« PreviousContinue »
testant truth, which they will not easily destroy. Bating a few corrections, we give the letter almost verbatim:
To the Editor of the CHRISTIAN GUARDIAN.
REV. SIR, I have been a constant reader of the Christian Guardian for the last twenty years. I esteem it a publication of great value, highly calculated to do good. Its sound Protestant evangelical principles strongly recommend it to the notice of every sincere member of the Church of England. It has never shrunk from the exposition of error, and has been equally zealous in the promotion of truth. In all the reviews which the late Editors have undertaken, they have manifested a candid, open, and faithful spirit, without regarding the favour, or fearing the frown, of man. I take the liberty of forwarding you by this post a newspaper, containing, on its fourth page, an abstract of the Bishop of Worcester's Charge to his clergy, delivered at a Visitation held at Christ Church, Birmingham, on Saturday, August 9th. In the delivery of the charge, his Lordship attempts to justify his vote in favour of the Maynooth grant by showing, what appears to me, the analogy between (the essential identity of?) the Catholic and Protestant religion, or,
to blend, as well as he was able, Catholicism and Protestantism together. His Lordship proceeds to mention some doctrines which (he says) we hold in common with our Roman Catholic brethren: and to this particular part of his charge may I respectfully direct your attention? He says
"We both believe that, to redeem mankind from his fallen state, it pleased the Almighty Being to send his only begotten Son into the world, to become a sacrifice for our sin, that through his atonement we might be justified before God."
This is, indeed, a glorious Bible truth; on it the sinner places all his hope of mercy and pardon here, and his acceptance at the tribunal of God hereafter. But surely the poor Roman Catholic does not believe this,
while he seeks for justification (or to be "justified before God") by virtue of his fastings, his penances, his almsdeeds, his prayers to departed saints, his invocations to the Virgin, Purgatory, &c., &c. Do we 'both believe" in, and agree as to, the nature and design of this article of our faith? For my own part, I regard the sacrifice of the Mass (held in such veneration by Catholics) as idolatrous and superstitious, and depend for justification before God, upon the merits of that sacrifice offered on Calvary "ONCE FOR ALL.' Does the Roman Catholic do this?
"We both believe that the Church was originally founded by the Saviour, and that the doctrines of the Gospel have been handed down by a regular succession of ordained ministers, priests, and deacons."
What honest Catholic will admit this? Do not Catholics, in the strongest terms, claim for themselves the supremacy? Will they say that the priests and deacons of our Church have been handed down by "regular succession" from the Saviour? Do we "both believe" so as to be agreed on this point? Is not our Church set at nought by them as spurious and vile, tarnished and corrupted by the doctrines of Luther, and other reformers; and does not the spiritual head of their Church live at Rome, and ours live in heaven?
"We both believe that two Sacraments are binding on Christians."
The Roman Catholic believes there are seven; and although, in those seven, Baptism and the Lord's Supper are included, still, is there not a very wide difference in our belief, as to the true intent and meaning of both? Surely his lordship cannot mean to say that Catholics and Protestants regard these Sacraments alike! and if he does not, why then allude to them as being branches of our faith and parts of our creed? Does not the true Churchman look upon Infant Baptism only as an "outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace," and will not every Christian parent pray that his child may be in
wardly baptized with the Holy Ghost, of which the water used outwardly is only a sign? And as to the Lord's Supper, do "both believe" alike on this point? Are we to submit to the doctrine of Transubstantiation? to believe that a wafer, blessed (as it is called) by a mere man, becomes converted into the real body of Christ, and that the Sacrament in one kind only is to be administered? I must confess, that, on reading the whole of this paragraph my feelings became sadly embarrassed, my mind much pained. The idea of a Bishop of our truly evangelical Church endeavouring to unite her doctrines with those of the corrupt Church of Rome, was to me a mystery. The whole charge appears to me very deficient in the pure spirit of the Gospel. Jesus Christ and him crucified, of whom the Apostle was determined to know nothing beside among men, constitutes in it but a small ingredient.
I admit, sir, an apology is due from me for troubling you with this communication. I venture upon your clemency, inasmuch as you are now the sole editor of a work which, for upwards of the last twenty years, has been read by me. I should like to see the charge well reviewed by some able and pious_pen. These are not the times for Protestants to indulge in silence, ease, and apathy. Fifty years ago, Popery was thought to be sleeping its sleep of death. Now it is awaking, and, like a giant stalking-horse, making rapid strides through the length and breadth of our land, multiplying, as it proceeds, its cathedrals, chapels, bishops, priests, and converts. The man, however humble in life, who loves his God, his religion, and his country, ought not to be afraid or ashamed of his profession. Surely it becomes his duty to use every effort to stem the torrent of iniquity which at this time threatens to sweep away our Protestant privileges, agreeably with that situation of life in which Providence has placed him. I long to see the Bishops, Ministers, and members of the Establishment decided and firm in espousing the cause of that Church to which they profess to belong; not
resembling the worshippers of Baal, "halting between two opinions." We want such men as Newton, Scott, Romaine, Richmond, and others, who have adorned the pages of the Guardian with their writings, ("some of whom are fallen asleep") to show the nation its iniquity, and the half-hearted Protestant Churchmen their sin.
Pray we then, sir, the Lord of the harvest to send forth such labourers into the harvest; and although our beloved Church appears to bow down her head as a bulrush, yet may the time speedily arrive when she shall appear in all her strength and beauty, "looking forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners."
Pardon the liberty of a stranger thus trespassing upon your notice. I remain, Rev. Sir,
Your obedient Servant,
Now we admit that, in the main, these remarks are substantially and Scripturally correct. They exhibit the sound and judicious thinking of one of that class of mind, of which we trust many, many thousands are to be found in the ordinary walks of life, who are the "salt of the earth," and who, in a religious crisis, in which numbers must tell, will be found on the right side. The main point on which the writer has seized in his letter is of vast importance; but before approaching it, there is a little preliminary matter to be disposed of. In the first place, it is impossible to approach a newspaper report with the severe aspect of criticism that would be applied to a published document. With all the wonderful facility to which the reporter attains, there are niceties in theological statement, which, because he can scarcely be likely to know their importance as a delicate hinge, or a pivot of some great move, must almost necessarily escape him. For instance. We can scarcely suppose a bishop to have deliberately said, or, at least, deliberately to have sent from the press the assertion, that "we are deeply indebted to antiquity for the very founda
tions of our faith." This idea is actually at variance with the train of thought he is pursuing. Had he been reported to have said, in accordance with his own argument, We are indebted to antiquity, that is, to ancient times, for the confirmatory wisIdom of that volume which contains the foundation of our faith, it would have been more consentaneous to the bishop's own views. But this is one of the proofs that a report of this nature must be taken cum grano salis. We may commend or condemn general views, which are manifestly independent of clerical views; but we must not sit at the catch for a tripping word.
In the next place, there are certainly many important truths put forth in a manly and fearless way, well adapted to meet the errors of these times. The Bishop of Worcester seems to cherish none of that mawkish sentiment towards the Newman school, which sometimes seems to savour of a mystic reverence for scholarship, with which the writer is but little conversant, and a reluctance to meddle lest he should be overmatched. There has been far too much compliment afloat, because the men have read a little patristic Greek and Latin, and dived into Fabricius and Ducange. Dr. Pepys appears to be at home in all the length and breadth of the land-the history of the early Church (after all, but a meagre subject of study for a whole life, and for the basis of a reputation); and he at once treats the subject and their pretensions with the simplicity and straightforwardness which it merits. A few master-strokes show that he understands his weapon: and that some of these professors of patristic lore had better keep wide of its range. They may be foiled at their best fencing.
Dr. Pepys has said with much truth, that "the victory of Christianity in the days of Constantine was not gained without some compromise on the part of Christians; and the foundation was then laid for many of the errors of Rome." "Their canonization of saints was adopted as a substitute for the high and holy days
of the ancient mythology; and no one who had witnessed a Roman Catholic procession could fail to be struck with the similarity between it and the pagan processions described in the Fasti of Ovid; St. Januarius and St. Martin being substituted for an Apollo and a Bacchus; or St. Agnes and St. Perpetua for a Ceres and a Diana." How confirmatory of this view is the following passage from "The Classical Tour" of Eustace, a leading Roman Catholic, who travelled to Italy a few years ago. "Rome," (which elsewhere he calls "the Eternal City," and " once the abode of the Gods,") "in thus civilizing and polishing mankind, had prepared them for the reception of that divine religion, which alone can give to human nature its full and adequate perfection; and she completed her god-like work, when the world, influenced by her instructions and example, became Christian. Thus she became the metropolis of the world by a new and more venerable title, and assumed, in a more (!) august and sacred sense, the appellation of the Holy City,' the Light of Nations.' And again, "The figure of the Redeemer, till then unknown, seemed to breathe on canvas before their eyes. The venerable forms of the Apostles, in Parian marble, replaced the grim and uncouth statues of their idols." And, "The columns of Trajan and Antoninus formerly supported each a colossal statue of its Emperor. These have long since disappeared, while St. Peter and St. Paul have been substituted in their stead." And, "Then the spacious Basilica were first opened for the assemblies of the faithful, and the forsaken temples converted into churches. The lights that preceded the book of laws and the prætor, now moved before the Gospels and the bishop. The solemn tones of tragic declamation were adapted to the lecture of the holy books, and the Psalms were tuned to the modulation of the Greek choruses." There the Romans heard the language and beheld the vestments of their fathers; there they saw and venerated in their clergy, the grand and digni
fied deportment of the magistrates of ancient Rome." Who, on the testimony of so fair a witness, will deny the compromise? Who, after such averments, will hesitate to admit that the imperial patronage of the religion of Jesus brought with it an adulterating mixture of heathen error? The bishop and the Roman Catholic traveller have, with very different intentions, both exhibited the same characteristics of the system, the one to praise, the other to blame it.
The bishop states very distinctly another leading view of the Churches of the Reformation. He "He says, who trusts to antiquity, would find so much diversity in opinion among the fathers of the Church, that he would be so tossed about upon these troubled waters, as to search in vain for an anchor for his soul in patristic theology;" and then adds, in conclusion, the well-known sentence of Chillingworth, which he evidently adopts, con amore. "The Bible, and the Bible alone, is the religion of Protestants." Most thankful are we to see this vitally-essential principle so distinctly recognized. It is here that the stand for religion and morals must be made. He that wavers at all on this point, is liable to fall into the hands of the enemy. From a wish to attach a sort of mystic awe to the Church, there has been in many quarters an endeavour to becloud this very important point; but, if we would walk sincerely and be a safe example to others, we must maintain unequivocally that the Almighty carries on his religious government of man, not by the authority of a body of clergy, who have erred, and may err again, but by the agency of his own Spirit, as at once both a heavenly and an earthly witness, (1 John 5.) through the instrumentality of his written word. It is delightful to find a mind of the class of the Bishop of Worcester's bowing submissively to the divine record, and putting the agency of the Church in the right place, as witnessing historically to the genuineness and authenticity of the sacred writings.
It is with the same sound commonsense, that the Bishop approaches
those fashionable puerilities in worship, for which the peace of the Church has been so recklessly sacrificed, and speaks of "the pedantry of introducing ornaments and forms supposed to have been used in the ancient Church; thus a stone instead of a wooden communion table, a lectura for a readingdesk, sedilia in churches in which it was not likely that more than one clergyman would officiate at the same time, a rood-screen and credencetables, with candles on the communion tables never intended to be lighted; and the walls covered with Scriptural sentences in Old English text that could never be read." There is a dry humour in the way of touching these things, that almost at once consigns them to condemnation among sensible men. But the Bishop does not leave the matter there: "we thought them," he said, "abstractedly reprehensible, as having a tendency to convey false notions, unsuited for the purposes for which a Protestant assembly met together;" nay more, "that vital religion was almost lost amid these formalities !" How sad it is, that men trained in our evangelical Church should, by their superstitious frippery, have brought themselves under the lash of the Bishop's deliberate, manly censure. He has no sympathy with such ecclesiastical fopperies; and seeing them to be in direct contrariety to the spirit of our appointed worship, it is evident that, if Dr. Pepys were the governing mind of the Church, such innovations would not have been treated with that excessive tenderness, and timidity, and semi-patronage, which they have received in other places; but would have been swept with something like Miltonic indignation into "the limbo of vanity." We shall have occasion prabably in due time to notice Mr. Bricknell's recent work, "The Judgment of the Bishops on the Tractarian Theology," when we may compare the amount of disapprobation which has been meted out in different quarters to the Tractarian leaders, and the silken under-wing of faint praise," with which their onward course has occasionally been fanned. The general line of episcopal charges has not always been
free from tortuosities. Thanks the more for the healthy discriminating censure of Dr. Pepys.
But, after these laudatory observations, which will show sufficiently how little we are disposed to approach any part of the charge, as reported, in the spirit of cavil and contention, it is with considerable pain that we advert to the topic on which our correspondent has addressed us-the grounds on which the Bishop justifies his vote in Parliament as a Christian man, for the improved means of training and educating the Romish clergy, and so far upholding the Romish system. We confess that we are compelled to differ materially from the view maintained in this charge; we think it a duty of our present position to express that difference strongly, and though we have little reason to suppose that our humble pages would meet and arrest his eye, yet if they should, we submit their contents most respectively to Dr. Pepys's consideration.
The position taken will be best shown in the Bishop's own words :"I cannot persuade myself that we committed a national sin, when we gave improved education to those whose doctrines we conceive to be erroneous:" and again, nor can I venture to say that Christianity, as professed by the great majority, is so full of error as to make it a sin in a Protestant state to contribute towards the education of its ministers." In order to deal with these propositions we must (and quite in the spirit of fairness, and without the slightest wish to take a logical advantage,) amalgamate, abridge, and simplify them, in a way in which we think the author would not disapprove; we must put away the more vague idea of "national sin," and view the matter as one of individual Christian acting and responsibility; we must substitute for the expression "Christianity, as professed by the great majority,' the term "Romanism," which is the thing intended to be expressed, and then we bring the proposition to this, which we believe the Bishop intends honestly to maintain, that it is not a sin for a Protestant to contribute towards the education of the ministers
of Romanism, which he believes to be erroneous. Free from circumlocution, we conceive that to be the Bishop's affirmation; and we join issue with him on it: we consider such conduct to be sinful.
Let it be remembered that our religion is divine; that it is based in a series of truths divinely revealed, on the knowledge of which the salvation of the soul is made to depend. Then a distinct apprehension and holding of them is of unspeakable importance, and any withholding or contradicting of them when so persevered in must be a very serious matter; because the withdrawing or repressing a revealed truth is, to say the least of it, yielding so much ground for the spread of the opposing error: of course, very much depends upon the conscientious sense of the importance of truths. For instance, if a man holds the doctrine of justification by faith, as stated in the
Article to be a dogma revealed from the throne of God, essential to the salvation of the soul-that it is the truth-God's truth-a wonderful and merciful condescension of the divine mind to the fallen creature; then he could not but look with horror on any the slightest deviation from that truth, as opposing the divine revelation, and coming between God's gracious scheme of deliverance and man's perishing soul. This is of the very nature of implicit faith in a revelation from God. Now, in this case, it would surely appear that if, while he taught this truth with one hand, he circulated a tract in favour of justification by works with the other, he would not be free from criminal inconsistency. Granted this is looking closely and strictly; and that religious opinions sit very loosely and lightly on some men's minds; and that in these days there has been very much of the "give and take" in our general religious associations; and that probably the system of a broad unqualified subscription to the absolute accuracy in detail of a large book of human composition, has had a certain influence towards the habit of religious compromise in some minds; yet still, when we come to look fairly at it, we must see that in divine mat