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" I was willing to consider, whether or no it might not be, that these men (the Roman party) were rather exasperated than persuaded,—and whether it were not that the severity of our laws against them might rather provoke their intemperate zeal, than religion thus move their settled conscience.
“It was a material consideration; because they ever did, and still do fill the world with outeries against our laws, for making a rape upon their consciences; having printed catalogues of their English martyrs ;-drawn schemes of most strange tortures imposed on their Priests, such as were unimaginable by Nero, or Dioclesian, or any of the worst and cruellest enemies of Christianity, endeavouring thus to make us partly guilty of our ruin, and so washing their hands, in token of their own innocence, even then when they were dipping them in the blood royal, and would have emptied the best veins in the whole kingdom to fill their lavatory. But I found all these to be but calumnies, strong accusations upon weak presumptions, and that the cause did rest where I had begun, I mean, upon the pretence of the Catholic cause, and that the imagined iniquity of the laws of England could not be made a veil to cover the deformity of their intentions, for our laws were just, honourable, and religious.”—Bishop Jer. Taylor, in the Epistle Dedicatory before his Sermon on the Gunpowder Treason.
THE MORAL 'CONSEQUENCES OF
A FALSE FAITH.
“ Deliver my soul, O Lord, from lying lips, and from a
deceitful tongue.”—Psalm cxx. 2.
It is hardly necessary to assure you, my brethren, that the service for the 5th of November has been this day omitted, simply because there is no sufficient authority for using it. The question of the legality of these services is so fully considered and ably argued in a work already recommended to your consideration, that I cannot do better than refer you to that volume* in our parochial library. The sum of the argument may be thus stated.
Our “ Book of Common Prayer, Sacraments, and Offices, is binding upon Churchmen, and especially upon the ministers of religion, from having first received the authority and sanction of the Church in Convocation, as well as afterwards the ratification of the State in Parliament. As Parliament consists of King, Lords spiritual and temporal, and Commons, so Convocation is composed of King, Upper House of Bishops, and Lower House of Priests. The Sovereign is head or
* The Original Services for the State Holidays, with Documents relating to the same; collected and arranged by the Hon. and Rev. A. P. Perceval, B.C.L., one of Her Majesty's chaplains.
supreme in both Convocation and Parliament, but he is not absolute. The Crown alone has no power to make ecclesiastical law. What is passed by Convocation is ratified by the Crown, which again receives the Royal assent on passing through Parliament. Now the Prayer Book was completed, and went through this process in 1661, and thus obtained the force both of ecclesiastical and statute law. In 1662 certain services (but not those now appended to our Prayer Book) were provided by Convocation with the Crown, but they were never submitted to Parliament, though the observance of certain days was ordered by that authority; and this may be supposed to give an indirect sanction to the three original services. But the point to be observed is, that no legal authority, either of Convocation or Parliament, can be shown for the four State Services now affixed by the printers to the Book of Common Prayer, these having no other sanction than the Royal Proclamation : and being essentially different from the original ones in several important particulars. Thus in the service for the 5th November, the Rubrics, Venite, Psalms, Prayers, and Gospel have all been altered, and another subject of commemoration introduced : for all which alterations and new subject matter, the Crown alone is answerable in the person of William III., who, like his predecessor James II., thought proper in these and other matters, to dispense with both the law of the Church and State.
Thus it appears, that, notwithstanding the order which accompanies the four services signed by the Minister of State, “their observance cannot be enforced, no authority being to be adduced in their behalf which would be deemed valid and sufficient in any court of the kingdom :" while to the observance of the ordinary service of the Prayer Book the Clergy are pledged by their ordination vows, by the Bishop's licence, and also by the Act of Uniformity.
It is on this account alone that we omit these State Services. Our disapproval of any portion of them would afford no sufficient excuse for passing them over. * It would ill be
* In the public worship at S. Martin's Church, and in all the occasional services, the directions of the Book of Common Prayer are implicitly obeyed, no addition, alteration, or curtailment being thought justifiable.
come us to set up our private judgment against the decision of the Church, or the laws of the land, and whenever these services receive the sanction of competent authority, we shall be ready to use them on all the appointed days.
But though I have not felt myself at liberty to set aside the ordinary services for the 20th Sunday after Trinity, I am not at all disposed to forego the grateful commemoration of the mercy which God so signally vouchsafed to our Church and nation in the wonderful discovery of that most subtle and barbarous plot for which this day is notorious in the annals of our country. Surely it is a day ever to be had in remembrance; for never before was so inhuman a conspiracy devised at the instigation of Satan, and under the cloak of religion, as this deliberate design to crush by one treacherous blow the whole assembled Parliament, the King, the Queen, the Prince, the Bishops, Nobles, and Commons, and involve them all in the same terrible destruction.
And I would have you observe, Brethren, as the most remarkable feature in this plot, and which it most concerns us to consider in this place, that it was religious zeal falsely directed, which was the root and spring of the whole conspiracy.
The English historian,* who is not less remarkable for his faithfulness to facts, than he is for his want of faith in revealed truth, speaks of this event as “one of the most memorable that history has conveyed to posterity,—and containing at once a singular proof both of the strength and weakness of the human mind : its widest departure from morals, and most steady attachment to religious prejudices.” He states that “when they enlisted any new conspirator, in order to bind him to secresy, they always together with an oath, administered the communion, as the most sacred rite of their religion. And it is remarkable that no one of these pious devotees entertained the least compunction with regard to the cruel massacre which they projected, of whatever was great and eminent in the nation.t Some of them only were startle:
* Hume's History of England. Vol. ij. chap. 46.
† We have a remarkable proof that these traitors gloried in the deed, as in some great virtue, from the letter of one of them, Digby, to his wife,
with the reflection, that of necessity many of their own religion must be present, as spectators or attendants on the King, and as having seats in the House of Peers; but Tesmond, a Jesuit, and Garnet superior of that order in England, removed these scruples, and showed them how the interests of religion required that the innocent here should be sacrificed with the guilty.”
The historian mentions that the parties who originated this infamous plot, were not men of bad character or desperate adventurers, but on the contrary men of worth and station, highly esteemed, and of irreproachable lives. was bigoted zeal alone, the most absurd of prejudices masked with religion, the most criminal of passions covered with the appearance of duty which seduced them into measures, that were fatal to themselves, and had so nearly proved fatal to their country.” I give the very words of the historian, to prove the connection of this event with false religious views, not to adopt his definition of “ bigoted zeal ;" for religious zeal will ever be inexplicable to the infidel whether it appears persecuting the Church, as in Saul the unconverted, or as suffering persecution for the Cross of Christ, as in S. Paul the Christian Apostle. “It is good to be zealously affected always in a good cause,"* in the cause of truth, though the world may account us fools for our zeal. It is a very small matter what the world may think of Christian zeal ; but it is of the utmost moment to every one who names the name of Christ, that his zeal be according to knowledge,-according to those holy, just and charitable, most gentle and forgiving principles which the Prince of Peace came to establish in the world. “ By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another.”+
When our Lord's disciples would have called down fire from heaven to consume the Samaritans who refused to receive Him, He turned and rebuked them, saying “Ye know not what man
after his condemnation, wherein he writes, “ Now for my intention, let me tell you, that if I had thought there had been the least sin in the plot, I would not have been of it for all the world; and no other cause drew me to hazard my fortune and life, but zeal to God's religion.” * Gal. iv. 18.
† John xiii. 35.