« PreviousContinue »
A Defence of the Ancient British Church. In Reply to certain
Errors intended to be received as Truths by the Author of the “Life of St. Austin." Edited under the superintendence of the Rev. H. J. NEWMAN. By a Welsh CLERGY
MAN. London: Painter. 1844. A few short years ago, and we should have regarded this work as one of supererogation, a superabundant effort to prove a point already sufficiently clear to all educated minds—the existence of an apostolical branch of Christ's Universal Church in England long before the landing of Pope Gregory's missionary on the shores of the Isle of Thanet. The appearance, however, of a series of Papistical biographies, which we have noticed in another portion of our reviewing department, shows that the labours of the “ Welsh Clergyman" are not superfluous. The writer of the “ Life of St. Augustine of Canterbury, Apostle of the English,” does not indeed venture to deny the existence of a British Church before Augustine's arrival, but he so disparages its purity and laboriousness as to invest the Roman missionary's preaching with the character of a first visit to an entirely Pagan population. It has been for many ages the pleasant belief of many pious and learned Englishmen, that the great Apostle of the Gentiles himself bore the glad tidings of salvation to our heathen forefathers; and those who were not satisfied of this fact, still believed that some of St. Paul's or St. Peter's companions first sowed the seeds of Christianity in Britain ; but Mr. Newman's anonymous workmen designate Pope Gregory “the spiritual father of England,” and treat all prior labours as of little moment. The monkish legends which are repeated in the “ Life of St. Augustine of Canterbury” with the utmost gravity, and occasionally in a tone of rebuke, because a sceptical generation will no longer recognize them as worthy of belief, are ably examined by the “Welsh Clergyman” in the little pamphlet before us. His obvious familiarity with the language, literature, and antiquities of Wales well qualified him for the task he undertook, which, in our opinion, he has satisfactorily performed.
Confirmation : Scriptural, Apostolical, Primitive. Being the
substance of a Sermon preached in the Parish Church of Kettering, Northamptonshire. By C. H. Bingham, M.A.,
Curate, late of Caius Coll., Cambridge. London: Painter. A SENSIBLE, orthodox exposition of the sacred ordinance of confirmation, well fitted to explain its character.
W. E. Painter, 342, Strand, London, Printer.
CHURCH OF ENGLAND
Art. I.-The Scriptural Evidence of the Apostolic Ministry,
and Tradition of the Church Catholic. By Henry PHIBBS FRY, A.B., of St. George's, Hobart Town, Van Diemen's
Land. Printed at the 6 Advertiser" Office. 1843. 2. Notes on the Episcopal Polity of the Holy Catholic Church.
With some Account of the Development of the Modern Religious Systems. By THOMAS WILLIAM MARSHALL, B.A., Curate of Swallowcliffe and Ansty, in the Diocese of Salisbury.
London: Burns. 1844. 3. Dialogus Divi Johanni Chrysostomi de Sacerdotio. The
Treatise of John Chrysostom on the Priesthood. Translated by EDWARD G. MARSH, M.A., Canon of Southwell, and
Vicar of Aylesford. London: Seeley. 1844. 4. Die Anfänge der Christlichen Kirche. Wittenburg: Rich.
WE believe that it has not been from anything like thorough conviction that persons have been induced to join themselves to the Church of Rome, in these days; nor from a preference arrived at by deliberate examination of the opposed doctrines of Protestants and Papists; neither has it arisen altogether from a predetermination to slight the Reformers—that so many, in these last days, have seemed to be straying in the direction of Rome; but it has rather arisen from the agitation of questions which had not been presented under the same aspect during the time of the Reformation, and were not fairly grappled with in
the writings of the Reformers, yet which had been discussed among the multifarious controversies of the Roman Church, and have been there decided in her usual dogmatical way. It is a relief to some minds to find that others have been troubled in the same way as themselves; and hope is excited by hearing that the questions have been decided. And even if it should be perceived that matters were not finally settled, and that such questions could not be satisfactorily decided in this dogmatical way, yet it would be a relief to find that they had been entertained, and any discussion of them would hold out a hope that out of it something might arise which would enable us to advance further than they did towards a true determination of such questions: even if it should not be in our power completely and finally to settle them, we might get somewhat nearer the truth, and might be somewhat more at ease.
The Reformers found the Church in a dungeon dark as Erebus, in which for centuries she had been imprisoned. They had enough, and more than enough, to occupy all their thoughts in the great practical work which lay before them. They were men struggling for life; they were making way for the Church to breathe once more the fresh air of heaven, and look again upon the glorious sun from beneath that load of corruption which had weighed her down. That was not a time for speculation, nor had they the leisure to engage in it. But the questions to which we allude are speculative, yet appear simple, and when first entertained seem to involve no practical consequences, but to leave all our responsibilities and all our active duties untouched. Yet it is soon found out that they are really so complicated as to require long continued and uninterrupted attention, and to involve practical consequences little dreamt of, altering, perhaps, the whole future current of life-separating bosom friends, and, in place of reciprocations of love, planting the odium theologicum between them.
Many a man who has unwittingly engaged in such speculations as these, from not being aware of their difficulty, and not suspecting how incompetent he may be, for want of some previous training, is so taken by surprise as to be overpowered by the confidence and apparent mastery of the Roman casuists. He is secretly glad to relieve himself from any further anxiety on subjects which he has found to be beyond his reach; and discovering that they have already been entered into by Rome, and discussed with great subtlety, and very authoritatively decided, he yields to that authority, and concedes the point from which every
other concession must follow. Rome becomes his mistress, and whatsoever Rome decides or commands becomes law to him.
In settling such questions, the writings of the fathers afford us very little available help, simply because the Church had not then arrived at such a condition of extent or general recognition as to give rise to such questions as those which are especially Papal. And the other more general questions, such as those concerning apostolic succession, episcopacy, or tradition, were then matters of fact, and not of opinion. They needed no discussion in order to ascertain the meaning or limits of these things; they had the things subsisting in living men, deriving their authority from the first founders of our faith-they had no such questions, and therefore help us little therein.
The early Church could scarcely have formed a conception of some of the questions which most deeply agitate ns: and even the Reformers, if they could have turned from the great practical work in which they were engaged, and could have commanded the leisure necessary for such discussions as these, were scarcely in a condition to understand how they could ever assume the importance which they have since attained, so as to treat them as questions in which the Church had a direct and immediate interest. They were struggling for existence-to be let alone was their great desire; they were but too happy in having nothing to do with Rome; they thought not of instituting a comparison between themselves and Rome in these matters, since they had them only in common with Rome, and had brought out whatsoever they had from thence, or rather from that one Catholic Church of which they regarded themselves to have been, and still continuing to be, a vital and integral part. Such of the reformed as had bishops among them gladly continued the Episcopal succession, rejoicing in their good fortune; such as had not, should rather be compassionated as having been precluded from that advantage by adverse circumstances more than by choice, and as objects for condolence, not subjects of contumely and reproach.
There are, we repeat it, questions now arising for the solution of which the past history of the Church furnishes no sufficient parallel. They are far deeper than any that occurred at the time of the Reformation--far more spiritual than those which first divided the Greek and Latin Churches, and still keep them asunder---far more difficult and complicated than any of those questions which had arisen in the earlier and simple ages of Christianity. They are wide as the purpose of God-deep as the very foundations of the Church: and they are questions which will be more and more forced upon us, and which we must prepare ourselves to answer in a satisfactory manner.
It is a time of trial--it is a call for the exercise of faith-it is a
crisis requiring each one of us to be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might. “Deep calleth unto deep, at the noise of thy water-spouts (may now be the language of the Church). All thy waves and thy billows are gone over me. Yet the Lord will command his loving-kindness in the day time, and in the night his
song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life. Why art thou cast down, O my soul ! and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance and my God.”
The right apprehending of apostolical succession and of the standing of the Christian priesthood lies at the foundation of all the questions to which we have alluded, being a right understanding of all that is included in the article, “I believe one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.” Every community, every congregation of Christians professes to explain it, and assumes that they are unquestionably of the Church. Each portion of the Church thus explains the article in its own favour, and in so doing virtually excludes the other portions of the Church; each would give a different definition of the article, and becomes itself excluded by other definitions; and the Catholic Church, which is theoretically asserted to be everywhere, is found to be practically recognized nowhere. For the Greek Church, pluming itself on its sole orthodoxy, cuts off the whole Latin Church; and those who hold of St. Peter claim to be the only Apostolic Church, and cut off all others: the Protestants, making holiness the mark of the Church, abjure Rome as full of corruption and deadly error; and Rome, glorying in its unity, regards all who are not in communion with her as out of the pale of salvation. Yet there is a sense in which all these parties are, up to a certain point, Catholic, having been constrained, by the unvarying and universal voice of the Church, to regard BAPTISM as the only visible and ostensible mark of separation between the Church and the world—baptism, whether by priest or laymanbaptism by any Christian. And baptism, whether by Paul or his ministers, 'is equally valid, not being into Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, but into Christ: it surely places every baptized person within the pale of the Church, and under divine ordinances; and places all, in this respect, on a footing of perfect equality,
The beginning of our Church existence--the commencement of our Christian life--can be placed nowhere else, save at baptism; and therefore it is only to the baptized, only to those who are thus brought into the Church, that the questions we speak of are of any importance, or can be made, properly speaking,