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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 proper to reveal clearly in the 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 Bern, and to the excellent and learned John Alphonso Turretin of Geneva, are in the same strain of moderation and charity, and are here subjoined “, as every way worthy of attentive 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 de“lusive?” 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, except 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 juris- * See the pieces here subjoined, No. XX.
diction of the 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, or of 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 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 unfavorable to the dissenters, that it is not at all likely that any attempt toward re-uniting 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 favor 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 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, shewed that he had a friendly and sincere regard for the dissenters. 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 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, their credit 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 even in the cause of moderation) to a high degree. This rendered them formidable to all those who were jealous of [zealous for] 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 removal of 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 acknowleged, 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 England, 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 shewn “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 occa“sional conformity), considerable damage might fol“low 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, or 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 Ilay, among the Scotch, “ though a professed Presbyterian.” However some may judge of this particular incident, I think it will appear from the whole tenor 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 knowlege 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.”
* 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 Praesulibus Angliae, published in 1743, at Cambridge. His words, (p. 167,) are: “ Nemo uspiam ecclesiae “Romanae vel Anglicanae statum penitias cognitum et explora“tum habuit; et proinde in disputandi arenam prodiit tum ad “oppugnandum tum ad propugnandum instructissimus.”