RENEWAL OF WAR--COMPREHENSION SCHEME--THEATRICAL AMUSEMENTS, ETC.--ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY--MR. PARKER--MIXED MARRIAGES--ORIGIN OF DE FOE--OCCASIONAL CONFORMITY--SACHEVERELL-NEW ASSOCIATION--"THE SHORTEST WAY WITH DISSENTERS" DISCOVERED--SUPPLEMENTS-PRIVATE JUDGMENT--ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY--MIXED MARRIAGES.
ALMOST the first act of Queen Anne upon her accession was to proclaim war against France. It was in full accordance with the interrupted policy of her predecessor, with which in other respects she materially disagreed. Her Ministers by no means were unanimous on the subject, but the more powerful section, led by Marlborough and his relative Godolphin, had their way. That distinguished man combined in his own person the two very different offices of a Cabinet Minister and Commander of the forces abroad belonging to England and her Allies. His avarice and ambition are as notorious as his shining military talents, and conspicuously influenced his urgent counsels for renewal of this unhappy war, which had already cost oceans of blood and treasure to every nation in Europe, though a fairer opportunity could not have been wished for leaving peace undisturbed.
Another motive was at work of an equally sinister description. Marlborough had long engaged in a double game of politics between the revolutionary party at home and the exiled family at S. Germain. Both knew fully his disingenuous character and distrusted him, for they held proofs in their hands of his simultaneous negotiations with them both; but neither could afford to reject his support on any terms, so long as a prospect remained of securing it to their own side. He was determined to avoid as long as possible committing himself irrevocably to either, and continued to express fervent devotion by secret communications to "that young man in whom he had the deepest interest," while commanding the forces of England against his powerful patron and protector the King of France. Nor was he sorry to have a valid excuse for absence from his Sarah, while profuse in assurances to her of unfailing devotion; like those of the sparkling Irish melodist to his "darling Bessy" left in the seclusion of a Devonshire cottage, while he enchanted and enjoyed fashionable circles of the metropolis. The Tory party Jacobites and Non-jurors strongly objected to war and wished for peace; both on account of the enormous military expenses, and that they might bestow more undivided attention upon party interests at home. Revolutionists favoured the war just because it necessarily distracted such attention, and afforded time for strengthening their own position against eventualities of the future. On their side also were a majority of Dissenters, especially Presbyterians, who in London comprised the more wealthy commercial classes. The expensiveness of war was no great consideration with them, since the burden fell upon the landed interest, which consisted of their opponents; whilst the bugbears, if peace were established, of a French invasion and a "Popish Pretender," perpetually repeated, would have lost half their weight for fostering disaffection against the Church of England. [See Swift's Examiner, xxiv.; Works, vol. vii. 115.] An unsuccessful expedition to Cadiz was attributed by them to design on the part of the Admiral Sir George Rooke, till a lucky capture of Spanish galleons laden with booty turned the rising clamour into congratulation, and the splendid successes of Marlborough gratified the national pride of all parties if it did not heal their animosities.
Poor religion had to suffer as usual among contending factions, dragged into every question as the stalking-horse and victim upon which most of the blows fell, while all alike pretended to disinterested zeal in its service. To overthrow the Church of England was the grand aim of Dissenters by one means or another, and as a step towards that first to get rid of the Establishment. A party inside the Church who sympathized with them in dislike to her doctrine and discipline had another plan in view. Their object was to preserve the Establishment with all its worldly advantages intact, by reducing the condition of holding them to an empty negation. A common platform was to be erected, upon which sects of every kind might stand, only bound to objure Popery and the Pretender. So far had this proceeded that these latitudinarians had persuaded Mary before her death, to lend the weight of her influence towards a scheme of comprehension, which at one stroke would have swept away apostolical succession, to establish in its place Presbyterianism, cloaked under the false and specious pretence of a moderate Episcopacy. Leslie, therefore, performed an inestimable service in exposing this most disloyal and dangerous conspiracy, though it embittered and infuriated its contrivers more than ever against himself. The most eminent of the party Archbishop Tillotson, like many, had died before any attempt could be made to put it into execution; but that such a scheme had been deliberately framed by men sworn to defend above all others the Church's polity affords the most irresistible testimony to the justice of those suspicions of unfaithfulness for hinting which Leslie had incurred unsparing censure. Now that he brought this to light, people understood the meaning of mysterious intimations about the excellent intentions which her late Majesty had conceived for the benefit of the Church of England, frequently repeated in sermons and other publications. The scheme itself was preposterous, without either the merit of originality on the one hand, or any successful experiment on the other to recommend it; being no more than a revival of the miserable Tulchan Episcopacy, which in Scotland had perished after scarce a generation's existence amid the scorn and derision of all classes. [Life of Bishop Leslie.] Even so short a duration as that could not reasonably be expected in this more sober country, and it must have melted away like a rope of sand within a year or two. Henceforth Dr. Burnet, who had been deeply implicated in the plot, exchanged his tearful elegies over Mary's loss for complaints against the "insubordination of the Lower House of Convocation in an essentially episcopal Church." And this comprehension scheme was consigned to the limbo of abortive expedients, its very memory only revived some years ago by a projected Pan-heretical Synod, which fortunately also was nipped in the bud by a timely protest in the public press.
Leslie had other subjects to occupy his attention. Arrears of controversy had to be cleared off, occasioned partly by restrictions under which the press then laboured, of which writers at the present day have fortunately no experience. To publish any work without a Licence involved considerable danger, and to obtain one certain delay, even if the contents of a manuscript included nothing which could wound the susceptibilities of the Government. The delay also was due in a measure to his own desire to answer whatever his Socinian and Quaker opponents might have to say concerning his previous publications. This accounts for several bearing the same date in appearance which were written at different times, as for instance, a "Treatise on Water Baptism," and the "History of Sin and Heresy," with some additions to the "Snake in the Grass." On the Quaker side fresh champions came forward, but they were only persons of very inferior ability, who could do nothing to alter or improve upon the position of their predecessors in the field, Fox, Penn, Elwood, and Eccles. They called, therefore, only for some restatements of the case established against them, which need not be repeated. But the tract on the "Sin of Heresy" is interesting because it dealt with a subject as the author observed, "seemingly abstruse and out of the common road," under the title of "Meditations upon the Feast of S. Michael and All Angels." His object was to discredit and discountenance the "adventurous flights of poets who have dressed angels in armour, and put swords and guns into their hands to form romantic battles on the plains of heaven-a scene of licentious fancy." To such an extent had this proceeded that the subject had been introduced upon the stage, and so religion greatly injured by being made an entertainment of "profane raillery." Many good people were grieved and pained by such exhibitions, so that William had been induced to put severe restriction on the licence of theatrical representations. Jeremy Collier, the eminent ecclesiastical historian, made a powerful and sweeping attack upon the stage, with whose views Leslie pretty nearly coincided. Those who take the same now may feel a cold shade of disappointment at learning that Nonjurors were the first who set their faces against theatres as places of sinful and immoral amusement. They need not be so of necessity, and properly conducted afford scope for the exercise and exhibition of peculiar talents which certainly were never intended to lie dormant; nor has any other sphere of employment for them been as yet suggested. Besides, many entertainments at which pious persons attend without scruple under the specious guise of charity involve a greater waste of time and frivolity. But how far theatres are rendered conducive to rational and innocent recreation among the people will of course depend upon the manner in which they are conducted, which no general statement can determine.
That with which Leslie more immediately concerned himself was the abuse of Scripture to furnish subjects. He designed also to give a more serious and authentic view of the War in heaven, mentioned in the Revelation, than Milton's groundless supposition, which makes the angels ignorant of the blessed Trinity, and to have revolted because the Second Person was declared to be their King upon a certain day before creation of this world. Leslie suggests as more probable and practical than this idea, while consistent with sound doctrine, the cause of dissatisfaction to have been the Incarnation of our blessed Saviour when revealed to them. This speculation, however, has no more authority than Milton's, though untainted by his heresy; nor does he sufficiently meet a serious objection to it, in the fact that the Revelation is a volume of prophecy concerning future events, not a relation of the past, though he does say S. John may have applied the history to illustrate these. Readers must be left to form their own opinion of his argument; but at least they will find in a brief epitome of the discourse sufficient to repay an attentive consideration.
Two other publications of this date fittingly claim notice here. The first was a "Dissertation concerning the Use and Authority of Ecclesiastical History." It appeared as a letter addressed to Mr. Samuel Parker in his "Abridgment of Eusebius," intended to serve the double purpose of warmly recommending that work to public favour, and expressing his own views concerning the need of such studies being more sedulously cultivated among the clergy. Mr. Parker was the son of the bishop who had incurred odium in King James II.'s time, in the disastrous dispute at Oxford already mentioned. He inherited his father's misfortunes as well as his learning and ability, which were increased by his attachment to the Nonjuring cause, therefore no more appropriate or seasonable service could be rendered to him than this testimonial. That it was well deserved is evidenced by examination of the histories themselves, and some other books which he subsequently published, though his talent lay rather in the way of condensing and epitomizing the works of others than any original or inventive faculty of his own. His "Commentary on the Books of Moses" deserved more commendation than it has ever received for the research it showed into writings of the early Fathers, and it laid the foundation of a modern work which is more justly esteemed. ["The Library of the Fathers," Parker.] But the remarks of his reviewer upon the general subject are still scarcely less applicable than to the time in which they lived; because crude suggestions and new-fangled experiments for improving the Church frequently bear witness how unconscious their well-meaning authors are of an utter want of novelty, and the fundamental objections which lie against their adoption. Observations about the necessity of adapting machinery to changing circumstances have, of course, a modicum of truth; but their practical application involves a very serious risk, unless accompanied with careful remembrance of the fact that the Church is a divine institution of great antiquity, the constitution of which was never designed to undergo incessant modifications or readjustment according to the ever-varying tastes and caprices of mankind. New wine may be good, but the old is better than it or water.
The second dissertation was on the subject of mixed marriages, the substance of a sermon also previously noticed in connection with the name of Leslie's esteemed friend Henry Dodwell, with several additions. Its subject is as little out of date as that of the other, for one of the most baneful and prolific sources of separation from the Church in the present day, is the facility afforded to marriage at her altars without inquiry or attempt at compliance with the plainest rules of the Prayer-book. "The hands of princes and rulers are chief in this trespass, and at the least it is a tentation." If, therefore, priests or prelates connive at its continuance, they need not be surprised to see the offspring of such unions and the parents themselves alienated instead of attracted to their communion. Almost insurmountable difficulties stand no doubt in the way of a rigid discipline, nor is it desirable to create a ferment by insistance upon it in every instance. But half the difficulty has arisen from sheer neglect of conditions which the laity understand as well as the clergy, and impute that neglect to a hankering after fees, or a poor fear of newspaper reviling. Let the examples cited in this sermon be fairly considered with the inferences drawn from them, and the conclusion cannot be escaped which it endeavours to enforce, that the safety of the Establishment would be best secured by maintaining as far as possible in their integrity the Church's own provisions for solemnizing matrimony among her people.
"An oath for confirmation is an end of all strife," said S. Paul; but, as if to give a double contradiction to the inspired precept (and perhaps because ingenious commentators had disputed his authorship of the Epistle), the sacrament of Holy Eucharist suffered a double profanation in the matter of Occasional Conformity. First it was desecrated by one party into an instrument for restriction of civil rights, and then still more profanely perverted into a qualification for their possession by unscrupulous persons who winked with their eyes, kneeling before the Altar. Nobody dreamed of terminating the scandal and cutting the Gordian knot by the simple process of abolishing the Test Act, or at any rate had the temerity to propose such a thing in the commencement of the seventeenth century. Prelates and peers who valued themselves upon their liberality of sentiment only rose to the idea of compounding for offences by a money payment. Ultimately enforcement of these penalties ended, as other infringements of liberty have done, in overthrow of the very system of protection which they were intended to secure, because its foundations were laid in folly and injustice. The nearest to a right conception of the Church's proper position as the representative of true religion in the nation was Leslie's statement in his "Regale;" but so far from this meeting the approval of Dissenters or Church-people in general, they shrank from it with equal alarm as a perilous and impracticable proposal for establishing an imperium in imperio, a free and unfettered organization in the midst of the State. So it was, but upon Christian principles of mutual independence and co-operation for the good of the nation at large. Churchpeople were too deeply leavened with Erastianism and accustomed to Egyptian bondage to appreciate liberty. Dissenters of all sorts thought it the shadow of papal tyranny returning in disguise. Politicians eyed askance any plan which would deprive their own party in its turn of the advantage of ecclesiastical patronage and control. In other treatises Leslie insisted upon this primitive constitution very frequently, nor has any one ever yet ventured to confute his arguments; but meanwhile he had fain to content himself with support of those persons whose views upon the whole most nearly approximated to his own, both on ecclesiastical and political affairs. While the battle for and against Occasional Conformity raged with unabated fury in and out of Parliament, the country was flooded with pamphlets; which were sought with greater avidity than they would be now, because intellectual appetites were not sated and jaded with a superabundant supply of speeches and articles in the daily press. The quality was often better if the quantity was less, though of course among a heap of productions many were miserable enough. Quite as many others displayed superior powers of reasoning, wit, and learning, but consideration of them must be omitted in this biography, and attention confined to those and their authors with whom Leslie came more immediately into conflict. It will be well to premise further a few circumstances connected with the origin of the dispute which illustrates forcibly "how great a matter a little fire kindleth "-no more than a spark of vulgar ostentation. A weak-headed Lord Mayor of London in 1697 availed himself of his election to attend a Presbyterian conventicle with the insignia of his office in a foolish procession. Hitherto little or no notice had been taken of the practice of occasional conformity in a private manner. But this, being intended as a demonstration to some extent of the effects of toleration, created a flutter of excitement in orthodox circles. No doubt there was a touch of bravado in the proceeding, but much more of petty vain-glory which might have been overlooked with a smile of contempt. And the imprudence was not repeated when it was seen what an amount of irritation it had produced; till a Sir Thomas Abney, in 1701, conceived the idea of gaining notoriety by a similar extravagance. He like the other was a Presbyterian, whose community were the wealthiest and most important among Dissenters in London, and eager for a recovery of their former domination in place of the Church. The note of defiance being renewed at once summoned opponents into the field, when the first prominently to reply was not a churchman but a Dissenter calling himself De Foe, his real name being Foe. One of his three biographers has made a silly attempt to trace his connection with a family of Norman descent; and the man has suffered much at the hands of these biographers, for they have imitated his worst faults without a scintillation of his genius. This Foe, son of a butcher in S. Giles in a small way of business, showed his ambition and romantic tendency first by change of his patronymic, making the initial letter of his Christian name, Daniel, into a syllabic prefix "De;" and subsequently improved this idea by merry allusion to his "grandfather's pack of hounds," which had about the same foundation in historical truth. His education was no more than a private dissenting academy could afford, and its limited extent never more clearly appeared than when he ventured upon scraps of Latin quotation and other shows of learning. He failed completely in business transactions, though the blame of this he laid upon political prosecutions. That he did not behave honourably to his creditors, and lived in an extravagant manner, keeping a coach and liveried servants with a fine house when he had not the means is beyond dispute. Otherwise his failures would leave little reproach on his memory; for he was not naturally fitted for any other pursuit than that of an author, in which he succeeded so far as was possible under drawbacks he could not help. The surprising thing is that, despite of these, he accomplished so much, and earned so extensive a popularity by his writings. Low scurrility, malice, and unscrupulousness disfigured them continually; nevertheless, they discovered unmistakably a genius of no common order, which if cultivated would have qualified him for the foremost rank among writers of his day. Perhaps no one ever wrote so much or upon such a variety of topics, and if he betrayed necessarily often a very superficial acquaintance with the subjects he presumed to handle, yet it was accompanied by much wit, smartness, and force of expression, which was very attractive. Even his versification, which was much coarser and more illiterate than his prose-though his great ambition was to be a poet-contained some happier bits of fancy well deserving remembrance, as for instance the simple lines so often repeated, without an idea of their origin-
"Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage;
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for a hermitage."
"Wherever God erects a House of Prayer,
The devil always builds a chapel there;
And 'twill be found, upon examination,
The latter has the larger congregation."
Again, a wholesome truth, much forgotten by descendants of the mushroom nobility which sprang up after the Restoration and Revolution, was well expressed in the following, though his immediate object was defence of "new-made noblemen" of William's creation against those who boasted of a much earlier existence-
"'Tis well that virtue gives nobility,
Else God knows where we had our gentry,
Since scarce one family is left alive
Which does not from some foreigner derive."
Divorce and police courts seem to show an increasing deficiency of that patent which is the only basis of security for permanence of the peerage or any other privileged institution. DeFoe's prolific pen never rested for many years, and its utmost fury was directed against Jacobites, Nonjurors, Tories, and High Churchmen, at the head of whom he always placed Leslie for a special share of virulent invective, as will be seen further on. Now he came forward in a different character, and it was almost his earliest appearance in print, as the writer of a letter not in favour of the bill for prohibiting Occasional Conformity, but against the practice itself. It was a very sharp remonstrance indeed, yet couched in decent and respectful terms to Mr. Howe, minister of the Presbyterian congregation to Which the Lord Mayor belonged, for countenancing his conduct and that of all other offenders in the same body, whom he did not hesitate to denounce as immoral, dishonest, and inconsistent with the genuine principles of Dissenters. Mr. Howe replied by an indignant rebuke for introducing his name into the question, but declining to discuss it with an anonymous writer; and though some further correspondence followed, it provoked little more from Mr. Howe than a repetition of his rebuke, in which he showed his discretion rather than valour or ability.
A complainant of an opposite description was Mr. Sachevcrell, destined to become famous shortly with the new title of Doctor, and occasion a disturbance vastly out of proportion to the importance of anything he said or did, owing to the ferment then prevailing in the nation. He was a man of fair ability and moderate learning, who could write an effective sermon and deliver it still more effectively. Leslie afterwards espoused his cause most warmly, and defended him through thick and thin, at the cost of much obloquy to himself; for which he met with an ungenerous and ungracious return that gave great offence to his friends. But it made little impression upon himself; nor when Sacheverell signified his intention of attacking him in a pamphlet, though he wisely reconsidered this determination, did Leslie betray the slightest sense of animosity. [Hearn's correspondence.] His first public appearance of any importance, though admired as a preacher in London among Tories and High Churchmen, was in June, 1702, at Oxford, where he preached a sermon entitled "Political Union," which caused a great deal of excitement, owing mainly to the general state of feeling, and to the manner of the preacher himself. It is absurd to say, as many have done since, apparently upon a very superficial acquaintance, that the sermon was a most wretched, flimsy production, though equally undeserving of the extravagant eulogy bestowed by admirers at the time. Apart from consideration of the opinions expressed in it, which were those entertained and proclaimed by many more clergy every Sunday quite as strongly, it was a well-reasoned and carefully written discourse, above the average. But a sermon for its effects depends upon delivery in some measure, with a striking phrase or two, and very much more on the occasion, audience, and the amount of sympathy between them and the preacher at the time. A few extracts will furnish a specimen of the doctor's style so that readers can form their own opinion.
"This great and wise prince Solomon knew that the royal palace and the divine altar were protected by the same Power and Providence, and that the Throne and the Church stood upon the same bottom. That the welfare and destruction of both were bound up together; that they were subsisted by the same common principles; that what struck the one in like manner affected the other; and that when the pinnacles of the temple tottered, the crown was found very seldom to sit unshaken on the prince's head. . . . We may talk for ever about the danger of religion, and the obligations every man lies under to defend it, and yet perhaps never make a single proselyte to our party, Men are under such a cold neglect and indifference towards that which relates to the naked soul and conscience, they have so little feeling of these spiritual matters, and so much jealousy of trick and design, that they are very backward and cautious to be betrayed into the belief of it. The other world lies at such a distance from our sight, and is so far removed from our prospect, that very few can raise an idea of its glories, or be touched with its concerns. But when the affairs of this life come to be called in question, or the least of its enjoyments exposed to any danger, flesh and blood rise at the summons, and how ready are we to defend, how resolute and obstinate in the vindication of them! When liberty and property lie at stake, they command our spirits and courage; few men are cowards in this case, whatever they are in others; it sets the whole man in alarms, and calls up the strongest powers of nature in their assertion. What, therefore, the interest of religion cannot engage men to do, perhaps the advantages of their temporal welfare may prevail upon them to perform. For when our duty comes enforced with a double obligation and reward, when it proposes the joint satisfactions of both lives, and lays before our choice all the blessings of two worlds at once, what motive can it want to encourage mankind to its practice? Now, to set this matter in a clear and convincing light, I shall examine it under the double consideration of experience and reason. . . . A ruined Church and prosperous Government are irreconcilable contradictions in experience, confronted and confuted by the united, universal, and concurrent testimony of all ages, and histories, sacred and profane. . . . Atheism and anarchy have always gone hand in hand; they are the mutual spawn and genuine production of each other, and, like vermin, are bred out of the same filth and corruption. Where the principles of religion come once to be shaken, or ever happen to be subverted, the State never fails to follow it, and to take share in its misfortunes and ruins. . . . The four grand pillars upon which all Government is raised and supported, are justice, counsel, treasure, and religion. But doubtless the main column that keeps up this fabrick, and preserves it both from shaking and falling, is religion. The others are only under-props. Heresy and schism have such a natural communication with rebellion and usurpation, that where the ecclesiastical body is infested with the one, the body politick is seldom free from the other plague. As long as men's opinions govern their actions, errors in judgment can produce nothing else but errors in practice. Innovations in the Church are but the forerunners of those in the State; and where doctrines and discipline of the first are shaken or corrupted, the powers and privileges of the second very seldom remain entire. What alters the fundamental constitution of the one, will infallibly destroy both. Presbytery and Republicanism go hand in hand; they are but the same disorderly, levelling principle in the two different branches of our State. . . . It is as unaccountable and amazing a contradiction to our reason, as the greatest reproach and scandal upon our Church, that any pretending to that sacred and inviolable character of being her true sons, pillars, and defenders, should turn such apostates and renegadoes to their oaths and professions; such false traitors to their trusts and offices, as to strike sail with a party, that is such an open and avowed enemy to our communion; and against whom every one that wishes its welfare ought to hang out the bloody flag and banner of defiance. But in this, as well as in most other circumstances, both our Church and State share the same common fate, that they can be ruined by none but themselves, and that if ever they receive a mortal stab or wound, it must be in the house of their friends."
Now, this sermon's political tone throughout clearly distinguishes it from pulpit addresses in the Church of England at the present day. Politics are still a staple commodity in town and country conventicles, but allusion to them is exceptional in churches. It must, therefore, be remembered that in Sacheverell's time such was not the case. A solecism often gives more offence than a more serious fault; but there was no breach of custom or good taste as then understood on his part. That which caught the ear, and lingered impressively on the minds of his audience, from an indefinable something in the way it was uttered by the preacher's melodious voice, was the single phrase-"hang out the bloody flag and banner of defiance." This repeated from mouth to mouth more than all the rest of the discourse, in which were many other things equally belligerent and eloquent, gave the key-note to commotion, and in a week Sacheverell had become famous, throughout the kingdom-the idol of one party and the abhorrence of another.
The change of feeling in favour of Toryism perceptible in the nation greatly disturbed De Foe's restless spirit, the more because accompanied by a sensible loss of personal influence and resources to himself, having been a secret-service pensioner for several years under William; Othello's occupation was gone, and he could not fail to be angry. Accordingly, his displeasure found vent in a publication entitled "A New Test of the Church of England's Loyalty." This was directed against a sermon of Dr. Binkes' before Convocation, but proceeded most impartially to level censure at the whole body of the Church, and accuse her members of "wholesale persecution for more than thirty years, while themselves apostates from the very fundamental doctrines of their Church, perjured in the sight of God and man, notorious hypocrites and deceivers," with a long disquisition about the Origin of Government in the consent and for the benefit of the people governed. Many other attacks issued from the press simultaneously, but De Foe's was conspicuously the ablest, though Dissenters declined to acknowledge him as their proper champion and representative. Its sting lay in the fact that such numbers of professing members of the Church of England, especially clergy, had shifted their ground at the Revolution. The old theory of absolute passive obedience was an absurdity for them to revive, who had after proclaiming it for a generation cut it down by the roots. Dr. Drake and others replied, but failed effectively to meet this count in the indictment. Nor could Leslie do so successfully in his "New Associations," because it was true and indefensible with regard to the Tory party-all, in fact, but Nonjurors and Jacobites, who for acting up to their old principles of loyalty had been left in the lurch. Therefore, while severely rebuking De Foe's acrimonious tone, he employed himself mainly in defending the doctrine of non-resistance, and confronting his theory of the Origin of Government with the Scriptural scheme.
As this subject was pursued in other subsequent publications, the contents of "New Associations" require no more minute description at present; though it attained much popularity, and included a forcible reply to Denis's "Danger of Priestcraft in Religion," an attack upon Sacheverell. A more cunningly devised and formidable weapon was next employed against the Church. A pamphlet issued from the press, entitled "The Shortest Way with the Dissenters," complaining in bitter terms of their demeanour towards the Church for many years past, and holding them up as a fitting object for resentment and revenge, now that her time of triumph had come. It professedly was written by a clergyman, and as such passed current for some time, infuriating Dissenters or frightening them by the horrid vengeance it seemed to invoke, and covering Church-people with confusion, that any one clothed in the garb of her ministry should have propounded anything at once so wicked and foolish. When excitement had cooled down a little to permit of more dispassionate consideration, a suspicion of its genuineness crossed the minds of a few persons, because after most careful inquiry it could not be traced to a single known author or publisher connected with the Church. Among these was Leslie, who communicated his suspicious impression to Lord Nottingham, with remarks upon the style of the pamphlet compared with other compositions. His lordship held in his hands as one of the Government the means of following up the scent, so that after a while detection was complete, nor did De Foe attempt denial that he had fabricated the atrocious hoax. He very naturally tried to ride off upon the lame excuse of only having done it by way of jest; but the malicious intention of bringing odium and disgrace by his infamous imposture upon the clergy in particular and the whole Church in general, was too apparent. So sorry a pretence, and the cowardly attempts he made to escape punishment, only aggravated his first offence, and he was condemned to the pillory, to be then imprisoned, with a heavy fine, which it must have been impossible for him ever to pay. That he richly merited punishment none could reasonably doubt, but that inflicted far exceeded the necessity of the case, betrayed a spirit like that which prompted his offence, evoked a good deal of natural compassion for him among the populace, and embittered De Foe more than ever against his opponents. A mild and moderate penalty might not have altered his malignant disposition, but it would have disproved most effectually his taunts about persecution, and deprived him of all claim to sympathy in any class. De Foe had particularly intended suspicion and odium to fall upon Leslie, therefore he would have been justified in demanding punishment; but so far from this, he deprecated anything being done beyond a public exposure of the cruel forgery.
ABRIDGMENT OF "PRIVATE JUDGMENT AND AUTHORITY IN MATTERS OF FAITH."
All religions and sects are built upon dispute whether men ought to govern themselves by their own private judgment, or be determined by authority of others in their faith. The effects of private judgment are multiplicity of sects and opinions, and it is the chief pretence of war. To remedy which evils, some would have a settled judge of controversy for appeals and determination of all disputes in religion. Supposing the Scriptures to be an infallible complete rule of faith, how shall we agree about the true meaning and interpretation of them? We see every sect quote Scripture and have its own interpretation. On the other hand, there are difficulties in submitting our private judgment to authority. First, because it is left to private judgment to choose that authority. If I should believe in God upon the authority of any Church, it would follow that my faith was more in that Church than in God; and I have no more for the authority of that Church than my private judgment still. Secondly, private judgment can never be so fatally mistaken as in submitting to authority if it should judge wrong. The question will remain whether greater mischiefs and inconveniences have befallen mankind in the one way or the other. If it be found that greater have attended private judgment, that would be no greater argument against it than against free-will or any other composition of our nature. Perhaps men make use of their hands to more destruction than any good they do with them, yet this would be an ill argument for cutting off the hands of our children. Christians allow heathens to be misled by authority, who go on in the track of their fathers without examination; yet heathens have no notion of an infallible judge. Jews stood out and continue in infidelity Upon the single point of authority, because Christ was rejected by their Church, a principle common to them and the Church of Rome, upon which I see not how a Jew can be converted. Christ Himself owned, they say, their Church all His lifetime, and so did His apostles. Yet it said His miracles were wrought by Beelzebub, and that He was a deceiver in His doctrine. It was the only judge of God then in the world, whereas other Churches now dispute this point with that of Rome. Both Jews and Romanists are here upon one basis, the authority of the Church, and both cannot be right.
The Jew has this advantage, that whereas the Romanist must allow his Church to have been once the only true one, the other does not allow the Church of Rome at all; which retorts the argument it uses against the Church of England, but against which the Dissenter again asserts his private judgment. There is not one word in the Scriptures either of the Pope or the Church of Rome, so that this must be determined purely by private judgment. If private judgment is to be determined by vote, there are ten to one against the Church of Rome. But she is said to be the mother Church? How can she be the mother of Churches which never descended from her? It is certain the Jewish was the mother of all. The promises mentioned were first made to her, and if these can be transferred, then they may be from Rome as from Jerusalem, and so without end. There is no promise to secure any particular Church, that her candlestick may not be removed as others have been. It was to every particular Church Christ spoke when He said, "Tell it unto the Church;" for the case there put is of private difference. There was nothing at all of faith concerned in it. Neither God nor Christ does send us to a judge of faith, nor can there be any but God alone. The Creed will test this, because where anything is determined by authority, such authority must be superior to what it determines. We receive not the creed upon the authority of the Church. I receive the Scriptures upon the testimony, not authority, of the Church, and I examine that testimony as I do other facts, till I have satisfied my private judgment there is no other way. God has taken more care of our souls, and not put our faith under the dominion of any. The apostles disclaimed it (2 Cor. i. 24; Gal. i. 8). Should the sun borrow light from the moon? Yet this pretence of the Jews is again taken up by the Church of Rome, and we have seen strange effects of it in both.
We know the canonical books of Scripture not by authority of the Church but by her evidence. The heretics could not produce their originals, nor did their copies agree one with another, which was deciding not by authority but by evidence. The twentieth Article says "she has authority in matters of faith." But far from infallible authority; "as a keeper and a witness," to determine controversies of faith only ministerially, not absolutely and authoritatively. Has He, therefore, given no power at all to His Church? It was a great power when He said, "Go and teach all nations, baptizing them." And He left power to invest others with the same authority, without which none can preach the faith; for "how shall they preach except they be sent?" Likewise there is the power of the Keys, which implies all authority of government, as being the ground and pillar of the faith; and He has promised to ratify in heaven the censures of the Church when justly inflicted upon earth. A condition is here implied as of contrition in the penitent, so of clave non errante, that is justly. While Christ exposed the fallibility of the Church (in His day), He yet supported her authority by owning that the scribes and Pharisees sat in Moses' seat.
Dissenters will do nothing they are bidden, for the very reason of being bidden. This is the spirit of contradiction; it is crossness for crossness' sake, of which they would soon be sensible if exhibited in their own children. I allow the Church to be judge of faith upon earth, yet there is an appeal to God. The Church is the interpreter of Scripture, as the judges of the law. But the ultimate decision is in God, and we must make use of our private judgment in the great matters of Faith and Worship. The Church of Rome requires every man to trust blindly to her guidance. The Church of England shows her commission to be a guide on the road to heaven, derived by Succession from the apostles, with a competent though not infallible authority. Dissenters have no commission nor authority to show; they have thrust themselves as guides upon the road. If any will answer me, I desire him first to join in this prayer, that it would please God to strengthen those that are in truth, and convince those that are in error; towards which I have cast in my mite.
ABRIDGMENT OF A "DISSERTATION CONCERNING THE USE AND AUTHORITY OF ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY."
The study of history, especially the ecclesiastical, will serve best to the ends of promoting the interests of God's Church where she is so far lost as to be almost forgotten; unknown to most what she truly is, or what it is that belongs to her. The best method will be to show her in her primitive face. A picture allures more than description, and matter of fact beyond many arguments; discourses tell us of things, but history shows them to us. Of all history ecclesiastical is the most beneficial, as much more as the concerns of the Church are beyond that of the State, our souls above our bodies, and our eternal state more than the moment we have to stay in the world. Thus we sec the rise and growth of heresies and schisms; and how these tares were sown while the husbandman slept. There we see the beginnings of Erastianism, more fatal to the Church than persecution; when court bishops gave up the sacred deposit committed to their charge, into the hands of kings for worldly considerations. Controverted points must be determined by matter of fact-what that faith was which was at first delivered to the saints. Those doctrines and that government which has this evidence must be the truth. Those who have not read ecclesiastical history and the primitive fathers must take their knowledge at second hand upon trust from others. The best method is to examine upwards and read downwards from the beginning; there we shall find many of these seemingly exalted and new notions set up by various sects, to have been old exploded heresies condemned by the Catholic Church, and only new vamped by subtle enemies crept in among us to divide and distract the ignorant and unstable. Even the fanatics would fain have antiquity on their side if they could get it, and when it will not do they rail at it. By consulting the original records and histories of the Church, it will appear how groundless and contemptible are the pretensions of both Pope and Presbyter, who are joined like Samson's foxes with firebrands, though they look several ways, to ruin and depress the primitive Episcopacy. As God in His infinite wisdom has not thought it best for the world to set one universal monarch over it all, but many independent kings who may balance one another, so, S. Cyprian has observed, Christ did make the College of bishops numerous, that if one should prove heretical or seek to devour the flock, the rest might mercifully interpose for the saving of it. But, as S. Gregory the Great argued, if a universal bishop should fall, a universal Church may fall with him. On the other hand, the Presbyterian party would unhinge all particular governments, and render the government of the world a mere chaos and a mob. A stronger argument is that of fact-what was the government of the Church as established and left by apostles? for that must continue till a greater, at least as great an authority shall alter it. Some make no matter of the government so as the doctrine be preserved, not considering that the government was given to preserve the doctrine; and no instance can be given, from Jeroboam downward, where the change of government did not bring with it a change of doctrine, as the apostle argues (Heb. vii. 12). For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. If the Church goes, the truth which she supports goes with her, is impaired or improved with her; for Christ has built the faith upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Himself the chief Corner-stone. While the Church retained her primitive discipline and preserved the bounds of the Sanctuary free from popular and all lay usurpations, how was the faith made glorious, and Christian zeal shone far and wide to the disarming and conversion of her adversaries! . . . I have now but one word more concerning the abridgment of histories; they are of use to those who have read the histories at large and to those who have not. To the former they serve as indexes and revive them in their minds with little pains; and to those who have not leisure or application to go through great works, they afford that knowledge which they would otherwise totally want.
ABRIDGMENT OF A SERMON ON EZRA x. 4: "AGAINST MARRIAGES IN DIFFERENT COMMUNIONS."
What this matter was appears from the context. Ezra reproved the people of Israel for their having married with idolatrous nations contrary to the command of God. The Jews were then the peculium or holy seed; which is the reason why their genealogies are set down with so much exactness even before the Flood. The prohihition was not on account of their nation, but religion. "For they will turn away thy son from following Me, to serve other gods" (Deut vii. 4). They turned away the heart of Solomon; and if the wisdom of Solomon was not proof against the witchcraft of this sin, what other man's presumption can be guiltless. We find the same reproof against the Jews for marrying with idolaters of their own nation. Thus Jehoram and Jehoshaphat. But it was lawful to marry with heathens who changed their religion, as Ruth and Rachab. And the case in Ezra was of marrying with Babylonians during the captivity. It is a maxim in law, that where there is the same reason, the law shall be the same. And none can deny there is at least as much reason for Christians to avoid idolatry as the Jews. It is strange to hear some deny there can be any idolatry among Christians; proceeding upon the supposition that it is a total and absolute forsaking of God. Many Christian idolaters may have the instruction of God's good Spirit, and may be men of devotion and great zeal as Jehu was, and their labours may be profitable to the Church; yet this Christian idolatry is more inexcusable than the heathen or Jewish. You may say, if idolatry be not inconsistent with the protection of God, and even the instruction of God's good Spirit, why should it be so unlawful to marry with idolaters? I answer, the sin is not the less for the goodness of God; it is rather a greater aggravation of it. It is a bewitching sin, and the nature of fallen man is bent to this spiritual fornication. And this is the reason why marriages with idolaters were forbidden more than with other sinners. Idolatry, that serpent-sin, insinuates itself under the notion of the worship of God, and is transformed even into zeal for His glory. There is no sort of reason for thinking that idolatry is not the same under the Gospel as it was under the Law, more than that there is another sort of adultery or murder. S. Jerome, S. Cyprian, and S. Augustine speak against these marriages, and there are several Councils to the same effect.
It is objected I Cor. vii. 12. But this is of divorcing, and not of marrying. In the first conversions to Christianity it must happen that many might be converted, and not their wives or husbands. S. Paul says, "not to put away;" but he does not say, "marry such a one." There is more in it than this; for if it were supposed lawful to marry such, there could be no dispute about the lawfulness of living together after marriage; and if Christians had a doubt whether they ought not to divorce their wives for idolatry, it is past a doubt they thought it unlawful to marry with such. The apostle, though he would not absolutely dissolve marriages made before conversion, yet in case of a second marriage ties them up that it shall be "only in the Lord"-words meant of marrying only the faithful, the interpretation of S. Ignatius and our early reformers.
Nor will this decision of S. Paul conflict with that of Ezra, who commanded to put away such wives as were idolaters. For the cases are totally different. That in Ezra was Jews (believers) marrying with idolaters, which voided the marriage from the beginning. That in S. Paul was infidels or idolaters marrying with one another (which was undoubtedly lawful), and afterwards one being converted. This is the particular sin for which it is said God sent the flood. After the flood Ishmael was born of Hagar, and the influence of the mother appeared in his persecution of Isaac, and his marriage of a wife out of Egypt, which warned Abraham as to the marriage of Isaac. Lot suffered his daughters to marry in Sodom, and they perished. We find the same ingredient in the ruin of Esau; and the miseries of Judah, son of Jacob, proceeded from his marrying a Canaanitess. In the New Testament we find no examples, for the case was so positively ruled by the apostles. To come to an end, this will be granted me on all hands, that marrying into another communion is at least a tentation, and then how can any one without mocking of God repeat the Lord's Prayer, "Lead us not into temptation," when at the same time, even while the words are in his mouth, in the office of holy matrimony, he deliberately, wilfully, and avowedly throws himself or exposes his child to this great tentation? How can any priest with a good conscience deliver over with his own hands one of his flock to another of a different communion? If they should fall thereby, would not their blood be required at his hand? God says of such marriages they will be a snare to you. With whom does the power of reforming lie? "Arise," said the people to Ezra; "for this matter belongeth unto thee." Matters of religion are to be reformed by the Church.