Page images
PDF
EPUB

that can be clearly proved by Scripture; all that was drawn out thence into the ancient summaries; all that was defined in the first four general Councils; all that was held necessary to salvation, or practised in the way of discipline, during the first 600 years. Do they insist on the importance of unity? So do we.-Do they rightly uphold Church authority, as necessary for the maintenance of it? We assert the same. Do they dread to quit the communion of the Catholic Church? We have the same apprehension, and only wonder how men, with this opinion, can venture, for the question of a Church monarchy, to separate themselves from three-fourths of the Christian world. Are they for Traditions? So are we. Not for the partial Traditions of a particular Church, at variance with those of other Churches ;-which discrepancy is alone a sufficient proof of some defect in the channel of communication ;--but of such Traditions as have been always, and every where, received by all bodies of Christians. Do they quote to us the testimony of regard paid by the Fathers to the Church of Rome? We join in those sentiments of veneration to that Church, as she then existed, and wait only for her return to primitive purity of doctrine and simplicity of discipline, once more to render her our respectful homage. We still consider her a true, though an erring member of the Church of Christ; but dare not acknowledge her even in her purity, as the Church of Christ itself; and though we might tolerate her corruptions, so

far as not to interrupt Church fellowship, we refuse to have them obtruded on us as articles of faith, and made the conditions of communion. As to ecclesiastical polity, we have preserved that form of Church government, which was adopted without material variation for fifteen centuries, and which is admitted by the Church of Rome to have been of Apostolical institution.

Such are the happy materials for union amongst those, who now differ so widely in their creeds, and in their discipline. And such is the principle of separation, which prevents the adoption of those common maxims of enquiry, which might lead to an agreement in the main points, and to mutual forbearance and charity respecting inferior questions.

It is not, perhaps, to be expected, that an entire change of opinion would at once take place; and that Romanists, in renouncing the jurisdiction of a foreign Bishop, would immediately adopt every determination in our Articles; but that obstacle to free enquiry removed, mutual toleration and free commu, nication of opinion, would abate many difficulties; and time itself, the great moderator of controversy, and "the mother of truth," would daily draw together in closer bands of charity, and in nearer approximation of doctrine, those who now stand so wide asunder. Were it not for the interdiction of the Pope, there is no principle which forbids the Romanists to worship God in the words of our Liturgy, formed, as it is, on the model of the

primitive Offices; or even to join in the use of our Sacraments; to one of which they have no objection, and of the other, they might conscientiously participate, although regarding the mode of Christ's presence differently from ourselves.-That this is not a visionary notion is manifest, from many of the Romanists having used our Services without scruple, during the first twelve years of Elizabeth's reign, and from the Pope himself having proposed to sanction them. What was then voluntarily done, and justified in the writings of many Romanists, and proposed to be done with the Pope's approbation, might still be done, on the supposition, that he had not a divine right to prohibit the doing of it. In what estimation our Liturgy was formerly held, and is probably still held by moderate Romanists, may be learned from the following fact related by Bishop Bramhall.-"Father Paul Harris (a Romanist, violent enough) hath often said to me, that if we had retained the Liturgy used in Edward VI.'s time, he would not have forborne to come to our communion." Works, p. 638. Were the variations between these two Liturgies, the only remaining obstacle in their way in using our Offices, it might be confidently anticipated, that there would be a speedy end to their schismatical separation.

If it be asked, by what name, Christians, professing so much in common with the Church of England, and holding communion with her

in her most sacred Services, though still retaining practices and opinions, to which she is a stranger, should be designated; I answer,their designation isto me a matter of indifference, so that it be one of honour; a designation significant of their love of unity having prevailed over a partial regard to opinions of inferior moment. I am sure, that they would then truly deserve the name of Catholics. An union of this kind, soon to grow into a closer connexion, would repay the Church of England for her moderation.

For my own part, I know of no more glorious career than that which now offers itself to the enlightened Romanists. In renouncing the Papal jurisdiction, they would, no doubt, be stigmatized as heretics by the Court of Rome; but they would be hailed with the warmest approbation by the Church of England;-their age would be quoted as a new era of happiness for Ireland, second only in importance to that of the Reformation; and their names, like those of our Reformers, would descend with blessings to the latest posterity, as the disinterested emancipators of their country, and as the true conciliators of her unhappy differences.

Expergiscimini itaque, viri eruditi, et quod ratio postulat, nec refragatur religio, strenuè agite. Hoc bonorum subditorum erga regem suum officium, Christianorum erga Episcopos suos, heu! nimium extraneorum tyrannide oppressos, pietas exigit, flagitat, requirit.

Excutite tandem jugum istud, quod nec patres vestri nec vos ferre potuistis. Hic ad Reformationem non prætensam, sed veram, sed justam, sed necessariam, Ecclesiæ nostræ primus fuit gradus:........En nobis promptum ac paratum exemplum, quod sequi vobis gloriosum, nec minus posteris vestris utile fuerit!.... ............. In hoc pacis fundamento, si inter nos semel conveniatur, in cæteris aut idem sentiemus omnes, aut facile alii aliis dissentiendi libertatem, absque pacis jactura, concedemus." Archbishop Wake's Correspond. in Appendix to vol. 6. of Mosheim's Eccl. Hist.

« PreviousContinue »