Defence of Church Principles:
Three Letters to the Bishop of Bangor, 1717-1719.
CHAPTER II. OF CHURCH AUTHORITY.
| § II |
§ I. Argument from the nature of authority.
"If the decisions of any man can affect the state of Christs subjects with
regard to the favour of God, then the salvation of some Christians depends upon the
sentence passed by others."
"If the decisions of any man can affect the state of Christs subjects with regard to the favour of God, then the salvation of some Christians depends upon the sentence passed by others."
Ans. This argument tells equally against the authority of parents, masters, and princes. But in none of these cases does authority mean absolute authority.
I come now to consider what your Lordship has delivered upon the Article of Church authority, as it is invested in the governors of the Church. And here I have little else to do, but to clear it from those false characters, under which you have been pleased to describe it.
Thus you begin: "If there be an authority in any to judge, censure, or punish the servants of another master, in matters purely relating to conscience and eternal salvation; then Christ has left behind judges over the consciences and religion of His people; then the  consciences and religion of His people are subject to them whom He has left judges over them; and then there is a right in some Christians to determine the religion and consciences of others. And what is more, if the decisions of any men can be made to concern or affect the state of Christs subjects with regard to the favour of God, then the salvation of some Christians depends upon the sentence passed by, others."1
Here is the sum of what you have advanced from reason and the nature of the thing against the authority of Church governors; which you would hive pass for a strict proof, that if they have any authority in matters purely relating to conscience derived to them from Christ, that then their authority can damn or save at pleasure.
But, my Lord, in this same strict of reasoning, and by only using your own words, I will as plainly prove that a father hath not authority even to send his children of an errand.
For, "If the Christian religion authorises a father to judge the servants of another master in matters purely relating to motion, then Christ has left behind Him judges over the motion of His people, then the motion of His people is subjected to them whom he has left judges over it; and then there is a right in some Christians to determine the motion of others. And what is more, if the determinations of any men can concern or affect the state of Christs subjects with regard to motion, then the lives of some Christians depend upon the determination passed by others; because they may determine them to move from the top of a precipice to the bottom."
Here, my Lord, I freely leave it to the judgement of common-sense, whether I have not in your own words  proved it as absurd and unreasonable, that a father should have any power over his son so as to send him of an errand, as to allow the Church to have authority in matters of conscience and salvation; and the consequence, according to your argument, is equally dreadful in both cases: for it is as plain that if fathers have authority in matters of motion, then they may move their sons to the bottom of the precipice; as that if the Church hath authority in matters of salvation, then it may save or damn at pleasure; and it is as well proved, that fathers have no authority, in matters of motion, because they have no authority to command their children to destroy themselves, as that the Church hath no authority in matters of conscience and salvation, because they have not an authority to damn people for ever: for there is the same room for degrees in the authority of the Church, which there is for degrees in the authority of parents and it is as justly concluded that parents have no authority in matters of any particular nature, because they have not unlimited authority in things of that particular nature, as that the Church hath no authority in matters of conscience and salvation, because it has not an absolute unlimited authority in these matters.
Yet this is the whole of your argument against Church authority, that it cannot relate to matters of conscience and salvation, because an authority in these matters is an absolute authority over the souls of others; which is just as true, as if anyone should declare that a father hath no authority in matters purely relating to the body of his son, because an authority in these matters is an absolute authority to dispose of his body as he pleases.
Suppose it should be said that a father hath authority over his son in civil affairs; will it be an argument that  he has no such authority, because he has not all, or an unlimited authority in civil affairs? Will it be an argument that he has no authority in such matters, because his son is not wholly and entirely subjected to him in such matters? Has a father no right to choose an employment for his son, or govern him in several things of a civil nature, because he cannot oblige him to resign his title to his estate, or take from him the benefit of the laws of the land?
If he has an authority in these matters, though not all, why cannot the governors of the Church have an authority in matters of conscience, though they have not all, or an unlimited authority, in matters of conscience? How does it follow that they have no such authority, because Christians are not wholly and absolutely subjected to them in such matters? Why can there not be bounds to an authority, in matters of conscience, as well as bounds to an authority in civil affairs? And if a father may have authority over his son in civil affairs, though that authority is limited by the of the land and the superior authority of the civil magistrate; why may not the Church have an authority in matters of conscience and salvation, though that authority is limited by the Scriptures and the supreme authority of God?
He therefore who concludes the Church hath no authority in matters of salvation, because it cannot absolutely save or damn people, reasons as strictly as he who concludes a person has no authority in civil affairs, because he cannot grant or take away civil privileges of the highest nature.
What therefore your lordship has thus logically advanced against the authority of the Church, concludes with the same force against all authority in the world. For if the Church hath no authority in matters of  conscience, for this demonstrative reason, because it hath not an unlimited authority in matters of conscience; then it is also demonstrated that no persons have any authority in any particular matters, because they have not an absolute unbounded authority in those particular matters.
As thus; a prince has no authority to oblige his subjects to make war against such a people, because he hath not an unlimited authority to oblige his subjects to fight where, and when, and with whom he pleases.
A father hath no authority over the persons or affairs of his children, because he cannot dispose of the persons and affairs of his children in what manner he will.
Masters have no authority to command the assistance of their servants, because they cannot oblige them to assist in a rebellion or robbery.
Thus are all these particular authorities as plainly confuted by your argument, as the authority, of the Church is confused by, it.
But now, my Lord, have neither masters, nor fathers, nor princes, any authority, in these particular matters, because they have no authority to command at any rate, or as they please in these matters? If they have, why may not the governors of the Church have an authority in matters of conscience, though they cannot oblige conscience at any rate, or as they please? Why may not they have an authority in matters of salvation, though they have not power absolutely to damn or save?
Your Lordship would therefore have done as much justice to truth, and as much service to the world, if, instead of calling Christians from the authority of the Church, you had publicly declared that neither masters, nor fathers, nor princes, have, properly speaking, any real authority over their respective servants, sons, and  subjects; and that because they are none of them to be obeyed but in such and such circumstances, and upon certain supposed conditions. For you hive plainly declared there is no authority in the Church, that it has no power of obliging, because we are only to obey upon terms and certain supposed conditions. If therefore this conditional obedience proves that there is, properly speaking, no authority in the Church, then that conditional obedience of servants, sons, and subjects, proves that neither their masters, fathers, or princes, have any authority properly speaking.
| § I | § III |
§ II. Argument from the nature of obedience.
If some men have the power to determine the religion of others, all religions become equal as regards Gods favour, for the subject members are not allowed to judge whether they are right or wrong.
Ans. Here, too, the obedience owed is not unlimited or unconditional.
§ II. You say; "if there be a power in some over others in matters of religion, so as to determine these others; then all communions are upon an equal foot, without any regard to any intrinsic goodness, or whether they be right or wrong; then no religion is in itself preferable to another, but all are alike with respect to the favour of God."2
Now, my Lord, all this might, with as much truth, be said of any other authority, as of Church authority.
As thus; "If there be a power in the prince, or in some over others in matters of war and fighting, so as to determine those others; then all wars and fightings are upon an equal foot, without any regard to any intrinsic goodness, or whether they be right or wrong; then no wars or fightings are in themselves preferable to others, but all are alike with respect to the favour of God."
And now, my Lord, what must we say here? Has the prince no right or power to command his subjects to wage war with such a people? Or if he has this power over them, does this make all wars alike? Does this authority leave nothing to the justice or equity of wars, but make all wars exactly the same with regard to the favour of God?
Does this authority. of the prince make all engagements equally lawful to the subject that engages by his authority? Is he neither more or less in the favour of God, for whatever cause he fights in, because he has the authority of his prince? Is it as pleasing to God that under such authority he should make war upon the innocent, plunder and ravage the fatherless and widows, as engage in the cause of equity and honour?
Now, my Lord, if all wars are not alike to the persons who are concerned in them, as to the favour of God; if there can be any cases supposed, where it is not only lawful, but honourable and glorious for soldiers to disobey the orders of their prince; then it is past doubt, that soldiers may and ought to have some regard to the nature and justice of the orders they have from their prince.
But we have your Lordships assurance, that if they may have any regard to the nature and justice of their orders, then "there is an end of all authority, and an end of all power of one man over another in such matters."
So that you have as plainly confuted all authority of the prince over his soldiers in matters purely military, as you have confuted all authority of the Church in matters purely of conscience. For it is plain to every understanding, that if there is an end of all authority in religion, because persons may have some regard to the intrinsic goodness of things,3 that therefore there is an end  of all real authority over soldiers, if soldiers may have any regard to the nature and justice of their military orders.
Your argument against Church authority consists of two parts; the first part is taken from the Nature of Authority, and proceeds thus: If there be an authority in matters of conscience, it must be an absolute authority over conscience, so as to be obeyed in all its commands of what kind soever; which is as false as if it were said, that if a father hath authority over the person of his son, then he hath an absolute authority to do what he will with his person; or if he hath authority over his son in civil affairs, then he hath an absolute unlimited authority in the civil affairs of his son.
The other part of your argument is taken from the Nature of Obedience, and proceeds in this manner: If persons may have some regard to the intrinsic goodness of things in religion, then there is an end of all authority in matters of religion; which is as false as to say that if a soldier may have some regard to the nature and justice of the military orders of his prince, then there is an end of all authority of the prince over his soldiers in military affairs; or if a servant may have some regard to the lawfulness of the commands of his master, then there is an end of all authority of masters over their servants as to such matters.
So that if there be any such thing as authority either in masters, or fathers, or princes, then both parts of your argument are confused; for none of these have any other than a limited authority, nor do their respective servants, sons, or subjects, owe them any other active obedience but such as is conditional.
Now if it can be any way proved that obedience to our masters, parents, and princes is a very great duty, and disobedience a very great sin; though they cannot oblige us to act against the laws of God or the laws of  our country; then it will follow that obedience to our spiritual governors may be a very great duty, and disobedience a very great sin; though they cannot oblige us to submit to their sinful or unlawful commands.
And if common reason the laws of God and our country be sufficient to direct us, where to stop in our active obedience to our masters, fathers, or princes, though they have authority from God to demand our obedience; the same guides will with the same certainty teach us to stop in our obedience to the authority of the Church, though that authority be set over us by God Himself.
| § II | § IV |
§ III. The Bishop denies only an authority in matters purely relating to conscience and eternal salvation, for the eternal salvation of some Christians cannot depend on the sentence of others.
Ans. All lawful authority affects our eternal salvation so far as disobedience to it is sin.
§ III. Though this might be thought sufficient to show the weakness of your arguments against the authority of the Church, yet I shall beg leave to examine them a little farther in another manner.
You say the authority which you deny, is only an authority in matters purely relating to conscience and eternal salvation, an authority whose laws and decisions affect the state of Christs subjects with regard to the favour of God; and the reason of your denying it is this, that if this authority, or laws, or decisions of men can concern or affect the state of Christs subjects with regard to the favour of God, then the eternal salvation of some Christians depends upon the sentence passed by others.4
In order to lay open the weakness of this reasoning, I shall state the meaning of the propositions of which it consists.
And, firstly, I suppose an authority may be properly said to affect the state of people with regard to the favour of God, their obedience to such an authority procures His favour, and their contempt of it raises His displeasure; and I believe that this is not only a proper sense, but the only proper sense which the words are capable of.
It is certainly, true that the authority of our blessed Saviour was an authority which affected the state of the Jews with regard to the favour of God; but yet it no otherwise affected their state, than as their obedience to His authority was pleasing to God, and their disobedience to it, the cause of His farther displeasure. This is the only way, in which the authority of Christ affected the state of people with regard to the favour of God; and therefore is the only manner in which any other authority can be supposed to affect persons with regard to the favour of God.
Any things or matter may be properly said to relate to conscience and eternal salvation, when the observance of them is a means of obtaining salvation, and the neglect of them, an hindrance to our salvation. Thus, baptism and the Supper of the Lord, are matters relating to conscience and eternal salvation, but then they are only so, for this reason, because the partaking of these sacraments is a means of obtaining salvation, and the refusal of them is an hindrance of our salvation. He therefore who hath authority in such things, as by our observing of them we promote our salvation, of them and by neglecting of them we hinder our salvation, he has in the utmost propriety of the words, an authority in matters of conscience and salvation.
Hence it appears that it is not peculiar or appropriate to the authority of the Church alone, to relate to matters of conscience and eternal salvation, but equally belongs  to every other authority which can be called the ordinance of God.
Now all lawful authority, whether of masters, fathers, or princes, is the ordinance of God, and the respective duties of their servants, children, and subjects, are as truly matters of conscience and eternal salvation, as their observance of any part of the Christian religion is a matter of conscience and eternal salvation: and it is not more their duty to receive the sacrament, or worship God in any particular manner, than to obey their respective governors; nor does it more concern or affect their state with regard to the favour of God, whether they neglect those duties which particularly regard His service, or those duties which they owe to their proper governors. So that conscience and eternal salvation is equally concerned in both cases.
For things may as well be matters of conscience and eternal salvation, though they are of a civil or secular nature, as the positive institutions of Christ are matters of conscience and salvation.
For Baptism has no more of religion in its own nature, nor has of itself any more concern with our salvation, than any action that is merely secular or civil. But as baptism by institution becomes our duty, and so is a matter of conscience and salvation; so when actions merely secular and indifferent are by a lawful authority made our duty, they are as truly matters of conscience and salvation as any parts of religion.
The difference betwixt a spiritual and temporal authority does not consist in this, that one relates to matters of conscience and salvation, and concerns and affects our state with regard to the favour of God, and the other does not; but the difference is this, that one presides over us in things relating to religion and the  service of God, the other presides over us in things relating to civil life; and as our salvation depends as certainly upon our behaviour in things relating to civil life, as in things relating to the service of God, it follows that they are both equally matters of conscience and salvation: and as the temporal authority is the ordinance of God, to which we are to submit, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake, it undeniably follows, that this temporal authority as truly concerns and affects our state with regard to the favour of God, as any authority in matters purely relating to religion. For such an authority could in no other sense affect our state with regard to the favour of God, than by our obedience or disobedience to it; but our state with regard to the favour of God is as truly affected by our obedience or disobedience to our lawful sovereign, as by our observing or neglecting any duty in the world; and consequently the temporal authority as truly affects our state with regard to the favour of God, as any authority in matters of religion.
Seeing therefore by an authority in matters of conscience and salvation, by an authority which can affect our state with regard to the favour of God, nothing more is implied, than an authority to which our obedience is a duty and our disobedience a sin, which is the case of every lawful authority; it plainly appears, that all those frightful consequences, those dangers to the souls of men which you have charged upon such Church authority, are as truly chargeable upon masters, fathers, and princes, and makes their several authorities as dangerous powers over the salvation of others, as the authority of the Church.
Thus, when your demonstration proceeds in this manner If there be an authority in some over others in matters purely relating to conscience and salvation,  then the salvation of some people will depend upon others. Which, if we set in a true light, ought to proceed thus; If there be an authority in matters of religion, to which our obedience is a duty, and our disobedience a sin, then the salvation of some people depends upon others.
But, my Lord, what a sagacity must he have who can see this dismal consequence? Who can see that masters, fathers, and princes have a power over the souls of others either to damn or save them, because obedience to their authority is a duty and disobedience a sin?
Your Lordship cannot here say, that an authority in matters purely relating to conscience and eternal salvation, is not expressed high enough, by being described as an authority, to which our obedience is a duty, and our disobedience a sin. For, my Lord, no authority, however concerned in things of the greatest importance in religion and salvation, can possibly be an authority of a higher nature, than that authority, to which our obedience is a duty, and our disobedience a sin. It was in this sense alone that the authority of our Saviour Himself affected the state of the Jews with regard to favour of God; His authority was of a high and concerning nature to them only for this reason, because their obedience to it was their duty, and their disobedience their sin.
If we now consider this authority in the Church in this true manner in which it ought to be considered, your Lordships argument against it either proves a deal too much, or nothing at all.
Thus, if the consequence be just, that if it be sin to disobey the Church, then the Church has a power of damning us; then it is as good a consequence in regard to other authority; as thus, It is  a sin to disobey our parents, therefore our parents have a power of damning us; it is a sin to disobey our prince, therefore our prince has a power of damning us. These consequences are evidently as just and true as that other drawn from Church authority; so that all those dismal charges which you have fixed upon Church authority, are as false accounts of it as if you had asserted that every father, or master, or prince, who demands obedience from his child, servant, or subject in point of duty, or by declaring that their disobedience is a sin, does thereby prove himself to be a Pope and to have the souls of others at his disposal. For it is out of all doubt, that if the governors of the Church by demanding obedience to them in point of duty, or by declaring disobedience to be sin, do thereby assert the claims of Popery, and assume a power to dispose of the souls of the people; that any other authority which requires this obedience as a duty of conscience, and forbids disobedience as sin, does thereby claim the authority of the Pope and pretend to a power over the souls of others.
So that if your Lordship has destroyed Church authority which pretends obedience to be a duty, as a Popish claim; you have also as certainly destroyed every other authority which demands obedience as a duty, as being equally a Popish presumption.
Whenever therefore you shall please to can away servants, children, or subjects from their respective. masters, fathers, and princes, you have as many demonstrations ready to prove them all Papists if they will stick by their obedience to them as a duty of conscience, and to prove their governors all Popes if they declare their disobedience to be sin, as you have to prove Church authority to be a Popish claim. And I must beg leave to affirm, that they are as much misled  who follow your Lordship against the authority of the Church, as if they, should follow you in the same argument against owning any authority of their parents and princes.
The intent of all this is only to show, that though there is an authority in the Church to which our obedience is a duty and our disobedience a sin (which is as high an authority as can be claimed) yet this authority implies no more a frightful power of disposing of our souls, than any other lawful authority which it is a sin to disobey, implies such a power.
For where is the danger to our souls? How is our salvation made subject to the pleasure of our Church governors, because God has appointed them to direct us in the manner of worshipping Him and to preside over things relating to religion, and made it our duty to obey them? How does this imply a dangerous power over our salvation? If we sin against this authority we endanger our salvation, as we do by neglecting any other ordinance of God; and our damnation is no more effected by any power in the persons whom we may be damned for disobeying, than a person that is damned for killing his father is damned by any power of his fathers.
Neither is it in the power of the governors in the Church, though they have authority in matters of salvation, to make our salvation any more difficult to us than if they had no such authority.
For all their injunctions must be either lawful or unlawful; if they are lawful, then by our obedience to gin ordinance of God, we recommend ourselves to the favour of God; and sure there is no harm in this authority thus far. And if their commands are unlawful, then by our not obeying them we still please God, in choosing rather to obey Him than men, where both  cannot be obeyed. And where, my Lord, is the terror of this authority so much complained of? How does this make our salvation lie at the mercy of our Church governors? We are still as truly saved or damned by our own behaviour, as though they had no such authority over us; and though we may make their authority the occasion of our damnation by our rebelling against it, yet it is only in such a manner as anyone may make baptism or the Supper of the Lord, the occasion of his damnation, by a profane refusal of them.
Upon the whole of this matter, it appears, firstly, that when the authority of the Church is said to be an authority in matters of conscience and salvation, or an authority which concerns and affects our state with regard to the favour of God; that this is the only true meaning of those propositionsviz., an authority in matters of religion, to which obedience is a duty, and disobedience a sin.
That this authority to which we are thus obliged, is as consistent with our working out our own salvation, and no more puts our souls into the disposal of such authority, than our salvation is at the mercy of our parents and princes, because to obey their authority is a great duty, and to disobey it a great sin.
| § III | § V |
§ IV. The Reformation.1. "If there be a Church authority, I beg to know how can the Reformation itself be justified?"
Ans. The Bishop himself has defended resistance to the abuse of a real authority.
§ IV.1. Your Lordship has yet another argument against Church authority taken from the nature of our Reformation, which it seems cannot be defended, if there was then this Church authority we have been pleading for.
Thus you say; "If there be a Church authority, I beg to know, how can the Reformation itself be justified?"5
My Lord, I cannot but wonder this should be a difficulty with your Lordship, who has written so famous a treatise to inform people how they not only may, but ought in point of duty get rid of a real authority; I mean in your defence of resistance.6
I suppose it is taken for granted, that James II. was king of England, that he had a regal authority over all the people of England, and that they all of what station soever were his subjects; yet granting this regal authority in him, and this state of subjection in all the people of England, your Lordship knows how to set aside that government and set up another government and even to make it our duty as men and Protestants to set up another government.
Now since you know how to get rid of this authority in so Christian and Protestant a manner, one cannot but wonder how you should be at a loss to justify the Reformation, without supposing that the Church at that time had no authority.
For did you ever justify the Revolution, because James II. had no kingly authority, or that the people of England were not his subjects? Nay, did you not defend it upon the quite contrary supposition, that though James II. had a regal authority, though all the people of England were his subjects, and had sworn to be his faithful subjects, yet in spite of all these considerations, did you not assert that they not only might, but ought to set him aside and choose another governor in his stead?
And yet after all this, you know not how to defend  the Reformation, it is a perfectly lost cause, and not a word to be said for it, unless we suppose that there was no authority in the Church when we reformed from it. Surely if your Lordship loved to defend the Reformation, as well as you loved to defend the Revolution, you would not have so many reasons for one, and none for the other.
For, supposing an authority in the Church, will not tyranny, breach of fundamentals, and unlawful terms of communion, defend our departure from a real authority in the Church, as well as any grievances or oppressions will defend our leaving a real authority in the State?
What a pitiful advocate, a betrayer of the rights of the people would you reckon him, who should say, If there was any regal authority in James II., if the people of England were his subjects; I beg to know, how can the Revolution itself be justified?
Yet just such an advocate are you, just such a betrayer of the Reformation, you cannot defend it, it has no bottom to stand upon; and if there was any authority in the Church before the Reformation, you beg to know, how the Reformation itself can be justified?
My Lord, I do not urge this to show either that the Revolution and Reformation are equally justifiable, or that they both are to be justified upon the same reasons; but to show that your Lordship from your own principles needed not to have wanted as good reasons for the Reformation as you have produced for the Revolution, even supposing the Church of Rome had as real an authority over us as James II. had, and that we were as truly in a state of subjection to that Church before the Reformation, as we were in a state of subjection to that king before the Revolution.
| § IV | § VI |
§ V.2. At the time of the Reformation there was an order claiming spiritual authority. To justify the Reformation is to prove such claim to be false.
Ans. To justify the Revolution is not to prove that the king had lawful authority, but that he abused it.
§ V. 2.Again, you proceed thus; "For there was then" (at the time of the Reformation) "a Church, and an order of churchmen, vested with all such spiritual authority, as is of the essence of the Church. There was therefore a Church authority to oblige Christians and a power in some over others. What was it therefore to which we owe this very Church of England?"7
Now, my Lord, I hope you grant, that just at the time of the Revolution, there was then a king, vested with all such civil authority as is of the essence of a king. There was therefore a regal authority to oblige the people of England, and a power in one over others. What was it therefore to which we owe this very Revolution in England?
I suppose that you will say that we owe it, not to any want of authority in the late King James, but to his abuse of his authority: why therefore is it not as easy to account for the Reformation, not from the want, but the abuse of authority in the Church of Rome? Is it an argument that the people of England were no subjects, under no Government, nor had any king, because they would no longer submit to the oppressions and grievances of a late reign, but asserted their liberties and appealed to the conditions of the original contract?
If not, why is it an argument that the Church had no authority, because some years ago the people of England would no longer submit to the corruptions and unlawful injunctions of the Church of Rome, but appealed to  the Scriptures, the practice of the first and purest ages of Christianity?
If your Lordship was so entirely consistent with yourself as you tell us you are; if you never pursued an argument farther than the plain reason of it led you: how is it possible that you, who have so strenuously defended the resistance of people against a legal king,8 (for so you expressly can him) should declare that our separation from the Church of Rome cannot be justified, without supposing that the Church of Rome had never any authority over us?
For supposing that Church had been really our sovereign in affairs of religion, is it not strange that you, who have asserted that our "present settlement is owing entirely to the taking up arms, and adhering to such as were in arms against their sovereign,"9 should yet declare that our opposing the Church of Rome, cannot be justified but by supposing, that she never had any sovereignty over us?
Is it not yet stranger, that you, who have defended the Revolution by comparing it to the Reformation, should yet declare that the Reformation cannot be justified without supposing that the Church of England was under no authority of the Church of Rome?
For, my Lord, if the Church of England had not been under the authority of the Church of Rome, how could our opposing that Church be compared to the resisting of King James? How could our separation from that Church be a defence of our withdrawing our allegiance from King James, without supposing that the  Church before that separation had as real and legal authority as that king had before the Revolution?
Your words are these; "Why should that (ie., resistance) be absolutely and entirely condemned, as a damnable sin, any more than Church separation, by which we got rid of the tyranny of Rome?" And again, "all church reformation, is not church destruction; why therefore must all resistance be called rebellion?"10
Now is it not very strange, my Lord, that after this, you should assert that the Church had no authority before the Reformation; and that if it had any authority, then our separation from it cannot be justified? Is not this very strange after you had used it as an argument to justify the withdrawing of our allegiance from King James II.?
For let us suppose with you, that there was no church authority at the time of the Reformation, and then see how excellent an argument you have found out in defence of the Revolution, which, upon this supposition, must proceed in this manner:
The Church of England might separate from the Church of Rome, who had no authority over her; therefore the people of England might resist their legal king, who had a regal authority over them. Again, the clergy of England, who were no subjects of the Church of Rome, might separate from that Church; therefore the people of England, who were subjects to King James II., might withdraw their allegiance from him.
Thus absurd is your argument made, by supposing that the Church had not as real and rightful an authority before the Reformation, as James II. had before the Revolution.
Farther; let us suppose with your Lordship, that "if  there was a real authority in the Church at the time of the Reformation," then the Reformation "has no bottom, but is altogether unjustifiable;" let us suppose that this doctrine is true, and then see how consistently you have argued upon this supposition.
You say the Reformation cannot be justified; it has no bottom to stand upon, if the Church of Rome had a real authority; yet this opposition, which is so entirely wrong, because an opposition to authority, is brought by you as a parallel case to prove that the resistance against the authority of King James was entirely right.
This Reformation, which if it was brought against any church authority, is said to be for that very reason without any bottom, and to have no foundation, is used by your Lordship to point out the true bottom and firm foundation of the Revolution.
And here let all the world judge whether reason and religion alone can induce any one to maintain the truth, the justice, the honour, the Christianity of the Revolution, as founded upon resistance to a legal king; and yet condemn at the same time the Reformation, as having neither reason, nor truth, nor justice to support it, as founded upon a departure from a real authority in the Church of Rome. For reason and religion do as plainly give leave to depart from the highest authority in the Church, when the laws of God cannot be observed without departing from it, as in any other case; and there is no more necessity of supposing or proving that there was no rightful authority in the Church, to justify our departing from it, than it is necessary to prove such a person not to be my father, or to have no authority over me, in order to justify my disobeying his unlawful commands.
| § V | § VII |
§ VI.3. But if Church authority exists now, the Church of Rome must have had it, and it was unjustifiable to reject it.
Ans. To set aside a tyrannical authority is not to reject all authority.
§ VI. 3.Again, your Lordship is farther at a loss about the Reformation, which cannot possibly be justified, if afterwards, an authority, in matters of conscience and salvation be still claimed.
Thus you say; "Nor can I ever understand, upon this bottom (viz., the claiming such authority), what it was that could move or justify those, who broke off from the tyranny of the Church of Rome; unless it be sufficient to say, that it was only that power might change hands."11
Here your Lordship cannot conceive anything more unjustifiable than the Reformation, if church authority is still to be kept up; nor can you upon this claim assign any other pretence for reforming, but only that power might change hands.
Did your Lordship then never hear of the justice of removing one authority, and setting up another? Can you think of no case, where equity, honour, and duty called upon a people to resist one power, and yet make another to succeed?
Now if this practice can be equitable and honourable, and is asserted to be so by your Lordship, can it be conceived that reason alone should induce you to load the Reformation with so much guilt and injustice, to condemn it as so groundless an undertaking; because though it set aside the tyrannical authority of the Church of Rome, yet it asserted a true church authority, and made obedience to it necessary to obtain the favour of God.
Suppose some friend to the Revolution, after hearing  that the Prince of Orange was proclaimed king, and a regal authority set up, should then have said in your Lordships words, "I can never understand, upon this bottom, what it was that could move or justify those who broke off from the tyranny of the late King James; unless it was sufficient to say, that it was only that power might change hands."
I appeal to your Lordship, whether anything could be more extravagant and senseless than such a declaration as this from a friend to the Revolution.
And as I freely appeal to the common-sense of every one, whether your own declaration expressed in the same words with regard to the Reformation, sets you out to any better advantage in relation to that.
For it is full as good sense to say, where is the justice of the Revolution, or what foundation has it in the reason of things, if there is still a king to be acknowledged, and a regal authority to be submitted to; as to can out for the justice, and equity, and reason of the Reformation, if there is still a church authority which we are obliged to obey. And it is as certainly the shame and reproach and injustice of the Revolution, that a government and regal authority is still maintained, as it is the shame, and reproach, and injustice of the Reformation, that a church authority is still asserted.
And there was no more necessity, in the nature or reason of the thing, that the Reformation should disown all authority properly so called, in matters of religion, than that the Revolution should have rejected all authority properly so called in civil affairs. Neither does the Reformation any more contradict itself, or undermine its own foundation, and give the Papists an advantage over it, by claiming and asserting a  church authority, than the Revolution contradicted itself, or conspired its own ruin, by setting up a king, and maintaining a Government in the State. And it had been just as wise as prudent and politic management, if the Revolution had set up no Government, but left every man to himself in civil affairs, in order to have prevented the return of the late King James; as if the Reformation had maintained no church authority, but left every persons religion to himself, in order to keep out Popery. And it is just as much matter of joy and triumph to the Papists, to see this authority asserted in the Church of England, as it was matter of joy to the late King James to find that a regal authority was set up against him.
But to go on; your argument, when put in form, will proceed in this manner:
The Church of England departed from the authority of the Church of Rome, therefore we may lawfully depart from any church authority. And again;at the Reformation we lawfully separated from the communion of the Church of Rome, therefore we may as lawfully separate from any particular communion.
And now, my Lord, can any argument be more trifling, or draw more absurd consequences after it, than this? And yet, absurd as it is, it is one of your best, and which you seem to take great delight in; thus are we told in almost every page that if we will stand by the reason and justice of the Reformation, we must give up all authority in matters of religion; and not pretend to a necessity of being of any particular church, if we would justify our leaving the Romish Church.
But pray, my Lord, you have told us, that the people of England of all stations did lawfully and honourably,  &c., resist the late King James; but does it therefore follow that they may as lawfully and honourably resist King George? If not, how does it follow that because we might justly separate from the Church of Rome, therefore others may as justly separate from the Church of England?
Is it inconsistent with the principles of the Revolution to declare men rebels, because it was founded (as you affirm) upon resistance? If not, why must it be inconsistent with the principles of the Church of England, to declare any people schismatics, because she separated from the Church of Rome? Now if you will say that all who take arms at any time against any king, are justified by those who took arms against the late King James; then you would have some pretence to make our separation from the Church of Rome a justification of every other separation in the world. But since you cannot say this, but have pretended to demonstrate the contrary, that though sometimes resistance is not rebellion, yet sometimes resistance certainly is rebellion; you are particularly hard to the Reformation, to make it either unjustifiable in itself, or else to be a justification of every other pretended reformation.
| § VI | Note |
§ VII. 4. The Bishop implicitly admits that not all separation is schism, and that lawful separation does not justify all separation.
§ VII. 4.But however, as hard as you are upon the Reformation in this place, making it, considered as a separation, a defence of all other separations from the Church of England; yet you yourself, to show your equal regard to both sides of a contradiction, have asserted the contrary, and declared that as all resistance is not rebellion, so neither is all separation schism.
Now, I suppose, when you say that all resistance is  not rebellion, it is certainly implied that some resistance may be rebellion; and likewise by declaring in the same manner all separation not to be schism, it must as necessarily, be implied that some separation may be schism. Here therefore you plainly teach us, that some separation may be schism, and some separation may not be schism; yet your present argument is founded upon the contrary supposition, that either all separations are lawful, or none are lawful; for it is the constant complaint in every chapter of your book, that the Church of England should assert any necessity or obligation upon others of conforming to her, when she herself denied the necessity of her conforming to the Church of Rome. So that the lawfulness or justice of her separation from Rome is urged to show the equal lawfulness and justice of all separations from the Church of England; which argument is plainly founded upon this proposition, that all separations from any churches are either equally lawful, or equally unlawful. Which is directly contrary to this other proposition, that some separation may be schism, and some separation may not be schism. Which contradiction is just as palpable, as if you had said, all resistance is not the sin of rebellion; yet all resistance is either equally lawful, or equally unlawful.
But to go on, you say that all resistance is not rebellion, and for a proof of it, say, that all church separation is not schism; which plainly implies, that there is at least as much difference betwixt some separations from different churches, as there is betwixt some armed resistances against different kings. Now if, according to your Lordship, there is as much difference betwixt resistances, as there is betwixt an action that is a duty and an action that is a sin, and you have proved this difference, by comparing those resistances to different  sorts of separations, then it will necessarily follow that there may be, nay must be, as much difference betwixt one separation and another separation, as there is betwixt one action that is a duty, and another action that is a sin. This being the true state of the case, your Lordships argument in defence of the separatists taken from our separation from the Church of Rome, will stand thus.
We separated from the Church of Rome, because such separation was our duty, therefore the fanatics may separate from the Church of England, though such separation is a sin: which is as rational an argument, as if it should be said, such a one killed a man lawfully, therefore anyone else may kill a man unlawfully. For if some separation may be a duty, and some separation a sin, it is as false and ridiculous to infer, that if our separation is just, it justifies all other separations; as to conclude, that because we may do our duty, others may transgress their duty. For there being manifestly and from your own acknowledgement, this great difference between one separation and another separation, that one separation in such circumstances will no more justify a separation in other circumstances, than the lawfulness of killing a man in some cases will prove it lawful to kill a man in all other cases.
Now if your Lordship has any demonstrations ready, to show that resistance in some circumstances is a Christian duty, and resistance in some other circumstances is a damnable sin; and that it may be as great a sin to resist some princes, as it is a duty to resist others; if you can help us to any plain rule, any certain signs to know an honest Christian resister from a resister who is a rebel and in danger of damnation; I hope there may be found as plain rules to show us who separates lawfully, and who separates unlawfully from  any particular church. If you can give any reasons why the late King James might be resisted then, and yet show it a sin to resist King George now, it is something strange that you cannot find any reasons, why it was our duty to separate from the Church of Rome then, and yet show it a sin to separate from the Church of England now.
For I would suppose at least, that there is as much difference between separating from the Church of England and separating from the Church of Rome, as there is betwixt resistance against a good king and resistance against a tyrannical oppressor; and if there be this difference, then you must allow, that it is as false to argue from the lawfulness of separating from one Church, to the lawfulness of separating from the other, as it would be to argue, that because oppressive tyrants may be resisted, therefore just and good kings may be resisted. I have been the longer in examining this doctrine in this particular view in relation to resistance, that it may be seen with how much truth you say, you have "recommended such principles as serve to establish the interest of our common country and our common Christianity, of human society and true religion, upon one uniform, steady, and consistent foundation."12
For it is evident that these principles, if put in practice, directly tend to the utter ruin of our common country, and our common Christianity; for I have shown that all the arguments which you have advanced against church authority, if they have any force, conclude with the same force against all sorts of authority in the world.
I shall now proceed to a most remarkable evasive denial of everything you have said relating to church authority, from your own mouth.
| § VII | N § 2 |
NOTE: A Remarkable Evasion of your Lordships in relation to Church Authority.
§ 1. The Committee of Convocation charge the Bishop with denying to the Church all authority to judge in the affairs of conscience.
The Bishop answers that he only denies to the Church the power. to pass the final and irreversible sentence.
§ 2. Similar evasion by saying that by the Church he meant only the invisible Church.
§ 3. The Bishop claims to be refuting some churchmen, also Roman Catholics, and lastly Dean Sherlock. His argument must therefore be supposed lo be directed against some position held by them.
§ 1. The learned Committee charged your Lordship with denying all authority to the Church, and leaving it without any authority to judge, censure, or punish offenders in the affairs of conscience and eternal salvation.13 To support this charge, they quoted these avoids of your sermon; "Christ is sole lawgiver to his subjects, and Himself sole judge of their behaviour in the affairs of conscience and salvation; in these points He has left behind Him no visible human authority."
Now how is it that your Lordship has cleared yourself from this charge? Why truly by declaring that by a denial of all church authority, you only meant to deny to the governors of the Church a power of passing the irreversible sentence, or that Christ has left no visible authority here to judge people at the last day. When you talked so much of Church authority in matters of religion, and of an authority left behind, it was very reasonable to think that you were speaking of an authority which related to the Church in this world. But it seems, all you have denied in relation to church authority, is only this, that anyone but Christ shall pass, the irreversible sentence, or judge us at the last day.
For you say; "As Christ is to pass the irreversible sentence, thus He is judge alone. And what I affirm of Him, I deny of others in the same sense in which  I affirm it of Him: and in no other sense can I be supposed to deny it, because it answers no purpose."14
Therefore when you say no men have any authority in affairs of religion and conscience, you only say that no men have authority to pass the irreversible sentence at the last day. For you declare that thus it is that Christ alone is judge, and you only deny that of others which you affirm of Him, and consequently the only authority which you deny them, is that of judging the world at the last day.
Strange! my Lord, that after so many elaborate pages for ecclesiastical liberty, so many compliments received for your successful attacks upon Church authority; that after all, you should declare, that you have not so much as touched upon Church authority, but have only been labouring to demonstrate that the judgment of the last day is committed to Christ alone.
"Christ," you say, "is in no other sense judge of the behaviour of Christians in these points, than as their condition must and will be determined by, His sentence. And when I deny this of men, I do not, I cannot, mean to deny this of them in any other sense, but that in which I affirm it of Christ."15
So that when you in plain words seem to deny, all authority in the Church, as by saying, that "Christ alone is judge of the behaviour of Christians, in matters of religion," and that he has left behind Him "no visible human authority in these points;" and such like phrases, as seem to ordinary understandings to deny all rule and authority in the Church: you only mean, that no one but Christ is to pass the sentence at the last day. This is the key your Lordship has given us to your writings, which indeed gives them quite another face, and makes them such a course of amusements, as  exceeds all which have yet been seen in that kind; as will appear from the following particulars.
Thus when you say, that "in the affairs of conscience and salvation, Christ has left no visible human authority behind Him." The meaning is this, that Christ has left nobody behind Him in this world, to pass the irreversible sentence in the next worldi.e., has left no one to do that here, which cannot be done till hereafter. This is the sublimest sense which this passage is capable of, from your own construction.
Again, you say, the "Church of Christ is the number of persons who are sincerely and willingly subjects to Him as their law-giver and judge;"16 which, according to this new key, is to be thus understood; the "Church of Christ is the number of persons who will sincerely and willingly submit to the sentence of Christ at the last day." For you say, we are to submit to Him as our judge; and you expressly say, He is "in no other sense judge of the behaviour of Christians," than as He is to pass the irreversible sentence; therefore if we are to be willingly and sincerely subject to Him as judge, our obedience or subjection to Him as judge, can be no otherwise expressed, than by our submission to His sentence then pronounced.
So that this definition comes at last to signify, a number of persons, who sincerely and willingly submit, some to be saved, and some to be damned at the last day; for this will be the effect of Christs sentence as judge.
This is as sound divinity, as if I should define the Church of Christ, to be a "number of persons, who sincerely and willingly submit, some to live, and some to die."
Again, you say, "that your doctrines relating to the authority of the Church, is the very foundation on which the Church of England stands; and that they  are so necessary for its continuance, that without them it is impossible to defend its cause against the Roman Catholics."
Now your doctrine concerning church authority, you have over and over declared to be only this, "that Christ alone shall judge the world at the last day." For you expressly say, that you deny the Church an authority of judging in no other sense, than in the sense in which you affirm it of Christ.
Now, my Lord, how comes this doctrine to be the support of the Church of England? How can it possibly have any relation to the merits of the cause? Does it follow that the Pope hath no legal authority in England, that transubstantiation is false, that purgatory, is a groundless fiction, and prayers to saints are unlawful, because "Christ alone shall judge the world"? This is what you have affirmed of Christ, this is all which you have denied of men: and this doctrine it seems about Church authority, as you are pleased to call it, is the only support of the Church of England, and "the very foundation on which it stands."
A Roman Catholic tells me that transubstantiation is true; I answer him no, that cannot be, and that for this reason, because no order of men shall judge us at the last day, Christ alone should do it. Could anything be more extravagant, or more foreign to the purpose, than such an answer as this to a Roman Catholic? And yet, according to your account of the matter, this is the only answer which can be defended. For you have denied no authority to the Church, but that which peculiarly belongs to Christ as judge at the last day; and yet you say that your doctrine relating to church authority, is the very foundation and support of the Reformation.
Now if this doctrine be our only defence against the Church of Rome, and "that alone supports us against  that Church, then the Presbyterians, the Independents, Quakers, and all sorts of fanatics, who own this doctrine, that "Christ alone shall pass the last sentence," are by it as well defended against the Church of England, as she is against the Church of Rome; so that it makes us as much wrong in regard to the Dissenters, as it makes us right in regard to the Papists; and though it should give us victory over the Papists, yet it makes us fall a conquest to the fanatics. For it is certainly as proper for a Quaker to reply to the Church of England, that his reformation is justified against the authority of the Church of England, because Christ alone shall judge the world at the last day; as for the Church of England to make that answer to the Church of Rome.
Your Lordship says, for you to deny Church authority in any other sense, answers no purpose. Pray, my Lord, what purpose does this manner of denying answer? Here is a dispute about Church authority, and the powers of ecclesiastical Governors: your Lordship interposes, and declares that no men shall "pass the irreversible sentence at the last day." To what purpose, my Lord, is this declaration? Does it strike any light into the controversy, or any way point out the merits of the cause? Does this inform us whether there is any such thing is church authority, or where it is seated? If two families were trying their title to the same estate, and the judge should pretend to determine the matter, by saying that "God alone is sole proprietor of all things," it would be as much to the purpose, as to tell us in the controversy about Church authority, that "Christ alone shall judge the world." Does this any way prove that there is no human authority in the Church, or that Christians are no way concerned with it? What an excellent argument is this? Christ alone shall judge the world, therefore no men have any authority  in religion, therefore it can no way affect you with regard to the favour of God, whether you submit or not to such human authority?
Whether your Lordship is forced upon this method of explaining yourself, by any other motives than those of sincerity and conviction, is what I shall not presume to say; but I believe, if a person should be called to account for saying the king had no right to create peers, and should afterwards defend himself, by saying that he only meant he could not create in that sense, in which God alone could create; I am apt to think such a defence would be no great recommendation of his sincerity. But, my Lord, it would be as proper and as ingenious for a person so accused to make such a defence, or rather such an escape, as for your Lordship, after the most express repeated denials of all Church authority, to declare that you only meant to exclude it from passing the irreversible sentence at the last day. And the nature of Church authority is as much settled and determined by this declaration, as the kings power in his kingdom as to the creation of peers, is declared by saying that God alone can create.
For is it any argument that no persons have any particular authority to baptise others, to admit to the holy sacrament, and exclude unworthy, persons from it, because they are not to judge the world at the last day? Is it a proof that bishops have no authority to ordain, to confirm; no commission from God to take care of religious matters, and see that all things in the divine service be done decently and in order, because Christ alone is to pass judgment upon all at the last day? Does it follow that men are under no church authority, but may choose any government or no government as they please, because Christ alone shall call the world to judgment? There is as much logic in saying that Jesus  Christ suffered under Pontius Pilate, therefore bishops have no more authority than laymen; as to say they have no authority in religious affairs, because Christ is to judge the world.
Yet you say this was the only proper sense in which. you could be supposed to deny it. Now, my Lord, I should have thought it had been more to the purpose, to have denied church authority in some such sense, as it had been falsely claimed by somebody or other, that it might have been said that you had an adversary somewhere or other. But in this matter, you have not so much as an adversary in this world; for no one pretends to be judge, as Christ is judge, or sets up the authority of the Church in opposition to the last tribunal; yet this is the only manner of judging, the only sort of authority, which you say you have denied to others; therefore you have only denied that which was never claimed; you have only denied that which no more relates to Church authority, than it relates to Church music. The Pope himself neither pretends to pass sentence at the last day, nor that his judgments here will have any effect in the next world, but conditionally, that is, clave non errante. Now this is not a sense in which Christ alone is judge, therefore it is not a sense in which you have denied it to others. So that notwithstanding this long elaborate treatise against Church tyranny and Popish claims, Popery itself is as safe and sound as ever it was. For you have denied this power of judging in no other sense, than as you have affirmed of Christ, as He is to pass the last irreversible sentence at the day of judgment; but the Pope does not claim it in that sense, therefore the Papal power is untouched by your Lordship.
| N § 1 | N § 3 |
§ 2. Here I must observe how your Lordship has  evaded the great points in dispute, both concerning the nature of the Church, and Church authority. When you were charged with describing the Church contrary to Scripture and the Article in the Church of England; your answer was, that you had only described the invisible Church; which was saying, in other words, that in a dispute amongst visible churches and about Church communion, you described a church which had no relation to the matter, nor ever can have to any dispute amongst Christians. This, my Lord, to speak tenderly of it, may be called only an evasion.
Again, as to Church authority, your Lordship has been charged with denying it all, and leaving it no right to judge or censure in the affairs of conscience. Your answer is this, that you have only, denied that Christ has left any men here to judge us at the last day. That is, in a controversy about the existence of Church authority, the extent and obligation of its laws, you have only denied such an authority, as nobody claims, nor ever will be executed till all visible churches, and disputes about them, will be at an endviz., the day of judgment.
This, my Lord, is another evasion, and that in the very chief point in dispute, where sincerity. should have obliged you to have been open, clear and express. But no sooner are you touched upon this point, but you fly into the clouds, and the very Dissenters themselves lose sight of you.
Thus when you had plainly said, that "Christ has left behind Him no visible human authority in the affairs of conscience," the Dissenters might justly think they had nothing to be charged with for their disobedience to bishops; they might well think that they were left to any government or no government in religion, as they pleased, since Christ had left no visible human authority;  but then how must they be astonished, my Lord, to find that your assertion about Church authority does not at all relate to the Church in this world, but to the exercise of a certain authority in the next world, after all churches on the earth are at an end? To find that you have denied no authority to any men, but that which peculiarly belongs to Christ at the last day: that is, that you denied no authority which ever was claimed either by Protestant or Popish churches, or indeed which relates to the Church in this world?
Suppose, when His Majesty was last at Hanover, anyone should have asserted that the regency had no authority in civil matters; would the regency have thought it any excuse, if he had said that he only meant they were not the governors of Hanover? Yet, my Lord, it would be as proper an apology for him who had denied the power of the regency in Great Britain, to say he only meant they had not the supreme power in Hanover, as for your Lordship, after a denial of all visible church authority in this world, to say you only denied an authority to pass the irreversible sentence in the next world.
Thus has your Lordship left the dispute, and only pretended to deny that which nobody ever claimed viz., "that any men have authority to judge the world in Christs stead, or pass the irreversible sentence at the last day."
| N § 2 | End |
§ 3.Your Lordship is here apprehensive, that you shall be charged with fighting without an adversary, and therefore you point out several, and say, "I meant it against those who are so very free in declaring others of Christs subjects out of Gods favour; and in obliging Almighty God to execute the sentences of men."17
There has been indeed, my, Lord, a number of men, ever since Christianity appeared in the world, who have been very free in declaring heretics and schismatics out of Gods favour, and who have maintained that these heretics and schismatics, when censured by the Church, cannot be received into Gods favour, but by their submitting to, and returning to the Church. But now, if your Lordship means your doctrine against these, you are still without an adversary, and might as well mean it against nobody; for these men never pretended to judge others in Christs stead, or to erect an ecclesiastical authority in opposition to the great tribunal, which is the only authority you pretend to deny.
You go on; "If we had no such amongst Protestants; yet it might be pardonable to guard our people against the presumptions of the Roman Catholics; who assume to themselves that power of judgment which Christ alone can have."
Surely your Lordship must have so great an aversion to Popery, that you never could so much as look into their books; for otherwise I cannot conceive how you should not know, that the Roman Catholics pretend to no power of judging so as to affect people, but upon certain conditions, as clave non errante; but I suppose this is not a power of judging which belongs to our Saviour; clave non errante has no place in His judgments. How then can your Lordship charge the Papist s with assuming His power, when that which they assume, cannot be ascribed to Him without blasphemy? So that, my Lord, it is just as pardonable to guard your people against these presumptions, as it is to alarm them with false and imaginary dangers.
Again you say; "But how lately is it, that we have  had people terrified with this very presumption, even by Protestants; and the terms of Church power, and the spiritual fatal effects of Church censuses made use of to frighten men into a separate communion."18
My Lord, I shall not here enter into the merits of that controversy which your Lordship here points at; it being the doctrine itself which your Lordship blames, and not the misapplication of it. Thus you censure them, not because they would draw people from a true church to a false one, but because they pretend to frighten men out of one communion into another. This is your Lordships heavy charge against them, that they should presume to talk of the differences of communions, and prefer one communion to another. So that whoever thinks any way of worship to be dangerous, and endeavours to withdraw people from it, is here censured by your Lordship, as pretending to judge in Christs stead, and setting up an authority in opposition to the last day.
Your Lordship says, it is with this very presumption (viz., that they can pass the irreversible sentence) that these men have endeavoured to frighten people into a separate communion. If I should say that it is upon presumption that Christ never appeared in the world, that your Lordship has delivered your late doctrines, I should freely submit to the charge of calumny; and I am sure your Lordship has ventured as far in saying that it was with this very presumption that these men delivered such doctrines. And your Lordship has as much reason to charge them with Atheism, as with this very presumption; for they no more presume to judge in Christs stead, or pass the irreversible sentence, than they presume there is no God.
Your Lordship has still, it seems, another adversary,  a late writer (the Dean of Chichester) "who has spoken unwarily of the effects of the spiritual punishments the Church inflicts, being generally suspended till the offender comes into the other world."19
This first censure is very modest, carrying it no farther than an unwary expression; but presently the charge advances; and, you say, "if it be thus, you confess you think the condition of Christians much worse than the condition in which S. Paul describes the heathens, who are left to their own consciences and the righteous judgment of God." So that at last it comes to this, that the Dean has taught such doctrine as makes it more desirable to be a heather than a Christian.
Let us therefore try how this charge is supported: the Dean has said, the effects of spiritual punishments are generally suspended till the offender comes into another world;20 therefore, says your Lordship, "the condition of Christians is much worse than that of heathens, and the reason is this, because heathens are left to their own consciences and the righteous judgment of God;" so that if spiritual punishments signify anything to offenders in the other world, or have any effect there, then such people are in your Lordships judgment, not left to their own consciences and the righteous judgment of God.
Pray, my Lord, how does it follow that if spiritual punishments have any effect in the other world, that then offenders are not left to the righteous judgment of God?
Is it an argument that people are not left to the righteous judgment of God, because they are to be punished in the other world? Or is it an argument  that they are excluded from Gods righteous judgment, because they are not punished till they come thither? I should have thought it a plain argument for the direct contrary, and that one could not give a stronger proof that such offenders were left to the righteous judgment of God, than by, saying that the effects of such punishments are not felt till the offender comes into the other world; I should have thought this a manifest declaration that the offender was to fall to the righteous judgment of God, since he was not to feel any punishment till he was fallen into Gods hands. If the Dean had intended to teach that Church punishments have no effect, but such as the righteous judgment of God gives them, how could he have better signified his intention, than by declaring that "the effects of such punishments are generally suspended till the offender comes into the other world?" How could the Dean more expressly guard against any horrible apprehensions of Church censures, or more directly refer the cause to God, than he has here done? His words are a plain declaration, that such offenders must fall to the righteous judgment of God, since they are to fall into his hands before they feel the effects of such punishment.
If any, discontented offender against the Church should tell me, that if the censuses of the Church can signify anything to him, he should be glad to be a heathen and have his fate amongst them; would it not be sufficient matter of satisfaction to tell him, that these punishments will have no effect but in the other world, where there can be no injustice; and that it is the same God who judges the heathens, Who will judge Christians?
Yet this declaration, which is the only ground for satisfaction to men of conscience, under the censures of the Church, is by your Lordship pretended to be such an evil as to make us rather resign our Christianity,  than submit to it. This is all which the Dean has said to make it more desirable to be a heathen than a Christian.
Suppose, my Lord, the matter had been worded stronger, and instead of saying that the effects of spiritual punishments are generally suspended till the offenders come into the other world, it had been said, the spiritual censures of the Church shall rise in the judgment and condemn offenders. If it had been thus expressed, what complaints might you not have made against such unwary expressions? What cruelties and hardships might you not have charged on such doctrine? And how advantageously might you have compared the felicity of heathenism to such Christianity?
But, my Lord, that divine person who has reserved to himself the righteous judgment of the world, has yet declared to a certain generation, that the men of Nineveh shall rise up in the judgment with them and condemn them, because those repented at the preaching of Jonas, but these did not, though a greater than Jonas was with them.21
Now, my Lord, here lies the same objection against this doctrine, which there does against the Deans. For is it not full as hard that the repentance of the men of Nineveh, or anywhere else, should have any effect upon the impenitent at the day of judgment, as that the censures of the Church should have any effect upon offenders in the other world? Is it not as cruel that the impenitent shall have their guilt aggravated by other peoples preaching or repentance, as by other peoples censures? And would it not be as proper here to say, if this be so, happy, they who never heard of preaching or repentance, as to set forth the happiness of heathens, because they are free from church censures?  If the sentence of the Church will rise in judgment and condemn offenders, then you say such persons do not fall to the righteous judgment of God. But is not as true of the men of Nineveh, that if they shall rise up in judgment and condemn the impenitent, that then such persons are not left to the righteous judgment of God?
So that had you been one of our Saviours hearers you must have been as much astonished at His doctrine as at the Deans unwary expression, and have been obliged to say then, as you have said now, "That you have such notions of the goodness of God, and of His gracious designs in the Gospel, that you think it your duty, to declare your judgment, that the supposition is greatly injurious to the honour of God and of the Gospel, and the thing itself impossible to be conceived."22
Your Lordship has here only advanced this argument against the significance of Church censures, but any one else may as justly and to as much purpose urge it against every part of Christianity.
Thus it may serve to prove that it would be better never to have had the Scriptures; for if any texts of Scripture shall rise in judgment and condemn those who disbelieved them, or disregarded their doctrine, then it may be said, much happier are the heathens, who have nothing of this to fear from any Scriptures, but are left to their own consciences and the righteous judgment of God.
Again; as this argument proves even the Scriptures to be an unhappiness, so will it prove every advantage in human life to be a misery.
For it is certain that the examples of religious men, the good advice of our friends, and the virtuous commands of our parents and governors, will, if neglected,  affect our condition; and though, like the spiritual corrections of the Church, they may not be felt here, yet hereafter they will rise in judgment and condemn us. May I not here say with your Lordship, if the case be thus; if other peoples wisdom, virtue, advice or commands can affect our state in the next world, then more happy, are those who never saw a good or wise man in their lives, and who have nothing to fear from the advice or commands of any, but are left to their own consciences and the righteous judgment of God.
So that you cannot condemn the Deans doctrine as horrible, without condemning it as an horrible thing, that the men of Nineveh should rise in judgment and condemn the impenitent Jews; or an horrible thing that the light of the Gospel, the blessings of Christianity, and the advantages of education should have any effect in the next world upon those who despised them in this world.
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1 Answer to Repres. p. 27 [ii. 461].
2 Answer to Repres. p. 114 [ii. 494].
3 Answer to Repres., p. 115 [ii. 495].
4 Answer to Repres., p. 28 [ii. 461].
5 Answer to Repres., p. 117 [ii. 496].
6 Hoadlys "Measures of submission to the civil magistrate."
7 Answer to Repres., p. 118 [ii. 496].
8 Hoadly, Several Tracts. " Considerations humbly offered to the Bishop of Exeter, occasioned by his Lordships sermon preached before Her Majesty, March 8th, 1708": "invited over a prince with armed men to overawe their legal king," p. 332 [ii. 137].
9 Ibid. p. 366 [ii. 153]. "An humble reply to the Lord Bishop of Exeter," 1709.
10 Sev. Tracts, p. 334 [ii. 138-9]. "Considerations offered to Bishop of Exeter."
11 Answer to Repres., p. 48 [ii. 469].
12 Pref. to Common Rights of Subjects [ii. 698].
13 Repre., p. 4.
14 Answer to Repres., p. 33 [ii. 463].
15 Ibid., p. 46 [ii. 468].
16 Sermon, p. 25 [ii. 408].
17 Answer to Repres. [ii. 464].
19 Answer to Repres., p. 35 [ii. 464].
20 Sherlock: Sermon before the Lord Mayor, Nov. 5, 1712, p. 8.
21 Matt. xii. 41.
22 Answer to Repres., p. 36 [ii. 464].