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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 rninistrations, 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
could not but instantly approve itself to them, would be gladly received and admitted, with a very general consent. But the fault lies not here. It has appeared in the opposition made to the petitioning clergy from the press, that not only those from whom it might be expected, but some that were before esteemed of a more liberal cast, have shewn a disposition very contrary to the making or admitting of any reformation in our unscriptural forms of worship. And declarations of the like import are said to have fallen from their superiors in still higher place.
In this state of things, therefore, I had no choice left, but either to change the public service of the church, and make it such as I could conscientiously officiate in, or quietly to retire.
I could not reconcile myself to the former, because I looked upon the declaration of conformity and subscription at institution to be such solemn ties, that I could not be easy under so great a violation of them.* For I must have
* The following is the form of the engagement to conformity at institution to a living before the bishop.
“ I do declare that I will conform to the liturgy of the church of England, as it is now by law established.--A. B.
“ This declaration was made and subscribed before me, by the said A. B. to be admitted and instituted into the rectory or vicarage of in the county of in the year of Our Lord
and in the
year of our consecration."
adopted all those above-mentioned, as Dr. Clarke's amendments, or even more; which would have been making almost a new service of it.
But could I have brought my own mind to it, there were some things in my situation, in so large a parish, with three chapels in it, which would have made such a change impracticable. Not to mention also, that when incapacitated by sickness, or removed by death, the people in all probability must have returned back to their old forms again. In short, such an attempt would have been likely, in my place, to have produced much confusion and perplexity, to say the least : and I could not see any adequate religious improvement or edification among my people, likely to arise from it; the only justifiable end of making such a change, and staying with them.
Upon the most calm and serious deliberation, therefore, and weighing of every circumstance, I am obliged to give up my benefice, whatever I suffer by it, unless I would lose all inward peace and hope of God's favour and acceptance in the end. Somewhat of a tendency to an issue of this sort, my friends may have occą. sionally observed, or recollected to have been dropt in conversation, or by letter: but I refrained from naming it directly, and thought it became me to be silent till the time approached, as my reasons were not another's, nor my con
duct a rule for theirs ; nor did I know or believe that any one had such cogent motives to leave his station and ministrations in the church as I had.
The example of an excellent person, now living at Wolverhampton, Dr. Robertson, has been a secret reproach to me ever since I heard of it. For I thought, and perhaps justly, that he might not have all those reasons of dislike to our established forms of worship that I had; and, though myself not without unknown straits and difficulties to struggle with, and not alone involved in them, yet have I not all those dissuasives and discouragements that he paints forth in his affecting letter to the bishop of Ferns, subjoined to his instructive and learned work, and which I shall take leave to insert as an ornament and suitable conclusion of my subject and book.
“ In debating this matter with myself,” says that worthy man, “besides the arguments directly to the purpose, several strong collateral considerations came in upon the positive side of the question. The straightness of my circumstances pressed me close: a numerous family, quite unprovided for, pleaded with the most pathetic and moving eloquence. And the infirmities and wants of age, now coming fast upon me, were urged feelingly. But one single consideration prevailed over all these- That the
Creator and Governor of the universe, whom it is my first duty to worship and adore, being the God of truth, it must be disagreeable to him to profess, substribe, or declare, in any matter relating to his worship and service, what is not believed strictly and simply to be true."*
Attempt to explain the words Reason, Substance, &c. p. 241. London, 1768.