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observed throughout the S. Giles's Lectures (except what is said of Knox's loose sentiments concerning it at p. 139) is as follows: "The superiors of the greater monastic bodies possessed the privilege of wearing the mitre, which carried with it the power of conferring minor orders on the members :" therefore not the power of conferring the orders of bishop, priest, or deacon. — See Third Lect., p. 78.
Page 80 (28). UNDUE STRINGENCY OF THE PRESBYTERIAN SUBSCRIPTION FORMULAS. —I readily admit that upon all points of essential doctrine every Church is fully justified in requiring of its spiritual or quasi-spiritual office-bearers a promise that, so long as they retain the office to which she admits them, they will teach only as she prescribes; they will not directly or indirectly attempt to subvert or gainsay what she in her authorised formularies holds to be the · truth. But to extend this requirement to questions of Church polity and Church worship is surely inconsistent with high notions of Christian liberty ; so much so, that our Episcopalian Churches, which attach a much greater relative value to questions of that kind, and are complained of by Presbyterians for so doing (see, for example, Dr *Rainy's Three Lectures), have abstained from making it; and however in the past, Presbyterians might have thought it excusable as a security against undue or arbitrary influence, they can scarcely any longer avail themselves of such a plea. So long as that requirement remains in its present form, I do not see how Dr Rainy can fairly take us to task upon this score, or claim for Free Churchmen a greater degree of liberality, as he does, when he writes: “We on our side are withheld from erecting any of our points into corresponding importance,”—i.e., importance corresponding to that which Episcopalians attach to theirs—“not by any doubt about their authenticity, but by the view we take of our Lord's way of dealing with men in matters of salvation.”—Ibid., p. 94.
Now, all I need say in answer to such a boast is this: I should be sorry indeed to see our Episcopal Church attempt to lay a yoke upon the neck of our candidates for ordersupon our lay officers, of all kinds, we lay no yoke at all, except that in some instances we require them to be communicants—such as would be implied in the precise words, mutatis mutandis, of the Presbyterian formulas.
The subscription formula of the Church of England, as relaxed since 1866, for all her clergy, is as follows :
“I, A B, do solemnly make the following declaration : I assent to the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, and to the Book of Common Prayer, and of the ordering of bishops, priests, and deacons. I believe the doctrine of the United Church of England and Ireland, as therein set forth, to be agreeable to the Word of God; and in public prayer and administration of the sacraments, I will use the form in the said book prescribed, and none other, except so far as shall be ordered by lawful authority."
Our own Episcopal Church, besides “ the form of subscription to the Thirty-nine Articles,” and “the form promising obedience to the canons” (see App. to Canons, Nos. VIII. and IX.), requires nothing but the promise in the ordination service; “I will give my faithful diligence always so to minister the doctrines and sacraments and discipline of Christ as the Lord hath commanded and this Church hath received the same.”
Our Episcopal sister Church in the United States of America is still more concise and sparing in her requirements : “I do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation; and I do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrines and worship of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States."
In short, it must be said, our Episcopal Church in these days has too much self-respect, too much regard to the just freedom of her ministry, and too much confidence in the soundness of the principles which guided her in adopting
her forms both of Church worship and Church polity, and in the wisdom and authority of the forms themselves, to think of requiring from her clergy—and still less from any of her lay or semi-lay office-bearers—a solemn promise, such as the Established Church and the Free Church of Scotland alike demand from all probationers before receiving licence, and from all office-bearers at the time of their admission, to the effect “that they will not endeavour, directly or indirectly, the prejudice or subversion—not only of 'the doctrine,' but ‘of the worship, discipline, and government of this Church ; renouncing all doctrines, tenets, and opinions whatsoever, contrary to or inconsistent with the said doctrine, worship, discipline, and government.'”
We all know that what forbids every“ endeavour” tending to the “prejudice or subversion ” of a form or institution, may be and is construed to forbid every endeavour tending to its correction and amendment, or its adaptation to altered circumstances. That the Presbyterian formula has an evil effect upon the minds of some distinguished members of their ministry, we have seen confessed under their own hands. They consider themselves precluded by that obligation from advocating improvements of which they feel the need in their system. I know of nothing to prevent me from advocating, if I please, the use of extemporaneous prayer; but Dr Rainy, I conceive, must be precluded by his solemn promise from advocating the use of a liturgical service ; yet these things, confessedly in his judgment, have nothing to do with “the view taken of our Lord's way of dealing with men in matters of salvation,” and ought not therefore to be circumscribed by such barriers.
I cannot conclude these remarks without desiring to remind our Presbyterian brethren, both ministers and elders, that the stringency of which I complain is no proper part of their ecclesiastical system, as derived from the Westminster Assembly-it is a more recent innovation; and in dealing with it, I would venture to plead, their duty
is to go back to the ground taken up by the Assembly, of which an authority so weighty and unexceptionable as Professor Mitchell thus writes, in his valuable Introduction to the publication of the original Minutes in 1874 :
“Some will have it that English Presbyterianism from its origin was narrow and illiberal. ... It cannot be denied at least that it led the van and bore the brunt of the battle in the struggle for civil liberty. . . It objected to the gradual tightening of the subscriptions in the English Church, desiring that these should be limited to the Articles, and to those of them directly relating to matters of faith. Among its first uses of its victory in 1640 was the abolishing of the Court of High Commission, and setting aside the Canons of Archbishop Laud, that the clergy should bind themselves by oath never to consent to changes in the government of the Church. The Westminster divines themselves, from their earnest desire to form one comprehensive Church, did not require subscription to their Directories for worship and for Church government.” --P. lxxi, note.
Upon this matter, then—if we look to the forms of subscription now required under Episcopacy and under Presbyterianism-would it not seem that the former is treading in the steps of the liberal Puritans, and the latter in the steps of Archbishop Laud ?
The various changes which the Presbyterian forms of subscription have undergone, may be seen in Mr Taylor Innes's Law of Creeds in Scotland, chap. ii.