After my recent attendance of an Anglicanism BCP service I thought I would follow up with some reasons given by John Gill for separating from the Anglican communion. All of them burn…just a little. The following quotations are taken from The DISSENTER’S REASONS FOR SEPARATING FROM The Church Of England, Occasioned By A Letter wrote by a Welch Clergyman on the Duty of Catechizing Children. Intended chiefly for the Dissenters of the Baptist Denomination in Wales. Any emphasis place on the text is of my own doing. Gill gives us numerous reasons to dissent from the “Established church” so I’ll limit this blog to a few reasons.
“Whereas Dissenters from the church of England are frequently charged with schism, and their separation is represented as unreasonable, and they are accounted an obstinate and contentious people; it may be proper to give some reasons why they depart from the Established church; by which it will appear that their separation does not arise from a spirit of singularity and contention, but is really a matter of conscience with them; and that they have that to say for themselves, which will sufficiently justify them, and remove the calumnies that are cast upon them; and our reasons are as follow.”
“There are many things in the administration of the Lord’s supper, which we think we have reason to object unto, and which shew it to be an undue one: and not to take notice of the bread being ready cut with a knife, and not broken by the minister, whereas it is expressly said, that Christ brake the bread, and did it in token of his broken body; nor of the time of administering it, at noon, which makes it look more like a dinner, or rather like a breakfast, being taken fasting, than a supper; whereas to administer it in the evening best agrees with its name, and the time of its first institution and celebration; but not to insist on these things.”
“Kneeling at the receiving of it is made a necessary requisite to it, which looks like an adoration of the elements, and Foetus to favor the doctrine of the real presence; and certain it is, that it was brought in by pope Honorius, and that for the sake of transubstantiation and the real presence, which his predecessor Innocent the iii rd had introduced; and though the church of England disavows any such adoration of the elements, and of Christ’s corporal presence in them; yet inasmuch as it is notorious that this has been abused, and still is, to idolatry, it ought to be laid aside; and the rather sitting should be used, since it is a table-gesture, and more suitable to a feast; and was what was used by Christ and his apostles, and by the primitive churches, until transubstantiation obtained; or however, since kneeling at most is but an indifferent rite, it ought not to be imposed as necessary, but should be left to the liberty of persons to use it or not.”
No Fencing of the Lord’s Table by His Ministers? Gill objects.
“The ordinance is administered to all that desire it, whether qualified for it or not; and to many of vicious lives and conversations; yea the minister, when he intends to celebrate it, in the exhortation, which in the book of Common Prayer he is directed to use, says; “unto which, in God’s behalf, I bid you, all that are here present, and beseech you for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, that ye will not refuse to come thereto.” Whereas it cannot be thought, that all present, everyone in a public congregation, or in a parish, are fit and proper communicants; and there are many persons described in the word of God, we art not to eat with (1 Cor. 5:2). Yet the rubric enjoins, “that every parishioner shall communicate, at the least, three times in the year;” and directs, “that new-married persons should receive the holy communion at the time of their marriage, or at the first opportunity after it;” though none surely will say, that all married persons are qualified for it.”
“This sacred ordinance is most horridly prostituted, and most dreadfully profaned, by allowing and even obliging persons, and these often times some of the worst of characters, to come and partake of it as a civil test, to qualify them for places of profit and trust; whereas the design of this ordinance is to commemorate the sufferings and death of Christ, and his love therein; to strengthen the faith of Christians, and increase their love to Christ and one another, and to maintain communion and fellowship with him and among themselves.”
“As the church of England has neither the form nor matter of a true church, nor is the word of God purely preached, and the ordinances of the gospel duly administered in it; so neither is it a truly organized church, it having such ecclesiastical officers and offices in it, which are not to be found in the word of God; and which is another reason why we separate from it. The scripture knows nothing of Archbishops and Diocesan Bishops, of Archdeacons and Deans, of Prebends, Chantors, Parsons, Vicars, Curates, etc. The only two officers in a Christian church are Bishops and Deacons; the one has the care of the spiritual, the other of the temporal affairs of the church; the former is the same with Pastors, Elders, and Overseers; and such men ought to be of sound principles, and exemplary lives and conversations; and moreover ought to be chosen by the people; nor should any be imposed upon them contrary to their will: this is an hardship, and what we cannot submit to: and it is a reason of our reparation, because we are not allowed to choose our own pastors.”
“The Rites and Ceremonies used in the church of England, are another reason of our separation from it. Some of them are manifestly of pagan original; some favor of Judaism, and are no other than abolished Jewish rites revived; and most, if not all of them, are retained by the papists; and have been, and still are, abused to idolatry and superstition. Bowing to the east, was an idolatrous practice of the heathens, and is condemned in scripture as an abominable thing (Ezek. l8:15, 16). Bowing to the altar, is a relic of popery, used by way of adoration of the elements, and in favor and for the support of transubstantiation, and the real presence; and therefore by no means to be used by those that disbelieve that doctrine, and must be an hardening of such that have faith in it. Bowing, when the name of Jesus is mentioned, is a piece of superstition and will-worship, and has no countenance from (Phil. 2:10). The words should be rendered in, and not at the name of Jesus; nor is it in the name Jesus, but in the name of Jesus, and so designs some other name, and not Jesus; and a name given him after his resurrection, and not before, as the name of Jesus was at his birth; and besides some are obliged to bow in it, who have no knees in a literal sense to bow with, and therefore bowing of the knee cannot be meant in any such sense. And as for such ceremonies which in their own nature are neither good nor bad, but indifferent, they ought to be left as such, and not imposed as necessary; the imposition of things indifferent in divine service as necessary, as if without which it could not be rightly performed, is a sufficient reason why they ought not to be submitted to: such and such particular garments worn by persons in sacred office, considered as indifferent things, may be used or not used; but if the use of these is insisted on, as being holy and necessary, and without which divine worship cannot rightly be performed, then they ought to be rejected as abominable. Nor can we like the surplice ever the better for being brought in by pope Adrian, A. D. 796. The cross in baptism, and kneeling at the Lord’s-supper, have been taken notice of before.”
“We cannot commune with the church of England, because it is of a persecuting spirit; and we cannot think such a church is a true church of Christ: that the Puritans were persecuted by it in Queen Elizabeth’s time, and the Dissenters in the reign of King Charles the second, is not to be denied; and though this spirit does not now prevail, this is owing to the mild and gentle government of our gracious sovereign King GEORGE, the head of this Church, for which we have reason to be thankful; and yet it is not even now quite clear of persecution, witness the Test and Corporation acts, by which many free-born Englishmen are deprived of their native rights, because they cannot conform to the church of England; besides, the reproaches and reviling’s which are daily cast upon us, from the pulpit and the press, as well as in conversation, shew the same: and to remove all such calumnies and reproaches, has been the inducement to draw up the above reasons for our dissent; and which have been chiefly occasioned by a late Letter on the duty of Catechizing Children, in which the author, is not content highly to commend the church of England, as the purest church under heaven, but reflects greatly on Dissenters, and particularly on such whom he calls rebaptizers; and repeats the old stale story of the German Anabaptists, and their errors, madnessess and distractions; and most maliciously insinuates, that the people who now go by this name are tinctured with erroneous principles; for he says, they spread their errors in adjacent countries, which are not fully extinguished to this day: whereas they are a people that scarce agree with us in any thing; neither in their civil nor in their religious principles, nor even in baptism itself; for they were for the repetition of adult-baptism in some cases, which we are not: and used sprinkling in baptism, which we do not: the difference between them and us is much greater than between the papists and the church of England; and yet this letter-writer would think it very hard and unkind in us, should we rake up all the murders and massacres committed by Paedobaptists, and that upon principle, believing that in so doing they did God good service; I mean the Papists, who are all Paedobaptists; and yet this might be done with as much truth and ingenuity, as the former story is told: and besides, the disturbances in Germany were begun by Paedobaptists; first: by the Papists before the reformation, and then by Lutherans after it, whom Luther endeavored to dissuade from such practices; and even the disturbances in Munster were begun by Paedobaptist ministers, with whom some called Anabaptists joined, and on whom the whole scandal is laid. But what is all this to us, who as much disavow their principles and practices, as any people under the heavens? Nor does our different way of thinking about baptism any ways tend to the same.”