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which proves our claim to ecclesiastical infallibility, demonstrates yours to personal.
It is to be observed, that it is to controversies only, that this authority extends. Whatever the private Christian, (on plain Scripture grounds) deems essential to salvation, he must follow. This is the great line between lawful separation and schism. The very same thing holds of rites and ceremonies. The Church distinctly declares in this same XXth Article, that it is not lawful “ to ordain any thing that is contrary to God's word written ; neither may it expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another.”
But Mr. Towgood has yet an objection in store :
The limitation, or guard, which the Article seems to put upon this power of the Church, is really of no force, and is in fact no limitation at all. For though it is said that the Church may not ordain any thing contrary to God's Word, nor so expound one scripture, as to be repugnant to another, yet, of this repugnance and contrariety, the Church alone, you will observe, and not every private person, is allowed to be the proper judge: for otherwise, the Article is absurd; it actually overthrows itself, and takes away with one hand what it gives with the other. For if every private person hath authority to judge of the Church's decisions, and to reject them, if they appear to him repugnant to Scripture, then the Church's authority, in points of faith, is entirely destroyed. It is an authority to decree where no one is bound to submit. But such a senseless, unmeaning, impertinent claim, can never be the design and import of this Article. It does claim, therefore, for the Church, some real authority to settle points of faith; consequently, to points thus authoritatively settled by it, private Christians, its members, are reverently to submit, even though to their own judgments they appear repugnant to the Word of God.—Pp. 6, 7.
It is-curious to observe how extremes frequently coincide. This is the identical argument brought against PROTESTANTISM in general, by Bossuet, in his “ Exposition de la doctrine de l'Eglise Catholique;" and, in his Controversy with Claude. It admits of an easy answer, by means of a parallel case. It is allowed by all the Christian subjects of this realm, that the King, with the advice and consent of his Parliament, can make laws which bind the subject on his allegiance. Yet every Christian also affirms, that no act of the legislature could make that obligation which the law of God has already forbidden. If our Parliament, (like the legislators of revolutionary France) were to decree the desecration of the Sabbath, and the adoration of prostitutes; does any Christian suppose that it would not be his duty to violate the law? Yet it does not hence follow that the State's authority is “ entirely destroyed;" or, that " it is an authority to decree, where no one is bound to submit.” Now, in what respect does this case differ from that of the Church? The sensible Christian may as readily distinguish the cases in which the Church has exceeded her commission, as he can the similar transgressions of the State. Such cases must always be extreme; and must, therefore, be always manifest.
Let any candid person consider, whether the Reformation was not one of these cases. It no more overthrew the doctrine of submission to the just authority of the Church, than the Revolution of 1688 abolished the doctrine of submission to the constitutional claims of the King. The Church's rights do not extend to the ordaining any ceremony contrary to the word of God. Now this the Church
of Rome had unblushingly done. Image worship, under every modification, is condemned by the word of God. The Church of Rome did not deny it. She mutilated the decalogue to support it, and gloried in her authority to suspend or abrogate the Scriptures. She took the cup from the laity by a decree, in which she PROFESSED she did so, “ NOTWITHSTANDING Christ's AUTHORITY.” And in matters of faith she claimed, not the decision of controversies, but the infallible promulgation of doctrines. And, whereas the Church ought not to enforce any thing to be believed for necessity of salvation, besides the Scriptures ; * the Church of Rome had enforced many such things; transubstantiation, purgatory, indulgences, invocation of saints, &c. ; most of which, she admitted, rested on no Scripture authority. She did not allow her disciples the opportunity of judging whether she acted conformably to Scripture or not: she declared herself superior to Scripture, and claimed to be obeyed on that superiority. This was a case too plain to admit of hesitation, with any man acquainted with the Scriptures, and the evidences of his religion.
The Church of England, by this XXth Article, expressly renounces all right to submission, where she is not consonant to Scripture. It is in indifferent ceremonies, and in controversies, subjects which the Scriptures and primitive church have left undecided, and which by no means affect the substance of our faith, that she claims an authority. And, then her authority is not infallible, but it is the best that may be had; and all the acquiescence she demands is, that her decisions should not give occasion to relinquish her communion. If any man believe she has erred on essential points, to that man she has neither power nor authority. His salvation is concerned, and he must quit her. This is the private judgment which the Protestant Church allows. But, before a man takes upon himself the peril of schism, he must have profound learning ; a heart purified from worldly prejudices and sinful passions; a devoted love of truth; and a calm religious search of it in the fear of God. If a man thus furnished, believes that the Church has erred in essentials, (nay, in ONE essential point) he remains a churchman at his eternal hazard. But to talk of a right of private judgment where there is no qualification to judge is outrageously absurd. We might as well maintain the right of a new-born infant to stand alone. And yet, what is the description of people who are most declamatory on the subject of private judgment ?
That the Church of England has not erred in essentials, may be inferred from the language of her Protestant opponents. Even Mr. Towgood does not pretend that she omits any indispensable article of belief, or has made any additions or alterations in CHRISTIANITY;t
• Art. XX.
† A greater than Mr. Towgood, even Robert Hall, the Anabaptist minister, to whom it might be said, “ Talis quin sis, utinam noster esses !" admits that he does not dissent from the Church on essentials, when he says, “ How much is it to be lamented, that the Christian world should be so violently agitated by disputes, and divided into factions, on points, which, it is allowed, in whatever way they are decided, do not enter into the ESSENTIALS of Christianity!" (Preface to Discourse at Ordination of Rev. J. Robertson.) “How much is it to be lamented,” to retort this great man's own words, that he should not allow THE CHURCH to decide these points ; since, “ in whatever way they are decided," no essential point of Christianity is compromised! May the unity of the Spirit so li. be broken?
although, absurdly enough, he contends she is no part of the Church of Christ; when, for all that he has made appear, she is, in all essential points of doctrine, in union with that Church : and therefore, according to our definition, cannot be deserted without the guilt of schism.
But another difficulty presents itself to the mind of Mr. Towgood. Who are meant by “ the Church” in the XXth Article? This question he frequently puts, and insists on; so frequently indeed, and in so confused and unconnected a manner, that it is with the greatest difficulty that his argument can be elicited. When divested, however, of its rhetorical ornaments and extraneous embarrassments, the substance of the whole is found to be, that “ this power to order the manner of God's worship, and to settle articles of faith, is lodged ENTIRELY in the King and Parliament of these realms :"* and, therefore, though we might claim something for the authority of the Church, we can claim nothing for the ecclesiastical authority of the civil magistrate.
We have already examined the connexion of the civil with the ecclesiastical establishment, and shewn that it in no way prejudices the claims of the Church. Yet Mr. Towgood insists so strenuously upon it, that it may not be unadvisable to revert to it. To say that the King and Parliament have the ENTIRE power “ to order the manner of God's worship, and to settle articles of faith," is palpably absurd. And we have seen, from the Articles and Canons, that they have no such power at all; but no alteration can be made in the Liturgy, without the King's approval; no Liturgy can be the law of the land, which is not sanctioned by Parliament also ; and no Articles of Faith can be offered for subscription; no formal acts of the Church can pass into declarations, or canons, without the King's sign-manual. And the propriety of this power, and its accordance with the spirit of Christianity, we have already demonstrated. We have shewn that no objection lies against the Church because it is established; but very much the contrary. If a Church is established at all, it must be under a control of this nature : and, at all events, it is not to be superior to the chief magistrate.
Mr. Towgood insists much on the fact, that the Convocations, in the early part of Elizabeth's reign, were favourable to Popery. There is nothing surprising in this circumstance, for they were, for the most part, the creatures of Mary, and their president was BONNER. They were Papists, and could not be expected to reform the Church. Elizabeth's was an extreme case. She was chargeable, doubtless, with many violations of what would now be called the Constitution, both in Church and State. But her situation was so extraordinary, that it could not be drawn into a precedent. Had she been a subject, it would have been her duty to be a dissenter from the ruling powers of the Church, because she considered them, and on just grounds, wrong on points of ESSENTIAL obligation. But the errors of the Church were not merely speculative. They had assumed a form of as fearful action as the opposite blasphemies of the French Revolution. She
* P. 8.
was bound, by every tie of humanity and justice to her suffering subjects, to release them from their civil and spiritual thraldom.
That a Dissenter should object to her conduct is astonishing. The measures which she adopted were no other than necessary for the just vindication of that political and religious liberty which is perpetually figuring in the language of Dissenters. Her circumstances and reformation resembled those of Hezekiah ; and when we consider the temper and principles of the times, and the character of Elizabeth itself, it is impossible not to confess the overruling hand of Divine Mercy, in the moderation with which those changes were conducted.
Yet this reformation, under circumstances altogether so extraordinary, is regarded by Mr. Towgood as an instance of the established practice and law of the English Church.
So far, Sir, were the Bishops and Clergy from having any hand in the first forming our present Established Church, or in ordering its rites and articles of faith, that it was done not only without, but in actual opposition to them. “ For, in the first of Queen Eliz. the Parliament alone established the Queen's supremacy and the Common Prayer Book, in spite of all opposition from the Bishops in the House of Lords; and the Convocation, then sitting, were so far from having any hand in those Church acts for reformation, that they presented to the Parliament several propositions in behalf of the tenets of Popery, directly contrary to the proceedings of the Parliament.”
Hence, then, Sir, I think you must be compelled to own (what I know gentlemen of your robe do not care to hear), viz. That the Church of England is really a Parliamentary Church; that it is not properly an ally, but a mere creature of the State. It depends entirely upon the acts and authority of Parliament for its very existence and frame. The qualifications of its ministers, their power to officiate, the manner in which they are to administer the sacraments, are all limited and prescribed by authority of Parliament; and this authority, which at first made, can alone alter and new make it; can abolish or add to its articles or rites, according to its pleasure, even though the whole body of Bishops and Clergy should ever so much dislike or protest earnestly against it.
It is a point therefore incontestible, that the Church, which your Article declares to have this authority and power, is no other than the King and Parliament of these realms.—Pp. 9, 10.
Let us now see how Hume (a very valuable, because necessarily an impartial authority in such circumstances) mentions these transactions :
Elizabeth proceeded to exert, in favour of the Reformers, some acts of power which were authorised by the extent of royal prerogative DURING THAT AGE. Finding that the Protestant teachers, irritated by persecution, broke out in a furious attack on the ancient superstition, and that the Romanists replied with no less zeal and acrimony, she published a proclamation, by which she inhibited all preaching without a special licence; and though she dispensed with these orders in favour of soine preachers of her own sect, she took care that they should be the most calm and moderate of the party. She also sUSPENDED. THE Law so far as to order a great part of the service, the Litany, the Lord's Prayer, the Creed, and the Gospels, to be read in English.—Chap. xxxviii.
So then we see that those acts which Mr. Towgood considers constitutional in the Church of England, are regarded by at least as good an authority as A SUSPENSION OF THE LAws, and A PREROGATIVE ONLY AUTHORISED BY THE TIMES.
Elizabeth superseded the convocation as other sovereigns had superseded the parliament ; but the real rights of convocation were no more committed by such a measure, than the privileges of Parliament are now at the command of the crown.
With respect to the Articles, Mr. Towgood says
“These,” you allege, “were some years after passed in a Convocation of the Bishops and Clergy." Whether they were passed in a Convocation or not, with regard to their authority, is of no moment at all --P. 129.
Indeed! we think it of the very first moment, and even decisive of the question. But let us hear Mr. Towgood a little further, and then the reader may fully judge.
You still insist upon it, as if it were of some weight, that the Convocation at last gave their assent. Pray, how did they give it? Not till they had been first garbled and packed by the magistrate; all the Bishops, save one, exiled, imprisoned, turned out, by his authority; and new ones, according to his taste, put into their room : besides this, the invincible artillery of Deaneries, Prebends, snug and fat livings, played strongly upon the inferior Clergy, who hoped that by their submission, they might the more readily succeed those dignitaries who had been deprived by the civil power. And is it strange that the Convocation, thus powerfully attacked, made no long resistance, but yielded, however reluctantly, to what Parliament had done? But their concurrence, I must again tell you, whether free or forced, gave, and could give, no authority to the new establishment; because, by our constitution, they had not the smallest degree of authority to give. Suppose the Convocation had refused their concurrence to that act of the legislature, would the law not have had its force? You dare not affirm it. Suppose, again, the Clergy had established any new forms without an Act of Parliament, would the people have been obliged to yield obedience to them? Neither durst you assert this.- Pp. 239, 240.
Now let Mr. Towgood's friends assign the reason why Elizabeth took pains to make herself unpopular by “garbling and packing" her assemblies, and “exiling and imprisoning" her subjects; why she made so lavish an expenditure of patronage upon the clergy, if “ their concurrence, whether free or forced, gave and could give, no authority to the new establishment ?" If,“ by our Constitution, they had not the smallest degree of authority to give," why did not the Queen at once enact her Articles by her parliament, without incurring all this labour, obloquy, and expense ? There are only two suppositions : the Queen was less clear-sighted than Mr. Towgood ; or the intervention of the convocation was constitutionally necessary. The reader will not have much difficulty in adjusting the balance. Perhaps, if the Convocation had not assented, the law might have had its force ; but this would not have been any general prejudice of the Convocation's power, but manifestly an extension of prerogative, arising from the very peculiar circumstances of the times, and certainly no warrant for future parliaments or sovereigns. If the Convocation had established new forms by the Queen's consent, without an Act of Parliament (the use of such forms not endangering salvation), the people, as Christians, would certainly have been bound by them, although those forms would not have been the law of the land.
Let us, however, for a moment, grant Mr. Towgood the full length of his assumptions -- what is the result ? If a ceremony or doctrine