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1. Very few of them could see the book, to which they were to declare their assent and consent, before the time limited by the act was expired: For the Common Prayer Book with the alterations made by the convocation, did not come out of the press till a few days before the 24th of August, when the act took place. So that of the seven thousand ministers in England who kept their livings, few but those in or near London, could have a sight of it till after they had declared their assent and consent to it. On which account it is rather to be wondered at, that so many could act in so weighty a matter, upon an implicit faith, than that such a number should in such circumstances stand out. But,
2. When they had opportunity to peruse the book, they met with several things there, whích, after the strictest search they could make, appeared to them not agreeable to the word of God. They observed that there must be not only consent, but assent too; and that to every thing in particular contained in this book. Words could scarcely be devised more full and significant to testify their highest commendation of every rite and ceremony, every point and syllable, in every page and line. So that one might imagine the framers of this declaration and subscription were of the mind of the famous Dr. Swadlin, who very roundly asserts, “ that there was not a tittle of it, but was by the dictate of the Holy Ghost.” Such a declaration as was required was, in their apprehension, as much as could be desired concerning the Bible itself; and more than ought to be made concerning any copy of it now extant. But as for the Book of Common Prayer, &c. they found several exceptions to it, which appeared to them of great consequence, viz.
(1.) That it teaches the doctrine of real baptismal regeneration, and certain salvation consequent thereupon : “ We yield thee hearty thanks that it hath pleased thee to regenerate this infant with thy holy spirit." “ It is certain by God's word, that children which are baptized, &c. are saved :" whereas the word of God says nothing about it. The sense of the church, as to the efficacy of baptism, is clear from the office for Confirmation, Almighty God, who hast vouchsafed to regenerate these thy servants by water, and the Holy Ghost, and hast given unto them forgiveness of all their sins," &c. This was a thing that appeared to our ministers of such dangerous consequence, that they durst not concur in it, or any way approve it, for fear of contributing to the hardening of a inultitude of vain, loose, careless, se D4
cure creatures, in a fatal mistake about the safety of their state ; neither could they see how they could answer for it to God another day.
(2.) That it prescribes the use of godfathers and godmothers, in baptism, to the exclusion of parents. This they esteemed sinful, not only because it denied the parents' right to devote their children to God in baptism, but also opened a wide door to the profaning one of the solemnities of our holy religion ; inasinuch as sponsors are not required to be chosen with due care and caution; and in many cases it is really impossible to procure serious persons to undertake the office. And they found that many made themselves obnoxious to lying and perjury in the face of God and the church; as it is very common for the sponsors never to see the child more, after christening-day, nor ever enquire more after it ; holding themselves really bound to nothing, but looking upon all as mere ceremony and compliment. Besides, these sponsors personate the child as believing in Christ, renouncing sin, &c. which has no authority from positive law or natural right, or common sense. This assent and consent moreover obliges ministers to deny baptism to all such as have not sponsors, however good their characters, or however conscientious their scruples. They durst not concur in setting the will of man against Christ, who “ invited little children to come to him, and was angry with those who forbad them.” And it seemed to them very odd that the same persons should be so forward to deny baptism to poor infants for want of a formality, when yet they apprehended it would give them a certain title to salvation.
(3.) This assent, consent, and subscription), obliges ministers to use the sign of the cross in baptism. The silenced ministers regarded this as a sacrament superadded to that which our Lord had instituted ; and they thought that as Christians first used it to distinguish themselves from Heathens, we should disuse it to distinguish ourselves from the idolatrous Papists, who superstitiously adore the cross, foolishly signing themselves upon every occasion, confiding in it to protect thein from all evil. They thought the use of it tended to encourage superstition, and that making it necessary is a manifest encroachment on the kingly power of our Saviour, as it is making new terms of communion, in which they durst not concur.
(4.). This assent, consent, and subscription, obliged them to reject all such from the Lord's Supper as would not receive
it kneeling. The canon forbids ministers, upon pain of sus. pension, to give it to any that do not kneel. This also they considered as making a new term of church-communion, contrary to Christ's appointment, which requires all Christians to receive each other in love and concord, and not to doubtful disputations, as depriving Christ's members of their right; an usurpation upon men's consciences, and a means of dividing the church. Even those of them who could not think kneeling sinful, and who could themselves have complied with it, were yet afraid of excluding others upon such an account, as it was far from being a necessary matter, and as persons might have good reason to be backward to alter the posture used by our Saviour in the adıninistration ; and to be shy of seeming to symbolize with idolaters, in using that which is well known to be used by the Papists with an intention of adoring the elements.
(5.) This assent, consent, and subscription, includes ad approbation of that assertion, that bishops, priests, and dea. cons, are three distinct orders in the church 'by divine appointment. It is said, indeed, “ That this is evident to all men diligently reading the Holy Scriptures and ancient authors.” But though they had diligently read both, they could not see this in either. Nay, they found that even the church of England was formerly of another mind. Bishop Stilling. féet proved, as they thought by sufficient evidence, that Archbishop Cranmer, and other reformers of the church of England, held that there was no difference in order between a bishop and a presbyter, but only in degree.
(6.) They could not consent to pronounce all saved that are buried; except the unbaptized, excommunicate, and selfmurderers. For though they owned themselves bound to judge with the utmost degree of charity concerning all, yet positively, and without any limitation, to avouch concerning every one whom they buried, “ That God in great mercy has taken his soul, and taken it to himself," though cut off in the midst of his sins, without any signs of repentance ; this was beyond their faith, and they found nothing like it in the gospel, which speaks in another language of impenitent sinners ; and they could not see how charity would ex. cuse dangerous errors and falsehood. By this means they saw they
should be necessitated to pronounce irany saved at grave, whom in their pulpits and writings they thought themselves obliged to condemn; and should thus be in danger of hardening the ungodly and profane in their hope of
coming off safe at last, although they persisted in their disso. lute and licentious course. Besides, it seemed to them to be but a wild and fanciful sort of charity in those men, who had such hopes of persons dying in gross sins, while many of their consciences were too tender to allow the office to Dissenters, because they were hopeless schismatics.
(7.) They could not express their consent to a rule for finding out Easter-day, which they know to be false. The rule is this : “ Easter-day is always the first Sunday after the first full moon, which happens next after the 21st of March; and if the full moon happens upon a Sunday, Easter-day is the Sunday after.” The frequent falsity of this rule may be seen by consulting the common almanacks, and by compar. ing it with the table that follows it in the Cominon Prayer Buok, to find out Easter-duy for ever. Though this in itself was but a trifle, yet for persons to be obliged to consent to that as true, which in many cases they know to be false, was no small hardship*.
(8.) They could not consent to read apocryphal lessons, which they found appointed to be read wholly and entirely, morning and evening for two months together, under the title of Holy Scripture; while in the same order (as appears by the calendar) some books of the sacred canon are wholly left out, some of thein read but in part, and many of them mutilated and curtailed. Though they could freely own, there were inany valuable things in the apocryphal books, they could not have such a degree of respect for them as to think them fit to be read in churches in the rooin of the Holy Scriptures. They especially objected to the stories of Tobit und his dog, Bell and the dragon, Judith and Buruch, &c. which they found the most celebrated bishops and doctors of the church owning to be false and fictitious. And they were afraid of contributing to mislead weak and ignorant people, to fancy them of equal authority with the Holy Scriptures; of which there is the more danger, because in the order of reading the lessons, the title of Holy Scripture and Old Testament is given to the Apocrypha.
(9.) They could not express an entire approbation of the old version of the Psalms, because they found several mistranslations in it, which was indeed more accommodated to the Septuagint, than to the original Hebrew. e.g. In Ps. cv. 28. our Psalter reads the words thus : " and they were
* Dr. Culumy very largely proves the justice of this objection. See p. 228 --232,
not obedient to his word;” our Bible reads them, " and they rebelled not against his word.” Thus therefore they argued. If the translation be true in the Psalter, it is false in the Bible; and if it be true in the Bible, it is false in the Psalter. How could they give their assent, that they rebelled, and rebelled not? And so in some other cases.
(10.) They could not assent and consent to St. Athanasius's creed, in which there is this expression, “which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly." This to our fathers seemed very harsh. Though they approved of the creed in general as heartily as their brethren, yet could they not look upon themselves to be so far called to judge other men, as to .conclude all certainly damned for ever, who are not so well skilled in that mystery, as not to believe every word here written. Moreover, some of the ejected ministers, (as well as many who conformed) had so much charity, as to apprehend that whosoever walked sincerely up to his light, with a general repentance for his unseen errors, was in a state of acceptance with God.
(11.) They could not assent and consent to this rubrick, that “none shall be admitted unto the holy communion, until such time as he be confirmed, or be ready and desirous to be confirmed.” Though many of them were desirous to have confirmation restored, and thought it would be useful, if managed with a becoming gravity, yet to deny persons the communion, who were willing to own their baptismal cove, nant, for refusing to be confirmed in the episcopal way, was what they knew not how to justify.
III. They were also required, by the act of uniformity, to take the oath of canonical obedience, and swear subjection to their ordinary, according to the canons of the church. Herein they could not comply,
1. Because they found several things highly exceptionable in those canons, according to which this obedience was to be perforined. Particularly that persons are ipso facto excommunicated, and that they themselves might be obliged to pro. nounce them so, for a variety of things which they could not think deserving so dreadful a punishment. For instance,
By Can. 4. for charging the Book of Common Prayer with or
containing any thing repugnant to the Scriptures. Though this should be allowed to be an error, they could not see it to be of that magnitude as to deserve excommunication.