Imatges de pÓgina
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THE

PREFACE.

THE following Edition being printed from one of those which had received the Author's laft corrections, it is thought unnecessary to repeat here the former part of his Preface relating chiefly to the alterations which he had made in his former Editions, as they followed each other. The latter part, containing a ftudied defence of his Opinion on an important Subject, is in juftice to the Author here preferved in his own words, as follows:

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And this I take to be the proper place to explain myself in relation to one paffage particularly, which I know has been thought to need the greateft amendment, though I have let it stand without making any. And indeed an Explanation of it is fo much the more needful, as it is not only judged to be indefenfible in itself, but also to be inconfiftent with what I have faid in another part of the book. The paffage I mean, is concerning the Abfolution in the daily Morning and Evening Service, which I have afferted to be "an ac"tual Conveyance of Pardon, at the very inftant of pronouncing it, to all that come within the terms "propofed." And again, "that it is more than DE"CLARATIVE, that it is truly EFFECTIVE, infuring "and conveying to the proper fubjects thereof the very "Abfolution or Remiffion itself." This has been thought by fome, from whofe judgment I should be very unwilling to differ or recede, not only to carry the point higher than can be maintained; but alfo to be irreconcileable with my own notions of Abfolution, as I have described them upon the office for the Vifitation of the Sick, where they are thought to be more confiftent with Scripture and Antiquity. I have there endeavoured to fhew that "there is no ftanding au"thority in the Minifters of the Gospel to pardon and forgive Sins immediately and directly in relation to

* Page 115.

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+ Page 120.

"God,

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"God, and as to which the cenfure of the Church "had been in no wife concerned *." And again, "that no Absolution pronounced by the Church can "cleanse or do away our inward Guilt, or remit the "eternal Penalties of Sin, which are declared to be "due to it by the Sentence of GOD; any farther than "by the Prayers which are appointed to accompany it, and by the use of thofe Ordinances to which it "reftores us, it may be a means, in the end, of ob"taining our Pardon from God himself, and the Forgivenefs of Sin as it relates to Him." These paffages, I acknowledge, as they are feparated from their contexts, and oppofed to one another, feem a little inconfiftent and confusedly expreffed: but if each of them are read in their proper places, and with that diftinction of ideas which I had framed to myself when I writ them, I humbly prefume they may be eafily reconciled, and both of them afferted with equal truth. I defire it may be remembered that in the latter place I am speaking of a judicial and unconditional Abfolution, pronounced by the Minifter in an Indicative Form, as of certain advantage to the perfon that receives it. By this I have fuppofed the Church never intends to cleanfe or do away our inward Guilt, but only to exercife an external authority, founded upon the power of the Keys; which, though it may be abfolute, as to the inflicting and remitting the cenfures of the Church, I could not understand peremptorily to determine the state of the Sinner in relation to GOD. And thus far I have the happiness to have the concurrence of good judges on my fide; fo that it is only in what I affert on the Daily Abfolution, that I have the misfortune not to be accounted fo clear. But, with humble fubmiffion, I can fee nothing there inconfiftent with what I have faid on the other. The Abfolution I am speaking of is conditional, pronounced by the Priest in a Declarative Form, and limited to fuch as truly repent, and unfeignedly believe God's holy Gofpel. This indeed

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I have afferted to be Effective, and that it infures and conveys, to the proper fubjects thereof, the very Abfolution or Remiffion itfelf: but then I defire it may be remembered that I attribute the effect of it not to a judicial, but to a minifterial act in the perfon who pronounces it: but to fuch an act however as is founded upon the general tenor of the Gospel, which fuppofes, if I miftake not, that GoD always accompanies the Miniftrations of the Prieft, if there be no impediment on the part of the People. And therefore when the Prieft, in the Name of GOD, so folemnly declares to a Congregation that has been humbly confeffing their Sins, and importuning the Remiffion of them, that God does actually pardon all that truly repent and unfeignedly believe; why may not fuch of them as do repent and believe, humbly prefume that their Pardon is fealed as well as made known by fuch a declaration?

I am fure this notion gives no encouragement either of Prefumption to the Penitent, or of Arrogance to the Prieft: I have fuppofed that, to receive any benefit from the form, the perfon must come within the terms required: and fuch a one, though the form fuld have no effect, is allowed notwithstanding to be pardoned and abfolved. And the Prieft I have alerted to act only minifterially, as the inftrument of Providence; that he can neither withhold, nor apply, the Abfolution as he pleafes, nor fo much as know upon whom or upon how many it fhall take effect; but that he only pronounces what God commands, whilft GOD himself ratifies the declaration, and feals the Pardon which he proclaims.

It is true indeed, it does not appear by the ancient Liturgies, that the Primitive Chriftians had any fuch Abfolution to be pronounced, as this is, to the Congregation in general. But yet, if they had Abfolutions upon any occafion, and thofe Abfolutions were fuppofed to procure a Reconcilement with GOD; (neither of which I prefume will be thought to want a proof) I fee no reason why they may not be usefully admitted (as they are with us) into the Daily and Ordinary

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Ordinary Service of the Church. For allowing that the perfons they were formerly used to, were fuch as had incurred Ecclefiaftical Cenfure; yet it is confefled that the forms pronounced on those occafions immediately refpected the Confcience of the Sinner, and not the outward Regimen of the Church; that they were inftrumental to procure the Forgiveness of God, whilft the Ecclefiaftical Bond was declared to be releafed by an additional ceremony of the Impofition of Hands *. If then Abfolutions, even in the earliest ages, were thought to be inftrumental to procure GOD's Forgiveness to fuch Sins as had deferved Ecclefiaftical Bonds; why may they not be allowed as inftrumental and proper to procure his Forgiveness to Sins of daily Incurfion, though they may not be grofs enough, or at leaft enough public, to come within the cognizance of Ecclefiaftical Cenfures? If it be urged, that the ancient Abfolutions were never Declarative, but either Interceffional, like the prayer that follows the Abfolution in the office appointed for the Vifitation of the Sick, or Optative, like the form in our Office of Communion; I think it may be answered, that the Effect of the Abfolution does not at all depend upon the Form of it, fince the Promises of GoD are either way applied, and it must be the Sinner's embracing them with Repentance and Faith, that must make the Application of them effectual to himself.

I hope this explanation will justify my notions upon the Daily Abfolution, as well as reconcile them with what I have faid upon the other. I fhall add nothing more in defence of them, than that they seem fully to be countenanced by the Form itself (as I have fhewed at large upon the place), and particularly by the inhibition of Deacons from pronouncing it: which to me is an argument that our Church defigned it for an Effect, which it was beyond the commiffion of a Deacon to convey. Not that I would draw an argument from the opinion of our Church,

* See Dr. Marshall's Penitential Difcipline, page 93, &c. See also the forms of Abfolution in his Appendix, Numb. 4, 5, 6, 7. † See Page 120, &c.

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