Page images

(Vol. I. p. 404.) « The Presbyterians of Scotland voluntarily - separated themselves from the Catholic Church ”....“ they form no part of the Church of Christ.” (Vol. I. p. 577.)

These passages explain why the subject under consideration was not stated to be," the visible church,” or “the catholic church.” Had this been given as the topic, in the first instance, it would have been scarcely possible, with a serious face, to declare the Church of Scotland, the Church of Sweden, the Church of Holland, and many others, to form no portion of " the visible church." But by using the uncertain term,“ the Church of Christ," a way is opened for these sentences of excommunication, with less appearance of intolerance or absurdity.

· After all, however, when we speak of “the Church of Christ," we must adopt one of these two of Mr. Palmer's definitions :-“ the whole Christian body or society, considered as composed of " its vital and essential members, the elect and sanctified children " of God :"-or,—the whole society of Christians throughout the “ world, including all who profess their belief in Christ, and are “ subject to lawful pastors.” (Vol. I. p. 4). We repeat,—when we speak of the Church of Christ, we must mean one of these two things, and we cannot mean both of them at the same time. We speak either of the Visible or Catholic Church, or of the Invisible or Spiritual Church. But Mr. Palmer's book treats of the Visible or Catholic Church ;-not of the Invisible. And we shall proceed to shew, that, so viewed, his descriptions and boundary marks are all erroneous.

The Visible or Catholic Church is variously described in Scripture. St. Paul writes to one church, Ephesus, where he had set in authority a bishop chosen by himself, and to whom he gives full directions how to behave himself” in “ the church of the living God” (1 Tim. iii. 15). But he writes to another,--Corinth, wherein it is clear that no such government existed; for he complains of their strife and divisions (1 Cor. i. 12), and requires their “ submission,”-not to any one bishop, but to various persons commended by him (1 Cor. xvi. 10–16). In Crete he places a bishop, Titus :--but to Philippi he writes, saluting the “bishops and deacons,”—and distinguishing no presiding authority. In like manner St. John addresses, in each of the Asiatic churches, the elder, or bishop. But he condemns more than one of these churches,-bishop and people, as “ dead,” “ lukewarm," and in danger of utter condemnation. And in another place, he speaks of Diotrephes, the ruler or bishop of a church, as a tyrannical and persecuting despot. Thus, we find in the New Testament, various outlines of church government; and we find also churches, ad

directio (1 Tim.lear that noivisions (1 Chop, but to rete he plashops

dressed as such by apostles themselves, sometimes in danger of Divine rejection, and sometimes ruled over by capricious tyrants.

As a general result, then, we may say, that the apostles did not speak of the Visible Church as consisting solely of pure and holy members :-or as governed and guided by any one model or system of discipline or government. On the contrary, sometimes the bulk of the members are blamed,-sometimes the ruler or overseer; And there are tolerably clear indications of different systems and modes of organization, in different churches. Hence we should say, that the idea of the Visible or Catholic Church, which we gather from Scripture,—is merely that of the baptized professors in every place, who, under various circumstances, publicly adhered to Christ as their Lord.

Mr. Palmer, however, constructs a variety of conditions, by the operation of which he excludes almost all the Reférmed Churches. Thus he says, “ Every Church of Christ must be able to prove, “ that it perpetually existed as a Christian society from the apos“ tolic times, or that when founded, it was derived peaceably from “ the apostolic churches ; or was received and acknowledged as a “ Church by such."-(Vol. I. p. 383.)

“It is as impossible that there should be two particular churches “ in the same place, as two universal churches in the world.”-(Vol. I. p. 68.)

If it can be shewn, that any society of professing Christians “ was originally founded by the apostles, or the churches they in

stituted; that this society has been always visible; that it has “ never voluntarily separated itself from the great body of the “ church, or was excommunicated by any regular or valid judg“ment, then it follows that such a society must be a portion of “ the Church of Christ, as far as it can be proved such from the “unity of communion.”—(Vol. I. p. 71.)

The drift of all these provisos evidently is, to remove the question from the ground of doctrine, on which our Church places it, —and to involve us in “ endless genealogies."

But it is very strange that the principal and leading definition given by our Church, of the term “ Catholic CHURCH”—should be constantly overlooked by Mr. Palmer and all his friends. It runs thus :

“ We pray for the good estate of the Catholic Church ; that it may be guided and governed by thy good Spirit, that all who " profess and call themselves Christians, may be led into the way “ of truth, and hold the faith in unity of spirit, in the bond of “ peace, and in righteousness of life.”

[blocks in formation]

Thus we perceive, beyond doubt or dispute, from the language of the framers of our Liturgy:

1. That our Church considers the Catholic Church to be formed of “ all who profess and call themselves Christians.”

2. That she considers them to be not all in “the way of truth," nor all “ holding the faith ;”—but prays that they may be led into that way, and brought to hold that faith.

3. That she prays also that they be brought to hold the faith “ in unity of spirit, and in the bond of peace.But she does not even ask, that they may be brought into unity of external form, or under the bond of an infallible authority.

Now all this is in admirable agreement with the language of our Article; which in defining the visible Church of Christ, and declaring who are lawful ministers, is careful to avoid all condemnation of Churches “ less perfectly organized” than our own.


TION EXAMINED, and proved to be contrary to the Scriptures, and the Practice of all the earliest and purest Churches, both Oriental and Western. By Thomas Smyth, D.D., Author of “ Lectures on the Apostolical Succession ;” “ Presbytery and not Prelacy the Scriptural and Primitive Polity;" &c. With an Appendix, on the duty of requiring a Public Profession of Religion. Edinburgh : Kennedy. London: Hamilton. 1845.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Those of our readers who may be curious to see what and how a Transatlantic presbyterian can write on the subject of confirmation and some kindred points, may furnish themselves with a very fair specimen in this little volume. We will frankly say it is a learned and able work : and can only regret that the prevalence of popish or semi-popish views on these and similar topics among not a few churchmen—views, too, in some cases maintained with much bitterness and bigotry-should give occasion to assaults, (perhaps we ought in fairness to call them defences, which cannot but inflict much injury upon a guiltless Church. In saying guiltless Church, we speak of our recognized formularies, understood in their true spirit and scope, and not as interpreted by those who from without view them in a false light, or by those who from within wrest them to our Church's injury and their own. We fear that what may be called the Scottish branch of the American Episcopalians, much like their brethren on the other side the Tweed, are great offenders in this respect; and while we would by no means justify Dr. Smyth and his brethren in the strong things they have said and written, it must in justice be allowed that the casus belli is not always on one side. The preface to Dr. S.'s treatise, (dedicated very characteristically “ to all who wish to be confirmed in the truth, and delivered from bondage to a rite by which they are confirmed in error and delusion,'') is as follows. It will explain what we have hinted in regard to the origin of the work, and convey a fair idea of its spirit.

" Few words," the author observes, " are necessary as a preface to this little work. It is short, but I trust conclusive ; and though the subject treated of is ' a small matter ' in itself, which in some circumstances we might overlook, yet when it is held forth as a sign and a mark of the true and only Church of Christ, it comes to be of supreme and infinite importance. And as confirmation, in this view of it, has been of late very boldly and prominently advocated, and the challenge offered to all who reject it, to give a reason for their faith, it becomes necessary as boldly and publicly to expose the unscripturality, the novelty, the absurdity, and the exceedingly dangerous character of

this Romish and prelatical rite. It has recently been enacted by certain inferior clergy,' very probably under the direction of their superior,' that henceforth no person who has not received prelatical regeneration by their water-baptism, and completed grace' by their confirmation, shall be admitted to their communion. This is a fair inference from prelatical premises, and, like them, is full of the gall of bitterness,' and of hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness.' But as some minds are very sensible to fear, and credulous of boldly assumed authority and power, it is necessary, in order to preserve such individuals from those who go about the streets, and into every house where they can gain admittance, not that they may win souls to Christ, but make proselytes to the Church,' not that they may make men' wise unto salvation,' but may instruct them in the dogmas of apostolical succes. sion, priestly power, and prelatical grace-not that they may build them up in a knowledge of the scriptures, but may enable them to get by heart, and to say, certain statements about the Church, confirmation, and suchlike formalities, or grosser errors; it is necessary to expose especially the nature of such conduct. We speak that which we know, and testify to that which we have seen.' 'But they shall proceed no further,' without at least a warning voice to them and their victims; 'for their folly shall be manifest unto all men,' as far as God shall please to give voice and power to this feeble effort to vindicate the truth of his word, the freeness of his grace, the spirituality of his worship, the reality of conversion and renewal in the Holy Ghost, and the all-sufficiency of his own appointed means and ordinances."-(pp. vii.-ix.)

The volume bears on the reverse of its title-page the following extracts.

“ Confirmation is too often so mistaken and perverted, as to become an empty and unmeaning form, or a dangerous snare."-(Archbishop Whateley, Charges and other Tracts, p. 93.)

The invention that was afterwards found out, by which the bishop was held to be the only minister of confirmation, was a piece of superstition, without

any colour from scripture.”—(Bishop Burnet on the Thirty-Nine Articles, p. 354.)

Properly, then, confirmation was a temporary usage, connected with a miraculous display. It is not a sacrament, nor would that Church be unapostolical which should reject it."-(History of the Rise and Progress of Christianity, by Dr. Hinds of Oxford, and Chaplain to Archbishop Whateley.)

We will give Dr. S. the benefit of all this, and yet contend for the apostolic rite of confirmation as soberly and scripturally understood, protesting withal as earnestly as he himself can do against its heretical and superstitious abuse. Nor is our view of its apostolical origin peculiar to us as Episcopalians. We have not Calvin at hand for reference, but we cannot be mistaken in the impression which former perusals have given us, that Calvin himself—that great Presbyterian father-admits that Heb. vi. 2, is alone sufficient to prove that this rite was of apostolical institution, and that therefore it ought to be still continued in the Church. However we are not intending to tilt it with our Presbyterian brother, and will therefore content ourselves with giving him another episcopal extract for the next edition of his work, and which may serve at

« PreviousContinue »