« AnteriorContinua »
CONSIDERATIONS ON THE PROPRIETY OF REQUIRING A SUBSCRIPTION TO ARTICLES OF FAITH,
IN REPLY TO A LATE ANSWER FROM THE CLARENDON PRESS.
THE fair way of conducting a dispute, is to exhibit one by one the arguments of your opponent, and with each argument the precise and specific answer you are able to give it. If this method be not so common, nor found so convenient, as might be expected, the reason is, because it suits not always with the designs of a writer, which are no more perhaps than to make a book; to confound some arguments, and to keep others out of sight; to leave what is called an impression upon the reader, without any care to inform him of the proofs or principles by which his opinion should be governed. With such views it may be consistent to despatch objections, by observing of some "that they are old," and therefore, like certain drugs, have lost, we may suppose, their strength; of others, that "they have long since received an answer;" which implies, to be sure, a confutation: to attack straggling remarks, and decline the main reasoning, as "mere declamation;" to pass by one passage because it is "long winded," another be cause the answerer "has neither leisure nor inclination to enter into the discussion of it;" to produce extracts and quotations, which, taken alone, imperfectly, if at all, express their author's meaning; to dismiss a stubborn difficulty with a "reference," which ten to one the reader never looks at; and, lastly, in order to give the whole a certain fashionable air of candour and moderation, to make a concession* or two which nobody thanks him for, or yield up a few points which it is no longer any credit to maintain.
How far the writer with whom we have to do is concerned in this description, his readers will judge: he shall receive, however, from us, that justice which he has not shown the author of the "Considerations," to have his arguments fully and distinctly stated and examined.
After complaining, as is usual on these occasions, of disappointment and dissatisfaction; the answerer sets out with an argument which comprises, we are told, in a narrow compass," the whole merits of the question betwixt us; and which is neither more nor less than this, that "it
*Such as, that "if people keep their opinions to them. selves, no man will hurt them," and the like.-Answer, p. 45.
is necessary that those who are to be ordained teachers in the church should be sound in the faith, and consequently that they should give to those who ordain them some proof and assurance that they are so, and that the method of this proof should be settled by public authority." Now the perfection of this sort of reasoning is, that it comes as well from the mouth of the pope's professor of divinity in the university of Bologna, as from the Clarendon press. A church has only, with our author, to call her creed the "faithful word," and it follows from Scripture that "we must hold it fast." Her dissatisfied sons, let her only denomi nate as he does, "vain talkers and deceivers," and St. Paul himself commands us to "stop their mouths." Every one that questions or opposes her decisions she pronounces, with him, a heretic, and "a man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject." In like manner, calling her tenets" sound doctrine," or taking it for granted that they are so, (which the conclave at Rome can do as well as the convocation at London) and "soundness in the faith being a necessary qualification in a Christian teacher," there is no avoiding the conclusion, that every "Christian teacher" (in, and out of the church too, if you can catch him, "soundness in the faith" being alike necessary" in all) must have these tenets strapped about his neck by oaths and subscriptions. An argument which thus fights in any cause, or on either side, deserves no quarter. I have said, that this reasoning, and these applications of Scripture, are equally competent to the defenders of popery
they are more so. The popes, when they assumed the power of the apostles, laid claim also to their infallibility; and in this they were consistent. Protestant churches renounce with all their might this infallibility, whilst they apply to themselves every expression that describes it, and will not part with a jot of the authority which is built upon it. But to return to the terms of the argument. "Is it necessary that a Christian teacher should be sound in the faith?"
1. Not in nine instances out of ten to which the test is now extended. Nor,
2. If it were, is this the way to make him so; there being as little probability that the determinations of a set of men whose good fortune had advanced them to high stations in the church should be right, as the conclusions of private inquirers. Nor,
3. Were they actually right, is it possible to conceive how they can, upon this author's principles, produce the effect contended for, since "we set them not up as a rule of faith;" since "they do not decide matters for us, nor bind them upon us;" since "they tie no man up from altering his opinion," are "no ways inconsistent with the right of private judgment," are, in a word, of no more authority than an old sermon; nor, consequently, much more effectual, either for the producing or securing of "soundness in the faith."
The answerer, not trusting altogether to the strength of his " argument," endeavours next to avail himself of a "concession" which he has gained, he imagines, from his adversary, and which he is pleased to look upon "as in a manner giving up the main point." Our business, therefore, will be to show what this concession, as he calls it, amounts to, and wherein it differs from the "main point," the requisition of subscription to established formularies. It is objected to the Articles of the Church of England, that they are at variance with the actual opinions both of the governors and members of that church; so much so, that the men who most faithfully and explicitly maintain these articles, get persecuted for their singularity, excluded from orders, driven from universities, and are compelled to preach the established religion in fields and conventicles. Now this objection, which must cleave to every fired formulary, might, we conceive, be removed if a test was substituted, supposing any test to be insisted upon, which could adapt itself to the opinions, and keep pace with the improvements, of each succeeding age. This, in some measure, would be the case, if the governors of the church for the time being, were authorized to receive from candidates for orders declarations of their religious principles in their own words, and allowed, at their discretion, to admit them into the ministry. Bishops being taken out of the lump of the community will generally be of the same leaven, and partake both of the opinions and moderation of the times they live in. This is the most that can be made of the concession; and how this gives up the "main point," or indeed any thing, it is not easy to discover.
that had been cast upon|ple,other protestant church-
Now, were the "origin" of a custom of more consequence than it is to a question concerning the "propriety" of it, can any one doubt, who credits even the answerer's own account, but that the motive assigned in the considerations, both did exist, and was the principal motive? There is one account, indeed, of the "origin" of this custom, which, were it true, would directly concern the question. "This practice," our author tells us in another part of his Answer, "is said to be derived from the apostles themselves." I care not what "is said." It is impossible that the practice complained of, the imposition of articles of faith by "fallible" men, could originate from the "apostles," who, under the direction by which they acted were infallible."
But this practice, from whatever "root of bitterness" it sprung, has been one of the chief causes, we assert, of the divisions and distresses which we read of in ecclesiastical history. The matter of fact our author does not, because he cannot, deny. He rather chooses to insinuate that "such divisions and disturbances were not owing to the governors of the church, but to the perverse disputings of heretics and schismatics." He must know that there is oppression as well as resistance, provocation as well as resentment, abuse of power as well as opposition to it: and it is too much to take for granted, without one syllable of proof, that those in possession of power have been always in the right, and those who withstood them in the wrong. "Divisions" and "disturbances" have in fact, and in all ages, arisen on this account, and it is a poor shift to say, because it may always be said, that such only are chargeable with these mischiefs as refused to submit
† How a creed is to be made, as the Considerations recommend, in which all parties shall agree, our author
The next paragraph of the Answer attacks the cannot understand. I will tell him how; by adhering account which the Considerations have given of to Scripture terms: and this will suit the best idea of a the "rise" and "progress" of the custom in ques-Creed (a summary or compendium of a larger volume,) and the only fair purpose of one, instruction. tion; "the reverse of which," the answerer tells us, "is the truth," and by way of proof gives hisplicity of the propositions contained in the thirty-nine own account of the matter, which, so far from being the "reverse," is in effect, or very nearly, the
The reader shall see the two accounts side by side, and is desired to judge whether the author of the Considerations, so far from being confuted in this point, is even contradicted.
It is observed in the Considerations, that the multi
Articles is alone sufficient to show the impossibility of that consent which the Church imposes and requires.—
Now, what would any man guess is the answer to this? Why," that there are no less than three propositions in the very first verse of St. John's Gospel." Had there been" three thousand" it would have been nothing to the purpose: where propositions are received upon the authority of the proposer, it matters not how many of them there are; the doubt is not increased with the number; the same reason which establishes one esta
"The protestants, aware] "As some who set up for how greatly they were mis-reformers had broached mablishes all. But is this the case with a system of proposi represented and abused, be- ny erroneous and pestilent gan to think it necessary to doctrines; the Lutherans, repel the various calumnies first, and, after their exam
Pages 11. 13. 19. 29.
tions which derives no evidence from the proposer? which must each stand upon its own separate and intrinsic proof?-We thought it necessary to oppose note to note in the place in which we found it; though neither here nor in the Answer is it much connected with the text.
to whatever their superiors thought proper to impose.*
all who continue in the church whilst they dissent from her Articles, one would not suppose there was a pardon left for those, who "keep even to themselves an opinion" inconsistent with any one proposition they have subscribed. The fact is, the gentleman has either shifted his opinion in the course of writing the Answer, or had put down these assertions, not expecting that he should have occasion afterwards to contradict them.
Nor is it much better when he tells us, "that these subtleties of metaphysical debate, which we complain of in our Articles, were introduced by the several heretics of those times;" especially as it is evident that whoever first introduced, it is the governors of the church who still continue them. But our author cannot conceive what all this, as relating to "creeds" only and "confessions," to It seemed to add strength to this objection, that the "terms of communion" rather than of admis- the judgment of most thinking men being in a sion into the ministry, is to the purpose. Will he progressive state, their opinions of course must then give up "creeds" and "confessions ?" or will many of them change; the evil and iniquity of his church thank him for it if he does? a church which the answerer sets forth with great pleawhich, by transfusing the substance of her Arti- santry, but has forgot at the same time to give us cles into the form of her public worship, has in any remedy for the misfortune, except the old effect made the "terms of communion" and of ad-woman's receipt, to leave off thinking for fear of mission into the ministry the same. This ques- thinking wrong. tion, like every other, however naked you may strip it by abstraction, must always be considered with a reference to the practice you wish to
But our church "preaches," it seems, "no other Gospel than that which she received," nor propounds any other Articles for Gospel," nor "fixes any standards or criterions of faith, sepaThe author of the Considerations contends rate from this Gospel: and so she herself fully devery properly, that it is one of the first duties a clares;"and we are to take her "word" for it, when Christian owes to his Master, "to keep his mind the very complaint is, that she has never “acted" up open and unbiassed" in religious inquiries. Can to this declaration, but in direct contradiction to it. a man be said to do this, who must bring himself When she puts forth a system of propositions to assent to opinions proposed by another? who conceived in a new dialect, and in unscriptural enters into a profession where both his subsistence terms; when she ascribes to these the same eviand success depend upon his continuance in a dence and certainty as to Scripture itself, or departicular persuasion? In answer to this we are crees and acts as if they were equally evident and informed, that these Articles are no "rule of faith;" certain; she incurs, we apprehend, the charge (what! not to those who subscribe them?) that which these expressions imply. She claims indeed "the church deprives no man of his right of private "authority in controversies of faith," but "only judgment;"(she cannot-she hangs, however, a so far," says her apologist, as "to judge for herself dead weight upon it;) that it is a "very unfair what should be her own terms of communion, state of the case, to call subscription a declaration and what qualifications, she shall require in her of our full and final persuasion in matters of faith;" own ministers." All which, in plainer English, though if it be not a "full" persuasion, what is it? comes to this; that two or three men, betwixt and ten to one it will be "final," when such con- two and three centuries ago, fixed a multitude of sequences attend a change. That "no man is obscure and dubious propositions, which many hereby tied up from impartially examining the millions after must bring themselves to believe, word of God," i. e. with the "impartiality" of a before they be permitted to share in the provision man who must "eat" or "starve" according as which the state has made (and to which all of the examination turns out; an "impartiality" so every sect contribute) for regular opportunities of suspected, that a court of justice would not receive public worship, and the giving and receiving of his evidence under half of the same influence: public instruction. And this our author calls the "nor from altering his opinion if he finds reason magistrate's "judging for himself,"* and exercisso to do, which few, I conceive, will "find," when ing the "same right as all other persons have to the alteration must cost them so dear. If one judge for themselves." For the reasonableness of could give credit to our author in what he says here, it, however, he has nothing to offer, but that it "is and in some other passages of his Answer, one no more than what other churches, popish" too, to would suppose that, in his judgment at least, sub-strengthen the argument, "as well as protestant," scription restrained no man from adopting what opinion he pleased, provided “he does not think himself bound openly to maintain it :" that "men may retain their preferments, if they will but keep their opinions to themselves." If this be what the church of England means, let her say so. This is indeed what our author admits here, and yet, from the outcry he has afterwards raised against
The following sentiment of our author is too curious to be omitted: * Possibly too he (the author of the Considerations) may think that insurrections and rebellions in the state are not owing to the unruliness of factions subjects, but to kings and rulers; but most reasonable men, I believe, will think otherwise."-A common reader may think this observation of the answerer a little beside the question.-But the answerer may say, with Cicero and Dr. King, "Suscepto negotio majus mihi quiddam proposui, in quo meam in Rempublicam voluntatem populus perspiceri posset."-Motto to Dr.
K.'s Oration in 1749.
have done before. He might have added, seeing "custom" is to determine the matter, that it had been "customary" too from early ages for Christians to anathematize and burn each other for difference of opinion in some points of faith, and for difference of practice in some points of ceremony.
We now accompany the learned answerer to what he is pleased to call the "main question," and which he is so much "puzzled to keep in sight." The argumentt in favour of subscription and the arbitrary exclusion of men from the church or ministry, drawn from the nature of a society
and the rights incidental to society, our author resigns to its fate, and to the answer which has been given it in the Considerations. He contends only, that the conduct of the apostles in admitting the eunuch and the centurion upon a general profession of their faith in Christ, "has nothing to do with the case of subscription," as they were admitted, not into the ministry, but only the communion of the church. Now, in the first place, suppose the eunuch or centurion had taken upon them, as probably they did, to teach Christianity, would they have been inhibited by the apostles as not having given sufficient "proof or assurance of their soundness in the faith?" And if not, what becomes of the necessity of such "assurances from a Christian teacher ?" In the second place, suppose you consider the church as one society, and its teachers as another, is it probable that those who were so tender in keeping any one out of the first, would have thought the argument we were encountering, or any thing else, a pretence for a right of arbitrary exclusion from the latter? The case of Cornelius, says our author, is "extraordinary; while St. Peter was preaching to him, the Holy Ghost fell upon all them which heard the word." And is not this author ashamed to own, that any are excluded from the communion, or even ministry of the church, who would have been entitled by their faith "to the gifts of the Holy Ghost?"
Why, it is the very question, Whether the magistrate ought to confine the provision he makes for religion to those who assent, or declare their assent, to a particular system of controverted divinity: and this is one direct objection against it. But "must the magistrate then," exclaims our alarmed adversary, "establish no tithes, no rich benefices, no dignities, or bishoprics ?" As many as he pleases, only let him not convert them into snares and traps by idle and unnecessary conditions. "But must he admit all persons indiscriminately to these advantages?" The author of the Considerations has told him, that he may require conformity to the liturgy, rites, and offices he shall prescribe; he may trust his officers with a discretion as to the religious principles of candidates for orders, similar to what they now exercise with regard to their qualifications; he may censure extravagant preaching when it appears;" precautions surely sufficient either to keep the "wildest sectaries" out of the church, or prevent their doing any mischief if they get in. The exclusion of papists is a separate consideration. The laws against popery, as far as they are justifiable, proceed upon principles with which the author of the Considerations has nothing to do. Where, from the particular circumstances of a country, attachments and dispositions hostile and dangerous to the state, are accidentally or otherwise connected with certain opinions in reliThe answerer in the next paragraph acknow-gion, it may be necessary to lay encumbrances ledges, that to admit converts into the church upon this one article of faith, that Jesus is the Messiah, was indeed the practice of the apostles;* but then he tells us, what must sound a little odd to a Christian ear, and comes the more awkward-ing those who are not so, it is right perhaps to ly from this author, whom, if you turn over a fence the whole order out of your civil and relipage, you will find quoting the "practice of the gious establishment: it is the right at least of apostles" with a vengeance; he tells us, I say, self-defence, and of extreme necessity. But even "that no argument can be drawn from the prac- this is not on account of the religious opinions tice of the apostles." Now, with regard to the themselves, but as they are probable marks, and "practice of the apostles," and the application of the only marks you have, of designs and princiit to ourselves, the case seems to be this (the very ples which it is necessary to disarm. I would reverse, observe, of our author's rule,) that we observe, however, that in proportion as this conare always bound not "to go beyond" the pre-nexion between the civil and religious principles cedent, though, for want of the same authority, of the papists is dissolved, in the same proportion we may not always "advance up to it." It surely ought the state to mitigate the hardships and at least becomes us to be cautious of" proceed-relax the restraints to which they are made subing," where they, in the plenitude of their com-ject. mission, thought proper "to stop."
It is alleged in the Considerations, that annexing emoluments to the profession of particular opinions, is a strong and dangerous inducement to prevarication; and the danger is the greater, as prevarication in one instance has a tendency to relax the most sacred obligations, and make way for perfidy in every other. But "this," it seems, has nothing to do with the question."
Although the question, whether to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, be not the only necessary article of faith, is a question in which we have no concern; our
author, with the best inclination in the world, not be
and restraints upon the profession or propagation of such opinions. Where a great part of any sect or religious order of men are enemies to the constitution, and you have no way of distinguish
If we complain of severities, of pains and penalties, the answerer cannot discover "whom or what we mean:" and lest his reader should, by a figure extremely well known in the craft of controversy, he proposes a string of questions in the person of his adversary, to which he gives his own peremptory and definitive No.* We will take a method, not altogether so compendious, but, we trust, somewhat more satisfactory. We will repeat the same questions, and let the church and state answer for themselves. First, then,
"Does our church or our government inflict any corporal punishment, or levy any fines or penalties on those who will not comply with the terms of her communion ?"-" Be it enacted, that all and every person or persons that shall neglect or refuse to receive the sacrament of the Lord's
Supper according to the usage of the Church of England, and yet, after such neglect or refusal, shall execute any office or offices, civil or military, after the times be expired wherein he or they
ought to have taken the same, shall, upon con- themselves for ordination, consider seriously what viction thereof, besides the loss of the office, for- office they take upon them, and firmly believe feit the sum of five hundred pounds:"* Stat. 25 what they subscribe to." I am persuaded much Car. I. c. 2. Now, although starving be no otherwise. But as this is a "fact," the reader, if "corporal punishment," nor the loss of all a man he be wise, will neither take the answerer's word has, a fine," or "penalty," yet depriving men for it nor mine; but form his own judgment from of the common benefits of society, and rights even his own observation. Bishop Burnet complained of lay subjects, because "they will not comply above 60 years ago, that "the greater part," even with the terms of Church communion," is a 64 se- then, "subscribed the Articles without ever exaverity" that might have deserved from our author mining them,* and others did it because they must some other apology besides the mere suppression do it." Is it probable, that in point either of seriousness or orthodoxy, the clergy are much mended since?
of the fact.
2. Doth it deny them the right or privilege of worshipping God in their own way?"-" Who- The pleas offered in support of this practice of ever shall take upon him to preach or teach in subscription come next to be considered. "One any meeting, assembly, or conventicle, and shall of these is drawn from the sacred writings being thereof be convicted, shall forfeit for the first capable of such a variety of senses, that men of offence twenty pounds, and for every other offence widely different persuasions shelter themselves forty pounds Stat. 22 Car. II. c. 1.-"No per-under the same forms of expression." Our auson shall presume to consecrate or administer the sacrament of the Lord's Supper before he be ordained priest, after the manner of the church of England, on pain of forfeiting one hundred pounds for every such offence:" Stat. 13 & 14 Car. II. c. 4. These laws are in full force against all who do not subscribe to the 39 Articles of the Church of England, except the 34th, 35th, and 36th, and part of the 20th Article.
thor, after quarrelling with this representation of the plea, gives his readers in its stead, a long quetation from the archdeacon of Oxford's charge. What he is to gain by the change, or the quotation, I cannot perceive, as the same first query still recurs, "Is it true, that the Scriptures are in reality so differently interpreted in points of real consequence?" In answer to which, the archdeacon of Oxford, we are told, "has shown that points of real consequence are differently interpreted," and "the plainest texts explained away," and has "instanced in the first chapter of St. John's Gospel." The plea, we conceive, is not much indebted to the archdeacon of Oxford. But be these Scriptures interpreted as they will, each man has still a right to interpret them for
3. "Are men denied the liberty of free debate?" "If any person, having been educated in, or at any time, having made profession of, the Christian faith within the realm, shall by writing, printing, teaching, or advised speaking, deny any one of the persons of the Holy Trinity to be God-he shall for the first offence be disabled to hold any office or employment, or any profit ap-himself. The Church of Rome, who always pertaining thereto; for the second offence shall be disabled to prosecute any action or information in any court of law or equity, or to be guardian of any child, or executor or administrator of any person, or capable of any legacy or deed of gift, or to hear any office for ever within this realm, and shall also suffer imprisonment for the space of three years from the time of such conviction." Stat. 9 & 10 Will. III. c. 32.
pushed her conclusions with a courage and consistency unknown to the timid patrons of protestant imposition, saw, immediately, that as the laity had no right to interpret the Scriptures, they could have no occasion to read them, and therefore very properly locked them up from the intrusion of popular curiosity. Our author cites the above-mentioned query from the Considerations as the first query, which would lead his reader to expect a second. The reader, however, may seek that second for himself, the answerer is not obliged to produce it-it stands thus: Suppose the Scriptures thus variously interpreted, does subscription mend the matter? The reader too is left to find an answer for himself.
It has been thought to detract considerably from the pretended use of these subscriptions, that they excluded none but the conscientious; a species of men more wanted, we conceive, than formidable to any religious establishment. This objection applies equally, says our answerer,t to the "oaths of allegiance and supremacy;" and so far as it The next, the strongest, the only tolerable plea does apply, it ought to be attended to; and the for subscription, is, "that all sorts of pestilent truth is, these oaths might in many instances be heresies might be taught from the pulpit, if no spared without either danger or detriment to the such restraint as this was laid upon the preacher.” community. There is, however, an essential How far it is probable that this would be the condifference between the two cases: a scruple con- sequence of removing the subscription, and by cerning the oath of allegiance implies principles what other means it might be guarded against, which may excite to acts of hostility against the has been, hinted already, and will again be constate: a scruple about the truth of the articles im-sidered in another place. We will here only take plies no such thing.t
Our author, good man, "is well persuaded, that the generality of the clergy, when they offer
notice of one particular expedient suggested in the Considerations, and which has often indeed elsewhere been proposed, namely, "that the church, instead of requiring subscription before*This and the Corporation Act, an otherwise excel-hand, to the present, or to any other Articles of lent person calls the laws which secure both our civil and religious liberties.-Blackstone's Comm. vol. iv.
↑ Page 92.
The answerer might have found a parallel below in some other oaths, which he does not care to speak of, riz. the case of college statutes, page 34 of the Considerations.
faith, might censure her clergy afterwards, if they opposed or vilified them in their preaching."
Burnet's History of his Own Times. Conclusion. See this whole Charge answered in the London Chronicle by Priscilla. The Lord hath sold Sisera into the hand of a woman!
+ Page 26.