Page images
PDF
EPUB

Bickersteth, of the Dean of Westminster and of the Bishop of London. Let us hope, my Lord, that one day, and soon, we shall be all, by grace, seated at one table, where for admission it will not be asked, ' Are you of Calvin, or of Brown, or of Wesley, or of Luther, or of Cranmer?' but. Are you of Christ?'

“A third property which appears to me wanting in your Church is autonomy, or self-government. This quality is an essential one for every Christian Church, and is a fundamental one in every human society. There is no society which does not govern itself by itself, its representatives, its delegates. A society which should be governed by another society would scarcely deserve the name; in any case it would be an enslaved and not a free society. I have no doubt upon the principle in general; the self-government of the Church is to me a fixed principle. But in so far as regards the application of this principle to your Church, the moment when its application should be made, the manner in which it should be realized, then I feel the need of speaking with reserve and discretion, and of submitting my views to men more enlightened than myself, and to you, my Lord, in particular. I do not hesitate to say that this subject is of the highest importance ; that it merits the attention of your bishops, your presbyters, your laity; of the ministry of your Queen, and of your Parliament; but, I repeat it, I put far from me all absolute dogmatism, and I content myself with humbly submitting my views.

“Everywhere the Church of Rome is agitating, and its hierarchy shows new vigour. On the European continent, in America, in India, in Otaheite, in China-but no where, perhaps, more than in England. Prayers are instituted for your conversion, and the Romanists cry loudly: 'Let us but gain England, and the Reformation is gone.'

The same movement took place at the end of the sixteenth and in the seventeenth century, by the same power of the Jesuits. The result was the almost complete destruction of Protestantism in France, and important successes in other countries. The Papacy has now for some time flattered herself that she will destroy Protestantism in England. Mr. Ranke, in his History of the Popes, has sketched some of the phases of this restoration of catholicism. The Church fell off. My Lord, we must be on our guard so to act that a new seventeenth century come not to afflict the friends of the Gospel.

“ In this new contest of the nineteenth century the Church of England has to sustain the rudest conflict. But if this Church has no government of its own, it is surely placed in the most unfavourable circumstances. It is like a ship exposed to the storms of the ocean, without pilot and without helm.

To leave the Church of England without a government of its own, in the circumstances in which we are placed, is not to do it justice; it is to place it in a position of inferiority, and to deliver it up to imminent dangers. And more than this, I see indeed in England Episcopal churches, a certain number of dioceses in juxta-position, but I cannot see there a Church of England forming one single body:

“The Catholic emancipation of 1829 renders a change necessary in the government of the Church of England. I am not speaking either for or against. I take it as a fact. Roman Catholics sit in Parliament, Dissenters the same. The Parliament is no longer fitted to be the court before which the interests of the Church should be debated.

“ What! the Protestant Church governed by a council in which many sit who are devoted to the Pope! The celebrated O'Connell and his partisans legislators for the Reformed Church! Our Reformers would have recoiled from such a thought; and I cannot think that any Protestant can resign himself easily to such a state of things. It is as absurd, it is even more absurd, for the Protestant Church to be governed by a body partly composed of Roman Catholics, than it would be for the state of Great Britain to be go. verned by a body partly composed of Frenchmen and of Prussians.

“Until 1829, self-government-this law essential to every society-existed,

though perhaps imperfectly, in the Church of England. In truth the Parliament was a part of the Church; and it is only in this quality that it had the right to govern it. But can one now say that the Parliament of England is of the Anglican Church? Certainly not. It cannot then govern the Anglican Church. The immediate consequence of the Act of 1829 should have been the creation of a new government of the Church. It is virtually contained in the emancipation; it could have been only delayed. The corollary should now be disengaged from the theorem. But if this were an advantage to the Church, it were possibly a still greater advantage for the government and for Parliament.

“The Roman Catholic emancipation is not an isolated fact; it is the commencement of a long series of facts; it is also the beginning of a new order of things. The government is no longer exclusively Protestant; the Roman Catholics are admitted into the interests of the nation; the government must think of them. I do not think, my Lord, that one can impute to your ministry this change. New times bring new combinations; the ministry follows the march of the age, it does not precede it. We must be just towards all, and particularly towards men in power. But how will your government be able to combine its quality of head of the Protestant Church with its new duties towards Roman Catholics and Dissenters? It is, I think, impossible. The line which it adopts must produce a constant irritation in one party of the nation. If the Parliament were to be re-elected now, the Maynooth Bill might change the majority of the House of Commons, and so even overthrow the ministry. The government, with these complicated interests, will continually have difficulties and enemies, and will see itself, at a moment when least expected, compelled to retire. Its situation must be simplified, and I think that its situation would be considerably simplified were an ecclesiastical government created distinct from the civil government. This would take away from the ministry a burden of thorns, which they ought not to regret. The difficulties have already been great, but from year to year they will increase.

“ Parliament, too, would be relieved. It loves not religious discussionsit is ill at ease when they occur; they are, so to speak, impossible. What sort of a government for a society is that which cannot discuss the interests of that society? Can there be a more striking contradiction? One of the leading statesmen of England said lately, that ecclesiastical matters should not be discussed theologically, but politically. Such a declaration decides the question. What would a society charged with presiding over the sciences be, in which questions on natural philosophy, astronomy, chemistry, had to be discussed, not according to science, but according to politics? The case that I now adduce is, nevertheless, even more extraordinary still.

“The Church of Rome has a government of its own; each Dissenting Church the same : the Anglican Church alone has none. The government that she has is a political government-a mixed government, composed of her friends and her enemies. What a privilege! Truly she would have everything to gain in ceasing to be the National Church.

The same state of things occurred three years ago at Geneva. In consequence of a revolution, the Roman Catholics entered in great number into the Councils of the nation, which until then had been the supreme government of the Reformed Church, With some friends I was shocked at the idea of a Reformed Church governed by a Council partly Popish. I published successively five pamphlets on the question. All politicians were agreed that such a state of things could not exist; and the constitution created a body composed of twenty-four Protestant laymen and fifteen ecclesiastics, to which were remitted all the powers that had formerly belonged to the Council.

Geneva is a very small example; but I do not hesitate to say that I think a similar moment has arrived for England.

It is to the Parliament that ecclesiastical power now belongs-it is for

the Parliament to act. The Parliament should constitute an exclusively Protestant and Anglican body, to whom it should remit all its powers for the government of the Church.

Of whom should this body be composed ?

“In the history of the government of the English Church there are two great periods.

“During the first, which reaches until the last century (if I mistake not under George I.), the ecclesiastical government was purely clerical. It was a convocation composed of a chamber of bishops and of a chamber of presbyters. This government did not prosper; the Jacobite presbyters quarrelled with the Whig bishops. Its powers were taken away; and, in reality, a government purely clerical is without doubt the most defective of all ecclesiastical governments.

“ Then commenced the second epoch. Parliament adopted the attributes of the convocation ; an almost purely lay government succeeded the first, It is evident, for the reasons which have been before set forth, that this government can no longer go on.

“But if these two systems, which are both extremes, are both equally defective, I think there is a third which will be found the right one.

It is a middle system-a combination of the two preceding-a government partly lay and partly ecclesiastical.

" I shall not enter into details. Should there be two houses, as in the Episcopal Church of America—the one of bishops, the other presbyters and lay deputies; or should there be only one, as in the ancient councils of the Church?- I will not enter upon this. It would be easy to take precautions that all political tendencies should be forbidden to this body, and this doubtless would not even be necessary. In America a similar body produces no inconvenience in regard to the state. Everywhere in our day similar wants are felt. The Church which perhaps resembled most the English Church, by its want of self-government, was the Prussian Church. The king has felt it. This truly Christian prince has just caused all the ministers of the different circles (or counties) of his monarchy to be assembled in synods; each circle separately, and has put before them these three questions :-Should these synods meet regularly? Should lay members be added? Should there be a general synod for the whole Prussian Church? Unanimously, if I am not mistaken, have they replied in the affirmative to these three questions. These replies are now before the king, and the organization of the Prussian Church will, doubtless, not long be waited for. When all is advancing, shall the Church of England alone remain stationary?

“ Without doubt the distinguished man who now presides over the Government of England, and who has been sometimes reproached for measures which appeared contrary to the Protestant interests, will show-by attention to the wants of the Church, and by following perhaps in some respects the conduct of the illustrious monarch who presented for baptism the heir of your three kingdoms--that he has, on the contrary, a sincere and active love for the Protestant Church.

Apostolicity, Catholicity, the self-government of the Church-such were, --my Lord, and very Reverend Father, the three points on which, in taking leave of you and England, I desired humbly to express my opinions. You will easily have recognized that they are precisely the three favourite points of a party that now occupies a commanding position in one of your universities, from which I am certainly very far removed, but whose talents, acquirements, and zeal nothing shall prevent my recognizing; If these three principles could bring those near who are separated—if the distinguished men of whom I speak could come to the true apostolicity--the true Catholicity—the true self-government of the Church, I should experience lively joy.

“A good ecclesiastical government may be useful, and very useful to the 1846.

2 X

Church. Let us not, however, forget that the Church can be blessed under the most defective government, and that even with the most perfect administrative system, the thing essential, the thing necessary, is the communication of the Spirit from on high; it is faith, charity, and living Christianity.

“ In taking leave of you, then, my Lord, I implore the blessing of God upon you, upon your Church, upon this great nation. If the government can no more be exclusively Protestant, let the nation at least show itself more and more Christian. 'If men in power see themselves obliged, by a change of times, to withdraw from many positions which the Protestant state of England formerly occupied, these positions must not remain empty; men of faith must hasten to occupy them. My Lord, continental Christians depend for the triumph of God's kingdom, in all the earth, first of all, on the power of him who has said, 'that the gates of hell shall not prevail against his Church;" but they depend also, I must say it, on the Christian people of England. It is not for nothing that God has given you ships, which cover the seas, and can bear to the whole habitable world the good news of salvation. We do not seek the aid of your cannon, as Rome did at Otaheite the cannon of France. Triumphs like these are disgraceful for those who gain them, and we utterly reject them. We know that our weapons must not be carnal, but those that are mighty through the power of God. But we know also that the Christians of England have received much, and that much will be required of them. May God, then, shed on your people a fresh measure of his Spirit, and may Christian England, the nation which God has chosen amongst you, be to the world, that city set upon a hill, whose light cannot be bid,' but filleth the whole universe.

“Receive, my Lord, and very Reverend Father, the expression of respect with which I remain your devoted servant and brother in Christ our Head.

(Signed) “J. H. MERLE D'AUBIGNE.." We proposed from the volume before us to give a few parallel readings. The following may be taken as specimens. We quote them in their order as they have struck us, leaving it to our readers to arrange them under their several heads as explanatory of Dr. D’Aubigné's views, and as connected, more or less directly, with the particular announcement and application of them which we have just quoted at length. They will appear more natural as detached historical sketches, in their relation to the author's work.

The crisis of the German Reformation, with reference to the leading principles developed at Spires and Augsburg, is thus described.

“ We have witnessed,” he observes, “the commencement, the struggles, the reverses, and the progress of the Reformation : but the conflicts that we have hitherto described have been partial; we are entering upon a new period, -that of general battles. Spires (1529) and Augsburg (1530) are two names that shine forth with more immortal glory than Marathon, Pavia, or Marengo. Forces that up to the present time were separate, are now uniting in one energetic band; and the power of God is working in these brilliant actions, which open a new era in the history of nations, and communicate an irresistible impulse to mankind. The passage from the middle ages to modern times has arrived.

“A great protest is about to be accomplished; and although there have been Protestants in the Church from the very beginning of Christianity, since

liberty and truth could not be maintained here below, save by protesting continually against despotism and error, Protestantism is about to make a new step. It is about to become a body, and thus attack with greater energy that 'mystery of iniquity, which for ages has taken a bodily shape at Rome, in the very temple of God.

“But although we have to treat of protests, it must not however be imagined that the Reformation is a negative work. In every sphere in which any thing great is evolved, whether in nature or society, there is a principle of life at work,--a seed that God fertilizes. The Reformation, when it appeared in the 16th century, did not, it is true, perform a new work,- for a reformation is not a formation; but it turned its face toward the beginning of Christendom,-thither were its steps directed; it seized upon them with adoration, and embraced them with affection. Yet it was not satisfied with this return to primitive times. Laden with its precious burden, it again crossed the interval of ages, and brought back to fallen and lifeless Christianity the sacred fire that was destined to restore it to light and life. In this twofold movement consisted its action and its strength. Afterwards, no doubt, it rejected superannuated forms, and combated errors; but this was, so to speak, only the least of its works, and its third movement. Even the protest of which we have to speak, had for its end and aim the re-establishment of truth and of life, and was essentially a positive act.

“ This powerful and rapid twofold action of reform, by which the apostolic times were re-established at the opening of modern history, proceeded not from man. A reformation is not arbitrarily made, as charters and revolutions are in some countries. A real reformation, prepared during many ages, is the work of the Spirit of God. Before the appointed hour, the greatest geniuses and even the most faithful of God's servants cannot produce it: but when the reforming time is come, when it is God's pleasure to intervene in the affairs of the world, the divine life must clear a passage, and it is able to create of itself the humble instruments by which this life is communicated to the human race. Then, if men are silent, the very stones will cry out."(pp. 1-3.)

The constitution of the Church, as one of the main questions of this period, is thus introduced. Having described the famous “ Sack of Rome,” the history proceeds

“Thus did the pontifical city expire in the midst of a long and cruel pillage; and that splendour with which Rome, from the beginning of the sixteenth century, had filled the world, faded in a few hours. Nothing could preserve this haughty city from chastisement, not even the prayers of its enemies. 'I would not have Rome burnt,' Luther had exclaimed, “it would be a monstrous deed.' The fears of Melancthon were still keener; 'I tremble for the libraries,' said he; 'we know how hateful books are to Mars. But in despite of these wishes of the reformers, the city of Leo X. fell under the judgment of God.

* Clement VII., besieged in the castle of St. Angelo, and fearful that the enemy would blow his asylum into the air with their mines, at last capitulated. He renounced every alliance against Charles the Fifth, and bound himself to remain a prisoner until he had paid the army four hundred thousand ducats. The Evangelical Christians gazed with astonishment on the judgment of the Lord. Such,' said they, is the empire of Jesus Christ, that the Emperor pursuing Luther on account of the Pope, is constrained to ruin the Pope instead of Luther. All things minister unto the Lord, and turn against his adversaries.'

“And, in truth, the reform needed some years of repose that it might increase and gain strength; and it could not enjoy peace, unless its great enemies were at war with each other. The madness of Clement VII was, as

« PreviousContinue »