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T is melancholy to observe how those whose unenviable interest it is to cast doubt on the Validity of our Ordinations do but re-produce arguments which have been again and again refuted at previous periods of our ecclesiastical history. No long time after the changes of the sixteenth century it seems to have been admitted by independent English writers, as it certainly was by competent critics abroad, that Mason's masterly vindication of our position was perfectly conclusive. For, to the more far-sighted Roman Catholics, it appeared highly impolitic, as well as dangerous, to make use of weapons which might on other occasions with deadly effect be turned against those who used them.*
On this point, bearing on the subject of this book, a distinguished London clergyman, most ably criticising Mr. Canon Williams' Letters, wrote in the Ecclesiastic as follows:-"We cannot help observing that there are two kinds of negative testimony which are so great as almost to amount to positive evidence for the fact of Barlow's consecration. One of these we have already alluded
And yet the same refuted arguments have been brought forth to do duty whenever arguments have been wanting. It was so towards the latter part of the seventeenth century, when a literature on the subject was created. It is so now by those who are unwise enough to borrow the weapons, and, in some instances, the temper and spirit of past epochs, certainly not renowned for the high tone of their controversial writings.
to the absolute silence of all contemporary authorities, and the utter absence of any contemporary document which can be even tortured into giving support to this theory. This singular unbroken silence can only be accounted for by rejecting the whole figment of the nonconsecration of Barlow. But there is also another kind of negative proof that is also very valuable. From the time when it was first questioned or denied until the present moment, from Dr. Champney down to Mr. Williams, there have been no serious difficulties discovered in the way of our belief in the reality of Barlow's consecration; no argument advanced, beyond such childish ones as Barlow being sometimes called Barlowe, and ‘Menivens' being printed 'Menivenc.' But surely with all the zeal which has been displayed, and the ability which has been exerted to throw suspicion on this fact, and to build up an opposite theory, some plausible argument would have been discovered which might at least have suggested a reasonable doubt about Barlow's consecration. Such, however, remains for the skill of future controversialists. Up to the present time the fact is as unshaken as any other fact in history, and the kind of suggestions which have been offered to induce us to discredit the documents which remain to attest the consecration of Barlow, would overthrow our belief in and cast discredit upon any or every fact in ancient or modern times. That is to say, we believe the current events of history on far fewer grounds than we have to believe in the consecration of Bishop Barlow, and the difficulties in the way of being confident about this consecration are fewer and of far less weight than might be imagined and urged against the most undoubted of all truths. We mention this, we confess, with some anxiety, because it affects interests even dearer to us than the fact of the unbroken succession of the British Episcopate. No one can frame a system of critical canons which shall have no applicability beyond the question of the present hour. Such arguments, or such a train of
It is said by onlookers that the Church of England occupies a position sui generis. And such is un questionably the case. On one side she well-nigh touches the Church of Rome-many within her pale agreeing almost entirely, as regards dogma, with the Gallicans of France and the Liberals of Germany; while, as is notorious, the sympathies of others lie in the direction of sects which exist upon theological negations, or a bald individualism. In many respects this variety of sentiment and belief is a misfortune; in others, when the day for
reasoning once-even for the most ephemeral purpose-admitted into the human mind, even if they do not become a settled conviction, and apply themselves to all events and all arguments, however sacred, will yet show themselves, and demand a hearing when we are called upon to listen to and to believe in other truths of a more practical and lasting value to us. No one can venture to take into his mind those canons which Mr. Williams has so recklessly, and we believe so thoughtlessly, strewn over the surface of his book without becoming a confirmed sceptic in all the facts of history. And no one can be a sceptic with regard to one part of God's dealings with man-for His hand is in the deeds of profane history-without becoming a sceptic in the written revelation of His will, and the truths and facts of His grace. The mind of man, marvellous and inconsistent as it may seem to us, is yet one, and the measure which it applies to worldly things must influence and practically become the measure with reference to Divine things. In an eloquent, though melancholy essay on the declension of the French Church, the Abbé Meignan has lately given expression to his regrets that the Clergy of that Church should have abandoned the exegesis of Holy Scripture to the critics of Germany, whilst they have devoted their energies only to idle and spurious legends. Mr. Williams and his friends have not merely done this, they have borrowed the arms at once of Strauss and Paulus, and have given their sanction to the weapons of infidelity by using them to throw doubt upon the facts of history. The weapons, let us remind him, are doubled-edged; they may cut away in some minds their trust in one class of truths, but it will be by destroying their confidence in all."-The Ecclesiastic, vol. xxi., pp. 511
Corporate Re-union approaches, it may eventually prove a blessing. At all events, even if the present position of the English Church is peculiar, and divergent in many respects from the position of any part of the Christian Family in past centuries, when that Family was visibly One, it seems self-evident that whatever misfortunes befell her three centuries and a-half ago, she has never forfeited her position nor denied any part of the ancient deposit of unalterable truth. After times of moral disorder and intellectual confusion the old system was found still existing; while, during the rule of Laud, her position was considerably in advance of that which had been occupied under Bancroft or Abbot. At the Restoration prelates and divines of the Catholic school obtained authority, and left their valuable impress on our church polity. Latitudinarianism as a system, like Protestantism rather negative than positive, certainly exercised considerable influence, but was altogether unable to cope successfully with those who had something definite to teach. Bishop Bull, and others of his school in the seventeenth century, with the able opponents of Deism in that which succeeded, accurately taught foreign churchmen the true position of our national communion; while the revival of Catholic doctrine and practice at the present time-in all its principles, details, and results-is a strong moral argument, capable of being well intrenched and efficiently used, in favour of the Catholic character of our Church, and by consequence of the Validity of our Ordina