« 上一頁繼續 »
to avoid that embarrassment which must be felt by an honest subscriber, upon such a change in his opinions as will not strictly stand with the terms of his engagement. When this, together with the preceding observations, is considered by the reader, he will the less wonder to hear Bishop Burnet express himself in the following manner: "The requiring subscription to the thirty-nine articles is a great imposition: I believe them myself; but as those about original sin and predestination might be expressed more unexceptionably, so I think it is a better way, to let such matters continue to be still the standard of doctrine, with some few corrections, and to censure those who teach any contrary tenets, than to oblige all that serve in the church to subscribe them. The greater part subscribe without ever examining them; and others do it because they must do it, though they can hardly satisfy their consciences about some things in them. Churches and societies are much better secured by laws than as well as a more easy method of government*."
5. The bishop's concluding remark, on the substitution of laws in the place of subscriptions, appears solid and important. But should it still be thought expedient to retain the latter, it would seem not very difficult to devise some form of subscription much less exceptionable than those which are at present in use, and which would as effectually answer every good end proposed by such a measure. Why might not the following, or some equivalent form, be thought generally sufficient?
"I believe that the holy scriptures, as they are commonly received among protestants, contain all things necessarv to salvation; so that, whatsoever is not read therein, ?wr proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation f.
* Bishop Burnet's conclusion to the History of his own Times.
t The words in italics are from the sixth article of And I declare my sincere intention, seriously to study the sacred scriptures, and to instruct the people in the same, according to my best abilities."
Should the question respect an admission to minister in the church of England in particular, why might not the following, or some similar declaration, be thought satisfactory ?" I am persuaded that the doctrine of the church of England is so pure and orthodox, that whosoever believes it, and lives according to it, shall be saved; and that there is no error in it, which may necessitate any man to disturb the peace, or renounce the communion of it*." When Bishop Sanderson, who was a good man, and a skilful casuist, was consulted upon this formula by some divines who proposed it, as one to which they were willing to agree, he answered, "I never subscribed in any other sense myself." Or why might not Chillingworth's form of subscription be admitted, as expressed in these words?" I do verily believe the church of England a true member of the church (universal); that she wants nothing necessary' to salvation, and holds nothing repugnant to it*." Either of these forms might be thought sufficiently high for any church that makes no claim to infallibility, and might help to relieve the scruples of some wise and good men.
As what has been advanced under this head is so easily applicable to those points of clerical subscription, which relate either to forms of prayer, or to other offices of religion, I forbear to enter upon them; and shall hasten to close this section, after a word or two on lay-commimion.
Though our established clergy may have cause to complain of the hard terms imposed upon them, this is not the case with the adult among the laity, who are almost indiscriminately admitted to the most solemn ordinance of christianity, upon the easy condition of compliance with one indifferent ceremony. Whatever be thefr faith or practice, their principles or conduct, they are at liberty, not only to attend to the public prayers and instructions of the national church, which is reasonable and proper, but also to approach her altars, and there to receive at her hands the memorials of the death of our Redeemer; provided they will consent to receive them in a kneeling posture. Let this condition be observed, and it is extremely rare that any inquiry is made, whether the communicant be a saint or a profligate, a believer or an infidel. This laxity, so remote from the primitive practice, can hardly fail to reflect some dishonour on any church where it is suffered; to cause some alienation or regret in her more serious members; and to breed in others a neglect, if not a contempt, of all religion. Nor is our own church insensible to this danger, as appears from her comminution office, where, as we have already remarked, she laments the want of that godly discipline, which was exercised in the first and best ages of christianity. Whether indeed it would be expedient (supposing the possibility) to revive this discipline in its