Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

But we are anxious to wait on Mr. Towgood through all his "false and ignorant objections," “mistakes," and " insufficient reasons." All that we entreat our readers to remember is only this, that the siege is now in effect raised, and however they may determine with respect to the prowess of the combatants on the field of controversy, the bulwarks of the Church have been proved impregnable. Could Mr. Towgood prove all the rest, his schism would be indefensible.

Mr. Towgood having denied the right of the Church to decree rites and ceremonies at all, proceeds to impugn in detail all that she has decreed. If Mr. Towgood really meant to rest the whole controversy on this single objection, it was wasting the time and patience of his readers to go further. For if this right of the Church be once denied, there is an end of the matter; the most significant and beautiful portions of her ritual must take their place beside the idlest and most superstitious mummeries of Popery. But the truth appears to be, that Mr. Towgood was really aware of the weakness of his cause, and had therefore provided a body of triarii, to be ready when his principal and cardinal argument should be levelled with the dust. But it will be found, on applying the test of truth and common sense, that this forlorn hope will exhibit the same sensibility which the Father of Schism discovered when brought in contact with the spear of Ithuriel.

Before, however, we advance to the demolition of this part of Mr. Towgood's arguments, which is principally referable to the second head, we will proceed with our examination of the first class. One of his reasons for dissent is, his objection to the requirements of the Test Act, that candidates for certain offices should have received the Holy Communion in the Church of England. As this Act, to which so much has been objected both by wise and ignorant men, is now repealed, and, consequently, this argument in favour of schism annulled, it might appear supererogatory to say a word on the subject. Yet, as it is illustrative of the character of Mr. Towgood's logic, we cannot forbear to notice it. The intentions of the Act were widely different from the supposed or real effects of it. Its object was to confine certain offices to the communion of the Established Church. The best mode of ascertaining a Churchman appeared undoubtedly to be the enquiry whether he had communicated with the Church in her most solemn and characteristic rite, and that too, as often as her regulations required. It does not appear to have suggested itself to the Churchmen who framed this bill, that the pious and conscientious dissenters would thereby be induced to compromise their consciences in the most awful act of Christian adoration for the sake of worldly emoluments. But grant it as objectionable as possible. What is the result? Numbers of intelligent Churchmen have objected to it as strongly as Mr. Towgood, and remained Churchmen still. They did not conceive that approbation of this act was an article of the Church ; they did not suppose that to hold communion with the Church of England it was necessary to assent to the spirit of the Test Act. An Act of the Legislature for the maintenance or protection of the Church, whether wise or injudicious, cannot, in fact, have any connexion with the question of Church communion. It is wholly an extraneous matter; it does not afford even the poor pretensions for schism which are raised upon ceremonies and discipline. That such an objection should have a place in “ A Dissent from the Church of England fully justified,” is truly astonishing. That Mr. Towgood should have confounded a Dissent from the Church of England, with a dissent from the Test Act, is what can scarcely be understood by minds of ordinary perspicacity.

The ceremony of kneeling in public worship has the misfortune to meet Mr. Towgood's disapprobation, and he has brought a fearful collection of texts to prove the lawfulness of standing. We are not disposed to canvass them, because we will allow them all, and the utmost that can be deduced from them. And what is that utmost ? That standing is a lawful and significant mode of public adoration. Who denies it? Certainly not the Church, which has so often prescribed it. All that we contend for is, that kneeling is equally signi. ficant, and equally well-authorized. And such being the case, the Church has intermixed the gestures, in order that weariness of body may not abstract the mind from the business of religion. That kneeling is justified in public worship is evident from the spirited call to united adoration in the xcvth Psalm : “ O come, let us WORSHIP and bow down ; let us KNEEL before the Lord our Maker.” And when it is considered how frequently kneeling is mentioned in the Scripture, in private or domestic worship, it is obvious, without any other authority, that there can be no HAZARD OF SALVATION (which is, we repeat, the only circumstance which can justify separation) in transferring the same gesture to public liturgies.

But the fact is, the practice of standing at prayer is not so universally countenanced by Scripture as Mr. Towgood supposes. Many of the passages which he adduces probably as much refer to kneeling as to standing. In explanation of what we mean, we will take a curious instance from the Old Testament. In 1 Kings viii. 22, 23, we read, “ And Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the congregation of Israel, and spread forth his hands towards heaven, and he said, -" then follows the celebrated dedication prayer, as far as verse 53. Then immediately we read, “ And it was so, that when Solomon had made an end of praying all this prayer and supplication unto the Lord, he AROSE from before the altar of the Lord, from KNEELING on his KNEES, with his hands spread up to heaven, and he stoon,” &c. Here it is obvious to the mere English reader, that the first word translated stood cannot really have that meaning, as the action to which it refers was, certainly, kneeling. We will now take the account of the same transaction in 2 Chron. vi. 13. “ For Solomon had made a brazen scaffold of five cubits long and five cubits broad, and three cubits high, and set it in the midst of the court; and upon it he stood and KNEELED DOWN upon his KNEES before all the congregation of Israel.” We cannot see how it is possible to read these passages without assenting to the interpretation of Parkhurst, “Toy here does not mean standing upright, or upon his feet, but only being, being present."* It seems to be a Hebrew

. Heb. Lex. Voc. 1o.

pleonasm, and is apparently imitated in such forms as these - ó Φαρισαίος ΣΤΑΘΕΙΣ προς εαυτόν ταύτα ΠΡΟΣΗΥΧΕΤΟ* – όταν ETHKHTE IIPOLEYXOMENOI,F &c. So that it is very probable that all the passages adduced by Mr. Towgood, do not serve their intended purpose; although if they did, they prove no more than what is generally conceded. We may here remark by the way, that Solomon's public prayer, offered on US KNEES, brought down that unequivocal sign of the divine approbation-fire from heaven. So much for the unlawfulness of kneeling.

After all, gestures, not actually prescribed in Scripture, must be left to the manners of the nations who adopt them. The oriental nations testify respect by uncovering the feet; we, by uncovering the head. The use of gestures is to bring the mind into proper associations. This object is alike disregarded by him who wears his hat in a church, and by him who removes it in a synagogue.

But Mr. Towgood pleads the authority of Tertullian, and the example of the primitive Church! a singular ground for a Dissenter to defend. Let that, however, pass. Come we to our author's words:

Finally, the primitive Christians, it is acknowledged on all hands, every Lord's day, and at all other times between Easter and Whitsuntide, universally prayed standing, and never kneeled at their public devotions : (consequently by the way, not at the Lord's supper.) Die dominico nefas ducimus, &c. says Tertullian. On the Lord's day we account it a sin to worship kneeling, which custom we also observe from Easter to Whitsuntide.-P. 53.

That it may be seen how little we fear Mr. Towgood's argument, we will strengthen it by some facts with which he seems unacquainted. Justin Martyr ascribes this custom to the times of the Apostles; and the Council of Nice was so jealous of its observance, that they passed a canon enjoining the practice. But what does this amount to? that the observance was of divine or apostolic institution, and binding upon Christians at PERIL OF THEIR SALVATION? No man would venture to insinuate such an absurdity. It was, therefore, one of those rites and ceremonies, which any national church might retain or reject. Whether our Church has judiciously rejected it, and whether her rejection is binding upon the Christians of this country, are questions perfectly distinct and unconnected ; and he who holds the negative of one, may consistently hold the affirmative of the other

Mr. Towgood thinks that the Church might have left the posture to the choice of her members, and thus satisfied scrupulous consciences. We have, we think, demonstrated the vanity of such scruples; and surely nothing could be less productive of edification, than to see Christians proving their unity of spirit by their diversity of gesture. If a Christian thinks a particular gesture dangerous to salvation, let him, at all events, avoid it! But let him first be able to say, with an honest heart, that he believes his posture in prayer can affect his salvation at all.

Closely connected with this subject is that of kneeling at the Lord's

. Luke xviii. 11. VOL. XI. NO. V.

† Mark xi. 25.

SS

Supper, which Mr. Towgood highly disapproves. Against this practice there can be only one valid argument—that the posture is an essential of the sacrament. If this could be proved, then, indeed, it would be certain that our Church does not “ duly” administer this sacrament; and, consequently, she would be no true church, by her own just definition. Separation, therefore, would here be a duty. Hence it is to be considered, whether the words, “ this do, in remembrance of me," meant,“ lie down on couches, and receive bread and wine," or " receive bread and wine" only. Though the question is one of some importance, we will trust its decision to the plain sense and reflection of the reader.

The Church has herself taken some pains to “ cut off occasion from them which desire occasion," by thus explaining her views on this subject, in the Protestation at the end of the Communion Service.

Whereas it is ordained in this office for the administration of the Lord's Supper, that the communicants should receive the same kneeling; (which order is well meant, for a signification of our humble and grateful acknowledgment of the benefits of Christ therein given to all worthy receivers, and for the avoiding of such profanation and disorder in the Holy Communion, as might otherwise ensue;) yet, lest the same kneeling should by any persons, either out of ignorance and infirmity, or out of malice and obstinacy, be misconstrued and depraved; It is hereby declared, that thereby no adoration is intended, or ought to be done, either into the sacramental bread or wine there bodily received, or unto any corporal presence of Christ's natural flesh and blood. For the sacramental bread and wine remain still in their very natural substances, and therefore may not be adored; (for that were Idolatry, to be abhorred of all faithful Christians ;) and the natural body and blood of our Saviour Christ are in heaven, and not here; it being against the truth of Christ's natural body to be at one time in more places than one.

The testimony of primitive antiquity, which Mr. Towgood considers so important in a similar case, is altogether against him here. In the early Church, standing was the most usual posture of receiving the elements; a circumstance which at once clearly establishes the fact, that the posture was not considered essential.

Such, then, being the case, the Church of England had evidently the right to prescribe what posture she pleased, and that right she was bound to exercise, unless she would turn the temple of the God of order into a scene of schismatical confusion.

But we cannot quit this false and ignorant objection, without shewing our readers a little deeper into its ignorance. Mr. Towgood observes :

Though the posture of sitting be generally thought by us most suitable to the commemorative supper of our Lord, instituted instead of the paschal supper of the Jews, and most agreeable to the practice of Christ and his Apostles, who without any doubt, sat round the table, yet in this we are all left to follow freely our own persuasion.-P. 15.

· Now here, in the first instance, we have an admission, that the posture of receiving, for which Mr. Towgood thought proper to quit the Church, is A MATTER OF INDIFFERENCE, since, according to him, “ we are all left to follow freely our own persuasion;" and next, we g-- told that Christ and his Apostles, WITHOUT ANY DOUBT, sat round the table. To which we can only reply, “ without any doubt," THEY DID NO SUCH THING! It was impossible that Mr. White, Mr. Towgood's antagonist, should allow this assertion to pass unnoticed. Accordingly, Mr. Towgood resumes this position in the following extraordinary passage:

I am called upon to blush with you, “ for having said that Christ and his Apostles, without all peradventure, sat around the table, when every body knows, who knows any thing at all, that they used the recumbing posture, which is no more sitting than it is kneeling.” If my assertion cannot be supported by indisputable authority, I have a blush at your command. Let my vouchers be heard. St. Matthew says he sat down with the twelve. And, as they were eating, Jesus took bread and blessed it. St. Mark, As they sat and did eat, Jesus took bread, &c. St. Luke, when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve Apostles with him; and he took the bread and gave thanks. If I am now to be corrected for representing Christ and his Apostleg as sitting around the table, the weight of the stroke will fall entirely upon the Scriptures, under which patronage I am safe. I make no manner of doubt, Sir, but the posture was sitting, though with the body, perhaps, a little leaning or reclined. Nor would our language afford our translators any better, or indeed any other word than sitting to express it by. Pray how would you render it, -As they recumbed and did eat? And when the hour was come, he recumbed with his twelve Apostles? If every body, who knows any thing at all, knows “ they used the recumbing posture," then the judicious and indefatigable Mr. Henry knew nothing at all; for he says, “ He sat down in the usual table gesture; not lying on one side, for it was not easy to eat, nor possible to drink in that posture, but sitting upright, though perhaps sitting low;" or rather, as Dr. Lightfoot tells us, the posture was sitting on a couch, leaning the left elbow on the table.---Pp. 119, 120.

Here the testimonies of the Evangelists are paraded with much ostentation; and then we are told, that “the weight of the stroke" (viz. of the rod for Mr. T.'s absurdities) will fall entirely upon-THE SCRIPTURES! It is difficult which is to be most admired, the profaneness or the effrontery of the writer. Mr. Towgood pretended to understand Greek; and whatever he might have done before he received Mr. White's castigation on this point, it is to be assumed that he had now so far consulted his Greek New Testament, as to be aware that the verbs in the passages cited are avákelual and d'vanímtw, one signifying to lie backward, and the other, to fall backward. Yet would he still go on to defend his blunders, even though he must charge them on the Holy Scriptures. “I MAKE NO MANNER OF DOUBT, Sir, but the posture was sitting, though with the body, PERHAPS, a LITTLE leaning or inclined.” I, Micaiah Towgood, make no manner of doubt! doubt who dare! The body might, perhaps, incline, but, if it did, it was only a little! What circumstance is there, either in the etymology or the usage of the words, to make the inclination of the body doubtful, or to restrict it to "a little ?" None! Our translators are not to be blamed for their rendering, nor are they to be blamed for rendering koèpaytris a farthing, and pódios a bushel; but, had they considered the posture of our Lord and his Apostles an essential constituent of the Holy Communion, they were too good scholars to have Englished dvákeqai and dvanlarw by so inadequate a verb as to sit. As to “ the judicious and indefatigable Mr. Henry,” he contradicts the etymology of the verbs and the testimony of antiquity; and to Mr. Towgood's

« AnteriorContinuar »