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I have long and earnestly endeavoured to quiet my conscience, and to reconcile it to my present situation. I have used every method in my power for this purpose. I have pleaded the example of others, great men, good men, useful men; I have scothed it; I have desisted from reading, thinking, examining; I have pleaded the wishes of my friends, the usefulness of my ministerial labours; the disagreeableness of changing my situation, my forming new connections ; the extreine inconvenience of giving up my present income; &c. &c. but after all I can do, conscience follows me from place to place, and thunders in my ear, “What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or, what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?-He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me: and he that taketh not his cross and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for my
sake shall find it.”' How would you conduct yourself in such a case? According to the thirty-sixth Canon we are willingly and ex animo to subscribe, that the book of Common Prayer, and of ordering of bishops, priests, and deacons, containeth in it nothing contrary to the Scriptures; and that we acknowledge all and every the thirty-nine articles, besides the ratification, to be agreeable to the word of God.(5)
(5) As to Mr. Paley's sheme of subscribing the thirty-nine articles, as articles of peace, it is all sophistry, and such as an honest man should be ashamed to avow. I admire his abilities, but detest his recommending prevarication to the clergy. Paley is very justly reprehended by Gisborne.
“ The opinion which Paley maintains appears to me not only unsupported by argument, but likely to be productive of consequences highly permicious. That subscription may be justified without an actual belief of each of the articles, as I understand Paley to intimate, is a gratuitous assumption. Oa this point let the articles speak for
God of my fathers ! what a requirement is this? Can I lift up my hand to heaven and swear by Him
themselves. Why is an article continued in its place, if it be not meant to be believed ?
If one may be signed without being believed, why not all? By what criterion are we to distinguish those which may be subscribed by a person who thinks them false, from those which may not? Is not the present mode of subscription virtually che same as if each article were separately offered to the subscriber? And in that case could any man be justified in subscribing one which he disbelieved ? No circumstance could have a more direct tendency to ensnare the consciences of the clergy; no circumstance could afford the enemies of the established church a more advantageous occasion of charging her ministers with insincerity, than the admission of the opinion, that the arti. cles may safely be subscribed without a conviciion of their truth, taken severally, as well as collectively. That opinion I have seen maintained in publications of inferior note, but I could not without particular surprise and concern, behold it avowed by a writer of such authority as Paley.”
Before the reader condemns the author of this Plea for Reli. gion, because of his leaving the church, and the various reflections ħe has made upon the bishops and clergy, he requests that Burnet's Conclusion of the History of his own Times, may be thoroughly read and considered. The bishops and clergy of the land should be extremely familiar both with that, and his Pastoral Care. It is high time to wake out of sleep.
The number of persons, who declined officiating in the church of England, upon the conditions required, in the last century, was upwards of two thousand. Milton was brought up and sent to the university with a view to the church, but when he came seri. ously to consider the conditions upon which he must enter, he de. clined the sacred office. " To the church by the intentions of my parents and friends, I was destined of a child, and in mine own resolutions till coming to some maturity of years, and perceiving what tyranny had invaded the church, that he who would take orders must subscribe, slave, and take an oath withal; which un. less he took with a conscience that would stretch, he must either strain, perjare, or split his faith; I thought it better to prefer a blameless silence before the sacred office of speaking, bought and begun with servitude and forswearing.”
There have been some respectable persons in our own day, who have declined entering into the church of England from objec. tions entertained to our oaths and subscriptions; others have complied with all our forms and ceremonies, but have been obliged to strain and shuffle, and have never known what peace of mind and # good conscience afterwards meant; and others have been so
that liveth for ever and ever, that I do willingly and ex animo subscribe as is legally required? And can any man living thus subscribe, who has thoroughly considered the subject? We must shufile and prevaricate iri some things, say and do what we will. I myself strongly approve the general strain of the doctrines of our church; but then here is no choice. It must be willingly and ex animo, all and every thing! There is no medium.
And can I, among other things which are to be subscribed, believe from my soul, before the Searcher of hearts, who requireth truth in the inward parts, and in the face of the whole christian world declare, that, “ whosoever doth not hold the Catholic faith”—as explained in the Athanasian creed" and keep it whole and undefiled, shall, without doubt, perish everlastingly?”—This proposition we are enjoined, not only to believe ourselves, but to affirm that we do willingly and ex animo subscribe to it, as being agreeable to the word of God; and then we must openly profess our faith in it fourteen times every year.
I am not unacquainted that various maneuvres are made use of to render these harsh expressions palatable; but all illustrations and modifications of these sentences appear to me illusive. Burnet has said all that can be said upon them, bat, to very little purpose. Honestly, therefore, did Tillotson declare to him, “ The account given of Athanasius's creed seems to me no wise satisfactory. I wish we were well rid of it.”—And so do I, for the credit of our common Christianity. It has been a mill-stone about the neck of many thousand worthy men. Declarations like these descended out of the
pressed and wounded in their minds, that they have given up their situations, after they have been already ordained. Blackburne was never at rest in his spirit; Tucker gives up several things among us as wrong; Robertson Dyer, Evanson, and Wake. field all resigned their letters of orders; and have ceased to officiate as ministers in the establishment.
bottomless pit, to disgrace the subscribing clergy, to render ridiculous the doctrines of the gospel, to impel the world into infidelity, and to damn the souls of those, who, for the sake of filthy lucre, set their hands to what they do not honestly believe. Though I believe the doctrine of the Trinity as revealed in the Scripture, yet I am not prepared, openly and explicitly, to send to the devil, under my solemn subscription, every one who cannot embrace the Athanasian illustration of it. In this thing the Lord pardon his servant for subscribing in time past. I will do so no more. Those that can do it are extremely welcome to the best bishoprics and livings in the kingdom. I should like to retain what I have already gotten, but not upon the conditions required. As an honest man, and a man under expectations of salvation, I must renounce my present situation, and the little emoluments which arise from-it. There is no other alternative.(6)
“ But you are acting a part extremely imprudent, on account of your family."
But I am obeying the dictates of conscience, and the commands of God. And it is written:- By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of proinise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: for he looked for a city which hath foundations,
(6) I have for some years made myself tolerably easy under the damnatory clauses of the Athanasian creed, by omitting to read it at the times appointed. But, to an upright mind, this is not satisfactory ; because we solemnly declare and subscribe, that we will conform to the liturgy of the church of England as by law esta. blished. Now every time we omit to read the said creed, or any other parts of the service of the church, we are guilty of a breach of engagement. So that whether we read the creed in question, or neglect to read it, we are culpable, if we do not ex animo ap
prove of it.
whose builder and maker is God. By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharoah's daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.”(7)
“ You are already in the church, and have got over the business of subscription. You may continue, therefore, in your present situation without being called upon to repeat the same painful ceremony."
I have many years been determined never to subscribe agreeably to the requirements of the 36th Canon, whatever offers of preferment might be made me. But, when I reflect seriously and closely upon the subject, this does not satisfy me. I cannot help considering my holding a church, and complying with all its rites and ceremonies, as a silent acquiescence in, and a tacit approbation of, all the unevangelical traits of the church of England.-While such is my situation, I certainly constitute, a part of the grand system of the anti-christian apostacy, which, as I understand the prophetic Scriptures, is to undergo a total subversion,
" You are quitting a situation of uncommon usefulness."
(7) I do not recollect reading or heaving any instance so like unto this of Moses as that of the Marquis of Vico, who died A. D. 1592, at the age of 74. When he was come to years, and the knowledge of Jesus Christ, he refused to be called the son and heir to a marquis, a cup-bearer to an emperor, nephew to a pope, and chose rather to suffer a fiction, persecution, banishment, loss of lands, livings, wife, children, honours, and preferments, than to enjoy the sinful pleasures of Italy for a season ; esteening the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the honours of the mnost brilliant connections, and all the enjoyments of the most ample fortune ; for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.