Page images
PDF
EPUB

year 1668, in which the undertakers on the side of the Church were sincere and hearty. These undertakers. were, Judge Hale, Bishop Wilkins, Dr. Tillotson, and a few more, with the countenance of the Lord Keeper Bridgman-men, one may venture to say, of sufficient abilities and integrity to recommend a plan of churchreformation to any Christian government.

“ But," says Burnet, “ what advantage soever the men of comprehension might have in any other respect, the majority of the House of Commons was so possessed against them, that, when it was known in a succeeding session that a bill was ready to be offered to the house for that end, [drawn by Lord Chief Justice Hale,] a very extraordinary vote passed, that no bill to that purpose should be received." This strange proceeding is ascribed to the intrigues of Seth Ward, Bishop of Salisbury, who thus atoned for having held in and taken the Covenant during the Usurpation.

5. Some faint attempts towards an accommodation with Protestant Dissenters, by abating in the terms of Conformity, were afterwards made, daring the reign of Charles II., particularly in the years 1673 and 1674.

6. In the year 1675 there was a conference, in order to a comprehension, between Dr. Tillotson and Dr. Stillingfleet, on the one part, and some Dissenting Ministers on the other; and matters seemed to be brought into a fair way towards a compromise, but the treaty was broken off again by the arts of Bishop Ward.

7. The next attempt to reform the Church of England, had not only the concurrence of some worthy bishops, who did real honour to their order, and of a number of pious and learned divinės in inferior stations, but was undertaken under the auspicious authority of William III., in the year 1689.

By a fatal mistake, it was agreed that the matter should pass through the forms of convocation, where it met with an effectual defeat from the zeal and activity of a faction in the Lower House, led on indeed, as was suspected, by some of the bench, particularly Mew and Sprat.

One single circumstance will serve to characterize the spirit and piety of these convocation-men :

“We," say they, “ being the representatives of a formed established Church, do not think fit to mention the word Religion, any further than it is the religion of some formed established Church." .

8. This account is abridged from Archdeacon Blackburne's Confessional. The worthy Archdeacon himself afterwards made the last equally unavailing effort, by the leading part which he took in forwarding the petition for relief in the matter of Subscription, presented to parliament in Feb. 1772. The result fully justified the remark he had previously made on former attempts :

“Here then hath Terminus fixed his pedestal, and here hath he kept his station for two whole centuries. We are just where the Acts of Uniformity left us, and where, for aught that appears in the temper of the times, the last trumpet will find us."

NOTE (1)– Page 40.

It was some time ago calculated by a clergyman that there were 500 heresies, and supposing each article fatal to one, still 461 were 'left unchecked by the Church of England. The number must have increased considerably of late. Such is the inefficacy of the established Creed, that every description of heretics, not only those who were overlooked, but those who are anathematized, are among its subscribers ; and in addition to every controversy which they were vainly designed to suppress, but which has raged as much in the Church as elsewhere, the Articles, &c. have produced several which have been long and furious. Almost every important tenet of the Church has been impugned by those who have enjoyed her highest dignities. The doctrine of the article on Original Sin, by Bishop Taylor, who affirms that “ our nature is not contrary to virtue;" those on the Trinity, by Dr. Clarke; on the divinity and pre-existence of Christ, by Bishop Law; on the descent into hell, by Dr. Barrow ; on predestination, &c. by Archbishop Laud and the Arminians; on the Old Testament, as to the knowledge of a future state, by Bishop Warburton, &c. &c.

From generation to generation it has been contested amongst the Established Clergy whether they are bound to believe the Articles to which they subscribe! The liberal and heretical party has sometimes taken the affirmative of this question, to procure a reformation ; and at other times the negative, to justify their remaining in the Church when such reformation became hopeless. Both as a moral and legal question it is of easy solution. Paley's chapter on this subject, in his Moral Philosophy, might very properly be headed with a Frenchman's definition of casuistry, “ L'art de chicaner avec Dieu." Jeremy Taylor observes of this latitudinarian mode, “This is the last remedy, but it is the worst; it hath in it something of craft, but very little of ingenuity : and if it can serve the ends of peace or of external charity, or of a phantastic concord; yet it cannot serve the ends of truth, and holiness, and Christian simplicity. As a legal question, Bennet (Essay on the Articles) produces what he rightly calls “ a decisive authority, which would silence all scruples, if the matter were otherwise obscure and doubtful. My Lord Chief Justice Coke has * these words: I heard Wray, Chief Justice in the King's Bench, Pasch. 23. Eliz., report, that where one Smyth subscribed to the said Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, with this addition, (so far forth as the same were agreeable to the word of God,) it was resolved by him, and all the judges of England, that this subscription was not according to the statute of 13 Eliz. Because the statute required an absolute subscription, and this subscription made it conditional ; and that this act was made for avoiding of diversity of opinions, &c. And by this addition the party might, by his own private opinion, take some of them to be against the word of God, and by this means diversity of opinions should not be avoided, which was the scope of the statute, and the very act itself made touching subscription hereby of none effect."

NOTE (6) Page 45.

The following extracts will shew that the concessions in the text as to lying wonders and forbidding to marry,

[ocr errors]

are made rather to the practice of the Church than to its original constitution. The first is from an article by Mr. Dodson, in the second volume of “ Commentaries and Essays; by the Society for promoting the Knowledge of the Scriptures."

“One of the characteristics of the antichristian power is, that he would lay claim, however falsely and presumptuously, to a capacity of working miracles, 2 Thess. ii.9; Rev. xiii. 13, 14. It may be demanded, whether this mark is to be found any where but in the Church of Rome. I will confine my observations to that of England. I apprehend the following powers to be unquestionably miraculous : 1. That of casting out demons: 2. That of healing the sick by a touch : 3. That of imparting the Holy Spirit : 4. That of forgiving sins.

“ 1. It is written, Mark xvi. 17, 18, . And these signs,' miraculous PROOFS of a divine communication,

shall follow them that believe : in my name they shall cast out devils; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.' We read in the lxxiind canon of the Church of England, - Nor shall any minister, without such licence, [of the bishop of the diocese, first obtained and had under his hand and seal,] attempt, upon any pretence whatsoever, either of possession or obsession, by fasting and prayer, to cast out any devil or devils, under pain of the imputation of imposture or cozenage, and deposition from the ministry. This clause most evidently supposes a power in the bishop to grant a licence by which a minister might cast out devils ; and to restrain any one who should afterwards appear with a divine commission, from exercising it in this way. Otherwise, why did not the canon reprobate all such pretensions, in

« PreviousContinue »