« PreviousContinue »
prevarication and licentiousness. It was asked by one member as against Meredith, “What must be thought of ecclesiastics who, having scrambled through thorns and briars for the sake of the grapes, were afterwards intent on destroying the hedges and leaving the vineyard defenceless?” “Would you," said another, “pay a hired labourer his wages if, instead of doing a piece of work according to order, he adopted a plan of his own, perfectly inconsistent with your ideas ?" Sir Roger Newdigate, Member for the University of Oxford, complained of the Clergymen who, after they had subscribed the XXXIX. Articles, could sign such a petition. He deprecated the measure as injurious to the Church; he denied the power of the House of Commons to receive the petition, which he said was a breach of the Articles of Union between England and Scotland, or to dispense with the oaths; the King himself, he said, was bound by oath never to admit any alteration in the Liturgy or Articles. · But the speech of Burke, perfect as a piece of oratory, and useful now as then, was fatal to the petition, and deserves to be quoted at some length. “If,” he said, “ you make this a season for religious alterations, depend upon it you will soon find it a season of religious tumults and wars.” He asked what the hardship complained of was. “They want to be preferred in the Church of England as by law established, but their consciences will not allow them to conform to the doctrines and practices of that Church : that is, they want to be teachers in a Church to which they do not belong. This is an odd sort of hardship. They want to receive the emoluments appropriated for teaching 'one set of doctrines whilst they are teaching another.' ... The Laws of Toleration provide for every real grievance; if they do not like the Establishment, there are a hundred different modes of dissent in which they may teach. But how do you ease and relieve them? How do you know that in making a door into the Church for these gentlemen, you do not drive ten times their number out of it? Alter your Liturgy, will it please all, even of those who wish for an alteration, or those who wish for none at all?" "And," he asked, “what are we to understand by Holy Scripture? The subscription to Scripture is the most arbitrary idea that I ever heard, and will amount to just nothing at all. ... The Bible is a vast collection of different treatises. A man who holds the divine authority of one may consider the others as merely human. What is his Canon? The Jewish ? St. Jerome's ? That of the XXXIX. Articles ? Luther's? There are some who reject the Canticles; others, six of the Epistles. The Book of Revelation has been a source of contention among Divines. Will these gentlemen exclude the Book of Esdras? Will they include the Song of Songs ? As some narrow the Canon, others have enlarged it by admitting St. Barnabas' Epistle and the Apostolic Constitutions; to say nothing of many other Gospels. To ascertain Scripture, you must have one Article more, in order to define what Scripture is that you mean to teach.” When the question was put to the House whether or not the Petition should be received, it was rejected by 217 to 71 votes, and thus the long threatened danger to the Church was removed i A wish, however,
. having been expressed in the debate that some relief should be granted to students at the time of matriculation at the Universities, the University of Cambridge relieved all candidates for matriculation from subscription to the XXXIX. Articles, the declaration being substituted for it, “I do declare that I am bona fide a member of the Church of England as by law established k.”
The sequel of the story is not a creditable one, whatever way we look at it. The honesty of Lindsey in resigning his Living has been praised. The circumstances of his case are these. He had formerly
' In the following year it was rejected by 159 to 76.
* In connection with this Petition Lord Huntingdon, the son of the famous Countess, himself becoming rapidly more than a Latitudinarian, saw the weak point in Lindsey's position, and asked him, “What became of the Universe when its Creator hung lifeless on a tree in Judea ?” “I am not concerned,” replied Lindsey, “to answer that question, the foundation on which it rests not forming any part of my Creed.” “But,” said the Earl, “the belief of it forms a part of the Creed in which you weekly officiate as Minister.”—Trevelyan, C. J. Fox, p. 438, n.
been a Fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge. He exchanged a Living in Dorsetshire for the valuable Living of Catterick in Yorkshire, to obtain which he had to subscribe the formularies of the Church of England. He soon became, we are told, perplexed with doubts and difficulties; he had signed formularies which he considered unlawful; he was in a strait between two. What was he to do? The answer of every honest mind is plain-resign his Living ; but that was the very thing he was reluctant to do! So he unbosomed himself to Dr. Priestley, the famous natural philosopher, at that time a Dissenting minister at Leeds. One wonders why he did not consult his Bishop or some priest in his
Church rather than a Dissenting minister. "He soon discovered to me," says Priestley, “that he was uneasy in his situation and had thoughts of quitting it. At first I was not forward to encourage him in it, but advised him to make what alterations he thought proper in the offices of the Church, and leave it to his superiors to dismiss him.” In this state of dishonest doubt Lindsey continued for ten years, till a dangerous attack of illness aroused his conscience; he then avowed himself a Unitarian
1 Even his Socinian biographer, Belsham, admits, “It may appear singular that Mr. Lindsey could submit to that renewed subscription which was requisite in order to his induction to a new Living.”- Belsham's Memoirs, p. 17.
and resigned his Living m. Still, Lindsey did ulti-,
At the close of the year in which the Feathers Tavern Petition was presented to Parliament an attempt was made by some of the Clergy to promote alterations in the Liturgy and Articles, so as to render subscription easier. The plan was supported
m“It is strange," writes Mr. Robert Hall in his Review of Belsham's Memoirs of Lindsey," that such a cause, after a system of prevarications persisted in for upwards of ten years, should be extolled in terms which can only be applied with propriety to instances of heroic virtue.”
This Prelate asserted that he would not defer to the Church's interpretation of Scripture, but would adhere to the Bible and the Bible only, as interpreted by private judgment. -Hook's Biog. Dict.
Works of Robert Hall, M.A., vol. iv. p. 208.