A letter to the Rev. Charles N. Wodehouse, Canon of Norwich


Price Two Shillings.

p. iii“The Liturgy of the Church of England hath advantages, so many and so considerable, as not only to raise itself above the devotions of other Churches, but to endear the affections of all good people to be in love with Liturgies in general . . . The Rubrics of it were wrote in the blood of some of the compilers, men famous in their generation, whose reputation and glory of martyrdom, hath made it immodest for the best of men now to compare themselves with them. And its composure is so admirable, that the most industrious arts of its enemies can scarce find out an objection of value enough to make a doubt, or scarce a scruple in a serious spirit . . . There are also in the Offices forms of solemn Absolution and Benediction, and if they be not highly considerable, there is nothing sacred in the Evangelical Ministry, but the Altars themselves are made of unhallowed turf.”

Bishop Jeremy Taylor.

Dear Sir,

It was hoped that the little excitement occasioned by the debate of last Session on a petition to the House of Lords for some alteration of our Articles and Liturgy, had been suffered to subside; and it was with regret we received the announcement of your recent publication, entitled “What is the meaning of Subscription?”

I am not aware that any of the clergy of this Diocese, during the last nine years, that is from the date of your first publication on this subject, namely, “A Petition to the House of Lords for Ecclesiastical Improvements with Explanations,” have shewn any disposition to intermeddle with your proceedings, or to “condemn you for doing the best you could in your own cause,” singular as they may have thought, and singular as you admit to have been “the mode adopted by you to obtain your object.” [1]

Whatever they may have thought, they have hitherto been silent, influenced I am persuaded more by feelings p. 2of respect for your personal character, than from conviction of the strength of your position and the consequent weakness of their own. I can answer for myself, and I am satisfied that I am speaking the general sense of the clergy of the Diocese, in saying that they not only could, but had it been from any circumstances necessary, would have borne their ready and willing testimony to the truth and faithfulness of the eulogy pronounced by your Diocesan on your “character and conduct as a clergyman and a gentleman.”

They must naturally therefore be the more inclined to wish that it had consisted with your views to stop short of a public avowal that you could not with any regard for “truth and honesty,” make the declaration to which they hesitate not ex animo to subscribe.

Richard Baxter has said, “that many are apt to think that this is right, because the best and strictest people are of this mind.” [2a] With “many” therefore, your opinions will have their weight; and if the Subscription of the clergy is to be judged by your views of it, their situation would seem to be any thing but an enviable one.

And as these your views must seem to be strongly corroborated by the congenial sentiments of our Diocesan; should I in the course of the following observations, which I take the liberty of addressing to you, hazard also a few remarks upon his Lordship’s reasons for deeming an Expansion of Subscription desirable; I trust I shall find that I have not been misled by your example, but that to me also, “it may be allowed to differ from my superiors without disrespect or offence.” [2b]

p. 3Allow me then, to express my regret, that “res dura et regni novitas,” as you may apply the royal excuse to your own novel position, should have compelled you to resort in your own case to a course you so decidedly object to in others; more especially as you appear to have had your misgivings, to have foreseen the possibility of “harm accruing from it,” and very justly to have anticipated that the perusal of a publication written with the object you appear to have had in view, would “call forth a painful feeling in the minds of Christians and Churchmen.” [3a]

“No one,” you say, “can object more decidedly than yourself to the common practice of publishing correspondence between individuals on matters relating merely to themselves.” [3b]

But the practice is usually resorted to by others, as it seems to have been by yourself, under an impression that the publication is in some way or other “important to their own defence.” [3c]

You would however, and naturally enough, persuade yourself that yours is “a very different case,” a case “relating strictly to a public question, one affecting the whole Church, and indeed all Christians in the nation.” [3d]

I will not stay to enquire whether viewing it in this light, the voice of the Church ought not to have been heard above your own. But I must think that something more than you have advanced is requisite to constitute a public question, and enable us to see the difference between your own case and that of others, “who publish correspondence on matters relating merely to themselves.”

It is true that your case has been publicly discussed in parliament, and so has the case of many another p. 4individual; but I must think a distinction is to be drawn between a person dragging his own affairs before the public and a public affair; and any weight that you would attach to the discussion you allude to, as giving to your case the character and importance of a public question, may perhaps be lessened by a consideration of the manner in which that discussion was brought about. The Bishop of Lincoln rose, not to the question, but “at the particular desire of the Rev. Mr. Wodehouse,” wishing to have his case brought into notice; the Bishop of Norwich said that he “should not have risen, had not the name of the Rev. Mr. Wodehouse been introduced;” and the Bishop of London “would not have entered into the discussion, had it not been for some observations which had escaped from the Bishop of Norwich.” No temporal Peer rose. Strictly relating then as you would consider your case to be a public question, there appeared but little indication of its being so considered by the House of Lords, and as to the opinion of the clergy, the Bishop of Lincoln observed, “I am not aware that any general desire for such alterations exists, on the contrary, I believe, that never did the great body of the clergy deprecate more strongly any change in the Articles and Liturgy than at the present moment.”

The discussion however seems not a little to have disquieted you—but having raised the whirlwind, though you have failed to guide it—ought you not to have been less impatient of the storm?

Leniter ex merito quicquid patiare ferendum est.

It is difficult to believe that on calmer reflection, a mind like yours will experience no uneasiness at the recollection of having endeavoured to turn an intended kindness p. 5to the prejudice of those who had conferred it, and in that light all must view the evident wish on the parts of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Bishop of London, to resolve your doubts, and as far as their private opinions could avail—restore peace to your mind. I allude to the use you have made of private conversations, I say private, for up to a certain time you appear to have so considered the opinions that were then given you. “I have been favoured,” you say in a letter to one of the Bishops, “with the private opinions of many persons I am bound to respect.” [5a] I admit that for your further satisfaction you received permission to mention, or as you say “make known what passed at these interviews.”—Still, although it would have made no difference as to the permission granted, had they even contemplated such a circumstance; I suspect that the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London, must have felt a little surprised to find that their every word had straitly been observed—

Set in a note book, conn’d and got by rote,
To cast into their teeth—eleven years afterwards!

Yet, by the aid alone of these communications, you have endeavoured to fix upon the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London the following charge, namely, “that in the debate of the 26th of May, 1840, his Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London more decidedly endeavoured to crush the very idea of the same latitude, which they had on other occasions most unequivocally allowed and approved.” [5b]

I hesitate not for a moment to say that it is a charge unsupported even by the shadow of a proof. And let us p. 6first examine your evidence as it bears upon the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The points to which you direct our attention in substantiation of your charge are these:—His Grace’s conversation in May, 1829—his letters of May 12, 1830—and March 18, 1840—and his speech in the debate on the Petition.

In his letter of March 18, 1840, his Grace says, “I shall be much surprised if expressions are found in any letter of mine, which can be considered as an intended justification of your opinions,” an observation at variance, as you have persuaded yourself with his letter of 1830, and his conversation with you in 1829.

In the first place I would submit that a distinction obtains between not condemning an opinion and intending to justify it. It is possible that his Grace may take higher views of the power committed to the stewards of the mysteries of God than you do. But agreeing perhaps with you that “the power of the keys” cannot as you have elsewhere observed, be “beyond a doubt defined.” [6a] His Grace might be unwilling to condemn your lower views, but you could scarcely have construed this into an intended justification of them. He had besides told you “that the absence of censure did not imply a tacit acquiescence in your opinions.” [6b]

But what was the latitude which his Grace thought fairly allowable, and how far will it justify you in saying that in his speech he endeavoured to crush the very idea of that same latitude being allowed?

Your conversation with his Grace seems to have turned on the three points mentioned in your petition,—p. 7the Athanasian Creed, the Absolution, and the words used in a part of the Ordination Service. Upon your mentioning the different opinions given by various eminent writers of our church as to the Athanasian Creed and its condemnatory clauses, his Grace observed, “Well—none of these opinions has been condemned, take whichever suits your own views, and be satisfied.” [7a] But you cannot be satisfied, and although repeatedly told by his Grace, and also by the Bishop of Lincoln, that you could not, so long as Convocation remained in abeyance, obtain the authoritative sense of the Church on these points, you persist in pressing for it. To a request to this effect conveyed in a letter to his Grace, you again refer to the subject of your conversation. To this his Grace replies, “With respect to the subject of your letter, I have only to refer you to our former conversation, in which I expressed an opinion that, on points where writers of eminence have differed without slur on their orthodoxy, a certain latitude of interpretation is fairly allowable. But with respect to the authoritative sense of the Church on the points mentioned in your petition, no individual has a right to declare it, if it is a matter of doubt: and if, during a long succession of years, some difference of opinion is found among writers eminent for learning and piety, the silence of the Church, under such circumstances, may be taken as an indication of her unwillingness to abridge the liberty of her members on these points.” [7b]

I can see nothing here like an intended justification of your opinions. His Grace would give you it appears no decision in private, he nowhere led you to infer that he even approved of your opinions, and could hardly have intended you to conclude that he meant to justify p. 8them. He tells you “he could not see how your position would be mended by an open declaration of his opinion, even if favourable to that exposition which would suit your views,” [8] which seems at least to imply a doubt, and where there is a doubt, the judge usually directs the jury to give the prisoner the benefit of it, but this does not involve the judge’s approval or intended justification of the prisoner’s case.

Yet this is all that his Grace admitted,—and to what had this admission a reference? To a certain latitude of interpretation allowable under certain circumstances. And I think I can safely defy you to point out a solitary expression in his Grace’s speech on the 26th of May, 1840, in which he attempts to evade this admission, or, in the language of your accusation, “endeavours to crush the very idea of the same latitude which on other occasions he had unequivocally allowed and approved.” His Grace’s approval however is nowhere apparent.

His Grace addresses himself in his speech to the prayer of the petition, “which he apprehends their Lordships will not countenance in the least degree.” And what is the prayer? “It prays, amongst other things, your Lordships to consider what measures ought to be adopted to make the Prayer Book and the Subscription of the Liturgy consonant with the practice of the clergy, and the acknowledged meaning of the Articles of the church.” And what is the imputed practice of the clergy? According to the statement of the petitioners it is their “general practice to deviate from the authorised forms and positive obligations of the Church,”—when with reference to your own case, the three points on which you consulted his Grace, you can prove that to deviate p. 9from or omit the Athanasian Creed—the Absolution—and the words used at the Imposition of Hands—is the same latitude, which with reference to their interpretation, he had thought fairly allowable.—You may then boast that you have convicted the Spiritual Head of the Church of inconsistency and duplicity, and no one will attempt to controvert your insinuation that his Grace “has one opinion at Lambeth, and another in the House of Lords.” [9a]

Your charge as it affects the Bishop of London, rests on similar evidence. His Lordship’s conversation in 1829—a letter of 1830—and his speech in 1840. You consulted his Lordship in 1829 on the same subjects, and received in substance the same reply as had been given to you by the Archbishop. And I can as confidently defy you to point out in his Lordship’s speech in 1840, a passage that can give any colouring of justice to your charge; unless you can shew that to deprecate an alteration of our Articles and Liturgy is the same thing as to admit that certain parts of them may bear a difference of interpretation, or show that there is no difference between an existing “elasticity” and a further “expansion.”

Your evidence then, if anywhere, must be found in his Lordship’s letter of 1830. The letter of which you complain to the Archbishop as “unkind and inconsistent with former advice.” [9b]

But as you seem to me to have conversed with his Lordship on one subject, and to have written to him, the following year, upon another, I do not see how you make p. 10it appear that his Lordship’s letter was inconsistent with his former advice.

It does not appear that you had asked his Lordship “in what sense you would be expected to subscribe” in future, but whether having subscribed, certain opinions which you had taken up, were consistent with your Subscription. His Lordship thought that they were.

But nine months afterwards, on being called upon to renew your Subscription, you inform his Lordship that you had determined not to make it again but with a sort of protest.—By Subscription, you are called upon to declare that “the Book of Common Prayer and of ordering Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, containeth in it nothing contrary to the word of God, and that the Articles are agreeable to it:” but to this you will not assent, unless you may at the same time be permitted to declare that you do not believe it. You must explain, you tell his Lordship, the sense in which you shall have no objection to subscribe, and that through the medium of a petition to parliament. Now there appears nothing in your report of the conversation to lead to the inference, nor can I easily bring myself to think that his Lordship could have led you to infer that a qualified Subscription was admissible either from candidates for orders, or other clergymen. A different exposition of the general doctrine laid down in several of our Articles, may be fairly allowable; the letter of our Liturgy may in several parts admit of a different interpretation, and if taking our own views of these points, believing them not inconsistent with an allowable interpretation of the words, we can unreservedly subscribe, well and good—but for my own part, I should p. 11scarcely expect it of a Bishop to receive a qualified Subscription from me, the precedent I must think would be a bad one, and the practice subversive of the very object of Subscription, independent of the awkward acknowledgement it involves, that our Church exacts from her members a form of Subscription, which cannot be made without a salvo.

You scarcely could have inferred from his Lordship’s advice, that he “unequivocally allowed and approved of this latitude.” But as he had told you that he thought your interpretation of certain points admissible, and that you might openly hold your opinions, you might have inferred that he also considered them consistent with an “unreserved Subscription, and that according to the literal sense of the words”—for the question is, will not the literal sense of the words bear a different application? You subscribe unreservedly, at least you have given us no reason to suppose otherwise, to the Apostles’ Creed, in which we are told that Christ sitteth at the right hand of God, but the literal meaning of the words is at variance with the truth, that “God is without body, parts, or passions.” [11] I must think that you have conjured up a greater difficulty on the score of Subscription than in reality obtains. At all events you must detail some further particulars of his Lordship’s conversation, before you will enable us to detect its discrepancy with the subject of his subsequent letter.

But if his Lordship’s private opinion on the allowable interpretation of the points on which you consulted him, failed to remove your doubts and scruples, and you were after all fully persuaded in your own mind that the words in question could by no possibility bear p. 12the only interpretation with which you could conscientiously subscribe to them; I cannot see how the open sanction of the Church could affect you to the “easing of your conscience.” For surely if the words will not bear a certain sense, the Church cannot make them—the sanction of all the Bishops in Christendom could never make black mean white. If you are of opinion that it could, for a Protestant you must entertain rather high views of the power of the Church—and yet such would seem to be your opinion, for in the “Circular” which you sent a day or two before the presentation of the petition last year, to “all the Peers whose London residences could be ascertained;” after alluding to these opinions which you had received from the Archbishop and the Bishop of London, you say, “my answer was, if such be the case, let these statements be openly sanctioned, and I am content. But I cannot with truth and honesty subscribe, not according to the literal meaning of the words, unless such latitude be authorised by the Church.”

Now if the Subscription is still to be made to the same form of words, it is very difficult to see how the authority of the Church can impart to them a meaning, to which without that authority truth and honesty would forbid you to subscribe. If you do not take care, the Editors of the Oxford Tracts will mark you for their own, in spite of yourself.

But in what position do you now stand? You have done what you informed the Bishop of London, you could “not be comfortable without doing.” You have made known to the world, and that by the means you proposed to yourself, namely, a petition to parliament, what your opinions are, and the world interferes not with them, nor does the Church condemn them; you p. 13have only therefore to arrange the matter with your own conscience—if that condemns you, your course is a clear one. But why should it condemn you more for the next fourteen years, than it would seem to have done for the last fourteen? During that time you have held your preferment with your opinions, and why should you not continue to hold your opinions with your preferment?

You tell us that your object was eleven years ago to “ascertain with certainty whether you held any opinion which the Church condemned.” [13] You were informed that the authoritative sense of the Church on the points you wished for information could not in the abeyance of Convocation be obtained; but you were at the same time told, and that, by many whose opinions probably would have had great weight in Convocation had it been immediately convened for your satisfaction, that they considered your opinions allowable, that the Church did not condemn them; and I think it would have been a reasonable inference with which to have quieted your conscience, that had the Convocation been assembled, the authoritative sense of the Church would not have been against you.

And certain passages in your ministerial career had led us to hope and to infer that you had come to that conclusion, that having unburthened your mind, you were at rest. For in 1836, you presented a second petition to the House of Lords, but from that time, as far at least as we could judge from your proceedings, you seemed to have given up your pursuit, at all events, it appears that you rested upon your oars till 1840. And in the interim, in the year 1837, after having abstained for some years, and in consequence as it was supposed p. 14of your scruples, we saw you again voluntarily coming forward, and in your character of a Presbyter, officiating at the ceremony of the Imposition of Hands, co-operating with the Bishop during the recital of the very words at which your conscience had taken such alarm, and with respect to which in your former petition, “you had humbly and earnestly prayed that such steps might be taken as should seem good to their Lordships, in order to effect those alterations in the Liturgy which would relieve the conscience of their petitioner.” [14a] And we had also subsequently read the resolution you had come to, and deliberately published in 1838. In a note to a sermon which you published in that year, you say, “In the absence of all authoritative censure, I conclude as many others do, that a silent change has taken place, ‘from the diversity of times and men’s manners.’ In that conclusion I abide, repeating what I have often said, that whenever I am pronounced wrong on authority, I am ready to meet the consequences.” [14b]

I can myself say, and I am sure that all who have had any opportunity of knowing you, will say it with the same sincerity, in that conclusion we most heartily wish that you would abide—that you would continue to discharge your pastoral duties, your deliberate and solemnly accepted engagements to the “Chief Shepherd” in the same exemplary manner that has marked your hitherto career, until you are pronounced wrong on authority—or called from your stewardship to render up your account with joy. In what estimation you may hold the opinions of your brother petitioners, the Messrs. Hull, I know not, but they say, “Our clergy cannot leave the Church—p. 15their ordination vows are upon them.” And besides, my dear sir, to rush upon martyrdom in the absence of all persecution, or, as far as the public can see, any apparent necessity, will at best obtain for you but an Empedoclean sort of fame. And as nothing has occurred since you published your resolution in 1838, to affect your situation differently from what it had been for nine or ten years before, save the failure of another petition; should you resign in consequence of that circumstance, it would look almost as if you resigned merely to spite the Archbishop.

But under the little difficulty that exists of ascertaining with any certainty what your intentions have been, or even now are, we earnestly trust they may not result in the alternative of a resignation, to which in the course of your correspondence you have made such frequent allusions. “An alternative,” which as Bishop Heber says, “it is easy to suggest in the case of a brother, but which every man in his own case receives with difficulty.” [15a]

A few days before the presentation of the last petition you wrote to his Grace thus, “If I fail on this occasion . . . I consider myself pledged to resign my preferment.” [15b] The result of that petition was unfavourable. But ten months afterwards, that is, in your last publication, you call upon his Grace to pronounce that judgment which he had told you he “was unwilling to pronounce on scruples which he hoped time might remove,” [15c]—“and should that judgment require such a step, you will with God’s permission resign next December, unless a clear expression of public opinion should intervene appealing against the judgment pronounced.” [15d]

p. 16Let us hope then that you will abide in this your latest resolution, for I think from the evidence with which you have furnished us, we may venture to conclude that no such judgment will be pronounced as shall call for any expression of public opinion.

I shall now proceed to hazard a few observations on the reasons assigned by the Bishop of Norwich in favour of an Expansion of Subscription, seeing that they are considered by many so strongly to confirm the correctness of your own views, and as you have told us that you cannot consistently with truth and honesty make the required Subscription, we cannot but apprehend that in the proportion that those views are believed to be substantial and correct, the character of the clergy must be prejudiced, at all events in the eyes of those, who unwilling or unable to investigate the matter for themselves, take up the opinions of others, and arriving through them at a corollary of their own, hesitate not to go as far as to declare that “all the clergy are perjured.”

As I can devise no better, I shall pursue the plan you have adopted with respect to the speech of the Bishop of London, that is, giving such extracts from his Lordship’s speech as bear upon the subject of Subscription, with a running comment of my own. I will not however, introduce my remarks with the preface you have affixed to your “plain story,”—giving us to understand that it is intended to be “a refutation of almost every statement in the Bishop of London’s speech.” [16] Lest having led my readers to exclaim

Quid dignum tanto feret hic promissor hiatu.

I should leave them to conclude that I had been labouring p. 17under what the faculty, I believe, term “a false conception.”

His Lordship’s first reason for wishing for a more expanded Subscription, is that—

“If it be true that there is anything approaching to the appearance of insincerity on the part of those making the Subscription, if we seem to confess with our lips that we do not confess and believe in our hearts we give our opponents a vantage ground of which they will not be slow to avail themselves.”

There is said to be much virtue in an IF, and eâ virtute nos involvissemus, had not his Lordship torn the covering away, and “left us naked to our enemies,”—self-convicted of “confessing with our lips that we do not confess and believe in our hearts.” For says his Lordship—

“In fact, with respect to Subscription, I have never yet met with a single clergyman (and I have spoken with almost numberless individuals on the subject), who ever allowed that he agreed in every point, in every iota to the Subscription which he took at ordination.”

It would not be treating his Lordship with candour to give to his observation an offensive meaning, which it was not intended to convey. It is more with reference to the mal-construction and malicious use of it by our opponents, that we are led to wish that it had not been made. Since his Lordship’s subsequent pamphlet, from which we collect the sense in which he was viewing Subscription, when he made the observation, a sense in which, for instance with reference to those clauses of the Athanasian Creed, which are commonly, and unjustly, called damnatory, few I suspect do subscribe, being, in my opinion, in no wise bound to an application of p. 18the clauses, so manifestly at variance with the spirit in which the formulary was imposed on us by our Reformers;—since I say, this pamphlet can obtain but a very small part of the circulation of the speech itself, where the observation stands unqualified; the general impression of his Lordship’s meaning must be that the clergy subscribe ex animo, to that which ex animo they do not believe.

At the same time I have never seen the necessity of responding to those appeals through which the clergy of this Diocese have been called upon to take some public step, to repel the observation as an implied libel upon them. I would rather it should be remembered that his Lordship, comparatively speaking, has been but a short time amongst us, and that for anything we can tell, the enquiries of which he speaks may have been chiefly made amongst the clergy of another Diocese, (indeed, considering that it is not a likely question for a Bishop to put to candidates for Orders, or his clergy generally, the inference must be that they were), and if their “withers should be galled,” let them respond to these appeals, “ours are unwrung.”

It must, however, be admitted that any insincerity in the matter of Subscription, would deservedly expose us to the contempt of our opponents.—But a generous mind would shrink instinctively from inferring insincerity from any thing approaching only to its appearance. Decipimur specie ought to hold with respect to evil not less than good. Still, alas! to the jaundiced eye every object presents itself in colours not its own. And I fear that the opinion which his Lordship would seem to entertain of the actuating spirit of our opponents, is but too well founded, and amply justifies his apprehension p. 19that they would not be slow to avail themselves of the appearance, caring little to dissipate the “mentis gratissimus error,” by ascertaining themselves of the non-existence of the reality. That accomplished, but embittered infidel, the historian Gibbon, did not scruple to declare that the clergy, one and all of them, made their Subscription either “with a sigh or a smile;” but I trust that the clergy, as a body, can afford to leave such opponents in the unmolested possession of their imaginary vantage ground. Until Mordecai was removed from his seat at the gate, the soul of Haman could not be quieted within him—nor will the souls of our opponents, until the Church is brought down to a level with their own sects.

“If it (Subscription) is to be understood in the literal, most strict, and most stringent sense, it would create difficulties, which must weigh heavily upon scrupulous and tender consciences.”

But even supposing this—where there is no compulsion, there no violence can be done to the conscience, and no one is compelled to “enter the church,” and in using the expression, I confess I cannot perceive with the Messrs. Hull, that it is redolent “of a very popish error,” it certainly means, as they observe, “taking orders;” and I should think that the last persons likely to present themselves to a Bishop for that purpose, would be those whose consciences were already overborne by the pressure of their scruples.

“Tenderness of conscience,” says Bishop Jeremy Taylor, “is an equivocal term, and does not always signify in a good sense.” [19] I am far from meaning to impeach the sincerity of the petitioners, but if his Lordship applied the term in any other than a good sense, he p. 20might seem to have paid them but an equivocal compliment, and if he used it in a good sense with respect to them, the great body of the clergy who have subscribed, and felt no pang, might suspect his Lordship of meaning to imply that they were gifted with consciences of a somewhat tougher texture than is altogether to be envied. Some have chosen to draw this inference; I will not however believe that they have done his Lordship’s deliberate sentiments justice in so doing.

“And by continuing these difficulties (of Subscription) we should leave the way open only to those whose consciences have no scruples, and who would enter the Church only with a view to the profits and secular advantages.”

I would submit that a man may enter the Church with a view to its secular advantages, without being justly involved in the suspicion of insincerity, or of necessity, laying himself open to the imputation of entering it only with a view to its profits. For instance, should a gentleman have in his gift what is commonly called a family living, he may design it as a provision for a younger son, who enters upon a course of study and trains himself for the ministry, and that without necessarily discarding all view to the secular advantages of his profession, knowing that “they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel:” but so far from its following that he enters the Church with no other or higher motive; how frequently do we find it the case with those whose lot has thus been cast, as it were, for them, that they prove not merely exemplary parish priests, but eventually rise to adorn the Episcopal Bench. His Lordship will not object to my adducing his own successful career as a case in point.

But if such characters as his Lordship speaks of, can p. 21even now in the teeth of all the imputed difficulties, enter the church, if they be so disposed, I do not clearly see how removing these difficulties will mitigate the evil—how widening the portal will tend to obstruct the entrance. Nor, although it stands so recorded in his Lordship’s speech, will I believe it to be, his deliberate opinion, that by leaving the matter of Subscription as it now stands, we leave the way open only to those whose consciences can feel no scruples. If these expressions of his Lordship are to be taken only in a good sense, I trust for the credit of the Church that his Lordship is not the only exception to the general rule. The Messrs. Hull, in their animadversions on the Bishop of London’s speech, draw a nice distinction between “opening the door,” and “leaving it open.” In cases of burglary I believe the distinction involves a difference; we may venture therefore to hazard a guess to which of the brothers, the lawyer or the divine, we may attribute that contribution to the joint stock pamphlet. [21]

p. 22“But there is an answer commonly given, and a weighty one, to this objection. The Church has a sort of elasticity which allows and graduates the differences that exist.”

Yet on the use of the word “elasticity” by the Bishop of London, you say, “I confess myself entirely unable to distinguish between the ‘expansion’ of the one prelate or the ‘elasticity’ of the other.” [22a] If there is no difference between the existing elasticity and the expansion pleaded for, for what boon did the petitioners pray? I anticipate your answer, and will reply to it presently.

“It does not become the Church of England, a Church founded on liberty of conscience and the right of private judgment, to say that there shall not be a certain latitude of opinion.”

This observation has been the theme for much discussion. It has been pretty roundly insinuated that his Lordship’s meaning had been wilfully misapprehended by the Bishop of London. I see myself but little ground for the insinuation. It will at all events be admitted that his Lordship did not qualify or define the sense in which he used the observation. He has however explained his meaning and the extent to which he applied it in his pamphlet, or as you term it “brief defence” of his speech.

After quoting the “passing remarks of a country newspaper,” as elucidatory of his Lordship’s meaning, you say, “I cannot believe the Bishop of London could be blind to a distinction so obvious.” [22b] For the present, be it so. In the same page in which this expression of your incredulity as to his Lordship’s blindness occurs, p. 23you quote another passage from his speech, that in which he observes of Subscription,—“it is not required from all members of the Church, but only from the ministers of the Church, as a security against a greater evil, &c.” Upon which you exclaim, “can we forget that all graduates at the universities are required to subscribe, that these are all laymen?” Not very easily, I admit. And which would you wish us to suppose? That his Lordship had forgotten it, or that he was ignorant of it, or that he intended to palm upon the audience before which he spake such an assertion as a literal fact? As I am inclined to think that you suppose neither one nor the other, I must say, “I cannot believe that you could be blind to his Lordship’s meaning,” and could not help exclaiming on reading your ready imputation against the Bishop of London—“Physician! heal thyself.”

But whilst so many explanations have since been given of the meaning in which this observation was made by the Bishop of Norwich, and so many insinuations levelled at the Bishop of London for not choosing to see it, I am disposed to think that his Lordship did not feel himself called upon to dive into the thoughts of the Bishop of Norwich, but intending to give a direct negative to an unqualified affirmative, meant to re-repudiate the notion that “the church of England, was founded on liberty of conscience, and the right of private judgment,” and to assert with reference to the well-known fruits of such a principle, that the Church was founded on “truth.” But the Bishop of Norwich contends that the expression is an “incorrect” one, and that had he been speaking of “the only true foundation of the true Catholic Church itself,” he should p. 24have said that it was “founded on the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.” [24a] The Bishop of London could scarcely have thought the periphrasis necessary, considering before whom he was speaking, he would probably reply to the imputed incorrectness of the expression, that he always considered the foundation of which the Bishop of Norwich here speaks, to be “truth,” and that the Church was the interpreter of the Apostles, and Prophets, and Jesus Christ, or in other words of the Gospel of Christ. He meant also I should suppose, to repudiate the notion, that the Reformation of the Church proceeded on such a principle, and in effect to affirm that from the days of Archbishop Cranmer to these of Archbishop Howley, no such principle had ever been recognized by the Church, as that of admitting “liberty of conscience and the right of private judgment,” to have any directive influence in Church affairs; a fact, which if not sufficiently proved by the mandate of Edward the Sixth, enforcing under the penalties of “sequestration, suspension, excommunication, and such other coercion, as to ordinaries or others having ecclesiastical jurisdiction, shall seem convenient, straitly charging and commanding his loving subjects to observe the injunctions of 1547,” [24b]—would be amply established by your own observations respecting Bishop Hooper, for the sending of the good old man to prison in the matter of the vestments, and that by the Reformers themselves, would seem but little to favour the notion that our reformed Church was founded on “liberty of conscience and the right of private judgment.”

p. 25But that I may not also be accused of misapprehending his Lordship’s meaning, I will here quote his explanation of the sense in which the observation was made—

“It is of course plain that I was neither speaking of the Catholic Church at all, nor even of the Church of England, except in its character of a Reformed Church, founded as such on the principles of the Reformation, which I again deliberately assert to be liberty of conscience and the right of private judgment, in opposition to that Church from whence it separated, in which the authority of Popes, Councils, and Priests, superseded all appeal to the scriptures themselves, and by which of course freedom of judgment was strictly prohibited.” [25a]

Not that it bears upon his Lordship’s argument, still I would respectfully submit whether our alleged separation here from the Church of Rome be strictly correct; we threw off our allegiance to the usurped authority, temporal and spiritual, of the Pope; we reformed the abuses of our own Church, but we separated from no mother Church. The episcopal Church in England existed long before the Pope cast his eye upon it.—“In the acts of the Council of Arles, which was held A.D. 314, we find the Subscriptions of three British Bishops.” [25b]

But I would further question whether in his Lordship’s qualified sense of the observation it can with any strictness be said, that our reformed Church was founded on the principle he contends for.

It will, I think, be admitted that whatever was done with reference to the Church by that “Postilion of the Reformation,” as Burnet calls him, the Papist Henry, was done by him more with a view “to cudgel the p. 26Pope into a compliance with what he desired,” [26a] than from any desire to reform our religion. At all events, we must give up any attempt to reconcile his “six acts” with “liberty of conscience.”

The reformation of our religion had its commencement in the reign of his successor. Here, if any where, we must look for the principle in question. But can it be said that our religion was reformed “in opposition to the authority of Popes and Councils,” when it is so well known, that “the Bishop of Rome’s usurped power and jurisdiction was of most just causes taken away and abolished,” [26b] in the preceding reign? Neither can it, I think, in strictness be said, of that time, that the Priests superseded all appeal to the scriptures, seeing that it was by the Bishops themselves that the scriptures were chiefly caused to be circulated. I am speaking not of the German Protestant Church, but that of which his Lordship speaks, “the Church of England, in its character of a reformed Church.” And I have before shewn on your own authority in the matter of Hooper, that she recognised nothing so little as the principle of “liberty of conscience.” That sectarism or separation from the Church is founded on this principle, will be admitted.

It has always appeared to me, that the hacknied phrase, “liberty of conscience and the right of private judgment,” applied to an associated body, is a pure fallacy, I had almost said, a cobweb to catch the fly popularity, quite as valuable as an appeal, “ad captandum vulgus,” as the cry—“Nolumus leges Angliæ mutari,” to which “catch-word,” his Lordship attributes the defeat of the attempt to revise the Liturgy in 1689. You also attribute p. 27this defeat to “the violence of party;” but there are those, and the late pious and excellent Bishop Jebb amongst the number, who ascribe it to the “special interference of Providence.” “But the special interference of Providence did not terminate with the first establishment of our Liturgy . . . Even within the Church itself, some were found whose integrity cannot be impeached, who were on the point of introducing alterations which could not have failed to prove equally injurious to the cause of truth and piety.” [27a] Even Bishop Burnet, one of the Commissioners, with reference to the probable result of those contemplated alterations of 1689, imputes the failure of the attempt to a “very happy direction of the providence of God observed in the matter.” [27b]

The Church, however, coerces the conscience of no man, every one is at liberty to take his own religious course, and I confess I cannot see why that which is conceded to all other societies should be denied to the Church—the right of being governed by her own constitutions, and the right also of judging what constitutions are most conducive to the welfare and good order of her community.

If I could not conscientiously conform to the doctrines and discipline of the Baptist or the Independent, I question if they would allow me to give my conscience the liberty to act amongst them according to its dictates. They would no more deny than we do ourselves, the abstract principle, neither would they “fine,” nor put me in “the pillory,” but I suspect they would “exclude” me, and with very good reason, from their ministry. To talk of conceding the abstract right of private p. 28judgment, has always appeared to me a good deal like talking of conceding to a person with sound lungs the privilege of breathing. But to contend for the principle and talk of certain latitudes and limits, seems to me to involve a contradiction—once assign any limits to the “right,” and you destroy the principle. But although his Lordship pleads for the principle being, as he contends, that on which our Church is founded, and ought to be acted upon, he would circumscribe it within “a certain latitude of opinion.” He would not have it trench upon “the distinguishing features and essential doctrines of the Christian Church.” But who is to be the judge of these doctrines? Two of the petitioners, the Messrs. Hull, repudiate the very idea of the Church being the authorized interpreter of the truth. “If,” say these brothers, in allusion to a remark by the Bishop of London, “the word ‘authorised’ bear its usual signification, such a remark would indeed be inconsistent with liberty of conscience and the right of private judgment.” [28a]

Again, arguing from the abuse of Subscription by “unconscientious and unscrupulous men,” they say, “it is on that account that the simplest Creed, and the truth to which the term ‘necessary’ is directly applied in our bible, are enough to justify a call into the ministry.” [28b]

But let any one compare the following passage, from Mr. Belsham’s first letter to a former Bishop of London, with his exposition of the Unitarians’ Creed, as it is given at the end of that lucus a non lucendo—his “Calm Inquiry.” “That the Unitarians believe everything that p. 29is essential to salvation is evident from the unequivocal testimony of the Apostle Paul himself, who in the Epistle to the Romans, x. 9, expressly teaches that if we confess with our mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in our heart that God hath raised him from the dead, we shall be saved.” Here then we have a professed believer in the simplest creed—but will it “justify his call into the ministry?” Take again the case of the Baptist, agreeing with us I believe on all the essential doctrines of Christianity, admitting the necessity of Baptism, but differing from us only on a question of time. With our views on Infant Baptism should we be justified in admitting him into the ministry? and if not, what becomes of liberty of conscience and the right of private judgment? Might not the professed believer in this simple creed and the Baptist, under the contemplated restrictions of the principle complain with you “that the same invasion of Christian liberty remains? Fines, and imprisonment, and the pillory, have vanished; exclusion remains (to them) in the same unabated force.” [29] Let us then remove the corrective remedy of Subscription to Articles of Faith, and where shall we stay the progress of the gangrene? How shall we exclude “the naughty seducers?”

“I consider that by in any way expanding the sense and meaning of Subscription, a boon would be granted, and a great benefit conferred upon the scrupulous and tender consciences of those who are among”—it might be asked how they came there—“or may become the brightest ornaments of the establishment.”

But if these ornaments can only be secured at the p. 30risk, I do not say with the “intention” of letting into the ministry together with them, men who hold things contrary to sound doctrine, however exemplary may be their lives, however brilliant their acquirements, still should they be in error concerning the Faith, shall we not have purchased them at too high a price?

Brighter ornaments we may never hope to see than that army of martyrs, those profoundly learned and eminently pious men, the sanctity of whose lives, the fervour of whose holy zeal in the cause of Christ have shed an undying lustre on the religion they professed when living, and who being dead yet speak—and in the accents of encouragement to the tenderest conscience, seem to breathe a crede nobis,—the Church in the holy communion of which WE lived and died, proffers nothing to be received as an article of faith, that is “not agreeable to the word of God,” nothing as a point of discipline “that is contrary to it.”

“I would remove every obstacle in the way of Subscription, by which tender consciences of unquestionable orthodoxy, agreeing on every point essential to Christianity, might be relieved from difficulties, which I know weigh much with men of honourable and high feeling.”

But when Subscription is objected to as it is by the petitioners, because they think it pledges them to an assent to things unscriptural, as for instance “the unscriptural character of the Athanasian Creed,” as it is viewed by the Messrs. Hull, and the non-agreement of it, and other matters in the scripture as they are viewed by yourself—when the alternative is to give assent to matters that are contrary to scripture, or to sacrifice “truth and honesty,”—surely the expression of p. 31a tender conscience is incorrectly applied to men like these. For what must be the toughness of theirs who could submit to the alternative?

But although the Bishop of Norwich would not allow “liberty of conscience” to extend so far as to trench upon the “essential doctrines of the Christian Church.” Nevertheless, having alluded in his speech to the difficult circumstances in which the reformers were placed, and in consequence of which “the Articles of the Church were framed on a reference to the opinions of a very wide body who differed among themselves on many important points.” His Lordship contends in the “brief defence” of his speech, “that it only requires the full carrying out of this principle into practice, to meet the difficulties of the present case.” [31]

The radical reformer of the State contends that it only requires the full carrying out of the principle of the Reform Bill, to give universal suffrage and universal satisfaction to the people, and I am inclined to think that the result in either case would be pretty much the same—equally disastrous to the Church as to the State.

But it has been contended during the present movement, that if alterations be made in our Liturgy to meet one tender conscience, a similar boon should be extended to all. Upon this objection his Lordship argues, “if this be true, it is much more true that if no latitude is to be allowed in any subordinate point, we cannot make exceptions in one case more than another.” But this appears to me to be a petitio principii, it is assuming that there is no existing “elasticity,” no departure from an iota admissible, no latitude in any point, subordinate or otherwise already recognized, and if so, seeing that p. 32on most of the points on which your objections hinge, his Lordship would seem, from his pamphlet, to coincide with you in your views, it might not unreasonably be asked,—how Dr. Stanley came to be at this moment, Bishop of Norwich.

Still, I think it may reasonably be asked, as it is, if this principle of concession in consideration to tender consciences be once admitted, where are the probable demands upon it likely to find a limit?

The question would seem then to resolve itself into a choice of evils, and e malis minimum, we must ask therefore, which would be most conducive to the welfare and respectability of the Church, to require Subscription to be made unreservedly and according to the literal meaning of the words and sense in which they were imposed, or to allow such a latitude as may enable every one to subscribe in what sense he please?—“Quicunque vult, is an ill preface to a law.”

A proposition similar to the last has been stated and canvassed by Bishop Jeremy Taylor, and he says of it—“This is the last remedy, but it is the worst, it hath in it something of craft, but very little of ingenuity, and if it serve the ends of peace or external charity, or a fantastic concord, yet it cannot serve the ends of truth and holiness, and christian simplicity.” [32]

How far the Bishop of Norwich may be disposed to go in carrying out his benevolent object (and I speak it in perfect sincerity, for I believe his Lordship to be actuated by the very best intentions), of giving relief to tender consciences and promoting peace and unity amongst Christians, I pretend not to say—for his Lordship’s pamphlet leaves the matter more doubtful than his p. 33speech, inasmuch as amongst those whose sentiments his Lordship quotes as being most in accordance with his own, and with reference to whom “compared with many of their modern opponents,” he says—

Mallem magis cum Platone errare quam cum istis rectè sentire.

His Lordship quotes the opinion of Bishop Warburton, namely, that “schism which all must admit to be an evil, is one which nothing but the Church widening her communion, can prevent or cure.” [33]

I confess I could never clearly see how the Church can conscientiously widen her communion. What are the pleas for separation? They hinge not on letters and iotas, nor on this or that particular passage in our Liturgy, they resolve themselves into two—our Doctrines and our Church Government. One or other of these is the plea alleged by every denomination of separatists, from the frigid Socinian, to the fanatical Jumper. Giving these separatists therefore credit for seceding or keeping aloof of us on these grounds, and, that for conscience sake—we can only expect to “prevent schism,” by leaving the divinity of our Saviour “an open question,” and abolishing Episcopacy altogether.

But may we not ask, if tenderness of conscience is to be respected when it takes offence at non-essentials, why is it to be disregarded when it stumbles at the far more important matters, the essentials of Christianity, the “distinguishing features of the Christian Church?” and is not Episcopacy a distinguishing feature? But with the exception of the Roman Catholic, there is not a separatist in the three kingdoms who is agreed with us p. 34on that point. Are the divinity of Christ and the atonement essential doctrines? But the so called Unitarian, in the exercise of his private judgment, pronounces them to be falsehoods. Is Infant Baptism a distinguishing feature? But the Baptist, as he styles himself, condemns it as a senseless and unscriptural rite, nor will the liberty in which he indulges his conscience permit him to hold communion with any Church that practises it. Is the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper a distinguishing feature? But the tender conscience of the Quaker rioting in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made him free, will not deign to return to these “beggarly elements,”—“the policy of Satan busying people with outward signs.” [34a]

Since then we must give up the pleasing hope of bringing schismatics back to the fold, we may narrow the question, and limit the proposed revision of our Articles and Liturgy, to the removal of every “cause of uneasiness” to the tender consciences of our brethren within the pale. “This,” as you justly observe, “would probably occasion some trouble and difficulty,” [34b] not that this ought to be objected if the charitable object could be effected by any reasonable sacrifice. You admit that already “more is proposed that is either necessary or desirable.” [34c] The Bishop of London [34d] “would not be p. 35disposed to go as far as you,” whilst some perhaps with the modesty of old Richard Baxter, might propose to put the unclean thing away altogether, and to substitute p. 36a new and much improved Liturgy of their own. Let us once open the commission, institute this Court of Relief for tender consciences, and we shall have no lack of appellants.

Utor permisso—caudœque pilos ut equinæ,
Paulatim vello—demo unum, demo etiam unum,
Dum cadat elusus ratione ruentis acervi. [36a]

The difficulties of the subject seem to be confessed by all, except it may be by the Brothers Hull, who seem to see none or very few. But the Bishop of Norwich observes, “I agree that there are what to some may be deemed almost insuperable difficulties in the way of any change in the Liturgy, and perhaps in the Articles.” Nor would these difficulties seem to be lessened, if his Lordship’s view of the present state of the Church be correct, it being his opinion “that there never was a period perhaps of our Church History with so little harmony within the pale, and so fearful a prospect of fiercer and wider dissention.” [36b] “There is a lion in the way”—and for my own part I am craven enough to say there let him lie—couchant he is likely to be less troublesome than rampant. And the better part of valour is discretion.

p. 37And as his Lordship tells us that “he believes the Clergy as a body would not consent to any change” in the Liturgy. We may infer that that absence of harmony to which his Lordship alludes, from whatever other causes it may arise, originates in no want of unanimity in the Church on the score of Subscription, and that there would seem but little necessity, for the sake of peace, to embark upon the dangerous experiment of a revision.

It being then admitted that “the Clergy as a body would not consent to any change in the Liturgy or Articles,” we must presume that they can unreservedly make the Subscription in its present form. And putting aside your own peculiar case, we must also presume of those persons who recently petitioned parliament, in the character of Clergymen of the Church of England, that although they might think some Expansion of Subscription desirable, in consideration to others, did nevertheless make their own with a safe conscience and with the honest intention of fulfilling their engagements, by a general conformity to the prescribed Services of our Church. They subscribed, we must presume, with no such latitude of opinion as would admit of an habitual deviation from, either by alteration or a summary omission, of such parts of our Services, as they could not satisfactorily reconcile with their own private opinions. Mr. Maty, a former seceder from our establishment, could not consider such a latitude of the construction of his Subscription compatible with his honesty. In a letter to Mr. Lindsey, he says, “finally, I can neither submit to acquiesce in silence, after having made my objections known, nor take upon me to alter the Service of the Church as long as I continue to profess myself a minister of it.” [37]

p. 38Properly appreciating this sentiment, we must conclude that the Bishop of Norwich understood the prayer of the petitioners with no reference to such a practice as Mr. Maty here condemns, when he represented them as praying “that that which is consented to and allowed privately, may be the avowed and acknowledged sentiments of the Church at large.” Yet in their “explanation of the statements of the petition,” and the object which they had in view, the Messrs. Hull, enumerate amongst these deviations from the authorized forms and positive obligations of the Church, sanctioned as they assert by general practice; the omission of the Athanasian Creed, the change or omission of certain sentences in the Burial Service, and the substitution of other lessons than those appointed by the Church. Now I must think, that if a complaint were preferred against a Clergyman to his Diocesan for habitually and advisedly deviating thus from his positive obligations, the complainants would scarcely be told that such things were consented to and allowed privately by the Church. If so, for consistency’s sake it might be as well to expunge in future from the Churchwardens’ Articles of Enquiry exhibited at Episcopal Visitations, any such query as the following, “Doth the Incumbent or Curate regularly read service with the Litany and Creeds, exactly according to the Rubric of the Book of Common Prayer, without omission, addition, or alteration?” [38]

You represent the petitioners “as having presented to parliament the sound and reasonable prayer, that the law and the practice should be assimilated.” You mean, I presume, that some regard should be had to the nature of the thing practised, otherwise I must think your principle p. 39a very unsound one. For instance, it is to be feared that a habit prevails sadly too much amongst both high and low, of neglecting the observance of the sabbath day and keeping it anything but holy. But I would not therefore assimilate the law to this practice and go to parliament for an act to legalize sabbath breaking. And even in respect to the prayer of the petitioners, I should say that the Archbishop’s proposition that steps should be taken to assimilate the practice to the law, was the sounder one of the two.

But the Messrs. Hull in their view of the matter, represent the Bishop of Norwich—“as pleading strongly for that privilege which should be conceded to every ingenuous mind, to mean what it says, and to say what it means.” A form of Subscription such as would admit of every one saying what he means, seems to have been the view which the Bishop of London took of the object of the petitioners, and called it very truly,—“expansion with a vengeance.”

But you would make us, by our present Subscription, say much more than we mean, and mean much more than we say, for instance, you would contend that we declare by Subscription, “that every word of the Homilies, is agreeable to the word of God,” the laity, you say “feel not what it is to subscribe literally to every word of the Homilies, Rites, and Ceremonies,” [39a] and again, “if a Subscription to the Liturgy as agreeable to the word of God is still maintained to be indispensable,” [39b] and further, the petition states, that the Clergy are “commonly understood to be bound to the observance of all the Canons.” [39c] Now, I cannot think that you give quite a correct view of Subscription. Amongst your illustrations, you say, “our Subscription literally taken p. 40calls upon a person to declare that the delivery of a marriage ring and the Apostles’ Creed are equally agreeable to scripture!” [40] But the very letter of our Subscription is opposed to this view of it.—We know of nothing in scripture agreeable to or agreeing with any part of our marriage ceremony, unless it be a supper; neither have we any “scripture warrant” for our custom of kneeling when receiving the sacrament, none for signing with the sign of the cross, no direct warrant baptizing infants, in short, literally we do not subscribe to the Liturgy as being agreeable to the word of God, but containing nothing contrary to it.

Neither do we “subscribe literally and to every word of the Homilies” as being agreeable to the word of God. I could produce you many a quaint passage from their exhortations, to which we should be puzzled to find anything agreeable in scripture, though nothing perhaps contrary to the spirit of them.

And as to the Canons, so far from feeling ourselves bound to a voluntary observance of them all, I have no recollection of pledging myself by any Subscription at my ordination to the observance of any of them. “As to the Canons,” says Archdeacon Sharpe, “to which we are not bound by any formal promise, but only by virtue of their own authority. I believe no one will say that we are bound to pay obedience to them all, according to the letter of them.” Say then, that there are amongst them some, which as the petitioners allege “could not in these days be acted upon,” if so, they are the less likely to cause them any grievance. And as to the alleged inexpediency of acting upon others, let us leave that to be judged of by our superiors, whom we are bound to obey, at least so I understood my ordination p. 41vows. But our objection to a revision of our Laws Ecclesiastical arises from no over-weaning affection for these inoperative canons, but from a desire rather to

“ . . . bear the ills we have
Than fly to others, that we know not of.”

But to the observance of the Rubric, we are unquestionably pledged. And it is preferred by the Messrs. Hull, “as a charge against the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London, that at their ordination they pledged themselves to observe the Rubric, and so to confirm in a given way. But they do not confirm in that way, and do confirm in another,” ergo valet consequentia. But, after mentioning in the strongest terms our obligations to a strict observance of the Rubric, Archdeacon Sharpe says, “this indeed we must always take along with us, that our obligations to observe the Rubric, how indispensable soever, are subject to this proviso—namely, that the thing prescribed be a thing practicable.” And as the Messrs. Hull admit that “the Bishops from the multitudes of candidates, could not confirm according to the Rubric,” we will leave the Bishops to settle this matter with their own consciences, believing that their characters are not so far compromised by the deviation, as to render it imperative upon them, to plunge at all hazards into a revision.

Our Articles were agreed upon, as you observe, “for avoiding diversities of opinions, and for the stablishing consent touching true religion.” In accomplishing this, you seem to think that they have signally failed. In those cases, however, where the Article has advisedly been drawn up for the purpose of admitting men holding p. 42certain differences of opinion on the general doctrine contained in it, the contemplated result can scarcely be looked upon as indicative of any failure of the object. But I cannot see that the existence of one evil in a system, if the extent to which this latitude goes be one, which I do not admit, is a sound argument for the bringing in of many more. “If,” says Dr. Randolph, “the best method we can think of to avoid diversities of opinion and establish consent touching true religion, has through the perverseness and corruption of mankind a contrary effect, surely not we, but these hypocrites, are to blame. But we cannot think it a good reason for throwing down all the fences of our vineyard, because some wild boars will sometimes break through them.” [42] It appears, however, that you would only leave a few gaps in the fence, the thirty-nine Articles you would abolish at one fell swoop, and from the passing of your proposed BILL for the consolidating the laws of religious tests, or Subscriptions, &c. “you would have it enacted, that nothing be required but assent to the doctrines set forth in the three Creeds, as agreeable to scripture; assent to the truth of the scriptures themselves; and that they contain all things necessary to salvation.”

I perceive, however, that you would still have a “declaration of conformity to the Liturgy of the Church of England, as it is now by law established.”—By now, I presume you are speaking of the Liturgy, as it shall be set forth hereafter, when every pebble of offence shall be taken away, and “every cause of uneasiness removed.” But hic labor, hoc opus est—take for instance the Athanasian Creed, you might be contented with the proposition of 1689 respecting it; but your brother petitioners the p. 43Messrs. Hull exclaim, “let Subscription henceforward apply to a Prayer Book which does not contain the Athanasian Creed.” [43a] Now, if this “erroris expulsio,” as it has been termed, was considered indispensable to the exclusion of the Arian “wolves,” even after the imposition of the Nicene Creed,—are these wolves exterminated? Or is their nature so changed that they would harmlessly lie down with the lambs of our fold, were it not for those invidious fences that prevent their approach, nor seduce them from the fold, even were it fenceless? But, argue the Messrs. Hull, fences are of no use, for a wolf once upon a time got through one, meaning Bishop Hoadley. But they forget that like that treacherous one we read of in the nursery legend, the “Little Red Riding Hood,”—he disguised himself to effect his purpose. We have lately read of a chimney sweeper insinuating himself into her Majesty’s private apartments, but we have not heard in consequence of the abolition of the police force.

But let it be admitted that our Liturgy, “that admirable book, next to the bible, the treasure and glory and safeguard of our reformed Church,” [43b] is not faultless; still, who when he looks upon the heterogeneous mass of so called improvements that have been already suggested, would not exclaim—“Let us but have our Liturgy continued to us as it is, until the men are born who shall be able to mend it or make it better, and we desire no greater security against either altering this or introducing another.” [43c]

But as the subsidence of the dissidia mutuasque suspiciones, is a consummation more devoutly to be wished, p. 44than, I fear, in these times, to be looked for; I will in conclusion make a few observations in defence of the Subscription of the Clergy generally, to those three points which you esteem so “indefensible;” but as my observations have already extended far beyond the limit I had contemplated, I must of necessity, be more brief than I could wish, or than justice to such subjects might seem to require—and first of the Athanasian Creed.

“Full of information,” as Hooker observes, “concerning that faith which Arianism did so mightily impugn, and which was both in the east and west Churches accepted as a treasure of inestimable price, by as many as had not given up even the very ghost of belief.” [44a]

But my Diocesan tells me, that “literally understood this Creed makes no distinctions, no contingencies, but unconditionally and unequivocally asserts that all who receive it not, are doomed to irretrievable perdition.” [44b] God forbid! But if it be so, literally the Saviour of mankind has pronounced the same uncontingent, undistinguishing, unequivocal doom, upon all who believe not the gospel. “He that believeth not shall be damned, [44c] whosoever believeth on him shall not perish, but have everlasting life,” [44d] the converse is, whosoever believeth not shall perish everlastingly; for “he that believeth not shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him, [44e] they all shall be damned, who believe not THE truth.” [44f]

But we cannot bring ourselves to think that it can consist with the goodness of Him “whose tender mercies p. 45are over all His works,” to doom to “irretrievable perdition,” millions of His creatures for the non-performance of an impossibility. We consequently limit this awful sentence against those who “love unrighteousness,” and wilfully reject the offer of salvation. The context forces us to this application of the anathema. But I am not asking in what sense we are to understand the threat of scripture, but applying to it the same reasoning through which the Athanasian Creed is attacked; and I assert that literally understood, the texts which I have quoted, as undistinguishingly doom to perdition all who do not believe the gospel, as does the Athanasian Creed all who do not hold the Catholic Faith.

But if we are to ascertain the sense of scripture by comparing it with scripture, the text with the context, why are we to be debarred from ascertaining the sense and meaning of our Church formularies, by the application of the same canon of interpretation? Why are so invidious objections to be conjured up and bruited abroad against our Church, by tying us down to the letter of her forms, to the utter disregard of their meaning, and the spirit in which they have been imposed? I cannot express my own view of these monitory clauses, better than in the language of a contemporary divine, “their connection and relative force is this: whosoever desires to be saved it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith, and if he who has this faith keep it not, for he cannot keep it except he has first had it or held it, he cannot be saved, but without doubt shall perish everlastingly. The warning, therefore, is directed to him only who keeps not the faith which he has been taught, which has been put into his hands, which he has had hold of.” [45]

p. 46But my Diocesan affirms, and although it is your own opinion also, I take the liberty of canvassing it in his Lordship’s statement, feeling that the sentiments of the Spiritual Head of the Church in this Diocese, must carry with them even greater weight than your own. His Lordship says, “granting (though the Creed makes no such concession) that five hundred millions and upwards of Pagans and Heathens, out of eight hundred millions inhabitants of our globe, are not meant to be included in this sweeping anathema, it should be remembered that the whole Greek Church, professed Christians as they are, must of necessity be included, as its members after mature consideration are at variance with other Churches respecting the procession of the Holy Ghost.” [46a] As a point of doctrine I am much disposed to question the “mature consideration,” I should rather impute the schism to the imperious and unbending dispositions of the respective parties, the Patriarch versus the Pontiff. But be that as it may,—I would exonerate our Church from the odium of gratuitously condemning to irretrievable perdition, those who in her own opinion substantially differ nothing from her in this respect, but do keep undefiled the Catholic Faith.

“They do not,” says Archbishop Bramhall, “add the word filioque to the Creed, and yet they acknowledge that the Holy Ghost is the Spirit of the Son, which is the very same thing in sense.” [46b] And again—“Peter Lombard, Thomas à Jesu, Cardinal Tolet, and many others, do make the question about the procession of the Holy Ghost to be verbal only, without reality, and that the Grecian expressions of Spiritus Filii and per p. 47Filium, do signify as much as our Filioque.” [47a] Bishop Pearson, Bishop Beveridge, Dr. Waterland, and many others of our own divines are of the same opinion.

In explication of the doctrine of the Personality of the Holy Ghost, the Athanasian Creed says—“the Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son,” the Greek Church holds that which as Bishop Pearson says, plainly contains this truth, that the Spirit is of God the Father, and of God the Son. The Creed says, “neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding,” and beyond a procession, distinguishing Him from the Father and the Son, but whether this procession be temporal, eternal, or both—whether from the Father and the Son, or from the Father only, the Creed determines nothing—and the distinguishing property ascribed by the Greek Church to the Holy Ghost, is a procession, Εκπορενσις. [47b] “The Greek Church,” says Dr. Bennet, “does unanimously maintain the temporal procession of the Holy Ghost, from both the Father and the Son. And since this Creed may be understood in that sense, therefore in the use of it we do necessarily declare no more than what the Greek Church does as cordially profess and contend for as ourselves.”

“Though the distinction,” says the same writer, “was so well known to all our Reformers in this nation, yet their prudence and moderation would not suffer them to take notice of it in any public and authentic manner. They would not recede from Rome any further than was necessary, upon the account of the Roman corruptions, and therefore they did not reject the filioque from the Nicene Creed or the Creed of St. Athanasius, nor p. 48did they declare themselves against the Greek Church by adding any such term, as must necessarily determine in what sense they understood the procession.” [48a] Literally taken, therefore, the Greek Church is not of necessity included in this sweeping anathema, and as his Lordship states it, “excluded from the merits of the Redeemer’s death hereafter,” any more than five hundred millions of Heathens are condemned to irretrievable perdition by the literal acceptation of Mark xvi. 16.

To affirm the necessity of the Catholic Faith to salvation, is simply to say what our Lord himself says, in the above text. To affirm that he who having had the Catholic Faith rejects it, is to say no more than is said, Heb. vi. 4, Luke ix. 62, Matt x. 13, and 2 Peter ii. 21, with many other like places.

It would appear then from page 51 of your pamphlet, that we differ nothing in our application of these clauses; the only difference between us is, that taking this view of it, I can unreservedly make my Subscription, and conscientiously hold with our eighth Article, that this Creed “ought thoroughly to be received and believed.” But if in my conscience I believed that such an application of them was untenable, I confess I could not so easily lay aside my scruples, as it would appear you were ready to do, provided you could obtain the “sanction of the opinion of the Archbishop of Canterbury,” an opinion which being not ex cathedra, but private and personal, his Grace would not permit you to consider as “of greater value than that of any other individual, who may possess in an equal degree the qualifications of a competent judge in such a matter.” [48b]

p. 49But you ask “whether when we read Mark xvi. 16, we can find in that awful threat against those who do not receive the Gospel, a sanction for the even more appalling threat contained in the Creed.” [49a] In what sense it is more appalling you have left us to discover. But by this observation, you would seem to aim at some distinction between not receiving the Gospel and rejecting the “very essentials of Christianity.”

“The Creed,” you say, “consists of a series of propositions deduced by fallible man.” This of necessity would be the case, since the truth was by the wisdom of God committed to the keeping of fallible man, and with it, the command to “take heed to THE doctrine.” But the question is are they correct deductions from the infallible word of God? You admit that they are, all “must admire,” you say, “the extraordinary subtlety and acuteness with which erroneous theories are rejected, and the correct deductions from scripture are maintained,” [49b] and again “the matters treated of in this Creed are of such fundamental importance and so including the very essentials of Christianity.” [49c] If so, if the deductions be scriptural, the spirit of the clauses cannot be otherwise, for “he that believeth not shall be damned,” and I presume that by believing you would contend for the necessity of a sound faith—“the truth as it is in Jesus.”

“You are not,” you say, “so feverishly sensitive as many good men of our Church as to Trinitarian definitions, esteeming a lively ‘faith working by love,’ the grand desideratum of the gospel,” [49d] and so no doubt in a right sense it is. But South draws a distinction between p. 50a lively and a living faith, “our faith must not only be living but lively too.” Admitting this distinction, how far behind you does the Unitarian (or rather Humanitarian, if sects would but assume their most appropriate designation), fall in the profession of a like faith? He holds after a fashion, St. Paul’s “word of faith,” Rom. x. 9, and in works of kindness to his fellow creatures and morality, falls nothing behind the most orthodox Trinitarian. In this sense his faith is lively, and artlessness and simplicity are the boasted characteristics of his Creed. He “confesses with his mouth the Lord Jesus”—but then it is that he “was a man constituted in all respects like other men, subject to the same infirmities, the same ignorance, prejudices, and frailties, that he suffered death, not to appease the wrath of God, not as a satisfaction to divine justice, not to exhibit the evil of sin, nor in any sense whatever to make atonement to God for it; for this doctrine, in every sense, and according to every explanation they explode as irrational, unscriptural, and derogatory from the divine perfections, but as a martyr to the truth, and as a necessary preliminary to his resurrection.” [50] They confess Jesus with the mouth, but they deny the gospel of Jesus Christ our Redeemer. And is this believing to the saving of the soul? is this a “confession unto salvation?” Is this THE doctrine? But the rulers of Christ’s Church are to charge some that they teach no other doctrine, than the doctrine which is according to godliness, and great is the mystery of godliness. They are to rebuke sharply that men be sound in the faith. We must in short teach the truth as it is in Jesus,—THE faith and not A faith; and woe to us if from any mistaken p. 51notions of Christian charity, of that charity which “rejoiceth in the truth,” we hesitate to declare that to reject “the very essentials of Christianity,” is a “drawing back unto perdition.” At the same time when in the fulfilment of our bounden duty, our positive obligations, we declare the threat of scripture, for we declare no more, we might hope at all events from those whose every sentiment would seem to breathe of Christian benevolence, to have credit for declaring it in the spirit of that charity which “hopeth all things.”

Of the form of absolution in the Service for Visiting the Sick, you say, “no small harm is done to our reputation by sanctioning that which in plain honest language cannot be defended.” [51a]

The Roman Catholic will tell you that you cannot in plain honest language defend any construction of the words “this is my body,” but their own. You put, however, a different construction upon them, and with no harm done to your reputation.

The Bishop of Norwich says of this form, “I have heard many Clergymen express the pain they felt in uttering it, shrinking, as conscientious minds ever must, from the assumption of a power of so awful a character, while others from equally conscientious motives, abstain altogether from pronouncing it.” [51b]

I hope I do not misapprehend his Lordship; but the impression of his opinion left on my mind by this passage, is, that no conscientious mind can comply with our ordination vows but with pain to itself. With what pain and reluctance then must his Lordship cause these solemn vows to be administered, and trusting p. 52that they are conscientiously made, how from conscientious motives a man can abstain from the observance of them, I confess I cannot clearly see. Nor, can I think it quite just to the great body of his Clergy to take a weak conscience as the standard by which to measure the integrity of, perhaps, a better informed one.

But if his Lordship so construes our formularies, as implying an assumption on the part of the Minister, of a power, the arrogating of which can fall nothing short of blasphemy, namely, that “unless we as Ministers of the Church, ‘do forgive’ and ‘absolve,’ the sins of a dying man must descend with him to the grave, with all their fearful pressure; and that if we choose to retain them, he cannot escape their consequences,” [52a]—in other words, assuming a power like the false Prophets of old, “to slay the souls that should not die, and save the souls alive that should not live,” [52b]—if such be his Lordship’s view of our forms, a man need not be gifted with an over-sensitive conscience to shudder at the arrogance, the use of them must involve.

Yet in such a sense, his Lordship would seem to say, that our Church’s absolution was viewed and “believed by many of our earliest Reformers.” Let us then try the Service in question, not by its iotas, but by its obvious sense and meaning. Let it be made its own interpreter, and we must at once be convinced that such was not the spirit in which it was imposed by our Reformers, that they contemplated no such construction of its words, as that of implying a power, of “loosing of the debt of eternal death,”—or as Bishop Burnet says, to “pardon with relation to God.”

p. 53For if so, why remind the sick person, that “after this life there is an account to be given to the righteous Judge, by whom all must be judged without respect of persons.” [53a] Does the form objected to imply any such arrogant assumption on the part of the Minister? On the contrary, is not the commencement of it precatory? to the effect that Christ, not the Priest, “would of his great mercy forgive the penitent his offences.” Does the Priest pronounce the absolution in his own name? On the contrary, he pronounces it in the name of Him who sent him to declare the forgiveness of sins. Does he declare it on any other than the gospel terms? He declares it only to those who “truly repent and believe in Christ.” But can he see the heart? How then can it be supposed that he should himself believe, or what danger is incurred of deceiving the dying person into the fond hope, that he shall, in virtue of the Priest’s absolution, be clear when he is judged hereafter? Or if for a moment, the dying person had so deceived himself, must not the delusion be dissipated, on hearing the Minister after he had pronounced his absolution, put up to the throne of mercy that earnest and affecting petition, in behalf of him “who most earnestly desireth pardon and forgiveness”—but to what purpose, if he believed that he had but the moment before forgiven him? what can be more utterly at variance than this prayer, with the imputed arrogance of the form of absolution? “The truth is, that in the Priest’s absolution, there is the true power and virtue of forgiveness which will most certainly take effect—nisi ponitur obex—as in Baptism.” [53b]

p. 54“But who,” you ask, “shall venture to put these words into the mouth of fallible men, and authorize them in any sense to apply them.” [54a]

“You believe us,” you say, “to be in the fullest sense ambassadors of Christ, charged with a message of reconciliation.” [54b] But say that you were delivering this message at the bed of a dying person, and he replied to it, yes sir, so I read in my bible. How would you lead him to believe that your ambassadorial declaration of his forgiveness, was likely to be of more avail to him, than his reading the message for himself? “Sin,” says Hooker, “is not helped unless it be assured of pardon.” [54c] But what assurance can you give the penitent, beyond that he can read for himself, unless you have authority to declare his pardon in virtue of your official character? If it be not so, the distribution of the bible may be considered as having in a great measure superseded the further necessity of a Christian Ministry, and rendered our Saviour’s institutions of none effect.

“But why,” you ask, “assume to execute our commission in terms which under any construction are presumptuous.” Under their proper construction I would submit that they argue no assumption or presumption whatsoever.

Let us say that you had recently been sent out as “an ambassador in the fullest sense,” to Canada, in pardoning the rebels in accordance with your instructions, and a compliance on their parts with the terms, should you have deemed it a distinction involving any important difference, implicating you in an act of presumption, or derogating any thing from the prerogative of p. 55your sovereign,—had you said, I remit you your outlawry, and absolve you from all your offences.

But I should much question, supposing the rebels had by some means possessed themselves of your instructions, and having ascertained from them the terms on which pardon was offered to them, whether they would have considered reading this document to each other, the same thing as having the gracious message of pardon delivered to them on authority. The former is the principle of sectarism. But if you believe that there is any virtue in your office, if you believe that you are empowered to declare the message of reconciliation with more effect than a layman, define your position with regard to your heavenly Master, assert your delegated authority, that of being in the “fullest sense an ambassador of Christ;” prove that it means something, or give up your claim to an empty title. If there is nothing analogous in the office, why assume to be an ambassador? or why should the Apostles have led us to infer a delegated power, by declaring themselves to be ambassadors, ministers of the gospel, and stewards of the mysteries of God?

But for a weak and fallible man to assume a power in any sense, to remit or retain the sins of another, how shall we divest such a notion of presumption, or reconcile it with the enlightened and enquiring spirit of the nineteenth century?

We are baptized, as I have always understood, for the remission of sins. Say then, that a person desired baptism at your hands, but that on examination you thought you had found him wanting in the necessary qualifications, that he had not faith. Would you baptize him? But if part of the grace of Baptism be the remission of sins past, by withholding from him the p. 56sacramental means whereby they are remitted, do you not retain them? And under such circumstances, would not the virtue of your commission—the “power of the keys,” be brought home to you? And considering the life-giving effect of Baptism, if you are tempted to measure God’s ways by our ways, must it not strike you as the very height of presumption, to say as you do—I baptize thee? But as the remission of sins is a result of Baptism, and as we have not according to the old puritanical objection, any “scripture warrant” for the words with which we administer that mystery, would it argue greater presumption to say in words that mean no more, “I absolve thee of all thy past offences?” The Greek Church seems to have viewed the matter in this light, for as we learn from Bingham, they perform the rite in the optative form. “Baptizetur servus Christi in nomine Patris, &c.—let the servant of Christ be baptized, &c.” [56]

But say, that you had mistaken the thoughts of the heart of the would be convert, would not “the tremendous responsibility” of which his Lordship speaks be neutralized as it respected both the convert and yourself, by the comforting consideration that there is an after appeal to One that judgeth righteously, at whose tribunal the act or sentence of His official on earth will be reversed, if pronounced in error, but everlastingly confirmed if otherwise? Is absolution therefore a matter of indifference? Why then was the Christian ministry ordained, and its authority sealed by the assurance of its divine Founder,—“he that despiseth you despiseth me, and he that despiseth me despiseth Him that sent me?”

p. 57Your third objection lies against the words, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost,” as they are used in our Ordination Service.

The old cavil, as it is mentioned by Hooker, was “The Holy Ghost we cannot give, and therefore we foolishly bid men receive it.” [57a]

Your objection to the use of these words would seem to be, that in their literal sense they imply a power of commanding his gifts. But surely there is a wide distinction between the dispenser of a spiritual gift, and the giver of it. “God,” says Jeremy Taylor, “is the fountain of the power, man conveys it by an external rite . . . God is the consecrator, man is the minister; the separation is mysterious and wonderful, the power great and secret.” [57b]

Now, if a Bishop really believes that the Imposition of Hands is a divinely instituted rite, the means ordained by inspiration of Christ, and used by his Apostles, whereby the gift of the Holy Ghost is conveyed and received, for the ministration of the mysteries of the gospel dispensation:—if he believe that he is a minister of the Spirit, an apostolically appointed steward of these mysteries, I can see nothing “foolish,” nothing presumptuous in his saying at the very moment that he believes that he is dispensing the gift—“Receive ye the Holy Ghost for the office and work of a Priest in the Church of God, now committed unto you by the Imposition of our Hands.” It would, at least, tend to show that he had faith in the efficacy of his ministration. But to imitate the significant act of our Saviour and his Apostles, ever performed by them with a specific object, and ever resulting in a p. 58blessing, in the communication of some spiritual gift, to have recourse to the sign, with no faith in the thing signified, esteeming it but a barren ceremony,—would seem to me to be but little short of an “indefensible” mockery of an external rite, hallowed to spiritual purposes by the authority of inspiration.

If you can believe in the mystery of the sacraments, if you can believe that “the bread which we break, the cup of blessing which we bless,” do, by the prayer and solemn invocation of the Priest, become, in some inexplicable and mysterious manner, the “Communion of the body and blood of Christ, which are verily and indeed taken and received by the faithful in the Lord’s Supper:” if, in this faith, you hesitate not to give the consecrated elements to the communicants, manifesting the signification of the rite, by the words, the “body and blood of Christ, take, eat—drink:”—I can see but little reason why you should stumble, at the not more mysterious communication of the spiritual gift for the office ministerial, by the Imposition of Hands. They are mysteries; but the whole gospel dispensation is a mystery:—we must become as “little children” or we cannot receive them—for no sooner do we grow wise enough to ask “how these things can be,” than we are certain to reject them as “foolishness.” Some boldly, like the Socinian, as requiring a “prostration of intellect,” too humiliating to be submitted to—others hiding from themselves their want of faith, under the garb of humility, under which garb, I wish, that frequently something more of rationalism may not lurk, than its wearer would either willingly suspect or acknowledge.

But you request the Archbishop of Canterbury, “that it may be allowed by his Grace’s authority or sanctioned p. 59by his opinion, that in this form, all that relates to the gift of the Spirit” (the ministration of it rather, since the Bishop is not the fountain of the power—not the giver), “may be considered precatory.” [59a]—Precatory!—“the great mysteries of our religion are all by way of solemn prayer.” “The form of words,” says Jeremy Taylor, “doth not alter the case, for Ego benedico, and Deus benedicat is the same, and was no more, when God commanded the Priest in express terms to bless the people.” [59b]

But what is there in the words, “receive ye the Holy Ghost,” to prevent your taking them in the sense which would seem “to suit your own views?”

You take, I doubt not the form, in which the bread and wine in the sacrament are administered in a precatory sense.—“The body of our Lord Jesus Christ which was given for thee, preserve thy body,” &c.—but in the absence of any auxiliary verb, you must imply the precatory sense—you might mentally substitute shall or will, for may, for anything that there is in the form itself to prevent you.

But you object also to the words as being an innovation, and contend that the use of them was unknown in the purer ages of Christianity. This, however, you must permit me to say, you have signally failed in your attempt to prove. The authorities you adduce, are those of Morinus and Bishop Burnet. On these authorities “you hope to make it appear beyond all doubt that no such form of ordination was ever thought of, nor any resembling it for eleven centuries after the publication of Christianity.” [59c] “Prayer and the Imposition of Hands, were the only rites we find practised by the p. 60Apostles,” says the Bishop. But they were two distinct rites: “when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.” [60a] But they have left us no form of prayer used by them upon the occasion—how then do we know what form they used? And are we to suppose that the Imposition of Hands was given in silence, unaccompanied by any words to indicate its signification to the person ordained, or to the faithful who were present? But nothing is left on record. How then can you undertake to say that they used not, as they most probably would, the very form of the primitive commission? Christ was designated for his ministry by the visible descent of the Holy Ghost, and by an efflux of the Spirit: He, having received the gift without measure, in like manner designated his Apostles for theirs—“As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you”—Receive ye the Holy Ghost. And there can be no doubt, that the Apostles in ordaining others, would declare both by word and deed: “As Christ hath sent us, so send we you.” “Stir up the gift of God that is in you by the putting on of my hands.” [60b]

But Morinus is to set this question at rest. “His authority must, you suppose, be considered conclusive on this point.” [60c] But to what does it amount? His collected MS. forms of Ordination take you back to about the middle of the eighth century; and these you adduce as conclusive evidence of the practice of the primitive Church. Now admitting, as in candour we must, that his earliest authority is a proof of still earlier usage,—still, as to any evidence of the practice of the primitive Church, he leaves you with a yawning and somewhat unmanageable hiatus upon your hands.

p. 61Could no written summary of the Christian faith, or any traces of such summary be discovered, anterior to the date of that of Nice; you would hardly argue that for the three preceding centuries the Church had always used the Nicene Creed:—the inference would be that no human explication of the “word of faith,” had been found necessary:—and in like manner, the absence of any proof to the contrary, affords a strong presumption, that the primitive Church had adhered to the use of the words of the primitive commission. At all events, before you undertake to inform us what form was not used in the ordinations of the primitive Church; it is incumbent on you to show what form it did use.—“But,” says Bingham, whom you quote thus far,—“the solemnity in giving superior orders, was always performed by the Imposition of Hands and prayer.” This has never been disputed, but he also observes—“It is not to be imagined that one and the same form was used in all Churches, for every Bishop having liberty to frame his own Liturgy, as there were different Liturgies in different Churches, so it is reasonable to suppose the Primates or Metropolitans had different forms of consecration, though there are now no remains of them in being, to give us any further information.” [61a]

Throwing you in two centuries and a half beyond your earliest authority, I dare not attempt with Bishop Burnet and yourself to jump the remaining hiatus, with any hope of reaching your conclusion,—“that if we ask of the antient time what is best, and of the latter time what is fittest, some alteration of the form of ordination is both proper and expedient.” [61b]

p. 62Our compilers thought it both “best and fittest” to adhere to the words of the primitive commission, nor attempt to define the mystery, or enquire “how can these things be:”—and they would probably have replied to the modern cavils in the spirit of Hooker’s observation—“Seeing therefore that the same power is now given, why should the same form of words expressing it, be thought foolish?” [62a]

To this form of words the Clergy do literally and ex animo subscribe, and notwithstanding your objections, I trust without impeachment either of their truth or honesty.

In a note to your Sermon published in 1838, speaking of “controversial publications by Clergymen in defence of our Church,” you observe, “the occupation is in most cases neither happy nor improving.”

Ought not such a consideration to have withheld you from challenging your brother to take so questionable a course as you consider its defence, by publishing such opinions of the Subscription required and made by the Clergy, as must, if correct, involve them in the suspicion of being either ignorant of its meaning, indifferent to its obligations, or insincere in their acceptance of them?—warning them at one time against the unhappy occupation of self-defence, and leading your readers at another, to draw an inference to their prejudice, from their silence; for you say with reference to “your objections, no attempt at a refutation of them has appeared, so far as you know, from any quarter,” [62b] and further, that our Diocesan’s pamphlet, in “defence” of his speech on Subscription, so strongly corroborative of your own objections “remains unanswered.” [62c]

p. 63I must, therefore, request of you to share any blame that may attach to us, in consequence of the courses, offensive and defensive, which we have respectively taken in this matter.

I am fully conscious of the very questionable position in which it places me, as one of his subordinate Clergy, with respect to my Diocesan. And I trust I feel it with as becoming a sense of the doubtfulness of its propriety, as you must your own with its reference to our venerable and universally respected Metropolitan.

But when his Lordship is informed of the alacrity with which our opponents have availed themselves of his published opinions, to cast them “unbated and envenomed” against the bulwarks of our Zion, I feel assured that the well known liberality of his Lordship’s sentiments, will dispose him to make for me every allowance.

I could have wished that the silence the Clergy have hitherto preserved, and which has been construed to their disadvantage, had been broken by some one better qualified than I am to do justice to the subjects I have presumed to handle; by some one, whose name would have carried with it, far more weight than I have the vanity to imagine can attach to my own. Indeed, I have sometimes hesitated whether to affix it to this Letter, but as you have shrunk from no responsibility by withholding your own, from your published objections to our Subscription, I have felt it due to you not to shelter myself under the irresponsibility of an anonymous address. In penning which, if I do not deceive myself, I may hope to stand acquitted of having been influenced by any unfriendly feeling. If in any part of it my style may seem to border upon anything savouring of discourtesy—let me hope it may p. 64be considered by you as seeming only. And should I have misapprehended your sentiments and done you thereby any injustice—

Let my disclaiming of a purposed evil
Free me so far in your most generous thoughts,
That I have shot mine arrow o’er the house
And hurt my brother.—

In which light, as a Clergyman of the Church of England, I hope long to have the opportunity to consider you, believing as I do, that your scruples, though the creations of a conscientious mind, are more imaginary than substantial—and with this persuasion and in that hope, I beg to subscribe myself,

Very faithfully yours,