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speak not of the Wesleyan Methodists, who almost universally, we believe, hold occasional communion with the Church of England to be lawful, but of the Dissenters of other days, men who were neither trimmers nor time-servers, and who, when attacked by the strait-laced strict-communionists of that day, found no mean apologist in the admirable John Howe. With regard to the lawfulness or unlawfulness of such occasional conformity, he had hitherto scrupled, he says, to give any public opinion, deeming it a matter respecting which every one should be fully persuaded in his own mind, and judging it' no
such fault (if it be one)' as shuuld exclude the individual practising it from any other Christian communion. He supposes that a person may avoid more ordinary communion with
a church, as judging it, though not essentially defective, yet,
to want or err in some circumstances so considerable, as that • he counts another church comes nearer to the common • Christian rule, the holy Scriptures, and finds its administra• tions more conducing to his spiritual advantage;' and yet, he may be led by the judgement of his
conscience, occasionally to communicate with the former. For, judging such a church • true as to essentials, he may think (occasion inviting) he hath ' greater reason, though it be defective in accidents, to com• municate with it sometimes, than to shun its communion al
ways; since those Christians that agree in all the essentials . of Christianity, agree in far greater things than it is possible • for them to disagree in. And what if some have thought that • alone a sufficient reason for their occasional communion with
a church, with which they have not constant communion,
that they may do it and themselves that right before the ' world, as to testify they decline it not as (being) no church :
why may they not be supposed to do this, as thinking it a good reason, (whether it be really so or no,) without going
against conscience herein ? And yet, the same person may • think the communion of another church preferable, and, for
ordinary resort, rather to be chosen, as therein he finds • the same essence, with more regular, grateful, and advantageous modes and ways of administration.*
And here it is anticipated that the strict-communionist will say: . But since, Sir, you think it not unlawful to communicate • with such a church sometimes, why should you not, for com'mon order's sake, do it always?' Pardon me in that, good
Sir,' is the reply which Mr. Howe supposes the individual might make, - pardon me if I think I' owe more to what I
* Works, Vol. iv. p. 460–465.
* take for Christ's rule and to the discernible advantage of my own soul ; judging, in these respects, that communion to be best which I more constantly adhere to. Let me be excused,
. if I do not compliment away things that are to me of so great • importance.'
But here, the Churchman steps in, and asks whether the latitude of a Christian should not carry him to fix his communion with the larger and more extensive Church. What!"
' is Mr. Howe's reply; should the latitude of a Christian bind • him to one sort of Christians, with exclusion of all others ?' Mr. Jerram forgets, like all his brethren when they touch on this subject, that for a Churchman to refuse communion with Dissenters because he may disapprove of some of their forms, is conduct to the full as sectarian as for a Dissenter to decline communion with the Establishment,-even allowing that the latter has no stronger objection to urge against its ritual. If the Churchman believes circumstantials to be unimportant, let him set the Dissenter the example of practically recognising this by communicating with our churches. Till then, he has no right to talk of separation and exclusion as the sin of the Dissenter. He excludes himself, voluntarily, from a large proportion of the faithful; whereas the separation of the Dissenter, whose conscience will not allow of even occasional conformity, is so far involuntary. “We may challenge the • world,' says Mr. Jerram, to substantiate such a charge against
us, as would render it improper, on these principles, to con*tinue within the pale of the Church, or make it a matter of • indifference to desert her community.' And we challenge the Church and the world to substantiate such a charge against the Protestant Dissenters, as would it render it improper for a Christian to continue within their community, or a matter of indifference to renounce communion with them. And as Mr. Jerram has thrown down the glove, we have another answer to his defiance. What charge can be substantiate against the Established Church of Scotland, that his friends should set up their Episcopal chapels in Edinburgh, in maintenance of a schismatical separation from that Church, as if it were a matter of indifference to desert her community? When Mr. Jerram can answer these questions satisfactorily, he may renew his challenge to the Dissenters with a better grace.
There were reasons in favour of the practice of Occasional Conformity at the period above alluded to, which no longer exist, now that regular Dissenting churches are established in every part of the kingdom with the full concurrence and sanction of the Legislature. As a question of expediency, it now assumes a different shape;, but its Jawfulness musť, we
conceive, be determined purely by the consideration, whether the conditions enjoined be such as the individual can conscientiously comply with. If such compliance would involve no practice that he deems superstitious or erroneous, there is nothing in Mr. Hall's principle, nor in any principle of Dissent that we are acquainted with, to prohibit it. Why then do not * Mr. Hall and the Eclectic Reviewer go to the Establishment ? If ‘going to the Establishment' means communing with it, it may be, that the Reviewer objects to the language of the Communion Service, that he disapproves of the indiscriminate administration of the ordinance,-the no-discipline of the Church ;-it may be, that he simply prefers the more Scriptural mode and discipline of the Dissenters; added to which, he may never have been placed in circumstances that supplied any reason for going to the Establishment.' But, were he placed in a foreign land where no other communion was accessible, or were other conceivable circumstances to occur, which should require him to give such a proof of his catholicism, speaking as an individual, he is free to own, that he is not aware of any criminality that he would thereby incur, or that his conduct in such a case would furnish any ground for the charge of apostacy.* Such an act would leave him, according to his own judgement, in the consistent possession of all the reasons on which he is satisfied to rest his separation from the Establishment. It is certain, that those who ought to have known the grounds of their nonconformity, seeing that they suffered on that account, the loss of all things,—the Puritans and ejected ministers, held, for the most part, the lawfulness of communion with the very Church that had excommunicated and was still persecuting them. Manton, Baxter, Alleine, and others are cited by Dr. Mason in evidence of this fact. Mr. Howe's testimony is decisive. In 1662,' he says, 'the same ' spirit and sentiment appeared, when most of the considerable ejected London ministers met and agreed to hold communion with the now re-established Church, not quitting their ow • ministry or declining the exercise of it, as they could have
opportunity. And as far as I could by inquiry learn, I can • little doubt this to have been the judgement of their fellow* sufferers through the nation, in great part, ever since. How
* The objection to taking the Sacrament at Church as a qualification, rests on very distinct grounds : first, the baseness of the motive ; secondly, the scandalous desecration of the ordinance by making it a pick-lock to a place;' and thirdly, the fraud which a Disenter commits in affecting to pass for a Churchman.
? could you,' he asks his assailant, ' have the confidence to
represent this as a new thing, and an apostacy from primitive * puritanism, that hath in it so much of the spirit of primitive Christianity ?
Now these estimable men certainly carried out Mr. Hall's principle to its full extent; nay, went further than his doctrine requires, and practically conceded more than he contends for. Will Mr. Kinghorn pretend to say that they acted on his principle? Or is he prepared to maintain that these venerable confessors were not justified in their dissent, that they did not understand the principles of nonconformity, and that they might as well have gone back to the Establishment? This would be a concession' with a witness.
But Mr. Kinghorn says:
• It is remarkable that this outcry about “assigning to schism a place among the articles of faith, bears a striking resemblance to the charges brought against the Nonconformists by Dr. Stillingfileet, Bishop of Worcester, in his “ Unreasonableness of Separation;" to which Dr. Owen returned an answer in his “ Enquiry into the Original Nature, Institution, &c. of Evangelical Churches." Stillingfleet professed to shew the great absurdities that followed the allowance of the causes of separation, and hence he argued their insufficiency. He says : “ These five especially I shall insist upon. 1. That it weakens the cause of the Reformation. 2. That it hinders all union between Protestant churches. 3. That it justifies the ancient schisms which have been always condemned by the Christian church. 4. That it makes separation endless. 5. That it is contrary to the obligation which lies on all Christians to preserve the peace and unity of the church.” These five particulars are precisely of the nature of the charges brought by Mr. Hall, and repeated by the Eclectic Reviewer. Dr. Owen was not to be alarmed by such an outcry; he boldly met the Bishop, and maintained the direct reverse of his propositions.'
Dr. Owen was not the only champion who had the boldness to meet the Bishop.' He was answered by Howe, Vincent Alsop, and the Author of a biting tract entitled (if we mistake not) " The Rector of Sutton against the Dean of St. Pauls," in which Stillingfleet was played off against Stillingfleet to admiration. To answer the Author of the Irenicum out of his own mouth, was not a difficult matter. Let men turn and wind • themselves which way they will,' is his language in one place, • by the very same arguments that any will prove separation • from the Church of Rome lawful, because she required un• lawful things as conditions of her communion, it will be
proved lawful, not to conform to any suspected or unlawful practice required by any church governors upon the same
• terms ; if the thing so required be, after serious and sober
; ' inquiry, judged unwarrantáble by a man's own conscience.** Mr. Howe says, in replying to the Dean's Sermon : · We can
not but reckon the judgement the doctor hath given in our case is erroneous and indefensible by any man, but least
fitly, of most other men, attempted to be defended by him'self. From whom it would little have been expected, that • he should so earnestly recommend that very thing to us, • as the only foundation of union, which he had so pube
licly told us, in his preface to the Irenicum, " was, without
controversy, the main in-let of all the distractions, confusions, * and divisions of the Christian world, namely, the adding * of other conditions of church communion than Christ hath done."
The Apostle who was strong in the faith,' remarks another of the Dean's answererst, parted with something of his • liberty to please the weak; therefore, the weak must part
with their consciences, wherein they have no liberty, to
gratify the strong.' Dr. Owen's answer, Mr. Kinghorn does not appear to have seen, as he has confounded it with g later and larger work. It is entitled: "A brief Vindication " of the Nonconformists from the Charge of Schism; as it “ was managed against them in a Sermon preached before “ the Lord Mayor, by Dr. Stillingfleet, Dean of St. Paul's.
By John Owen, D.D.” (sm. 4to. pp. 56, 1680.) We shall transcribe a few sentences from it, to shew the way in which he met (not the Bishop, but) the Dean. We agree with our • Brethren in the faith of the Gospel, as the Gentiles did with ' the believing Jews ;, we have nothing to impose in religion on the consciences or practices of any other churches or persons
.. we desire 'nothing but what the churches of the • Gentiles desired of old a's the only means to prevent division ' in them, namely, that they might not be imposed on to observe
those things which they were not satisfied that it was the mind . of Christ they should observe.' * He knows, that, by the
communion and uniting ourselves unto the church, which is . pressed either on ministers or people, a total submission unto • the rule as established in the Book of Canons and Rubric • of the Liturgy is required of them all. When this is once
engaged in, there is no suspending of communion in particular rites to be allowed. They who give up themselves hereunto, must observe the whole rule to a tittie. Nor is it
* Irenicum, B. I. ch. vi. $ 6. + Stillingfleet was not advanced to the episcopal bench till after the Revolution : he was only Dean of St. Paul's at the time (1680).