Micaiah Towgood.

A dissent from the Church of England, fully justified; being the dissenting gentleman's three letters in answer to the letters of the Rev. John White on that subject online

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excommunicated member is delivered over to th^
civil arm, to humble and chastise him ; he is dis-
abled from asserting his natural rights, from be-
ing a witness, from bringing actions at law, anil
if he do not submit in forty days, a writ shall
sue forth to imprison him.

In the church of Jesus Christ, those who are
entrusted with ecclesiastical discipline are so-
lemnly charged before God and .the Lord Jesus
Christ, and the elect angels, to be no respecters of
persons, to do nothing bi/ partiality, and not to
prefer one before another ;t Neither the gold ring

l COT. v. 12. f l Tim - v - 21 -


nor Ike gntj clothing.,* nor pecuniary gifts, are to
have any influence upon their ecclesiastical pro-
ceedings ; but the poor are to receive the same
measure with the rich. But is it thus, sir, in
the church of England ? May not a grievous sin-
ner, according to her constitution, be suffered to
commute ? to have pardon for money, and to
skreen himself by a round fee from the stroke of
the church's rod? Yea, when he is going to be
delivered, or actually is delivered, into the hands
of the devil, and Satan has him in his keeping,
will not a handsome sum presently pluck him
thence, and restore him to the church's soft and
indulgent bosom again? You remember, sir,
the heathen satirist,

At vos

I facit ai.


jit i>os

Dicite, potilifices, in sacris quid facit auriim


And you know what was said, upon a like occa-
sion, by a much greater than he Thy money
perish zsith thee ; because thou hast thought thai
the gift of God may be purchased with money?
thou hast neither part nor lor in this matter.^

Some of the most sacred acts of spiritual ju-
risdiction, its solemn censures and excommuni-
cations, are exercised in the church of England,
by unconsecrated and mere laymen. These hold
the keys, open or shut, cast out or admit into it,
according to their sole pleasure. The chancel-
lors, officials, surrogates who administer the
jurisdiction of spiritual courts, and determine
the' most important spiritual matters, such as a'c-
-lirering men to the devil, <$r. frequently are, and
by express provision of law, always may be, lay-
men. And truly, sir, I greatly pity yon gen-
tlemen of the clergy, that some of the most tre-
mendous and solemn parts of your sacred office,
such as excommunications, absolutions, &c. you
are forced to perform, not according to, but
sometimes, perhaps, directly against your own

James ii. 2, 3. f Acts viii. 20, 21

judgments, as you are authoritatively directed
and commanded by these lay-persons. Forced,
1 say, to do it, notwithstanding what you urge
about your own concurrence ; for if you refuse
to concur, you are immediately liable to suspen-
sion ab ojficio Sf benejicio; and if you continue
obstinate, to be excommunicated yourselves.*

The church of Jesus Christ never owed its
support to the powers, preferments and riches of
this world; it was of God, and therefore wanted
no such aids ; it was its glory, that it made its
way , and was established upon earth, not only
without, but in direct opposition to them : it com-
mands its ministers not to strive, but to be gentle
to all men; in meekness, instructing those who
gainsay (2 Tim. ii. 24, 25.) But the church of
England, conscious of its weakness, props itself
on every side with civil dignities and emoluments ;
calls in the powers and riches of this world to its
support ana defence; deeply intrenches itself
under penal law r s; and thus fortified, thunders
out its excommunications, and threats of fines
and imprisonments, upon all those who shall
dare to write or speak any thing derogatory to
its ceremonies and forms of warship, or its arti-
cles of faith. t

There is one thing, says bishop Burnet, yet wanting to
complete the reformation 1 of the church ; which is, to restore pri-
mitive discipline against scandalous persons, the establishing tb
government of the church in ecclesiastical hands, and taking it
out of lay hands, which have so long profaned it; and have ex-
posed the authority of the church and the censures of it, chiefly
excommunication, to the contempt of the nation : so that the
dreadfullest of all censures, is now become the most scorned and
despised Hint. Reform. Abridg. jiage 367.

f The IV, V, and Vlth canons solemnly denounce " That who-
soever shall affirm that the form of God's worship contained in
the common-prayer, hath any thing in it repugnant to the word
of God or that any of the XXXIX articles are in any part er-
roneous, or such as may not with a good conscience be sub-
scribed, let him be excommunicated ipso facto, and not be re-
stored until he repent and publicly revoke his wicked errors."
And by the act of uniformity, it is enacted " That if any out


There is one difficulty more, sir, which I
could never possibly get over ; it seems to hang
as a dead and insuperable weight upon the frame
of your church ; it' you are dexterous enough to
remove it, you will merit Lambeth for a reward.
The church of England and the church of
Christ seem to be t\vo societies, absolutely dis-
tinct, and of a quite different constitution, as
they have two different heads, or fountains of
power, whence ail authority, jurisdiction, and
ministrations in the t\vo churches severally spring-.
In the church of Jesus Christ, he himself is su-
preme head, the only law-giver and sovereign :
fo us there is but one Lord.* One is your master,
<~cen Christ. t Gate him to be head oncer all things
to the ehurch.% All power is given to me in heaven
and in earth, go ye therefore and teach all nations.!)
Christ is the only fountain of influence, jurisdic-
tion, and power in his church, by commission
from whom alone all its officers act.

But in the church of England, you well know,
sir, the king or queen is supreme head, " vested
with all power to exercise all manner of ecclesi-
astical jurisdiction; and archbishops, bishops,
archdeacons, and other ecclesiastical persons,
have no manner of jurisdiction ecclesiastical, but
by and under the king's majesty, who hath full
power and authority to hear and determine all
niiiiiner of causes ecclesiastical, and to reform
and correct all vice, sin, errors, heresies, enormi-
ties, abuses whatsoever, which by any manner
of spiritual authority or jurisdiction ought, or

may be lawfully reformed. "||

At the first establishment of this church, under


hall declare, or speak any thing in the derogation or depraving
of the book of common prayer, lie shall, for the first oflence, suf-
for imprisonment one whole year, without bail or mainprize ; and
.for the second oflence shall he imprisoned during his life."

1 Cor. viii. 6. f Matt - '" 8 - I Ephes. ' ~ 2 '

Matt xxviii. 18, 19. || ^6 Hen. VIII Cap. i. 37.

Hen. VIII. Cap, xvii. 1 Eliz. Cap. i.

Hen. VIII, and Edw. VI, all the bishop* took
out commissions from the crown, for exercising
their spiritual jurisdiction in these kingdoms,
during the king's pleasure only ; " and in their
commissions acknowledge all sort of jurisdiction,
as well ecclesiastical as civil, to have flowed ori-
ginal !y from the regal power, as from a supreme
head, and a fountain and spring- of all magis-
tracy within his own kingdom.' *

Yea, even the power of ordination itself,
which is reckoned the peculiar province of the
episcopal office, the first reformers and fount' TS
of this church derived from the king, a:nd exor-
cised only as by authority from him, and during
his pleasure. " Thus Cramner, archbishop of
Canterbury, Bonner, bishop of London, &j.
took out commissions from the crown, importing,
that because the vicegerent (Cromwell, a lay-
person) could not personally attend the charge
in all parts of the kingdom, the king authorizes
the bishop in his (the king's or perhaps the vice-
gerent's) stead, to ordain, within his diocess,
such as he judged worthy of holy orders : to col-
late-to benefices ; to give institution ; and to ex-
ecute all other parts of the episcopal authority ;
and this during the king's pleasure only."t

In consequence of this supremacy, the king
or queen of this church hath power to excom-
municate from, or to re-admit into it, indepen-
dent of, yea, in direct opposition to, ail its bi-
shops and clergy. The king or queen can re-
voke, at pleasure, any spiritual censures of the
bishops or archbishops; yea, can of themselves
ftispend, deprive, or even excommunicate; or
can, by their proclamation only, without the
least confession, humiliation, or satisfaction for
their offence, pardon and restore excoimnuni-

Burnet'i Hist. Reform, part II. Col. p. 91.

f Vul. Exaiuiuatiou of the Codex Juris, &e. page 32, 33.

35 ^

ated persons, to the bosom of the church again.*
Yea further ; they have power to forbid all
preaching for a time; as did K. Hen. VIII. K.
Edw, VI. Q. Mary, Q. Eliz. to limit, in-
struct, and prescribe to the clergy what they
shall, and what they shall not preach ; as did Q.
Eliz. K. James I, 'K, Charles I. K, William,
&c. Finally, to the king or queen osily does it
pertain to declare what is heresy, and au-
thoritatively to pronounce what doctrines and
tenets are, and what are not, to be censured as
smch : nor have all the bishops and clergy, as-
sembled in convocation, the least authority to
censure any tenet as heretical, if the prince on
the throne refuse his consent.

Now here, sir, I am pressed with an insupe-
rable difficulty how to reconcile this constitution
of the church of England with the constitution
of the church of Christ. Are they not most in-
disputably two different societies, subject to two
different, sometimes opposite, authorities, ani-
mated and governed by two different heads ? In
Christ's church, himself is the only sovereign
and head ; he only hath power to decree cere-
monies and rites, to fix terms of communion and
authority in^oints of faith : nor hath any earthly
prince power to make lws in his kingdom, which
shall liuJ the consciences of his subjects ; or so-
vereignly to dictate to his servants and ministers
what they shall believe, and what they shall
pre^fh. V'a, his subjects are expressly com-
map-lfvl and charged to receive nothing as doc-
trin - 4 or parts of religion, which are only com-
niftni'mrnts of men. \ But in the church of Eng-
land there is another sovereign, law-giver, su-
preme head besides Jesus Christ ; an. authority

* A person wis deprived for adulterj ; afterwards a general
pardon came, which pardoned the adultery. It was adjudged
tltat the parson was ipso Judo, restored to his benefice. Coke .
Hq>. IS.

f Matt xr. 9.


tvliich commands things Christ never command-
ed, which teaches doctrines Christ never taught,
which enjoins terms of communion, and rites of
religious worship, he never enjoined. Now
what can 1 judge, sir! What do you yourself
judge! but that the two churches are two dis-
tinct and quite different societies, (for in one
and the same society, surely there cannot be two
supreme heads), that they are framed after dif-
ferent models, consist of different members, are
governed by different officers, statutes, and laws.
Consequently, my separation or dissent from the
one, doe?, by no means infer my separation from
the other. Yea, 'what am I to judge but that
by the allegiance I owe to Christ, my only su-
preme head and king in spiritual matters, I am
obliged to enter my protest against the preten-
sions and claims of my other supreme head. For,
can a man serve ti&o masters? Can he be subject
at the same time to two supreme heads ? Can he
be faithful to Christ, the only king'of the church,
and yet acknowledge another king, as a fountain
of all magistracy and power therein ? Surely he

Permit me, sir, to exercise your patience a
moment or two more upon this remarkable con-
trast, and 1 will dismiss the unpleasant subject.

By the constitution of the church of Christ, it
is expressly ordered and declared that the <ro-
nan shall not be suffered put-lief// lo teach nor to
usurp authority over Ihe man* But by the con-
stitution of the church of England, the woman i.
permitted pulliely to teach, yea, to limit and con-
trol in spiritual and religious matters, and au-
thoritatively to instruct the bishops, and clergy,
and all men in the land. Thus did queen Eli-
zabeth, thus did queen Anue, and thus hath
every queen authority to do that sits upon our
throne ; authority to prescribe and dictate to nil,

* 1 Tim ii. 13.

both ministers and people, what the one are to
preach and the other to receive. And was it not,
ir r a very comely and edifying' sight, to behold
the two houses of convocation waiting; upon queen.
Anne,* in the case of Whiston's books upon the
Trinity, to be instructed by her majesty whether
they were to be condemned as heretical, or not ?
That venerable and learned body had solemnly
decreed them to be dangerous and heretical ;
but this their censure was of no force, till they
had laid it before the queen, to have her judg-
ment upon the point. Upon her Majesty's de-
termination it entirely depended, whether Whis-
ton's tenets were to be rejected by the church of
England as erroneous, or not. Her majesty, in.
this case, was of a different opinion from her two
houses of convocation ; she thought not fit to
censure the books : so her single opinion, (strange
to relate!) her single opinion carried it against
that of her bishops and clergy. She over-rules
and sets aside all their proceedings, restrains
and counteracts them in one of the very chief of
their pastoral functions, the guarding against er-
rors and heresies in the church.

Behold here, sir, a woman exercising spiri-
tual ecclesiastical authority over the man ! Yea,
behold the representative of the clergy of the
v, hole land, a most learned, grave and venera-
ble body, waiting upon a woman to learn from
her mouth, what the church is to believe, and
what to reject, as to this great mystery of faith :
upon a woman, by whose sole determination,
(I repeat it with astonishment, and you hear it,
no doubt, with perplexity and grief) your church
was uncontro-ably and authoritatively directed
in this deep and mysterious point.

I ask you, sir, in the name of God, is this the
constitution and frame of the church of Christ ?
Is it not a constitution of a quite different na-

* Anno 1711.


ture; a society not divinely, but humanly in-
stituted; and therefore, by your own definition,

not the church of Christ? And may not, think
you, a person separate peaceably from it, with-
out the least danger of thereby separating
himself from the only scriptural, apostolic, and
catholic church.

When you stripped the pope of his supremacy,
and gave it to our princes, you should have ta-
ken care not to have left his infallibility behind.
An infallible head and director of the church,
be it woman or man, be ii a he or a she-bishop,
is a thing- j 1 msible enough, and carries a good
face ; but to lodge the absolute direction of the
conscience, the faith and the discipline of the
church with a faiiibje head ! to give a prince,
yea a lady, bred up in all the so fin esses and di-
versions of a court, an uncontrolatile dominion
over the religious conduct both of clergy and
laity," authoritatively to direct what those are to
preach, and what these to believe as to the doctrine
of Christ ! to make her the sole ju -ge in all con-
troversies which shall arise upon any the n-r-st
mysterious and inexplicable points ; so that all
the priests are to ask knowledge at ktr ///?/ ar.d
\vhatevershe determines is to be received by the
church as Christian verity and truth ! This is
such a constitution as quite shocks the under-
standing, and comes not a whit behind transu in-
stantiation itself. Hence, doubtless, sir, the
triumphs of popish priests over you ! Hence
their inroads upon you, and the thousands they
are continually carrying captive from your
lents ! And hence the sad increase, and the ii>-
suits of deists, who, tit king the scheme of' tie
church of England to be that of the Christian
church, are authorized by common sense, they
think, not only to reject ii, but to treat it wit U

And now, sir, having so largely discussed tUis
point, I presume you are convinced, u that this


peaceable reparation of ours is not, what
V'.JM c.\!l- it, a piece of arrant nonsense and con*
tiMcHction :" and that you will cease to be so dis-
pleaso I at our treating your grave lectures upon
(lie heinous sin of schism, as solemn cant and ec-
cii-siastical scare-crows. Yon see. likewise,
how extremely unapt, and quite wide of the
p ;iul, are the two instances you bring to illus-
trate our case, viz. " of a wife separating from
the bed and board of her husband or of two or
three counties disliking a monarchical govern-
ment, and throwing off their allegiance to the
kin*."* Has the church of England, sir, any
such power or authority over us Dissenters, as
the husband has over the wife ? Pray, who gave
it that authority ? Have we ever plighted it our
troth ? or bound ourselves by a solemn vow to
honour and obey it to the end of our lives ? Or
have we ever sworn allegiance to it ; or do we
owe it any homage ; as the counties have sworn
and do owe to the king ?

Amongst the peculiar excellencies of your
church, you reckon " the use of the three creeds
in public worship, as one of the most effectual
and powerful means both for teaching and pre-
serving the Christian faith entire and uncorrupt,
which we have n:>t in our churches. "t The
creed called the Apostle's, we have in constant
use amongst us: and as for the two others, espe-
cially the Athanasian, we are content you should
Isave the honour of its being peculiar to your-
selves. But methinks, sir, it should a little
check your triumph over us here, to remember,
that some of the wisest and most illustrious mem-
bers of yojir church, both cleijjy and laity, ac-
count the use of this creed your great sin and
reproach, and with archbishop Tillotson, wish
you were well rid of it.

What! are you, sir, amongst the weak and

* Let. I. page 72, . f Let. I. page 5.


uncharitable minds who damn to the pit of lull
those who cannot receive all the dark and myste-
rious points set forth in that creed ! Do you in
your conscience think that there is no salvation
for those who do not fuiilt fully believe the several
articles it contains ; and that whosoever dcth net
keep whole and imdifihd the faith therein delivered,
he shall, without doubt, - perish everlastingly ?
What ! the many great and worthy persons,
bright ornaments of your own church, who in-
stead of keeping it whole and undefined, have
openly disavowed, preached and written against
it, dying in this disbelief have they without per"
adventure everlastingly perished ? Alas ! 'for the
pood doctors, Clarke, Whitby, Burnet, &c.
For the illustrious sir Isaac Newton, &c. &c.
Yea, alas ! for the whole Greek church, who,
for having rejected that clause, both in Jhe
Athanasian and Nicene creed, commonly called
Filioque, which asserts, that the Holy Ghost is
of the Father and the Son, neither made nor
created, nor begotten, but proceeding, are gone
down, it seems, to the infernal pit ! so that not-
withstanding their great knowledge and piety in
this world, yet, for not believing the Athanasian
creed, they are sunk into everlasting darkness
and damnation in the other ! Do you wonder
that deism prevails, if this be genuine Chris-
tianity ?

It is a fact, I presume, indisputable, that a
great part of the most learned and virtuous of
your clergy are departed from the Athanasian
doctrine ; and that those of them who are not,
do by no means think its belief absolutely and
indispensably necessary to salvation. What now
must a deist think, when he hears both the one
and the other thirteen times a year, most so-
lemnly declaring in the presence of Almighty
God, and as instructors of his people, that who-
ever will be saved, it is before all things neces-
sary that he hold the Athanasian faith ; and most


prrrmptorilv denouncing everlasting damnation
upon those who do not believe it ; that is, many
of them denouncing damnation upon themselves!
Is this your Li powerful and effectual means of
preserving the Christian faith?" I should think
it one of the most eifectual to subvert and destroy
it. It has no doubt, been in fact a great stumb-
1 ing-block in the way of infidels and Jews, and
hardened them in their opposition to the reli-
gion of Christ, when they see it dooming to un-
doubted and everlasting perdition all who do
not heartily and sincerely (for that must be meant
by faithfully) b3ii?ve thess deep and mysterious
points, which you must acknowledge to be in,-
explicable, and far above the powers of reason
\'.> comprehend.

" But the dissenting ministers, you tell me,
who have complied wih the terms of the tole-
ration, have solemnly subscribed to the Vlllth
article which approves the Athanasian creed."*
Let Dr. Calamy answer. f *' The Dissenting;
ministers about the city, in a body, gave in their
eeuse of the articles when they subscribed them,
mid among the rest of this Vlllth article, in the
glass upon which, the damnatory clauses of this
creed are expressly excluded the subscription.
And there was something of the same nature
done in several parts of the country." Now
the fathers and predecessors of the present Dis-
senting ministers having made this public pro-
test and declaration at their subscription, and
the legislature having accepted, or at least not
rejected it ; under the favour of this protest,
their successors may be supposed now to sub-
scribe with the same disapprobation of the dam-
natory clause. If it were not to be thus taken,
there is, I hope, not a minister among us but
would publicly disown and renounce his sub-

* Appendix, page 78. f Life of ^ Ir Baxter, page 236.

D 2


I should now proceed, sir, to the examination
of other parts of your letters, to shew the great
insufficiency of your arguments and objections ;
and to observe that, in many instances, you
have extremely mistaken and given quite wrong
representations of our religious principles and
practice. But I relieve your patience for the
present. If this province be undertaken by no
other hand, you may in some time, expect to
hear farther from,


Your very humble servant,




JLT is with regret I proceed in vindication of my
dissent, as it will constrain me to say some
things, which may seem to be disrespectful to es-
tablished forms of worship. But self-defence is
a principle which generous minds allow strongly
to operate. I highly reverence and esteem, and
most heartily rejoice in the great number of illus-
trious and excellent persons, both clergy and lai-
ty, of which the church of England can boast.
But yet, as the present established forms were
drawn up when this kingdom just emerged out
of popish darkness ; and as in drawing them up,
especial regard was had to the then weakness of
the people, who could not be all at once entirely
brought off from the old ceremonies and forms :
as there are several parts of our liturgy, and ec-
clesiastical constitution, which a great number,
I apprehend, if not ell our bishops and clergy,
wish to see altered : and finally, as the altera-
tion of these, and the removing a few things, ac-
knowleged in themselves to be mutable and in-
different, would heal the unhappy breach, and
restore the chief part of the dissenters to the
church. Upon all these accounts, I may be al-
lowed, I hope, with freedom to make my defence
against your vigorous attacks : and to represent
my objections, and the grounds of my dissent, in
as strong a light as I am able.

The part of a public monitor, and of my in-
structor in this affair, which you have voluntarily
taken upon you, will allow me, as I go along, to

put you in mind of one or two great objections
which Dissenters are wont to urge, but which jou
have quite overlooked, and to entreat you will
direct me how to get over them.

" We letter-writers, say you, have a privilege
of setting down our thoughts as they offer them-
selves, without scrupulously adhering to strict
and close method*." This privilege you have
indeed with great freedom taken, I shall there fore
be indulged in the same.

To begin then with your defence of sponsors
in baptism. When an infant is brought to be
entered by baptism into the family or church of

Online LibraryMicaiah TowgoodA dissent from the Church of England, fully justified; being the dissenting gentleman's three letters in answer to the letters of the Rev. John White on that subject → online text (page 3 of 33)