TO CONTINUE HIS MINISTRATIONS IN EDINBURGH,
AS A CLERGYMAN OF THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND.
PRESBYTER OF THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND.
JOHN LINDSAY AND CO., 7, ST ANDREW STREET.
LONDON: SEELEY AND BURNSIDE, FEEL STREET.
HAVING accepted an invitation to remain in Edinburgh, and to become the Pastor of a Congregation separate from the Communion of the Episcopal Church of' Scotland, but adhering to the Communion of the Church of England, I think it only due to the Congregation thus inviting me, as well as just to myself that I should clearly state the grounds upon which I have formed my resolution to accede to their wishes,, and on which I am now prepared, through evil report and good report, to take my stand.
The immediate cause of my retirement from the charge of Trinity Chapel is now sufficiently known; nevertheless, I must briefly direct attention to the general feature of the step I was thus compelled to take. I was deprived of the liberty of inviting my Congregation to the exercise of private and social worship, in any private room, unless I read the Liturgy. Under such an unscriptural and oppressive rule, it was impossible that I could remain, when the entire course of my ministerial labour gave but one testimony to the invaluable and blessed character of such ministrations. Deprived of [3/4] this, my shepherd's staff would be seriously weakened, and I hesitate not to say, that the strength of that ministry would depart whose character is thus graven on the sacred page: "Preach the word; be instant in season; out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and doctrine." "Do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry;" and never, never, (with deep solemnity do I declare it,) could I hold up my hands with humble hope, and say, that I was "a workman that needed not to be ashamed."
Even those who have opposed me in this matter have not and cannot deny that the blessing of God has rested on this section of my ministerial duty. I and others can testify, from our happy experience, that, in the exercise of it, God has been with us of a truth; it has been the gate of heaven to souls; it has been a fountain of living waters to the faint; it has been a light shining in a dark place to many of the sons and daughters of affliction. And when these things are so; when God himself has so owned and testified to these ministrations, I dared not commit this great sin against him, by consenting at once to abandon them, because man willed it to be so. It was impossible that I could dare to restrain the fulness of the living stream, because man declared it to be irregular, seeing that not one word from Scripture can be brought to prove that such means are contrary to the will of God; not one word from Scripture to prove that, under such circumstances, I ought to obey MAN, when my conscience told me I ought to obey GOD.
But I am told it is a slight matter, that it is too unimportant to have led to such results. And is it come to this? A means which has been recognised and honoured by God, to [4/5] be designated a slight or unimportant matter? A means, whereby souls have been brought to God, trivial, and not worth contending for? one which ought instantly to be conceded, at the word of man's authority, and that because other means of grace are open to us--and other ways of doing good are not closed up? And so the physician, who is entrusted with a precious remedy for the sick and for the dying, when he has discovered an efficacious mode of application, is to be sent to his patient with his hands bound up from administering the blessing he has in trust, in the very way which he has already proved and found to be effectual!
God, it is said, can work &effectually by one means as by another. This is true, but not in the least applicable to a case like the present; for, by a parity of reasoning, I might argue, that, if required by man's authority, I might, with a safe conscience, give up preaching the word in the sanctuary altogether, as God might call as many souls, and build up his people as firmly in the faith, by the exercise of prayer and praise!
But, supposing I were to admit that the means of grace for which I am contending was, under ordinary circumstances, a "thing indifferent,"--is it not true, that a change of these circumstances may transform it into a paramount duty and binding obligation? And I scruple not to affirm, that, whatever might be said at other periods, the peculiar spirit of the present age stamps it with the latter character.
What is it that is rising high on the billow of worldly influence at the present time,--what is it that is gaining its supporters from every class and every rank in the community,--what is it that is lifting up its banner with a steady hand, because it is prepared for the encounter,--what is it that [5/6] is daily marshalling its forces, training its bands, and acquiring a strength and consistency which may soon bear down and overwhelm every opposition,--is it not religious formalism?
It is this which is eating, like a canker, into the very heart of religious truth. It is this which is turning off the supply of spiritual blessing. It is this which is treading down with iron heel the tender blade of evangelical promise, in the Church of Christ. It is this which is paving the way for a body of ministers who will sit at ease in Zion, while the wolf is ravening in the fold. It is this which makes liturgical service the God of its idolatry; which makes it the beginning, middle, and end of all true worship; which would keep it in the sanctuary, in the social meeting, in the family circle, and even in the retirement of the closet--abusing it from its legitimate place, as the platform of common worship in the house of God--and degrading it to the office of the gaoler, to lock up and confine in a secure place, the liberty wherewith Christ makes his people free,--and to place the fetter and the chain upon that spiritual service, which a spiritual priesthood is bound and privileged to offer.
And is it at such a moment as this, when this religious formalism is gathering its dark and gloomy array on every side;--is it at such a moment as this, that I am called on to part, without a struggle, from a means of grace peculiarly and eminently fitted to resist its inroads, and, by God's blessing, to fore-arm the people committed to my charge against its oppressive power and gauntleted hand? Is it at such a crisis, that, in order to walk in the smooth road of submission to man's authority, I am called upon to cast away the weapon of defence which has been put into my hands, and, with base [6/7] heartlessness, to "flee from the presence" of that God, who has manifested the glory of his presence and his love at the very point of attack? No! rather let this right hand forget her cunning; rather let this tongue be for ever silent; rather let this heart for ever cease to beat. By the help and by the grace of God, at this hour of need and deep trial, I will not forsake Him who has never forsaken me.
No, though there may be trials on every side; though the enemy come in like a flood; though there be found even among the Lord's Host one with a faltering courage; another carried away with the dissimulation of the enemy; another willing to be a disciple only "by night;" for fear of the Jews; I cannot, and I dare not, yield in this matter which "concerneth the law of my God." Daniel might have prayed as heartily in secret without opening his window towards Jerusalem, but he did not, for he knew that it was not a time to be afraid of the King's commandment. May God make me am faithful in what are called little things, but which are great indeed, when weighed in the balance of the Sanctuary. [Note A.]
With such sentiments as these I joined the Episcopal Church of Scotland ten years ago, when no barrier existed in its Canon Law against the free exercise of my ministry; nor was there any interference on the part of those in authority in that Church. With such sentiments I have laboured for ten years in the Scottish Episcopal Church, without let or hindrance in the matter for which I have been lately condemned; and when at length a Canon, framed four years ago, is now, without any previous intimation, for the first time brought to bear upon the ministrations I have ever performed in the vineyard of the Lord, what course [7/8] had I left but to withdraw? Had such a law been in operation ten years ago, I should never have undertaken a charge connected with the Scottish Episcopal Church; had the law, as it now stands, been at once enforced against me when it was called into existence four years ago, I should then have felt that it was time to retire; and now, when it stands revealed in its energy to stay that which I believe to be the very life of my ministry, I could not hesitate to resign.
And more than this, when those whom God has given me in this place--with a deep sense of the value of their Christian privilege in this matter, with a true and Catholic love of the stream which had been opened, came round about me, and besought me not to leave them--when they displayed firmness of resolution on behalf of their God, and an earnest desire for the preservation of their spiritual blessings, could I dare to sever a tie which God had blessed, and which man attempted to break at the very point where it was most effectual and most precious?
But, it may be said, this is merely a matter of feeling, and does not in the least justify a separation from the Scottish Episcopal Church. However, then, I myself must consider the ground above taken as the highest and the best; I am ready to come to lower, and to justify myself there also.
Let it be understood, then, that my ordination was not in the Scottish Episcopal Church, but in the Church of England, and my temporary acceptance of a charge in connection with the former in no respects interfered with my original connection with the latter. If, therefore, I could, consistently with my ordination vow in England, accept such charge, because no barrier existed against the proper exercise of my ministry, well. But, if a new law is brought into operation, which, in my [8/9] conscience, I believe to be opposed to such exercise, and which is literally opposed to a similar practice in the church whence I derived my orders, who has a right to condemn me for retiring? And if, on retiring from the communion of the Episcopal Church of Scotland, I think it right to remain on the soil of Scotland, and exercise my ministry as an English minister there, what shadow of blame can rest upon me for so doing? Scotland, for Episcopal service, is NEUTRAL GROUND. The same law which wisely tolerates Bishop Terrot as an English minister, to serve publicly in Scotland in the Scottish Episcopal Church, tolerates me, as an English minister, to serve publicly in Scotland in the English Episcopal Church. Neither the Scottish not the English Episcopal Church have the least jurisdiction in the territory of Scotland. That belongs exclusively, by law, to the Church of Scotland; and it is only by sufferance that either Bishop Terrot or myself are permitted to minister in Scotland, the one in the Scottish, the other in the English Episcopal Communion. And if the Scottish Episcopal Communion frame enactments, which I feel to be subversive of my pastoral usefulness, and which are practically at variance with the freedom enjoyed by my co-presbyters in England, who can condemn me for choosing to remain simply as an English Clergyman, and not consenting to continue a Scottish Episcopalian?
Bishop Terrot, in his letter to me of the 21st October, in referring to my leaving the Scottish Episcopal Church, says--"You have an absolute right to the service of the particular Church into which you were ordained." This is exactly as the original letter, which I have in my possession, is expressed. But I am informed that the ambiguity of the [9/10] sentence arises from an omission, which the copy in Bishop Terrot's possession supplies thus--"You have a perfect right to return to the service of the particular Church into which you were ordained." Of course, Bishop Terrot supposed I could only return to this service, by returning to England. But he has laid down, and that correctly, a general principle, which must be illustrated by the law as it stands, and not by what any person might think it ought to be. Will, then, the Church of England disown my service, if I continue to labour as an English minister on Scottish ground, and separate from the Scottish Episcopal Church? Will she peremptorily reject that service, and refuse to recognise me any longer as her servant? I answer firmly and unhesitatingly in the negative. She will not, and she cannot, do anything of the kind. Two of her most eminent ecclesiastical authorities have declared that no result of the kind can arise from such a cause. For the best reasons, I prefer the service of the Church in which I was originally ordained to that of the Episcopal Church of Scotland; and lam willing and anxious to perform that service in Scotland. The Church of England declares she has no objections to offer. Bishop Terrot declares, that I have "an absolute right to return to the service" of the Church of England. Who, then, can interpose and condemn me for an act which my own Church permits, and to do which Bishop Terrot declares I have "an absolute right?"
And I may add, that my right is as "absolute" to return to the service of my own communion, though remaining in Scotland, as many English ministers who are now resident and ministering in different parts of the Continent; in France, for example. The Church of England has as much [10/11] claim of jurisdiction in Scotland as in France, and yet, in the latter country, where there is a Protestant Bishop, who has been consecrated by the Scottish Bishops, there are comparatively few Episcopalian Ministers who own his jurisdiction; while by far the greatest number decline it altogether, and yet retain their connection with the Church of England. By what rifle, then, can I be prevented from exercising a similar right?
But I now come to another matter of most deep and grave importance. Had I been inclined to waver, or tempted to doubt as to my proper course; had I been possessed of the courage to think of closing my ear to the solemn and anxious voice of my people--a circumstance which has come to my knowledge since I began the preparation of my "Reply"--must have scattered my hesitation to the winds, and nerved my hand, even had it before trembled with weakness and irresolution--a circumstance of such a character, that from the moment when I became acquainted with it, I felt that so totally new an aspect had been given to the crisis in which I found myself involved, that I did not hesitate to declare to many of my friends, that if they had not seen it to be their right and their privilege to rear a standard, and ask me to join them in the one cause, I should be compelled to raise the broad banner of Protestantism myself, and invite them to join me in another.
To this circumstance I can do little more than allude on the present occasion. I can only say, that I have materials ready, by which I shall be constrained to prove:
I. That the Scottish Episcopal Church in her Communion [11/12] Office teaches a doctrine which is altogether "repugnant to Scripture."
II. That in the two following points she is vitally opposed to the Church of England in her standards and offices, viz.--
1. Because she propounds the doctrine of a Commemorative Sacrifice in the Lord's Supper.
2. Because she likewise propounds the naked doctrine of Transubstantiation, in language absolutely the same as that employed in the Canon of the Romish Mass. [Note B.]
This Communion Office is now, at this very day, held not of secondary, but of "primary obligation." It is actually used in many chapels in the north of Scotland, and whence it cannot be removed for the English Office, but by the permission of the Bishop of the Diocese. Canon XXI. thus decrees: "From respect, however, to the authority which originally sanctioned the Scotch Liturgy, and for other sufficient reasons, it is hereby enacted, that the Scotch Communion Office continue to be held of primary authority in this Church, and that it hall be used not only in all consecrations of Bishops, but also at the opening of all General Synods."
At the beginning of the present century, when a union was effected between the Congregations of the English Episcopal and the Scottish Episcopal Communions then in Scotland, this service was by the Scottish Bishops retained; though, for the wise purpose of drawing over the English ministers and their charges, the English Office was permitted, and, according to Canon XXI., this great boon, this permission, is "ratified and confirmed." But the old Office--that Office, the character of which I have described, and which character I am prepared in every point to prove,--was tenaciously retained, and still remains a blot and a corruption of the fundamental doctrine of the Bible! [In immediate connection with this Communion Office, a striking circumstance is mentioned in several papers as having happened in one of the very chapels where the office is used. "One of the Bishops, who is also a Pastor of a Congregation, recently introduced, on what he called an altar, an elaborately carved crucifix--not a cross, but a 'crucifixus,' which he endeavoured to press on the attention of his people, on the ground that 'it was very ornamental.' It was, however, the day of the celebration of the Lord's Supper, and the people refused to kneel before the idol. They were not prepared to go the length of this idolatrous innovation, and the Bishop was obliged to remove the objectionable image!!"]
Nor has it been permitted to slumber. The genial warmth of Tractarian principles in the sister kingdom has given strength and energy to its movements. As late as 1838, it began to come forth from its former comparatively quiescent state, into a degree of activity which it had not dared to assume before, In the Canons before 1838, it was only called the "recognised service" of the Scottish Episcopal Church. The Bishops alone were compelled to take part in it, at the time of their consecration--the Bishops alone were compelled before their consecration to declare that they held it to be of "primary obligation." But now, by the very recent enactment of 1838, it is in the body of the Canon declared to be of "primary authority," that is, affecting Presbyters as well as Bishops: And it is decreed, that from and after 1838 it shall always be used at the opening of General Synods, where every Dean is compelled to attend, and where any Presbyter who happens to be made a delegate to a General Synod, must attend. And thus from 1838, every Congregation in the Scottish Episcopal Church does directly sanction the use of this unscriptural Office, by the fact, that the [13/14] Presbyter ministering to such congregation may, at any time, be called on to participate in its Romish superstition.
How singular then, and instructive is the fact, that the Very same General Synod which framed a Canon which has been brought to bear with such effect upon the Christian privileges of the Members of the Scottish Episcopal Church, and on the cause of Evangelical truth, in her communion, should drag from its comparative concealment this relic of a dark, perilous, and deadly superstition I And how still more singular is it that the conflict, which began on the ground of privilege, has at length issued into the broad arena of a struggle for life or death in the vital doctrines of the Word of God!
But, in occupying the position which I now maintain, I am charged with the guilt of Schism. Those who carelessly make such an accusation, too plainly show that they know not what they say. Even upon the ground already laid down, the charge is perfectly untenable. The Church of England and the Episcopal Church of Scotland are two distinct Communions, however the advocates for the latter may strive to shew that there has been of late years an advance between the two Churches to a closer relationship than before. They are severally governed by a code of Canons peculiar to each Communion, and those who are ordained in the Scottish Episcopal Church are incapable of holding any living, or even serving any curacy, in England. The one is a voluntary, the other is an Established Church. The one has a varying code of Canons, the other has a code fixed by the law of the land. The one clings in its statute-book to a Popish service, the other, in her Articles, which are fixed bylaw, protests here, [14/15] as in her Liturgy and Homilies, against all such doctrine, and thus, he who adheres ex animo to the one, cannot adhere ex animo to the other. How utterly unfounded, then, is the charge of schism against me, when I am assured, from unquestionable authority in England, that I expose myself to no penalty in the Church there, whence I have derived my orders. That, in the position I now occupy, my original status, as a Minister of the Church of England, is not in the least degree affected!
But I am quite ready to meet the charge of schism upon wider ground; and I am prepared to prove that it would be inapplicable to me, even had my orders been in the Scottish Episcopal Church. For this purpose, I first of all appeal to the Christian's Manual, the Bible,--I appeal to it as the Law and the Testimony which cannot mislead--I appeal to it as the voice of God, who will give no uncertain sound to those who enquire, in sincerity and faith unfeigned, "What saith the Scripture?"--I appeal to it with honest joy, as a Minister of that Church, who has done the highest honour to hers elf by the authoritative, though humble acknowledgment--"Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation; so that, whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation," (Art. VI.) And, in strict harmony with this clear enunciation of sound wisdom, the question was put to me by the Bishop, at my ordination, "Are you persuaded that the Holy Scriptures contain sufficiently all doctrine required of necessity for eternal salvation, through faith in Jesus Christ? And are you determined, out of the [15/16] said Scriptures, to instruct the people committed to your charge, and to teach nothing, as required of necessity to eternal salvation, but that which you shall be persuaded may be concluded and proved by the Scripture?" My answer to this was, "I am so persuaded, and have so determined, by God's grace." And now, in accordance with my ordination vow, I desire to throw the light of Scripture truth upon this charge of schism.
And, in order that a clear view may be obtained of the mind of the Holy Spirit, in his Word, upon this subject, let me set all the passages in the New Testament before you in which it is mentioned, and that under two heads.
1.--1. Matthew ix. 16, "No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment; for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent (scisma) is made worse." Mark ii. 21; Luke v. 36.
2. Mat. xxvii. 51, "And behold the veil of the Temple was rent (esxisqh) in twain, from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent."--Mark xv. 38; Luke xxiii. 45.
3. Mark i. 10, "And straightway coming out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, (scizomenouV) and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him."
4. John xix. 24, "They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it," &c.
5. John xxii. 11, ". for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken."
II.--i. John vii. 41, 43, "Others said, This is the Christ. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee? . . . . . . So [16/17] there was a division (scisma) among the people because of him."
2. John ix. 16, "Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the Sabbath-day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division (scisma) among them."
3. John x. 19, 20, 21, "There was a division (scisma) therefore again among the Jews for their sayings. And many of them said, He hath a devil, and, is mad; why hear ye him? Others said, These are not the words of him that hath a devil."
5. Acts xiv. 4, "But the multitude of the city was divided, (escisqh) and part held with the Jews, and part with the Apostles."
6. Acts xxiii. 7, "And when he 'had so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the multitude was divided, (escisqh)
7. 1 Cor. i. 10, "Now, I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions (scismata) among you, but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment."
8. 1 Cor. xi. 18, "For first of all, when ye come together in the Church, I hear that there be divisions (scismata) among you; and I partly believe it."
9. 1 Cor. xii. 25, "That there should be no schism (scisma) in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another."
Now, it is manifest that the texts of the first class are in no respects applicable to the present question, inasmuch as [17/18] they refer only to the rending asunder of something which is material,--such as a veil, a garment, a rock, a net, &c.; but the texts of the second class bear directly on the subject in hand. And what does a careful examination of these texts supply to us as the truth of God concerning the sin of schism? Clearly this, that it is a sin of the heart and of the mind. That this is the true meaning of the words scizw and scisma, as used in the New Testament, is manifest from the structure of the passages in which they occur, as well as from the secondary meaning, as laid down by Parkhurst. "A division in mind or sentiment,--a dissension." In the passages cited from the Gospel of John, and from the Acts of the Apostles, this is abundantly evident, and it is equally so in the Epistle to the Corinthians. In the first chapter, the connection of the word divisions with what goes before, "speaking the same thing," and with that which follows after, "that ye be perfectly joined together, in the same mind and in the same judgment," exactly illustrates the interpretation of the word as given by Parkhurst. Then, in the eleventh chapter, it is to be observed, that the divisions of which the Apostle complains did not arise from persons separating from the outward communion of the Church, but they arose in the Church. "When ye come together in the Church, I hear that there be divisions among you." And equally so is it with the last, from the twelfth chapter. The division there spoken of is something far beyond a mere outward separation from outward communion on earth; it is the schism of heart, the division of sentiment; for what else mean the strong explanatory sentences which follow, "That there be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one of another; and whether one member suffer, all the members [18/19] suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it."
From all this I argue with certainty, that the sin of schism, as marked out and delineated in the Scripture, lies far deeper than the supporters of the Romish apostacy, and the pseudo-Catholics of modern days would willingly represent. With such as these, so long as outward uniformity is observed, there is not a whisper of the charge of schism,--so long as the external service of the Church is scrupulously performed, there is no hint of any sin of division; while with all this there may be, and very generally is, the rankling of this sin within the outward fold,--the unity of the spirit within is rent and riven; and all the devices of man to keep together those who are not agreed, only tend the more to exhibit the presence, of this fearful sin. Within the bosom of the same communion, it is said, I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas, and I of Christ; and thus the utter inefficiency is proved of mere outward restraints to effect that which our blessed Lord made the leading subject of his prayer for his Church, "that they may be one in us."
The sin of schism, therefore, I repeat, as set down in the Scripture, lies deeper than in the mere breaking up of outward uniformity. Wherever differences of opinion exist in religious matters, there, more or less, is present the sin of schism. On which side the guilt of such schism rests, depends on this further consideration; which party is nearest in sentiment to the revealed will of God? God the Spirit has not left himself with an uncertain witness in his word, nor with a twofold image. Whoever, then, differs from that which is revealed, is so far guilty of the sin of schism, while he who differs not from what is laid down in the Word, though [19/20] he differs from his neighbour, is, on the one hand, keeping the unity of the Spirit, and, on the other, is perfectly guiltless of the sin of schism. Let me be judged by this high, this pure, this unerring standard; and if it shall be proved that I have erred against the Spirit and Word of my Master, gladly and thankfully will I acknowledge my transgression unto the Lord; but if, with all the infirmity and imperfection that cleave to me, I am yet found treading in his steps, then, wherever the guilt of schism may lie, I, at least, cast it from me, as that which the Master whom I serve, and to whom alone I stand or fall, will not suffer to attach to me; the guilt of it, I say, I shall fling away with abhorrence, but the shame which may be east upon me, without a cause, I shall embrace as a precious heritage, rejoicing that I am counted worthy to suffer it for my beloved Master's sake.
But I am quite prepared to meet the charge of schism upon lower ground than that of the Scripture. As regards what may be called the Ecclesiastical Sin of Schism, I am ready to prove that, in this respect also, I am without offence. And for this purpose I shall at once proceed to quote from certain standard works of the church to which I belong, several passages which lay down the general principles by which judgment must be made, whether, in separating from a communion, the guilt of schism be contracted or not by them who separate: and thus I shall endeavour to illustrate their principles, by the particular case of my late separation from the communion of the Scottish Episcopal Church.
The first authority from which I quote is Bishop Stillingfleet, and I only regret, that, from want of space, I must very much reduce the number of extracts which I had marked off, [20/21] as applicable, though I think that what is now presented to the reader will prove abundantly sufficient.
"But although there be such a relation to each other in all Christians as to make them one common society; yet, for the performance of particular acts of communion, there must be lesser societies, wherein persons may join together in the actions belonging to them. But still the obligation to communion in these lesser is the same with that which constitutes the great body of Christians, which is the owning Christianity as the only true religion, and way of eternal happiness. And, therefore, those lesser societies cannot, in justice, make the necessary conditions of communion narrower than those which belong to the Catholic Church, i.e. those things which declare men Christians ought to capacitate them for communion with Christians. But here we are to consider that as to be a Christian, supposeth men's owning the Christian religion to be true, so, in consequence of that religion being to us now in those books we call she Scriptures, there must be an acknowledgment of them as the indispensable rule of faith and manners, which is, that these Books are the great charter of the Christian Society, according to which it must be governed."--Vindication, p. 271. [I beg to observe, that in the following extracts I have taken care that the passages stand exactly as they are in the original. The Italics are not mine.]
Stillingfleet here lays down a most important rule, and one in every respect applicable to the present circumstances in which I am placed "THE BOOKS," says he, (the Scriptures,) "are the GREAT CHARTER of the Christian society, according to which it must be governed." These, he declares, are "the indispensable rule of faith and manners:" And to these, then, I am ready to appeal my case from beginning to end. Let Bishop Terrot and the Scottish Episcopal Church be put on their trial, on the one hand, and I, on the other, am prepared to prove from Scripture, that he and the communion to which he belongs have not, on the present occasion, conformed to Stillingfleet's judgment, when he says of lesser or particular Churches, that "they cannot in justice make the necessary conditions of communion narrower than those which belong to the Catholic Church," inasmuch as they have made, [21/22] by the necessary terms of their communion, a vital encroachment on the religious privileges of Christians, and connected with it a vital corruption of Evangelical Truth.
Now, the main end of the Christian society being the promotion of God's honour and the salvation of men's Louis, the primary obligation of men entering into it, is the advancement of these ends; to join in all acts of it so far as they tend to these ends; but it any thing come to be required directly repugnant to these ends, those men of whom such things are required are bound not to communicate in those lesser societies where such things are imposed, but to preserve their communion with the Catholic society of Christians."--Vindication, p. 27).
The requirements of Canon XXI. and Canon XXVIII. are, in my estimation, 'DIRECTLY REPUGNANT" to the great end of "the Christian Society," which is " the promotion of God's honour," and "the salvation of men's souls;" and, therefore, the "primary obligation," by which I must be led to join any Christian communion, has ceased, as regards the Scottish Episcopal Church, which enacts these Canons, and "I am bound not to communicate" in it.
There being a possibility acknowledged that particular Churches may require unreasonable conditions of communion, the obligation to communion cannot be absolute and indispensable; but only so far as nothing is required destructive to the end of Christian society. Otherwise men would be bound to destroy that which they believe, and to do the most unjust and unreasonable things."--Vindication, p. 271.
Canons XXI. and XXVIII. are both of them "unreasonable conditions of' communion," in the highest degree. To say that I ought to submit to them is to say that "I am bound to destroy that which I believe, and to do the most unjust and unreasonable things."
Where there is sufficient evidence from Scripture, reason, and tradition, that such things which are imposed are unreasonable conditions of Christian communion, the not communicating with that society which requires these things cannot incur the guilt of schism. Which necessarily follows from the precedent grounds, because none can be obliged to communion in such cases; and, therefore, the not communicating is no culpable separation."--Vindication, p. 272.
 The conditions of communion with the Scottish Episcopal Church are "unreasonable," in respect of Canons XXI. and XXVIII.; and, therefore, my separation from her communion is not "culpable," nor does it "incur the guilt of schism."
"These passages I have laid together, that the reader may clearly understand the full state of this great controversy concerning schism; the upshot of which is, that it is agreed between both parties that all separation from communion with a Church doth not involve in it the guilt of schism, but only such a separation as hath no sufficient cause or ground for it."--Vindication, p. 303.
Those who condemn me for separation from the Scottish Episcopal Church must, in the first place, prove that there hath been "no sufficient cause or ground for it," before they can fix upon me the guilt of schism.
"And, therefore, supposing that all particular Churches have some errors and corruptions in them, though, I should separate from them all, I do not separate from the communion of the whole Church, unless it be for something without which there could be no Churches. An evidence of which is, that by my declaring the grounds of my separation to be such, errors and corruptions which are crept into the communion of such Churches, and imposed on me in order to it, I withal declare my readiness to join with them again, if those errors and corruptions be left out. And where there is this readiness of communion, there is no absolute separation from the Church as such, but only suspending communion till such abuse be reformed; which is, therefore, more properly a separation from the errors, than the communion of such a Church. Wherefore, if we suppose that there is no one visible Church whose communion is not tainted with some corruptions, though if these corruptions be enjoined as conditions of communion, I cannot communicate with any of those Churches; yet it follows not that I am separated from the external communion of the Catholic Church, but that I only suspend communion with those particular Churches till I may safely join with them."--Vindication, p. 309.
Canons XXI. and XXVIII., too, manifestly prove, that "errors and corruptions" have "crept into the communion" of the Scottish Episcopal Church. And these are the grounds of my separation. Let these "errors and corruptions be LEFT OUT," and I shall immediately return. I am only "suspending my communion" with her till "such abuses be [23/24] reformed;" and so I separate more properly "from the errors than from the communion itself."
"Our assertion, say you, is; but, good Sir, it is not what you assert, but what you prove. It were an easy matter for us to draw up a far larger Bill against your CHURCH, and tell you our assertion is that you are the greatest schismatics in the world. Would you look on it as sufficiently proved because we asserted it? I pray think the same of us, for we are not apt to think ourselves guilty of schism at all the more because you tell us what your assertion is: if this be your way of dealing with us, your first assertion had need be that you are infallible; but still that had need be more than asserted, for unless it be infallibly proved, we shall not believe it."--Vindication, p. 312.
"The assertion" of those who have condemned me is thus publicly given:--"Surely it will not be denied, that such a Congregation would be essentially schismatical, were it formed under ANY circumstances." "If this be your way of dealing with us, your first assertion had need be, that you are infallible; but still that had need be more than asserted, for unless it be infallibly proved, we will not believe it."
"But having already pulled down that Babel of Infallibility, this answer fails to the ground with it; and to use your phrase, the truth is, all that you have in effect to say for your Church is, that she is infallible, and the Catholic Church, and by this means you think to cast the schism upon us; and these things are great enough indeed, if you could but make any show of proof for them, but not being able to do that, you do in effect as much, as if a man in a high fever should go about to demonstrate it was impossible for him to be sick, which, the more he takes pains to do, the more evident his distemper is to all who hear him."--Vindication, p. 317.
I leave the reader to make his own comment on this passage.
"But in all such cases wherein a division may be made, and yet the several persons divided retain the essentials of a Christian Church, the separation which may be among any such must be determined according to the causes of it. For it being possible of one side, that men may, out of capricious humours and fancies, renounce the communion of a Church which requires nothing but what is just and reasonable; and it being possible, on the other side, that a Church calling herself Catholic may so degenerate in faith and practice, as not only to be guilty of great errors and corruptions, but to impose them as conditions of communion [24/25] with her, it is necessary, where there is a manifest separation, to enquire into the reasons and grounds of it; and to determine the nature of it according to the justice of the cause which is pleaded for it. And this I hope may help you a little better to understand what is meant by such who say, there can be no just cause of schism; and bow little this makes for your purpose."--Vindication, p. 314.
My accusers say, "under any circumstances" your separation would be schismatical. They must, however, do something more than assert," they must PROVE that, on the one hand, "from capricious humours and fancies, I have renounced their communion," and, on the other, that they require nothing save what is "just and reasonable," before they can say "there can be no just cause of schism;" and if they cannot do this, they must be content to find out how "little (the mere assertion) makes for their purpose."
"But those who have been Heretics were first proved to be so, by making it appear that was a certain truth which they denied do you the same by us; prove those which we call errors in your Church to be part of the Catholic and Apostolic Faith; prove those we account corruptions to be parts of Divine worship, and we will give you leave to call us Heretics and Schismatics, but not before."--Vindication, p. 315. [It ought to be distinctly understood, that I and those with me have not separated front the Scottish Episcopal Church, because we were not permitted to introduce SOME NEW THING," but because terms of communion were ADDED TO the Canon Law, to which in our conscience, and according to the Scripture, we believed no Christian man was bound to submit, or rather against which we believed that every Christian man was bound to testify.]
Let it be proved that the meeting with my people privately, for reading the Word of God and prayer, without using the Liturgy, is opposed to "the Catholic and Apostolic faith,"--(I am prepared to prove, that the attempt to put down such meetings is an "error" against that faith,) and that a commemorative sacrifice" and "transubstantiation," are parts of "Divine Worship" in the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, and then I shall admit, but not till then, that I, and [25/26] those who are now acting with me, are heretics and schismatics.
I now turn to Archbishop Tillotson, and beg to adduce one or two of his sentiments on this subject, as a further proof of the propriety and justice of the conduct I have pursued.
"Fourthly, It is objected, that as, on the one hand, there may be danger of error in following blindly the belief of the Church, so, on the other hand, there is a great danger of schism in forsaking the communion of the Church upon pretence of error, and corruptions. Very true; but where great errors and corruptions are not only pretended, but are real and evident; and where our compliance with those errors and corruptions is made a necessary condition of our communion with that Church; in that case, the guilt of schism, how great a crime soever it be, doth not fall upon those who forsake the communion of that Church, but upon those who drive them out of it, by the sinful conditions which they impose upon them."--Archbishop Tillotson's Sermons, vol. iii p. 414.
The conditions which the Scottish Episcopal Church have imposed as terms of communion, I hold to be "sinful," inasmuch as they arbitrarily and unreasonably demand my cessation from a labour which God has greatly blessed for the good of his Church, and the promotion of his glory; and because they endeavour to hide, in the darkness of the Middle Ages, the pure light of one of the blessed ordinances of the Gospel, by stamping, with some of the worst features of Popery, the administration of the Lord's Supper. The guilt of schism, therefore, does not fall on me, who have forsaken the communion of that Church, but upon those who have driven me out of it, by the sinful conditions which they have imposed on me.
"I know that some men are so fond of the name of a Church, that they can very hardly believe that any thing which bears that glorious title can miscarry, or do any thing so much amiss as to give just occasion to any of her members to break off from her communion. What? the Church err? That is such an absurdity, as is by many thought sufficient to put any objection out of countenance. That the whole Church, that is, that all the Christians in the world should at any time fall off to idolatry, and into errors and practices directly contrary to the Christian doctrine, revealed in the holy Scriptures, is, on all hands, I think, denied; [26/27] but that any particular Church may fall into such errors and practices is, I think, as universally granted."--Archbishop Tillotson's Sermons, vol. iii. p. 416.
Those who condemn me must prove one of two things, before they can acquit themselves of the guilt of causelessly charging me with schism: 1. That they are infallible; or, 2. That their communion does not sanction 'errors and practices;' which are "directly contrary to the CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE, REVEALED IN SCRIPTURE."
"And which is yet more, some men talk of these matters at that rate, as if a man, who thought himself obliged to quit the communion of the Church of Rome should happen to be in those circumstances, that he had no opportunity of joining himself to any other communion, he ought in that case to give over all thought of religion, and not be so conceited and presumptuous as to think of going to Heaven alone by himself.
"It is without doubt a very great sin to despise the communion of the Church, or to break off from it so long as we can continue in it without sin; but if things should come to that pass, that we must either disobey God for company, or stand alone in our obedience to him, we ought most certainly to obey God whatever comes of it; and to profess his truth, whether any body else will join with us in hat profession or not."--Tillotson's Sermons, vol. iii. p. 417.
I am not quite arrived at the high point of "conceit and presumption" to which the Archbishop alludes, for many are with me; but "things have come to that pass," that "I must certainly obey God, whatever comes of it," and "profess his truth, whether any body else will join me in that profession or not."
"And they who speak otherwise condemn the whole Reformation, and do, in effect, say that Martin Luther had done a very ill thing in breaking off from the Church of Rome, if no body else would have joined with him in that design. And yet if it had been so, I hope God would have given him the grace and courage to have stood alone in so good and glorious a cause, and to have laid down his life for it.
"And for any man to be of another opinion, is just as if a man, upon great deliberation, should choose rather to be drowned than be saved either by a plank or a small boat; or to be carried into the harbour any other way than in a great ship of so many hundred tons."--Archbishop Tillotson's Sermons, vol. iii, p. 417.
 "Planks" and "broken pieces" of wood were of great service to Paul and his companions at the island of Melita, when "the great ship" was sinking in the waters; and they who are willing to "lay down their life for a great and glorious cause," may find that life more secure upon a plank of God's providing, than in a ship of man's making.
"In short, a good man must resolve to obey God, and to profess his truth, though all the world should happen to do otherwise. Christ hath promised to preserve his Church "to the end of the world;" that is, he hath engaged his word that he will take care there shall always be, in some part of the world or other, some persons that shall make a sincere profession of his true religion.
"But he hath nowhere promised to preserve any one part of his Church from such errors and corruptions as may oblige all good men to quit the communion of that part; yea, though when they have done so, they may not know whither to resort for actual communion with any other sound part of the Christian Church."--Archbishop Tillotson's Sermons, vol. iii. p. 417-18.
The God who has led me hitherto will, I am sure, give me such a measure of his grace as shall enable me to act up to this truly noble, truly Christian, sentiment.
I have not space on the present occasion to do more than add a third witness to the preceding. The following extracts are from a standard work, Bishop Burnet on the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England, which is used continually as a text-book at Oxford and Cambridge, and also at the examinations for orders in most, if not all, of the Dioceses in England.
"Thus I have laid down those distinctions that will guide us in the right understanding of this Article. If we believe that any society retains the fundamentals of Christianity, we do from that conclude it to be a true Church, to have a true baptism, and the members of it to be capable of salvation. But we are not upon that bound to associate ourselves to their communion; for if they have the addition of false doctrine, or any unlawful parts of worship among them, we ore not bound to join in that which we are persuaded is error, idolatry, or [28/29] superstition. If the sacraments that Christ has appointed are observed and ministered by any Church as to the main of them, according to this institution, we are to own those for valid actions; but we are not for that bound to join in communion with them, if they have adulterated these with any mixtures and additions."--Bishop Burnet on the Thirty-Nine Articles, Art. xix. p. 254.
Canons XXI. and XXVIII. are "the mixtures and additions;' which have "adulterated" the Scottish Episcopal Church, and, therefore, I am not "bound to join in communion" with her.
"The being baptized in a Church, does not tie a man to every thing in that Church; it only ties him to the covenant of grace. The stipulations which are made in baptism, a, well as in ordination, do only bind a man to the Christian faith, or to the faithful dispensing of that Gospel, and of those sacraments of which he is made a minister; so he who, being convinced of the errors and corruptions of a Church, departs from them, and goes on in the purity of the Christian religion, does pursue the true effect, both of his baptism and of his ordination vows. For these are to be considered as ties upon him only to God and Christ, and not to adhere to the other dictates of that body in which he had his birth, baptism, and ordination,"
The "making full proof of my ministry" is the "tie upon me for God and Christ;" and in so doing I am "pursuing the true effect of my baptism, and my ordination vow." Canons XXI. and XXVIII. are "dictates" of the Scottish Episcopal Church, to which I am under no obligation "to adhere."
"The great objection against all this is, that it sets up a private judgment; it gives particular persons a right of judging Churches; whereas the natural order is, that private persons ought to be subject and obedient to the Church,"
"This must needs feed pride and curiosity; it must break all order, end cast all things loose, if every single man, according to his reading and presumption, will judge of Churches and Communions.
"On this head it is very easy to employ a great deal of popular eloquence, to decry private men's examining of Scriptures, and forming their judgments of things out of them, and not submitting all to the judgment of the Church. But however absurd soever this may seem, all parties do acknowledge that it must be done.
"Those of the Church of Rome do teach, that a man born in the Greek Church, or among us, is bound to lay down his error, and his communion too, [29/30] and to come over to them; and yet they allow our baptism as well a, they do the ordination of the Greek Church
"Thus they allow private men to judge, and that in so great a point, as what Church and what communion ought to be chosen or forsaken; and it is certain, that to judge of Churches and communion, is a thing of that intricacy, that if private judgment is allowed here, there is no reason to deny its full scope as to all other matters.
"God has given us rational faculties to guide and direct us; and we must make the most of these that we can. We must judge with our own reasons, as well as see with our own eyes; neither can we, or ought we, to resign up our understandings to any others, unless we are convinced that God has imposed this upon us, by making them infallible, so that we are secured from error if we follow them.
"All this we must examine, and be well assured of it, otherwise it will be a very rash, unmanly, and base thing in us to muffle up our own understandings, and to deliver our reason and faith over to others blindfold. Reason is God's image in us; and as the use and application of our reason, as well as the freedom of our wills, are the highest excellencies of the rational nature, so they must be always claimed, and ought never to be parted with by us, but upon clear and certain authorities in the name of God, putting us implicitly under the dictate, of others.
"We may abuse the use of our reason, as well as the liberty of our will, and may be damned for the one as well as the other; but when we set ourselves to make the best use we can of the freedom of our will, we may and do upon that expect secret assistance. We have both the like promises, direction to the like prayers, and reason to expect the same illumination to make us see, and know, and comprehend, the truths of religion, that we have to expect that our powers shall be inwardly strengthened to love and obey them. David prays that God may open his eyes, as well as that he may make him to go in his ways. The promises in the Prophet, concerning the Gospel dispensation, carry in them the being taught of God, as well as the being made to walk in his ways; and the enlightening the mind, and the eyes of the mind, to know, is prayed for by St Paul, as, well as that Christ may dwell in their hearts.
"Since, then, there is an assistance of she Divine grace given to fortify the understanding. as well as to enable the will, it follows that our understanding is to be employed by us in order to the finding out of the truth, as well as our will, in order to the obeying of it. And though this may have very ill consequences, it does not follow from thence that it is not true. No consequences can be worse than the corruption that is in the world, and the damnation that follows upon sin; and yet God permits it, because he has made us free creatures. Nor can any reason be given why we should he less free in the use of our understanding than we are in the use of our will; or why God should make it to be less possible for us to fall into error than it is to commit sins. The wrath of God is as [30/31] much denounced against men that hold the truth in unrighteousness, as against other sins; and it is reckoned among the heaviest of curses to be given up to strong delusions to believe a lie. Upon all these reasons, therefore, it seems clear, that our understandings are left free to us, as well as our wills, and if we observe the style and method of the Scriptures, we shall flnd in them all over a constant appeal to a man's reason, and to his intellectual faculties. If the mere dictates of the Church, or of infallible men, had been the resolution or foundation of faith, there had been no need of such a long thread of reasoning and discourses, a, both our Saviour used while on earth, and as the Apostles used in their writings. We see the way of authority is not taken, but explanations are offered, proofs and illustrations are brought to convince the mind, which shews that God, in the clearest manifestations of his will, would deal with us as reasonable creatures, who are not to believe but upon persuasion, and are to use our reasons in order to the attaining that persuasion; and, therefore, upon she whole matter, we ought not to believe doctrines to be true because the Church teaches them; but we ought to search the Scriptures; and then, according as we find the doctrine of any Church to be true in the fundamentals, we ought to believe her to be a true Church; and if, besides this, the whole extent of the doctrine and worship, together not only with the essential parts of the sacraments, but the whole administration of them, and the other rituals of any Church, are pure and true, then we ought to account such a Church true in the largest extent of the word true; and by consequence we ought to hold communion with it."--Bishop Burnet on the Thirty-Nine Articles, Art. xix, p. 255, 6, 7.
Comment on this sound and wholesome doctrine is, I feel, perfectly needless. And I only add, therefore, on this part of the subject--try my separation from the Scottish Episcopal Church by Stillingfieet, Tillotson, or Burnet, or according to the standard to which each and all of them refer, weigh it in the balance of the sanctuary, and it will be found to be neither unreasonable, sinful, heretical, nor schismatical.
I cannot refrain from adding, in connection with the whole line of argument pursued by the writers to which I have referred, laid, as it is by them, on the sure foundation of the Word of God,--and urging, as it does, in the clearest terms, not only the right, but the necessity of private judgment in reference to that foundation,--I cannot refrain from adding, that this is a question which bears far beyond the merits of [31/32] the case at present under discussion; and that it clearly and loudly demands from the laity, as well as the clergy, the deepest consideration, in as much as the one are as responsible in this respect as the other. A crisis in the Church has arrived, when the laity must take care that they are not robbed of their privilege, or made to think that they have no share in a responsibility, which, sooner or later, it will be seen, attaches to them with a weight from which no mere church authority can relieve them. The questions that are now raised will not again be set at rest, until the faith of all, both ministers and people, have been tried. And with this sure conviction, I cast myself in this matter on the enlightened judgment of every Christian man, who is ready to abide by the only unerring rule of faith and practice, and I know that God will defend the right.
From all, therefore, that I have stated above, I think I may with justice affirm, that I have at once given sufficient "REASONS" for suspending communion with the Scottish Episcopal Church, and that I am in no respect chargeable with the guilt of schism.
I now proceed, very briefly, to notice one or two difficulties which have been industriously circulated, as of necessity pertaining to a new Congregation formed in Edinburgh like that in which I am to minister for the future,--difficulties which have been gravely asserted to be insurmountable.
The first of them is, the Congregation will have to meet in a building which is not consecrated. This is our misfortune, not our fault. And really I can hardly trust myself to write seriously on such a point, as if it could possibly offer an actual difficulty in the way of forming such a congregation. Bat let me simply inform those who make it a difficulty, that neither [32/33] Trinity Chapel nor St James' Chapel are consecrated; and I do not know how many more there may be in England, as well as Scotland, in the same predicament, and yet there is no let or hindrance to the performance of Divine worship.
But I am wrong in assuming that the place where the new Congregation are to meet will not be consecrated. On the contrary, I affirm that it will be consecrated, and that in the best and highest way. It will have a consecration, the record of which shall be found in heaven, when earth and earthly tabernacles and temples have passed away for ever. The consecration derived from the worship of "a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people:" a consecration such as Cowper loved to think of, and to express in his sweetly solemn strains,
"Jesus, where'er thy people meet,
There they behold thy mercy-seat;
Where'er they seek thee, thou art found,
And every place is hallowed wound."
Another difficulty which has been stated as connected with the new Congregation, regards the rite of confirmation. This, it is said, can never be performed in a Congregation placed in such circumstances. Now, to this I reply, first, I do not hesitate to express a confident hope, that at least, once in three or four years, the aid of a Bishop of the Church of England, or of the American Episcopal Church, will be obtained for this purpose. But I am willing to take the extreme view of the case, and suppose that not one Bishop from England or America will come over and help us in this matter. What then shall we do? Why, as I said before on the former difficulty, this is our misfortune, not our fault; [33/34] and the blame connected with it rests with those who have compelled us to assume our present position.
But what will the advocates of ultra-high Churchism say to the assertion, that Presbyters, in cases of necessity, may confirm as well as baptize? It would be an unprofitable waste of time were I to attempt to argue a question of this kind. And I shall therefore do no more than shelter myself under two great names, that I may not be branded as utterly heretical. Bishop Burnet says, "The invention that was afterwards found out, by which the Bishop was held to be the only minister of Confirmation, even though Presbyters were suffered to confirm, was A PIECE OF SUPERSTITION, WITHOUT ANY COLOUR IN SCRIPTURE." Again, "It is said by Hilary, that in Egypt the Presbyters did confirm in the Bishop's absence." Again, "Gregory the Great, though his former order was made according to the ancient practice of the Church of Rome, yet he consented that for the future the Priest might confirm in the Bishop's absence." And in the same view writes Dean Field,--a very high authority in the Church of England, in his celebrated work "On the Church." "Hence it followeth, that many things, which in some cases Presbyters may lawfully do, are peculiarly reserved unto Bishops, as Jerome noteth, rather for the honour of their ministry, than the necessity of any law. And therefore we read, that Presbyters in some places, and at some times, did impose hands and confirm such as were baptized, which when Gregory Bishop of Rome would wholly have forbidden, there was so great exception taken to him for it, that he left it free again. And who knoweth not that all Presbyters, in cases of necessity, may absolve and reconcile penitents, (that is, receive into [34/35] communion again those who had been cast out;) a thing in ordinary course appropriated unto the Bishops? And why not by the same reason ordain Presbyters and Deacons, in cases of like necessity? For, seeing the cause why they are forbidden to do such sets is, because to Bishops ordinarily the care of all Churches is committed, and to them, in all reason, the ordination of such as must serve in the Church pertaineth that have the care of the Church, and have Churches wherein to employ them; which only Bishops have as long as they retain their standing; and not Presbyters, being but assistants to Bishops in their churches; if they (the Bishops) become enemies to God and true religion, in case of such necessity, as the care and government of the church is devolved to the Presbyters remaining catholic, and being of a better spirit, so the duty of ordaining such as are to assist or succeed them in the work of the ministry pertains to them likewise. For, if the power of order and authority to intermeddle in things pertaining to God's service be the same in all Presbyters, and that they be limited in the execution of it only for order's sake, so that, in case of necessity, every one of them may baptize and confirm them whom they have baptized," &c.
These extracts lay down a rule which cannot be controverted. But I wish at once to say, that I do not mean to avail myself of it. I regard confirmation as an ordinance of the Church, altogether apart from the two sacraments, which are ordinances of Christ. If, therefore, by any means I am prevented from the privilege of having that rite administered in my Congregation in the usual way, I shall at once submit to the peculiarity of my situation, and, instead of preparing Catechumens for Confirmation, I shall prepare them for the Lord's Table; an ordinance to which I can myself admit [35/36] them, and which, as confirming and openly testifying to their Baptismal engagements, will prevent my Congregation from suffering any real loss. Even Roman Catholics, who regard Confirmation as a Sacrament, have acknowledged that it is not necessary. And I uphold and assert this resolution which I have taken, should I be driven to an extreme, from the rubric of the Church of England, which thus closes the Confirmation Service. "And there shall none be admitted to the Holy Communion until such time as he be confirmed, OR be ready and desirous to be confirmed." If none will aid me in the Rite of Confirmation, I shall only say, Here are those "ready and desirous to be confirmed;" and if no opportunity is afforded to them, I proceed, according to the rubric of the Church of England, "to admit them to the Holy Communion." Even to this, however, I again repeat, I have no fear that we shall be driven.
Thus have I endeavoured, and I think successfully, to prove, that I have not, in accepting the invitation to remain as an English Minister in Edinburgh, separate from the Scottish Episcopal Church, acted without sound and weighty reasons, and that the charge of schism falls wholly to the ground. But I beg that it may be distinctly noticed that I have met the latter charge only in a supposed case, not in that which actually exists. I have met the charge on the supposition that I had separated from that communion in which I had "my birth, my baptism, and my ordination;" but the fact of the case is this, I have not separated from, but I adhere to the communion in which I had my "birth, baptism, and ordination." I am assured, by the highest legal authorities in England, that I am in [36/37] no respect contravening the discipline of my own Church in what I am doing, and that she cannot disown me as her servant. How utterly groundless, then, is the charge of schism! I am setting forth no new doctrine, I am establishing no new communion, I am making no innovation in the practice of my own Church. I am not introducing any new discipline;--on the contrary, I am adhering in every respect to my ordination vow in the Church of England, I am adhering to her Articles, her Homilies, and her Liturgy; nay, I am doing more, I am fighting a battle, that these shall be retained in their purity and vigour, and not given over to the plastic touch of those who would mould her to another form, who would give her the voice of Jacob, and the hands of Esau. Only in so doing, I am not prepared to subscribe to the sentiments of certain modern theologians, who affirm that wherever a Bishop is, every Episcopalian living within his reach ought to submit to his jurisdiction; and who, in perfect consistency with this doctrine, condemned the mission of a Protestant Bishop to Jerusalem, because it would interfere with the jurisdiction of the Greek Bishop in that city. I own I am not prepared to subscribe to such sentiments, inasmuch as I am not ready to submit to the Episcopal authority of the Pope, if I were at Rome, or to that of the Patriarch of the Greek Church, if I were at Constantinople. I must have something more than the bare assertion, then, that, in separating from the Episcopal Church on account of enactments made recently, made since I originally consented to hold a charge in connection with it--enactments which I, in my conscience, believe to be contrary to God's word, and adverse to the cause of truth;--I must have something more than assertion to satisfy me that I [37/38] do otherwise than right in separating from that communion, even though it be presided over by a Bishop. I am willing to listen to reason and to Scripture; but I cannot consent blindfold to give up both, at a mere outcry of order and discipline, which, when used unreasonably and unjustly, has already done sufficient damage to the best interests of the Gospel. I am willing to "search the Scriptures" with any one, and to be judged by what is found therein; but I feel confidence in God, that he will not suffer me to be for a moment moved by a mere sentence of condemnation, unqualified by the clear and express declaration of his Word, from whatever quarter it may come; and if it cannot be, as I am sure it will not be, that I shall convince those that oppose themselves now, I shall only wait with patience until the Lord plead my cause, and execute judgment for me; and thus, when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me. I shall wait until, by the consistent, the steady, the faithful manifestation of practical godliness in the midst of the Congregation in which I shall minister, the voice of condemnation shall be stopped; until those who look on shall take knowledge of us that we have been with Jesus, and by the exhibition of faith in Christ, patience, and the fruits of holiness, be constrained to glorify our Heavenly Father. I hesitate not to own that "I am not careful to answer in this matter. If it be so, our God, whom we serve, is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and HE WILL DELIVER US."
John Brown of Wamphray, in 1679, in an admirable letter, mentions that among many particular temptations to which persons are exposed in seasons of trial or suffering:
"A too great readiness to accept of small favours with thankfulness, when it is attended with outward ease and quiet, though it be in matters that are none of ours, but the proper interest of our Lord and Master; in the avowing of which with constancy we are exposed to continual difficulties and dangers; this, sure, argueth a decay of zeal for Christ and his interests, when we are called to buy the truth at any rate, end at no rate to sell it; and what is given away by compact is not so recoverable by law as what is robbed or taken from it, without our consent; and it is undeniable, that we may not so much as give a tacit consent unto the detaining of anything that is our Lord's. Moses knew this, when he would not consent to leave one hoof behind him, though thereby he might have delivered six hundred thousand persons and more out of manifest slavery, both as to soul and body, out of which they were groaning to be delivered, and expecting a delivery with many a disappointment. Some might possibly have thought that Moses might more have respected the liberty of his countrymen then to have stood upon such a punctilio; but he was of another spirit, and would not yield even so far, whatever should befall."
WHILE these sheets are passing through the press I have seen a letter from the Rev. Daniel Bagot, in defence of the Scottish Communion Office, and I only express what I feel, when I say how grieved I am, that a long and careful examination has led me to take a totally different view from that entertained by Mr. Bagot. I have been for some time engaged in preparing, and, in the course of a few days, I shall be able to publish, a history of that Office, in which it will appear to be expressly opposed to the Articles, Homilies, and Liturgy of the Church of England, and that it adopts, as the most critical part of the service, absolutely the same phraseology which, according to an eminent authority of the Church of England, has been in former times characteristic of a great change of doctrine in the Church of Rome, namely, when she began to teach TRANSUBSTANTIATION. My intention, of course, in calling attention to this office, is not to charge any member of the Scottish Episcopal Church with holding the doctrine of Transubstantiation, but simply to prove that this Office contains it, and therefore is corrupt. I shall content myself for the present with giving a comment on the most important passage of the Scottish Communion Office, by a Clergyman who has been frequently considered as one of the lights of the Scottish Episcopal Church--the late Mr John Skinner of Forfar, brother of the present Primus. In his Dissertation on this Office, when referring to the expression, that it may BECOME the body," &c., he says in a note, p. 130, "Quere--What is meant by 'discerning the Lord's body?' (1 Cor. xi. 29,) if, as some people assert, there IS NO BODY TO BE DISCERNED, NOTHING BUT A FIGURE OR EMBLEM?"