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BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER
CHURCH OF ENGLAND:
Being the Subftance of every Thing Liturgical in Bishop SPARROW,
CHARLES WHEATLY, M. A.
VICAR OF BRENT AND FURNEUX PELHAM IN
Oftendas Populo Ceremonias et Ritum colendi.
Exod. xviii. 20. Vulg.
AT THE CLARENDON PRESS
THE following Edition being printed from one of thofe which had received the Author's laft corrections, it is thought unnecessary to repeat here the former part of his Preface relating chiefly to the alterations which he had made in his former Editions, as they followed each other. The latter part, containing a ftudied defence of his Opinion on an important Subject, is in juftice to the Author here preferved in his own words, as follows:
And this I take to be the proper place to explain myself in relation to one paffage particularly, which I know has been thought to need the greateft amendment, though I have let it ftand without making any. And indeed an Explanation of it is fo much the more needful, as it is not only judged to be indefenfible in itself, but also to be inconfiftent with what I have faid in another part of the book. The paffage I mean, is concerning the Abfolution in the daily Morning and Evening Service, which I have afferted to be " an "actual Conveyance of Pardon, at the very inftant of "pronouncing it, to all that come within the terms "propofeda." And again, "that it is more than DE"CLARATIVE, that it is truly EFFECTIVE, infuring "and conveying to the proper fubjects thereof the very "Abfolution or Remiffion itself." This has been thought by fome, from whofe judgment I fhould be very unwilling to differ or recede, not only to carry the point higher than can be maintained; but also to be irreconcileable with my own notions of Abfolution, as I have described them upon the office for the Vifitation of the Sick, where they are thought to be more confiftent with Scripture and Antiquity. I have there endeavoured to fhew that "there is no ftanding au"thority in the Minifters of the Gospel to pardon and forgive Sins immediately and directly in relation to
a Page 115.
b Page 120.
"God, and as to which the cenfure of the Church "had been in no wife concerned "." And again, that "no Abfolution pronounced by the Church can cleanse "or do away our inward Guilt, or remit the eternal "Penalties of Sin, which are declared to be due to "it by the Sentence of GOD; any farther than by "the Prayers which are appointed to accompany it, "and by the use of thofe Ordinances to which it "reftores us, it may be a means, in the end, of ob"taining our pardon from GoD himself, and the Forgiveness of Sin as it relates to him." These paffages, I acknowledge, as they are feparated from their contexts, and oppofed to one another, feem a little inconfiftent and confufedly expreffed: but if each of them are read in their proper places, and with that diftinction of ideas which I had framed to myself when I writ them, I humbly presume they may be easily reconciled, and both of them afferted with equal truth. I defire it may be remembered that in the latter place I am fpeaking of a judicial and unconditional Abfolution, pronounced by the Minifter in an Indicative Form, as of certain advantage to the person that receives it. By this I have fuppofed the Church never intends to cleanse or do away our inward Guilt, but only to exercife an external authority, founded upon the power of the Keys; which, though it may be abfolute, as to the inflicting and remitting the cenfures of the Church, I could not understand peremptorily to determine the state of the Sinner in relation to GOD. And thus far I have the happiness to have the concurrence of good judges on my fide; fo that it is only in what I affert on the Daily Absolution, that I have the misfortune not to be accounted fo clear. But, with humble fubmiffion, I can fee nothing there inconfiftent with what I have faid on the other. The Abfolution I am speaking of is conditional, pronounced by the Prieft in a Declarative Form, and limited to fuch as truly repent, and unfeign-. edly believe God's holy Gospel. This indeed I have
afferted to be effective, and that it infures and conveys, to the proper fubjects thereof, the very Abfolution or Remiffion itself: but then I defire it may be remembered that I attribute the effect of it not to a judicial, but to a ministerial act in the perfon who pronounces it but to fuch an act however as is founded upon the general tenor of the Gofpel, which fuppofes, if I mistake not, that God always accompanies the Miniftrations of the Priest, if there be no impediment on the part of the People. And therefore when the Prieft, in the Name of GOD, fo folemnly declares to a Congregation that has been humbly confeffing their Sins, and importuning the Remiffion of them, that GOD does actually pardon all that truly repent and unfeignedly believe; why may not such of them as do repent and believe, humbly prefume that their Pardon is fealed as well as made known by fuch a declaration ?
I am fure this notion gives no encouragement either of Presumption to the Penitent, or of Arrogance to the Prieft: I have fuppofed that, to receive any benefit from the form, the perfon must come within the terms required: and fuch a one, though the form fhould have no effect, is allowed notwithstanding to be pardoned and abfolved. And the Prieft I have afferted to act only minifterially, as the inftrument of Providence; that he can neither withhold, nor apply, the Absolution as he pleases, nor so much as know upon whom or upon how many it shall take effect; but that he only pronounces what God commands, whilft GoD himself ratifies the declaration, and feals the Pardon which he proclaims.
It is true indeed, it does not appear by the ancient Liturgies, that the Primitive Chriftians had any fuch Abfolution to be pronounced, as this is, to the Congregation in general. But yet, if they had Abfolutions upon any occafion, and those Absolutions were supposed to procure a Reconcilement with GOD; (neither of which, I prefume, will be thought to want a proof;) I fee no reason why they may not be usefully admitted (as they are with us) into the Daily and Ordinary Service of the Church. For allowing that the perfons they were formerly