Thursday, March 25, 2010

Protestant Dissenter's Catechism

Samuel Palmer (1741-1813), was an eminent nonconformist biographer and historian. Among his literary productions is The Protestant Dissenter's Catechism: I. A Brief History of the Dissenters; II. The Reasons of Dissent From the National Church (1772, 1823 ed.). It was designed to supplement the Westminster Assembly's Shorter Catechism by providing the history and principles of nonconformity in question and answer format. It was very popular in its day throughout the U.K., being reprinted many times (29 editions by 1890), and even being translated into Welsh. The history of dissenters has been supplemented in later posthumous editions, and later editors have "softened" some remarks concerning controversies with the Church of England. There is, however, great value, even today, in studying this manual to gain insight into what the great religious conflict of the 16th-18th centuries was all about, and why those principles are worth fighting for today. His critique of the Anglican liturgy I found to be particularly valuable as the regulative principle of worship, upon which he stands, is timeless.

Part II, § IV. Concerning Ceremonies [pp. 46-48]

Q. 56. What is the opinion of Dissenters respecting ceremonies in divine worship?
A. They disapprove of such as are of human invention, especially when made necessary, and think themselves bound to refuse complying with them.

Q. 57. Are the ceremonies of the Church of England forbidden in scripture?
A. They are not expressly forbidden in scripture; (because they were not in use early enough) but all will-worship is, of which these are one kind: and their not being commanded, is a sufficient reason for refusing them.
Q. 59. Is nothing to be required in the worship of God, but what is commanded in scripture?
A. Nothing but what is either expressly commanded, or necessarily implied in a command.
Q. What harm can there be in submitting to authority in things indifferent for the sake of peace?
A. It would be acknowledging in those who have assumed the office of government in the Church, a right which Christ never gave them, the pretension to which is derogatory to his honour: and it would be giving up that "liberty wherewith Christ has made us free," and in which we are exhorted to stand fast. Gal, v. 1.

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