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period. The friends of constitutional freedom were the friends of scripture-truth, and reformation; and the 'abettors of despotism in the state, were either the bitter enemies of protestantism, or the bigoted adherents of prelacy in its most intolerant form. It was not then, as it is now, that men, of almost every creed and church constitute the same political party; or that men, united in the fellowship of the same church, are found to entertain opposite political sentiments. In the present state of society, a bond of a mixed character, like the covenant, would be palpably unsuitable and inefficient. The individuals who would now confederate to promote a civil, would be far from uniting to advance a religious reformation. But at the period under consideration, the covenant was a most judicious and suitable bond of confederacy; “ for the matter of it, just and warrantable; for the ends, necessary and commendable; and for the time, seasonable.”. It was obnoxious only to the opponents of the civil and ecclesiastical reformation of the kingdom. Its objects were to secure the liberties of each kingdom, to preserve the privileges of both parliaments, and to maintain the constitutional authority of the sovereign; —to consolidate a firm concord among all parts of the empire on the basis of a federal alliance, and to secure the mutual defence of the subscribers without division or defection,—to preserve the reformed faith in Scotland, and to promote the further reformation of religion in England and Ireland, --and to bind each subscriber to study personal reformation, that “they, and their posterity after them, may live, as brethren, in faith and love, and the Lord may delight to dwell in the midst of them.” The promulgation of the covenant, and the spirit which it excited and sustained, led to the most important results. A large army from Scotland soon after marched to the aid of the
parliament, against the victorious arms of Charles, and immediately turned the scale in favour of their allies.' Ib., pp. 409-411.
The Solemn League and Covenant, like the previous national covenant of 1580, and in accordance with the doctrine maintained in Chap. xxiii. of the Westminster or Scottish Confession, maintains the principle of religious persecution. Mr. Carlile has shewn that there is no room to question the sentiments and intentions of the Compilers. The words are,' he remarks, so
express, and develop the meaning with such fatal accuracy, that a king disposed to establish and defend Presbyterianism by the power of the sword, could desire no authority more full or unequivocal.'
• We do not,' he continues, "greatly blame the venerable reformers for these principles. They were the principles universally held in
The Church of Rome received them from the Pagan Roman empire in which it arose ; and the reformers received them from the Church of Rome, out of which they sprang. They are the universal principles of corrupt human nature, and are not confined to any particular church, or to churchmen of any denomination. Give to men of any description or profession, the opportunity of obtaining or securing power and emoluments by the sword, and the experience
of all ages proves that they will not be slow in the use of that implement. Conquerors have obtained and kept their conquests, politicians have supported their political principles, merchants have maintained their commerce, slave-dealers and slave-holders have maintained their nefarious traffic by the power of the sword; and churchmen are but men of like passions with others, and will, if they have it in their power, protect their emoluments and honours, and for that purpose, their religious opinions, by the same implement. The wonder is, not that the reformers failed to arrive at more just and scriptural principles upon that subject :-the wonder is, that ministers of the Synod of Ulster, in this nineteenth century, should gratuitously, without any necessity pressing upon them, without the plea of unbroken prescription, in the very midst of a Roman Catholic people, against whom these articles were expressly pointed, but whom it is their duty to endeavour to gain, by the manifestation of kind and generous feeling ; that they should not only come forward themselves to offer a voluntary signature of these articles, but should attempt to force, on penalty of exclusion from their ecclesiastical association, an unqualified subscription of them upon others. Carlile, pp. 84, 85.
The circumstances which have afforded occasion for this masterly and unanswerable exposure of the futility and mischievousness of such ecclesiastical tests, will require a brief explanation. The almost immemorial usage of the Synod of Ulster has been, to admit candidates for license either without any signature of the Confession of faith, or with a qualified signature. The liberty of making any exceptions whatever to the Westminster Confession was, however, by no means relished by some of the Ministers of the Synod, who have been earnestly longing for the enforcement of unqualified subscription. A motion to that effect was carried at an adjourned meeting of Synod, at which few ministers were present, in 1834, and confirmed at a similar adjourned meeting in 1835. A protest was taken against the overture, which was over-ruled by another adjourned meeting. The question has never, we are told, been discussed at a full meeting of Synod, nor submitted to Presbyteries, as a measure of such importance ought to have been; but the ascendant party were determined to bear down all opposition*; and they have now taken their stand upon the resolution, that they will henceforward admit no man to the Christian ministry, unless he shall give his unqualified
It appears to be the same party in the Synod which, headed by Dr. Cooke, has declared open war against the National Board of Education. At an adjourned meeting held at Belfast this year, Dr. Cooke brought forward an overture, to recommend all clergymen belonging to the Synod to withdraw from all societies and systems of education other than that of the Synod, which was carried by a majority of 27 ministers and 3 elders against I minister and 1 elder. Mr. Carlile had no chance against these fiery partisans.
signature to a document of human invention and composition, which Mr. Carlile characterizes as containing articles having no foundation in the word of God, inconsistent with freedom of inquiry either into the Book of Nature or the Book of Scripture, and at variance with the great principles of civil and religious liberty.
The ostensible motive for this violent measure of innovation appears to be, a desire to bring about a closer union with the Established Church of Scotland; in order to which it is deemed but proper and consistent to adopt the compulsory principle of imposition upon which ecclesiastical Establishments are based, and voluntarily to assume those trammels of servitude to human authority from which, hitherto, Irish Presbyterianism has been free. When this sacrifice of principle has been consummated, the Regium Donum Church, purified so far from the heresy of Voluntaryism, will, it is hoped, be recognised by the State Kirk as a Sister Establishment. The times would seem to be changed, and the men with the times, since the year 1828, when this same Dr. Cooke, who is now at the head of the ecclesiastico-political movement in the Synod of Ulster, stood forward in vindication of the conduct of that Synod in allowing persons to explain in words of their own, the sense in which they subscribed to the Confession : ' For my own part, (was then his language,) 'I would not wish
to bind any man to express his faith in any particular, uninspired phraseology whatever. I would leave him to the free and unrestricted selection of his own words, where he could not adopt
mine; but I would beg him to furnish me with such words as - would clearly enable me to comprehend his meaning.'--(Cited by Mr. Carlile, p. 43.) We are curious to know what explanation Dr. Cooke would give of the singular change in his opinions. Has he simply outgrown his liberality, or has Toryism swallowed
Churches established by law, which 'deem it meet to accept of the aid of the State,' must, Mr. Carlile observes, comply with the stipulations made by the Civil Government respecting their adoption of certain principles of instruction.
To the case of such churches, he has not intended that his remarks should apply. But hitherto, it has been regarded as the distinguishing privilege of non-established Churches, that they are left at liberty to adopt a more excellent method than oaths and subscriptions, in order to ascertain the qualifications of candidates for the ministry. Accordingly, the Presbyterians and Independents of England, while requiring personal confessions of faith prior to ordination, have always distinguished between subscription to human creeds or articles, and a confession by the party himself in his own words. The latter practice is thus defended by the learned Dr. Chandler on the ground of its superior antiquity as well as reasonableness.
• Mr. Bingham tells us, that the fourth Council of Carthage, that met A. C. 398, prescribes a particular form of Examination, by way of interrogatories, to the bishop that was to be ordained. What then? How doth this prove that they made use of this very method of Subscription, as he undertook to prove? Why, examination by interrogatories is, with every honest man, equivalent with subscription. Suppose it is, doth every honest man, that honestly answers a question, subscribe to it? We did not want to be informed that the primitive Church examined the candidates for the ministry, but that they forced them to subscribe to some explanatory articles or creed. But there is not a word of this in the canons of the Council of Carthage.
And suppose there was, doth he think he will take the Council of Carthage, held at the close of the fourth century, for the primitive Church ? And doth he not know, that there is even some question as to the truth and authenticity of these very canons ? Whether he did or did not know it, why did he quote them upon us as authorities? The other authority is from an edict of Justinian, who lived so low down as the sixth century. And what doth he say? Why, that he who ordains a bishop shall demand from the person to be ordained, a libel, subscribed by himself, containing a Confession of the Orthodox Faith, i. e. the person to be ordained shall make his own confession, and subscribe it. But what hath this to do with the modern method, of making the person to be ordained to subscribe a creed ready drawn up to his hand by others, and which he had no share himself in making of? This was what he should have proved, in order to justify the practice of subscription in the Church of England. Justinian's Novel is rather a justification of the manner of Ordination amongst the Dissenters, who don't impose their own Confessions on the persons to be ordained, but desire them either to give in their own Confession in writing, or to read it publicly in the congregation before whom they are to be ordained. Thanks to the gentleman for this kind testimony in proof of the antiquity of our Method of Ordination. What now is become of this same practice of the primitive Church? Of his two proofs, one is not earlier than the fourth century, and that says not a word about Subscription ; and the other is fetched out of the sixth century, and vindicates, not the practice of the Church's method of Subscription, but the more just and equitable one made use of by Dissenters in the manner of their Ordinations.'—Chandler's “Case of Subscription to explanatory Articles of Faith,” (1748.) Cited in Wilson's - Historical Inquiry concerning the English Presbyterians.”
At the present moment, the subject of Mr. Carlile's pamphlet is one which deeply interests more than one denomination or class of the community. The principle of subscription to Articles of Faith has come into discussion in connexion with Admission to the Universities of this country; and the binding nature of creeds and documents of human authority is still contended for, as terms of Christian fellowship and communion, not only by members of Established Churches. We cannot therefore but hail the appearance of a publication which brings out the whole question in so just and clear a light.
There are three views, Mr. Carlile remarks, that may be taken of such Creeds or Confessions, answering to the threefold use to which they have been applied ; 1. As a summary of Christian doctrine, applied for the purpose of elucidating Scripture ; 2. As a Declaration of the principles of a Church ; 3. As a test of Admission into the Church or into the Christian Ministry. Regarding the Westminster Confession of Faith in the first point of view, simply as an unauthoritative system of theology,' Mr. Carlile professes his high admiration of it, as one of the most erudite, logical, and, as an Index to Scripture doctrines, one
of the most useful works extant. He would even 'make it the "text-book from which students should be instructed in theology.' But, in the second point of view, any Confession of Faith assumes, in his opinion, a more questionable character. Confession of faith, not less than faith itself, appears to be necessarily the act of an individual. No church or corporate body has faith ; for it has
no common soul, no common conscience ;' and ' a corporate con'fession of faith is therefore a mere fiction of law,' and one for which there seems no foundation in the word of God. be thought, perhaps, to amount to little more than an objection to the term Confession, as applied to such Declarations; but the very use of the term in such a sense implies the prevalence of erroneous ideas. And when we consider the manner in which such Creeds have been framed, we shall find, as Mr. Carlile proceeds to remark, 'a multitude of reasons for concluding that they are unwarranted and deceitful.'
• A number of individuals meet together who, without the use of any confession of faith, have recognised one another to be Christians, and Christians so much advanced in Christian knowledge and character, as to be capable of setting forth a confession or creed, to be adopted as the creed or confession of all whom they should permit to unite with them, and even of all future generations in their church. One article after another is proposed, considered, debated, perhaps bitterly contested; and, at length, the various articles are determined by majorities of the body ;-one majority, it may be, agreeing on one article, and another majority on another; while perhaps many, even of the individuals constituting these majorities, rather submitted to receive the articles as a compromise, for the sake of peace, than heartily approved of them.
• Now, what does a confession so constructed amount to? Is it the united confession of the whole body? Certainly not ;-it cannot be the confession of those who did not agree to it, although, for the sake of their union, they may see fit to acquiesce in it. Is it even the confession of the majority? Probably not of any portion of them ; but adopted by them, as the nearest that they could obtain, to what they desired. I believe that scarcely in any case would it be found to be really the confession of a single member in the whole assembly-certainly not such a confession as he would have drawn
for himself, VOL. XVI.-N.S.