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King James accepted, and my Lord's Grace of Canterbury affirmed them to be the true Sense and Intention of the Church of England.
Now it must be observ'd, that this Book was publish'd by the special Command of King Charles the First, as the Title Page informs us, and that the Doctor's Dedication to that King begins in these Words,
Most Gracious and Dread Soveraigne, It pleased your excellent Majestie by your Letters to me vouchsafed, both to signify your Highness disike of my suppressing what I had written some Years past in Maintenance of the Reverend Father the Lord Bishop of Coventrie and Litchfield, bis Defence of the Ceremonies of this Church of England, against an intemperate and fcurrilous Reply made thereunto by a nameless Author: And also straitly to charge me forthwith to deliver my Papers on that Subject, into the Hands of the said Reverend Bishop my Diocesan, that it might be seen, how well I bad vindicated the Honor both of this Church, and of that worthy Prelate, from the Calumnies and Indignities cast upon both by that Replier.
In dutiful Obedience to that your Majesties Injunétion, I have so done ; not keeping back any part of what I bad then finišk'd, nor presuming to stay it any longer
my Hands, till the rest might have been added, for tear of incurring your Majesties Displeasure. And now, that my Rejoinder (even unperfect as it was) bas taken Life and Motion from the Breath of your Majesties Command, it comes abroad into the World.
Whoever considers the Circumstances above related, will be forc'd tv acknowledge, that no Interpretation of the Sense of our Subscription to the Thirty fifth Article can be more authentic, than that which was accepted, as well by King James the First (in whose Time the Canon prescribing the Form of it was made) as by the Arch-Bishop of
Canterbury, and publicly declar'd to have been so accepted, in a Book publish'd by so remarkable a Command of King Charles the First. Now that Interpretation of the Subscription follows in these
X. Of the Two Books of Homilies. I undertake not to approve of every Phraseor Allegation of Scripture, as fitly applied to the Mind of the Holy Ghost: but that dogmatically there is nothing delivered in those Homilies, that I know to be contrary to the Word of God, but that they may lawfully and profitably be read to the People for their Edification, when better Means are wanting: And in this Sense I subscribe to thoseBooks also.
Wherefore let any conscientious and candid Person judge. The Article asserts, that the two Books of Homilies do contain a godly and wholsome Doctrin necessary for these Times : Nor is there any Doubt, but we are absolutely bound to subscribe the Truth of this Proposition. But the Question is, in what Sense this Proposition is true, and whether that Sense be allowed in the Subscription. Now I think, the Truth of that Proposition, in Dr. Burges's Sense, is exceedingly evident : and you see, that Sense is allowed and declared to be the true one by the most competent Authority. So that I do not pretend, that a Man may subscribe the Thirty fifth Article in a looser Sense, than he subscribes the other Articles (for that would be downright Knavery and Prevarication) but I contend, that that Proposition, to which we do thus absolutely subscribe, as fully and heartily as to any of the rest, is not to be understood in that rigid Sense, which some Persons, for very ill Ends, would fasten on it.
And therefore I heartily wish, that those Learned Gentlemen, who write upon this Paint, would
express themselves more properly than they usually do. They talk very frequently of our Subscription to the Homilies; whereas in Reality there is no such thing required of us. We must subscribe the Articles, 'tis true: but not the Homilies. For if we were in Reality and Propriety of Speech required to subscribe the Homilies ; I'must own, I think, we should be oblig'd thereby to profess our Belief of the Truth of every Proposition contain'd in the Homilies: even as by our Subscription to the Articles we profess our Belief of every Proposition contain'd in the said Articles. And yet, tho’I have a very profound Veneration for that excellent Collection of Discourses, which the two Books of Homilies contain (as every Man surely must have, who considers the Contents, the Occasion, and the Circumstances of them) I declare to the whole world, that I do by no Means conceive my self bound to profess my Belief of every Proposition contain'd in them.
Perhaps 'twill be roundly said, that a Subscription to the Thirty fifth Article, is a Subscription to the Homilies. But then I utterly deny the Truth of that confident Affirmation. For in the Thirty fifth Article we do not subscribe the Homilies, but we subscribe this Proposition relating to the Homilies, viz. that they contain a godly and wholsom Doctrin necessary for these Times. Surely there is a vast difference between subscribing the Homilies themselves, and subscribing a Proposition concerning them. This Distinction ought carefully to be noted; otherwise we shall perplex our selves with improper Expressions, and wrangle everlastingly about them ; at the same time that the things themselves are clear, and such as all Persons will naturally agree in, when they understand what is really meant by their Opposers,
If it be asked, by what Rule we shall know, what those Doctrins are, which we profess our Approbation and Belief of, by subscribing the Thirty fifth Article concerning the Homilies; I answer, that our Subscription does undoubtedly extend to all the Doctrins contain’d in every one of those Homilies, which our Subscription includes: and that we must judge which are the Doctrins in each Homily, after the same manner, as we judge with respect to other Writings. Now by the Doctrins of any other Writing we constantly mean those Points which the Author laies down, and sets about the Proof of, giving his Judgment and Determination concerning them.
them. Thus we are understood, when we say, that such a Book contains sound Doctrin. We are not supposed to declare, that every Argument therein urged is in our Opinion valid, that every Proposition in the declamatory Part is strictly true, that every Illustration is exa&t!y juft and home; these, I say, and the like Particulars are by no means implied in our saying, that the Book contains found Doctrin: but our saying so signifies thus much (and no more) viz. that those Propositions, which the Author attempts to establish and convince his Reader of, by such Arguments as he produces and offers for that Purpose; that those Propositions, I say, which he delivers dogmatically (to use Dr. Burges's Expression in the Interpretation above recited) are really true: tho' perhaps at the same time diverse Mediums for the Confirmation of them, diverse occasional Assertions, and the like, may justly be excepted against. The Application of this Rule to our Homilies is so very easy, that no Man of common Sense can mistake it; and therefore I shall not wast Words
Besides, it must be observ'd, that our Church, at the same time that she obliges her Clergy to subscribe this Article, wherein 'tis declared, that the Homilies do contain good and wholsom Doetrin, and necessary for the Times they were writ in ; permits such of her Clergy as are duly qualified, to preach their own Sermons, and consequently the leaves them intirely at liberty, whether they will ever read any of the Homilies. From whence it follows, that by the Doctrin of the Homilies she does not understand those very Forms of Words, those very Arguments for the Establishment of particular Tenets, those very Illustrations of matters afferted and maintained, &c. which the Books of Homilies exhibit to us ; but only those Points, which she allows her Clergy to deliver in their own Words, to establish by such Arguments as they like best, to illustrate as their own Judgments lead them, &c. Otherwise the very Forms of the Homilies would be declared necessary to be used, even by those that never were esteem'd to lie under any Obligation to use them. Whereas, if by the DaEtrin of the Homilies we understand, as the Church manifestly did and does, those grand Propositions which she would have the People convinced of ; there is no doubt, but those who agree in the Truths themselves, do preach the same Doctrin that was necessary for those Times, whether they read the Homilies, or pronounce Discourses of their own composing, infinitely diverse from each other, as the Sermons of numberless Preachers i must, with respect to Form, of Necessity be.
I might confirm what I have been saying, by an Historical Account of the bad Use that has been made of the Authority of the Homilies. But I am unwilling to relate such melancholy Particulars.