that 'The canons of a convocation do not bind the laity without an act of parliament'.15
Iflawyers almost always reiterated Wood's position, clergymen were prominent in questioning Gibson's. Benjamin Hoadly and his allies sought to guard against the threat of a Catholic Stuart restoration by countering a High Church ecclesiology with Low Church minimalism. Hoadly was only the most notorious among the Whig clergy who seized the common ground of the legitimate role of the state in regulating the church, but he used it to vilify both the Nonjurors and High Church theology: the political acceptability of the first critique shielded him from the consequences of attacking the second.
Hoadly insisted that the Nonjurors' target was nothing less than the principle of established religion: 'The Establishment is now openly and directly charged with the Want of all Right'. But it was a valid establishment, replied Hoadly, despite the Revolution of 1688, since God had not instituted 'a Regular Uninterrupted Succession' either of bishops or of monarchs. Instead, every man's 'Title to God's favour cannot depend upon his actual being, or continuing, in any particular Method; but upon his Real sincerity in the conduct of his Conscience, and of His own Actions, under it. . . The Favour of God, therefore, follows Sincerity, consider'd as such'.16 Hoadly's Erastianism in ecclesiology was reflected in his theology: unfettered private judgement was the essence of Christianity; no church could claim to exercise a direct divine mandate. Christ hath, in those Points, left behind Him, no visible, humane Authority; no Vicegerents, who can be said properly to supply his Place; no Interpreters, upon whom his Subjects are absolutely to depend; no Judges over the Consciences or Religion of His people ... All his Subjects are equally his Subjects; and, as such, equally without Authority to alter, to add to, or to interpret, his Laws so, as to claim the absolute Submission of Others to such Interpretation.17
The majority of churchmen who agreed with Hoadly's arguments on the legitimacy of the Revolution nonetheless reviled these theological arguments. Whig politicians, however, were more often in sympathy with Hoadly's theology, since they rightly interpreted the church's claims to civil authority, claims which they emphatically rejected, as rooted in the belief that the church carried a direct divine commission. The early years of the Whig ascendancy saw a series of parliamentary attempts to repeal legislation that churchmen held to be integral to 'the establishment'. Part was repealed, but part survived. Walpole finally backed away from extending 'the Toleration' at the expense of 'the Establishment' in the face of an unprecedented storm. The 'Bangorian Controversy' was an outcry against the minimalist interpretation
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