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I allow myself to hate and wish ill to the churcle, I would most heartily wish it pertinaciously to hold fast this shameful corruption. I would wish it by no means to give up this open profanation, of the authority and name of Christ, this prostitution and perversion of a holy sacrament of his religion, this destruction of all discipline, this open door for the reception of the most abominable and profane to its most holy mysteries and rites. This, if I wished it ill, I would earnestly wish your church inflexibly to continue; not doubting, but if long continued, it will surely at length bring down upon it the heavy anger
of Almighty God, the just resentment and jealousy of a despised and insulted Saviour, and the deep scorn and contempt of all wise and thinking men.
While this law continues, Sir, in its present application, yourself cannot but see that your discipline must necessarily remain most scandalously relaxed, and that it must soon be totally ruined. It is impossible you can maintain hardly the shadow and form, much less the spirit of primitive ecclesiastical government.
Your holy things must lie common, vilely trodden under foot. Of all persons in the land, therefore, the clergy should be the first to labour with all their might for the repeal of this unhappy law: a law which cannot but be supposed to bear hard upon, and grievously to wound the consciences of many of them; and which subjects them to so servile a prostitution of their character, as cannot but load it with great infamy and reproach.
You tell me, That you will engage, simple “ us you sit here, that this law shall be repealed, “ and our incapacities removed, when we will lay “ down our enmity to the church; that is, in short, “ to one half-part of the constitution :-For, “ church and state, here in England, are so in
corporated and united, that they have, like the " married pair, the same friends and enemies, «l and stand or fall together."* I cannot pretend to say, Sir, how simple you sat there when you gave us this assurance, but this I may say, that you would much more effectually serve your cause, were you able to stand up and make it good. For,
1. Are you sure that the church is really any essential part at all, much less the half part of the British constitution: or, that church and state are so married and interwoven that they must stand or fall together?
-Many Sir, besides dissenters, will think that this is a very partial and wrong representation of our most excellent frame of government. Let any one in his imagination annihilate the form of our present church. Let him suppose its liturgy, clergy, articles, canons, with all its ceremonies and rites, entirely banished from the land: its immense revenues applied in ease of our heavy taxes, and for the payment of the public debts, and preachers paid only by voluntary contributions, as they are amongst us.
Would the state hereby sustain so essential a loss that it could not thenceforward possibly subsist? What, would the British monarchy be overthrown-our courts of judicature be shut up,—the courts of law be stopped, -parliaments no more meet,-commerce and trade stagnate,--because what you call a church is no more? Romantic and absurd! No. The frame of our happy government, both civil and military, might remain the very same: and you will give me leave to observe, on the present occasion, that, in one part of this kingdom, those who profess themselves to be of your church, as to its external polity and ceremonies, are almost to a man inveterate, avowed enemies of our happy civil constitution, and have risen in an impious rebellion against his present Majesty, and joined with Spaniards, French, Italians, and home bred
• Letter I. p. 11.
papists in their wicked attempts to subvert the
2. The destruction of the church of England is what we by no means wish. May God in his mercy prevent it, by causing her to see, in this her day, the things belonging to her peace. We bear it no enmity, God is our witness. We wish it, from our souls, glory, prosperity, purity, peace; the glory of being formed according to the perfect plan of the primitive apostolic church ; purged of those things, which yourselves know to be no parts of the religion of Christ! We wish to see it established upon the catholic and broad bottom, upon which alone it can stand firm, even the scriptural foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being its only lawgiver and king; and not upon the nar
which it now rests, the articles and canons, the institutions and inventions of fallible and weak men, on which it can never be strongly and firmly fixed; which are all, in the Apostle's language, wood, hay, stubble, whose end is to be burned.
We wish, that as it opens its bosom, and admits the most unworthy and licentious persons, without demurring at their open violation of God's commands, so it would charitably extend its arms to take us into its communion, without insisting upon our obedience to the injunctions and commands of men. Finally, we wish, that what God in his wisdoın has been pleased to leave indifferent, your church also, in her wigdom, would be pleased to leave the same: that you would not attempt to mend the institutions of Jesus Christ, but would receive us into
your church upon the same terms and qualifications, as Christ and his apostles would have received us into theirs, and as God will receive us into heaven at last. This, Sir, I assure you, is all the
. In the Rebellion, 1745.
harm we wish the church; judge then yourself, whether we bear it any enmity; and whether you are not now bound to take from us the incapacities which you engaged, simple as you sat there, should on this condition be removed.
And you will give me leave, Sir, to think, and to hope, that there are numbers of your worthy clergy of the same mind; that it would not at all lessen either the glory, stability, or prosperity of your church, if its bounds were thus enlarged to admit the moderate dissenters, who sincerely desire so happy a coalition. Its enemies seem to multiply, and dark clouds to rise around it. Popery is making dangerous and mighty inroads on the one hand, and deism on the other. There may come a time, as there formerly has been, when the frame of your church being terribly threatened, we may again be considered as no despicable auxiliaries. But, if we cannot be so happy, as not to be cast out and rejected by our brethren, our consolation is this, that God judgeth in the earth, and will surely at the proper season, vindicate and plead the cause of the injured and oppressed.
But to return to the point of discipline. To the acknowledged irregularity of lay chancellors in your church, you would fain“ put in balance" the lay-preaching, lay-praying, and lay-ordination, allowed in our churches.* To which I reply, that in the generality of our churches, there is no such thing allowed, or ever practised. Besides, if they were, did not your own church set us the pattern? In the rubric, before the general confession at the communion, did it not direct-Then shall this general confession be made, in the name of all those that are to receive, either by one of them, or else by one of the mic nisters? How it came to be omitted in the late
• Letter III. p. 38.
editions of the common prayer, whether it is done according to law, or by authority of parliament, you, Sir, perhaps can say.
As to “ laymen being an essential part of all
our consistories and synods, sitting in them, “ and having an equal vote with pastors in all « business,-jointly with them suspending from « the Lord's table, &c."*_-This, Sir, is no other than the scriptural apostolic plan. The aggrieved person is by our Lord, you know, (Matt. xviii. 17.) directed to lay his complaint before the church, i, e. the congregation of the faithful; and, if the offender neglected to hear the church, (the congregation,) admonishing and reproving him, he was then to be considered as a heathen ran, and a publican. How was the corrupt member at Corinth to be solemnly excommunicated ? Not by any particular person, chancellor, or bishop, but it was to be the act of the whole church. To the whole body, or congregation of believers in that city, St. Paul gives directions, that, when they were come together, they should deliver such an one to Satan ; and that they should put away from among themselves that wicked person, 1 Cor. v. 4, 5, 13, which excommunication he afterwards calls a punishment inflicted by the many.. 2 Cor. ii. 6. So in that weighty and momentous question, How far the Gentiles were to submit to the law of Moses ? the elders and brethren are joined with the apostles in the decision and decree, Acts xv. 23. The laity, therefore, have a right to be consulted, and to judge in these important church-matters, together with the clergy, as they do by their representatives, in what you call our consistories. But, with you, Sir, a single layman (this is the absurdity which you seem willing to lose sight of) I repeat it, a single lay
Letter III. page 37.