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6 The Rights of the CHRISTIAN Church,"
WRITTEN IN THE YEAR 1708, BUT LEFT UNFINISHED
In the year 1706, Dr Matthew Tindal, a civilian of some reputation, published a book entitled, “ The Rights of the Christian Church asserted, against the Romish and all other Priests, who claim an independent Power over it: with a Preface concerning the Government of the Church of England, as by Law established.” This singular treatise, under covert of an attack upon the Romish Church, was principally intended to sap the foundations of the national Church of England. The alarm was speedily taken, and many champions appeared in defence of the establish ment. Among these, the most remarkable was the learned Dr Hickes, of Oxford, who published two treatises, " Of the Christian Priesthood," and “Of the Dignity of the Episcopal Order," and several other pieces, in answer to Tindal's 67 Rights of the Christian Church.” Dr William Wotton, chaplain to the earl of Nottingham, attacked the same work, in a sermon preached at a visitation of the bishop of Lincoln, and in another tract. Samu el Hill, Conyers-Place, and finally Mr Oldisworth, entered also into the controversy, which was maintained with equal zeal on both sides, until it was swallowed up in the more furio us and universal disputes occasioned by Sacheverel's sermon, Swift, it would seem, had prepared materials for entering vigorously into the contest with Tindal, nor can there be a doubt of the powerful effect which his interference would have produced, if we judge what the work must have been when completed, by the following unembodied hints.
We cannot better ascertain the tendency of Tindal's work, than by quoting those passages upon which the grand jury of Middlesex presented the author, printer, and publisher of the Rights of the Christian Church," as dangerous and disaffected persons, and promoters of sedition and profaneness. This charge they grounded upon the following extracts:
“ The church is a private society, and no more power belonging to it than to other private companies and clubs, and, consequently, all the right any one has to be an ecclesiastical officer, and the power he is intrusted with, depends on the consent of the parties concerned, and is no greater than they can bestow.” -(The Book, p. 104.) “ The scriptures no where make the receiving the Lord's Supper from the hands of a priest necessary.". (Page 105.) 6. The remembrance of Christ's sufferings a mere grace-cup delivered to be handed about.”—(Page 108,) Among Christians, one no more than another can be reckoned a priest from scripture.”—And the clerk hath as good a title to the priesthood as the parson.--Every one, as well as the minister, rightly consecrateth the elements to himself. Any thing further than this, may rather be called Conjuration than Consecration.”-(Page 313.) “ The absurdities of bishops being, by divine appointment, governors of the Christian church, and others are capable of being of that number, who derive not their right by an uninterrupted succession of bishops in the Catholic church."-(Page 255.) “The supreme powers had no way to escape the heavier oppressions, and more insupportable usurpations of their own clergy, than by submitting to the pope's milder yoke and gentler authority."(Page 151.) “ One grand cause of mistake is, not considering when God acts as governor of the universe, and when as prince of a particular nation. The Jews, when they came out of the land of bondage, were under no settled government, until God was pleased to offer himself to be their king, to which all the people expressly consented.-God's laws bound no nation, except those that agreed to the Horeb contract.”-(Page 47.) “ Not only an independent power of excommunication, but of ordination in the clergy, is inconsistent with the magistrate's right to protect the commonwealth.-(Page 118.) “ Priests, no more then spiritual make-baits, baraters, boutefeux, and incendiaries, and who make churches serve to worse purposes than bear-gardens.”-(Page 15.) “ It is a grand mistake to suppose the magistrate's power extends to indifferent things.-Men have liberty as they please, and a right-to form what clubs, companies, or meetings, they think fit, either for business or pleasure, which the magistrates--cannot hinder, without manifest injustice."-(Page 312.) 66 God-interposed not amongst the Jews, until they had chosen him for their king."
In 1710, Tindal's book, with some other of his pamphlets, were ordered, by a vote of the house of communs, to be burned along with Sacheverel's sermon-an example of impartiality in assigning punishment to latitudinarians, as well as to high-flyers, for which the people gave the ministry very little credit.