Front Page Titles (by Subject) A Letter to the Reverend Dr. Codex, on the Subject of his modest Instruction to the Crown, inserted in the Daily Journal of February 27 th, 1733. From the Second Volume of Burnet' s History. Anno 1734. - A Collection of Tracts, vol. 2
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A Letter to the Reverend Dr. Codex, on the Subject of his modest Instruction to the Crown, inserted in the Daily Journal of February 27 th, 1733. From the Second Volume of Burnet’ s History. Anno 1734. - John Trenchard, A Collection of Tracts, vol. 2 
A Collection of Tracts. By the Late John Trenchard, Esq; and Thomas Gordon, Esq; Vol. II. (London: F. Cogan, 1751).
Part of: A Collection of Tracts, 2 vols.
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A Letter to the Reverend Dr. Codex, on the Subject of his modest Instruction to the Crown, inserted in the Daily Journal of February 27th, 1733. From the Second Volume of Burnet’s History.
The Fourth Edition, Corrected and Enlarged.
THE Vacancy now in the Church hath been long unsupplied, and the World have beheld this Accident with that Regard which is so justly due to Supreme Authority. No Man hath presumed to allow himself Liberties on this Subject beyond the decent Bounds of private Animadversion; and to these reasonable Limits such Persons as are the most tenderly interested in this Affair, would have restrained their Reflections, had not you, Sir, made your Appeals to the Populace, as privileged beyond other Men, how much soever above you in Rank, or Dignity, or Merit.
What I mean by your making Appeals to the Populace is best to be explained by reciting a Paragraph inserted by your Direction in the Daily Journal of February the 27th. Your Care and Expence, at all Times bestowed in so judicious a Manner, can never be too much applauded, but it deserves a most particular Acknowledgment, that you should be at the Trouble and Charge of informing the Public, in a Paper of Coffee-house Intelligence, That ‘In the second Volume of Bishop Burnet’s History, p. 119. published a few Days since, there is this remarkable Passage, viz.
‘The State of Ireland leads me to insert here a very particular Instance of the Queen’s pious Care in the disposing of Bishoprics. Lord Sidney was so far engaged in the Interest of a great Family of Ireland, that he was too easily wrought on to recommend a Branch of it to a vacant See. The Representation was made with an undue Character of the Person; so the Queen granted it; but when she understood that he lay under a very bad Character, she wrote a Letter, in her own Hand, to Lord Sidney, letting him know what she had heard, and ordered him to call for six Irish Bishops, whom she named to him, and to require them to certify to her their Opinion of that Person. They all agreed, that he laboured under an ill Fame, and till that was examined into, they did not think it proper to promote him, so that the Matter was let fall. I do not name the Person, for I intend not to leave a Blemish on him, but set this down as an Example sit to be imitated by Christian Princes.’
This prudent and modest Instruction, which you thus have set forth for Christian Princes, will undoubtedly draw their Acknowledgments, as well as mine, in your Favour. To Persons of their Distinction, who cannot have the Leisure, or Opportunity, or Inclination, of tracing your Steps, as I have done, the Consideration, that none but you could be sufficiently interested to set forth this remarkable Paragraph, as you call it, and that none but you could possibly consider it as remarkable, more than any other Paragraph: This will to them be as proper a Ground for their Thanks as if they were in the same Light with myself, and possessed the same Evidence which I am Master of, concerning the Person who handed it to the Press, and paid for its being inserted in that Paper.
If the Merit of so much Zeal to find out fit Examples for the Imitation of Christian Princes, could admit of any Delay, it might possibly be objected to the Manner of such a Procedure, that Princes may be applied to by much more decent Means of Information, than by a Paragraph inserted in a common News-Paper, for the Amusement of Coffee-houses. It may be objected, that the Dignity of Princes forbids any particular Subject to dictate publicly to their Conduct, or to make that Counsel public which he submits to their private Consideration: That to exhibit Instructions to Frinces for the Exercise of any particular Prerogative, or for the Decision of any depending Contest, and to do this in one of the Daily Papers, is a rude Attempt upon the Liberty of the Royal Judgement; an Attempt that rather prescribes to Princes than advises them; an Attempt that lays a Foundation for Clamour and Abuse. It doth not so much convey Matter of Consideration to Princes as it points out a Matter of Censure to partial unexamining Men; so that the Prince who is thus directed by a public Advertisement of an Example fit for him to imitate, must, if he act otherwise than the Instruction requires him to act, either descend to publish minute Accounts in Justification of his own Conduct; or he will be reproached for the free Use of his own Judgment in the Exercise of his own lawful Authority, and will be said to have acted contrary to an Example fit for all Christian Princes to imitate.
Give me leave, Sir, to warn you on this Head with all the Caution of a Friend. You convey to the World a Paragraph suggesting the Character of a Person whom you do not approve, to be very bad; you insinuate that he labours under an ill Fame, endeavouring thereby to draw the Displeasure of his Prince upon him. You ought to be strictly careful, on a double Account, in all Attempts of this Nature, that you do not indulge your own Malice against such Persons as you accuse, and that you do not furnish Matter to the Malice of others against those Princes whom you thus propose to influence.
If you, Sir, should ever have had the Honour and Happiness of free Approaches to such Princes, it may still inflame the Charge against you, that you take the Freedom of instructing them in their Behaviour by Paragraphs printed in News Papers: And perhaps some Princes might be of Opinion, that a Person who knew no better how to employ the Privilege of advising them, should, for the future, have no other Means of conveying Advice to them.
If such a Paragraph can be remarkable more than any other, if such an Example can be fit for Imitation, more than any other mentioned by the Reverend Historian, it can be so in no other View than this, that particular Princes have now a parallel Case before them. And if you mean any thing at all, you must intend to suggest, that there is a present Recommendation to a vacant See, which appears to you in the same Light with Lord Sidney’s Recommendation to a Bishopric in Ireland. You thus suggest that a Great Counsellor of the Crown hath recommended a Person to the Favour of the Crown, with an undue Representation of his Character; that such Person lies under a very bad Character; that he ought not to be promoted till six Bishops have certified their Opinion of him; that if they these six Bishops agree he labours under an ill Fame, he is not to be promoted. And this is set down as an Example sit for Christian Princes to imitate.
If this is a Method of trying and stigmatizing Characters that I should make Exceptions to, I would not be understood to reflect, at this Distance of Time, on the Wisdom or Justice of that excellent Queen under whom this first Instance happened. We can have no other Lights of such a Transaction, than what this Paragraph in Burnet’s History affords us; and we may in Charity believe, that the Accident was circumstanced as he relates it to have been, that the Person set aside did labour under an ill Fame; that the Queen heard it from no malicious Whisperers, or interested Tale-bearers; that it could not answer any selfish Purpose to represent him as one of a bad Character, if he really deserved a good one; that the six Bishops who were referred to, and who certified their ill Opinion of him, were equal, unbiassed, indifferent Judges, incapable of any Intention to shake off their due Dependency on the Royal Supremacy; incapable of any Scheme or Project to turn their Hierarchy into an Aristocracy; incapable of setting on Foot a Cabal to take the Nomination of Bishops to themselves, in Prejudice and Dishonour of the Crown; incapable of any malicious Design to defame and stigmatize all Men, however virtuous or deserving, who would not conform to the Obedience required, and become subservient to the Intrigues carried on by such a spiritual Cabal; incapable likewise of being the Creatures and Slaves of a proud, ambitious, and mercenary Prelate, who aspired to engross Ecclesiastical Power, and to usurp on the sacred Prerogatives of the King his Sovereign.
I make these liberal Concessions in favour of those six Bishops, because however willing I am to think candidly of their Certificate, that the Man whom they set aside laboured under an ill Fame, yet it is too plain, should such a Method prevail of trying and disqualifying Candidates for Ecclesiastical Preferments, it must give a dangerous Scope to all the Practices which I have enumerated, and therefore I do not think it a fit Example for Christian Princes to imitate, nor a fit Example for a free People to be fond of.
I need not tell you, Sir, how odious the Cabals of Ecclesiastics are to the Laws of this Kingdom; you very well know the Law that restrains the B———ps from meeting together without the King’s Authority in any Company beyond a certain Number; you know the Supremacy which you have all sworn to maintain in the Crown; you likewise know, that in virtue of this Prerogative, the Crown hath an uncontroulable Power of making Bishops and Dignitaries in the Church, which before the Reformation Ecclesiastics had wickedly incroached on, pretending to the Right of electing one another, and that the Confirmation of such Elections belonged to a sovereign Pontiff: All which, Sir, you have renounced by your Oaths, are ipso facto excommunicate, if you pretend to any such exorbitant Power, and incur the Penalties of a Premunire, whereby you forfeit your Goods and Chattels, the Revenue of your Lands, and the Liberty of your Person.
It avails nothing at all in Sense of Justice, or to the Safety of Mankind, that these wise Provisions were made by our Ancestors, if B———ps, eluding the Laws, and their Oaths, shall ever claim that Power from the Grace of the Crown, which they renounce all Right to by the most solemn Sacraments. It would be a much more dangerous Practice than any which can be attempted; because, at the same time that it might seem to acknowledge the Force of the Law, it would destroy the Effect of it, and whilst it might speciously submit to the Forms of the Constitution, would subvert the Foundation of it.
You will therefore allow me, Sir, to consider this Scheme of trying all Candidates for Preserment in the Church with more Indignation, as it tends to give a Junto of B———ps a Negative upon the Nomination to any Bishopric, than it might be proper to express, with regard to that Malice and Defamation which may at any time be employed to deprive a particular Person of the Advancement intended him.
It must be admitted, that nothing can be more cruel, dishonest, and detestable, than to defame an innocent Man, and to fix, by malicious Arts, an ill Fame upon him, in order to make him lose his Preferment. But there are Views and Designs which may be the Motives of such an Attempt, and which will make it infinitely more alarming than any Hardship done to a single Person. There may be the Project of bringing all Promotions in the Church into the Hands of a few ambitious arbitrary Churchmen, so that the highest Counsellor of the Crown shall not recommend the Friend whom he best loves, and the Man whom he most approves, without exposing such Person to be deprived of his Reputation by those who may be averse to his Advancement: And the Prince on the Throne, if he shall espouse the innocent Party, after such Reverend Defamers have testified their Dislike of him, shall be exposed to the same Ecclesiastical Malice, nay, shall be set sorth to all his Subjects, by one who is the Creature of his Power, and the Abuser of his Favour, as an Example not fit for Christian Princes to imitate.
It is Part of the Impeachment of the House of Commons against Archbishop Laud, Article VI. “That he traiterously assumed to himself a Papal and Tyrannical Power, both in Ecclesiastical and Temporal Matters, over his Majesty’s Subjects in this Realm of England, and in other Places, to the Disherison of the Crown, Dishonour of his Majesty, and Derogation of his supreme Authority in Ecclesiastical Matters.”
The Commons proceed in the Eighth Article of that Impeachment, to charge him, “That for the better advancing of his traiterous Purpose and Design, he did abuse the great Power and Trust his Majesty reposed in him; and did intrude upon the Places of divers great Officers, and upon the Right of other of his Majesty’s Subjects, whereby he did procure to himself the Nomination of sundry Persons to Ecclesiastical Dignities, Promotions and Benefices belonging to his Majesty, and divers of the Nobility and Clergy, and others; and hath taken upon him the Commendation of Chaplains to the King, by which means, he hath preferred to his Majesty’s Service, and to other great Promotions in the Church, such as have been Popishly affected, or otherwise, unfound and corrupt, both in Doctrines and Manners.”
I chuse, Sir, to cite these Articles for your Consideration, to shew you the Sense and Judgment of Parliament, on the Matter before us; and if it should ever appear in a National Enquiry, that B———ps have assumed to themselves the Nomination of Bishops, that they have haughtily and arbitrarily claimed the sole Right of advising and recommending in Ecclesiastical Promotions, pretending that the highest Counsellor of the Crown hath no Right to offer his Advice, on such Occasions, it may beget a Question, which I am afraid, some Persons will know not how to answer.
For Instance, if an insolent domineering Prelate should ever pretend to advance it as his Right, to nominate Bishops in the Manner as the Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain advises the Crown, in the Nomination of Judges, if he should be arrogant enough to affirm, that he might as properly interfere in supplying the Vacancies of Westminster-Hall, as that Great Officer may recommend to vacant Sees, there can be no Difference made between such a Behaviour, and the Case of Laud himself, as described in these Articles of Impeachment before us.
The Clergy of this Kingdom have sworn to the Royal Supremacy, and hold all their Powers, Emoluments and Ecclesiastical Offices, by the Gift of the Civil Government; and as the Order of Bishops arises from the Institution of Temporal Laws, its Vacancies are to be supplied by the Mediation of Temporal Officers. You know, Sir, it is the Great Seal alone, that hath any Virtue or Effect in the Ordination of Bishops. Without it the Clergy can have no Dignitaries amongst them, and the Holy Ghost must cease in this Kingdom, as to its Effect in conferring of Characters. The Chancellor may refuse to affix this Seal, if he shall see Cause in his own Discretion; for, neither the Conge d’Elire, nor any Instrument which relates to the making of Bishops, are Writs of Right, nor is he bound to pass them ex officio, nor implicitly to obey the Warrants which transmit them to him. He hath no Perils or Fears attending his Refusal; though if he shall think it proper to affix the Great Seal in such Cases, the Clergy of all Orders and Degrees must obey it, on pain of the most severe Penalties. To seal such Instruments of Nomination is, on his Part, an Act of Conscience, wherein he is to advise with his free Judgment, and freely to offer the King his Opinion: But, if he seals them, the Conformity of the Church and their Obedience to the Crown, are Acts of the highest Necessity, wherein they are no more allowed a Latitude of judging or considering, than Sheriffs are in obeying the King’s Writs of Execution. They perform them as Acts of the most simple and unconditional Obedience, which admit of no Delays, nor Deliberations, nor Rescriptions to the Prince. When the Clergy of this Kingdom are without Bishops, they have no Right to any but from the King’s Pleasure, who may keep the See vacant to an indefinite Term; for no Time lapses with the Crown. When it is the Royal Pleasure, that such vacant See shall be supplied, the Chapter of the Diocese have Leave to elect, and Letters missive pass with the Conge d’Elire, requiring them to elect such Person as the King therein nominates. If they do not return the Conge d’Elire, according to the Requisition of the Letters missive, within twelve Days, the Act of Parliament made in the five and twentieth Year of Henry VIII. Chapter the twentieth, expresly says, “that the King’s Highness, his Heirs or Successors, at their Liberty and Pleasure, shall nominate and present, by their Letters Patents under their Great Seal, such a Person to the said Archbishopric or Bishopric, as they shall think able and convenient for the same.”
The Statute proceeds in the next Section thus: “And be it enacted by the Authority aforesaid, that whenever any such Presentment or Nomination shall be made by the King’s Highness, his Heirs or Successors, by Virtue and Authority of this Act, and according to the Tenor of the same, That then every Archbishop and Bishop, to whose Hands any such Presentment and Nomination shall come, shall with all Speed and Celerity invest and consecrate the Person nominate and presented by the King’s Highness, his Heirs or Successors, to the Office and Dignity that such Person shall be so presented unto, and give and use to him all Benedictions, Ceremonies, and Things requisite for the same.”
The same Statute proceeds still more vigorously in the sixth and seventh Sections of the aforesaid Cap. 20. viz. “VI. And be it further enacted, by the Authority aforesaid, That every Person and Persons being hereafter chosen, elected, nominate, presented, invested and consecrated to the Dignity or Office of any Archbishop or Bishop within this Realm, or within any other the King’s Dominions, according to the Form, Tenor, and Effect of this present Act, and suing their Temporalities out of the King’s Hands, his Heirs or Successors, as hath been accustomed, and making a corporal Oath to the King’s Highness, and to none other in Form as afore rehearsed, shall and may from henceforth be trononised and installed as the Case shall require; (2) And shall have and take their only Restitution out of the King’s Hands, of all the Possessions and Profits belonging to the said Archbishopric or Bishopric whereunto they shall be so elected or presented, and shall be obeyed in all manner of Things, according to the Name, Title, Degree and Dignity that they shall be chosen or presented unto, and do and execute in every Thing and Things touching the same as any Archbishop or Bishop of this Realm, without offending the Prerogative Royal of the Crown, and the Laws and Customs of this Realm might at any Time heretofore do.
VII. “And be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That if the Dean and Chapter of any Cathedral Church where the See of an Archbishop or Bishop is within any of the King’s Dominions after such Licence [or Conge d’Elire] as is afore rehearsed, shall be delivered to them, proceed not to Election, and signify the same according to the Tenor of this Act within the Space of twenty Days next, after such Licence shall come to their Hands: (2) Or else if any Archbishop or Bishop within the King’s Dominions, after any such Election, Nomination or Presentation, shall be signified unto them by the King’s Letters Patent, shall refuse, and do not confirm, invest, and consecrate, with all due Circumstance, as is aforesaid, every such Person as shall be so elected, nominated or presented, and to them signified, as is above-mentioned, within twenty Days, next after the King’s Letters Patent of such Signification or Presentation shall come to their Hands. (3) Or else, if any of them, or any other Person or Persons admit, maintain, allow, do or execute any Censures, Excommunications, Interdictions, Inhibitions, or any other Act or Process, of what Nature, Name, or Quality soever it be to the contrary, or lett, or Hindrance of due Execution of this Act, (4) That then every Dean, and particular Person of the Chapter, and every Archbishop and Bishop, and all other Persons so offending, and doing contrary to this Act, or any Part thereof, and their Aiders, Counsellors, Abettors, shall run in the Dangers, Pains and Penalties of the Estatute of Provision and Premunire, made in the five and twentieth Year of King Edw. III. and in the sixteenth Year of King Richard II.” Vide 1 Eliz. 1 and 8 Eliz. 1.
Thus the Law of the Kingdom, makes the Clergy of the Kingdom, howsoever dignified or distinguished, the meer passive involuntary Agents of the Crown, moved by the absolute Will of the Sovereign, signified to them by Writ or Patent under the Great Seal, to be issued or refused according to the Conscience of him who hath Custody thereof. Whomsoever the Pleasure of the Crown shall prefer as a Bishop, the Clergy have the Honour to adopt as their Election. And though he is to all Intents and Purposes, a Bishop without their Election, yet still they are under the strictest Necessity to elect and confirm him, how little soever he, or the King presenting him, stands in need of their Election or Confirmation; which the Wisdom of our Law hath apparently enacted to shew, that they, the Clergy, are at the same time entirely useless, yet absolutely dependent. They are without Power, to do any thing in the Case, but to shew their most humble Obedience. They are, without the smallest Portion of Liberty, to delay, or deliberate about the Election or Consecration required of them. They may, by the King’s Permit, make his Nominee their Bishop, who whether they will or not, must in all Events, by the King’s Patents, be made their Bishop. Whether he is made by Election or Nomination, they must consecrate him, and whether he is elected or consecrated, the King’s Authority, which in that Case can create, will likewise install him Bishop with full Episcopal Power, so that the Great Seal makes him a Bishop of his particular Church, and makes him at the same time, Bishop of the Church at large. Thus whilst the Clergy are bound by all these penal Laws, the Chancellor is under the Injunctions of none; and it is most clear, that as well the Mandates of Consecration, as the Letters of Nomination, are equally trusted to the Discretion and Remonstrances of the Lord Chancellor, for the Time being, equally to be obeyed by the Clergy implicitly, and under the strictest Penalties; whereby it must appear, that the Power of the Great Seal is the only Source of Ecclesiastical Holiness, and Stamp of imagined indelible Characters.
Thus in the making of Bishops or other Dignitaries, Submission, absolute and unreserved Submission to Royal Prerogative, is the only Share which the Clergy are, by the Laws of England intitled to; but the Chancellor, who affixes the Great Seal to every Instrument of Election or Creation, He, who by his Office gives Life to every Nomination of Bishops, Dignitaries, and Churchmen preferred by the Crown, it is his Right, and it is his Duty to advise the Crown. It belongs so justly to his Province, that were he to neglect it, there can be no Doubt that it would be a Crime in his Conduct, and he is so far from being restrained as Churchmen are from advising in these Matters, that he is sworn to it when he receives the Great Seal, nor ought to affix that Seal in such Cases, until he hath discharged this Duty.
Do you not see that the highest Churchman of this Kingdom was impeached in Parliament, for that notwithstanding he had taken the Oath of Supremacy, he took to himself the Nomination of Ecclesiastical Dignitaries, in high Dishonour and Disherison of the Crown. Shall then a subordinate Churchman pretend more Right to advise the Crown in the Exercise of this Prerogative, than his Metropolitan is by Law intitled to? And, shall he, with superior Insolence, pretend a greater Right than the Great Keeper of the King’s Conscience? That Officer, whose Capacity for advising and judging in Ecclesiastical Promotions the Law of this Kingdom acknowledges with the most favourite Distinction, by reposing so high a Confidence in his Wisdom and Integrity, that it is the inherent Right of the Great Seal to present to All the Livings in England, valued in the King’s Books under 20 l. per Annum. The Person who hath Custody of that Seal supplies all Vacancies in the Church of this sort, by his own official Authority, without any Warrant whatever. Can it, after this hath been mentioned, be doubted, where the Law of England hath vested the Presentations of the King, to so vast an Extent in the pure Discretion of his Chancellor, that it hath not given him as large a Right to advise in Promotions above that Value, as it hath given him plenary Power to dispose of all under that Value? And, can it be conceived, that this Officer of the Crown, who hath Authority to act in this Extent for the Crown, hath not a much more extensive Province to act in as an Adviser of the Crown? Shall then a subordinate Churchman, whom the Laws have expresly restrained from acting or advising at all, proceed against the fundamental Principles of the Constitution, incroaching upon the Rights of the Seal, and intruding upon the Royal Prerogative? And, shall not the Chancellor of Great Britain remember the Oath which he swore when the King delivered the Seals into his Keeping, “That he shall not know, or suffer the Hurt or Disheriting of the King, or that the Rights of the Crown be decreased by any Means, as far forth as he may let or hinder; and if he may not let or hinder it, he shall make it clearly and expresly known to the King with his true Advice and Counsel.”
You have now, Sir, seen, that this Great Officer hath an undoubted Right of advising, as well in the Nomination of Bishops as of Judges; and that Churchmen have no Right of interfering in the Nomination of either. This is most evident from the Laws, and apparent from Reason. If the Head of that learned Profession is advised with in the Promotion of Judges, it is most undoubtedly true, that none are so fit as Lawyers to recommend those who are best skilled in the Science of Laws; and it can by no means in the World hurt or endanger the Public, that they recommend one another: On the other hand, it is as true, that the Case is very different in the Church, where the essential Qualifications of Priests being Charity, Humility, and Christian Piety, may easily be judged of by the Meanest of the People; where likewise the due Discharge of the Trust reposed in them depends more on their Honesty and Moderation, than on their Learning and School Sufficiency; and where the Course of Church Preferment cannot arise from a Cabal of Churchmen, without indangering the Royal Prerogative as well as the Rights of the People.
It would not indeed surprize any Man, who knows the World, if he should hear a Churchman pretend, that “he has as much Right to nominate Judges, as a Chancellor hath to advise in the Nomination of Bishops.” I fear such aspiring immoderate Men, would be glad to nominate one, as well as the other, if it might be permitted them; and considering that wonderful Codex, which you have compiled, I should think it extremely natural, that one of your Talents and Temper, in framing a System of Law, should have an extraordinary Passion for introducing a Set of Judges to support it. You will give me Leave to refresh your Memory with some Particulars in our History. When Bishops nominated Bishops, they made themselves Chancellors likewise. When they once incroached so far on the Rights of the Great Seal, they soon obtained the Custody of it, as the Privilege of their Function. But the Reformation of the Church restored the Authority of the Law, and when an exorbitant Churchman began to unravel the Reformation, he made it a Part of his Scheme, to subdue the Power of the Law. He took the Nomination of Bishops to himself; he took upon him the Power of controuling the Courts of Justice, and as a Commencement of his Claim, in making of Judges, he prevailed on the King, to injoin the Lord Chancellor, that half of the Masters in Chancery should be appointed from among the Doctors of the Civil Law, because Civilians usually practise and officiate in the Courts of the Bishops.
This Usurpation of a Papal and Tyrannical Power, both in Spiritual and Temporal Affairs, to use the Words of the Commons in their Impeachment against him, drew the Weight of that Prosecution upon him, and as the Lord Clarendon wisely observes, the Justice of the Kingdom, will at some time or other, be too hard for the strongest Opposers and Oppressors of it.
It is to be hoped, that after so heavy a Censure on one who was placed at the Head of his Profession, for assuming illegal Powers, and unwarrantable Functions, no subordinate Churchman, will ever pretend to act in that Capacity, which, if it were a lawful one, could only belong to the Head of his Order. What would you, Sir, say, if ever your Fate should mount you up to the Top of the Ladder Ecclesiastical, and one of your Suffragans should assume, in Exclusion of yourself, the most exorbitant Powers, that any in your own exalted Station ever pretended to; despising the Authority of the Law; invading the Rights of the Crown; dictating to Lords High Chancellors what belongs to their Office; and dictating to the King, his Sovereign, by public Instructions in printed Papers, what Examples are fit for Christian Princes to imitate.
I hope, Sir, you will agree with me, that if ever any such daring Pretender to lawless and unrighteous Domination over us should appear amongst us, it will be our Duty, and I trust we shall neither want Spirit nor Means, to defeat him. An honest Englishman, and a dutiful Subject, must be moved in this Case, by the strongest Dictates, which Love to his Country, or Allegiance to his Prince, can in any Case suggest to him. Whenever an assuming Prelate, whose selfish and arbitrary Views are as evident as his Malice and Cruelty against all who oppose them; whenever such a Prelate shall lay claim to the Nomination of Persons to Ecclesiastical Promotions, Dignities and Benefices in the Disposition of the Crown, the Success of his Attempt must indanger the King, and the fundamental Constitution. If once he prevail in this Practice, and gain such an undue Share of Favour, as to recommend in supplying vacant Sees, and to set aside in such Promotions, all who are disagreeable to himself, he will bring the whole Power of the Crown in Ecclesiastical Affairs, into his own Possession; he will draw all the Church Endowments and Dignities belonging to the Royal Nomination, within the Circle of his own Creatures and Dependents; he will divest the King of his princely Prerogative, to reward the Merit of his most deserving Subjects, and to attach the Affections and Gratitude of those who might be most useful to his Service: And when such a Prelate hath long proceeded in this Course of advancing to the highest Stations, and the most valuable Promotions, his own Set of Flatterers and Slaves, it will not, I fear, be found that they hold themselves under Obligations to their Prince, but to this Protestant Pontiff, who will teach them, that the Power delegated to them by the Crown, may be a Weapon in their Hands, to wound the Prerogative of the Crown. Whatever Usurpations he shall attempt on the King’s Authority, he will incite them to join with him in, for the Advancement of their common Ambition: And if such Ambition and Insolence shall at any time be repressed by a Prince jealous of his Honour, and justly attentive to the Preservation of the ancient Rights belonging to his Crown, they will threaten to cabal against him; they will tamper with Civil Factions, to revenge the just Rebukes which they may receive from their injured and offended Sovereign; they will contrive Bargains with Parties, to distress the Crown for the Exaltation of themselves; they will employ the Weight and Interest of their Temporalities to make Divisions in the People, to influence the public Councils, and even Parliamentary Elections: Evils, none of which can happen, if the Crown shall retain to itself intire, the Exercise of its own Prerogatives: For, if the Prince on the Throne shall continue to advise with his Civil Counsellors, or resort to his own Knowledge of Mankind, in all his Nominations to Ecclesiastical Dignities; if he shall constantly promote Men whom he knows to deserve his Favour, and to regard him with faithful Affection, if he does this without the Interposition of any selfish designing Churchman, however possible it is, that some Mistakes may happen in Particulars, yet on the whole, it is morally impossible, that the Dependence of those he promotes can belong to any Interest but to that of the Crown; they will owe the Crown their natural Gratitude; and having received the Favour of their Advancement from the King alone, none will stand in the Way to intercept that Duty and Service which they ought to return him; whereas if he should, at any time to come, suffer his Church Promotions to be modelled by any single Prelate, he will see that Prelate vested in a short time with a Power almost able to controul supreme Authority; he will see the Devotion which ought to be paid to him alone, in right of his Royalty, paid in his high Dishonour and Wrong to a Priest, a proud assuming Priest, who will threaten, that if his own Creatures are not advanced, or if any Person, disagreeable to his Humours or Interests, shall be advanced, that he will never be seen in the Court, nor appear in the Service of his Prince; and even that he will arm all the Ecclesiastics in the Kingdom with Clamour and Fury, to avenge his unchristian Quarrel.
Such a Spirit as this, or any that resembles it, ought to be suppressed with early Care. There is no Service to a Court, that can pretend to palliate the Growth of such alarming Encroachments upon the Power of the Crown, and there is no Encroachment upon the Regal Prerogative, so dangerous to Mankind, to Civil Liberty, and common Safety, as the Usurpation of Ecclesiastics. If ever the least Sign of such Encroachment should appear, stop the Progress of it immediately. If indulgent Grace and Favour may at any time suffer it to go too far, let nothing be neglected to restrain it. Nothing can be too great a Venture, to risque in the Undertaking. Nothing can be a more dreadful Hazard, nay, more certain Ruin, than to suffer that it should proceed. If ever its Progress should appear to be beyond Restraint, the Power of the Crown, the Legal Prerogative of the King, is then swallowed up, perhaps, beyond Recovery; and the Prince on the Throne, who should suffer his Clergy to flatter him out of his most essential Authority, would find such Flatterers become his Tyrants, and the Power with which he parted to oblige them, would be employed to distress his Affairs; nay, to destroy himself and his Family; he would be but the Cypher of Royalty; he would be environed by the Power of the Church, and engrossed by a vile Cabal of insolent Ecclesiastics.
It is most evident, that the Growth of this Ecclesiastical Tyranny would take its Rise, Sir, from that Scheme which you propose for the trying and disqualifying Candidates to Church Preferments; I must therefore adhere to my former Opinion, that the Example which you advertised for the Use of Christian Princes, in the Daily Journal of February 27, is not fit for Christian Princes to imitate.
I am apt to fear you have made an ill Applicatson of an excellent Treatise set forth some Years since by a reverend and eminent Person, to conciliate the Minds of the Clergy, when they were divided by a Commitment of one of their Bishops, on a Charge of High Treason. This Letter to the Clergy, which was published in the Year 1722, is still preserved in the 24th Volume of the Political State of Great Britain; and as it is there said, by Mr. Abel Boyer, was generally reported to have been written by the R. R. Dr. G———n then L——— B——— of L———ln. Now, since so great an Authority must have passed into every Man’s Hands, it must be confessed, there were some Passages in that Letter, which coming from one so deservedly trusted in the Depth of Ecclesiastical Secrets, may possibly have misled the Weak and Undiscerning, to entertain false and incongruous Notions of the Manner in which our Church is governed.
I fear, most worthy Dr. Codex, you have imagined, that such a Scheme as you have proposed for trying of Ecclesiastical Candidates, might one Day or other prevail, because the Rev. Dr. G———n, if he was the Author of that Letter, after he hath said in the first Division of his Discourse, Par. IV. that it had been his Majesty’s continual and prudent Rule to consult or be directed by his Bishops, in the Disposal of Preferments of every Rank in the Church, proceeds in this manner to exult upon the Occasion, “What, says the Reverend Writer, can shew a greater Trust placed in, or Deference paid to, his Bishops, than to share as it were his Royal Prerogative with them, and make himself but a kind of Executor of their Pleasure.———Here then adds the Letter-Writer, let us, the Clergy, rejoice, &c.”
Now, should this amazing Passage be thought too much for a modest Clergyman to say of his own Order or of his anointed Head, should it be thought stupendous Insolence, to tell the World that the K——— himself is directed by B———ps, that he shares his Royal Prerogative with Ecclesiastics, and is but an Executor of their Pleasure: Let us ask ourselves at the same time, hath not this very Clergyman, who writes in this manner during thirty or forty Years past, both preached and sworn to maintain the Royal Supremacy of the King his Sovereign in all Causes, and over all Persons as well Ecclesiastical as Civil? And how is such a Clergyman to be regarded, when after having intitled himself to so many Dignities and Emoluments, by the Repetition of such Oaths, he shall, in Defiance of them, affirm that the K——— himself, his supreme Head and Sovereign, hath been directed by B———ps, who have sworn to be directed by him; or that a Prince of so sublime a Dignity could ever submit to such Dishonour and Disherison of his Crown, as to share his Royal Prerogatives with his Ecclesiastics: And what is still more injurious to Imperial Majesty, and ignominious to his sacred Character, that He, our Sovereign Lord the K———g could ever make himself to be considered and spoken of as but the Executor of the Pleasure of Priests!
Were these Expressions ever to be described in the Language of an Impeachment, and in the vigorous Stile of Parliaments, they would be charged by an House of Commons, as insolent, wicked and traiterous Words, expressed in high Contempt and Derogation of the Royal Authority, in Diminution of the supreme Dignity of the Imperial Crown of these Kingdoms, and highly disrespectful to the sacred Person of our Lord the K———, tending to infuse groundless Jealousies into his Majesty’s Subjects, that his Royal Prerogative is shared, and his Administration directed, to the Prejudice of the People, and to the Dishonour of the Crown, and tending to lessen that Reverence which all his Majesty’s Subjects owe to him their liege Lord and Sovereign.
Yet whilst the Meaning of this Reverend Letter-writer comes under these alarming Considerations, we are still, if possible, startled more by what he says in the second Part of his Discourse, Section I. Par. V. where enumerating the Oaths taken by Clergymen, among which the Oath of Supremacy is one, he adds, “That after this Gordion Knot is fastened on the Consciences of Clergymen, which no Art or Time can loosen, and which nothing but Violence and Wickedness can cut, how must they appear to the World? How black, how detestable, if they act contrary to this sacred Engagement? How much must the Christian Religion, how much must even Natural Religion be weakened by such a Behaviour in the Clergy? Believe me, Brethren, continues the Writer, that no Imputation, no Stain can fix so fast to our Church as this. It is a Stab almost in a vital Part, and only a visible contrary Behaviour in us can be the effectual Remedy in a Case of so much Danger.”
Tell me, Sir, what your Opinion must be of a Writer, who, whilst he was cherishing such a Spirit and Disposition in his own Mind, and whilst he was advancing such Pretensions, in the Letter which he was writing, hath in the same Breath loaded them with such Weight of Guilt and Infamy, as the last recited Paragraph contains.
Dr. G———n, or the Author of that Letter, was likewise pleased to say in the sixth Paragraph of his first Division, in this Discourse, That it had been experienced, that it was much safer to lay the Loins of the Law upon a Layman, than the little Finger of it upon a Clergyman.
However possible it is that vain and ignorant Men may feed their Hopes with such Imaginations, let me as a Friend, warn you not to err on this Head, for if ever your Practices shall deserve a public Enquiry, or an exemplary Punishment, you will find, as the worthy Lord Clarendon said, That the Justice of the Kingdom will one Day or other be too hard for you, however strongly you may oppose or oppress it.
Do not therefore indulge a Dream which reflects so much Dishonour on the Justice of the Kingdom. Do not imagine, that in these Times it can be at all safer to lay the Loins of the Law on a Layman, than the little Finger of it on a Clergyman. Dr. G———n, however he happened to drop this Expression, will be so far from supporting you, that he will be cited to shew you the Folly and Wickedness of such vain Apprehensions.
Give me leave then, Sir, to lay before you his Sentiments on the Crimes of Ecclesiastics, and the Punishments which Societies ought to provide against them. A Lesson which I hope will have some Influence on your Conduct, as it comes from such Authority.
In the tenth Paragraph of the last cited Division of his Letter, he addresses himself to the Clergy in this remarkable Manner.
“I presume, says he to his Reverend Brethren, there is no Protestant among us who believes that a Bishop, as a Bishop, is, or ought to be, exempt, from civil Enquiries. That erroneous Notion was banished from our Isle with Popery, long ago, and the King’s Supremacy over all his Subjects is not doubted of by any Member of our Church. Indeed, when a Prelate acts within his proper Sphere, a larger Portion of Respect is due———But whenever any one of that high Station acts contrary to his Religious Character, and strikes at the Establishment of his Country, it is his Interest that his sacred Office be not regarded in the Question, lest it serve only to aggravate the Crimes proved against him; or to speak in the Language of the great St. Paul, to make his Sin exceeding sinful. It may be considered further, that a Crime against the Constitution is equally dangerous, whether it be carried on by Lay or Episcopal Hands, by one that wears a Sword, or a Habit of Lawn. That State must be unwise to a Proverb, which will not take the same necessary Precautions against the one as the other; for, the Care of the Public is above any private Regard, because it includes in it all other Relations, whether natural, civil, or ecclesiastical——— For my Part, says Dr. G———n, I cannot but look upon this as an Instance of steady and impartial Justice, such as every Government ought to observe; and I would not wish myself a Member of a more Platonic Commonwealth, than where every Man who enters into such Measures as endanger my Liberty, my Property, or my Religion, be he civil or sacred, wear he a Garter or a Mitre, is, upon Discovery of his Designs, brought to a fair Trial, and does, upon Conviction, pay that Debt of Punishment which the known Laws of his Country demand.”
In the next Paragraph, he still speaks in the same just and forcible Manner, “That the Justice and Safety of the Nation require that all Delinquents be considered and censured as Delinquents, without any Regard to the Office, or Title, or Honour, which they bear.”
I hope, Sir, after this you will never delude yourself to think, that it can be safer to lay the Loins of the Law on a Layman, than the little Finger of it on a Clergyman. You will be of Opinion with me, that it is a Position full of Insolence and Scandal to the Justice of the Kingdom; a Position which is fraught with Malice against our Constitution, and which imputes the most partial, oppressive, and unjust Proceedings to the good People of England.
If, Sir, you should still entertain any Fondness for these detestable Notions, let me expostulate with you in the admirable Words of the Reverend Writer, in the third Paragraph of his first Division, where he tells us, he is appeasing the little Jealousies and Suspicions which such as you are apt to harbour in you.
“I know, says Dr. G———n, that it is natural for Men of all Societies, even of incorporated Trades, though never so mean in the Esteem of the World, to be alarmed at any Thing which may seem to reflect Dishonour on them as a Body, or which brings the Persons of their particular Governors in Danger; for, where there is an Union of Interest, there is always a common Jealousy of Danger. But why should not we, Gentlemen, addressing himself to the Clergy, we who are bred up to Letters, and have received that generous Education in our Universities, which is usually thought not unworthy the Youth of the highest Quality; why should not we, who understand how to distinguish and separate those things in our Minds which the unwise and unlearned confound, see clearly, that it may be reasonable and necessary for the Government to animadvert upon one of our Order, even in the strictest Manner, at the same time that it reverences the holy Function with which he is invested.”
You will not imagine, now you have heard such Recitals from this judicious Divine, nor durst you suggest, that Dr. G———n can possibly serve you as an Authority in any of your unwarrantable Claims, or cover you from the Censures due to your unlawful Usurpations. If any thing, Sir, could reclaim you to the Humility of a Christian Clergyman, or to the Duty and Allegiance of an English Subject; if any thing could inspire you with a just Sense of your Oaths and Obligations, it must be the Words of this great and able Churchman, whose Letter of Advice to the Clergy, I can never be weary of transcribing.
The second Part of his Discourse, Section the first, is opened in these Words. “Give me leave to represent that with too many Men, we the Clergy lay under the Scandal of being a restless and ungovernable Body. The Charge, I know, is not a true one, but it would grieve the Heart of a good Man, to find that there should be any the least Handle for such an unworthy Aspersion; for, Sedition, or Designs against the Constitution, is in a Clergyman an accumulated Crime; it is a whole Cluster of Sins in one, and as many more Aggravations when committed by us than by any others. For,
“We have solemnly dedicated ourselves to the Ministry of holy Things, we have turned our Backs upon the Cares of a secular Calling, and have confined ourselves to the more immediate Service of Religion; so that for us to be concerned in public Affairs, which are not made a Part of our Duty by the Laws, even though we should act in them uprightly, is hardly justifiable, and may well seem a temporary Departure from the Business of our Calling: Besides, we never had yet much Reputation for our Skill in judging of public Matters—Why then should we quit that sacred Province in which our Fellow Subjects will easily allow us to be able Judges of Divinity, for that in which (let us confess it freely for all the World knows it, and I think it for our Credit) we are not, we cannot well be Judges of Politics.
“We are all of us Men appointed to promote the Peace of Mankind, and to preach the Doctrine of Obedience to the higher Powers in being, and of mutual Love and good Will to one another; and can it seem less than a vile Hypocrisy, or a direct Disbelief of the great Truths of Scripture, if we give any just Occasion for our civil Governors to suspect us as seditious and disobedient Subjects? We say, and rightly too, in our Sermons, that we are an Order of Men necessary to Government: Let us then, by our Actions, prove this Truth to those who think otherwise of us. We are some of us eloquent and copious, in proving that Society cannot long subsist without Teachers of Religion: Let us then, I beseech you, make it visible to all Men, that we endeavour to support the Society in which we are so happily planted, and labour, with all our Power, to disappoint the Attempts of those who would overturn it.
“We of all Men do, with an ill Grace, endeavour to work up our Audience into Fury, especially against the State; it is the very Reverse of our Profession, and is just such a Solecism in Divinity as Superstition in Philosophy.
“We are to consider ourselves still further, as in some sort Pensioners to the State in which we live. Left this be not understood as it is meant, give me leave to express myself more clearly, by saying, that though we have a Claim from Scripture and Reason, to a Maintenance in the Labour of the Gospel, yet the particular Assignment of that Portion which we enjoy, is the Free Gift of our Government; or if any one will make a Difficulty in allowing this, yet he cannot deny that the large Revenues, as well as the Honours attending the higher Stations of the Church, do intirely flow from the Bounty of our Laws, and are the Pensions which a wise Society pays to its distinguished Ecclesiastics, for the Reward of their uncommon Piety and Learning, and of the Pattern which they are supposed to give, of Submission to their civil Governors. Some of us enjoy not only what is necessary for supporting us in the sacred Business of our Calling, but have an Abundance sufficient to make us sit down in the Rank of the Great and Wealthy. And I have often thought, that if some amongst us, who have been the warmest Advocates for the divine Right of our Incomes, were strictly to take the Measure of them from what is said concerning them in the Gospel, they would lose at least one half of their Revenues in the dangerous Experiment, and perhaps have but the Tythe left them of what they now enjoy from the Munificence of the Legislature. This therefore is an Argument of much Weight! and may teach us, that as our civil Governors are our Benefactors, whoever resists them must appear basely unthankful, and cannot shake off his Obedience, without taking upon himself a full Load of the Infamy of Ingratitude.”
I have now compleated such Extracts from this Letter of Dr. G———n, as can be sit for your Attention, most Reverend Dr. Codex. You have now seen the Judgment of Parliament in the Impeachment of a former spiritual Offender, for taking to himself the Royal Nomination to ecclesiastical Dignities, and intruding upon the Place of great Officers appointed to advise the Crown. You have seen the severe Animadversions of the grave Author, your Reverend Brother, so often cited against you; and it may be expected you will not hereafter advance a Claim of Right, that any of your Profession should direct the K———, or that any Ecclesiastic whatever should share his Royal Prerogative, or that his Majesty should make himself but the Executor of your Pleasure.
It is however clear and incontestable, that this will be the Case, this daring and dangerous Encroachment will be carried on, if ever a governing Prelate should assume to himself the Right of repudiating Characters, when they shall be recommended to ecclesiastical Preferment. Let any Man consider the Consequence of this Practice, and he must see, that Ambition and Avarice would by such Means have the largest Opportunity of extending their most destructive and rapacious Projects. If an Inquisition were lodged in the Hands of one or more Churchmen, to try and judge any Candidate for Royal Promotion in the Church: If this might be done by the Evidence of low and profligate Persons; by Discoveries of loose Words and private Conversations, pretended to have happened at any former Distance of Time, so that the Opportunities may be irrecoverably lost, of recollecting every material Circumstance, of setting Things in their true Lights, and bringing those who were present, besides the infamous Informer, to bear Witness of what was really spoke in his Hearing: If this, I say, is to be the Scheme and Process of such an Inquisition, no arbitrary Churchman, in future Times, will ever be without a Retinue of Ecclesiastical Affidavit Makers, and Spiritual Preferment Stoppers, who will prostitute their Oaths and Inventions, to blast the Characters of all Men, who may be likely to rise in the Church contrary to his Interests, so that he may indulge his Love of Power, his Lust of Lucre, his Envy, his Hatred, his Caprice or Whim, to ruin the fairest Reputations: And as the best Men in the World will be the most obnoxious to his Resentments, the most formidable to his Power, and the most to be dreaded by his jealous Ambition, such Men will be the first to feel the Fury of his Inquisition, and to be defamed by the pestilent Tribe of his abandoned Informers.
Such were the Practices common in this Kingdom, before the Reformation of the Church, when Edmund, the cruel and violent Bishop of London, eclipsed the Power of the Crown, branded the most deserving of the Clergy, and butchered the most innocent of the Laity. As he carried on every iniquitous Project, he retained every infamous Prostitute; and a memorable Instance of his vengeful Temper occurs to my present Recollection. He had seen a Clergyman rise to a Deanary by the Assistance of very honourable Patrons, whose Power he considered with as much Awe as he beheld it employed to his sore Vexation: Whilst the Affair depended, he had tried every decent Artifice to defeat them; he was not immediately willing to break with them, and thought that his Ends might be carried by smooth Expedients; but when once he found his Intrigues were baffled by their superior Discernment, and the Promotion was obtained so much to his Disappointment, he gave the utmost Scope to his Malice and Revenge. The first vacant Bishopric was made use of as the fittest Occasion for the Exercise of both. The very Person whose Advancement he had so lately laboured to obstruct, did he himself officiously name to supply that vacant See, when no Man asked or expected it: And this most insidious Offer he made with express Design to possess himself of a proper Opportunity, whereby he defamed the Person, and set him aside in the Promotion which he with so much Treachery had officiously pretended to design in his Favour; making his Reputation the Butt of spiritual Informers, and fixing his Prelatical Brand on his Name, as a lasting Punishment due to that Ecclesiastic who had dared to rise in the Church without his Consent, and as a perpetual Incapacity ever to rise in any future Instance. I must not dismiss this Affair without a just Remark. It was the Glory of a most renowned Protestant Queen, that she mortified the Pride, and crushed the Power of this unchristian Prelate.
If I should view this Scheme of an Inquisition, in the Lights of your own Interest, I believe I could easily deter you from pursuing any such pernicious and detestable Project. Are you, Sir, so warm in your Situation, that you desire no earthly Advancement, or are you so secure in your Reputation, that such a Method of Practice, such an Inquisition, might not easily destroy it? And are you sure that you have no Enemy in the World, whose Aversion to your higher Promotion, might not induce to seek out Witnesses of your former Life and Behaviour? Think then, that if a proud, ambitious, and malicious Prelate, should ever have the Opportunity of obstructing your Exhaltation, by fixing a Stain on your Character, Whether his Resort among your old Comrades might not furnish such an Adversary with fit Instruments to asperse you? And whether the Lure of his Favour, might not seduce some hungry starving Ecclesiastic, to testify that which every Man would reject with Scorn, were it not sanctified by those Solemnities which provoke our Abhorrence? Suppose that any one should have so much Ill-will, and allow himself so large a Liberty, as to aver against you, Sir, that thirty Years since, or upwards, you were a most virulent Jacobite, and not only expressed the utmost Rancour against the Revolution, but pledged, in divers Companies, the most unlawful Healths, and refused the Oaths by Law required: Or that such a Charge hath been so notorious, and you so extremely sensible of its Weight against you, that the last Incumbent of the See now vacant, was by your Arts and Influence obstructed for ten Years together, in his Rise to a Bishopric, because he had said, that you was a Jacobite by Nature, and a Whig by Grace. Do you not think, that were it possible to procure such Depositions, it would be very hard upon you, if Encouragement should be given to evil or envious Men, in the Business of defaming you, and that such Defamation should prevent you from the Benefit of such Promotions, as the greatest Persons had endeavoured to procure, or Royal Favour intended to give you? And would you have been content to have lost a Bishopric, or would you be willing to hazard an higher Promotion on such an Experiment, as bringing to Light the Iniquities which might be possibly charged on the Course of the Life, in a Train of Exactions, Extortions, Oppressions, and Acts of Injustice?
Do not therefore recommend such Schemes to the Public, or to the Crown, as must, and will be, one Day or other, the Introduction of this Practice, and may be the Destruction of your own Credit. If you did but reflect on what some Men have done, you would tremble to consider what Persons of their Complection may do. I have heard of a Churchman, who promoted a Prosecution against a very scandalous Offence: and on the Accusation of that unnatural Sin, many were pursued, even to the last Sentence and Execution of the Law. This Person, with great Oftentation, boasted of this Service which he had performed to the Cause of Religion and Virtue. It nevertheless happened, that a Priest, in the District where he had Authority, a Man of the most profligate Principles, and in all Respects of the most infamous Character, was known to him by the meritorious Distinction of a most violent Bigot; as he was known to all the World by every immoral Practice, and by his avowed Disaffection to the Royal Family. This wicked Man, and what better could be expected from him, was as unnatural in his Vices, as he was odious in his Behaviour. He had long been made scandalous by his most shocking Amours, and at length was exposed by one of a flagrant kind carried on with the Clerk of his own Parish; he had, by his Practices on this Person, brought him into the Hands, and under the Operations of Surgeons. The Fact was too notorious for the Crime to pass unpunished, The honest Laity thought it a Matter fit for the Cognizance and Correction of the civil Magistrate; but whilst this Purpose was in Agitation, his Reverend Superior interposed, for the Honour of his Order, desiring that this vile Delinquent might be first prosecuted in the spiritual Court, where having once been formally divested of his Ecclesiastical Character, he might then be decently delivered up to the Secular Power, and punished in his Lay Capacity, for Crimes which he actually had attempted in his Clerical Habit. The Prosecution under this Management, was begun, was spun out with tedious Delays, and after the most trifling Defence, was at length concluded to the Condemnation of the accused Party. An Appeal was then lodged, was protracted in an extraordinary Manner, and the Appellant found Guilty again of those unnatural Practices which had been laid to his Charge. See now the Use of these Delays! The Prosecution had been so long depending, that it would have had no Countenance in the Civil Courts, had an Indictment been preferred so long after the Fact was committed. The Father of the Flock having therefore, with this Design, prevailed by his Influence, that the Process should continue so long depending, did, at last, with great Humility and brotherly Love, by his good Offices, moderate the Judgment, and screen the unnatural Offender from Justice, so that the spiritual Judge condemned him as guilty of all those unnatural Practices, yet discharged him by a Commutation of 100 l. Costs, reproving him in the gravest Style for this criminal Conversation with his Clerk, and enjoining him not to commit such filthy Sins in Time to come. Thus was Justice disarmed of her Power to punish the worst Offences! Thus did an intriguing Ecclesiastic screen Enormities in his own Order, which he had followed with all the Vengeance of Law in the Case of other Men; And do you not think, that were such a Man to be intrusted with supreme Power in the Church, he would employ it as wickedly and as partially, in stigmatizing some, as he hath employed it in screening of others? And that as he can protect the worst sort of Men in their Crimes, for being subservient to his exorbitant Projects, he would blacken the fair Reputation of others, for being too honest to join in supporting his Iniquities?
Such Behaviour in any Churchman, contributes more than all the Works of Infidelity, to blemish the Honour, and subvert the Foundation, of the Christian Religion. Those who have the Cause of Virtue and Piety most at Heart, lose their Zeal in the Service or the Support of a Church, whilst they see Churchmen acting in such a Manner, and Church Authority prostituted to such unchristian Ends. One Pastor of this Complection confutes all the Pastoral Letters that ever were written; and the World will be apt, however unjustly, to conceive, that nothing was ever charged on Ecclesiastics, which was not true, if ever they shall see there is nothing immoral, but what some of the Order can commit, especially if such Offenders should be of such Rank, that their Example cannot be of more extensive Influence, than it ought to be of lasting Infamy.
But if ever we should have the Misfortune to see the Scheme which you have recommended to the Imitation of Christian Princes, obtain under our Constitution; if ever we should see a dishonest and a defaming Churchman, endeavour by his Calumnies and his Informers, to propagate Falshoods, and promote Perjuries, thereby to disgrace an innocent Man, whose Merit he envies, and whose Integrity he looks on with fearful Eyes; if thus he shall labour to circumvent the most worthy, and ruin the most amiable Character, may there never be wanting a great and powerful Patron to sustain the Cause of Innocence, whose Authority to protect him, may be as irresistible as that Eloquence with which he shall vindicate his Fame, and whose Honour shall make him incapable of giving up his Friend to the Loss of his dearest Reputation, when the Favour which he sought to procure him, shall have incited such scandalous Church Jobbers to disgrace him.
It is a Security, as it is a Comfort to us, that the Honour of the Crown, and the Wisdom of that Prince who wears it, will never permit his Favours in the Church to be ingrossed by any ambitious Churchman, nor his Royal Grace, at any Time intended to be conferred on a deserving Clergyman, to be intercepted by the base Attempts of prostitute Informers. He will be too jealous of his Imperial Dignity, to suffer that any Ecclesiastic whatever shall openly boast, in Derogation of his Royal Supremacy, That the K——— is directed by him, that his Majesty shares his Royal Prerogatives with him, and makes himself but the Executor of his Pleasure.
Our Sovereign, Sir, is not to be treated with such Insolence and Pride. He hath shewn to the World that he will be King of his People; and will be as far from allowing an ambitious Churchman to divide his sovereign Authority, as he will be from suffering any such Scheme of Ambition to be carried on by the vile Arts of perjured Information. He will neither gratify the Wicked in their unjust Usurpations, to the Diminution of his own Glory, nor give up the Worthy and Innocent a Prey to their vindictive Revenge. He will, whenever he finds it expedient, abate the Pride of such Men, though they should be as insolent in their Threats of opposing his Service, as they were indecent in their Boasts of making him the more Executor of their Pleasure; and they will see, when they provoke his Royal Indignation, that in the steady Course of impartial Justice, it is as safe to inflict the Punishment of Law on an offending Clergyman, as on any Layman whatever.
As this is the Light in which every faithful Subject regards his Prince, I hope, Sir, that since it is your Duty, you will soon find it to be your Interest to treat his Royal Person with the same Respect and Decency; and that you will apply to Christian Princes, on future Occasions, in a much more becoming Manner, than by Paragraphs printed in the Daily Papers, setting forth to the World what Examples are fit for such Princes to imitate.
I am, SIR, Your most humble Servant, &c.