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understand. The extent of the legislator's right may be an abstruse inquiry; but whether a law does more good or harm, is a plain question which every man can ask. Now, that distressing many of the clergy, and corrupting others; that keeping out of churches good Christians and faithful citizens; that making parties in the state, by giving occasion to sects and separations in religion ; that these are inconveniences no man in his senses will deny. The question therefore is, what advantage do you find in the opposite scale to balance these inconveniences? The simple advantage pretended is, that you hereby prevent 'wrangling' and contention in the pulpit. Now, in the first place, I observe, that allowing this evil to be as grievous and as certain as you please, the most that can be necessary for the prevention of it is, to enjoin your preachers as to such points, silence and neutrality. In the next place, I am convinced, that the danger is greatly magnified. We hear little of these points at present in our churches and public teaching, and it is not probable that leaving them at large would elevate them into more importance, or make it more worth men's while to quarrel about them. They would sleep in the same grave with many other questions, of equal importance with themselves, or sink back into their proper place, into topics of speculation, or matters of debate 'from the press. None but men of some reflection would be forward to engage in such subjects, and the least reflection would teach a man that preaching is not the proper vehicle of controversy. Even at present, says our author, 'we speak and write what we please with impunity. And where is the mischief? or what worse could ensue if subscription were removed ? Nor can I discover any thing in the disposition of the petitioning clergy that need alarm our apprehensions. If they are impatient under the yoke, it is not from a desire to hold forth their opinions to their congregations, but that they may be at liberty to entertain them themselves without offence to their consciences, or ruin to their fortunes:
Our author has added, by way of make-weight to his argument, 'that many common Christians,' he believes, would be greatly scandalized if you take away their creeds and catechisms, and strike out of the liturgy such things as they have always esteemed essential." * Whatever reason there may be for this belief at present, there certainly was much greater at
* Pages 41, 42.
the Reformation, as the Popish ritual, which was then taken away,' had a fascination and antiquity which ours cannot pretend to. Many where probably scandalized' at parting with their beads and their mass-books, that lived afterwards to thank those who taught them better things. Reflection, we hope, in some, and time, we are sure, in all, will reconcile men to alterations established in reason. If there be any danger, it is from some of the clergy, who, with the answerer,'would rather suffer the 'vineyard' to be overgrown with 'weeds,' than stir the ground,' or, what is worse, call these weeds (the fairest flowers in the garden. Such might be ready enough to raise a hue and cry against all innovators in religion, as 'overturners of churches' and spoilers of temples.
But the cause which of all others stood most in the way of. the late petitions for relief, was an apprehension that religious institutions cannot be disturbed without awakening animosities and dissensions in the state, of which no man knows the consequence. Touch but religion, we are told, and it bursts forth into a flame. Civil distractions may be composed by fortitude and perseverance; but neither reason nor authority can controul, there is neither charm nor drug which will assuage, the passions of mankind. when called forth in the cause and to the battles of religion. We were concerned to hear this language from some who, in other instances, have manifested a constancy and resolution which no confusion, nor ill aspect of public affairs, could intimidate. After all, is there any real foundation for these terrours ? Is not this whole danger, like the lion of the slothful, the creature of our fears, and the excuse of indolence? Was it proposed to make articles instead of removing them, there would be room for the objection. But it is obvious that subscription to the 39 Articles might be altered or withdrawn upon general principles of justice and expediency, without reviving one religious controversy, or calling into dispute a single proposition they contain. Who should excite disturbances? Those who are relieved will not : and, unless subscriptions were like a tax, which, being taken from one, y must be laid with additional weight upon another, is it proba
ble that any will complain that they are oppressed, because tveir brethren are relieved ? or that those who are so strong in the faith' will refuse to 'bear with the infirmities of the weak ?' The few who upon principles of this sort opposed the application of the Dissenters, were repulsed from parliament
with disdain, even by those who were no friends to the application itself.
The question concerning the object of worship is attended, I confess, with difficulty: it seems almost directly to divide the worshippers. But let the church pare down her excrescences till she comes to this question; let her discharge from her liturgy controversies unconnected with devotion ; let her try what may be done for all sides, by worshipping God in that generality* of expression in which he himself has left some points ; let her dismiss many of her Articles, and convert those which she retains into terms of peace; let her recall the terrours she has suspended over freedom of inquiry ; let the toleration she allows to dissenters be made absolute; let her invite men to search the Scriptures; let her governours encourage the studious and learned of all persuasions :—Let her do this and she will be secure of the thanks of her own clergy, and, what is more, of their sincerity. A greater consent may grow out of inquiry than many at present are aware of; and the few who, after all, shall think it necessary to recede from our communion, will acknowledge the necessity to be inevitable ; will respect the equity and moderation of the established church, and live in peace with all its members.
I know not whether I ought to mention, among so many more serious reasons, that even the governours of the church themselves would find their ease and account in consenting to an alteration. For besides the difficulty of defending those decayed fortifications, and the indecency of deserting them, they either are or will soon find themselves in the situation of a master of a family, whose servants know more of his secrets than it is proper for them to know, and whose whispers and whose threats must be bought off at an expense which will drain the 'apostolic chamber' dry.
* Ifa Christian can think it an intolerable thing to worship one God through one mediator Jesus Christ, in company with any such as differ from him in their notions about the metaphysical nature of Christ, or of the Holy Ghost, or the like; I am sorry for it. I remember the like objection made at the beginning of the Reformation by the Lutherans against the lawfulness of communicating with Zuinglius, and his followers, because they had not the same notion with them of the elements in the sacrament. And there was the same objection once against holding communion with any such as had not the same notions with themselves about the secret decrees of God relating to the predestination and reprobation of particular persons. But whatever those men may please themselves with thinking, who are sure they are arrived at the perfect knowledge of the most abstruse points, this they may be certain of, that in the present state of the church, even supposing only such as are accounted orthodox to be joined together in one visible communion, they communicate together with a very great variety and confusion of notions, either comprehending nothing plain and distinct, or differing from one another as truly and as essentially as others differ from them all ; nay, with more certain difference with relation to the object of worship than if all prayers were directed (as bishop Bull says, almost were in the first ages) to God or the Father, through the. Son. --- Hoadly's. Answer to Dr Hare's ser
Having thus examined in their order, and, as far as I understood them, the several answers * given by our author to the objections against the present mode of subscription, it now remains, by way of summing up the evidence, to bring forward certain other arguments contained in the Considerations, to which no answer has been attempted. It is contended; then,
I. That stating any doctrine in a Confession of Faith with a
greater degree of precision than the Scriptures have done, is in effect to say, that the Scriptures have not stated it with precision enough; in other words, that the Scrip
tures are not sufficient. - Mere declamation.' II. That this experiment of leaving men at liberty, and
points of doctrine at large, has been attended with the improvement of religious knowledge, where and whenever it has been tried. And to this cause, so far as we can see, is owing the advantage which protestant countries in this
respect possess above their popish neighbours.—No answer. III. That keeping people out of churches who might be ad
mitted consistently with every end of public worship, and excluding men from communion who desire to embrace couraging, but rather causing men to forsake, the assem
it upon the terms that God prescribes, is certainly not en* In his last note our author breaks forth into 'astonishment,' and indignation, at the 'folly, injustice, and indecency, of comparing our church to the Jewish in our Saviour's time, and even to the 'tower of Babel;' mistaking the church, in this last comparison, for one of her monuments (which indeed, with most people of his complexion, stands for the same thing) erected to prevent our dispersion from that grand centre of catholic dominion, or, in the words of a late celebrated castle-builder, 'to keep us together. If there be any 'indecency' in such a comparison, it must be chargeable on those who lead us to it, by making use of the same terms with the original architects, and to which the author of the Considerations evidently alludes. This detached note is concluded with as detached, and no less curious, an observation, which the writer thinks may be a
sufficient answer to the whole, namely, that the author of the Considerations 'has wrought no miracles for the conviction of the answerer and his associates.' For what purpose this observation can be 'sufficient,' it is not easy to guess, except it be designed to insinuate, what may perhaps really be the case, that no less than a miracle will serve to cast out that kind of spirit which has taken so full possession of them, or ever bring them to a sound mind, and a sincere love of truth.
bling of themselves together. -No answer. IV. That men are deterred from searching the Scriptures by
the fear of finding there more or less than they looked for ; that is, something inconsistent with what they have already given their assent to, and must, at their peril, abide
by.-No answer. V. That it is not giving truth a fair chance, to decide points at
one certain time, and by one set of men, which had much better be left to the successive inquiries of different ages
and different persons.—No answer. VI. That it tends to multiply infidels amongst us, by exhibit
ing Christianity under a form and in a system which many are disgusted with, who yet will not be at the pains to inquire after any other.--No answer.
At the conclusion of his pamphlet our author is pleased to acknowledge, what few, I find, care any longer to deny, 'that there are some things in our Articles and Liturgy which he should be glad to see amended, many which he should be willing to.give up to the scruples of others, but that the heat and violence with which redress has been pursued, preclude all hope of accommodation and tranquillity—that we had better wait, therefore, for more peaceable times, and be contented with our present constitution as it is,' until a fairer prospect shall appear of changing it for the better.-After returning thanks, in the name of the 'fraternity, to him and to all who touch the burden of subscription with but one of their fingers, I would wish to leave with them this observation, that as the man who attacks a flourishing establishment writes with a halter round his neck, few ever will be found to attempt alterations but men of more spirit than prudence, of more sincerity than caution, of warm, eager and impetuous tempers; that, consequently, if we are to wait for improvement till the cool, the calm, the discreet part of mankind begin it, till church governours solicit, or ministers of state propose it-I will venture to pronounce, that (without his interposition with whom nothing is impossible) we may remain as we are till the “renovation of all things.'
END OF VOL. II.