Page images
PDF
EPUB

PART II.

CHAP. III.

The alleged EXPEDIENCY of a Spiritual Supremacy, for the preservation of Unity in Faith and Discipline.

In considering the arguments of the Romanists for the universal supremacy of their Bishop, drawn from its expediency, as a means of preserving unity in faith and discipline, it should be kept in mind, that this expediency, even if it could be established, would not be a sufficient ground-work for the modern pretensions of the Bishop of Rome to an universal churchmonarchy:

We do not deny, that circumstances may be imagined, or that they may hereafter actually arise, in the christian world, under which it might be proved, or at least, plausibly urged, that an universal spiritual monarchy was the form of government best adapted to secure the well-being of the Church of Christ; or that under those supposed circumstances, it might become a matter of christian prudence or of religious policy, to conform to such an ecclesiastical institution :--the obligation to conformity would be correlative with the proof of its advantages. An universal civil monarchy seems to be the only state of things which is

EE

favourable to the supposition of an universal ecclesiastical supremacy.

Neither do we deny the power of independent christian communities, to associate themselves together under one Ecclesiastical Head, and to own submission to his spiritual sovereignty. But we totally deny the right of exacting obedience to this sovereignty from others who have not consented to its sway; and of obtruding, as an article of faith, and a condition of external communion, a form of ecclesiastical polity, which may be unsuited to their circumstances, and which is no where enjoined by precept, or sanctioned by practice, in Scripture. For our own part we are fully persuaded, that in the present state of things, with which alone we have to do, any accidental advantage arising out of such a scheme of Church government, would be greatly outbalanced by its inseparable evils; and that the universal establishment of it would be not only impolitic in a religious point of view, but impracticable, unless the penalties of the civil law, or the terrors of the Inquisition were resorted to, in order to exact a forced submission. We say further, that a trial of this form of ecclesiastical government has been made on a scale sufficiently extensive, and during a space of time sufficiently long, to manifest its practical defects. Whatever advantages, either civil or religious, other nations, or individuals, may suppose that it has produced, or that it is capable of producing,

the English Church felt herself obliged to throw off its yoke, which was become intolerable, and once more to resort to that form of Church government, which seems to have been instituted by the Apostles, and universally adopted by the Primitive Churches.

So far, therefore, from agreeing in the expediency of an universal monarchy in the Church, even if it could be established, we admire the prospective wisdom of our Saviour and his Apostles, in having no where pronounced as necessary to the existence of his Church, an union under one single magistrate; which, however plausible in pretence, and alluring in sound, as affording an external appearance of concord, has been found, by actual experiment, to be fraught with greater evils, than those partial inconveniences of dissent which it vainly professes to remove,

In fact, the very same objections lye against this spiritual supremacy, as against the unbounded extension of the civil power. The alleged analogy of the Jewish Church, fails in the very circumstances in which its support is most wanted;-the Jewish Church consisted of one small people; whose religion was its municipal law; and whose public worship was confined to one city:-the Christian Church comprises nations scattered over the face of the whole earth; its laws are purely spiritual; its worship may be performed every where; and its members owe allegiance to the princes of the countries where they dwell.

It must not, however, be concealed, that this Utopian organization of the whole Christian world under one supreme governor, and a regular subordination of ecclesiastical power derived from him, seem to have possessed attractions in the eyes of several eminent Protestants. The notion is specious; and there is the less wonder, that men, harrassed with the divisions of the Christian world, should have eagerly caught at any plausible expedient for concord. Amongst the most celebrated of these are Melancthon and Grotius, whose spe culations on this subject are ostentatiously brought forward by the Romanists, (End of Controv. letter 46.) as admissions on the part of enlightened adversaries, of the legitimacy of the Papal claims. Melancthon, in a project for moderating controversy, transmitted to Francis I. in the year 1536, allows, that it might be useful, in the way of ecclesiastical regimen, that a more extended jurisdiction should be conceded to some Bishops than to others, and a certain presidency over all Bishops granted to the Pope of Rome. With respect to such a platform of discipline, he thus expresses himself:-" Hanc canonicam politiam, ut ego existumo, nemo prudens improbat, neque improbare debet, si intra fines suos maneat.' He goes still further, and says, not only that such an arrangement might be tolerated, but even rendered serviceable in preserving a consent in doctrine, amongst many separate nations. "Prodesset etiam mco

وو

judicio illa monarchia R. Pontificis ad hoc, ut doctrinæ consensus retineretur in multis nationibus." Cons. de Moder. Controv.

Quare

The words of Grotius are these: nunc plane ita sentit Grotius, et multi cum ipso, non posse Protestantes inter se jungi, nisi simul jungantur cum iis qui Romanæ Sedi cohærent; sine qua nullum sperari potest in Ecclesia commune regimen: ideo optat, ut ea divulsio quæ evenit, et causæ divulsionis tollantur. Inter eas causas non est primatus Episcopi Romani secundum canones, fatente Melancthone, qui eum primatum etiam necessarium putat ad retinendam unitatem. Neque enim hoc est, Ecclesiam subjicere pontificis libidini, sed reponere ordinem sapienter institutum." Grotii Opera, tom. 4. p. 244.

Now, before the Romanists can be permitted to use these authorities, as making for their own cause, they must submit to argue the question of the Papal Supremacy, on those grounds of expediency and practicability, on which these declarations of Melancthon and Grotius were solely formed. The project of these great men imports, in point of fact, the renunciation, instead of the establishment, of the Papal claims. To make the rights of the Bishop of Rome a mere matter of ecclesiastical arrangement, and to found obedience to his See on the voluntary consent of Christian Churches, is in fact to overthrow the Popedom; the authority of which, it is pretended, is indefectible-whereas arrangement founded

« PreviousContinue »