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he is bound either to show us that human nature is more exalted on some other scheme, or to renounce his objection.
In calling all men without distinction, to repentance and faith, (which so much offends many, who vainly judge- themselves righteous, and needing no repentance,) we only call upon them to fulfil the conditions of their baptism. "Q. Why then are infants baptized, when by reason of their tender age, they cannot perform them?"—(viz. repentance and faith: vide the foregoing question and answer.) "Ana. Because they promise them both by their sureties, which promise when they come to age, themselves are hound to perform." Cat. of the Ch. of England.
The question therefore for every member of the Church of England at least, before he can take any comfort from his baptism, or build any hope upon it, is—f Have I truly repented, and believed the Gospel?"—How strange a mistake then, for any man to think that he has no occasion to repent, because he has been baptized; when his baptism in truth, so far from rendering repentance unnecessary, lays him under additional and voluntary obligations to repent!
OJV THE HILL.
What is want of power, in the moral sense of the word, but want of will?
One man tells you, he cannot help getting drunk; another, that he cannot help swearing; but does not every one see at once the difference between such cases and that of a man who, being lame, tells you that he cannot help limping? Let the drunkard know, that some one has mixed poison with his liquor, and he will presently show that he can refrain from drinking, if he will. Let the swearer stand in the presence of the King, and you will see that he can avoid swearing. The only thing he wants to give him equal power at all times over his profane habit, is to fear God as much as he does the King.
FIIOM THE SAME.
OX SUBSCRIPTION TO ARTICLES OF RELIGION.
I. IT appears from the history of the Christian Church given us in the Acts of the Apostles, that no adult person was received into her Communion, without a declaration of his hearty consent to the leading doctrines, delivered by the Apostles and other first teachers of Christianity. If thou believest with all thine heart, said Philip to the Eunuch, thou mayest be baptized. Acts viii. 37.
Much less was any one admitted to the office of Christian Pastor, without such a proof, at least, of his embracing the doctrines which he was to deliver to others. Thus the apostolick injunction runs respecting Ordination: The things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, vaho shall be able to teach others also. 2 Tim. ii. 2. And particular care was taken that none should be admitted into the ministry, except those who held fast the faithful word as they had been taught, that they might be able by sound doctrine to convince the gainsayers. Titus i. 9.
When the books of the New Testament were all collected, and joined to the Scriptures of the Old Testament, this sacred code contained the Articles to which every candidate for the Ministry was to subscribe, that is, to testify his assent in the strongest manner, before he could be admitted to teach others. •
So far is plain, and, I apprehend, agreeable to the sentiments of all the professors of Christianity. But here it may be asked, Why is not this simple apostolick method still adhered to? Why aie candidates for the Ministry now required to subscribe to human formularies, instead of the inspired writings; and that, by those who acknowledge the Bible to contain a perfect rule of faith and practice?
The reason of such conduct is clearly deducible from the very principles upon which the objection is founded.
To make good this deduction, I shall only take for granted the following plain proposition: that words, being only the signs of our ideas, are nothing independent of their meaning. This being allowed, it will follow; that when assent is required to any form of words, it is to the meaning which those words convey, and not to the words considered in themselves. When, therefore, we speak of subscribing to the Holy Scriptures, we mean, (if we mean any thing,) that such subscription should be made, or assent testified, to the doctrines contained in the Scriptures, or to the meaning which the words of Scripture were designed to convey.
While the sense of Scripture was fixed by the interpretation of those inspired persons, who were employed in writing it, the words of Scripture conveyed the same ideas to all the sincere members of the Christian Church. When any person, under these circumstances, testified his assent to the words of Scripture, it is plain that he assented to their true meaning; and in this case, arty other confession of faith, than the sacred text, was unnecessary.
But let us suppose, that while the doctrine of the Christian Church was uniform, and the whole body of Ministers held the words of Scripture in their true sense, that one should have offered himself as a candidate for the Ministry, to whom the words of Scripture conveyed ideas different from those which they conveyed utthe Church. What must have been done in such a case? The Christian Pastors were bound to require subscription to the Scriptures; for this was enjoined as absolutely necessary. But in the case now stated, a subscription to the words of Scripture wouldnot have been a subscription to the Scriptures themselves; because the words did not convey to this candidate their true meaning. Such a person in subscribing, it is evident, must either have testified his assent to something which was not Scripture, or to words "without meaning, which is in effect to nothing. The Christian Pastors, in this case, would have been under the necessity of explaining the Scriptures to such a one, that is, of cpnveying the meaning of Scripture to him in other words, and then of requiring his assent to tne Scriptures thus explained, or to the words used as explanatory, which amounted to the same. And whenever the words of Scripture convey different and opposite ideas to the pep -sons whose duty it is to require subscription, and to those who are enjoined to subscribe; one of these methods must be used, if the absurdity of requiring subscription to unmeaning words is to be avoided. *
Now that the professors of Christianity are divided in then' interpretation of the New Testament, it is the same thing, (with respect to the matter of subscription,) as if there were more than one New Testament; and each party must require subscription or assent to their formulary, upon the same principle that subscription was required to the words of Scripture, while the interpretation crl those words was uniform. To suppose the contrary, is to imagine that words are something independent of their meaning, which is absurd.
If then it is the duty of any Christian Church to require a subscription to the Bible from those who are candidates for the Ministry, it is their duty to require this subscription to the sense in which they understand the Bible: for these are not properly two things with respect to any Church, but are in effect the same.
Thus the necessity of human formularies may be deduced from the plainest principles of Christianity and common sense; and he must not have thoroughly considered this matter, who shall esteem-them to be impositions on the consciences of mankind, when they are designed merely to interpret the Christian's only rule of faith,—the Bible.
If the preceding observations contain a just account of the nature of subscription to articles of religion, the following consequences will be the result.
1. That a formulary of religion is to be considered as an epitome of the Holy Scriptures, exhibiting, in other words, a summary ol the doctrines which they contain.
2. That when a candidate for the Ministry declares liis assem. by subscription or otherwise, to articles of religion, be does in effect declare, that he understands the Scriptures in that sense in which the formulary represents them.
If, therefore, the bishops of the Church of England act upon the principles of Christianity and common scnse> they must require subscription to the thirty-nine articles as to a form of words expressing the true meaning of scripture; and giving in other terms a summary of the doctrines of the New Testament, by way of ensuring a subscription to the scriptures themseives.
And if candidates for hoiy orders act upon the same principles, they must consider their own subscription as tantamount to the following declaration:—-' I believe that these articles do give the true meaning of the words of the New Testament; and I declare my hearty assent to the scriptures thus explained."
II. The services of divine worship in the Church of England are made conformable to the doctrines contained in her articles of religion, and therefore it is necessary to a sincere worship of Almighty God, that Ministers do really believe those articles.
The leading or principal doctrines of the Church of England are these four: the doctrine of the Trinity; the atonement for sin by the death of Christ, (through faith in whom we can alone obtain forgiveness;) the innate moral depravity of mankind; and the necessity of the divine, sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit. These are found in every page of our Liturgy. The service of the Church is founded upon them; and no ollice can be performed without an acknowledgment of them.
The first of these doctrines describes the object of our worship. The second points out the manner of our addressing the Divine Majesty, through a Mediator. The third teaches us our acknowledgments and confessions. And the fourth leads us to a principal subject of our supplications.
What sort of divine worship must that be, which is neither right in its object, in its mode of address, in its confessions, nor in its supplications? Yet thus monstrous and absurd must the publick worship of every Minister of the Church of England be, who disbelieves these articles of her faith. He must daily bow down, with every act peculiar to divine adoration, to one whom he bzlieves to have been a mere man, and, of consequence, in all his publick addresses he must be guilty of the damnable sin of idolatry; and this not ignorantly, but with a clear understanding of his crime. He must present all his publick addresses to God in the name of a Mediator, while he believes the idea of mediation to be a gross affront to the Divine Majesty; and must profess his expectation of divine favour through the death of one, who died by popular tumult, without any peculiarity of nature to distinguish him from other sufferers in a good cause.* He must acknowledge such depravity in himself as he believes it inconsistent with all just notions of moral agency to allow, and such as he believes to have no existence. And lastly, he must implore certain influences, which he believes it absurd to expect; and which, if granted, would destroy the end for which they are implored.
Hence we see how necessary it is, that every Minister of the "Church should sincerely believe these fundamental articles in her formulary of religion.
III. Let us take another view of this subject, and consider the case of a person preparing for the Ministry. If such a one act with proper caution and with sincerity, he will, previously to his entering into the Ministry, consider how far the doctrines, of which he is to profess his belief, and which he is to teach, are agreeable to the word of God. Whence can he learn the doctrines of the Church of England, but from those authentick documents, the articles of religion, the homilies, and the liturgy? It is absurd to suppose that he must conform to the opinions of individuals, whether of the clergy or laity in the Church. It is not necessary for him to inquire what these opinions are, for he is not to profess any belief of them, nor to take them for the models of his own teaching. Were the opinions of individuals more uniform than they are, he is not at all concerned to know them: much less can this be any part of his duty, when these opinions are discordant with one other.
Were the body of bishops uniform in their notions of religion, and were he acquainted with their notions, he is by no means bound to conform himself to their opinions. For he is not to declare that he understands the Scriptures in the sense in which they understand them; nor is he to worship God by forms which express their sentiments; nor to teach conformably to their opinions. In the matter of ordination the bishop does not propose his own peculiar opinions to the candidate, but the doctrines of the Church: and the candidate's duty is to inquire, whether these doctrines agree with the Christian's rule of faith, the Bible.
The religious opinions of the bishops may possibly be as opposite to one other as the opinions of the laity. Supposing this to be the case, how shall a candidate prepare himself for the Ministry, if the sentiments of the bishops are to influence his belief? One bishop believes the articles of the Church, and approves of her liturgy; but it is possible that another may not credit the former, nor approve of the latter. If a candidate for the Ministry were bound to conform to the sentiments of the bishop who should ordain him, he must have no religious sentiments at all, when he knows not who shall ordain him. Upon the idea of conformity to the sentiments of the bishops, there is no standard of religion left; and therefore the duty of preparing for the Ministry, by the regulation of the religious sentiments of the candidate, may become absolutely impracticable.
IV. But does every Minister act insincerely, who may disapprove of some ceremonies prescribed, or some expressions contained in the articles or liturgy of the Church, which affect not the main doctrines of Christianity? By no means—there is an important distinction between essential and non-essential matters in religion. The things contained in the sacred Scriptures are not all of equal moment: some are fundamental and essential. The