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P R E F A C E.
The following Edition being printed from one of those which had received the Author's last corrections, it is thought unnecessary to repeat here the former part of his Preface relating chiefly to the alterations which he had made in his former Editions, as they followed each other. The latter part,containing a studied defence of his Opinion on an important Subject, is in justice to the Author here preserved in his own words, as follows:
And this I take to be the proper place to explain myself in relation to one passage particularly, which I know has been thought to need the greatest amendment, though I have let it stand without making any. And indeed an Explanation of it is so much the more needful, as it is not only judged to be indefensible in itself, but also to be inconsistent with what I have said in another part of the book. The passage
I mean, is concerning the Absolution in the daily Morning and Evening Service, which I have asserted to be “ an “ actual Conveyance of Pardon, at the very instant of “ pronouncing it, to all that come within the terms “ proposed. And again, “ that it is more than DE" CLARATIVE, that it is truly EFFECTIVE, insuring " and conveying to the proper subjects thereof the very “ “ Absolution or Remission itselfb.” This has been thought by some, from whose judghisat I should be very unwilling to differ or recede, not only to carry the point higher than can be maintained ; but also to be irreconcileable with my own notions of Absolution, as I have described them upon the office for the Vi sitation of the Sick, where they are thought to be more consistent with Scripture and Antiquity. I have there endeavoured to shew that “ there is no standing au“ thority in the Ministers of the Gospel to pardon and “ forgive Sins immediately and directly in relation to
Page 115. " Page 120.
“ God, and as to which the censure of the Church “ had been in no wise concerned.” And again,“that “ no Absolution pronounced by the Church can cleanse “ or do away our inward Guilt, or remit the eternal “ Penalties of Sin, which are declared to be due to “it by the sentence of God; any farther than by “the Prayers which are appointed to accompany it, “ and by the use of those Ordinances to which it “ restores us,
may be a means, in the end, of obtaining our pardon from God himself, and the For
giveness of Sin as it relates to him d.” These passages, I acknowledge, as they are separated from their contexts, and opposed to one another, seem a little inconsistent and confusedly expressed: but if each of them are read in their proper places, and with that distinction of ideas which I had framed to myself when I writ them, I humbly presume they may be easily reconciled, and both of them asserted with equal truth. I desire it may be remembered that in the latter place l'am speaking of a judicial and unconditional Absolution, pronounced by the Minister in an Indicative Form, as of certain advantage to the person that receives it. By this I have supposed the Church never intends to cleanse or do away our inward Guilt, but only to exercise an external authority, founded upon the power of the Keys; which, though it may be absolute, as to the inflicting and remitting the censures of the Church, I could not understand peremporily: to determine the state of the Sinner in relation to God: : And thus far I have the happiness to'ljave: die; concurrence of good judges on my side ; so tirat it is only in what I assert on the Daily Absolution, that I have the misfortune not to be accounted so clear. But; with humble submission, I can see nothing there inconsistent with what I have said on the other. The Absolution I am speaking
of is conditional, pronounced by the Priest in a Declarative Form, and limited to such as truly repent, and unfeignedly beliere God's holy Gospel. This indeed I have
asserted to be effective, and that it insures and conveys, to the proper subjects thereof, the very Absolution or Remission itself: but then I desire it may be remembered that I attribute the effect of it not to a judicial, but to a ministerial act in the person who pronounces it: but to such an act however as is founded upon the general tenor of the Gospel, which supposes, if I mistake not, that God always accompanies the Ministrations of the Priest, if there be no impediment on the part of the People. And therefore when the Priest, in the Name of GOD, so solemnly declares to a Congregation that has been humbly confessing their Sins, and importuning the Remission of them, that God does actually pardon all that truly repent and unfeignedly believe ; why may not such of them as do repent and believe, humbly presume that their Pardon is sealed as well as made known by such a declaration ?
I am sure this notion gives no encouragement either of Presumption to the Penitent, or of Arrogance to the Priest: I have supposed that, to receive any benefit from the form, the person must come within the terms required: and such a one, though the form should have no effect, is allowed notwithstanding to be pardoned and absolved. And the Priest I have asserted to act only ministerially, as the instrument of Providence ; that he can neither withhold, nor apply, the Absolution as he pleases, nor so much as know upon whom or upon how many
it shall take effect; but that he only pronounces what God commands, whilst God himself ratifies the declaration, and seals the Pardon which he proclaims.
It is true indeed, it does not appear by the ancient Liturgies, that the Primitive Christians had any such Absolution to be pronounced, as this is, to the Congregation in general. But yet, if they had Absolutions upon any occasion, and those Absolutions were supposed to procure a Reconcilement with GOD; (neither of which, I presume, will be thought to want a proof;) I see no reason why they may not be usefully admitted (as they are with us) into the Daily and Ordinary Service of the Church. For allowing that the persons they were formerly used to, were such as had incurred Ecclesiastical Censure; yet it is confessed that the forms pronounced on those occasions immediately respected the Conscience of the Sinner, and not the outward Regimen of the Church; that they were instrumental to procure the Forgiveness of God, whilst the Ecclesiastical Bond was declared to be released by an additional ceremony of the Imposition of Handse. If then Absolutions, even in the earliest ages, were thought to be instrumental to procure God's Forgiveness to such Sins as had deserved Ecclesiastical Bonds; why may they not be allowed as instrumental and proper to procure his Forgiveness to Sins of daily Incursion, though they may not be gross enough, or at least enough public, to come within the cognizance of Ecclesiastical Censures ? If it be urged, that the ancient Absolutions were never Declarative, but either Intercessional, like the prayer that follows the Absolution in the office appointed for the Visitation of the Sick, or Optative, like the form in our Office of Communion; I think it may be answered, that the Effect of the Absolution does not at all depend upon the Form of it, since the Promises of God are either way applied, and it must be the Sinner's embracing them with Repentance and Faith, that must make the Application of them effectual to himself.
I hope this explanation will justify my notions upon the Daily Absolution, as well as reconcile them with what I have said upon the other. I shall add nothing more in defence of them, than that they seem fully to be countenanced by the Form itself, (as I have shewed at large upon the place,) and particularly by the inhibition of Deacons from pronouncing it': which to me is an argument that our Church designed it for an Effect, which it was beyond the commission of a Deacon to convey. Not that I would draw an argument from the opinion of our Church, where that opinion seems repugnant to Scripture or Antiquity: but where it does
e See Dr. Marshall's Penitential Discipline, page 93, &c. See also the forms of Absolution in his Appendix, Numb. 4, 5, 6, 7.
† See Page 120, &c.
not appear to be inconsistent with either, I think her decision should be allowed a due weight. Wherever I have found or suspected her to differ from one or the other, the Reader will observe I have not covered or disguised it; but on the contrary perhaps have been too hasty and forward, and too unguarded in my remarks. But Truth was what I aimed at through my whole undertaking; which therefore I was resolved at any hazard to assert just as it appeared to me. It is not at all indeed unlikely that in so many points as the nature of this work as led me to consider, some things may appear as Truths to me, which others, who have better opportunities of inquiring into them, may find to be otherwise: and therefore I can only profess that I have not advanced any thing but what I have believed to be true; and that if I am any where in an error, I shall be always open to conviction, let the
that attempts it be Adversary or Friend; since if Truth can be attained to by any means at last, I shall not value from whom or from whence it proceeds: though I cannot but say, the satisfaction will be the greater if it appear on the side which our Church has espoused, notwithstanding the discovery may possibly demand some Retractations on my own part, which in such case I shall always be ready to make, and think it a happiness to find myself mistaken. In the mean while, I request that where I am al
I lowed to be right, I may not meet with less favour, be
I cause I have shewed myself fallible; and particularly I would importune my Reverend Brethren of the ClerGY, (upon whose countenance the success of this work must depend,) that if the Rubrics especially have been any where cleared, and with proper arguments enforced, they would join their assistance to make my endeavours of some service to the CHURCH. For it will be but of very little use to have illustrated the rule, unless they also concur to make the practice more uniform. And indeed I would hope that a small importunity would be sufficient to prevail with them, when they see what disgrace their compliances have brought both upon the