« PoprzedniaDalej »
to take this course, and none more urgently than the state of the foreign Protestantsa ; who though they professed the greatest regard for episcopacy and the greatest admiration of the English Church had themselves deserted the primitive practice. The awful circumstances of the times when the articles were composed, and the immediate object for which they were put forth, opposition to the decrees of the Council of Trent, imposed it as a duty upon the framers not to go further than was necessary to justify their refusal of adopting the confession of Augsburgh, and not by any direct condemnation of the German reformers to give power and assistance to the common enemy. However, while they did not give a direct condemnation of the new form of ministration adopted by the German reformers, they did not make any compromise of the truth, they did not neglect to put forward their own opinions' upon the subject, and in the thirty-sixth article they refer to the order already published for consecrating and ordaining the three orders of the ministry as containing all things necessary for such consecration and ordination, and thus explain what they understood by the words lawfully sent in the twenty-third article. That order, be it remembered, had been long published, to it the Clergy gave their deliberate assent, and if any declarations can bind the conscience of man, every person ordained, and every person holding a cure must be bound to confess with his mouth the apostolical succession of our ministry. The
a See Note.
preface to that order distinctly puts forward the apostolical institution of the three ranks of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, and the prayers in the services attribute directly to the Almighty the appointment by his holy spirit of divers orders in his Church, which they also describe as the orders of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons.
I am aware that the ingenuity of those who would hold their place in the ministry of our Church, while they shrink from fulfilling the charge reposed in them, have discovered two modes of evading this rather embarrassing difficulty; one is, that the canon and Act of Uniformity oblige the Clergy only to declare their assent and consent to the use of the form of consecration, and that they do not use the preface. In answer to this argumento, let me remark, first, that it does not even pretend to reach the reasoning from the prayers, and secondly, that it concedes the point, , if the preface be obligatory'. Persons who are anxious to remove the obligation of the preface, find it convenient to quote the declaratory part of the Act, instead of quoting the words of the declaration itself, which professes “unfeigned assent and consent to the book of Common Prayer and administration of the Sacraments, and other rites and ceremonies of the Church, according to the use of the Church of England, together with the form and manner of making, ordaining, and consecrating Bishops, Priests, and Deacons.” If these words do not include an assent
a See Note.
to the preface of the ordination services, I am unable to understand the meaning of words ; and I do not hesitate to say, that the person who used such an evasion in a merely civil contract, would incur the strongest censure of the honest and upright citizen.
Still more untenable is the other defence, that a person subscribing the book of Common Prayer, is no more bound to believe the doctrines in the preface to the ordination service, than he is bound to believe the truth of the rules in the calendar for finding Easter. The calendar never pronounced that the rule for finding Easter was adapted to the motions of the heavenly bodies, but that it was the rule adopted by the Church. “ It may be convenient to observe,” says an eminent ritualist, “ that the Church does not reckon the full moons according to the rules of the modern almanacks, but that she governs herself therein by the ancient synodical determinations and paschal cycles of the Church.” But so difficult was it to find any parallel for the refusal to acknowledge the authority of the preface to the ordination service, that recourse was had here to the ancient objections of the non-conformists to the calendar before the change of style, which even at that time were found so untenable, that Calamy acknowledged himself convinced; and what shall we say of the present objection, when no such discrepancy, or apparent discrepancy, exists in the calendar.
a Letter to Hoadly, Moderate Non-conformity, vol. iii. p. 407.
When argument fails to refute the notions of a ministry which are furnished by the evidence of Scripture, and the concurring interpretation of the Catholic Church for centuries, recourse is had to declamation, and two different appeals are made, in order to deter us from earnestly contending for the rule once delivered to the saints. By one party the cry of illiberality is raised against us. Can we be so illiberal as to limit the communion of the Church to a small number of professing Christians ? can we venture to charge with the guilt of schism a large portion of the christian world? We presume not to judge our brethren: in the words of a distinguished Prelate of our Church, “ we dare answer for the salvation of those, who continuing in the Church, live up to the rules of it; but for them, who being brought up in the Church, do yet depart from it, we answer nothing; we pray God they may be able to answer for themselves.” This is not the exclusive doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church, which pronounces that all will be lost who are not found within its pale : we say no such thing; we pronounce that all will arrive safe at the end of their Christian journey who travel within the pale of a divinely appointed Church, in conformity with the directions, and subject to the guidance of their spiritual conductor ; whilst on the other hand, we presume not to pass sentence upon our brethreno; we venture not beyond the sacred record.
But such modes of argument are decidedly wrong, wholly unsuited to the nature of a being such as man. To what subject can he direct his attention in which difficulties do not surround him ; let him consider the general question of Christianity, and how will he answer the difficulties that may be proposed to him, as to the different degrees of light afforded to different nations, to different individuals of the same nation. When thus pressed, the Christian must plead, that there is nothing in all this ignorance, doubtfulness, and uncertainty, in all these varieties and supposed disadvantages of some, in comparison of others, respecting religion, but may be paralleled by manifest analogies in the natural dispensations of Providence at present, and though we consider ourselves merely in our temporal capacity.” And what is the evident practical conclusion from this ? that which the illustrious author deduces himself, “ Providence's designing to place some in greater darkness, with respect to religious knowledge, is no more a reason why they should not endeavour to get out of that darkness, and others to bring them out of it, than why ignorant and slow people, in matters of other knowledge, should not endeavour to learn, or should not be instructed."
It is not given to us to scan the inscrutable purposes of the Almighty, in limiting the extent of his Church. It is not permitted to us to arraign the dominion of the Most High. From
a Butler's Analogy, Part ii. chap. 6.