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fate of the petitions you know; the true motives of their rejection are perhaps only known to God: but will there be any evil in examining for five minutes this same INNOVATION? It may amuse a leisure moment, if it does not conduct a single step in life.
It is readily granted that antiquity is sacred, especially in religion ; that innovations are sometimes dangerous, above all religious ones; yet the advantage arising to the petitioners from an examination of this article is not at all precarious. To urge novelty against their petition is owning, at least not denying, the equity of it, and altering the state of the question prodigiously. The question here is not whether a freedom from subscription be a just, a reasonable right; not whether it be analogous to nature and scripture; not whether a british subject may prudently ask such a right to be established by a british senate; but merely whether the right be not a new claim. To this the petitioners would answer, No. The practice of judging for themselves is coeval with mankind, to be traced up to the most remote antiquity. If subjects have not made the claim in form it is because governors have not denied their right. Subscription indeed, they would say, is a novelty, against which numbers have remonstrated ever since its introduction. But allowing ourselves to be innovators, they would add, does not hurt our plea, for we are able to prove that innovation is sometimes the duty and glory of legislators : and we
can show that no evil, but much good will follow the allowance of this innovation.
As to the antiquity of subscribing creeds upon oath, nobody surely will be so rash as to affirin this to have been the practice of the first three hundred years after Christ. You will allow Mons. Du. Pin to be a capable and unsuspected judge. His remarks on the three first centuries, with which he concludes the first volume of his Bibliotheque des auteurs ecclesiastiques, are extremely judicious. “ All theology, says he, relates to doc“ trine, discipline, or morality." He gives an abridgment first of the doctrine of the primitive churches, and justly remarks that it was essentially the same in all. He abridges also their morality, and observes that their morals were as immutable as their doctrine. “ But as to their discipline, says he, it " was different in different churches, and frequent“ ly undergoing a change.—They were extreme“ ly careful to choose ministers whose MORALS “ were irreproachable. When those that were or“ dained by the apostles died, THE PEOPLE chose “their successors.-The churches of the three “ principal cities in the world were considered as “ the first and chief.-The bishop of the church of “ Rome was looked on as the chief bishop; how“ever, they did not think him infallible, and “ though he was consulted and his opinion of great “ weight, yet it was not altogether blindly follow“ ed; EVERY BISHOP BELIEVING THAT HE HAD A “ RIGHT OF JUDGING IN ECCLESIASTICAL MAT"TERS. It was in the fourth century, when chris“ tianity was publicly professed by the Emperor, “ that the bishops assembled, AIDEZ DE L’AUTO“RITE DES PRINCES ;* and framed canons to go"vern the church, the rights of bishops, and an "infinite number of other matters." All this is strictly true; and if the writings of the fathers,and the history of the primitive churches be closely examined, it will appear that the venerable antiquity of the three first ages after Christ, pleads for the right in question.
Nobody knows when, or by whom, the creed called the Apostles' creed was composed ; and should any plead for its authenticity, it must not be a member of the established church, for people would naturally say; if the Apostles thought proper to compose a creed, no doubt but it was a perfect one; by what authority then have you added thirty-nine articles, two more creeds, and the whole book of homilies to the creed of a subscriber? Should it even be allowed that the Apostles, or any of their immediate successors, compiled it, can any proof be brought of their requiring subscription to it on oath ? Call now if there be any Apostle that will answer thee, and to which of the Saints wilt thou turn !
Let it be allowed that popery, that farrago of civil and sacred, spiritual and secular things, has tyrannized over the consciences of mankind : can it be denied that some of the most venerable of the English reformers refused all emoluments, and
* Assisted by the authority of princes.
submitted to the severest trials, rather than clog their consciences with subscriptions and oaths ? Fox and Coverdale are but two of a venerable number, whose reverend grey hairs the act of uniformity brought down with sorrow to the grave.
But waving all the arguments which might be drawn from the primitive times; you cannot but allow, that innovators are sometimes important men, of as great importance as the conservators of a navigable river; for the mechanical, the commercial, the literary, the theological world would all stagnate, and become useless and offensive but for them. There are enthusiasts of all kinds, but no greater surely than some immoderate admirers of antiquity. The bawdy and blasphemy of an old Greek or Roman poet shall be distilled in the brain of some ingenious brother, till an aqua mirabilis * be extracted, spirituous enough to make some readers merry and others mad. All his blunders shall be referred to certain tropes, figures, or fine turns in rhetoric; his impudence is an irony, his ignorance an hyperbole, and when a common reader is shocked at his extravagance, a grave antiquarian cries, what ails you ? You do not understand rhetoric, the poet makes use of a noble figure called a catachresis.-When one of these literary enthusiasts presides in a university, he casts the die, stamps the currency, vitiates the taste of the learned populace, whose superiors think for them, and an innovator is necessary to
A wonderful water,
reform and bring back poetry to nature. Let rhetoricians say what they will, every work of art is so far perfect as it approaches nature; nature is the standard, nature is the critic, nature is the comment after all. To call to the order of nature is innovation.
Indeed innovations, however needful, have, been sometimes attended with all but insurmountable difficulties : yet, these difficulties surmounted, the triumphant heroes are aggrandized for ever : such is the sense mankind have of innovation ! Time was when an Archbishop of Canterbury right say to one of his flock, “ God hath called me for “ to destroie thee, and all the false sect that thou “art of ; by Jesu I shall set upon thy shinnes a “ paire of pearles, that thou shalt be glad to change “thy voice ; with many moe wonderous and con“ uicious wordes.” But even then the spirit of innovating was growing, and in 1360 complained “ Lord thy law is turned upsedown. Lord what “ dome is it to curse a lewd man, if he smite a “ priest, and not curse a priest that smiteth a “ lewde man, and leeseth his charitie? Christ or“ dained that one brother should not desire wracke “ of another; not that he would that sinne should “ ben unpunished, for thereto hath he ordained “ kings and dukes, and other lewd officers under “them. Lord gif any man smite thy vicar, other “any of his clerkes, he ne taketh it not in pacience, “ but anon he smiteth with his sword of cursing, " and afterward with his bodilich sword he doth “ them to death. O Lord me thinketh that this