A LETTER to a Friend, Containing some QUAERIES about the New Commission for making Alterations in the Liturgy, Canons, &c. of the Church of England.


IN Your last you seem much concerned about the New Com­mission, and desire my Opinion of it: I am very unfit to resolve your Doubts in this matter, having many of my own; which I shall reduce into some Quaeries, hoping that you may have opportunity of consulting with some of the Commissi­oners, who may be able to give you a more satisfactory Answer than I can.

First, Concerning the Nature of these intended Alterations.

Q. I. Whether there be any Necessity of such Alterations in the Liturgy, or as some say of it; (Whatever may be pretended as to Canons and Ecclesiastical Courts:) if there be any, for the Satisfaction of the Members of our Church, who generally believe there is none, why is not this Necessity made appear, and the rea­sons to the contrary confuted? If there be none, enquire whe­ther it be for the Reputation and Establishment of the Church, or for the encrease of Reverence and Devotion in the People to be so frequently meditating unnecessary Alterations.

Q. II. If these Alterations be not pretended to be necessary, enquire what the fitness and expediency of them is? Whether they are intended for the sake of the Church, or, for the satisfaction of Dissenters, or to serve both these ends together?

1. If for the sake of the Church, should it not be first enquired whether the Church desire it, and what Alterations she desires? Ought she not to be consulted in such matters as are intended for her advantage? Should not the Convocation then have first met and considered, whether any Alterations at this time were expedient, before the Commissioners had troubled themselves to make such Alterations, and become bound in honour to defend them? Or is it for the Peace and Unity and Edification of the [Page 2] Church, for some few assuming men to alter the Established Worship, to make it comply with their own private conceits, or to serve their own private ends?

2. If for the sake of the Church, why should any thing be al­tered which hath the general Approbation of the true Members of the Church? Why should such Ceremonies be taken away, or which is much worse, left indifferent, which they approved as use­ful to the external Decency and solemnity of Worship? Why should such Prayers and forms of Worship be altered, which they find such great helps to Devotion, that they desire no material change, and believe they cannot be altered for the better by any meer humane Compositions.

3. If it be for the sake of the Church, will our Commissioners keep their eye upon the Primitive pattern which was the original Rule of our Reformation? If they can alter our Worship and Discipline into a nearer and more exact Conformity to the ancient Primitive and Apostolick Churches; this I grant would be for the advantage of the Church; but ask them, whether it will be for the advantage of the Church to change the ancient Rules and Forms of Worship for some new Modern Inventions? How shall we justifie our selves against the charge of Novelty and Innovation, if we reform away all the remains and characters of a Primitive and Apostolick Church.

2. If these Alterations be intended for the satisfaction of Dissen­ters, and to Unite them in the Communion of our Church.

Q. I. Do they know what will satisfie Dissenters? Whether they find any greater inclinations in them now to return to our Communion, then they have formerly had? or whether after the fruitless tryals by the Commissioners at the Savoy in 61. and at the L. K. Bridgman's, where some of these Gentlemen were concerned, it be expedient to make a new and more dangerous experiment.

2. Whether it be possible in the nature of the thing, to give such satisfaction to Dissenters as shall restore them to the Communion of the Church without destroying the fundamental Constitution of the Church of England? As for instance,

Can any alterations in our Collects and Prayers (while we retain [Page 3] a Form) satisfie those who declare against all forms of Prayer as a quenching of the Spirit? and then it is not altering the Liturgy, but taking it away, that must satisfie Dissenters.

And not to multiply Quaeries, will the dissenting Preachers, who have been Ordained by Schismatical Presbyters, submit to Episco­pal Ordinations? or if they will not, will the People come into the Church without their Preachers? or if the Commissioners should think fit to admit them as Presbyters of the Church without a So­lemn Ordination, is it not a subversion of the Constitution, not only of the Church of England, but of the Catholick Church? and are they sure that the Members of the Church of England will own such Presbyters?

3. Inquire you whether it be reasonable at this time to make such alterations in our Worship in favour of Dissenters, without reason­able assurance of gaining them to our Communion? and whether the temper and practises of our Dissenters at this time give any such assurance? especially if the story of Northampton be true, that like Novatianus of old, they oblige their Communicants to vow or swear upon the Sacrament that they will never return to the Communion of the Church of England, which is said also to be a general practice.

After this I suppose it will be needless to say, that these alte­rations can be intended both for the advantage of the Church and satisfaction of Dissenters, since from what has been said it seems im­practicable to make such Alterations as shall satisfie Dissenters, and not give just scandal to the Members of our Church, and therefore here you are to inquire,

I. Whether they ought not to have as tender a regard to the Mem­bers of our own Church, as to Dissenters? As for instance: if ma­ny of our Communion will be offended to see others receive the Lord's Supper sitting, and it may be through the weakness of hu­mane nature may Forsake our Communion for it, whether it be reasonable to drive these Men from our Communion out of meer hope to gain worse men in the room of them?

II. Ask if such alterations should make a Schism in the Church, would it not prove of more fatal consequence than this Present Schism?

[Page 4] Second, Some Queries concerning the Commission and Com­missioners.

Q▪ I. Whether since the K. himself, besides his Solemn Oath at his Coronation, has so often declared his resolution to maintain the Church of England as by Law established, it be not more pro­bable some of these Commissioners have procured this Commission from the K. to make such alterations, then that it proceeded from the K.'s own inclination?

II. Whether the known Character of some of the Leading men in this Commission be not reason enough to suspect the event? Whether men who conformed with difficulty themselves, or upon Principles which Wise men fore-saw would destroy the Church in time, who have a Latitude to conform to a Church de facto, which has power on its side, and to conceal their own inclinations till it is time to show them, are not likely to do the Church of England a good turn when opportunity serves, and which per­haps they imagine now they have?

III. Whether when the House of Commons addressed to the King for a Convocation, it was not to prevent such a Commission as this? which was then moved in the House of Lords by an emi­nent Person in this Commission, and a zealous promoter of it.

IV. Whether there was any such hast of altering the best con­stituted Church in the World (which honourable title some of these Commissioners in a good mood have in their Writings bestowed upon the Church of England) that they could not expect the calling of a Convocation, but must have these alterations ready prepared for them by Commissioners?

V. Whether the effect of this will not be to check all freedom of debate in the Convocation, when these alterations shall be pro­posed to them as the judgment of the Commissioners, who will themselves be Men of the greatest Authority in the Convocation? and who will be so hardy as to oppose what the Commissioners have done? and thus (as it may prove) our Church may be chan­ged and altered and transformed by Nine men, who may have ten­derness and moderation enough to part with any thing but their Church-preferments: And what an imposition would this be [Page 5] thought on the Two Houses of Parliament, were as many Persons of as great Authority and Interest, and who had the disposal of State preferments in their hands, commissionated to prepare all Bills for their approbation?

VI. It should be Inquired whether the Convocation, when it meets, will have Authority to offer any new alterations, or to do any thing but approve what is so offered? For the Convocation can go no farther than the King gives them authority, and that is ex­pressed in the Commission only to approve.

VII. If the Convocation have any authority, it should be conside­red of what dangerous consequence it may be, should the Convoca­tion dissent from the Commissioners? And whether to prevent this, it may not occasion as much closeting for the choice of Convocation men, as was lately practiced to pack a House of Commons?

Third, Some Queries concerning the fitness of the time for such alterations.

Q I. Can it be thought a convenient time for such alterations as these, when the A. B. the Metropolitan of all England, and the head of the Convocation, and several other Bishops (not to mention those of the inferiour Clergy) who are as eminent for a prudent and well tempered zeal for the Church of England, as for their constant loyalty, are now under suspension? Will not some be apt to question the Ecclesiastical Authority of such proceedings, when the Convo­cation is without its proper head, and deprived of the advice and counsel of so many principal members of it? Will not others be apt to suspect, that this time is chose on purpose, because the A. B. and those other Bishops are now suspended, whose presence and authority in the Convocation they were afraid of, as sure and fast friends to the Church? And if they are afraid of those reverend Persons who had before declared their readiness (in their Address to K. I. against their publishing his Declaration for Liberty of Conscience) to come to such a temper with reference to Dissenters, as shall be thought fit by a Parliament and Convocation, it is very suspicious that they in­tend something very unreasonable, which they feared would not pass a free Convocation, when those reverend and judicious Prelates were present.

[Page 6] Q. II. Can it be thought a proper season to make any alterations in a well constituted and established Church, when the passions of men are in such a vehement fermentation? when there are such struglings between the different parties in religion, and such different interests of State to serve by them? Can we expect such fair deal­ing, such sedate and unbiassed councels, as (if ever) are necessary to alter or new-lay the foundations of a Church? The reigns of Con­stantius and Valens will satisfie any man what may be expected from Councels and Convocations, when reasons of State must govern, and the late example of Scotland gives us no great reason to expect much better.

Q. III. Is it a proper time to make alterations, and unsettle the foundations of the Church, when there are so many powerful Ene­mies, who watch an opportunity to pull it down? I think it is not prudent, when a City is besieged to make a breach in the Walls, tho' it be to mend them: The Church of England will stand firm if we let it alone, but under a pretence of mending it, it will be an easie matter, when its strength and interest is divided, to raze its foun­dations.

For a Conclusion, Sir, what the Parliament will think of this af­fair, I will not pretend to guess, but I shall only add, that upon the whole matter there seems to be great reason to have a jealous eye upon this Commission, and I hope the friends of the Church of England, in both Houses of Parliament, will be upon their guard; especially it behoves the Clergy to be very careful what Members they choose for the Convocation, which is not now as formerly a matter of meer Ceremony and Form, since the present and fu­ture Safety of the Church depends on it, and it is seldom seen that there are any considerable Innovations in the Church, but have a proportionable influence on the State.

I am, Sir,

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