THE liberty some late Pamphleteers have taken to censure it, is the reason why I send you, and likewise publish my Thoughts concerning the Bill, entituled, A Bill for the Preservation of the Protestant Religion, and for preventing the Translation of Bishops from one See to another.
And I am very certain I can't direct them to a more proper Person than your self, because you not only believe that the Church of England, as by Law establish'd, is the Purest, most Apostolical, and most Excellent Christian Community, but also understand its true Interests, together with all the Primitive Rights and Usages of Episcopacy.
But before I enter upon the Nature, Tendency, and Usefulness of the Bill, give me leave to say something concerning that worthy Member Sir J.P. who brought it into the House.
His Zeal for the Church and Monarchy descends to him as it were by Inheritance: I must write a History, if I would deliver at large how many Proofs his Ancestors have given of their being the fastest Friends to both: But his Grandfather's spending Forty Thousand Pounds, and being tried for his Life during the late Civil Wars, because he vigorously endeavour'd to [3/4] prevent the Martyrdom of King Charles the First, and the Destruction of Episcopacy; the uninterrupted Correspondence of his Grandmother with the learned and pious Dr. Morley Bishop of Winton, and Dr. Hammond, and her supporting the latter when deprived, and who is by several Eminent Men allow'd to be the Author of the best, and most Masculine Religious Book extant in the English Tongue (the Bible excepted) called The whole Duty of Man, will serve instead of a head of Instances, to shew how great Regards this Family have formerly paid to the Church and Kingly Government. [A.Bp. Dolben, Bp. Fell, and Dr. Allestry declared this of their own knowledge after her Death, which she obliged them to keep private during her Life.]
But to come to the present Sir J. P. Hath he not in proportion to his Opportunities given Evidence, that he will not disgrace their memories, by being careless of those most important Concerns, upon which his Progenitors placed so just and so high a value?
Did not he in the last Parliament, from an orthodox Jealousy, after the Exposition of the Thirty nine Articles came out (wherein the Author's Opinion on the Episcopate may be seen) make an Effort for the Removal of a Bishop who was then Preceptor of the Duke of Gloucester? Was he not then afraid, that a Man whose first Education was amongst the Scotch, if not the Cameronian Presbyterians, who some think abundantly beholden to him for his Exposition of the 23d Article, had not so sufficiently got rid of those early Tinctures, as to make him fit to be trusted with the Education of a Prince who was designed to be the Heir of the crown, and the Protector of the Church? [See also the Preface to the Fundamental Charter of Presbytery examin'd. Printed by Charles Brome at the Gun in Ludgate-street.]
How justifiable his Jealousy was, may appear by reciting the Opinion of the Lower House of Convocation, which met February 10. 1700. concerning the [4/5] abovesaid Exposition. I will transmit their Opinion, as I find it express'd in the Narrative of their Proceedings, drawn up by the Order of their House, where you will find, Pag. 57, 58. the following words.
"That whereas the Author of the Book declares it to have pass'd the perusal of both the Arch-bishops, and several Bishops, and other learned Divines, and suggests their Approbation of it. And whereas the Lower House of Convocation conceive it their Duty, what in them lies, to secure the Doctrines contained in those Articles from any Attempts that may be made against them; and whereas it is their Opinion,
"I. That the said Book tends to introduce such a Latitude and Diversity of Opinions, as the Articles were framed to avoid.
"2. That there are many Passages in the Exposition of several Articles, which appear to us to be contrary to the true meaning of them, and to other received Doctrines of our Church.
"3. That there are some things in the said Book, which seem to us to be of dangerous Consequence to the Church of England, as by Law established, and to derogate from the Honour of its Reformation.
This Opinion (Specialities being demanded) they offer to make good in seventeen Particulars, as you will find in Pag. 64. in the said Narrative, at the later end of which Page are the following words; "Seventeen such places they refer to, nor (considering the weight of the Matter, and the shortness of the Warning) could more Instances at that time be expected from them; especially since these were to be offer'd as an Earnest only of very many more, which should within convenient time be Collected and Exhibited to their Lordships."
 Tho I have recited those Passages which express the Suspicion the Convocation had, that the Bishop was mistaken in point of Orthodoxy, I forbear to mention what they say in the same Paragraph, of Page 63. which looks as if they questioned the Veracity of his Lordship. For men of honest Minds may have Errors in Judgment, but it would be a foul Imputation indeed upon a Man of that most Holy Order, if he should in any Prefatory or other parts of his Works, affirm, what he could not but know was a Falshood.
What I transcribe from that Narrative wants proper Connection; but the Narrative it self deserves so well the perusal of every Body, that I am willing to tempt my Readers to compare what I have made use of, with what I quote; and the sense of the Convocation will be understood, tho I leave the places I cite, defective in Grammar.
And, I think, it will also be understood, that Sir J. P. need not, out of any personal Unkindness to that Bishop, promote this Bill, to prevent his future Translation to Winchester; for since his Pastoral Letter underwent so severe a Censure from a Parliament (of which Parliament Sir J.P. was not a Member) and since the Majority of the Spiritual House of Commons, and the Lower House of Convocation, have, as above, expressed their Dislike of his Lordship's Religious Tenets, there can be no Danger, that his Majesty, who, upon his understanding the sense of the minor part of the Lay-House of Commons, took the Seals from a much Greater Man, the Lord Sommers, will ever give that Bishop any other Preferment in the Church.
And as little Necessity is there for Sir J.P. to pursue this Honourable, and truly Religious Proposal, in [6/7] order to prevent another certain Bishop from coming hereafter into the Diocess of Worcester. Some indeed wonder at the Dignity he has already attained to, but a Man that has not been long remarkable for strictness, may perhaps be fit (because he can make Allowances for their Frolicks) tolerably well to supervise Youth, and yet be scarce qualified for another sort of Diocess. I will not be particular in relation to his Lordship's Character, but suppose the King will (tho this Bill should not be passed at the Vacancy of Worcester) examine it more nicely before he translates him; and besides, I fear, I have been too long before I have inserted the Bill, the words of which are as follow.
WHEREAS it is justly apprehended, that it will much redound to the Honour, Prosperity, and Advancement of the Protestant Reformed Religion Professed, and by Law Established in the Church of England, and to this Kingdom in general, if according to the antient Canons of the Church, the Removal and Translation of Bishops from one See to another were prevented, and they were fixed, during their Lives, in the Bishopricks to which they are first promoted, as the Bishops of the Primitive Church were. Therefore may it please your Majesty, that it may be Enacted, And be it Enacted by the King's Most Excellent Majesty, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons on this present Parliament assembled, and by the Authority of the same, That from, and after the day of which shall be in the Year of our Lord no Bishop of, or in the Church of England, or the Dominion of Wales, shall, or may be removed, or Translated to any other Bishoprick or See whatsoever, any Law of Usage heretofore to the contrary thereof in any wise notwithstanding: Provided[7/8] always that nothing in this Act shall extend to the preventing any of the said Bishop or Bishops from being translated to the See, or Archbishoprick of Canterbury or York, respectively, any thing herein before contained to the Contrary thereof, in any wise notwithstanding.
Thus the Bill was brought into the House, but afterwards with Sir. J.P. his Consent, the following Clause was added.
AND whereas several Persons, not of the Communion of the Church of England, have taken upon them several Offices, or Places of Trust in the Civil Government of this Kingdom; and for the Qualifying themselves for, or in the same, have (according to the Laws now in being) received the Sacrament according to the said Church; But notwithstanding, afterwards, have deserved the Communion thereof, and frequented and gone to other publick Places of Worship, according to the Opinions they formerly were of: For the preventing the like practices for the future, Be it further Enacted, by the authority aforesaid, That from and after the day of in case any Person who hath been, or shall be admitted into any Office, or Place of trust, in the Civil Government of this Kingdom, or Dominion of Wales, and at any time, during the time he shall be in such Office or Place, shall frequent, or go to any other Place of Divine Worship, than some of the Places set apart for the Service of the Church of England, such his Office or Place shall be, as to him, from thenceforth void. And whatsoever he shall do, or transact therein, shall be utterly Null, and Void, any Law or Statute to the contrary thereof, in any wise notwithstanding.
After this Sir. J. P. himself moved, that it might be an Instruction to the Committee of the whole House (to whom the Bill was referred) to consider of Methods to augment the poor Bishopricks.
 Thus you have seen the Words and History of the Bill; and the sole Reason, as I am informed, why Sir J.P. does not press the passing of it last Sessions, was, because he was not sufficiently apprised how to provide for the poor Bishopricks.
His bringing in this Bill, and his willingness to let it stay till another Sessions, that the poor Bishopricks might be the better provided for, are proofs not only of his Zeal for the Church, but of his wife and cautious Conduct, in relation to the Affairs thereof.
In the Bill it self, he does not grasp at that General Emancipation, which every good Man wishes the Church may one time or other obtain. He admits (because of the hardness of our Hearts) that the Temporal Power should (instead of the College of Bishops, according to Primitive Usage) chuse the Bishops, and that Bishops too may be Translated by the King to the Archiepiscopal Chairs.
Perhaps these last mentioned Notions, tho Genuine, Primitive, and most sutable to the true Interests of Christianity, are what will not be acceptable to Men unacquainted with the first Ages of the Church; and God knows, too few amongst us, both of Clergy and Laity, are Masters of that most necessary part of Ecclesiastical History.
But it is not fit for me to enlarge upon them, when I own his making Allowances for the Ignorance (I had like to have said Iniquity) of the times, was a remarkable Act of Prudence of Sir J.P.
I believe the Bishop of S will allow, that Sir J. P. being willing that the Temporal Power should have such a share in Ecclesiastical Affairs, is but a [9/10] prudent Compiance with the times, since Dr. Burnet, above five or six and twenty Years ago, in a Discourse he published, at the end of a Conference with some Papists, to shew why it was possible so gross an Opinion as Transubstantiation might, and did slip into the Church, amongst others, assigns it for one Reason, that the Popes had for some time, contrary to Primitive Custom, chosen the Bishops (instead of their being chosen by the Diocess) and, I suppose, that Reverend Bishop believes, Kings may be Hereticks, and corrupt the Church, as well as Popes. I also believe Sir J. P. thinks (with the Bishop) that Kings may be such, and may do so, and that Sir J. P. would be contented, that the College of Bishops, or the two Houses of Convocation in each Province, should, to avoid all danger to the Church, have the Election of Bishops and Arch-bishops too; which how much better it would be in theChurch, than in the Court, will appear from this Passage in our learned Countryman Johannes Sarisburiensis, Bishop of Chartres, almost 600 Years ago, in his Book, De Nugis Curialium, pag. 410. You will pardon me, Sir, if I attempt to render the Sense of this, and some other subsequent Quotations in English, for the benefit of Readers who may not understand the Original Language.
"A remarkable Instance of this kind happen'd in Apulia, in my time, and in the Reign of Roger the Sicilian. The See of Avellino, which included Apulia, Campania, and Calabria, became void. Robert (an Englishman) the Chancellor of that King, was then Chief Minister of State, a Man very Resolute and Expert in the Administration of Affairs, and of a piercing Judgment, tho of no great Learning. He was the best Orator [11/12] of the Province, both for his elegant Composures, and graceful Delivery; much rever'd for the Dignity of his Post, and no less esteemed for the politeness of his Manners and Conversation. He was the more admir'd in that province because amongst the Lombards, who are at best a thrifty People, he made generous Entertainments, and lived up to the Genius and Grandeurs of his Native Country, England. Tothis great Minister three Men made private Applications for this vacant Bishoprick, and every one humbly tender'd a round Sum of Mony. One was an Abbot, another an Arch-Deacon, and the third a principal Officer under the King, who solicited on the behalf of his Brother, a Clergy-man. To be short with the Story, he treated with them severally, and agrees the Price with every one. A compleat Bargain being struck up of all sides, sufficient Care taken, and Security given for good payment, a day was prefix'd for the Election. At which time the Arch-bishops, Bishops, and many other Reverend Persons being assembled, the Chancellor laid before them the Pretensions of the several Competitors, and what had pass'd betwixt him and them, declaring openly, that he would proceed as the Bishops should advise him. The Simoniacal Pretenders were rejected, and yet forced to pay the Sums they had respectively contracted for, to the utmost Farthing; and a poor Monk, who knew nothing of the matter, was canonically Elected, Confirm'd, and Install'd. May the same Success attend the Ambitious and Avaritious dignify'd Men of our times, who hunt after these Preferments with greater Application [12/13] and Keenness, than the best-nos'd and subtilest Hounds scent out the Forms of Hares, and the Dens of Foxes."
As the Bill now stands, it is greatly for the Benefit of the Church.
First; As it takes away the great Scandals and Reproaches wherewith the Order of Bishops hath been loaded.
It is well known that some witty and Atheistical Men have raised evil Reports upon that Bench, have called their Votes in Parliament lumping, and themselves a dead Weight, and suggested, that the hopes of greater and richer Bishopricks have made the Learned and Pious Fathers of our Church speak, act, and vote contrary to their Judgments. This Slander, this which I hope is a Slander, hath discredited the Discourses of the Miter'd Heads, not only in that high Court of Judicature, and Legislature, but even from the Pulpit. But this is not the single Reproach: How often have scurrilous Pens stigmatiz'd not only particular Bishops, but the whole Order with Facts little inferiour to plundering their Bishopricks, viz. That when they are placed in the lower Sees, they take more Pains to inform themselves what Leases may be fill'd up, or where they may grant concurrent Leases to their Children or Relations, than to be acquainted with the Clergy of their Diocess; and are more solicitous to raise a private Fortune out of the Timber, and Revenues of the Church, than to repair their Palaces. They say it was a bad Pun, and a worse Excuse made by a Prelate now living, who assur'd of being translated to a better See, stript the small one he was leaving [13/14] of all, or far the greatest part of the Timber growing upon it; and being blam'd for doing so by some humbler Man, pertly reply'd, It was no harm, because he was to be succeeded by a Grove: They build upon his Wit, and add, that had not this Grove been cut up by an untimely Fate, he would have prov'd a better Shelter to Religion, the Church, and its Pilgrims, than the other with all his Timber and numerous Treatises of Devotion.
I have been lately upbraided with a Story concerning another Prelate, who under pretence of building a new Kitchen, has fell'd 4000 l. worth of Timber: One would have thought, said the Gentleman, from this Preparation, that this Prelate intended to entertain all the Poor of the City where his Palace stands, and he seldom resides; but it is a Room of a moderate size, and has been so moderately us'd, that did not the Shape and Furniture declare for what it was pretended, it might pass for a Compting-house, or his Steward's Office. I was not able to confute, or deny the Fact; but, Sir, if this Bill passes, and Bishops become Tenants for Life of their Bishopricks, those great and worthy Personages being under less Temptations, must recover the Honour due to their Stations, will be harkned to like Oracles, and wholly avoid the Sarcasms of those who wish not their Welfare. Men will believe that noting but right Reason, sacred Justice, and the Dictates of our most holy Faith are the Springs of their Reasonings and Actions. The Temporal Lords will without Abatement reverse what they say, and Men of lesser Stations will not too skeptically examine what they promote. I leave it to you, Reverend Sir, to consider whether the bringing of the Bishops Bench into this indisputed Reputation [14/15] with the People, would not be so great and unconceivable an Advantage to our most Excellent Mother, the Church, as her Adversaries will envy.
Secondly; This Bill doth in some measure reduce Episcopacy to the Practice of the most Primitive Church, which was against Translations, as you may see by the following Epistle of Constantine the Great to Eusebius, as it is translated out of the Greek into Latin in the Valentian Edition, lib. 3. cap. 63.
Constantini ad Eusebium Literae, e quibus eum laudat, quod Antiocham recusaverit.
EPistolam tuam saepius legi, & Ecclesiasticae Disciplinae regulam accuratissime observatam a te cognovi. Enimvero in ea sentential perstare, quae adeo accepta, & Apostolicae Traditioni congrua esse videatur, summae pietatis est. Tu quidem beatum te in hoc ipso existimare debes, qui totius propemodum orbis testimonio, dignus universae Ecclesiae Episcopatu judicatus sis. Nam cum omnes te qpud se Episcopum esse ambient, rectissime fecit prudential tua, quae & mandata Dei, & Apostolicam atq; Ecclesiasticam regulam custodire statuit; Episcopatum Antiochensis Ecclesiae repudians, & in eo potius permanere desiderans, quem Dei mandato ab initio suscepisset.
 Constantine's Letter to Eusebius, commending him for rejecting the See of Antioch.
"YOur Letter I have read over and over, and find you have kept your self close to the Rule of Ecclesiastical Disicpline. To persevere in that Opinion, which is acceptable to God, and agreeable to the Apostolical Tradition, must be confessed to be no small Instance of an extraordinary Piety. You ought indeed to think your self happy, that you are in the Judgment almost of the whole World deem'd worthy to fill the See of the Universal Church: For it cannot certainly but be a great addition to your Felicity, when you find your self thus courted by all to be their Bishop. But I cannot sufficiently commend your Wisdom, which is resolved to a strict observance of the Divine Will, and the Apostolical Canon, by your declining the Bishoprick of Antioch, and chusing rather to die in that See, which by the Divine Providence you were first placed in."
It appears also yet further from the following Passage of Franciscus Duarenus, a most Learned French Lawyer, in his admirable Book De sacris Ecclesiae Ministeriis, lib. 5. cap. 3.
 The reason why the Translation of Bishops came to be forbidden, explained in a sense different from what it hath hitherto been done by the Interpreters of the Pontifical Law.
We were saying in the former Chapter, that the Bishop of one Diocess might not remove to another. But because the same was there only hinted at by the by, and not taken so much notice of aas a matter of so great moment deserves, it is fitting it should be somewhat further discoursed upon in this. Now there is no manner of doubt but that this changing of Sees was indericted by the Canons, as a thing of very dangerous Consequence to the Church. This is evident from the 15th C. of the Council of Nice, from the Ist of C. of the Council of Sard. from the 21st C. of Chalced. from the 3d of Carthage c. 38. We find likewise mention of this Prohibition made by Theodoret (lib. 5. Eccles. Hist. c. II.) in that Confession of Faith which Pope Damasus sent to Paulinus, Bishop of Thessalonica. and the same Theodoret (Lib. I. c. 19. ) severely reprehends one Eusebius for his leaving Nicomedia, of which he was Bishop, in exchange for the See of Constantinople, contrary to the [19/20] Canons; for which Interdiction the Pontifical Canonists give this Reason, Because, they say, a Marriage is supposed to be made between the Bishop and the Church, which by no human power can be dissolved, according to that Sentence, Whom God hath joined together, let no Man put asunder. Wherefore they further advance, that he who resigns his Bishoprick may be elected to, and confirmed in another See, because he ceases to be under those Obligations to which he was bound by his former Marriage. But in truth the Antients had a much better reason to ground this Interdiction upon, as is in express terms set down in the Council of Sardis; the words whereof run thus, Canon I. "Osius, a Bishop, in a Speech, complains of a wicked Practice, and dangerous Abuse crept into the Church, the Extirpation of which he proposes, by making it unlawful for any Bishop to leave his Diocess for another. The reason why they do so being manifest, because never any Bishop was yet found to have quitted a larger Bishoprick for a less Diocess: From whence it plainly appears, that they were more inflam'd with an insatiable Avarice and Ambition of enlarging their Revenues and Dominion, than with a Zeal for the good of the Church. Wherefore to inflict a severe Punishment upon this pernicious Crime, and to prevent it for the future, he put it to the Question, whether such Persons ought not to be deprived of Lay Communion, to which they unanimously said Content. And lest any one afterwards should be so hardy, as in excuse for himself, to pretend that he was solicited by Letters from the People to take upon him such [20/21] Office and Dignity (it being too notorious, that there are some, who for want of Honesty and Religion, may be wrought upon by Bribery and Corruption, to stickle so fiercely in the Interest of such a Person, that it shall look as if it were more the desire of the People, than of himself, to have him for their Bishop) he condemned such Frauds and Artifices, and for preventing them, further moved, that such Offenders as were found to practise the same, might be deprived of Lay Communion. To which they gave their unanimous Consent." The latter part only of the Canon is found extant in c. 2. tit. de Elect. Lib. I. Decret. and that too not rightly explain'd by the Pontifical Canonists, for want of taking it from the Original. Pope Leo likewise, in one of his Epistles confirms, and makes good the forecited Reason in these words: "If any Bishop, says he, from a Contempt of the meanness of his Diocess, shall stand Candidate for one of greater Note, he shall be Excluded from the see he would usurp, and his own shall become Vacant, as being neither worthy to preside over those whom thro Avarice he courted, nor over those whom out of Pride he disdained." Theodoret is also clear in this case, Lib. 5. Eccles. Hist. c. 8. where he tells us, "That the Authors of those Canons prohibited these Translations, that they might cut up Ambition by the Roots." SO that I cannot but admire how Socrates, in his Ecclesiastical History, should come to deny, that the Translation of Bishops was prohibited by the Canons, and upon that score allows Proclus, Bishop of Cyzicum, a Right to be constituted Bishop of Constantinople, since the [21/22] Canons before cited were published before his time, and are extant at this day. It is true indeed, such a change of Sees may prove of so good Use and Benefit sometimes to the Church, as that it may be very reasonably indulged. For the Canons which prohibit a Change, do not intend such as the Benefit or Exigency of the Church may require, but such as proceeds from the Avarice and Ambition of Bishops, of which Socrates, in his before quoted Ecclesiastical History, furnishes us with many Examples. Pope Antherius also gives us an Account of some more; and it is commonly received and allowed, that he there writes of Peter's Translation from Antioch to Rome, tho there are many who question the truth of it. But that the Ecclesiastical Sanctions might not be eluded and infringed, under the pretence of Utility and Necessity, even at this very day the Right of Translations is lodged in the breast of the Pope only. He who, by any other means whatsoever, attains to a Bishoprick, is punishable by their Canon, with the Loss of both his Dignitys. Thus far Duarenus.
You see this last quoted great Man makes Allowances for Necessity, and the great Utility of the Church, of which however, I am confident you will acknowledge, that the Church, and not the State, is the competent Judg. Nor want there, as I have been informed, some amongst our present Bishops, who have concurr'd in this Opinion against Translations, as will appear by this following Instance. In a late Conversation betwixt two Reverend Prelates; one of them bemoaned the Scandal brought upon the Church, by the Prosecution of the Bishop of St. A--ph for Symony: The other [22/23] answered, My Lord, you might have prevented it by your Acceptance of that Bishoprick. The first replied, Your Lordship knew long since my Opinion to be, that a Bishop ought to continue in the Bishoprick to which he is at first promoted. Upon this the other (whether by a Spirit of Prophecy, I knew not) said, that time would convince him. Whether Time, his own Utility, or the Utility of the Church has convinced him, I leave you, Sir, to imagine. But if he accepts the See of Hereford now Vacant, as it is reported he will, I offer this charitable Excuse for his Lordship, that he only meant that he ought not to be Translated from one Welch Bishoprick to another Welch Bishoprick, but that it was lawful to leave a Welch for an English Bishoprick. The other Prelate has made so many Changes, that he seems, notwithstanding his great Age, willing for any Translation, except that of Enoch.
I don't pretend to offer here a tenth part of what can be said upon this Subject, and perhaps may be when a further occasion is given for it. I intend only by this to let you know that some Clergy-men have not only a favourable Opinion of this Bill, but believe it one of the best Designs for supporting the Constitution, and preserving the Honour of the Church, that has been offer'd since its Adversaries have attempted to undermine her.
I shall add only a word or two in relation to that Clause of the Bill which affects Dissenters.
I will freely admit that the making that most solemn part of our Religion, the holy Eucharist, a State-Oath, and an Introduction to Civil Preferments, is what I will not take upon me to defend. But then [23/24] I am sure the greatest Advocates for Tenderness, and tender Consciences, must allow, that it is a most scandalous thing, and the most impudent Hypocrisy imaginable, for Men who scruple with us in our Devotions and Sacraments, nevertheless to attend and kneel, merely that they may raise themselves to Posts of Profit and Dominion. If the Godliness of these Men is not Gain, yet it's plain they can conform to Religious Rites, and dissemble any Religious Worship, if they may thereby promote their own Secular Ends, or the Projects of their Party.
I am unwilling to animadvert upon the Dissenters in this particular so severely, as their own Consciences must (unless they sear and harden 'em.) If they are offended with this gentle Observation upon their unchristian Practice, let them justify it when they can.
I must now, Sir, crave the favour of you, if you are acquainted with Sir J.P. that you will intercede with him to give me his Pardon for attempting to vindicate his Proceedings, which only wanted to have been rightly understood, to have procur'd him the Applause and Prayers of all good Christians, instead of the Reproaches of these Pamphleteers. I am,