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not understand, or who misunderstood, the things he was to teach? Soundness of doctrine is indeed the principal thing to be required in a Christian teacher. Ignorant persons are certainly no way qualified to be teachers. But error is worse than ignorance: a blind guide being more eligible than a self sufficient one, who would purposely carry you the wrong way. Nor does a bad life so immediately affect the people under the teacher's care, as erroneous principles do. The people may receive profit from the good doctrine of a wicked minister, and need not copy after his bad example. But the appointment of erroneous and false teachers is inconsistent with the very end and design of such appointment; which is to instruct the people in the truth, and (as the Apostle speaks) by sound doctrine, both to exhort, and to convince the gainsayers.
Accordingly in all ages of the Church great care has been taken to enquire into the religious principles of persons to be admitted into orders, or to a cure of souls, though different methods may have been pursued in different times, and places. This method of requiring Subscription to known Articles of Faith, seems to be the least exceptionable of any. If no such Subscription were required by publick authority, every Bishop would
would doubtless be bound to enquire into the religious principles of those, who offered themselves for holy orders, and to reject all such, as he judged to be unsound in the faith. But is it not much for the ease of the Bishop to have a certain rule to go by? and is he not hereby freed from the odious, and invidious, task of judging of men's faith, and rejecting candidates arbitrarily, according to his own private opinion? And with regard to the candidates, is it not much better to know previously what test of their orthodoxy will be required of them, than to be subject to the caprice of one man, and run the risk of a refusal, without knowing what account of their faith will be demanded? And with regard to the Church, a test agreed upon by the whole body of the Bishops and Clergy, is certainly a better and securer way of keeping false and erroneous teachers out of the Church, than the leaving the matter to the discretion of each private Bishop, some of whom might happen themselves to be ignorant, indolent, or unsound in the faith. One would hope that so easy, so equitable, and so well approved, a method of proving the faith of candidates for the ministry would meet with but little opposition. But loud has been the clamour against such Subscription, and many are the objections.
(0) One chief thing objected is that this Sub scription interferes with the rights of private judgement, and is an infringement of our Christian liberty. But whose liberty, or what liberty, is hereby infringed? A test required of candidates for the ministry can affect those only, who desire such office. And these are every one still left at liberty to judge for themselves, and think as they please. If they approve not the doctrines of our Articles, they are at liberty whether they will subscribe to them, or not. No one compels them to subscribe, or assent, to these doctrines. We only refuse to admit into the ministry those, who in points, which we judge important, think differently from us. And herein the governors of our Church have as much right to judge for themselves, as these objectors have. Each Bishop might, and must, have exercised the same right, if nothing herein had been defined by publick authority. If any one like not our terms, he may apply himself to some other profession, or business, and has no reason to complain of any injury done him.
(p) But is not hereby many a conscientious minister laid under the unhappy dilemma of either
(0) Confessional, p. 32, 38. Proposals for an Application to Parliament.
(p) Ibid. p. 31. 164.
subscribing, or starving? I scarce know how to give a serious answer to such questions-ministers -but we are speaking of those, who desire the office of a minister. (g) And of these not only a pure conscience is required, but that they hold the mystery of the faith. If they are not suffered to enter into the ministry, are there no other businesses, or professions, by which they might get an honest livelihood? Is there no bread to be got by any other means, but only by thrusting themselves into the ministry? Our clergy are indeed in general so meanly provided for, and the rich benefices and preferments confined to so few, that we can scarce think men in earnest, who pretend that they are reduced to the necessity of starving, by being kept out of the ministry. Instances of these starving, conscientious non-subscribers, are, I believe, very rare.
But it is said, that we are hereby deprived of the labours of worthy men.-If by worthy men are meant fit persons, we must beg leave to deny that those, who hold things contrary to sound doctrine, are worthy men. Such men may be sincere in their profession, and of unblameable life and conversation. They may be also men of good learning and abilities: but, notwithstanding all
(9) 1 Tim. iii. 9.
these qualifications, we cannot think them fit to be entrusted with the ministry of the Gospel, if they err concerning the faith. Nor do I deny that some have had scruples concerning some of our Articles, and have been thereby debarred from serving in the ministry, who would have done good service to the Church. But this I will be bold to say, that we have not wanted their assistance. No Church has produced greater ornaments of the Christian profession than the CHURCH OF ENGLAND has, in all ages since its first establishment to this day. And for the proof of this I may appeal to the annals of our history, and to your own knowledge and experience.
(e) Another thing pretended is, that requiring Subscription to forms of human composition, is adding to the rule of faith. We do not set up our Articles for a rule of faith, or appeal to them as such. Nor do we prove our doctrines by our Articles, but from Scripture only, which we acknowledge to be the sole rule of faith, by which alone the truth of all doctrines, and of our Articles themselves, must be tried. Our Articles themselves teach that (f) the holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation, so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved
(e) Confessional, ch. vi.
(f) Art. vi.