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William Paley.

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fence the whole order out of your civil and reli-
gious establishment : it is the right at least of
self-defence, and of extreme necessity. But even
this is not on account of the religious opinions
themselves, but as they are probable marks, and
the only marks you have, of designs and princi-
ples which it is necessary to disarm. I would
observe, however, that in proportion as this con-
nexion between the civil and religious principles
of the papists is dissolved, in the same proportion
ought the state to mitigate the hardships and
relax the restraints to which they are made sub-
ject.

If we complain of severities, of pains and pe-
nalties, the answerer cannot discover "whom or
what we mean :" and lest his reader should, by a
figure extremely well known in the craft of con-
troversy, he proposes a string of questions in the
person of his adversary, to which he gives his
own peremptory and definitive xo.* We will
take a method, not altogether so compendious,
but, we trust, somewhat more satisfactory. We
will repeat the same questions, and let the church
and state answer for themselves. First, then,

" Does our church or our government inflict
any corporal punishment, or levy any fines or
penalties on those who will not comply with the
terms of her communion 1" — " Be it enacted, that
all and every person or persons that shall neglect
or refuse to receive the sacrament of the Lord's
Supper according to the usage of the Church of
England, and yet, after such neglect or refusal,
siiall execute any office or offices, civil or military,
after the times be expired wherein he or they



492



OP SUBSCRIPTION TO ARTICLES OF FAITH.



ought to have taken the same, shall, upon con-
viction thereof, besides the loss of the office, for-
feit the sum of five hundred pounds :"* Stat. 25
Car. II. c. 2. Now, although starving be no
" corporal punislunent," nor the loss of all a man
has, a " fine," or " penalty," yet depriving rnen
of the common benclits of society, and rights even
of lay sul)jects, because " they will not comply
with the terms of Church communion," is a " se-
verity" that might have deserved from our author
some other apology besides the mere suppression
of the fact.

2. " Doth it deny them the right or privilege
of worshipping God in their own way V — " Who-
ever shall take upon him to preach or teach in
any meeting, assembly, or conventicle, and shall
thereof be convicted, shall forfeit for the first
oftence twenty pounds, and for every other ofience
forty pounds :" Stat. 22 Car. II. c. 1. — " No per-
son shall presume to consecrate or administer the
sacrament of the Lord's Supper before he be
ordained priest, after the manner of the church
of England, on pain of forfeiting one hundred
pounds for every such ofience:" Stat. 13 & 14
Car. II. c. 4. These laws are in full force
against all who do not subscribe to the 39 Arti-
cles of the Church of England, except the 34th,
35th, and 36th, and part of the 20th Article.

3. " Are men denied the liberty of free debate V
— " If any person, having been educated in, or at
any time, having made profession of, the Chris-
tian faith withiu the realm, shall by writing,
printing, teaching, or advised speaking, deny
any one of the persons of the Holy Trinity to be
God — he shall for the first offence be disabled to
hold any office or employment, or any profit ap-
pertaining thereto; for the second offence shall
be disabled to prosecute any action or information
in any court of law or equity, or to be guardian of
any child) or executor or administrator of any
person, or capable of any legacy or deed of gift,
or to bear any office for ever within this realm,
and shall also suffer imprisonment for the space
of three years from the time of such conviction."
Stat. 9 & 10 Will. III. c. 32.

It has been thought to detract considerably from
the pretended use of these subscriptions, that they
excluded none but the conscientious; a species of
men more wanted, we conceive, than formidable
to any religious establishment. This objection
applies equally, says our answerer,t to the "oaths
of allegiance and supremacy;" and so far as it
does apply, it ought to be attended to ; and the
truth is, these oaths might in many instances be
spared without either danger or detriment to the
community. There is, however, an essential
diffi'rence between the two cases : a scruple con-
cerning the oath of allegiance implies principles
which may excite to acts of hostility against the
stiite : a scruple about the truth of the articles im-
plies no such thing. t

Our author, good man, " is well persuaded,
that the generality of the clergy, when they offer



* This and the Corporation Act, an otherwise e.\cfl-
lent person calls the laws which secure both our civil
and religious liberties. — Blackstone's Coinm. vol. iv.
p. 432.

t Page 22.

I The answerer might have found a parallel below
in some other oaths, which he does not care to speak of,
»;i:. the case of college statutes, page 34 of the Con.oi-
(lerations.



themselves for ordination, consider seriously what
office they take upon them, and firmly believe
what they subscribe to." I am persuaded much
otherwise. But as this is a " fact," the reader, if
he be wise, will neither take the answerer's word
for it nor mine; but form his own judgment from
his own observation. Bishop Burnet complained
above 60 years ago, that " the greater part," even
then, " subscribed the Articles without ever exa-
mining them,* and others did it because they must
do it." Is it probable, that in point either of
seriousness or orthodoxy, the clergy are much
mended since 1

The pleas offi^red in support of this practice of
subscription come next to be considered. "One
of these is drawn from the sacred writings being
capable of such a variety of senses, that men of
widely difierent persuasions shelter themselves
under the same forms of expression." Our au-
thor, after quarrelling with this representation of
the plea, gives his readers in its stead, a long quo-
tation from the archdeacon of Oxford's charge.t
What he is to gain by the change, or the quota-
tion, I cannot perceive, as the same first query
still recurs, " Is it true, that the Scriptures are in
reality so differently interpreted in points of real
consequence '?" In answer to which, the arch-
deacon of Oxford, we are told, " has shown that
points of real consequence are differently inter-
preted," and " the plainest texts explained away,"
and has "instanced in the first chapter of St.
John's Gospel." The plea, we conceive, is not
much indebted to the archdeacon of Oxford.
But be these Scriptures interpreted as they will,
each man has still a right to interpret them for
himself The Church of Rome, who always
pushed her conclusions with a courage and con-
sistency unknown to the timid patrons of pro-
testant imposition, saw, innnediately, that as the
laity had no right to interpret the Scriptures, they
could have no occasion to read them, and there-
fore very projierly locked them up from the in-
trusion of popular curiosity. Our author cites
the above-mentioned query from the Considera-
tions as the Jirst query, which would lead his
reader to expect a second. The reader, however,
may seek that second for himself, the answerer is
not obliged to produce it — it stands thus : Sup-
pose the Scriptures thus variously interpreted,
does subscription mend the matter 1 The reader
too is left to find an answer for him.self

The next, the strongest, the only tolerable plea
for subscription, is, "that all sorts of pestilent
heresies might be taught from the pulpit, if no
such restraint as this was laid upon the preacher. "t
How far it is probable that tliis would be the con-
sequence of removing the subscription, and by
what other means it might be guarded against,
has been hinted already, and will again be con-
sidered in another place. We will here only take
notice of one particular expedient suggested in
the Considerations, and which has often indeed
elsewhere been proposed, namely, " that the
church, instead of requiring subscription before-
hand, to the present, or to any other Articles of
faith, might censure her clergy afterwaVds, if they
opposed or vilified them in their preaching.''



* Burnet's History of his Own Times. Conclusion.

t See this whole Charge answered in the London
Chronicle by Priscilla. The Lord hath sold Sisera into
the hand of a woman !

I Page 26.



OF SUBSCRIPTION TO ARTICLES OF FAITH.



493



The advantage of which scheme above the pre-
sent is manifest, if it was only for this reason, that
you distress and corrupt thousands now, for one
■ that you would ever have occasion to punish.
Our author, nevertheless, " is humbly of opinion,
that it is much better to take proper precautions
beforehand ;'' he must, with all his " humility,"
know that when it has been proposed to take pro-
per precautions of the press, by subjecting authors
to an imprimatur before publication, instead of
punishment after it ; the proposal has been re-
sented, as an open attack upon the rights and
interests of mankind. The common sense and
spirit of the nation could see and feel this distinc-
tion and the importance of it, in the case of pub-
lishers ; and why preachers should be left in a
worse situation, it is not very easy to say.

The example of the Arminian confession is,
upon this occasion, recommended by the author
of the Considerations; a confession which was
compiled for the edification and instruction of the
members of that church, without peremptorily in-
sisting upon any one's assent to it. But it is the
misfortune of the Arminian to be no national
church — the misfortune, alas ! of Christianity her-
self in her purest period ; when she was under
the government of the apostles ; without alliance
with the states of this world ; when she composed,
nevertheless, a church as real, we conceive, and
as respectable, as emy national church that has ex-
isted since.

Our author, who can much sooner make a dis-
tinction than see one, does not comprehend, it
seems, any difference between confessions of faith
and preaching, as to the use of unscriptural terms.
Did a preacher, when he had finished his sermon,
call upon his congregation to subscribe their names
and assent to it, or never to come more within the
doors of his church; there would, indeed, be some
sort of resemblance betwixt the two cases ; but as
the hearers are at liberty to beheve preachers or
no, as they see, or he produces, reasons for what
he says ; there can be no harm, and there is a ma-
nifest utility, in trusting him with the liberty of
explaining his own meaning in his own terms.

We now come, and with the tenderest regret,
to the case of those who continue in the church
without being able to reconcile to their belief every
proposition imposed upon them by subscription ;
over whose distress our author is pleased to in-
dulge a wanton and ungenerous triumph. They
had presumed, it seems, that it was some apology
for their conduct, that they sincerely laboured to
render to rehgion their best services, and thought
their present stations the fairest opportunities of
performing it. This may not, perhaps, amount
to a complete vindication; it certainly does not
fully satisfy even their own scruples : "else where
would be the cause of complaint 1 What need of
rehef, or what reason for their petitions ] It might
have l)een enough, however, to have exempted
them from being absurdly and indecently compared
with faithless hypocrites, with Papists and Jesuits,
who, for other purposes, and with even opposite
designs, are supposed to creep into the church
through the same door. For the fullest and iairest
representation of their case, I refer our author to
the excellent Hoadly ; or. as Hoadly possibly may
be no book in our author's library, wUI it provoke
liis "raillery'' to ask, what he thinks might be the
consequence, if all were at once to withdraw
themselves from the church who were dissatisfied



with her doctrines? Might not the church lose,
what she can ill spare, the service of many able
and industrious ministers? Would those she re-
tained, be such as acquiesced in her decisions from
inquiry and conviction 1 Would not many, or
most of them, be those who keep out of the way
of religious scruples by lives of secularity and vo-
luptuousness ? by mixing with the crowd in the
most eager ot their pursuits after pleasure or ad-
vantage i One word with the answerer before
we part upon this head. Whence all this great
inquisitiveness, this solicitude to be acquainted
with the person, the opinions, and associates of
his adversary 1 Whence that impertinent wish
that he had been " more explicit in particular with
regard to the doctrine of the Trinity V Is it out
of a pious desire to fasten some heresy, or the im-
putation of it, upon him ? Is he " called out of the
clouds" to be committed to the flames'?*

The 40th page of the Answer introduces a pa-
ragraph of considerable length, the sum, however,
and substance of which is this — that if subscrip-
tion to articles of faith were removed, confusion
would ensue ; the people would be distracted with
the disputes of their teachers, and the pulpits filled
with controversy and contradiction. Upon this
" fact" we join issue, and the more readily as this
is a sort of reasoning we all understand. The
extent of the legislator's right may be an abstruse
inquiry; but whether a law does more good or
hann, is a plain question which every man can
ask. Now, that distressing many of the clergy,
and corrupting others; that keeping out of churches
good Christians and faithful citizens ; that making
parties in the state, by giving occasion to sects and
separations in religion ; that these are inconve-
niences, no man in his senses wdl deny. The
question therefore is, what advantage do you find
in the opposite scale to balance these inconve-
niences 1 The simple advantage pretended is, that
you hereby prevent " wranghng" and contention
in the pulpit. Now, in the lirst place, I observe,
that allowing this evil to be as grievous and as
certain as you please, the most that can be neces-
sary for the prevention of it is, to enjoin your
preachers as to such points, silence and neutrality.
In the next place, I am convinced, that the dan-
ger is greatly magnified. We hear little of these
points at present in our churches and public
teaching, and it is not probable that leaving them
at large would elevate them into more importance,
or make it more worth men's while to quarrel
about them. They would sleep in the same grave
with many other questions, of equal importance
with themselves, or sink back into their proper
place, into topics of speculation, or matters of de-
hate from the press. None but men of some re-
flection would be forward to engage in such sub-
jects, and the least reflection would teach a man



* We were unwilling to decline the defence of the per-
sons here described, though the e.tpression in the Con-
siderations which brought on the attack, manifestly
related to a ditferent subject. The author of the Con-
siderations speaks of" being bound"to "keep up" these
forms until relieved by pro[)er autliority ; of " inini.ste-
rially" complying with what we are not able to remove ;
alluding, no doubt, to the case of Church governors,
who are the instruments of imposing a subscription
which they may disapprove. But the answerer, taking
it for granted, that " ministerially complying" meant
the compliance of ministers, i. e. of clergymen officiating
in their functions, has, by a quibble, or a blunder,
transferred the passage to a sense for which it was not
intended.

42



494



OF SUBSCRIPTION TO ARTICLES OP FAITH.



that preaching is not the proper vehicle of contro-
versy. Even at present, says our author, " we
speak and write what we please with impunity."
Ami where is the mischien or what worse could
ensue if subscription were removed 1 Nor can 1
discover any thing in the disposition of the peti-
tioning clergy that need alarm our apprehensions.
If they are impatient under the yoke, it is not
from a desire to hold forth their opinions to their
congregations, but that they may be at liberty to
entertain themselves, without offence to their con-
sciences, or ruin to their fortunes.

Our author has added, by way of make-weight
to his argument, " that many common Chris-
tians," he believes, " woulJ be greatly scandalized
if you take away their creeds and catechisms, and
strike out of the liturgy such things as they have
always esteemed essential."* Whatever reason
there may be for this belief at present, there cer-
tainly was much greater at the Reformation, as
the Popish ritual, which was then " taken away,"
had a fascination and antiquity which ours cannot
pretend to. Many were probably "scandalized"
at parting with their beads and their mass-books,
that lived afterwards to thank those who taught
them better things. Reflection, we hope, in some,
and time, we are sure, in all, will reconcile men
to alterations established in reason. If there be
any danger, it is from some of the clergy, who,
■with the answerer, would rather suffer the " vine-
yard" to be overgrown with "weeds," than "stir
the ground," or, what is worse, call these weeds
" the fairest flowers in the garden." Such might
be ready enough to raise a hue and cry against all
innovators in religion, as " overturners of churches"
and spoilers of temples.

But the cause which of all others stood most in
the way of the late petitions for relief, was an ap-
prehension that religious institutions cannot be
disturbed without awakening animosities and dis-
sensions in the state, of which no man knows the
consequence. Touch but religion, we are told,
and it bursts forth into a flame. Civil distractions
may be composed by ibrtitude and perseverance ;
but neither reason nor authority can controul,
there is neither charm nor drug which will assuage,
the passions of mankind when called forth in the
cause and to the battles of religion. We were
concerned to hear this languatre from some who,
in other instances, have manifested a constancy
and resolution which no confusion nor ill as-
pect of public affairs, could intimidate. After
all, is there any real foundation for these ter-
rors 1 Is not this whole danger, like the lion of
the slothful, the creature of our fears, and the
e.Kcuse of indolence 1 Was it proposed to make
articles instead of removing them, there would
be room for the objection. But it is obvious
that subscription to the 39 Articles might be
altered or withdrawn upon general principles of
justice and expediency, without reviving one reli-
gious controversy, or calling into dis])ute a single
proposition they contain. Who should excite dis-
turbances 1 Those who are relieved will not ; and, i
unless subscription were like a tax, which, being
taken from one must be laid with additional weight
upon another, is it probable that any will com-
plain that they are oppressed, because their
brethren are relieved 1 or that those who are so

* Pages 41, 42



" strong in the faith" will refuse to " bear with the
inflrmities of the weakl" The few who upon
principles of tliis sort opposed the application of
the Dissenters, were repulsed from parliament
with disdain, even by those who were no friends
to the application itself.

The question concerning the object of worship
is attended, I confess, with difficulty ; it seems al-
most directly to divide the worshippers. But let
the Church pare down her excrescences till she
comes to this question ; let her discharge from her
liturgy controversies unconnected with devotion;
let her try what may be done for all sides, by wor-
shipping God in that generality* of expression in
which he himself has left some points ; let her dis-
miss many of her Articles, and convert those which
she retains into terms of peace ; let her recall the
terrors she suspended over freedom of inquiry ; let
the toleration she allows to dissenters be made
" absolute ;" let her invite men to search the Scrip-
tures ; let her governors encourage the studious
and learned of all persuasions : — Let her do this —
and she will be secure of the thanks of her own
clergy, and what is more, of their sincerity. A
greater consent may grow out of inquiry than
many at present are aware of; and the few, who,
after all shall think it necessary to recede from our
communion, will acknowledge the necessity to be
inevitable ; will respect the equity and moderation
of the established church, and live in peace with
all its members.

I know not whether I ought to mention, among
so many more serious reasons, that even the go-
vernors of the church themselves would find their
ease and account in consenting to an alteration. —
For besides the difficulty of defending those de-
cayed fortifications, and the indecency of desert-
ing them, they either are or will soon find them-
selves in the situation of a master of a family,
whose servants know more of his secrets than it
is jjroper for them to know, and whose whispers
and whose threats must be bought off at an ex-
pense which will drain the " apostolic chamber"
dry.

Having thus examined in their order, and, as
far as I understood them, the several answerst

* If a Christian can think it an intolerable thing to
worship one God through one mediator Jesus Christ, in
company with any such as differ from him in their no-
tionsahout the metaphysical nature of Christ, or of the
Holy Ghost, or the like; I am sorry for it. I remember
the like objection made at the beginning of the Refor-
mation by the Lutherans against the lawfulness of
communicating with Zuinglius and his followers, be-
cause they had not tlie same notion with them of the
elements in the sacrament. And there was the same
objection once against holding communion with any
such as had not the same notions with themselves about
the secret decrees of God relating to the predestination
and reprobation of particular persons. But whatever
those men may please themselves with thinking who
are sure they are arrived at the perfect knowledge of
the most abstruse points, this they may be certain of,
that in the present state of the church, even supposing
only such as are accounted orthodox to be joined toge-
ther in one visible communion, they communicate to-
gether with a very great variety and confusion of no-
tions, either comprehending nothing plain and distinct,
or differing from one another as trulv and as essentially
as others differ from them all ; nay, with more certain
difference with relation to the object of worship than
if all prayers were directed (as bishop Bull says, almost
all were in the first ages) to God or the Father, through
the Son.— Hoadly's Answer to Dr. Hare's Sermon.

t In his last note our author breaks forth into " asto-
nishment" and indignation, at the "folly, injustice,



OF SUBSCRIPTION TO ARTICLES OF FAITH.



495



given by our author to the objections agtiinst the
■ present mode of subscription, it now remains, by
Waj' of summing up the evidence, to bring " for-
ward " certain other arguments contained in the
Considerations, to which no answer has been at-
tempted. It is contended, then,

I. That stating any doctrine in a confession of
faith with a greater degree of " precision" than
the Scriptures have done, is in effect to say,
that the Scriptures have not stated it "with
"precision" enough; in other words, that the
Scriptures are not sufficient. — " Mere declama-
tion."

II. That this experiment of leaving men at liber-
ty, and points of doctrine at large, has been at-
tended with the improvements of religious
knowledge, where and whenever it has been
tried. And to this cause, so far as we can see,
is owing the advantage which protestant coun-
tries in this respect possess above their popish
neighbours. — No answer.

III. That keeping people out of churches who
might be admitted consistently with every end of
public worship, and excluding men from com-
munion who desire to embrace it upon the terms
that God prescribes, is certainly not encouraging.



aod indecency" of comparing our church to the Jewish
in our Saviour's time, and even to the " tower of Babel;"
mistaking the church, in this last comparison, for one
of her monuments (which indeed, with most people of
his complexion, stands for the same thing) erected to
prevent our dispersion from that grand centre of catho-
lic dominion, or, in the words of a late celebrated cas-



Online LibraryWilliam PaleyThe works of William Paley ... : Containing his life, Moral and political philosophy, Evidences of Christianity, Natural theology, Tracts, Horæ Paulinæ, Clergyman's companion, and sermons, printed verbatim from the original editions .. → online text (page 132 of 161)