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Title: A Letter to the Rev. C. N. Wodehouse, Canon of Norwich; occasioned by - his late pamphlet, entitled "Subscription the Disgrace of the English - Church"
Author: Green, Charles
Language: English
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Transcribed from the 1843 G. F. and J. Rivington edition by David Price.

                                  TO THE
                          REV. C. N. WODEHOUSE,

                            CANON OF NORWICH;

              _Occasioned by his late Pamphlet_, _entitled_


                                  BY THE

                              REV. C. GREEN,
                         RECTOR OF BURGH-CASTLE,

                                * * * * *


                                * * * * *

                   G.  F. AND J. RIVINGTON, ST. PAUL’S.

                         C. SLOMAN, KING-STREET.


                                * * * * *

                             CHARLES SLOMAN,
                             GREAT YARMOUTH.

A LETTER, _&c. &c._


IN addressing to you the following remarks upon a pamphlet recently put
forth by you, under the title of “_Subscription the Disgrace of the
English Church_,” I think it right to explain the reasons which have
induced me to give them publication, rather than to communicate them in a
private form, and also why I have not taken this step some days earlier.

The fact is, that till within the last three days, I had seen nothing of
your pamphlet beyond the title; neither do I think that I should then
have been tempted to peruse its contents, so repulsive did its
announcement appear, had I not received an intimation that my name was
mentioned in connection with your former publication, in such terms as to
create some suspicion that I might countenance your opinions and views,
and to require from me a declaration how far I might concur in believing
Subscription to the Thirty-nine Articles a disgrace.  This information
could not fail to excite in me some degree of surprise and curiosity,
feeling, as I did, unconscious of having made to you, either publicly or
privately, any observation whatever in reference to that or to any other
of your publications.

On reading the paragraph in your pamphlet in which my name is introduced,
it did not occur to me, that, supposing I had been one of those
“clergymen in the diocese of Norwich, who had made comments upon your
last publication,” you intended anything more than to speak of me in
complimentary terms.  Feeling conscious, however, that I could not take
to myself that compliment, for the reasons already stated, and that it
had been more than hinted to me, that my name being so introduced placed
me in an equivocal position, in which some explanation would be expected,
I laid the paragraph, together with the fact, before a clerical friend,
who gave his opinion, that it certainly did admit of a doubt, how far I
might have coincided in, or differed from, your views of Subscription, as
stated in your last publication.

Now, if your observations had merely concerned myself personally, I might
not have thought this accidental circumstance worthy of notice; at least
I should have refrained from drawing public attention to a matter of a
private nature.  But as I conceive that the character of a clergyman,
whether as it regards his flock, or the church, ought not to appear in an
ambiguous light, and as I have always, both publicly and privately
maintained opinions the directly opposite of those which you have
advocated in several publications, it would justly be considered an
abandonment of duty, were I, from an ill-timed silence, to allow it to be
suspected that I side with the opinions which you entertain in the matter
of Subscription.

Under these circumstances and impressions, I have no course but to
sacrifice my natural disinclination to make myself a public character,
particularly when, in that character, I must necessarily assume somewhat
of a controversialist, and when there is connected with the subject much
both of a painful and of a delicate nature: I therefore hesitate not to
comply with my duty.

Although such reasons for the course which I am about to take apply only
to myself, yet if every clergyman in the diocese chose to dispute your
allegations generally, and to repudiate your imputations in particular,
it would be quite competent to him, individually, to make his public

Before I enter on the main subject of your pamphlet, one word of further
explanation will be necessary upon the personal matter between us.

At page 43, you say—

    “I have now only to acknowledge the comments of several clergymen and
    others in this diocese, upon my last publication.  To the Rev. B.
    Philpot, formerly archdeacon of the Isle of Man, and to the Rev. C.
    Green, rector of Burgh, I beg to offer my sincere thanks for the
    candid and christian spirit in which their observations were made.  I
    avail myself also of this opportunity to acknowledge with respect and
    gratitude a large number of private communications, both from friends
    and strangers, which were a valuable testimony at a time when they
    were most acceptable.”

In answer to what concerns me, I repeat that I neither publicly nor
privately to you ever made any comment or observation whatever upon your
last publication; and that, if to others I may have alluded to it, it was
in terms of disapprobation and with feelings of regret.

I now proceed to a discussion of your pamphlet, which will give me an
opportunity of satisfying those, who may wish to know, how far I concur
in your opinions and views; and I trust I shall not express myself
otherwise, than in that “candid and christian spirit,” for which, by
anticipation, you have already given me credit.

The title of the pamphlet is a true index of what may be found within.
Indeed, the contents may be reduced to PROPOSITION and COROLLARY.

_Proposition_: “Subscription the Disgrace of the English Church.”

_Corollary_: “Repeal of the present form of Subscription.”

These in turn shall have my best consideration.  The Proposition you
attempt to establish by various suppositions and allegations.  A grave
charge, which strikes at the very foundation of our church establishment,
like that involved in this proposition, should not be grounded on
suppositions, the force of which must depend on their degree of
probability, which is always questionable, but should rest solely upon
proven and admitted facts.  Indeed, in a matter of such moment as that,
which you appear extremely anxious to substantiate, all other reasoning
but from facts alone must be excluded.  I therefore humbly submit, that
the opinions which you appear to have collected from “Newspapers,
Periodicals,” and “Commercial Travellers’ Rooms,” must be rejected as
inadmissible in the present consideration; for the articles in newspapers
and periodicals, of a controversial nature especially, being generally
got up to serve some party purpose, are too often limited to a partial
and one-sided view of things; and I have yet to learn that commercial
travellers’ rooms, however proverbial for practical information and good
sense, have become schools of sound theology.  For the same reason, we
must pass by the suppositious questions of “youthful profligates, led on
by some ingenious sceptic;” also, “the obvious reasoning of the
dissenting part of our population,” and the notions of “a still larger
class, who, amidst the din of controversy, pick up a few popular reports,
which help to confirm their indifference to religion.”  We must likewise
dismiss from our consideration your analogical reasoning, from the case
of the Officers of the Army and Navy to that of the Clergy, and from the
“Articles of War” to the “Confession of our Faith.”  For reasoning of
this sort, to be valid, must be founded upon cases analogous; and what
analogy exists between the “Articles of War,” which depend on
ever-varying expediency and annual revision, and the “Confession of our
Faith,” which is based on the never-changing word of truth? {8}  Some
analogy there may be between Officers of the Army and Navy, who for
dishonorable conduct are dismissed the service by court-martial, and the
Clergy who hold opinions contrary to their Subscription.  But I forbear
to animadvert on that comparison.

Therefore I think you must allow that, in a demonstration of such moment,
as that “Subscription is the Disgrace of the English Church,” we cannot
admit suppositions, assertions, and notions, but that we must have _stern

Is it then the fact, that “while we perceive the variety of opinion
prevailing amongst these several sections (of the clergy,) we see also
that from all of them, more or less, Subscription is requiring that
which, in the ordinary affairs of life, high-minded men would abstain
from; viz. the necessity for qualifying the plain and straight-forward
use of language?”

If you succeed in establishing this position, then I shall be ready to
acknowledge that there is treachery within the pale of our
Church—widely-extended treachery, and that you will have gone far towards
maintaining that “Subscription is the Disgrace of the English Church;”
or, to put the proposition more logically, that _the Clergy thus
subscribing and acting are the disgrace of the English Church_.

It will now be necessary to extract in full from your pamphlet those
allegations upon which alone your position depends, in order that the
truth of them may be canvassed, and the foundation of your charge made
perfectly clear to my readers.

In pages 11 to 14, you say—

    (1)  “Subscription alone is now in view; and while that remains as it
    is, and English words retain their meaning, and an English history of
    facts can be found, and any clear apprehension of the meaning of
    truth remains with us, the perversion of our Form of Subscription,
    and the misrepresentation of our Articles, attempted by any who argue
    that they were not intended to condemn Romanism, whether as held
    before or after the Council of Trent, ought to excite, in every
    honest mind, an indignation which it is a virtue to feel and a duty
    to express.  If it be questioned where such views have been advanced,
    it is sufficient to refer to Tract No. 90, now before the writer of
    these pages, though other instances might be cited from authors who
    have subscribed the Articles.

    (2)  “If we turn to another section of the English clergy, that most
    opposed to the views of the tractarians, however they command our
    respect from their piety, and zeal, and hearty attachment to
    Scriptural truth and sound doctrine; yet some of them cannot be
    esteemed clear of all blame on the question now considered.  The
    writer can here speak from personal knowledge.  In their views as to
    baptismal regeneration, certainly opposed to the strict language of
    our formularies; in their dislike of other parts of our services, and
    sometimes in the disuse or change of certain terms, is to be found a
    proof that to them Subscription is not altogether satisfactory; and
    the often-avowed concession, that the excellence of our system of
    doctrine and worship, _as a whole_, reconciles their minds to some
    imperfections, is enough to show that, in subscribing, some violence
    is done to simple truth.  They argue, and justly, that no human work
    can literally demand an unqualified approbation, but our Subscription
    does require it.  Such arguments, then, cannot be altogether
    satisfactory to him who uses them, or to many to whom they may be
    offered; and truth, it cannot be denied, is to some extent dishonored
    and damaged in their use.

    (3)  “In that section again of subscribers who embrace Calvinistic
    doctrines, though the writer considers that some of the Articles are
    more unequivocally favorable to them than their opponents, yet it
    cannot be forgotten how frequently and decidedly it has been
    declared, ex cathedrâ, that theirs are not the doctrines of the
    Church of England.

    (4)  “Another large section of the English clergy may be now
    comprised under the name of old-fashioned high-churchmen; and of that
    title, it is believed, they will not themselves complain.  Many of
    them would gladly extract the honey from the tractarian school,
    without sufficiently considering how poisonous the plant whose growth
    they are to some extent fostering.  They insist often on an exact
    compliance with Rubrics, and must forgive me for saying that few
    amongst them have fulfilled these in their own practice.  Till very
    lately, it would indeed be difficult to find many clergymen, or one
    bishop, within the last fifty years, who have strictly observed the
    Rubrics—still less the Canons.  Some of them speak also of a literal
    Subscription; but here again the writer can of his own knowledge
    state, that numbers claim and use a considerable latitude in
    subscribing, and are satisfied with asserting their _general_
    attachment to the Formularies of the Church.  Of their Arminian views
    as to doctrine, it is hardly necessary to call to mind how much they
    are opposed to others amongst their brethren, and, in the writer’s
    judgment, to the Articles themselves.

    (5)  “In another section may be comprised those who desire
    improvement in many things relating to the spiritual affairs of our
    Church.  Some have openly expressed this desire; a far larger number
    cherish it in silence.  They who have spoken out have strongly stated
    their conviction, that a Church, without the means of even entering
    upon deliberation as to one general improvement in its spiritual
    concerns, is in a false and unscriptural position.  With respect to
    the Forms of Subscription and the interpretation of the Articles,
    some have formally requested a change, or rather an authoritative
    solution of the many doubts and uncertainties which now embarrass the

Having adduced these allegations in support of your position, in which
you endeavor to implicate every section (as your term is) of the English
clergy, in a culpable act in the matter of Subscription; you then draw
the inference, that by far the greater portion of the clergy in the
several “sections,” have tampered with their ordination vow; and finally,
you come to the conclusion, or rather, as if doubting, whether you had so
far succeeded as to arrive at a legitimate conclusion, you put the
question, whether the affirmation is too strong, that “Subscription is
the Disgrace of the English Church.”

    “Thus while we perceive the variety of opinion prevailing amongst
    these several sections—a variety which, were it not impeded by
    Subscription, would find a harmless or beneficial vent in a free
    inquiry after Scriptural truth—we see also that from all of them,
    more or less, Subscription is requiring that which, in the ordinary
    affairs of life, high-minded men would abstain from; namely, the
    necessity for qualifying the plain and straight-forward use of
    language.  Is this a condition favorable to the reputation of
    teachers of truth; and is it too strong a conclusion, at least from
    some parts of the above account, to affirm, that Subscription is the
    disgrace of the English Church?”

I shall now proceed to examine and discuss your allegations _seriatim_,
and see how far they are founded in fact; after which I shall adduce
evidence of a counter tendency, arising from a personal knowledge of
facts, and an intimate acquaintance with the opinions of individual

(1)  In the first paragraph, you alledge that our form of Subscription
has been perverted and our Articles misrepresented by persons “who argue
that they were not intended to condemn Romanism;” and, in proof of this,
you “think it sufficient to refer to Tract No. 90, though,” as you state,
“other instances might be cited from authors who have subscribed the

Now, as “one swallow does not make a summer,” so neither does one
individual, nor several, (and I believe they are not many altogether, who
hold with Tract No. 90,) constitute in that particular, a _general_
“perversion of our Form of Subscription,” or a _general_
“misrepresentation of our Articles.”  I am not ignorant that it has been
the common prejudice to stamp as a tractarian every man who avows that he
upholds generally the Apostolical Succession, and Baptismal Regeneration,
has lately seen it right to have divine service in his church during
Lent, and at other times appointed by the Rubric, and especially if he
preach in a surplice, although he may differ from Tract No. 90, and its
principles, as widely as possible.  And I cannot help thinking that you
have been carried away by this mistaken notion.  But look calmly and
impartially around, and say from your own knowledge how many are the
clergy in the diocese of Norwich, who countenance the principles of Tract
Nos. 90, or 85, or 80, or indeed other tracts, which may be repugnant to
the doctrines of our church: are there three? are there two? or one?  But
if I grant you that there are half-a-dozen, (and except in argument I
would not allow so many,) considering that in the diocese there are
upwards of eight hundred clergy, it will little avail you.

(2)  In the next paragraph, which embraces that “section of the clergy
most opposed to the views of the Tractarians, you speak from personal
knowledge;” and you say, “in their views as to Baptismal Regeneration,
certainly opposed to the strict language of our Formularies; in their
dislike of other parts of our services, and sometimes in their disuse of
certain terms, is to be found a proof that to them Subscription is not
altogether satisfactory.”  I do not deny that there may be among that
body of the clergy some who do not admit Baptismal Regeneration,
according to the strict language of our Formularies: but I believe they
are by no means so numerous as you would have it inferred.  I can affirm,
from personal knowledge, that some of that party do hold that doctrine
strictly in accordance with the church, and that I scarcely know one who
does not admit it, at least in a modified sense.  You are aware that the
word “regeneration,” instead of being restricted to Baptism, as it is in
our Articles and Liturgy, and, as I believe, also in the New Testament,
has, by many divines as well as others, long been used in a looser
signification, to denote “conversion,” “renovation,” &c., which may be
necessary after Baptism.  Hence there is reason to think that frequently
the difference is more in name than in reality.  I can also state
positively that, upon this point, within very few years, the views of
many amongst this party have undergone considerable change, and closely
approximated to those of the church.  If, however, upon one of the most
difficult and abstruse doctrines of Christianity there should be shades
of opinion, it is only to be expected; considering that all have not
equally faith to receive, or the capacity to comprehend the “things hard
to be understood.”  Neither do I think it quite charitable to set down
this circumstance to their “disgrace,” or to that of the church of which
they are ministers.  “Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant?
To his own master he standeth or falleth.” {14}  Moreover, in this
neighborhood, I am acquainted with several of the clergy, who would
probably rank themselves under this “section,” who are not behind any of
their neighbors in the exact observance of the Liturgy.

With regard to those “Subscribers who embrace Calvinistic doctrines,” any
comment of mine would be superfluous, as it is clear, from the tenor of
your observations, that you are ready to defend _their_ view of the

We now come to a section of the clergy whom you denominate “old-fashioned
high-churchmen.”  Your main charge against these is, that whilst “they
insist often on an exact compliance with Rubrics,” few amongst them have
fulfilled these in their own practice.  The supposition of error
attaching to them in their “Arminian views of doctrine,” being matter of
private opinion, may be dismissed as irrelevant.  The charge, then, may
be regarded as a default in Rubrical _practice_.  This accusation,
however, is of the less importance, as it is not contended, neither
indeed can be, that there exists in the clergy a conscientious objection
to a compliance with any of the Rubrical directions—only that “few
amongst them have fulfilled these in their own practice.”  And thus much
is fully conceded.

If it were material to the point, it would be no difficult task, in
extenuation of those who deviate from the strict letter of the Rubric, to
prove that the Rubrics are not always definite, and frequently admit of a
variety of construction—that to a certain extent the church accords to
its ministers a discretionary judgment in this as in all other
things—that at the present time there exists a prevailing disposition to
revive much which has fallen into desuetude, and an earnest desire to
carry out the Rubrics in all their practical utility—and consequently,
that there is notwithstanding a great deal of honest and upright
practice.  But your charge affects not the clergy, but Subscription.  It
will therefore be a sufficient answer, to refer you to Article 34, in
which it is stated—that “every particular or national church hath
authority to _ordain_, _change_, and _abolish ceremonies or rites_ of the
church, ordained only by man’s authority,” in order to remind you that,
without having recourse to that measure, which in the sequel you
propound, the church _does_ possess a provision to abrogate or enact,
whenever it may be deemed by the legislature expedient to direct the
Convocation to proceed with that business.

(5)  In the last “section” of the clergy, whose views you notice, I see
nothing in the slightest degree inconsistent with their Subscription.
Surely, according to Article 20, which states that “the church hath power
to decree rites and ceremonies, and authority in controversies of faith,”
it is quite competent for any clergyman to state strongly his conviction,
that a church, without even the power of entering upon the means of
deliberation as to one general improvement in its spiritual concerns, is
in a false and unscriptural position.  The summoning of convocation rests
with the legislature, and not with the church, and is a matter of
expediency upon which every individual clergyman may entertain his own

I have now carefully, and for my readers I fear too tediously, gone
through your allegations; but as I conceived that your proposition
depended _solely_ upon their being supported and established by facts, I
trust I shall be excused if I have made a point of examining them with
that patience and candor, which I thought their importance demanded.

I find then, that, because an indefinitely small number of the clergy in
every diocese _may_ agree with the author of Tract No. 90,—because a
portion of a certain “section” of the clergy possibly do not hold
Baptismal Regeneration in strict accordance with the Articles and
Liturgy—because some incline to Calvinistic, some to Arminian views of
doctrine—because, in practice, an exact conformity to the Rubrics does
not obtain, notwithstanding that in the 34th article express provision is
made to meet this case in all its bearings, and because, in accordance
with the 20th article, certain persons avow that a church, without the
means of deliberation, is in a false and unscriptural
position—_Therefore_ “Subscription is the Disgrace of the English

Such is the conclusion at which you arrive from your premises—a
conclusion, in my humble opinion, so slightly supported by fact, that I
can hardly bring myself to think, but that, if there had not existed a
strong propension, a predetermination to come at this result, your
judgment would have rejected the evidence as totally insufficient to
support it.

I now proceed to adduce evidence of a counter-tendency, arising from a
personal knowledge of facts, and an intimate acquaintance with the
opinions of individual clergy.

In 1838 I preached at Yarmouth before the Lord Bishop of Norwich,
yourself, and a numerous body of the Clergy residing in the two adjoining
Deaneries, a Sermon, in which I delivered the following sentences,

    “By God’s providence, my Reverend Brethren, we have been ordained
    ministers ‘of that pure and reformed part of Christ’s church
    established in this kingdom,’ which, from the deepest conviction, we
    believe to be ‘built upon the foundation of the apostles and
    prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone;’ and in
    obedience to her authority, and in conformity with her Articles and
    Liturgy, we have pledged ourselves to discharge the functions of our

    “I have been ordained to ‘administer the doctrine and sacraments and
    discipline of Christ, as the Lord hath commanded, and as this church
    and realm hath received the same.’  And, until I am convinced that
    she is in error—that her Articles or her Liturgy contain ‘things
    which are neither read in scripture, nor may be proved thereby,’ as a
    minister of the Church of England, I may not indulge in speculations
    of my own imagination, or perform her offices in ways and modes of my
    own devising, but I must labor for the edification and salvation of
    the souls entrusted to my care, according to the laws, the
    regulations, and the spirit of the Church of England, which is the
    Church of Christ.  When I can no longer do so conscientiously, it
    will then become me no longer to appropriate her emoluments.

    “But revering and loving her doctrine, and approving her discipline,
    I can well repose myself under her guidance and administration.
    These, my Reverend Brethren, I may venture to hope, are equally the
    sentiments of us all.”

Whatever might be the individual opinion entertained of the obligations
under which, on that occasion, I apprehended myself and all ministers of
the Gospel to be, or of the sentiments which I expressed in regard to
those obligations,—the Sermon, containing this acknowledgment of our
ministerial engagements, and this expression of corresponding sentiments,
was requested by the assemblage then present, without a dissentient
voice, to be printed; and I think the charitable inference is, that each
individual sanctioned with his approbation the sentiments delivered in
that discourse.

If this construction upon their unanimous act be correct, the accidental
publication of this Sermon will go far to exonerate the parties then
present from the imputation of disingenuous Subscription, which, I must
needs think, in your general remarks, you have endeavoured to attach to

But so far as it concerns my neighbours, I have yet something more
certain than a fair and presumptive inference to advance.  My personal
intimacy with many of the Clergy around me, enables me to add my belief
that these sentiments _are_ theirs, equally as mine.  And if this be true
of the Clergy in one district taken indiscriminately, why should they not
be the opinions of the Clergy of other deaneries and other dioceses?
Until you can give me positive proof to the contrary, I shall charitably
presume that they are so; and leave you to reconcile with fact the
following extraordinary, and to me unaccountable, assertion:—

    “Subscription, instead of being the tie which is to bind people to
    certain opinions or truths, is become a rope of sand.  So uncertain
    is the trumpet’s sound, that it no longer, as of old, proclaims the
    spirit of an united host, but turns every man’s sword against his
    fellow: and Englishmen must soon awake to the conviction that
    Subscription, according to the plain meaning of the words, is blown
    to the winds, and become the disgrace and not the safeguard of the
    English Church.”

Under ordinary circumstances it would seem sufficient to have made a
general statement in regard to Subscription, but as you have
particularised three several points to which you take exception in the
matter of Subscription, it might appear uncandid to pass them over
without more especial comment.

These points will be best given in your own words:—

    “I still maintain—

    “That the condemnatory clauses of the Athanasian Creed, in their
    literal sense, are an un-christian appendage to a document of
    extraordinary merit, yet such that a true Christian may innocently
    differ from some propositions set forth in it.

    “That a Bishop is not authorized by the Gospel to address a candidate
    for Ordination in the literal sense of the words, ‘Receive the Holy
    Ghost: whose sins thou dost remit, they are remitted, and whose sins
    thou dost retain, they are retained.’

    “That a Christian minister is not authorized by the Gospel to address
    any one in the literal sense of the words, ‘I absolve thee from all
    thy sins.’”

I am not sure that I understand your precise meaning in the expression,
the “literal sense;” but I will not shrink from stating distinctly the
sense in which I subscribed, and, so far as I have been able to
ascertain, other Clergymen subscribe to these points.

Scripture itself is not always interpreted in a strictly “literal
sense.”—Witness a great part of the sixth chapter of St. John.  But in
the interpretation of a particular passage, regard must be had to all the
circumstances and considerations connected with it.  The same
observation, I apprehend, applies in ascertaining the meaning of the
Articles and Liturgy.

Now whoever subscribes to the Athanasian Creed, subscribes to it in
conjunction with the Thirty-nine Articles: and the 6th Article states
that “Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation; so
that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to
be required of any man, that it should be believed as an Article of
Faith.”  By the standard of Scripture, then, we are bound to try every
clause of the Athanasian Creed, and every other subject of Subscription,
before we embrace it as an article of faith.  And thus, the condemnatory
clauses of that Creed are to be understood and received in perfect
agreement with the Scripture.  And to satisfy ourselves of their true
sense we must have recourse to the Source of Truth.  Then, are these
clauses of _universal_ or of _limited_ application?  Our Saviour’s words
are—“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and he that
believeth not shall be damned.” {22a}  And to ascertain the extent of the
condemnation herein denounced against unbelievers, we must compare the
passage with others evidently to be taken in conjunction with it.  First,
the words of our Saviour—“That servant who knew his Lord’s will, and
prepared not himself, neither did according to His will, shall be beaten
with many stripes.  But he that knew not, neither did commit things
worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes.” {22b}  Secondly,
the declaration of St. Paul—“Now we know, that what things soever the law
saith, it saith to them who are under the law.” {22c}  Hence we learn
that our Saviour’s words in St. Mark are to be understood with this
limitation, _viz._ “he that” hath the means and opportunities of
believing the Gospel, and “believeth not shall be damned.”  At the same
time, to show that “there is no respect of persons with God,” whether Jew
or Gentile, St. Paul expressly declares with reference to those who sin
without revelation, “As many as have sinned without law, shall also
perish without law.” {22d}

Hence we are bound, I think, to receive the condemnatory clauses of the
Athanasian Creed in the same sense and with the same limitation as our
Saviour’s words in St. Mark.  They are declaratory of God’s revelation
respecting those who have the means and opportunities of believing the
saving truths of the Gospel, and yet do not believe.  “This is the
condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men have chosen
darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” {23}

(2)  Now, in regard to the Absolution in the Visitation of the Sick, the
same rule of interpretation is to be applied.  If the words, “I absolve
thee from all thy sins,” were taken to convey to a fellow-creature an
absolute pardon of sins committed against God as unreservedly as we may
forgive his offences committed against ourselves, this construction would
appear to invest us with an authority which every priest is sensible that
he does not possess.  “Who can forgive sins but God alone?”  Whatever
therefore be the signification of the words in this Absolution, we are
certain they must be so understood as to harmonize with Scripture, which
declares the forgiveness or remission of sins to be conditional.  Faith
and repentance are the conditions, and baptism the outward mean, whereby
the forgiveness of sins is formally and legally made over to the worthy
recipient.  Acts II. 38, and VIII. 37.  In accordance with these
conditions, the Absolution in both the Daily and the Communion Service is
framed; and in both places the priest pronounces pardon and absolution
“to those who truly repent and unfeignedly believe,” agreeably to the
Covenant of Baptism.  And the authority on which he professes to do this,
is—that “God hath given power and commandment to his ministers to
_declare_ and _pronounce_ to his people, being penitent, the Absolution
and Remission of their Sins.”  Hence, in these two cases, the office of
the priest is clearly _ministerial_.  If now we would reconcile the words
in the other Absolution with the plain intention of Scripture, we have
only to apply to the Liturgy the Apostolic Canon, which we ever adopt in
the interpretation of Scripture—“Comparing things spiritual with
spiritual,” and compare the latter Absolution with the two former, and we
have no difficulty in convincing ourselves that the words, “I absolve
thee from all thy sins,” (whenever it may be a point of duty to use them,
_viz._ “if the sick person humbly and heartily desire it,” and having
“made an especial confession of his sins,”) are pronounced
_ministerially_ and _conditionally_.

Take lastly the case in the Ordination of Priests.  This consists of two

  (1)  “Receive the Holy Ghost, for the office and work of a Priest in
  the church of God, now committed unto thee by the imposition of our

  (2)  “Whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins
  thou dost retain, they are retained.”

(1)  The authority on which a Bishop addresses these words to a Candidate
for Ordination is derived through the Apostolical Succession.  They are
the words in which our blessed Lord thought good to invest his Apostles
with their ministerial authority; and there is strong ground for
believing, that the first Bishops received from the Apostles, upon whom
Christ built his church, the like authority in the same form of words,
and so handed it down to their successors.  Some formula for Ordination
there must be, as of baptism; and though the one is a sacrament and the
other is not, my faith teaches me, that “where two or three are met
together in God’s name,” in any Godly work, “there is He in the midst of
them.”  I would therefore humbly and piously hope, that in such a holy
work as the Ordination of weak and frail men for the great and
responsible office of the ministry, He will vouchsafe to be present with
His church; and after care duly taken by the Bishop to “lay hands
suddenly on no man,” the solemn vows sincerely taken upon himself by the
candidate, the earnest prayers of the congregation, the pious invocation
of the Holy Ghost “to inspire the souls” and “visit the hearts” of those
engaged in the sacred investiture—upon a candidate so truly called, and
so dedicated to the ministry, I would devoutly trust that God would be
pleased to pour down a portion of the sanctifying Spirit, by the laying
on of hands.

(2)  With regard to the second part of this formula—“whosesoever sins ye
remit, they are remitted,” &c.  It is generally admitted that one meaning
of these words applies to Ecclesiastical Censures, in reference to the
members of any Church who may have committed scandalous offences and
incorrigible misdemeanours. {25}  And comparing them with Matthew XVIII.
16, 17, 18, it seems almost impossible but to conclude that, in one
sense, they relate to those matters.  If this were the only
signification, there would be no perplexity.  But the words most probably
have another reference—a reference to sins, as they are committed against
God.  And herein I apprehend lies the difficulty.  To arrive at a
satisfactory solution of this, we have only to consider (supposing the
Priest to be endued with authority to remit and retain sins in a
spiritual sense) the occasion on which he is called upon to exercise that
function.  Clearly, in pronouncing the Absolution, wherein he declares
remission of sins to those who truly repent and unfeignedly believe.  And
although, in the Absolution, he declares not the counterpart of the
sentence, yet he has equally authority to pronounce, that the sins of
those who do not repent and believe, will be retained by God.

It has, I conceive, been demonstrated that the Clergy, with comparatively
few exceptions, do not subscribe otherwise than _ex animo_, and by
consequence disproved that they are the disgrace of the English Church,
in that respect, at least, or, as you invert the proposition, that
“Subscription is the Disgrace of the English Church;” it therefore might
seem superfluous to discuss the _Corollary_, which falls to the ground as
a consequence.  But as there is reason to doubt whether you intend the
alteration of Subscription, strictly as a Corollary dependent on the
previous problem, or as itself a distinct proposition, offering a
substantial improvement in the Constitution of our Church, it may be
worth while to investigate the matter further.

You propose then, next, “the repeal of the present form of Subscription;”
and instead thereof, “Subscription to the three Creeds, and an engagement
to conform to the Liturgy:” and you add, that “assent to the doctrines of
the Creeds would be almost Catholic.”—Would it?  Could _you_ subscribe to
the three Creeds, or engage to conform to the Liturgy, without some
modification or limitation?  You declare that you still cannot accept, in
the “literal sense,” either the Condemnatory Clauses of the Athanasian
Creed, or the Absolution in “the Visitation of the Sick,” or the formula
in “the Ordering of Priests;” and in your former publication, entitled
“_What is the Meaning of Subscription_?” you stated that “you were not
contented to take them otherwise than in a ‘literal sense,’ without a
declaration from Authority that they are not strictly to be so taken; and
you went so far as to offer to resign your preferment, if called upon so
to do by the Archbishop of Canterbury, unless in the meantime you
obtained relief in that respect.” {27}  Supposing therefore the changes
made; in this dilemma, how would your case be affected by them, one way
or the other, without an authorised interpretation also, which should be
satisfactory to you?  But supposing further, that you obtained everything
which would satisfy yourself and some thirty-five others who united with
you in 1840 in a Petition to the House of Lords, how could the Arian and
the Socinian subscribe to the Athanasian Creed with a safer conscience
then, than now?  Could those who deny Baptismal Regeneration repeat, “I
believe in one baptism for the remission of sins,” in the Nicene Creed?
Would the “Three Denominations” feel quite easy in repeating “I believe
in One Catholic and Apostolic Church,” in the Nicene Creed, and cordially
unite with our Church in maintaining the present Three Orders of Bishops,
Priests, and Deacons?  Would the Romanists be contented to reduce their
tenets within the Confessions of the three Creeds, and confine their
Services to our Ritual?  It is really difficult to think you serious,
when you say, that “assent to the doctrines of the Creeds would be almost
Catholic.”  But we will proceed; for the subject deserves grave

To maintain that your proposed alterations would insure anything like
“Catholic assent,” promote union among Christians, and advance the growth
of vital religion, is to contradict _Catholic_ experience, derived from
undoubted history.  Do we not read of schisms in the Corinthian Church,
even in the days of their Apostle, when the Confession of Faith must have
been in the simplest form?  And do we not find him sharply rebuking the
Corinthian converts—“I hear there be divisions among you, and I partly
believe it?” {28}  Has not St. John left on record the extraordinary
caution which he thought necessary, to guard the disciples against the
errors of Gnosticism, which, in his time, were infesting the Church?
Again, the history of the three Creeds is but an account of the rise and
progress of the Gnostic, the Sabellian, the Arian, and the Socinian
heresies, which successively sprung up, the former without, the three
latter within the Church, and of the means devised and adopted to
counteract them.  Moreover, it is capable of proof, that every singular
Article in the three Creeds, has application to some error at the time
prevailing. {29}  The history of the thirty-nine Articles is too well
known to require more than the mention of them.  They were drawn up
designedly and expressly to exclude from the Reformed Church of England
all those who still might adhere to the Romish faith.

Thus, then, we see, that when the Confession of faith was in the simplest
form, the Church of Christ was not free from schism; and that Creeds and
Articles of Faith were invariably the _effects_, and not the _causes_, of

But besides a retrospective glance at the past, it may not be altogether
foreign from the consideration, to take a speculative view of the future
results which would probably ensue, upon the Subscription being reduced
to the three Creeds.  It is often the best mode of trying a proposition,
to suppose the thing done, and to follow it out into its obvious
consequences.  Suppose, then, Subscription reduced to the three Creeds.
The first question which suggests itself is—How would this affect our two
Universities, from which the nation has long derived “a supply of persons
duly qualified to serve God, both in Church and State?”  If this
circumstance should open the door of admission to those eminent schools
of education so wide, as almost to insure the resort of students
essentially differing from the principles and doctrines of the Church of
England as now constituted, and thus render probable a material change in
the nature and mode of religious instruction there communicated—I think
the conclusion would be inevitable, that the fabric of the Church of
England, as at present founded on the Prophets and Apostles, Jesus Christ
himself being the chief corner-stone, would be greatly endangered; and
consequently, that your proposition must be rejected as a rash and
hazardous experiment.

Now, although the Romanists would not join your Communion in the altered
form, it is certain that the Subscription to the three Creeds would
present no obstacle to their entrance into the Universities, seeing that
they _do_ subscribe to them already, and _something more_.  Then it is
more than probable, that the mass of the dissenters would find the means
of introduction and admission into those seats of learning—not even
excepting the chairs of the Professors of Divinity.  And thus the
Orthodox youth of the Church of England would no longer enjoy the
privilege of being educated exclusively and securely in their own
principles and in their own Universities—a privilege, nay, a prerogative,
asserted and exercised by nonconformists of different denominations, in
their Academies founded for the tuition of youths of their own communion,
in their own principles of religion, and in agreement with their own
peculiar views; but they would soon have to encounter, in this new state
of things, the conflict of discordant opinions, at all times unfavorable
to the growth of true religion, but especially so in the ardent and
restless period of youth.

In the year 1834, when the admission of persons into the Universities,
without regard to their religious opinions, was urged with unprecedented
zeal, Dr. Turton, now dean of Westminster, then Regius Professor of
Divinity in the University of Cambridge, published some “Thoughts” on the
subject, which were so convincing to my mind of the utter
impracticability of that measure, that I must be permitted briefly to
refer to them.  To shew what would be the probable result of such a
concession, he traced the operations of an Establishment, which had been
tried on a plan very similar, on a scale sufficiently large, and for a
time sufficiently long, through its various stages during sixty years, to
its ultimate results.  This Establishment was the well-known Academy
which Dr. Doddridge instituted at Northampton, and which his successor
removed to Daventry.  The leading facts relating to this Institution,
are, that its founder was a learned, talented, and in the main, orthodox
divine, but a zealous non-conformist—that its “constitution was perfectly
Catholic,” in other words, that students of any sect in religion were
admissible—that the instruction was required to be taught according to
the principles laid down in the Assembly’s Catechism—and that, after
declining thirty-eight years under three successive tutors, after Dr.
Doddridge, “holding the balance” (according to Mr. Robert Hall, a
non-conformist,) “betwixt contending systems, without betraying the
slightest emotion of antipathy to error, or predilection for truth,” it
finally sank into Modern Unitarianism, under Mr. Belsham in 1789.

Upon an impartial view of the case, Dr. Turton attributes all the evil
resulting from the system, to “laxness in the terms of Admission,” in the
first instance, which afterwards led to a faulty mode of teaching
Theology.  And justly he remarks, “we have seen the effects of great
diversity of belief at Daventry, and we may rely upon it that those
effects were not accidental; they were such as will always be produced by
the same cause.”

Here, then, we have an experiment before us, of a religious
establishment, on a sufficiently large scale, commencing under an able,
learned, and, in the main, Orthodox Divine, upon “_Catholic principles_,”
and terminating within sixty years in the most disastrous consequences.
The circumstances of the Academy at Daventry, and of the two
Universities, under the new state of things, would obviously be so nearly
similar, that the result which was produced in the former case, might
with certainty be expected in the two latter.  If a similar trial should
be made by relaxing the present test, and thus enabling men of almost all
shades of opinion to enter at our Universities, infidelity would, in like
manner, be the result.  And when the time shall arrive, that the youth
who are destined to supply the Ministry of the Church, and to fill the
Offices of State, shall no longer be grounded and built up in the
principles of “that pure and reformed part of Christ’s Church,
established in this kingdom,” but shall be taught some system of belief,
composed and modified out of all the various and discordant elements of
religion then existing in those ancient and peaceful Institutions of
“sound learning and religious education,” the evil consequences will be
such as it requires no ordinary nerves to contemplate.

Surely then the Church of England will pause ere she incline to adopt
your proposition, and exchange a certain good for a certain evil.

Before I conclude, I have a few words to add in reference to the
publication of your pamphlet:—and first I would observe, that if you have
failed in the proof of your proposition—if your allegations in the main
stand contradicted by facts—if there is every reason to believe that the
Clergy, although varying somewhat in matters unimportant, do, with
comparatively few exceptions, subscribe _ex animo_ to the Articles and
Liturgy—I then leave with you to determine, however you may “believe
yourself engaged in the cause of truth,” in what manner your pamphlet is
calculated to ascertain and promote it within the Church of England.
Whatever may be your determination on this head, the judgment of the
Clergy of this diocese, at least, is condemnatory of the course which you
have taken.  They feel that, for a period of years, from time to time, by
your publications, you have vexed the Church in general, and this diocese
in particular, troubled Israel, and given occasion to the enemies of the
Church to exult.  In this very pamphlet have you not described to us, in
clear terms, what must be the value of a clergyman’s ministry among his
flock, when his character for integrity—his honesty in his ordination
vow—is suspected?  Have you not put into the mouths of “some youthful
profligates, led on by an ingenious sceptic,” questions relating to the
Clergy, highly defamatory of their character as ministers of Christ, and
injurious to the best interests of religion?  Do you not suppose that
your pamphlet has been perused by many who will rejoice in turning it to
the worst of purposes—the purposes of infidelity—against the Clergy
collectively, yourself individually, and the religion of Christ
generally?  Do you suppose that this publication has not been discussed
in many dissenting assemblies of this diocese, and exultingly responded
to—“Ah! so would we have it, so would we have it?” Too much reason have
the Clergy to say, in sorrow and in sadness—“It is not an open enemy that
has done us this dishonor;” it is a brother—one of our own order—a
dignitary of our own Church, who is partaking of the same bread—

This, you may say, is hard language.—“But is there not a cause?”  When I
turn to the sentence, “While we thus perceive the variety of opinion
prevailing amongst these several sections, we see also that from _all_ of
them, more or less, Subscription is requiring that which, in the ordinary
affairs of life, high-minded men would abstain from, _viz._ the necessity
for qualifying the plain and straight-forward use of language;” and when
I find you finally concluding, “In this state of things, I can hardly
imagine any diversity of opinion, with respect to the Thirty-nine
Articles, which calls for the resignation of a Clergyman; indeed it
appears to me, that it would be simply absurd in any one to resort to
such a step, unless under a decided wish for communion with some other
church or body of christians”—I own that I am still startled at this bold
expression of opinion: and I confess that, after much reflection, I have
been at a loss to couch in softer terms, my sense of this grave
imputation, and of this deliberate avowal, thus placed on record.

I have now finished a task in which I engaged with reluctance.  I trust
that I have fairly and temperately gone through the discussion of the
subject; and I can aver that I have carefully endeavored not to
misunderstand or misrepresent any thing which you have written.  I hope,
also, that I have given an impartial consideration to whatever you have
advanced in support of your case: unfeignedly have I labored to
investigate the subject in all its bearings, and arrive at an unbiassed
result.  How far I have succeeded in my object, others will judge.  This,
however, I will affirm, that, in the discharge of a public duty to which
I have been unavoidably called, I have been actuated by no motive of
private consideration, and especially by no unfriendly feeling towards
yourself.  And in conclusion I will add that, if anything which I may
have advanced in explanation or in support of the present Subscription to
our Articles or Formularies, should happily have placed the matter in a
different and more satisfactory point of view, so as to clear up your
present doubt and perplexity, I should feel more gratification and
delight than I am able to express.  And I hope, by the blessing of that
God whose providence over-rules all things for good, this feeble effort
may not be without its use.

                                              I have the honor to be, SIR,
                                        Your sincere and faithful Servant,
                                                            CHARLES GREEN.

               8_th_ _July_, 1843.

                                * * * * *


                                 THE END.

                                * * * * *

                 SLOMAN, Printer, King-Street, Yarmouth.


{8}  Reformation is good when reformation is wanting, but to be always
reforming is no reformation at all: it is behaving like children, tossed
to and fro with every wind of doctrine.  All errors of any moment have
been purged off long ago by the care of our Reformers, and why are we
then still reforming?  Physic may be proper at certain seasons, but to
pretend to live constantly upon it, instead of food, is the certain way
to impair, and in a little time to destroy, the best and soundest
constitution in the world.  _Remarks on Dr. Clarke’s Exposition_, _&c._
by Waterland, (_Works_, vol. 5, p. 436.)

{14}  Romans, xiv. 4.

{22a}  Mark xvi. 16.

{22b}  Luke xii. 47, 48.

{22c}  Romans, iii. 19.

{22d}  Romans, ii. 12.

{23}  John, iii. 19.

{25}  Pearson on the Creed, Article ix, page 350.  Archbishop Seeker, &c.

{27}  I quote from memory, not having the pamphlet before me, nor being
able to procure it; but trust what I have advanced is substantially

{28}  1 Corinthians, xi. 18.

{29}  I would undertake to prove that there is not an Article in any of
our three Creeds, which was not directed against some particular and
prevailing error.  Dr. Burton’s _Sermons_ before the University of
Oxford, p. 248.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Letter to the Rev. C. N. Wodehouse, Canon of Norwich; occasioned by - his late pamphlet, entitled "Subscription the Disgrace of the English - Church"" ***

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