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established church, when they subscribe the thirty-nine articles, is to be found in my “ Book of the Roman Catholic Church.” But you intimate, through the whole of your letter, that the language used by me conveys, and was intended by me to convey, this. meaning.
I beg leave to assure your lordship, that I did not mean to insinuate, by the expression in question, any thing like that which your lordship imputęs; to it; I simply meant to describe THE LATIS TUDE OF CONSTRUCTION IN WHICH THE ARTICLES ARE ĢENERALLY SIGNED, and the different feelings to which the necessity of recurring to this latitude of construction unavoidably, excites in the subscribers.
I must admit, that in my view, both this latitude of construction and these consequential feelings are notorious: all that I have read, or heard, or seen, has led ine to this conclusion.,
Your lordship calls on me " 10 inform the world ;-for this," you 'möst justly say, “ you have a right to demand of me, what are the grounds of," what you call, “this insinuation of mine against the English clergy."
This information I shall now give as precisely, and in as few words as possible :--but, as a preliminary observation, I intreat your lordship, and every reader of these pages, to bear in mind, that all I now write is for self-defence, not to attack your lordship, or the church, of which all acknowlege your lordship to be a splendid ornament.
II.- Original construction of the thirty-nine articles. I think your lordship will concede to me, that the articles of the church of England were intended, by her founders, for ARTICLES OF BELIEF;or, in other words, that they were designed to express an explicit body of doctrine,—that all were to be assented or agreed to,-aud that all were to be understood and subscribed in the plain and obvious sense of the words. This, if it were necessary, might be proved, by a multitude both of ancient and of mo.. dern authorities. Four only, I shall adduce. ..
1. Your lordship is aware, that in 1701, the Lower House of Convocation censured Bishop Burnet's “ Exposition of the Thirtynine Articles," on account of its allowing a diversity of opinions; which the articles were framed to prevent.
2. In the famous sermon of Bishop Cony beare on this subject, in the “ Enchiridion Ecclesiasticum," published at Oxford, and recommended by a prelate,—(never to be named by me, without the highest respect, praise and gratitude,)-the Bishop of Durham, in bis charge of 1792, we are informed that, “every one who şubscribes the articles of religion, does thereby engage not only to contradict them, but that his subscription amounts to an approba
tion of, and an assent to, the doctrines therein contained, in the very sense in which the compilers are supposed to have understood them."
3. “The articles," says the Bishop of Winchester, (then Bishop of Lincoln,) in his Elements of Theology," are to be subscribed in their plain and obvious sense; and assent is to be given to them, plainly and unequivocally. If the candidate for holy orders thinks he sees reason to dissent from any of the doctrines asserted in them, no hope of emolument or honor, no dread of inconvenience or disappointnient, should induce him to express his solemn assent to propositions, which, in fact, he does not believe." ...." And let it ever be remembered," continues the learned prelate," that in a business of this serious and important nature, no species whatever of evasion, subterfuge, or reserve is to be allowed, or can be practised, without imminent danger of incurring the wrath of God.”
4. Finally,-what was the object of the eighty-seyen searching questions of my learned friend the Bishop of Peterborough? Was it not to ascertain, beyond all possibility of doubt, that the subscribers of these articles subscribed them in the original, plain, obvious, and literal sense of the framers of them; and without any thing of that “evasion, subterfuge, or reserve,"mentioned by the Bishop of Winchester, and so severely condemned, and awfully comminated by him. .
I take leave to add, that if your lordship is understood to deny, that the general body of the clergy subscribe the thirty-nine articles with the latitude of construction I have mentioned, your lordship must be understood to assert, that they subscribe them in the, strict sense required by the Bishop of Winchester, for an honorable and conscientious subscription of them. There is no medium.
III.-Latitudinurian construction of the thirty-nine articles.
Such, according to the respectable authorities I have just cited, is the authentic sense in which the thirty-nine articles should be signed :-but how widely different are the senses,-(each of them differing as widely from the other,)-in which they have been, and vow are, signed by a multitude of eminent divines of your lordship’s communion ?"
Here, I shall first call your lordship's attention to the latitudinarian divines, who rose in the reign of James I. and furnished the church of England, during a long and perhaps the most brilliant part of her history, with a great proportion of her most distinguished members.
It is unnecessary to cite to your-lordship the celebrated dogma of the immortal Chillingworth, as he is often called by your writers, in which, after expressly mentioning the thirty-nine articles, and many other creeds, he discards them all,- and propounds, that “ THE BIBLE, AND THE BIBLE ONLY, IS THE RELIGION OF PROTESTANTS."
It is also annecessary to observe to your lordship, that this proposition was received, without any qualification, by Bishop Hoadly, and transmitted by him to his followers; or that Bishop Hoadly is, in respect to theological belief and opinion, the patriarch of nearly the whole of the present ministry of the established church of England.
Now, it is most clear that the system proposed in these few but very emphatic words, leaves no authority to the thirty-nine articles. It reduces the creed of the English Protestant church to three dogmas : 1st, That her members acknowlege the Scriptures for their law; 2d, That they acknowlege no other law; 3d, That they acknowlege no interpreter of it but their own consciences.
Still, both the church and the state continued to require the subscription to the thirty-nine articles; it therefore became a serious question how this could be reconciled to the consciences of those who professed the creed of Chillingworth and Hoadly; or,
." The whole of this memorable passage deserves to be transcribed. " By the Protestant faith,” says this celebrated man, “ I do not understand the doctrine of Luther, or Calvin, or Melancthon, nor the confession of Augusta, or Geneva, or the catechism of Heidelberg, nor the articles of the church of England ; no, nor the harmony of Protestant confessions; but that, wherein they all agree, and which they all subscribe with a greater harmony, as á perfect rule of their faith and their actions, that is,—THE BIBLE, AND THE BIBLE ONLY, 18 TUE RELIGION OF PROTESTANTS. Whatsoever else they believe besides it, and the plain, irrefragable, indubitable consequences of it, well may they hold it as a matter of opinion ; but as matter of faith and religion, neither can they, with coherence to their own grounds, believe it themselves, nor require the belief of it of others, without the most schismatical presumption. 1, for my part, after a long (and I verily believe and hope), impartial search of the way to eternal happiness, do profess plainly, that I cannot find any rest for the sole of my foot, but on this rock oply. This, therefore, and this only, I have reason to believe; this I will profess; according to this I will live; and for this, if there be occasion, I will not only willingly but gladly lose my life, though I should be sorry that any Christian should take it from me. Propose me any thing out of this book, and require whether I believe it or not, and seem it never so incomprehensible to human reason, I will subscribe it with hand and heart, as knowing no demonstration can lie stronger than this. God hath said so, and therefore it is true.' In other things I will take no man's liberty of judgment from him; neither shall any man take mine from me. I am fully assured that God does not, and therefore that men ought not to require any more of man than this, to believe the Scriptures to be God's word, to endeavor to find the true sense of it." Religion of Protestants, ch. 6. sect. 56. .
in other words, how the professors of this creéd could consistently profess the Scriptues to be their only code of law, and at the same time subscribe the thirty-nine articles as another code of law · For this, two systems in particular were proposed : .
1. Some contended that the thirty-nine articles were to be considered, not as articles of belief, but as ARTICLES' OF PEACE ; so that, when the clergy express their unfeigned assent to them, they express no more than an agreement to use them in their ministry, but with full liberty to disbelieve them, and even to controvert them, except from the pulpit, or in the administration of official duty.
In conformity with this doctrine, Chillingworth acted. He had objected to the subscription of the thirty-nine articles, he had even declared, in a private letter, with all the energy of language, that:"? he could not subscribe them, without subscribing to his own damnation;" that, if ever he should depart from this immovable resolution, he would allow his friends to think him a madman and an athiest.", Yet, within a few months after this passionate description of the articles, he subscribed them. The writer of his life, in the Biographia Britannica, transcribes a passage from Chillingworth's preface to his "Religion of Protestants,' and infers from it, that he thought the sense and meaning of such a subscription to be one of peace or union, and not of belief or assent, as he formerly thought it was especially if we consider that this was also the 'sense of Archbishop Laud, with which Chillingworth could not be unacquainted, and of Dr. Sheldon, who labored to convince him of it, and was, no doubt, the person that brought him into it."
I.***. . At first, however, these opinions were received with jealousy, and strong apprehepsions were entertained of their ultimate tendency. The diffusion of them under the powerful and unceasing exertions of Bishop Hoadly, was both rapid and extensive. In
Art. Chillingworth, note (k); and see Gibbon's Memoirs, oct. vol. i. p. 66. Dr. Sheldon was afterwards archbishop of Canterbury.
In the former edition of this letter, I inserted in this place a citation, in which the propriety of subscribing the thirty-nine articles as terms of peace, is explicitly propounded ; I attributed it to Archbishop Usher : and, in the note, I mentioned “Schism Guarded," p. 396, as an authority for it. The work,“ Schism Guarded," was written by Archbishop Bramhall: on referring to ihe cited page, I find no mention in it of Archbishop Usher, or any thing which justifies the attribution of the passage in question to that prelate. I have, therefore, omitted the citation in the present edition. I transcribed it from a note made by me many years ago, from some work then before me, and probably referred to “ Schism Guarded," page 396, as importing something of a similar nature. In a private letter, with which the Bishop of Chester has honored me, he politely pointed out this mistake to me, and I avail myself of this opportunity to return his lordship my thanks for it. VOL. XXV.
Pam. NO. XLIX.
what terms of eulogy, Archbishop Bramhall, Bishop Fowler, · Bishop Watson, Dr. Balguy, Dr. Sturges, and a host of other distinguished lights of your church, have expressed themselves on this mode of construing the articles and subscribing them, and how efficaciously they have sanctioned it by their example, is so well known to your lordship, as to render any mention of it in this place absolutely unnecessary. On account of the great and general esteem in which the writings of Dr. Paley are beld; the uncommon popularity of his opinions among every order of persons of your communion; and their having become text-books in your universities and many of your public schools, they are singularly important, and must be allowed to exhibit the opinions of a large proportion of your body.
In what manner this eminent theologian and moralist expresses himself of the sense, in which the thirty-nine articles should be subscribed, is well known to your lordship. One passage from the most celebrated of his works: I beg leave to transcribe:-“Those, who contend that nothing less can justify subscription to the thirtynine articles than the actual belief of each and every separate proposition they contain, must suppose that the legislature expected the consent of ten thousand men; and that, in perpetual succession, not to one controverted proposition, but to many hundreds. It is hard to conceive how this could be expected, by any, who observe the incurable diversity of human opinion, on all subjects short of demonstration. If the authors of the law did not intend this, what did they intend? 1. To exclude from offices in the church all abettors of popery; 2. Anabaptists, who were, at that time, a powerful party on the continent; 3. The Puritans, who were hostile to the episcopal constitution; and, in general, the members of such leading sects, or foreign establishments, as threatened to overthrow our own. Whoever finds himself comprehended, within these descriptions, ought not to subscribe: all others then, it should seem, of whatever name or creed, may conscientiously subscribe.” -Surely, therefore, they may be conscientiously subscribed, in Dr. Paley's opinion, by Unitarians, Arians, and Socinians. It is observable that the British Critica declares the Doctor's sentiments to be “rational, liberal, and enlarged.” · 2. A still looser construction of the thirty-nine articles was, however, found necessary. To furnish the subscribers of them with it, later writers suggested that the formulary of the thirty-nine
Moral and Political Philosophy, p. 180—182. 4to. See also his “ Defence of the Considerations on the propriety of requiring a Subscription to the Thirty-nine Articles."
2 February 1796, p. 146,