nifters have renounced her dignities, receive none of her wages, and defire only to worship God according to their own confciences: notwithitading this, every one who minifters in our churches, without having first fubfcribed publickly thirty-five of thefe dark, unfcriptural, difputable articles, is liable by law to grievous and oppreffive fines, and may be totally ruined by the laws of men, for not only innocently, but virtuoufly obeying what he thinks to be commanded by the laws of God. Surely in this liberal and enlightened age, and in Britain, the glory of all lands, for the freedom with which truth is allowed to display its charms, where the rights of humanity and the nature of religion are fo well understood, this ftate of our cafe fhould awaken a generous indignation and promote an immediate relief; for the fubfcription enjoined by this act is a yoke to which many of the most virtuous and learned of our minifters dare not fubmit, and from which thousands of your own, we prefume, groan for redemption, travelling in pain, longing to be delivered into the glorious liberty of the fons of God.

The noble protest which the honourable members of the present Houfe of Commons have entered against thefe unrighetous and intole rant acts, by their almoft unanimous vote for their repeal; and the truly Chriftian and patriotic fpirit with which it was fupported by many of the most illuftrious Lay-Peers in the House of Lords; we confider as an happy omen that the day of religious truth and liberty begins to dawn, and is cherishing the celestial fruits of righteoufnefs and peace, to plant and promote which the son of God came down from heaven, and preached his gospel amongst men.

But-extremely unhappy is the fate of the church! that thofe who are called its paftors and overfeers, fhould, instead of defending, betray its most facred rights: and not entering themfelves into the doors of religious liberty which their great MASTER, at the price of his blood, hath fet open, fhould exert their united force cruelly to fhut it up; and to hinder those who would enter. But, how hard is it to drink deep into the spirit of this world, and at the fame time to imbibe, and to act vigorously under the influence of the divine Spirit of JESUS CHRIST! His kingdom, he hath told us, is not of this world: its fplendors and pomps are apt to dazzle and pervert the brightest understandings, and to corrupt the foundeft hearts: the friendship of the world, is enmity to GOD, to righteoufnefs and truth!

'But-in this we rejoice.-The caufe must be reheard before an awful tribunal, in which JESUS, our once crucified LORD, will prefide: when their lordships, difrobed of all temporal diftinctions, muft ftand upon a level with fuch men as Doddridge, and Watts, and Leland, and Lardner-whom their Lordships have lain under a legal incapacity, and have thereby virtually forbidden them to preach the gospel to mankind. Alas! how dear bought, at the price of the leaft infringement of integrity, are thefe temporary bawbles, mitres, and thrones, and ample revenues, if they at all forfeit, or even diminish, the title to that crown of glory which the SUPREME PASTOR Will then beftow? That crown, we know, will then be given to all who, like HIMSELF, have gone out to preach his gofpel under great worldly difcouragements; chufing rather affliction, with the testimony of a good confcience, than to enjoy the pleasures and emoluments of a finful

Ee 4


compliance; which will foon vanish as a dream; and will at least degrade, if not exciude, from that everlasting kingdom of GOD, which is thenceforward to take place.-To that righteous judge of mankind, and Jupreme HEAD of the church, we chearfully commit our caufe; not doubting but he will plead it before the impartial world; and with humble refignation wait the event.'

The Author has added an appendix, to fhew, that the Puritan or Prefbyterian clergy were the only body of men, in the whole kingdom who had the courage to oppofe, and to proteft openly againf the trial and condemnation of Charles the firit; and that the Prefbyterians had the principal hand, and were the chief agents in restoring King Charles the fecond to the throne. This account is given chiefly with a view to difplay the ingratitude and treachery of Charles the fecond and to fet in its true light an historical fact, which feems to be forgotten in the reproaches occafionally thrown out against the Diffenters, as enemies to monarchical government: for otherwife, the Writer obferves that it reflects no little difgrace upon the Prefbyterians, that they were feduced by the King's promises, and that they did not improve the glorious opportunity which his refloration afforded, of obtaining a real fecurity both to religious and civil li berty.

Art. 19. A Letter to Sir William Meredith, upon the Subject of Subfcription to the Liturgy and Thirty nine Articles of the Church if England. By an Englishman. 4to 1 S. Swan. 1772.

There is an ingenuity and a novelty in this Author's manner of confidering the fubject of fubfcription, that could fcarcely have been expected upon a queftion which most of our Readers will, perhaps, be difpe fed to regard as almoft exhaufted. In difcuffing the point before him, our Letter Writer adopts the opinion of the adversary; but endeavours to ute more precifion in his terms.

Thefe words, fays he, the Church of England, properly fignify the collective body of that part of the people of thefe kingdoms, who, being baptized into its communion, do not afterwards formally dif fent from its etablished doctrines, and outwardly conform to its eda blished difcipline and worship.

Under this idea, it might easily be proved, that the thirty-nine articles of the Church of England cannot form the bond or center of union to its members; as but an inconfiderable portion of the English people have ever fubfcribed, or in any way affented to these articles, and a ftill finaller portion can be faid to understand them.

The aforefaid words have been also used to denote the established clergy of thefe kingdoms, But in ftrict propriety of speech the cfta blifhed clergy, either collectively or reprefentatively taken, do not conftitute the Church of England; but feparately confidered they are either rulers, minifters, or teachers in that church.

However, as our adverfaries are frequently inclined to confider the church as a fet of Chriftian minifters, affociated for the purpose of diffufing the pure religion of the gospel, voluntary in its firft for mation, but at length on account of public utility, allied to and fupported by the ftate, we will meet them on the ground which themfelves have occupied, and accede to the definition by which they feem determined to abide,


To the existence and continuance of fuch a fociety fome bond or center of union is required. This position of Dr. Tucker is allowed in its unlimited extent.

But a question arifes concerning the nature of this bond of union. In this point indeed we shall differ very widely.'

In order to preferve the mental fight as clear as poffible from the fuffufions of prejudice, the Author fuppofes the cafe of a philofophical fociety, and confiders its end or defign, its bond of union, its meafures, and its refolutions. He then transfers the fuppofition to a fociety inflituted with a defign of promoting and spreading gospel


Each individual, fays he, who is a believer, certainly has it in his power by various ways to promote either the knowledge or the practice of the religion of Jefus. But it is very rationally concluded that he may do it with ftill greater efficacy, if he acts in concert with men who are fimilarly inclined with himself.

An affociation is therefore formed with a professed intention of promoting the knowledge and practice of Christianity, by the perJonal labours of the individuals who fhall from time to time compofe it.

The information and improvement of our fpecies in the genuine principles of chriftian knowledge, and the advancement of the caufe of piety and virtue, constitute the proper end and defign of this fociety.

The members of this affociation moreover bind themfelves by a folemn engagement never to falfify or to defert their truft; but, on the contrary, to promote the laudable purpofe of their inftitution to the utmost extent of their abilities and power.

They engage, for inftance, at the altar of Cod *, and in the hearing of his congregation, to be diligent in the ftudy of all facred learning, in order that they may be able rightly to divide the word of God, and with the ftrongeft powers of perfuafion to preach it to the people.

[ocr errors]

They profefs that they will ufe both public and private monitions, as well to the fick as to the whole within their care, as need fhall require, and occafion fhall be given.

They declare that they will be diligent to frame both themselves and families according to the doctrine of the gospel, and to make both themselves, and thofe, with whom they fhall be in any way connected, as much as in them lieth, wholesome examples and patterns to the flock of Chrift.

[ocr errors]

This engagement, viz. an engagement to be boneft and fincere, and zealous in the execution of their charge, may with the utmost propriety be faid to conftitute their facramentum, or their bond of


Our next enquiry must be concerning the measures, which fuch voluntary fociety embraces, in the various periods of its existenceconcerning those maxims, and rules of conduct, by the help of which, it is enabled to effect its purpose.

See the questions propofed to the candidates for the priesthood, in the office of ordination.


These measures and maxims must be various, according to the va rious exigencies of the times.'

Among other meafures, an hint is fuggefted by fome individuals, that fubfcription to a fet of doctrines, efpoufed by men of acknowleged probity and learning, and by them maintained to be fcripture doctrines, may greatly promote the end the fociety has in view, viz. the knowlege of the gofpel in its primæval purity. And in fupport of this opinion it is urged, that, on account of the united wifdom of the fociety being employed in the fabrication of fuch articles or formularities of faith and daftrine, the knowlege of the gofpel might be more promoted, by the fubmiffion of the preacher to fuch a directory, than if he were indulged in the unlimited power of declaring to the people, whatever doctrines himfelf fhall be perfuaded are contained in the books of holy writ.

A moment's confideration fhews that the queftion, as now ftated, is merely a question of expediency. It does not immediately, but only in its confequences, affect the defign of the fociety, nor does it in the remotest manner alter the nature of its bond.'

After fhewing that the expediency of fuch a measure may be justly queftioned, the Writer proceeds to enquire what alterations. would enfue, in cafe the King or Parliament fhould be induced to Jend their awful name and fanctions, and thus afford to the fociety the acceffion of an external ftrength. Here our Author thinks it clear, in the first place, that the interference of parliament will not alter the nature of the fociety's defign; and fecondly, that if the interference of parliament ought not to work an alteration on the fo. ciety's defign, not all the parliaments in Europe can affect an altera tion in its bond.

What our letter-writer chiefly confines himself to, is the cafe of the ministers of the Church of England, fo far as they are confidered in the light of licenfed preachers of the gofpel, and the conclufions which he draws from his reflections are the following:

First, The advancement of those doctrines, which are contained in articles and confeffions framed by man's device, cannot with decency be fuppofed to be the avowed defign of any religious Proteftant Society, further than fuch articles agree with the written word of God. And therefore the promoting the knowlege and practice of that word, independent of its harmony with any fyftem of opinions whatsoever, is, or ought to be, the great, and indeed the only, aim of the established Clergy of this kingdom.

Secondly, No articles or confeffion of faith whatever, whether conceived in human or even fcriptural terms, can be the bond or center of union to a fociety of Christian minifters. Their only bond muft be, an obligation, faithfully, refolutely, and zealously, to promote the knowlege of God's law to the beft of their understanding and ability to exert each faculty in the investigation of his will, and every power of perfuafion in recommending the practice of it to their hearers.

• And Thirdly, Although it is allowed, that in every fociety, whether fupported by private contributions or parliamentary patronage, there is vefted fomewhere a right of defining the conditions, upon the performance of which, its acting members fhall become


intitled to thofe emoluments, which are allowed as ftipendiary con fiderations for its fervices; yet, it must be both abfurd and iniqui tous in this fociety, to prefcribe fuch meafures of conduct, as tend to defeat the very end of its inftitution; and if its avowed purpose be to promote Chriftian knowlege and Christian practice; that is to fay, to promote the progrefs of a religion confeffedly divine, nothing furely can be more impious, and more immediately fubverfive of its defign, than to require from each candidate for admission an ex animo affent to a fet of articles, expreffive of the fenfe of one particular fect or age: as fuch meafure muft unavoidably perpetuate thofe traditional errors, which the fociety was inftituted to remove; and inftead of diffufing gofpel light, may spread one uniform gloom of intellectual and moral darkness over every fucceeding generation.'

From the extracts we have given, it will appear with what ability the Author has fupported his caufe; and how much he has the advantage of those who would make a subscription to human articles of faith the neceffary bond of union, with regard to the Clergy of the Church of England.

Art. 20. Free Thoughts on the late Application of fome Diffenting Minifters to Parliament; in a Letter to the Rev.


is proved, that the Prayer of their Petition originated with Senti ment. To which are added, Remarks on the new Teft; with a few Strictures on the different Pieces published in Defence of the faid Application, By Edward Hitchin, B. D. 8vo. 1s. Bell. 1772.

Mr. Hitchin acquaints his Readers that, while he writes, he feels a divine charity glowing in his breaft towards all mankind.—What this pious man's ideas of divine charity are, we prefume not to say; but we fee no marks of Chriftian charity in his pamphlet, nor indeed any thing that can recommend it to the perufal of a liberal-minded Reader.

He adduces feveral reasons against the above mentioned application to Parliament, one of which we shall give in his own words; viz. his being too well convinced in his own mind, that the matter was first started and sprang from a diflike to those articles the Toleration calls upon us to fubfcribe; and I will add, fays he, that whatever declarations have been made to the contrary, or however folemn thofe declarations may have been, I am confirmed, from the ftrongest facts, that had it not been for the diflike to the doctrinal articles, the application to Parliament would never have been propofed.'

This, furely, is a fufficient fpecimen of Mr. Hitchin's divine cha rity! If our Readers are defirous of seeing any more, they must have recourfe to the pamphlet itself.


Art. 21. Comus; a Masque. Altered from Milton. As performed at the Theatre in Covent-Garden, The Mufic compofed by Dr. Arne. 8vo. 1 s. Lowndes, &c. 1772. Milton's Mafque is one of the most beautiful, perhaps the most fpirited, of his poetical compofitions; but, in the form in which he


« VorigeDoorgaan »