THE preceding Short View of the Argument betwixt the Church and the Dissenters, having brought the authors of Free and Candid Disquisitions on the Liturgy of the Church of England, under our consideration; I cannot help mentioning on this occasion, that I have a manuscript in my possession of seventy-two sheets, containing Remarks on that work, written immediately after its publication, by one of the best scholars and best divines of this century.
The public never did, and probably never will, receive any information from these papers; but to me they have been very entertaining and instructive. In, one of the author's notes upon a large quotation from the Epistles of St. Cyprian, I find the following account of the rise and progress of the schism, which hath troubled the state of the Church, more or less, ever since the Reformation; and as this little work may fall into the hands of some readers, who never heard, whether our Dissenters originally divided from us, or we from them; it may be useful to shew how the case stands. The fact is this; they went out from us, after the full establishment of this Church.
'For, in the year 1548, 2 Ed. VI. the Archbishop of Canterbury, and twelve of the other principal Bishops and Divines, joined in a committee, drew up the form of celebrating the Lord's Supper; and, after that, of the rest of the Common Prayer; chiefly from the best primitive formularies of public prayer they could find; which was soon after confirmed by authority of Parliament, with this testimony subjoined, viz. that none could doubt, but that the authors were inspired, and assisted therein, by the Holy Ghost. At the same time, (as Nichols, in his Defensio Ecclesiae Anglicanae, observes) it was the peculiar happiness of our Reformation, that it had been established by the concurrent authority of the Church and State, so we enjoyed the most perfect agreement and unanimity of all orders of men among us; the very name of those swarms of sectarists (the filthy pollutions whereof have, since, infected so far, and wide) being then not so much as heard of in our land. Neither did any one, either at home or abroad, (the envy, ill-nature, and heterodoxy of Calvin only excepted) charge us, in the least, with any remains of Popish leaven, a mixt with our services and orders, or any thing that looked that way: but all men honoured our Church, as the most holy mother of the people of God committed to her, as well as the most strenuous opposer of Antichrist, and the chief bulwark of the Reformation. And so matters continued; not a dog moving his tongue, or sowing the least seed of schism, or dissention, to corrupt her. Till under the persecution in Queen Mary's time, when, many flying, (as it was to be expected) into the Protestant States abroad, there settled themselves into little Chapelries or Churches, by permission of the magistrates, according to the order of the Common Prayer, and service of the Church of England. Only, at Frankfort, one Fox, a man of a turbulent innovating spirit, with others associated to him, were drawn into fondness for Calvin's plan (schismatical as it was, from all Christian Churches since the Apostles) and made themselves a new farrago of public prayers, as opposite to the English, and consequently to those of all the primitive Churches, as they could devise: which, upon Queen Mary's death, they brought home with them; and, in preaching and writing, endeavoured to force, or palm upon the people; but yet, without any direct and open schism: till one Cartwright, in a theological disputation held at Cambridge before the Queen [Elizabeth] being rebuked by her for his unreasonable and turbulent manner of conducting himself in it, thereupon went off, full fraught with spleen and spite, to Calvin: from whence returning, with new ulcers added to his old sores, and causing fresh disturbances, he was expelled his college, and deprived of the Margaret Professorship, by Dr. Whitgift, who was head of the same college [Trinity] and Vice Chancellor of the University. Whereupon, with others of his own Calvinistical cast, he began to set up his novo-puritanical schism, with classes, conventicles, &c. in avowed contempt and rebellion against the Church. The smoking brands of which fire of schism being blown up by the tainted breath of his followers, broke out, in half an age, into a flame that once set three kingdoms into a blaze, brought one of the best of Kings to the block, extirpated episcopacy and the peerage, so as without the visible interposition of Providence, there appeared no more hope's for their restoration for ever. Neither are the coals of the old, brands yet quenched, but they burn still under the embers of sedition, wherewith they are raked up, and threaten, yet, new and worse fires, perhaps to the civil, but certainly to the religious state of things among us; which God avert!
This good man did not live to see the dismembering of the British empire, by the separation of the American colonies, begun and carried on by the same party both here and there, to the loss of so many thousand lives, and the oppressing of the people with new and endless burthens of taxes. So notorious was the case, that even the gentlemen of the army, who had an opportunity of making proper observations, and were properly disposed to make them, brought home this report with them to the mother country, that if the Church of England had but obtained that timely support in the colonies, for which it had so often petitioned, the American rebellion had never happened: and if this government shall be as remiss toward itself, in the mother country, as it has been toward the colonies, the same evils will soon break out at home.