Page images

up. For the tradesman cannot possibly distinguish when he comes by my orders, and when upon his own authority.

Lastly, if a servant by his own negligence, does any damage to a stranger, the master must answer for bis neglect. If a blacksmith’s servant lame a horse while he is shoeing him, an action lies against the master, and not against the servant. But in these cases the damage must be done while he is actually employed in the master's service, otherwise the servant shall answer for his own misbehaviour.*


The British constitution is composed of two distinct establishments. The one civil and the other ecclesiastical. Of the civil establishment we have already given copious details ; and we now proceed to explain the ecclesiastical branch. Of the latter there are three established churches; the churches of England and Ireland, which the 5th article of the Union declares to be for ever united, and the church of Scotland, of which we propose to treat separately. These ecclesiastical establishments, but especially the former, are so closely interwoven with the state, that the destruction of either must prove alike fatal to both. The connexion of the church with the state, is not designed to make the church political, but to preserve the state religious.

The government of the united church of England and Ireland is episcopal. She considers that a hierarchy in the church, like monarchy in the state, preserves a due gradation of rank and authority, and conduces to order and peace. That the episcopal government preserves the purity of the faith. That the authority of a bishop keeps heresy in awe, or speedily checks its progress. That ecclesiastical, like republican equality, obviously leads to contention and confusion. The clergy are the whole body of clerks or ecclesiastics, who are taken out from among the people as the Lord's lot or share, as the tribe of Levi was in Judea, and are separated from the noise and bustle of the world, that they may have leisure to spend their time in the duties of the Christian religion. The preservation of both the civil and religious establishment is, therefore, the interest of every member of the community, and the especial duty of those to whose superintending care the general welfare is intrusted. But these establishments, though all persons have a common interest in their preservation, differ much in respect of the claims which they severally possess. The civil establishment has a legal title to duty and submission from every

* Blackstone's Commentaries.

subject in the realm. Disaffection towards this part of the constitution, when manifested by outward acts, is a crime punishable by the severest penalties of the law. In return for the protection afforded by the civil government, the obligation of allegiance is contracted; an obligation which nothing can discharge, but the payment of the great debt of nature—which cannot be superseded by change of residence, or by the formation of new engagements—and which binds every one to whom it attaches, without exception, to submission, fidelity, and even to active exertion, whenever his exertions are wanted for the protection of his lawful government, or the security of his native soil. In a word, allegiance to the civil government is the positive and permanent duty of every person, whom birth has placed in a state of subjection to that government. To insinuate, therefore, that any one is deficient in a sense of this duty, or reluctant in its performance, is to cast a reproach upon him of the most disgraceful nature. But the case is very different with regard to the ecclesiastical part of the constitution. The law of the land leaves every one at liberty to separate from the established church, without being subject to any kind of penalty, censure, or reproach. That church has indeed high and transcendent claims, but they are not of a temporal nature, nor are they supported by temporal sanctions. Considered merely as a national establishment -as a part of the constitution—it claims only to be entitled to provision for its worship and its ministers, and to protection against all other religious professions. This is the extent of its engagement with the civil magistrate ; who, on his part, on entering into such an engagement, has no other object but to keep alive a sense of religion, with a view to the well-being of society. Beyond this the province of the civil magistrate does not extend. It is his duty to support a religious establishment, in order to preserve his people from the fatal effects of irreligion. An established church carries religion to the most remote corner of the land. It carries it into the palace of the monarch, and the cottage of the peasant. The land pays the expense, and the poor man enjoys the benefit without money and without price. But it is also his duty to remember, and in this country he does remember, that religion is a concern between God and the soul, in which he is not made an arbiter; and that it does not belong to human authority to judge for man in such matters, or to restrain him from worshipping God according to the dictates of his own conscience.

But the established church of England possesses a far higher character than that of an establishment. A character which seems to be entirely overlooked by those persons who separate from her communion, who frequently explain and attempt to justify their separation, on the ground that they vindicate their religious freedom by dissenting from a church, which, being established by the authority of the civil magistrate, presumes,

as they say, under that authority, to prescribe a common standard of faith and worship. Whilst, however, to such persons the established church appears only as a temporal institution, as a mere creature of the state, she is essentially a spiritual society, and as such, she claims to be a part of that kingdom, which its founder and sovereign declared to be “ not of this world.” To be a genuine branch of that church, which for ages after its institution subsisted independently of the civil power, and which has the assurance of its divine Master and Head, “ that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” It is in this character, that is to say, as a church and not as an establishment, that she offers herself as a guide to faith and worship. She claims, for that purpose, the authority of a spiritual commission from Christ himself. Her alliance with the state is purely incidental. That alliance is, indeed, marked by internal symbols of an imposing nature. It invests her superior clergy with rank and dignity. It seats her bishops among the peers of the realm. It allots the most durable and magnificent edifices to the celebration of her worship. It binds the very soil to furnish a provision for her clergy. It not only endows her with revenues, but invests her with temporal authority in her ecclesiastical courts. But these are merely adventitious circumstances, indicative indeed of her character as an establishment, but wholly independent of her character as a church. They may cease to exist, nay,

her alliance with the state may be entirely dissolved, while her faith and worship, her ordinances and discipline, which are her essentials as a church, will undergo no change. Such was the case at the time of the grand rebellion under Cromwell, when the church establishment was overthrown, but the church itself continued to exercise, as before, all her spiritual functions, though under circumstances of great embarrassment, and after a while she was reunited to the state, and was again invested with secular appendages. An exact model of what she was, during this period of separation, and of what she would again be, were such a separation to occur, may be seen at the present day in the episcopal churches of Scotland and North America. Each of which acts under the same authority, professes the same faith, maintains the same discipline, and observes the same liturgical forms, as the established church of England.

When, therefore, the established church promulgates a rule of faith and worship, it is to be remembered that she acts, not in her temporal and incidental character, as an establishment, but in her spiritual, appropriate, and permanent character, as a church. In which character she claims to be a divinely appointed guide, duly authorized by virtue of an apostolical commission, to show to the people of this land “ the way to salvation.” Surely then, it behoves those who separate from her communion, to examine well the grounds on which such a claim is founded.

For if the church be really a divine institution, separation from it cannot fail to involve an awful responsibility. The freedom allowed, by law, in this country, to every one to worship God according to the dictates of his conscience, can extend no farther than freedom from human control, in the choice and exercise of religion. But whilst in religious worship man is, and ought to be, unrestrained by man, yet he is bound, in this respeet, as in every other, to obey God. It is his duty to worship God, as God has appointed to be worshipped. Conscience, instead of finding an excuse for disobedience to the divine will, is itself subject to that will, and must be informed and regulated by it. If, therefore, God has instituted a church, in the which it is his pleasure to be worshipped, it cannot be a matter of indifference whether a man worship in that church, or wander from it.*

It may not, therefore, be uninteresting to recapitulate, as briefly as possible, the first introduction of Christianity into England; and at same time to show the origin, corruption, and reformation of its church.

It is allowed on all hands, that Christianity was received in England during the lives of the apostles. Eusebius says, that " some of the apostles passed over the ocean to those which are called the British islands." In another place, the same author affirms, that " some of the apostles preached the gospel in the British islands." Theodoret, another ancient and learned author, says, that “ St Paul brought salvation to the islands that lay in the ocean.” That Britain is meant by this expression, seems clear, from his having mentioned Spain and Gaul in connexion with it. The latter being only divided from the “ islands that lie in the ocean" by a narrow channel. He also says, that St Paul, after his release at Rome, carried the light of the gospel to other nations.” Again, that “ St Paul, after his imprisonment, preached the gospel in the Western parts." Here the British islands are to be understood. This assertion is corroborated by the testimony of Clemens Romanus, who says that “ St Paul preached righteousness through the whole world, and in so doing went to the utmost bounds of the West.” At the time when Clement flourished, " whose name is written in the book of life,”+ Britain was undoubtedly the utmost bounds of the West.” It is called “ ultimam occidentis insulam," by all the ancient Roman writers. In fixing the boundaries of the gospel, Arnobius mentions the Indies as the eastern, and Britain as the extreme western boundaries. Gildas, the oldest British historian, affirms, sure grounds and certain knowledge,” that St Paul constituted the church in Britain“ in the time of Tiberius Cesar.” The emperor Tiberius died in the year of Christ 39, according to Cardinal Baronius, the great


* Claims of the Established Church.

+ Phil. iv. 3.

Roman chronologer. In another place Gildas also says, that “ the gospel was received here before the fatal defeat of the Britons by Suetonius Paulinus." This defeat happened in the seventh year of the emperor Nero. St Paul being then at liberty after his imprisonment at Rome, had sufficient time and convenience to have settled a church in Britain. In one of his epistles, St Jerome says, that“ France, and Britain, and Africa, and Persia, and the East, and India, and all barbarous nations, adore one Christ, and observe one rule of truth.Venantius, in his Life of St Martin, says,

St Paul did pass the seas, where isle
Makes ships in harbour stand,
Arriving on the British coast,

And cape of Thule land. It appears, then, that the Christian faith was introduced, and a church planted in South Britain, now called England, by St Paul, the great apostle of the Gentiles. It is unreasonable to suppose that he would settle a different order of church government in Britain than he had established everywhere else. We have Jerome's testimony, that every country observed the same rule of truth. All the churches planted by the apostles were in full communion with each other. All “ continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” While the Roman empire stood, the intercourse between every part of it was easy and frequent, and therefore any

difference in doctrine or discipline could be easily ascertained. But we read of none. We must conclude, therefore, that the government of the British churches would be the same as the churches of all other countries, with whom they were in full communion. “ This government,” says Dr Lloyd, a learned antiquary, " was unquestionably a diocesan episcopacy, not only in name, but in authority, the same as is now in these kingdoms.' We see, then, that a branch of the Christian church was introduced into Britain by the apostle Paul. Bishops descending from him sat in some of the earliest councils. At the council of Arles, in France, in the year 314, Restitutus, bishop of London, with two other bishops, sat and subscribed the canons. This council was held soon after the tenth general persecution, and before there could be any of those temptations of secular greatness, which are said to have introduced corruptions, and altered the primitive government of the church. There were some British bishops present at the council of Sardica, in the year 347, and also at the council of Ariminum.

After the final departure of the Romans, the ancient British were reduced to great distress by their warlike neighbours in the north. They


* Dr Lloyd's Historical Account of Church Government, as it was in Great Britain and Ireland, when they first received the Christian religion.

« PreviousContinue »