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" we decree all such to be rightly, orderly, and
lawfully, consecrated and ordered.”
It should seem, therefore, that it was the first edition of this book, printed A. D. 1549, that is even 110w afferted to contain nothing superstitious; and it is faid that no copy of this edition is to be found in the libraries of Oxford or Cambridge, or in the British Museum. But by favour of the Rev. Mr. Josiah Thompson, whose property it is, I have one now in my possession, as it was formerly in that of Dr. Furneaux, who gave an account of it in the second edition of his Letters to Dr. Blackstone, Note, p. 89, &c.
In this book the oath of supremacy, to be taken by the person ordained, contains a solemn promise, to observe all the Acts of Parliament that were then made, or to be made, “ in derogation of the autho“rity of the bishop of Rome, and in corroboration “ of the king's power, as head of the church ;” concluding with “so helpe me God, ell saintes, and the “ holy Evangelist.” See p. 8, 9.*.
If, therefore, this be the edition approved of by the thirty sixth Article, the clergy who subscribe it do, in faat, declare their approbation of any Acts of Parliament that may ever be made on the subjects above specified; and, that there is nothing superfitious in swearing by the faints, and the holy evangelist, which ever of the four was meant.†
* At the end of this edition is,
Rich,IRDUS GRAFTOV typographus Regis excudebat
A. M. D,XLIX.
+ This is probably a misprint for evangelists. The form of an oath in the Roman Pontifica, published at Venice, in 1710, is Sic me Deus addjuvet, et hæc sancta Dci evangelia. So help me God, and these his holy gospels. p. 55, and other places. I have not observed in it any lwearing by the faints.
It is true that the Aet of Uniformity enacts, that " all subscriptions to this Article shall be construed “ to extend to the book of Charles II. in such sort " and manner as the same heretofore extended to " the book of Edward VI.” But if the approbation of both the books was not intended, why does the Article, as now subscribed, make any mention of the book of Edward VI? If the subscription does not extend to this also, why is it not struck out, and that of Charles II. put in its place? It
appears, however, from Bishop Burnet's History of the Reformation, Vol. II. p. 189, that an act of parliament was made in 1552, to authorize a neco Common Prayer Book, according to some alterations that had been agreed on the year before, and to this was annexed the form of making bishops, priests, end deacons, but without the intimation of any alteration being then made in this office. If these objectionable passages were then left out, it will not be so evident that every thing in the former edition is now to be approved, though persons consecrated according to it be declared to be rightly consecrated. It certainly behoves all who subscribe the thirtynine articles to inform themselves how the case really stands.
How dangerous and ensnaring a thing is this bysiness of subscription, and how little care has been taken by the legislature to prevent even 1491certainty with respect to it. I mention this circumstance in order to apprize those who have subscribed, but efpecially those who intend to subscribe, of their situation; that they may satisfy themselves what it is that their subscription really implies. I mean those who wish to subscribe bona fide, and not with any of the fourteen miserable subterfuges which I have enumerated at the close of my Defences of Unitarianisir for the Years 1788 and 1789, which imply no
belief in any of the articles. To such it must be a matter of perfect indifference what is implied in any of them. They are ready, for the same emolument, to subscribe any thing, even unseen. For what signifies seeing, or reading the articles, if
, after all, they are to be fitbscribed without being believed ?
Many persons into whose hands these Letters may fall
, especially at some distance of time, will hardly be able to understand what is said in them of
my comparison of the progress of free enquiry, to the action of gunpowder; and it makes me smile to think there should be any occasion to explain it. It may be of use, however, to fhew how ready fome people are to cavil at the most innocent things, when they have a previous, though ill-grounded, suspicion of a man's intentions. The almost incredible number of times that this simple comparison has been quoted, or alluded to, by the enemies of the Difsenters, shews also how tremblingly alive they are to the apprehension of danger to their fystem, and gives me an idea that I own I had not before, of the weakness of it. To us this affords no unpleasant prospect, and it may tempt us to sport with their fears on other occasions.
To my Sermon on Free Enquiry, preached Nov. 5, 1785, I added fome Reflections on the present State of it in this Country, and in them may be seen the following unfortunate paragraph, which, when I read to a friend before it went to the press, he prophetically told me would make much noise ; but I believed him not.
“ Let us not therefore be discouraged, though, " for the present, we see no great number of “ churches professedly unitarian. It is sufficiently “ evident that unitarian principles are gaining
ground every day. Every attempt to suppress “them, by writing or otherwise, has hitherto been “ favourable to their spread, and we may be con< fident it ever will be fo. We are now fowing " the feeds, which the cold of winter may prevent “ from sprouting, but which a genial spring will “ make to shoot and spring up; so that the field “ which to day appears perfectly naked and barren, “ may to-morrow be all green, and promise an « abundant harvest. The present silent propagation “ of truth may even be compared to those causes in “ nature which lie dormant for a time, but which, “ in proper circumstances, act with the greatest “ violence. We are, as it were, laying gunpowder,
grain by grain, under the old building of error “ and superstition, which a single spark may here
after inflame, so as to produce an instantaneous
explosion; in consequence of which that edifice, « the erection of which has been the work of
ages, “ may be overturned in a moment, and so effectu
ally, as that the same foundation can never be “ built upon again.” Discourses, p. 184.
Let the reader now judge whether any thing violent was intended, or in the most distant manner alluded to by me; and yet this very paragraph did I hear Sir William Dolben (prompted, no doubt, by some of those bishops, whose fears our magnanimous prime minister acknowledged that he also had caught) read with great folemnity in the house of Commons, as an unquestionable proof of the dangerous designs of the Dissenters with respect to the constitution of this country. Risum teneatis--
In addition to my vindication from the malicious :defamation of the author of Theodosius, furnished me by the narrative of Dr. Bancroft, it is now in
my power to add the following testimony volun-
Canterbury, July 18. Seeing the extract from Theodosius 'in your Magazine for May last, relative to the death-bed conversation of Silas Deane, I have to observe, that, on the 22d of September last, about ' nine o'clock in the morning, Silas Deane came on 'board the Boston packet, with the captain, the ship
lying off Gravesend, which failed immediately. In about an hour's time, Silas Deane was taken ill, * and in a few minutes quite speechless, and con
tinued so near four hours, and then died. 'the only cabin-passenger then on board, and the only person perfectly at liberty to attend Silas Deane, and was much with him from the time of 'his going on board till his death. I am confident no such clergyman as mentioned by Theodosius was with Silas Deane during his illness, and that the relation of Theodosius is a palpable imposition on the publick. Yours, &c.
In my Letter relating to this subject I intimated a suspicion that the author of Theodofius was “ a
clergyman of the church of England, who formerly “ wrote me a confidential letter.” Left any person should suffer unjustly in consequence of this ħint, I shall now say that I meant Dr. WITHERS, who lately died in Newgate. I am of opinion that he was the writer, because the author of Alfred and Cassandra was not incapable of it, and the hand writing of the Note I received signed Theodofius,