Page:Tracts for the Times Vol 1.djvu/38

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The 36th Canon provides that "no person shall hereafter be received into the Ministry. ....except he shall first subscribe" certain "three Articles." The second of these is as follows.

"That the Book of Common Prayer, and of Ordering of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, containeth in it nothing contrary to the Word of God, and that it may lawfully so be used; and that he himself will use the form in the said Book prescribed, in public Prayer, and administration of the Sacraments, and none other."

Now here is certainly a grave question to all who have subscribed this Article. We need not say, it precludes them from acquiescing in any changes, that are lawfully made in the Common Prayer; but surely it makes it most incumbent on them, to inquire carefully whether the Parties altering it have a right to do so; e.g. should any foreign Power or Legislature, or any private Nobleman or Statesman at home, pretend to reform the Prayer Book, of course we should all call it an usurpation, and refuse to obey it; or rather we should consider the above subscription to be a religious obstacle to our obeying it. So far is clear. The question follows; where is the competent authority for making alterations? Is it not also clear, that it does not lie in the British Legislature, which we know to be composed not only of believers, but also of infidels, heretics, and schismatics; and which probably in another year may cease to be a Christian body even in formal profession? Can even a Committee of it, ever so carefully selected, absolve us from our subscriptions? Whence do laity derive their power over the Clergy? Can even the Crown absolve us? or a commission from the Crown? If then some measure of tyranny be practised against us as regards the Prayer Book, how are we to act?