Subscription, Clerical

Subscription, Clerical Subscription to articles of religion is required of the clergy of every established Church, and of some churches not established.

"The most stringent and elaborate subscription probably ever enforced," says Dr. Stanley, "was that in the duchy of Brunswick, when duke Julius required from all clergy, from all professors, from all: magistrates, a subscription to all and everything contained in the Confession of Augsburg, in the Apology for the Confession, in the Smalcaldic Articles, in all the works of Luther, and in all the works of Chemnitz" (Letter on State of Subscription, p. 37). The Church of England only requires this kind of assent to the Thirty-nine Articles and the Book of Common Prayer. But it has been a matter of dispute whether it answers any valuable purpose as to religion, however necessary as a test to loyalty. All language is more or less ambiguous, so that it is difficult always to understand the exact sense, or the animus imponentis, especially when creeds have been long established. It is said that the clergy of the churches of England arid Scotland seldom consider theme: selves as fettered by the Thirty-nine Articles or the Confession of Faith, when composing instructions for their parishes or the public at large. It is to be feared, indeed that many subscribe merely for the sake of emolument; and though it be professedly exanimo, it is well known that it is not so in reality; for when any one appears to entertain conscientious scruples on the subject, he is told it is a thing of no consequence, but only a matter of form.

Stanley presents the following arguments in favor of repeal: 1. The first is, that there are signs of a growing reluctance, due in some part to the stringency of present subscriptions, on the part of thoughtful young men, to enter the ministry of the Church. 2. There is some recent evidence, especially at the universities, that the abolition of subscription has not tended to the injury of the Church or to any increased disbelief of her doctrines; 3. But, more especially, there is a growing disposition to interpret adhesion to formularies more narrowly than in former times. See Paley, Maor. Phil. 1, 218; Dyer, On Subscription; Doddridge, Lect. lect. 70; Conybeare, Sermon on Subscription; Free and Candid Disquisitions relating to the Church of England; The Confessional; Duncan and Miller, On Creeds; Stanley, A Letter to the Lord Bishop of London on the State of Subscription in the Church of England and in the University of Oxford.

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