« PreviousContinue »
Besides, they esteemed it a great abuse of excommunication, to have it thundered out against any persons before they were heard to speak for themselves, or told of their sin and called to repentance. · By Can. 5. for " affirming any of the 39 articles to be erroneous." They could not bind themselves to conform to this canon, for the reasons before-mentioned. Besides, they found the words of several of the articles liable to exception; and some of them of small moment and dubious. They could not see the warrant of that authority ascribed to the church in the 20th article. " The church hath power to decree rites and ceremonies, and hath authority in controversies of faith." They knew of no charter Christ had given to the church to bind men up to more than himself hath done. Neither could they esteem every thing that is true so necessary to churchcommunion, that all who dissent must be presently cast out. They found Bishop Jeremy Taylor overthrowing the 9th article about original sin; and Dr. Hammond refining upon the 15th, and denying the 17th; in which they had many fol. lowers, who were all by this canon ipso facto excoinmunicated : a thing in which they durst not concur, as easily foreseeing that this would make the articles an engine of end. less strife and division.
By Can. 6. for affirming, that " the rites and ceremonies of the church of England are superstitious,” &c. In this ca. non the church seemed to them to assume a most exorbitant power, by laying so great a stress upon every one of its cereinonies. Besides, these ministers themselves esteemned those ceremonies unwarrantable, and they could not agree to excommunicate themselves.
By Can. 7. for affirming, that “ the government of the church of England, by archbishops, bishops, deans, &c. is sepugnant to the word of God.” Though some of the silenced ministers could have gone farther than others in submitting to diocesan episcopacy, yet that bishops should govern the church in a secular manner, by laymen, who do that in their nanc which they know nothing of ; could not in their judgınent be reconciled with the word of God.
By Can. 8. for affirming, that “ the form and manner of making and consecrating bishops, priests, or deacons, containeth any thing in it repugnant to the word of God." Though it should be allowed there was nothing amiss in this book of ordination, yet the belief of its innocency could not, in their estimation, be justly deemed a matter of such moment as to be necessary to salvation, or that persons should be cast out of the church for the want of it..
By the 9th, 10th, and 11th Canons, “ such as separate themselves from the communion of the church of England, and such as own those separate societies to be true churches, are all to be excommunicated, and only restored by the arch. bishop," Canons of this kind they durst not swear subjection to, because they thought them very uncharitable. Sup. posing it granted that these persons really were in an error, they could not see their errors to be comparable to those of the Papists, who are, by many of the prelatical party, owned to be a true church. Societies being gathered and maintained without the consent of the ruler, cannot incapacitate them from being true churches ; for to condemn them on that account is to disown all the churches of Christ, which were in the world for some hundreds of years, who were all in common in that condition. These ministers thought it very fit to leave those to themselves, who are so confined in their charity; apprehending it their duty to embrace all those as their brethren who feared God, and wrought righteousness, how different soever their particular sentiments or modes might be.
By Can. 38. * A minister repenting of his subscription, or afterwards omitting any of the prescribed forms or cerę monies, is first to be suspended, then excommunicated, and then deposed from the ministry." This they apprehended might, in many cases, be to consent to cast a man out of the church for being conscientious.
By Can. 57. “ All that go for baptism for their children, or the communion for themselves from their own parish, because the minister is no preacher, to another parish that hath a preaching minister, are suspended, and after a month to be excommunicated.” To this they could not submit, because they apprehended there was much more need (of driving the people to preaching ministers than from them; and they thought it sinful either to countenance ignorant and scandalous persons, who had intruded into the ministry, or to encourage people in being contented with such. .
By Can. 58. " Every ininister, when officiating, is required to wear a surplice, under, pain of suspension.” This symbolical vestment, was what they found many learned and excellent ministers had in former times been against. And they thought it of so little necessity or use, that even
those who should rather have submitted to it, than have been deprived of their ministry, durst not concur in the suspension of others, who were more scrupulous of it than themselves.
By Can. 68. « Ministers are required to baptize all chil. dren without exception, who are offered to them for that purpose,"
Though some of the silenced ministers were much straiter in their notions about the qualified subjects of baptism than others, they were generally against submission to this canon, because not convinced thai the children of all comers (e.g. infidels and profane, &c.) have right to this ordinance. And they apprehended swearing obedience herein, to be a consent. ing in effect, to the profaning this sacred institution.
By Can. 72. “ Ministers are debarred the liberty of keepiog private fasts upon any occasion, or so much as being present at them, without exposing themselves to suspension the first time, excommunication the second, and deposition the third." These ministers esteemed those unworthy of that sacred function, who were not to be trusted to fast and pray with their people, as occasions might require. And, taking this to be a part of their office, they could no more renounce it than the liberty of preaching the gospel.
By Can. 112. “ The minister, jointly with the parish of. ficers, is required every year, within forty days after Easter, to exhibit to the bishop or his chancellor, the names of all his parishioners, of the age of sixteen, who did not receive the communion at Easter before." With this canon agrees the rubrick in the communion office, which requires every parishioner to communicate at the least three times in the year, of which Easter is to be one. And if they refuse after presentation, they are to be excommunicated, and are liable to be confined in gaol till they die, by virtue of the writ de excommunicato capiendo. In this the silenced ministers durst not concur, being convinced this would fill the church with such as ought rather to be kept away ; prevent all possibility of discipline, and be a bar to that purity, which is a great design of Christianity, as well as greatly terrify many timorous Christians.
Omitting some others, the three last canons relate to the authority of synods, and require all to be excommunicated who affirm, that " a convocation, summoned by the king's authority, is not the true church of England by representation; or that the absent as well as present, are not to be sub
ject to the decrees of such an assembly: or that their canons and constitutions are despicable, &c.” These canons they could not oblige themselves to subinit to, because of the disa putable nature of the matter contained in thein. " That a convocation is the true church of England by representation," seemed to them justly questionable, not only because the laity (whom they thought a part of the church) were altogether excluded, bụt also because the çlergy were far from being therein fairly represented. But though they should be mise taken in points of this nature, it seemed to them strangely and needlessly severe, that an excommunication must pre.
without any malignity. They thought this highly unsuitable to the Christian spirit, and contrary to the will of our Saviour, who has so often recommended mildness and gentleness to his church ; and therefore they could not swear submission.
It hath been pleaded by many, That the oath of canonical obedience doth not require approbation of all that is in the canons. To which they answered, That, in their judgment, the case of a minister was much the same as that of a justice of peace, who though not bound by his oath to approve of every law of the land, yet is bound by his office, when he is called to it, to execute them all. .
2. Another capital reason why these minister's scrupled taking the oath of canonical obedience was, that they found the episcopal government managed by chancellors' courts, (which were kept in the bishop's name indeed, while they were not suffered to act in them) where laymen exercise authority, by decretive excommunications and absolutions. They found the word ordinary, mentioned in the oath, would admit of divers senses. That it not only meant the bishop of the diocese, but the judges in their courts. And as for the “ other chief ministers” added in the oath, to whom'subjection was to be sworn, they saw not how less could be meant, than all the archdeacons, officials, coin. missaries, and surrogates, with the rest of the attendants upon those courts. Now they durst not bind themselves by oath to a submission of this nature, for fear of concurring to overthrow the pastoral office. They thought the keys of the church as much belonged to the pastor as the adıni. nistration of the sacraments; and that in case of abuse, an appeal might more properly be lodged with a synod, or with a meeting consisting partly of ministers, and parıly of deputies from the neighbouring churches, than with a set
of wrangling lawyers, whose concern in such matters they looked upon as irrational as well as unscriptural ; and whose management of them was more likely to be calculated for their own profit, than the credit of religion, and the purity of the church.
As for the provision made by the rubrick before the com. munion office, “ That when a minister keeps any persons “ froin the sacrament, he should within forty days give aa " account to the ordinary, that he may proceed against them " according to the canons," they could not acquiesce in it, being dissatisfied as to the grounds upon which these ordinaries (whether mere layınen, simple presbyters, or diocesans) appropriated the cognizance of matters of this nature to themselves, which in the judgment of common sense was more proper for those that had the opportunity of personal inspection, than for strangers. They were also confirmed in their dislike of this method of procedure, because of the tediousness, difficulty, and expensiveness of it ; because of the number that must be accused if the canons were followed ; because of the great hindrance it would be to them in their ministerial work; and in a word, because of the impossibility of keeping up any real discipline in such a way; to which they were rendered averse by observation and expe. rience. . Excommunications and absolutions they looked upon as very weighty matters, and durst not agree to trifle in them, If the bishops could trust their consciences with their chan, cellors, they desired to be excused till they were better satis. fied in the point*. They could not yield to receive and publish their excommunications blindly, lest they should be chargeable with their irregularities and abuses, and be the instruments of molesting, worrying and ruining, as religious persons perhaps as any in their parishes. Nor durst they consent to publish these absolutions of notorious debauchees, who have given, it may be, no other proof of repentance of their crimes than paying the fees of the court. These things, they well knew, exposed the censures of the church to scandal and contempt, and therefore they were unwilling to give their countenance to them.
The church-party themselves have not been insensible of corruptions in this respect. Among others, Bishop Burnet, at the close of his History of the Reformution, observes, “ There is one thing (we could heartily wish there " were no more) yet wanting to complete the reformation of this church;