« PreviousContinue »
receded on every hand, unsatisfied, but deferring the issue to another opportunity.
It has been clearly shown, by what has taken place, that the rulers of the Church, and in the University, are aware of the extent of error which needs correction; but that they have dealt gently, and refrained from interfering, except where it could no longer be delayed, in the charitable hope that the errors would soon become manifest to the parties themselves. And it was also probable, from the youth of many, and from symptoms too often apparent and unmistakable, that the immediate exercise of authority would drive ardent and rash men to extremities, and force them to decide with incomplete information ; and, coming to a hasty judgment, they might commit themselves to a line of conduct which, however much they might have reason to regret it in after life, would be, in most cases, absolutely irrevocable.
In all questions concerning ancient doctrines, or practices, or forms, our first temptation is, to look to Rome for deciding all questions in which Protestants are not directly at issue with her; and the fear is, lest, having overcome, as we imagine, our Protestant prejudices, we should fall into the snare of taking the judgment of Rome in all things, or, at the least, in all those things against which the Reformers have not directly and unequivocally pronounced their judgment. And when we thus far dally with Rome, it is possible we may be further seduced into agreement; it is possible that an ingenious man may be able to explain away differences which seem irreconcilable to ordinary minds—he may even persuade himself that the Thirty-nine Articles do not disagree with the canons of the Council of Trent. And when we remember the lofty pretensions to unity, unchangeableness, and Catholicity which are held out by Rome, such a person may be doing all this under the delusive idea that he is become more orthodox and more Catholic.
It is necessary, therefore, that all, and especially the young, should be put upon their guard, and be enjoined to furnish themselves with some scale or standard whereby they may test the principles and practices of the Church of Rome, many of which are confessedly not to be found in Scripture, or in the records of the primitive Church. And the more so, because Rome, in cases such as these, is wont to carry things with a very high hand, and insist upon it that she herself is the standard to which all other Churches are bound to conform ; and that, even in appealing to Scripture, or the early Church, her practice shows how these are to be interpreted and understood-how they are now understood by the Catholic Church, to which no private person can safely or wisely refuse to conform ; for everything found there is assumed to be right, until it is proved to be wrong. And we wish to avail ourselves of this pause in the movement, and of the present quiet in the Church, in bringing before our readers as many of these questions as our time and space will permit, that we may calmly examine them, and endeavour to ascertain by what principles each question is to be decided. And the question to which we would, on this occasion, direct the attention of our readers is that of symbolism and symbols, or “the sacramental principle,” as it has been loosely and indefinitely denominated by the Oxford writers. And we would first enquire what is really sought for by the introduction of symbols into the Church, and what are the true and legitimate desires in the hearts of those pious men who are requiring of the Church of England a greater reverence for forms and outward show, and a nearer approximation to the gorgeous and sensually-attractive ceremonial of the Church of Rome. And, on the other hand, would enquire how far we are warranted in protesting against any further approximation than we find already conceded and established in our canons and ritual; and whether
further concession may not turn devotion into a mere round of idle ceremonies with minds of the formal class, or with minds of another class, and such as cannot be satisfied with outward forms alone, but crave, and may be tempted to feign, a living reality, within and beyond the form-may turn the worship of God into the worship of a thing, and so generate gross palpable idolatry.
All men are impressible, to a great degree, through the senses; and in this point of view appropriate symbols, and even mere magnificence, may kindle devotion; and, where it already exists, may heighten its rapture, or deepen its pathos. But then the symbols must be regarded as the secondary, not the primary, consideration—they must be held subsidiary to worship, and not as taking its place—they must ever lead to God, and present him, above, beyond, distinct from all created things; and, while exalting our thoughts concerning him, leaving him still uppermost in our minds, and above our highest thoughts, or the symbols will become hindrances of, and substitutes for, not helps to, our devotion. But it is very observable that men differ from each other in their susceptibility, and the degree in which they are impressed by these sensible objects; and the kind of objects which help the devotions of one man may hinder the devotions of another-one may thus require, another reject, such adjuncts of devotion,
And these different effects do not in all cases arise from prejudice, or from wrong associations, but are, in most instances, to be ascribed to a natural difference of constitution; and this, observable not in different individuals only, but in different races of men. It may be affirmed, for instance, of the Italians, that their senses require to be engaged, at their devotions, in a greater degree than any other European nation; that not only is their whole soul drawn out in music, painting, &c., when they are engaged in these arts, but that they require these, or similar arts, which appeal to the senses, in order to draw out their whole soul for worship when they are engaged in devotion. But it may with equal truth be affirmed, that the fact is quite otherwise in the north of Europe ; and that the Germans, for instance, in their devotions, seek for abstraction of mind, and avoid any appeals to the senses, as interfering with that spiritual communion between God, who is a Spirit, and the spirits of men, which is to be regarded as the highest act of worship and the end of all devotion. Such general assertions as these, of course, will have exceptions, in numerous individuals, among the nations of the north and the south. The truth, we assert, is this--that there is a difference in men and in nations in these respects; and that we may not draw such sweeping inferences from the abundance or absence of outward signs of worship, as to condemn either party on that account, we must, on the one hand, avoid coming to the uncharitable conclusion, that where such forms are introduced as we may not require, there can be no spiritual worship among those who require them; and we must also protest against those who would call our devotions cold, merely because we have not all the forms and adjunets to which they may have been accustomed. We are sure that in the north, as well as in the south, there are minds of such a temperament as to be greatly assisted and strengthened in their devotions by the help of symbols and forms-it is our duty to consult the good of such persons in tolerating these things, so far as they are not pernicious to us and prejudicial to them, though we may not require such helps. Toleration with each other, in matters that are important to one party and indifferent to the other, may be reasonably required-may be charitably yielded. If it be expected that all men shall adopt and count of the same value things which are not of the same importance to all men, what can result from such intolerance but affectation, and hypocrisy, and rancour, all rendered only the more deep and deadly from being secret and insidious ?
We know, from the correspondence between Jewell and Hoopen, and many similar sources, that this kind of toleration
was evinced by the English Reformers respecting many of the practices which had crept into the Church, and to which people had become attached by long use. Where these practices were not based upon false doctrine, and tended not to superstition, these wise and charitable fathers of the Church let them remain, trusting to time, and the inculcation of sound doctrine, for preventing such practices from degenerating into superstition, and for clearing them of any false notions which foolish men had attached to such things. It would be a gross libel upon our fathers, to assert that all the practices of the Church which they suffered to remain, they therefore adopted, and adopted in the same sense and to the same extent as these practices are understood and applied by the Roman Catholics of the present day. The English Reformers carefully defined the meaning of all the things which they really adopted; and where they have not been thus careful, it may be inferred that they held the thing to be secondary, or even indifferent, and that liberty might be safely allowed to modify or dispenge with it, according to circumstances.
Many, even of those things which are enjoined in the rubrics and canons, are of this secondary nature, and enjoined for the sake of order and decency, or because they have been ordinarily used on such occasions ; not as sacramental_not as of the essence of the worship-not as of divine appointment. The surplices which students are to wear in worshipping, by the seventeenth canon; the reverent deportment of all other worshippers, enjoined in the eighteenth ; and the surplices, hoods, and tippets to be worn by those who may minister, by the fifty-eighth canon-all stand on the same footing of decency, comeliness, and ordinary propriety; nothing like a sacramental character is attributed to these things. And, forasmuch as they thought it right to retain the use of the sign of the cross in baptism-and this sign had been more especially turned into superstition and idolatry by the Church of Rome-they devote a long canon to their explaining the exact sense in which it was meant to be used in baptism--that it “is no part of the substance of that sacrament......doth neither add anything to the virtue and perfection of baptism, nor, being omitted, doth detract anything from the effect and substance of it." (Canon Xxx.) So that they were careful to guard even this, the most venerable, the most universal of the practices of the Church, and though employed in the administration of a sacrament, from being regarded as sacramental in itself, or from coming at all into competition with the two divinely instituted sacraments of the Christian Church,
The Puritans misunderstood, or misrepresented, these principles of the English Church, as if they arose from a leaning towards Popery, when all their acts showed that our Reformers drew the clearest distinction between the sacraments or institutions of divine appointment, and therefore necessary to salvation, and those signs of “due and lowly reverence done by all persons present, as it hath been accustomed ; testifying, by these outward ceremonies and gestures, their inward humility, Christian resolution, and due acknowledgment, that the Lord Jesus Christ, the true eternal Son of God, is the only Saviour of the world.” (Canon xviii.) If the Puritans had rightly understood this, they would not have vilified men who set a far higher value upon the institutions of Christ than they themselves did—who ever insisted upon the necessity of resting the sacraments upon the word of God and Christ's own appointment-and asserted uniformly that practices which did not rest on that foundation are not to be considered as of the same class with the sacraments, however important they may be in their own kind, or however extensively they may have prevailed in the Church : and they would then have seen the folly of requiring scriptural authority for things which confessedly disclaimed any such obligation.
And many of those who call themselves Anglo-Catholics err in the opposite extreme, under a similar misunderstanding; and, from assuming that whatever was permitted was also enjoined, and of an equal authority with doctrines and sacraments, they have given to practices which were understood to be conventional and temporary the weight of divine institutions and a perpetual obligation. Those desires which are legitimate—which seek, by means of forms, to attain greater unity, order, and propriety in the worship of the Church, may be gratified without following the evil example set by the Roman Catholics, who have exalted things of human invention to the level of sacraments, the inevitable tendency of which is to degrade the sacraments to the level of human inventions in some and produce idolatry in others.
No true Churchman will defend the acts of the iconoclasts of ancient times, nor the still more wanton and barbarous desecrations perpetrated by Knox and his followers in Scotland at the Reformation, and by the Puritans in England at a later time; and these latter no Anglican is at all tempted to defend, seeing the perpetrators of these outrages were the enemies of his Church; and, had they the power, would have as heartily demolished the Church itself, as they broke down the carved work thereof with their axes and hammers.