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Committee might charge his lordship with subverting government and discipline in the church, without claiming to themselves such mere authority, or blaming him for writing against it : and if so, his lordship may write a folio against absolute authority, and yet the case will stand as it does : it will still remain a question, after all he can say on that subject, whether his doctrines tend or no to subvert the government and discipline of the church? To make this plain, I will put a case: it shall be that of the incestuous Corinthian. His crime is known; and every one may see in Holy Writ what the Apostle thought proper discipline in his case. Suppose then the very same case should happen in any Christian church
I ask, is there an authority in the church to excommunicate such a person ? that is, to exclude him from the Christian assembly, and to deny him the use of the sacraments. If you say no, you do what the Committee charges on his lordship, subvert the discipline of the church; if you say yes, you allow the discipline : but then (according as his lordship intends to answer the Representation) you will be told that you claim an absolute, unconditional, unlimited, and mere authority to make and interpret laws for Christians; and either this is a just charge, or his lordship’s answer will not be a just answer to the Representation.
The Representation has produced out of his lordship’s sermon some passages where the doctrines which are conceived to subvert the government of the church, and those relating to absolute authority, are mixed together : the Committee fix their charge on the former; his lordship will answer to the latter; and no doubt but the world about us will improve by the contoversy.
To these passages the Committee added (to prevent mistakes) short observations of their own, which were intended to point to the thing they found fault with. After the first passage cited, they say: "it seems to deny all authority to the church; and under pretence of exalting the kingdom of Christ, to leave it without any visible human authority to judge, censure, or punish offenders in the affairs of conscience or salvation.”
Is here any thing about mere authority ? any claim to a right of absolute interpretation ? No: but his lordship affirms “ that Christ is the sole judge of the behavior of his subjects in the
affairs of conscience and eternal salvation;" that is, as he exi plains himself, “ in all points relating to the favor or displeasure of Almighty God.” We say that Christ is not sole judge of the behavior, &c.; for the church has a right to judge of the behavior of men with respect to the laws of Christ, which are points most certainly relating to the favor or displeasure of Almighty God. Behavior takes in the external actions of men with regard to the law they are under ; and it is one thing to judge the behavior of men by a plain law, acknowleged and received by the offender - himself; and it is another thing to pretend to a power to interpret absolutely, unlimitedly, &c. the doubtful or obscure laws.
With respect to this right of judging bis lordship has added no limitation: absolutely' and properly' stand in the same period, but referred to other matters. His lordship uses the word 'absolutely' when applied to interpreters, and when applied to judges, in a very different sense. He says of interpreters, there are none who can interpret absolutely;' but of judges he says, there are absolutely none to judge. You shall have his own words: “Let him but ask himself whether the church of Christ be the kingdom of Christ or not? And if it be, whether this notion of it doth not absolutely exclude all other legislators and judges in matters relating to conscience and the favor of God?” His lordship has such plenty of absolutely's and properly's, that he will excuse me, I know, if I claim this (absolutely) for the use of the Committee.
I do not intend to enter farther into this matter than is necessary to show that the argument his lordship is preparing against absolute authority, will not come up to the point of the Representation ; and therefore the many passages in his sermon'to the same purpose shall rest till a fitter opportunity.
But his lordship tells us, in his Answer to Dr. Snape, that all he has taught amounts only to a denial of absolute authority. I will give the proposition he has taught in his own words; and it is drawn up as circumspectly and securely as if it were a conveyance of lands.
“ Christ is sole lawgiver and judge in matters of eternal salvation, and hath delegated no absolute, that is, unlimited authority to men, to which Christians are absolutely, that is, unlimitedly, unconditionally, without exa
mination, to submit. This is all I have taught.” Alas! why has all this flame been raised about nothing ? about a doctrine which is not disputed ? Was it for this and this only that his lordship's sermon was introduced with so solid an observation on the abuse of words; which have “insensibly varied by passing through many mouths, and by being taken and given by multitudes in common discourse, till they come to stand for a complication of notions as distant from the original intention of them, nay, as contradictory to it, as darkness is to light?” Was it for this that his audience was awakened with his proclaiming his open and undisguised zeal against an “evil in
6 vading the most sacred and important subjects, touching the very vitals of all that is good, and just going to take from men's eyes the boundaries of right and wrong ?” Was it for this that four instances were given of such abuse of words, to
the way for the fifth, the grand abuse of all, even of the word church? which his lordship tells us has “ been so diversified by the various alterations it hath undergone, that it is almost impossible so much as to number up
inconsistent images that have come by daily additions to be united together in it;" and therefore he lays church aside, and sets up a
new image, which hath not been so much used, nor consequently so much defaced.” Was all this only in order to inform us of what every body knew and believed before ? Had his lordship no other view, methinks the word church might have served the purpose then as well as it had done two hundred
years before; in all which time the word had been innocently used without claiming absolute power. And indeed (as far as I can see) the notion of church is farther removed from absolute authority than the notion of kingdom. Kingdom, in the
very sound of it, carries more power than church ; and I believe his lordship is the first who ever thought of setting up a kingdom merely for the sake of pulling down authority. Besides his lordship owns that no such notion as that of absolute authority was joined to the word church by any of those for whose use the sermon can be supposed to be preached or printed : “his brethren,” the bishops, he believes," disclaim and disdain it.” So do " all, even every man of the church of England;
every man of those themselves who have treated me in the same unhandsome manner on this account.” Answer to Dr. Snape, p. 41. 42.
And his lordship professes seriously that he “ never knew nor heard of any church on earth, except the church of Rome in its latter corrupted state, which ever dared to claim such an absolute authority :" ibid p. 39.
And was this notion, which every man of the church of England, as well clergy as laity, rejects; was this the evil to be opposed with an open and undisguised zeal? Was this evil, which it seems nobody is infected with, the very thing which “touched the vitals of all that is good, and was just going to take from men's eyes the boundaries of right and wrong
No, no; this was not the secret : his lordship has been too long a writer to make so great an apparatus introductive of nothing. But be it as it will : if his lordship can prove that his doctrines do not tend to subvert the government and discipline of the church; that it is consistent with his opinion that the church may censure men for their behavior with respect to the laws of Christ; notwithstanding he has affirmed that Christ is the sole judge of their behavior in matters of salvation ;—that spiritual governors may judge, censure, and punish offenders in matters of religion ; notwithstanding he has affirmed “ that no one of Christ's subjects, in what station soever they may be, hath authority to judge, censure, or punish the servants of another master (that is, Christians) in matters relating purely to conscience or salvation ;” (and to salvation, the plainest, the moral laws of the gospel do relate) if in these points his lordship can make room for a judge on earth, after declaring that in these points “ Christ must be judge alone, or not at all :"_if he can exhort men to pay any regard to their spiritual teachers and pastors, after declaring that the
more close and immediate their regard is to Christ, the more certainly and the more evidently true it is that they are of his kingdom:"_if he can teach men to reverence those who are over them in the Lord, after having exhorted them “ to show themselves subjects to Christ in the affair of salvation, without fear of man's judgment:"-if his lordship, I say, can show these