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Let a great prelate, who at present adorns one of the highest stations of your church, be heard as judge between us.
«'In all other societies, " the express will of the founder, and the terms “of fellowship and communion which he has « laid down, are accounted sacred. In all other “ kingdoms the will of the supreme power is a " law. No one pretends, or dares pretend, to "make laws of equal force with his. How hard « then is the fate of the Christian church, or of “ the kingdom of Christ, when his will is de« clared insufficient, and the invented words and “ decisions of bis subjects are made co-ordinate “ with his own, equally exclusive of others of his “ subjects from the communion of their fellow
subjects! And how hard is the fate of those “ believers in him, who desire communion upon " the terms God has prescribed, to be excluded “ by the words of men; by the inventions of men,
imposed upon them for his precepts! And how
unhappy is the church, to be reduced by any s such methods within more narrow bounds than
our LORD himself has confined it!"*
But you are in readiness to retort, and with great assurance tell me, That the avoidance of « kneeling, insisted upon by our ministers, is not " less an imposition than your enjoining it. « That we do really impose the observance of “ one particular gesture upon our communicants. “ – That sitting is the regular unvaried practice “ of our churches; observed as constantly and s universally amongst us as kneeling is amongst “ you ;-never allowed to be departed from; “ which our ministers require, insist upon, and a refuse to abate.”- And
me, “ should present hinself to take the sacrament “ standing, or offer to take it on his knees, whe. so ther I do not think he would undergo, some se
• Bishop of Winchester's Postscript to his Answer to. Dr. Hare's Sermon, p. 254.
« If one
" vere expostulations, and be plainly told we had
no such custom, nor the churches of God, and “ it would not be given him at all!"*
I believe the world will be surprised Sir, and that an ingenuous blush will cover your own face, when you find that this account us is absos lutely without truth, and quite contrary to fact. I have spent my whole life amongst the Dissenters, and am acquainted with a great number of their churches and ministers; but never once, till now, heard that sitting at the Lord's table was ever insisted on as a term of communion with them, or that it is their unvaried and universal practice. The contrary to this I know to be truth., In the church to which I myself belong, there is a person who for many years has constantly received the elements kneeling, with out the least offence to the congregation, or any expostulation from the minister
on that account. In some of our churches, I am well informed, there are some who receive standing, some kneeling; in this every one amongst us is left entirely at his liberty.. Though the posture of sitting be generally thought by us most suitable to the commemorative supper of our Lord, instituted instead of the paschal supper of the Jews, and most agreeable to the practice of Christ and his Apostles, who without any doubt, sat round the table, yet in tbis, we are all left to follow freely our own persuasion. Nor is there, I believe, amongst our ministers, one in five bundred who would refuse to administer the sacrament, either standing or kneeling, to any one who thought either of these the fittest
posa ture of receiving it. Our liberty, as to this matter, you might have seen in Baxter's Reformed Liturgy, where it is expressly said, "And let
· Letter II. p. 56, 57, 58.
Letter III. p. & 9.
none of the people be forced to sit, stand, or • kneel, in the act of receiving, whose judginent " is against it." And, in Dr. Calamy's brief account, &c. which you appear to have read,“ The communicants amongst protestant Dis“ senters are at liberty to use their own posturé “ in the time of receiving, though a table ges“ ture is most commonly used."*
Thus, Sir, I have at large considered your charge of Schism upon the Dissenters; and hope that by this time, you begin to think more favourably of us; to justify our principles as truly catholic and generous, and to admit that they are the only foundation on which the peace of the church can be solidly fixed; and that the guilt of the separation lies wholly on your church, which insists upon unchristian and unscriptural terms of communicating with it.
But I hope to complete your conviction, Sir, and to wipe off every speck of the taint of schism from dissenters, by calling to your remembrance your own excellent definition of the catholic, or christian church, and reasoning with you on it. “ The catholic church," you say, t " is one outes ward and visible society, divinely instituted ; us the most admirable and glorious society under « heaven."-Pursue, Sir, the consequences of your own definition, and it will soon end the debate. If it be a society divinely instituted, then whatever society is not of divine, but of merely human institution, is not the church of CHR187. If it be a society divinely instituted, then the terms of admission into this society, and the qualifications of its members, are divinely fixed, i. e. fixed by the will and authority of God: whatever visible society then hath its terms of admission, and the qualifications of its members not divinely fixed, fixed only by the will and
Letter to a Divine in Germany, p. 11.
+ Let. I. p. 73.
authority of men, cannot be the truly catholic and christian church.
Now here shall I entreat you, Sir, with the impartiality of a christian, who has nothing but truth and the will of God in view, to pause a moment, and compare the constitution of the church of England, and the constitution of the church of CHRIST, and see if they are not societies of a quite different frame; the one a human, the other á divine institution; the one resting entirely on the authority and will of uren, the other upon the will and authority of God.
If you inquire after the constitution and frame of the church of Christ, where must you look for it? Only in the Bible.* But if you inquire after the constitution and frame of the church of England, where must you look for that? In the Statute-book, in the Canons, and Common Prayer book, and in the Codes of the English law.
The church of Christ is a religious establishment founded upon the Scriptures as the only authentic rule of its doctrines and worship: the church of England is a civil establishment, founded upon acts of parliament, as the only authentic rule of what is to be believed and practised therein. The one a spiritual structure, built up. on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: the other a political structure, built upon the foundation of the lords and commons of the realm, the King, as supreme head, being the chief corner stone.
Into the church of Christ any person may be admitted who subinits to the terms appointed by Christ; but into the church of England he cannot be admitted, except, over and above
• The Bible only is the religion of protestants. worth,
these, he submits also to terms which human authority bath instituted and devised.
In Christ's church the Lord's supper is appointed and used only for spiritual and religious ends ; but, in the church of England, it is notoriously used for political and worldly purposes. In the former it was appointed with intention, and as a mean of uniting all christians, and of destroying all variance and distinctions between them. In the latter it is appointed with intention, and as a mean of discriminating and dividing christians, and of making a distinction between one and another.
In the christian church, no openly debauched, or scandalously wicked person has a right to come to the table of the Lord, or to partake of its provisions; but, in the church of England, if such a person had a commission from the King in the army or the fleet, or any profitable post, this gives him a right to come to the communiontable, a right to demand the holy elements at the priest's hands, as a qualification for his post.
In the scriptural church of Christ there are no such officers ever heard of as archbishops, deans, archdeacons, prebendaries, canons, chancellors, &c.—But there is another church, you know Sir, where these are officers of great influence, of high importance and rank. But whence came this pompous train? From the apostolic fountain at Jerusalem, or from the corrupted source at Rome?
The church of Christ never excommunicates, nor pretends to exercise its discipline upon any but its own members: For, what have I to do, the Apostle says, to judge them that are witha out ?* But the church of England extends its ecclesiastical authority over those who never bem longed to it; and, by a very extraordinary act
*1 Cor. V. 12.