as we are wont to call it, was a rebellion against superiors; a disobedience to the authority vested in the
• Preface to the XXXIX articles.
Church, and ought, as such, to be renounced by returning to the Church of Rome !
In this manner, Sir, a Romish priest will turn upon the Church of England its own dangerous artillery; and by the mere concessions of this XXth article, thousands of proselytes have, no doubt, been made from you. Nor with all your ingenuity, would you find it easy to ward off the force of such reasoning, should any of your parishioners be likely to be seduced. And this, perhaps, is the reason why the numerous converts these priests are said to make, àre gathered all from your Church; whereas, from among the Dissenters, you scarcely ever hear of one being made. But,
SECONDLY, I very much wish to be informed as to the persons who are invested with this aus thority and power.
You say, it is the church; but who, I pray, are the Church in whom this great power is lodged ? You will please to observe it is not the Bishops and Clergy who are wont to speak of themselves as our spiritual pastors and guides, as being over us in the Lord, as stewards of the mysteries, &c. This power to order the manner of God's worship, and to settle articles of faith, is not at all Jodged in them, but entirely in the King and Parliament of these realms.
You need not to be informed, Sir, that all the clergy of this kingdom, with all the bishops at their head, have not the least authority to enjoin one ceremony or rite of worship, or to establish or annul one article of faith : on the contrary, all power and jurisdiction, relating to these matters, is lodged chiefly in lay hands: in the King
and Parliament, the clergy being obliged to act in all things under their direction and control. The King and Parliament are, in truth, the real fathers, governors, or bishops of this church: these only have power to make or to unmake