Page images
PDF
EPUB

upon to correct and even retract their doctrines, not
only without offence, but in some cases with advan-
tage to the common faith*.” How can this be? for
the consent of these single men, who are thus to be
called
upon,

is
necessary,

before

any common faith can be established. Without some common faith, by what standard are their doctrines to be judged of? And without some established constitution of the Church, who shall be the persons appointed to judge them? If the common fuith is that revealed in the Scripture, it is equally pretended to by Arians, Socinians, Quukers, Anabaptists, and other Sectaries, amongst whom there is no community of sentiment. The Church, therefore, must apply this rule, without the consent of these single men; or all hope of advantage must be given up, and the common faith left to the mercy of its adversaries,

Here it is pleasant to observe the dexterity of some writers, who find it convenient, as the subject varies, to take both sides of the question. They liave the art of saying things in such a manner, by the help of little qualifying clauses, that they shall not appear to have said them at all, if they are pressed with a contradiction. We have an instance of it in this passage. The author seems to grant, that single men may be called upon to retract their doctrines with advantage to the common faith ; though, indeed, he doth not say by whom, and it is very hard to guess : however, if it is really his opinion, after what he hath said of the rights of private judgment, that individuals may be censured for their doctrines by any public authority of society; his principle vanishes in a smoke of his own raising. To avoid this he hath

[blocks in formation]

taken care to insert the condition, “ if they see redson :” and therefore, if they do not see reason, they are still to proceed as they please, and the common faith must at last yield to private opinion.

Such is the forlorn, and defenceless state of that Church and its faith, which Christ left upon earth for the salvation of mankind! No protection can be received from the temporal sword against spiritual wickedness, without incurring the penalty of perishing by the sword: and as to the spiritual, which is the word of God, it cannot be used against any offender, till his own consent shall put it into the hands of his judges !

But if this consent is necessary now, I apprehend it was always necessary: and if so, the doctrine of the Apostles ought not to have been settled, and the ministers of Satan (as they are called) ought not to have been censured in virtue of any established rule, till all the Gentiles were come in, and their consent formally obtained: nor even then; for others might be born, who would in time object even to the condition of Baptism in the name of the Trinity; and then it must have been given up to them : because no condition of communion is to be established, without the previous consent of all, who without that condition would have a right to Christian communion. Had there been no such condition imposed as baptism, Heathens would have had a right to Christian communion: therefore it follows, that this condition of Baptism could not be imposed without the consent of Heathens ! What wild work would this doctrine produce, if it were admitted into civil society? It would require that nothing should be established as a condition of holding employments of trust, or enjoying any privileges under the government, without the previous consent of all those who have no good will to the government; and would thrust themselves into office, only for an opportunity of overturning it as fast as possible, and introducing some other æconomy, more agreeable to their own temper and complexion.

Upon the whole, this author's plan is absolutely indefensible, if the Church is a society. Therefore he should have proved, that Christ and his Apostles did not plant any Church upon earth that could properly be called a Society: for if it was a society, it would have the native rights of a society: and if it had them once, it must have them still; unless he is able to shew at what time, and by what means, they were forfeited. So the late learned Bishop Coneybeare argued, in what the author calls his famous subscription sermon: and, instead of confuting his position by tracing the Church up to its original, he asserts, that

every intelligent Christian,” (that is, every Christian who is intelligent in his own conceit) “with the “ Scriptures before him, is, upon Protestant prin“ ciples;” that is, upon his principle, " and in de

crees of this nature, a Church to himself *.And thus he goes about to prove it: “ every Christian hath a right to search the Scriptures.—And if it is his duty to search, it must be also his duty” (i. e. his right) to determine for himself; and if he finds just cause, to dissent from any, or all the establishments upon earth t." Whether he finds just cause, or not, he may determine for himself, and no man alive can hinder him. In the Convocation, General Council, or Communion of Saints, which he carries about with him, he may determine that white is black, and good is evil: but then we are to observe, that all this, by the terms of the argument, is--for himself: whereas, the question is, whether the act of such a person, determining for himself in farour of heresy, sedition, or whatever else he pleases, will be so far binding to society, as to preclude the establishment of what is agreeable to the word of God.

+ Ibid.

* P. 23, 24. note.

His Church in a single person is a curiosity stii generis, and may pass with some people for a mere creature of the imagination. Most certainly it is not that Church spoken of by St. Paul, which is not one member, but many, and must be so of necessity; because there are many things to be done for a Christian, which a man cannot do for himself. But this Church in a single person must baptize himself; and if he wants to be a minister, he must ordain himself, or, as Bp. Andrews speaks, must lay his own hands upon his own head; then he must prefer himself, and absolve himself, and marry himself, and bury himself. However, it seems, this was once realized, as far as it well could be, upon a very ridiculous occasion. “ There was a dispute at Amsterdam between Ainsworth and Broughton, whether the colour of Aaron's ephod were blue, or a sea-water green ; which did not only trouble all the dyers in Amsterdam, but drew their several followers into sides and factions, and made good sport for all the world but themselves alone. By reason of which divisions and subdivisions, they fell at last into so many fractions, that one of them, in the end, became a Church or HIMSELF; and having none to join in opinion with him, baptized himself, and thereby got the name of a Sebaptist, which never any Sectary or Heretic had got before *.” Such are the effects, when Confessions are abolished, and every

• Heylin's Hist. of the Presb. p. 375.

man proceeds according to his own private judgment, without prudence, charity, restraint, or direction. So would the Churches be multiplied amongst us!

Into this state of separation, it is the opinion of our Author, that every man must be thrown, who in virtue of his own Churchship'shall determine upon

the Scripture by the rule of his private judgment: for every such disquisitor will soon discover, that all Protestant Churches, without exception, are mistaken, “ If the people,” saith he, “were diligent and careful in searching the Scriptures, every one for himself (as all Protestants agree they ought to do) the consequence would most probably be, that the far greater part of honest and sensible Christians should be excluded from the communion of every Church which has an established Confession *.” From this passage it is obvious, that the Author (taking himself for one of these honest and sensible Christians) hath a quarrel against some one doctrine common to all the Confessions in the Christian world; and that he holds either few Christians, or none at all, to be honest and sensible, unless they judge of the Scripture with his prejudices. Now, to say nothing against the vanity and uncharitableness of this reflection, its disagreement with truth and fact is notorious; there being very many, at this day, who search the Scripture both diligently and carefully, without finding in themselves any disposition to Arianism or Socinianism; and others, who, by searching the Scripture, are reclaimed from these errors: of which I could give particular examples. The Author of the Confessional

, however, could make short work with them all, by pronouncing such Christians to be neither honest nor sensible,

P, 25,

« PreviousContinue »