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can be no power of authority in laymen to make or unmake a Church, any more than there can be a power in the Church to make or unmake the civil constitution; and nothing can confound these powers but an overbearing principle of infidelity; from which may God deliver us; who hath promised that the gates of Hell (the judicial power of the adversaries of Jesus Christ) shall not prevail against us. Suppose the civil power should make an act, that the King shall ordain priests, or that priests shall not baptize children, nor consecrate the sacrament, what would such an act signify? Therefore, they have not the power to alter the Church at their pleasure; for this might be their pleasure, if their wits, or the grace of God were to forsake them. Such a power, if it were claimed, was never exercised even by Heathen persecutors. However, the Dissenters do not seem unwilling that such a tyrannical power should be exercised, and appear to relish the idea of it, if it be but turned against the Church of England. No one spiritual act can be exercised, nor is it claimed by the civil power in this country; which can neither baptize, nor ordain, nor absolve, nor consecrate, nor excommunicate; although the Dissenters, in the heat of their zeal, have given the state a spiritual
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spiritual power, and even more, over us and themselves too. But the state can say, who shall or shall not partake of temporalities: and this very state will say, some more, some less, as long as the Church accepts of their protection, and enjoys a legal maintenance and support under them. Worldly politics in such a case will be sure to interfere, and abuses will arise. Churchmen will be apt to accommodate themselves to the views and inclinations of the state, or some of the acting members of the state, who are their friends; their doctrines will change with the times; their consciences will become too flexible and easy, and the people whom they teach will be in danger from them. There is no convenience in this world without its inconvenience. When the state was schismatical in the days of the grand usurpation, the Church of that time could find no such sin as sacrilege in the Scripture, for the fear of giving offence to their patrons, who were deep in the guilt of it: and the Assembly of Divines (as it was remarked long ago by Bishop Patrick) avoided all mention of it in their Annotations.
12. The Dissenters hold themselves blameless, because many persons of the Church of England, and some of great and popular character,
racter, have justified and even applauded their separation.
I find great stress laid upon this circumstance, which is blazoned out with pompous words and splendid quotations, as well of what hath been spoken (or so reported) as written. But the fear or favour of men, especially of men too attentive to the interests of this world (as some of their friends have certainly been) is a very unsound bottom for the Dissenters to rest upon: and so they esteem it themselves, when it is on our side. But if any false brethren amongst us take part with them, all such are excellent men, ornaments of the establishment, and of unanswerable authority. Sometimes the Dissenters are all for the Scripture; Jesus Christ is their only King; and to him they appeal for the rectitude of their proceedings: but if they find a flatterer amongst us, they make the most of him: and some such are always to be found; for all are not Israel that are of Israel; and it doth not follow, that a man must be true to the Church of England, because it hath introduced him to a seat in the House of Lords. Temporal considerations bring some men into the Church, whose hearts and affections never were, nor ever will be with it. Of such no honest man can approve; and therefore the approbation of such,
such, with all their testimonies and certificates, is but of little value at last. Bishop Hoadley was of this character: a Socinian in principle: who, while he was celebrated by the enemies of the Church of England, (and perhaps assisted toward his advancement) for having banished all Mitres and Lordships, and Spiritual Courts, out of the Kingdom of Christ, was, himself, an answer to every thing he had written; who scrupled not to adorn himself with a Mitre and a Lordship in one of the first preferments in this Church; while he was a greater favourer of those who were out of it, than of those who were in it; unless they were in it upon his own principles.
Amongst other bright ornaments of the Church who applaud the separation of the Dissenters, the authors of the Free and Candid Disquisitions are brought in. These are not only tender to the Dissenters, but they rather think we shall never do well without them; that they are necessary to preserve the virtue of the nation; to save our religious liberty; to prevent the return of slavery; and to serve as a check, lest we should cast a favourable aspect toward Rome. These things are fairly said, but not truly; and if we consider a little farther from whence they came, little honour will acrue to the Dissenters
from the testimony of these authors. For it is by no means clear that they were members of our own Church, though they most solemnly and repeatedly professed themselves so to be in their work. It was suspected very early, that they were not such as they called themselves, but enemies under the disguise of friends. Of this their work itself carries some internal marks, which seem to have escaped them unawares. Ficta cito ad Naturam reciderint suam. The author of Free and Impartial Considerations on the Free and Candid Disquisitions, pressed them with this (Anno 1751) and with great appearance of reason. He told them farther, "It begins now to be reported, and I partly believe it, that an eminent Dissenter, well known by his writings, has had a hand more or less in the Disquisitions*." But, some few years after, in 1758, when this secret had been searched a little farther, or had transpired of itself, I find an author, and, I believe, a very honest one, asserting in the plainest terms, that those authors were actually Dissenters; and taxing the party very roundly with their prevarication, in these words: "Amidst the greatest indulgence, and in open defiance of the laws, they impugned and libelled our Liturgy, and our Constitution,
* Page 59.