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as I knew not where I might be in any degree alike useful.
Thus I went on in the discharge of my duty, until a few years ago, when, from some providential awakenings,* I secretly but firmly resolved to seek an opportunity to relinquish a situation, that was now become not very supportable to
I could not now satisfy myself with Dr. Wallis's and the like softenings and qualifications of the Trinitarian forms in the liturgy. I wondered how I had been able to bring myself to imagine, that I was worshiping the Father in spirit and in truth, John iv. 23, 24, whilst I was addressing two other persons, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, and imploring favours severally of them in terms that implied their personality and distinct agency and Deity, as much as that of the Father.
"Sir Edward Atkins (that upright chief baron of the Exchequer in evil times) at the Revolution, having some scruple in taking the new oaths himself, though he condemned not those that did take them, resigned his great post out of a principle of conscience, and retired into the country. His usual saying was, when he was discoursed with about this matter, that the Devil (the evil conscience within) was busy with men on their death-beds; and therefore he would keep his mind free, that when he should come to die, he might have no doubts and fears on that account to disturb his conscience," Life of Dean Prideaux, p. 76.
If invocations so particular, language so express and personal, might be sifted and explained away into prayer to one God only; I might by the like supposals and interpretation bring myself to deify and pray to the Virgin Mary, taking her, as the Papists do, to be now alive and beatified in heaven; and maintain that I was still only praying to the one God, who was thus invoked in his creature that was so nearly united to him.
It appeared to me a blameable duplicity, that whilst I was praying to the one God the Father, the people that heard me, were led by the language I used, to address themselves to two other persons, or distinct intelligent agents; for they would never subtilize so far, as to fancy the Son and Holy Spirit to be merely two modes, or respects, or relations of God to them.
As one great design of our Saviour's mission was to promote the knowledge and worship of the Father, the only true God, as he himself tells us, John xvii. 3, I could not think it allowable or lawful for me, on any imagined prospect of doing good, to be instrumental in carrying on a worship, which I believed directly contrary to the mind of Christ, and condemned by him.
If it be a rule in morals, quod dubitas, ne feceris, it is still more evident, that we are not to do any thing that we know to be evil, no, not to procure the greatest good. Rom. iii. 8. For God does not want my sinful act It would be im
pious to suppose, that he cannot carry on his government, and promote the felicity of his creatures, without it. And although in his Providence he may bring good out of my evil, he will not let the doer of it go unpunished. And if any thing be evil and odious in his sight, prevarication and falsehood is such; and most of all an habitual course thereof in the most solemn act a creature can be engaged in, the worship of him, the holy, all-seeing God.
It is related in the Life of Archbishop Tillotson, that his friend Mr. Nelson having consulted him by letter from the Hague, in the year 1691, with regard to the practice of those nonjurors, who frequented the churches, and yet professed that they did not join in the prayers for their Majesties; "As to the case you put, replied his Grace, I wonder men should be divided in opinion about it. I think it is plain, that no man can join in prayers, in which there is any petition, which he is verily persuaded is sinful. I cannot endure a trick any where, much less in religion."
The archbishop may be held by some to be. too severe a casuist. But if it was his opinion, that a man who, after the Revolution continued attached to the late King James, could not consistently or honestly frequent a communion of Christians where their Majesties King William
* Birch's Life of Archbishop Tillotson, p. 259.
and Queen Mary were prayed for; what would he have replied, thought I often with myself, in the case of one who was not barely present, but was the mouth of the congregation in offering up prayers to God, which were believed to be derogatory and injurious to his peerless Majesty and incommunicable perfections, and, in the mind of the offerer, a false and unworthy representation of him to others? This seemed a trick in religion, which the honest mind of that prelate would have still less endured.
From the first that I engaged with the associated clergy for procuring the removal of subscription to formularies of faith and doctrine drawn up by fallible men, I foresaw, that if no relief was obtained, nor any prospect opened of a reformation of the liturgy with regard to the great object of worship, or of a disposition to indulge a latitude to private persons to make discretionary alterations in it for themselves, by the express rule of holy scripture; it would certainly terminate as to myself in resignation of my office in the church and I thought this would be a fitting season for it.
The service done to Christ's true religion by the clergy association and petition to parliament, has been great and wide spread, notwithstanding it failed of immediate success in its primary object. A spirit of ingenuous inquiry has been stirred up by it, in the minds of many. The
holy scriptures have been seen and acknowleged to be the only rule of faith and conscience to Christian men; and there is also, in consequence of this, a very general acknowledgment among all ranks, that there are some things extremely wrong in our establishment, particularly as it respects the yoke of subscription, and the restraint the clergy are laid under in their ministrations, and in declaring the mind and will of God to the people.
But nothing, it must be owned, has hitherto turned out favourable from it, with regard to the great object of worship, and a scriptural reform of the Liturgy with regard to it. Many persons in our church, known to be ill at ease on this point, - but unconnected with the petitioners, flattered themselves, that the nation's eyes were opening, that we were coming to a better temper, and that things were working towards a happy change in this important article. Most true it is indeed, and I have found it by large experience, that the gospel light of the knowledge of the one true God, and the worship to be paid to him only, as taught by Jesus Christ, has long been spreading its beautiful ray through the British nations, So that many of all ranks begin to see with concern the striking opposition betwixt our public forms of worship and those laid down in the word of God; and a reformed Liturgy in this respect, whose conformity to holy scripture