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reason to hope that the church of England would give up any point of belief or practice to the church of France ; but insisted, on the contrary, that the latter should make alterations and concessions, in order to be reconciled to the former; that he never specified the particular alterations, which would be requisite to satisfy the rulers and doctors of the church of England; but only expressed a general desire of an union between the two churches, if that were possible, or at least of a mutual toleration of each other; that he never flattered himself that this union could be perfectly accomplished, or that the doctors of the Gallican church would be entirely brought over to the church of England; but thought, that every advance made by them, and every concession, must have proved really advantageous to the Protestant cause.
The pacific spirit of Dr. Wake did not only discover itself in his correspondence with the Romish doctors, but in several other transactions in which he was engaged by his constant desire of promoting union and concord among Christians. For it is well known, that he kept up a constant friendly correspondence with the most eminent ministers of the foreign Protestant churches, and showed a fraternal regard to them, notwithstanding the difference of their discipline and government from that of the church of England. In a letter written to the learned Le Clerc in the year 1716, he expresses, in the most cordial terms, his affection for them, and declares positively, that nothing can be farther from his thoughts, than the notions adopted by certain bigoted and furious writers, who refuse to embrace the foreign Protestants as their brethren, will not allow their religious assemblies the denomination of churches, and deny the validity of their sacraments, He declares, on the contrary, these churches to be the true Christian churches, and expresses a warm desire of their union with the church of England. It will be, perhaps, difficult to find, in any epistolary composition, ancient or modern, a more elegant simplicity, a more amiable spirit of meekness, moderation, and charity, and a happier strain of that easy and unaffected politeness which draws its expressions from a natural habit of goodness and humanity, than we meet with in this letter.• We see this active and benevolent pre
e See an extract of it among the pieces subjoined, No. XIX.
late still continuing to interest himself in the welfare of the Protestant churches abroad. In several letters, written in the years 1718 and 1719, to the pastors and professors of Geneva and Switzerland, who were then at variance about the doctrines of predestination and grace, and some other abstruse points of metaphysical theology, the archbishop recommends earnestly to them a spirit of mutual toleration and forbearance, entreats them particularly to be moderate in their demands of subscription to articles of faith, and proposes to them the example of the church of England, as worthy of imitation in this respect. In one of these letters, he exhorts the doctors of Geneva not to go too far in explaining the nature, determining the sense, and imposing the belief of doctrines, which the Divine Wisdom has not thought properto reveal clearly in the holy Scriptures, and the ignorance of which is very consistent with a state of salvation; and he recommends the prudence of the church of England, which has expressed these doctrines in such general terms, in its articles, that persons who think very differently about the doctrines, may subscribe the articles, without wounding their integrity.' His letters to professor Schurer of Berne, and the excellent and learned John Alfonso Turretin of Geneva, are in the same strain of moderation and charity, and are here'subjoined, as every way worthy of the reader's perusal. But what is more peculiarly worthy of attention here is a letter, written May 22, 1719," to Mr. Jablonski of Poland, who from a persuasion of Dr. Wake's great wisdom, discernment, and moderation, had proposed to him the following question, viz. “Whether it was lawful and expedient for the Lutherans to treat of an union with the church of Rome; or whether all negotiations of this kind ought not to be looked upon as dangerous and delusive ?” The archbishop's answer to this question contains a happy mixture of Protestant zeal and christian charity. He gives the strongest cautions to the Polish Lutherans against entering into any treaty of union with the Roman catholics, otherwise than on a footing of perfect equality, and in consequence of a previous renunciation, on the part of the latter, of the tyranny, and even of the superiority and jurisdiction, of the
f See the pieces subjoined, No. XX.
church of Rome and its pontiff; and as to what concerns points of doctrine, he exhorts them not to sacrifice truth to temporal advantages, or even to a desire of peace. It would carry us too far, were we to give a minute account of Dr. Wake's correspondence with the Protestants of Nismes, Lithuania, and other countries; it may, however, be affirmed that no prelate, since the Reformation, had so extensive a correspondence with the Protestants abroad, and none could have a more friendly one.
It does not appear, that the dissenters in England made to the archbishop any proposals relative to an union with the established church; or that he made any proposals to them on that head. The spirit of the times, and the situation of the contending parties, offered little prospect of success to any scheme of that nature. In
In queen Anne's time, he was only bishop of Lincoln; and the disposition of the House of Commons, and of all the Tory part of the nation, was then so unfavourable to the dissenters, that it is not at all likely that any attempt toward reuniting them to the established church would have passed into a law. And in the next reign, the face of things was so greatly changed in favour of the dissenters, and their hopes of recovering the rights and privileges, of which they had been deprived, were so sanguine, that it may be well questioned whether they would have accepted the offer of an union, had it been made to them. Be that as it will, one thing is certain, and it is a proof of archbishop Wake's moderate and pacific spirit, that, in the year 1714, when the spirit of the court and of the triumphant part of the ministry was, with respect to the Whigs in general, and to dissenters in particular, a spirit of enmity and oppression, this worthy prelate had the courage to stand up in opposition to the Schism bill, and to protest against it as a hardship upon the dissenters. This step, which must have blasted his credit at court, and proved detrimental to his private interest, as matters then stood, showed that his regard for the dissenters was friendly and sincere. It is true, four years after this, when it was proposed to repeal the Schism bill and the act against Occasional Conformity, both at once, he disapproved of this proposal. And this circumstance has been alleged as an objection to the encomiums that have been given to his tender regard for the dissenters, or, at least, as a proof that he changed his mind; and that
Wake, bishop of Lincoln, was more their friend than Wake, archbishop of Canterbury. I do not pretend to justify this change of conduct. It seems to have been, indeed, occasioned by a change of circumstances. The dissenters, in their state of oppression during the ministry of Bolingbroke and his party, were objects of compassion; and those who had sagacity enough to perceive the ultimate object which that ministry had in view in oppressing them, must have interested themselves in their sufferings, and opposed their oppressors, from a regard to the united causes of protestantism and liberty. In the following reign, the credit of the dissenters rose; and, while this encouraged the wise and moderate men among them to plead with prudence and with justice their right to be delivered from several real grievances, it elated the violent, and violent men there are in all parties, nay even in the cause of moderation, to a high degree. This rendered them formidable to all those who were jealous of the power, privileges, and authority of the established church; and archbishop Wake was probably of this number. He had protested against the shackles that were imposed upon them when they lay under the frowns of government; but apprehending, perhaps, that the removing these shackles in the day of prosperity would render their motions toward power too rapid, he opposed the abrogation of the very acts which he had before endeavoured to stifle in their birth. In this, however, it must be acknowledged, that the spirit of party mingled too much of its influence with the dictates of prudence; and that prudence, thus accompanied, was not very consistent with Dr. Wake's known principles of equity and moderation. As I was at a loss how to account for this part of the archbishop's conduct, I addressed myself to a learned and worthy clergyman of the church of Eng. land, who gave me the following answer; "archbishop Wake's objection to the repeal of the schism act was founded on this consideration only, that such a repeal was needless, as no use had been made, or was likely to be made, of that act. It is also highly probable, that he would have consented without hesitation to rescind it, had nothing farther been endeavoured at the same time. But, considering what sort of spirit was then shown by the dissenters and others, it ought not to be a matter of great wonder if he was afraid, that from the repeal of the other act, viz.
that against occasional conformity, considerable damage might follow to the church, over which he presided; and even supposing his fears to be excessive, or quite groundless, yet certainly they were pardonable in a man who had never done, nor designed to do, any thing disagreeable to the dissenters in any other affair, and who, in this, had the concurrence of some of the greatest and wisest of the English lords, and of the earl of Islay, among the Scotch, though a professed presbyterian.
However some may judge of this particular incident, I think it will appear from the whole tenour of archbishop Wake's correspondence and transactions with Christian churches of different denominations, that he was a man of a pacific, gentle, and benevolent spirit, and an enemy to the feuds, animosities, and party prejudices, which divide the professors of one holy religion, and by which Christianity is exposed to the assaults of its virulent enemies, and wounded in the house of its pretended friends. To this deserved eulogy, we may add what a learned and worthy divine, has said of this eminent prelate, considered as a controversial writer, even, “ that his accurate and superior knowledge of the nature of the Romish hierarchy, and of the constitution of the church of England, furnished him with victorious arms, both for the subversion of error and the defence of truth."
i Dr. William Richardson, master of Emanuel college in Cambridge, and canon of Lincoln. See his noble edition, and his very elegant and judicious continuation of bishop Godwin's Commentarius de Præsulibus Angliæ, published in the year 1743, at Cambridge. His words (p. 167) are ; “Nemo uspiam Ecclesiæ Romanæ vel Anglicanæ statum penitus cognitum et exploratum habuit; et proinde in disputandi arenam pro diit tum ad oppugnandum tum ad propugnandum instructissimus."