Introduction

{1} SO much is said and written just at this time on the subject of the Church, by those who use the word in different senses, and those who attach to it little distinct sense at all, that I have thought it might be useful, by way of promoting sound and consistent views upon it, to consider it attentively in several of its bearings, and principally in its relation to the Roman theory concerning it, which is more systematic than any other. Unhappy is it that we should be obliged to discuss and defend what a Christian people were intended to enjoy, to appeal to their intellects instead of "stirring up their pure minds by way of remembrance," to direct them towards articles of faith which should be their place of starting, and to treat as mere conclusions what in other ages have been assumed as first principles. Surely life is not long enough to prove everything which may be made the subject of proof; and, though inquiry is left partly open in order to try our earnestness, yet it is in great measure, and in the most important points, superseded by Revelation,—which discloses things which reason could not reach, saves us the labour of using it when it might avail, and sanctions thereby the principle of dispensing with it in other cases. Yet, in spite of this joint testimony of nature and grace, so it is, we seem at this day to consider discussion and controversy to be in themselves chief goods. We exult in what we think our indefeisible {2} right and glorious privilege to choose and settle our religion for ourselves; and we stigmatize it as a bondage to be obliged to accept what the wise, the good, and the many of former times have made over to us, nay, even to submit to what God Himself has revealed.

2.

From this strange preference, however originating, of inquiry to belief, we, or our fathers before us, have contrived to make doubtful what really was certain. We have created difficulties in our path; we have gone out of our way to find ingenious objections to what was received, where none hitherto existed; as if forgetting that there is no truth so clear, no character so pure, no work of man so perfect, but admits of criticism, and will become suspected as soon as it is accused. As might be expected, then, we have succeeded in our attempt; we have succeeded in raising clouds which effectually hide the sun from us, and we have nothing left but to grope our way by our reason, as we best can,—our necessary, because now our only guide. And as a traveller by night, calculating or guessing his way over a morass or amid pitfalls, naturally trusts himself more than his companions, though not doubting their skilfulness and good will, and is too intent upon his own successive steps to hear and to follow them, so we, from anxiety if not from carelessness, have straggled each from his neighbour, and are all of us, or nearly so, in a fair way to lose our confidence, if not our hope. I say, we, or others for us, have asserted our right of debating every truth, however sacred, however protected from scrutiny hitherto; we have accounted that belief alone to be manly which commenced in doubt, that inquiry alone philosophical which assumed no first principles, that religion alone rational which we have created for ourselves. Loss of labour, division, and error have {3} been the three-fold gain of our self-will, as evidently visited in this world,—not to follow it into the next.

3.

How we became committed to so ill-advised a course, by what unfortunate necessity, or under what overpowering temptation, it avails not here to inquire. But the consequences are undeniable; the innocent suffer by a state of things, which to the self-wise and the carnal is an excuse for their indifference. The true voice of Revelation has been overpowered by the more clamorous traditions of men; and where there are rivals, examination is necessary, even where piety would fain have been rid of it. Thus, in relation to the particular subject which has led to these remarks, that some one meaning was anciently attached to the word "Church," is certain from its occurring in the Creed; it is certain, for the same reason, that it bore upon some first principle in religion, else it would not have been there. It is certain moreover, from history, that its meaning was undisputed, whatever that meaning was; and it is as certain that there are interminable disputes and hopeless differences about its meaning now. Now is this a gain or a loss to the present age? At first sight one might think it a loss, so far as it goes, whatever be the cause of it; in the same sense in which the burning of a library is a loss, the destruction of a monument, the disappearance of an ancient record, or the death of an experimentalist or philosopher. Diminution from the stock of knowledge is commonly considered a loss in this day; yet strange to say, in the instance before us, it is thought far otherwise. The great mass of educated men are at once uneasy, impatient, and irritated, not simply incredulous, as soon as they are promised from any quarter some clear view of the original and apostolic doctrine, to them unknown, on any subject of religion. {4} They bear to hear of researches into Christian Antiquity, if they are directed to prove its uncertainty and unprofitableness; they are intolerant and open-mouthed against them, if their object be to rescue, not to destroy. They sanction a rule of philosophy which they practically refute every time they praise Newton or Cuvier. In truth, they can endure a categorical theory in other provinces of knowledge; but in theology belief becomes practical. They perceive that there, what in itself is but an inquiry into questions of fact, tends to an encroachment upon what they think fit to consider their Christian liberty. They are reluctant to be confronted with evidence which will diminish their right of thinking rightly or wrongly, as they please; they are jealous of being forced to submit to one view of the subject, and to be unable at their pleasure to change; they consider comfort in religion to lie in all questions being open, and in there being no call upon them to act. Thus they deliberately adopt that liberty which God gave His former people in wrath, "a liberty to the sword, to the pestilence, and to the famine," [Jer. xxxiv. 17.] the prerogative of being heretics or unbelievers.

4.

It would be well if these men could keep their restless humours to themselves; but they unsettle all around them. They rob those of their birthright who would have hailed the privilege of being told the truth without their own personal risk in finding it; and they force them against their nature upon relying on their reason, when they are content to be saved by faith. Such troublers of the Christian community would in a healthy state of things be silenced or put out of it, as disturbers of the king's peace are restrained in civil matters; but our times, from whatever cause, being times of confusion, we are reduced to the {5} use of argument and disputation, just as we think it lawful to carry arms and barricade our houses during national disorders.

Let this be my excuse for discussing rather than propounding what was meant to be simply an article of faith. We travel by night: the teaching of the Apostles concerning it, which once, like the pillar in the wilderness, was with the children of God from age to age continually, is in good measure withdrawn; and we are, so far, left to make the best of our way to the promised land by our natural resources.

In the following Lectures, then, it is attempted, in the measure which such a mode of writing allows, to build up what man has pulled down, in some of the questions connected with the Church; and that, by means of the stores of Divine truth bequeathed to us in the works of our standard English authors.

5.

The immediate reason for discussing the subject is this: In the present day, such incidental notice of it, as Christian teachers are led to take in the course of their pastoral instructions, is sure to be charged with what is commonly called "Popery;" and for this reason,—that Roman Catholics having ever insisted upon it, and Protestants having neglected it, to speak of the Church at all, though it is mentioned in the Creed, is thought to savour of Rome. Those then who feel its importance, and yet are not Romanists, are bound on several accounts to show why they are not Romanists, and how they differ from them. They are bound to do so, in order to remove the prejudice with which an article of the Creed is at present encompassed and on the other hand to prevent such persons as have right but vague ideas concerning it, from deviating into Romanism because no other system of doctrine is provided {6} for them. Till, in this respect, they do more than they have hitherto done, of course they hazard, though without any fault of theirs, a deviation on the part of their hearers into Romanism on the one hand, a reaction into mere Protestantism on the other.

From the circumstances then of the moment, the following Lectures are chiefly engaged in examining and exposing certain tenets of the Roman Church. But this happens for another reason. After all, the main object in a discussion should be, not to refute error merely, but to establish truth. What Christians especially need and have a right to require, is a positive doctrine on such subjects as come under notice. They have a demand on their teachers for the meaning of the article in the Apostles' Creed, which binds them to faith in "the Holy Catholic Church." It is a poor answer to this inquiry, merely to commence an attack upon Roman teaching, and to show that it presents an exaggerated and erroneous view of the doctrine. Erroneous or not, a view it certainly does present; and that religion which attempts a view, though imperfect or extreme, does more than those forms of religion which do not attempt it at all. If we deny that the Roman view of the Church is true, we are bound in very shame to state what we hold ourselves, though at the risk of a theory, unless indeed we would fight with them at an unfair advantage; and also in charity to our own people, lest we tempt them to error, while we refuse to give them some definite and intelligible doctrine which is better than the Roman. But in doing this we necessarily come across the existing teaching of Rome, and are led to attack it, as the most convenient, or rather only, way of showing what our own views are. It has pre-occupied the ground, and we cannot erect our own structure without partly breaking down, partly using what we find upon it. And thus for a second reason, the following Lectures, so far as {7} their form goes, are directed against Rome, though their main object is not controversy but edification.

Their main object is to furnish an approximation in one or two points towards a correct theory of the duties and office of the Church Catholic. Popular Protestantism does not attempt this at all; it abandons the subject altogether: Rome supplies a doctrine, but, as we conceive, an untrue one. The question is, what is that sound and just exposition of this Article of Faith, which holds together, or is consistent in theory, and, secondly, is justified by the history of the Dispensation, which is neither Protestant nor Roman, but proceeds along that Via Media, which, as in other things so here, is the appropriate path for sons of the English Church to walk in? What is the nearest approximation to that primitive truth which Ignatius and Polycarp enjoyed, and which the nineteenth century has virtually lost?

This is the problem which demands serious consideration at this day, and some detached portions of which will be considered in the following Lectures. Leaving to others questions directly political and ecclesiastical, I propose to direct attention here to some of those which are connected with the Prophetical Office of the Church.

6.

This it what I propose to do;—but first it will be well to observe upon certain obvious objections which may be made to my attempt altogether, as this will incidentally give me an opportunity of defining more exactly what it is I have in view.

It is urged, then, by conscientious and sensible men, that we have hitherto done sufficiently well without any recognized theory on the subject, and therefore do not need it now or in prospect; that certain notions, abstractedly correct or not, have become venerable and beneficial by {8} long usage, and ought not now to be disturbed; that the nature and functions of the Church have been long settled in this country by law and by historical precedents, and that it is our duty to take what we find, and use it for the best; that, to discuss so great a subject, though under the guidance of our great Divines, necessarily involves the unsettling of opinions now received; that, though the views which may be put forward be in themselves innocent or true, yet under our circumstances they will lead to Rome, if only because the mind when once set in motion in any direction finds it difficult to stop; and, again, because the article of "the Church" has been accidentally the badge and index of that system; that the discussions proposed are singularly unseasonable at this day, when our Church requires support against her enemies of a practical character, not speculations upon her nature and historical pretensions,—speculations of a past day, unprofitable in themselves, and in fact only adding to our existing differences, and raising fresh parties and interests in our already distracted communion—speculations, it is urged, which have never been anything but speculations, never were realized in any age of the Church; lastly, that the pretended Via Media is but an eclectic system, dangerous to the religious temper of those who advocate it, as leading to arrogance and self-sufficiency in judging of sacred subjects. This is pretty nearly what may be said.

Now it is obvious that these objections prove too much. If they prove anything, they go to show that the article of the Holy Church Catholic should not be discussed at all, not even as a point of faith; but that in its most essential respects, as well as in its bearings and consequences, it may be determined and interpreted by the law of the land. This consideration in itself would be enough to show, that there was some fallacy in them somewhere, even if we could not detect it. However, let us consider some of them in detail. {9}

7.

One of the most weighty of these objections at first sight, is the danger of unsettling things established, and raising questions, which, whatever may be their intrinsic worth, are novel and exciting at the present day. When, for instance, the office of Holy Scripture in the divine system, or the judicial power of the Church, or the fundamentals of faith, or the legitimate prerogatives of the Roman see, or the principles of Protestantism are discussed, it is natural to object, that since the Revolution of 1688 they have been practically cut short, and definitely settled by civil acts and precedents. It may be urged, that the absolute subjection of the bishops, as bishops, to the crown is determined by the deprivations of 1689; the Church's forfeiture of her synodical rights by the final measure of 1717; the essential agreement of Presbyterianism with Episcopacy by the union with Scotland in 1706-7; and our incorporation with dissenters, on the common ground of Protestantism, by the proceedings of the Revolution itself. It may be argued that these measures were but the appropriate carrying out of the acts of the Reformation; that King William and his party did but complete what King Henry began; and that we are born Protestants, and though free to change our religion and to profess a change, yet, till we do so, Protestants, as other Protestants, we certainly are, though we happen to retain the episcopal form; that our Church has thriven upon this foundation in wealth, station, and usefulness; that being a part of the Constitution, it cannot be altered without touching the Constitution itself; and, consequently, that all discussions are either very serious or very idle.

8.

To all this I answer, that the Constitution has already been altered, and not by any act of ours; and the mere {10} question is, whether the Constitution being altered, and the Church in consequence, which is part of it, being exposed to danger in her various functions, we may allow those who have brought her into danger, to apply what they consider suitable remedies, without claiming a voice in the matter ourselves. Are questions bearing more or less upon the education of our members, the extension of our communion, and its relations to Protestant bodies, to be decided without us? Are precedents to be created, while we sit by, which afterwards may be assumed to our disadvantage as if our acknowledged principles? It is our own concern; and it is not strange if we think it will be better looked after by ourselves, than by our enemies or by mere politicians. We are driven by the pressure of circumstances to contemplate our own position, and to fall back upon first principles; nor can an age, which prides itself on its powers of scrutiny and research, be surprised if we do in self-defence what it does in wantonness and pride. We accepted the principles of 1688 as the Church's basis, while they remained, because we had received them: they have been surrendered. If we now put forward a more ancient doctrine instead of them, all that can be said against us is, that we are not so much attached to them on their own account, as to consent, that persons, still more ignorant of our divinely-framed system than the statesmen of that era, should attempt now, in some similar or worse form, to revive them. In truth, we have had enough, if we would be wise, of mere political religion; which, like a broken reed, has pierced through the hand that leaned upon it. While, and in proportion as we are bound to it, it is our duty to submit, just as duty determined the Jews to submit to Nebuchadnezzar, as Jeremiah instructed them. We will not side with a reckless and destructive party, even in undoing our own chains, when there is no plain call {11} of duty to oblige us; nay, we will wear them, not only contentedly but loyally; we will be zealous bondsmen, while the state honours us and is gentle towards us, in our captivity. It has been God's merciful pleasure, as of old time, to make even those who led us away captive to pity us. Those who might have been tyrants over us, have before now piously tended on the Church, and liberated her, as far as was expedient, in the spirit of him who "builded the city, and let go the captives not for price nor reward." [Isa. xlv. 13.]

And while the powers of this world so dealt with us, who would not have actively co-operated with them, from love as well as from duty? And thus it was that the most deeply learned, and most generous-minded of our divines thought no higher privilege could befall them than to minister at the throne of a prince like our first Charles, who justified their confidence by dying for the Church a martyr's death. And I suppose, in similar circumstances, any one of those who afterwards became Non-jurors, or any one of those persons who at this day have the most settled belief in the spiritual powers of the Church, would have thought himself unworthy to be her son, had he not taken his part in a system which he had received and found so well administered, whatever faults might exist in its theory. This is the view to be taken of the conduct of our Church in the seventeenth century, which we do not imitate now, only because we are not allowed to do so, because our place of service and our honourable function about the throne are denied us. And, as we should act as our predecessors, were we in their times, so, as we think, they too would act as we do in ours. They, doubtless, at a time like this, when our enemies are allowed to legislate upon our concerns, and to dispose of the highest offices in the Church, would feel {12} that there were objects dearer to them than the welfare of the state, duties even holier than obedience to civil governors, and would act accordingly. It is our lot to see the result of an experiment which in their days was but in process, that of surrendering the Church into the hands of the state. It has been tried and failed; we have trusted the world, and it has taken advantage of us. While the event was doubtful, it was the duty of her rulers to make the best of things as they found them: now that it is declared, though we must undergo the evil, we are surely not bound to conceal it.

9.

These reflections would serve to justify inquiries far beyond the scope of the following Lectures, such inquiries, I mean, as bear upon our political and ecclesiastical condition; but my present business is mainly with what concerns the Church's internal state, her teaching rather than her action, her influence on her members, one by one, rather than her right of moving them as a whole. At the same time, the distinct portions of the general subject so affect each other, that such points as Church authority, Tradition, the Rule of Faith, and the like, cannot be treated without seeming to trench upon political principles, consecrated by the associations of the Revolution. It has ever required an apology, since that event, to speak the language of our divines before it; and such an apology is now found in the circumstances of the day, in which all notions, moral and religious, are so unsettled, that every positive truth must be a gain.

10.

But, in answer to a portion of the foregoing remarks, it is not uncommon to urge what at first sight seems to be a paradox; that our enemies, or strangers, or at least persons unacquainted with the principles of the Church, are better fitted than her proper guardians and ministers to {13} consult for her welfare; that they are better friends to us than ourselves, and in a manner often defend us against ourselves; and the saying of a great and religious author is quoted against us, that "clergymen understand the least and take the worst measure of human affairs of all mankind that can write and read." [Note 1] And so they certainly do, if their end in view be that which secular politicians imagine. If their end be the temporal aggrandisement of the Church, no greater or more intolerable visitation could befall us than to be subjected to such counsellors as Archbishop Laud. But, perhaps the objects we have in view are as hidden from the man of the world, whether statesman, philosopher, or courtier, as heaven itself from his bodily eyes; and perchance those measures which are most demonstrably headstrong and insane, if directed towards a political end, may be most judicious and successful in a religious point of view. It is an acknowledged principle, that the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church; and if death itself may be a victory, so in like manner may worldly loss and trouble, however severe and accumulated.

11.

I am aware that professions of this nature increase rather than diminish to men of the world their distaste for the conduct they are meant to explain. The ends which are alleged to account for the conduct of religious men, remove the charge of imprudence only to attach to it the more odious imputation of fanaticism and its kindred qualities. Pilate's feeling when he asked "What is truth?" is a type of the disgust felt by men of the world at the avowal of Christian faith and zeal. To profess to act towards objects which to them are as much a theory and a dream as the scenes of some fairy tale, angers them by what they consider its utter absurdity and folly. {14} "Miserable men!" said the heathen magistrate on witnessing the determination of the martyrs of Christ, "if ye will die, cannot you find precipices or halters?" [Note 2] Nor is this feeling confined to infidels or scorners; men of seriousness and good intentions, and it is especially to the purpose to observe this, feel the same annoyance and impatience at certain parts of that Ancient Religion, of which the doctrine of the Church is the centre, which profligate men manifest towards moral and religious motives altogether.

To take an instance which will be understood by most men. Should a man, rightly or wrongly, for that is not the question, profess to regulate his conduct under the notion that he is seen by invisible spectators, that he and all Christians have upon them the eyes of Angels, especially when in church; should he, when speaking on some serious subject, exhort his friends as in their presence, nay, bid them attend to the propriety of their apparel in divine worship because of them, would he not at first be thought to speak poetically, and so be excused? next, when he was frequent in expressing such a sentiment, would he not become tiresome and unwelcome? and when he was understood to be thus speaking of the Angels literally, as St. Paul did, would not what he said be certainly met with grave, cold, contemptuous, or impatient looks, as idle, strained, and unnatural? Now this is just the reception which secular politicians give to religious objects altogether; and my drift in noticing it is this,—to impress on those who regard with disgust the range of doctrines connected with the Church, that it does not at all prove that those doctrines are fanciful and are uninfluential, because they themselves are disgusted, unless indeed the offence which the infidel takes at the doctrine of the Cross be an argument that it also is really {15} foolishness. These doctrines may be untrue and unreasonable certainly; but if the surprise of those who first hear them and have never acted on them, be a proof that they are so, more will follow than would be admitted by any of us; for surely, no annoyance which the doctrines in question occasion, equals the impatience with which irreligious men hear of the blessed doctrine that God has become man, no surprise of theirs now can equal the amazement and derision with which the old pagans witnessed a saint contending even unto bonds and death, for what they considered a matter of opinion.

It does not follow, then, that doctrines are uninfluential, when plainly and boldly put forward, because they offend the prejudices of the age at first hearing. Had this been so, Christianity itself ought not to have succeeded; and it cannot be imagined that the respectable and serious men of this day who express concern at what they consider the exaggerated tone of certain writers on the subject of the Church, are more startled and offended than the outcast to whom the Apostles preached in the beginning. Truth has the gift of overcoming the human heart, whether by persuasion or by compulsion, whether by inward acceptance or by external constraint; and if what we preach be truth, it must be natural, it must be seasonable, it must be popular, it will make itself popular. It will find its own. As time goes on, and its sway extends, those who thought its voice strange and harsh at first, will wonder how they could ever so have deemed of sounds so musical and thrilling.

12.

The objection, however, which has led to these remarks, takes another and more reasonable form in the minds of practical men, which shall now be noticed. A religions principle or idea, however true, before it is found in a substantive form, is but a theory; and since many theories {16} are not more than theories, and do not admit of being carried into effect, it is exposed to the suspicion of being one of these, and of having no existence out of books. The proof of reality in a doctrine is its holding together when actually attempted. Practical men are naturally prejudiced against what is new, on this ground if on no other, that it has not had the opportunity of satisfying this test. Christianity would appear at first a mere literature, or philosophy, or mysticism, like the Pythagorean rule or Phrygian worship; nor till it was tried, could the coherence of its parts be ascertained. Now the class of doctrines in question as yet labours under the same difficulty. Indeed, they are in one sense as entirely new as Christianity when first preached; for though they profess merely to be that foundation on which it originally spread, yet as far as they represent a Via Media, that is, are related to extremes which did not then exist, and do exist now, they appear unreal, for a double reason, having no exact counterpart in early times [Note 3], and being superseded now by actually existing systems. Protestantism and Popery are real religions; no one can doubt about them; they have furnished the mould in which nations have been cast: but the Via Media, viewed as an integral system, has never had existence except on paper; it is known, not positively but negatively, in its differences from the rival creeds, not in its own properties; and can only be described as a third system, neither the one nor the other, but with something of each, cutting between them, and, as if with a critical fastidiousness, trifling with them both, and boasting to be nearer Antiquity than either. {17}

What is this but to fancy a road over mountains and rivers, which has never been cut? When we profess our Via Media, as the very truth of the Apostles, we seem to bystanders to be mere antiquarians or pedants, amusing ourselves with illusions or learned subtleties, and unable to grapple with things as they are. They accuse us of tendering no proof to show that our view is not self-contradictory, and if set in motion, would not fall to pieces, or start off in different directions at once. Learned divines, they say, may have propounded it, as they have; controversialists may have used it to advantage when supported by the civil sword against Papists or Puritans; but, whatever its merits, still, when left to itself, to use a familiar term, it may not "work." And the very circumstance that it has been propounded for centuries by great names, and not yet reduced to practice as a system, is alleged as an additional presumption against its feasibility. To take for instance the subject of Private Judgment; our theory here is neither Protestant nor Roman; and has never been duly realized. Our opponents ask, What is it? Is it more than a set of words and phrases, of exceptions and limitations made for each successive emergency, of principles which contradict each other?

13.

It cannot be denied there is force in these representations, though I would not adopt them to their full extent; it still remains to be tried whether what is called Anglo-Catholicism, the religion of Andrewes, Laud, Hammond, Butler, and Wilson, is capable of being professed, acted on, and maintained on a large sphere of action and through a sufficient period, or whether it be a mere modification or transition-state either of Romanism or of popular Protestantism, according as we view it. It may be plausibly argued that {18} whether the primitive Church agreed more with Rome or with Protestants, and though it agreed with neither of them exactly, yet that one or the other, whichever it be, is the nearest approximation to the ancient model which our changed circumstances admit; that either this or that is the modern representative of primitive principles; that any professed third theory, however plausible, must necessarily be composed of discordant elements, and, when attempted, must necessarily run into one or the other, according to the nearness of the attracting bodies, and the varying sympathies of the body attracted, and its independence of those portions of itself which interfere with the stronger attraction. It may be argued that the Church of England, as established by law, and existing in fact, has never represented a doctrine at all or been the development of a principle, has never had an intellectual basis; that it has been but a name, or a department of the state, or a political party, in which religious opinion was an accident, and therefore has been various. In consequence, it has been but the theatre of contending religionists, that is, of Papists and Latitudinarians, softened externally, or modified into inconsistency by their birth and education, or restrained by their interests and their religious engagements. Now all this is very plausible, and is here in place, as far as this, that there certainly is a call upon us to exhibit our principles in action; and until we can produce diocese, or place of education, or populous town, or colonial department, or the like, administered on our distinctive principles, as the diocese of Sodor and Man in the days of Bishop Wilson, doubtless we have not as much to urge in our behalf as we might have.

14.

This, however, may be said in favour of the independence and reality of our view of religion, even under past {19} and present circumstances, that, whereas there have ever been three principal parties in the Church of England, the Apostolical, the Latitudinarian, and the Puritan, the two latter have been shown to be but modifications of Socinianism and Calvinism by their respective histories, whenever allowed to act freely, whereas the first, when it had the opportunity of running into Romanism, in fact did not coalesce with it; which certainly argues some real differences in it from that system with which it is popularly confounded. The Puritan portion of the Church was set at liberty, as is well known, during the national troubles of the seventeenth century; and in no long time prostrated the Episcopate, abolished the ritual, and proved itself by its actions, if proof was necessary, essentially Calvinistic. The principle of Latitude was allowed considerable range between the times of Charles II. and George II., and, even under the pressure of the Thirty-nine Articles, possessed vigour enough to develope such indications of its real tendency, as Hoadly and his school supply. The Apostolical portion of the Church, whether patronized by the Court, or wandering in exile, or cast out from its mother's bosom by political events, evinced one and the same feeling of hostility against Rome. Its history at the era of the Revolution is especially remarkable. Ken, Collier, and the rest, had every adventitious motive which resentment or interest could supply for joining the Roman Church; nor can any reason be given why they did not move on the one side, as Puritans and Latitudinarians had moved on the other, except that their Creed had in it an independence and distinctness which was wanting in the religious views of their opponents. If nothing more has accrued to us from the treatment which those excellent men endured, this at least has providentially resulted, that we are thereby furnished with irrefragable testimony to the {20} essential difference between the Roman and Anglican systems.

15.

But if this be so, if the English Church has the mission, hitherto unfulfilled on any considerable stage or consistent footing, of representing a theology, Catholic but not Roman, here is an especial reason why her members should be on the watch for opportunities of bringing out and carrying into effect her distinctive character. Such opportunities perhaps have before now occurred in our history, and have been neglected, and many never return; but, at least, the present unsettled state of religious opinion among us furnishes an opening which may be providentially intended, and which it is a duty to use. And there are other circumstances favourable to the preaching of the pure Anglican doctrine. In a former age, the tendency of mere Protestantism had not discovered itself with the fearful clearness which has attended its later history. English divines were tender of the other branches of the Reformation, and did not despair of their return to the entire Catholic truth. Before Germany had become rationalistic, and Geneva Socinian, Romanism might be considered as the most dangerous corruption of the gospel; and this might be a call upon members of our Church to waive their differences with foreign Protestantism and Dissent at home, as if in the presence of a common enemy. But at this day, when the connexion of foreign Protestantism with infidelity is so evident, what claim has the former upon our sympathy? and to what theology can the serious Protestant, dissatisfied with his system, betake himself but to the Roman, unless we display our characteristic principles, and show him that he may be Catholic and Apostolic, yet not Roman? Such, as is well known, was the service actually rendered by our Church to the learned Prussian divine, Grabe, at the end {21} of the seventeenth century, who, feeling the defects of Lutheranism, even before it had lapsed, was contemplating a reconciliation with Rome, when, finding that England offered what to a disciple of Ignatius and Cyprian were easier terms, he conformed to her creed, and settled and died in this country.

16.

Again: though it is not likely that Roman Catholics will ever again become formidable in England, yet they may be in a position to make their voice heard, and in proportion as they are able, the Via Media will do important service of the following kind. In the controversy which will ensue, Rome will not fail to preach far and wide the tenet which it never conceals, that there is no salvation external to its own communion. On the other hand, Protestantism, as it exists among us, will not be behindhand in consigning to eternal ruin all who are adherents of Roman doctrine. What a prospect is this! two widely spread and powerful parties dealing forth solemn anathemas upon each other, in the name of the Lord! Indifference and scepticism must be, in such a case, the ordinary refuge of men of mild and peaceable minds, who revolt from such presumption, and are deficient in clear views of the truth. I cannot well exaggerate the misery of such a state of things. Here the English theology would come in with its characteristic calmness and caution, clear and decided in its view, giving no encouragement to lukewarmness and liberalism, but withholding all absolute anathemas on errors of opinion, except where the primitive Church sanctions the use of them.

17.

Here we are reminded of one more objection which may be made to the discussion of such subjects as those contained in the following Lectures; and with a brief notice {22} of it I will conclude. It may appear, then, that there is something in the very notion of examining and completing a doctrine at present but partly settled and received, and in the very name of a Via Media, which is adapted to foster a self-sufficient and sceptical spirit. The essence of religion is the submission of the reason and heart to a positive system, the acquiescence in doctrines which cannot be proved or explained. A realised system is pre-supposed as the primary essential, from the nature of the case. When, then, we begin by saying that the English doctrine is not at present embodied in any substantive form, or publicly recognized in its details, we seem content to reduce religion to a mere literature, to make reason the judge of it, and to confess it to be a matter of opinion. And when, in addition to this, we describe Anglicanism as combining various portions of other systems, what is this, it may be asked, but to sanction an eclectic principle, which of all others is the most arrogant and profane? When men choose or reject from religious systems what they please, they furnish melancholy evidence of their want of earnestness; and when they put themselves above existing systems, as if these were suited only to the multitude or to bigoted partisans, they are supercilious and proud; and when they think they may create what they are to worship, their devotion cannot possess any high degree of reverence and godly fear. Surely, then, it may be said, such theorizing on religious subjects is nothing else than an indulgence in that undue use of reason, which was so pointedly condemned in the commencement of these remarks.

I would not willingly under-value the force of this representation. It might be said, however, in reply, that at the worst the evil specified would cease in proportion as we were able to bring into practical shape that system which is wanting. But after all the true answer to the objection is simply this, that though Anglo-Catholicism is {23} not practically reduced to system in its fulness, it does exist, in all its parts, in the writings of our divines, and in good measure is in actual operation, though with varying degrees of consistency and completeness in different places. There is no room for eclecticism in any elementary matter. No member of the English Church allows himself to build on any doctrine different from that found in our book of Common Prayer. That formulary contains the elements of our theology; and herein lies the practical exercise of our faith, which all true religion exacts. We surrender ourselves in obedience to it: we act upon it: we obey it even in points of detail where there is room for diversity of opinion. The Thirty-nine Articles furnish a second trial of our humility and self-restraint. Again, we never forget that, reserving our fidelity to the Creed, we are bound to defer to Episcopal authority. Here then are trials of principle on starting; so much is already settled, and demands our assent, not our criticism. What remains to be done, and comes into discussion, are secondary questions, such as these, How best to carry out the rubrics of the Prayer-book? how to apply its Services in particular cases? how to regard our canons of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries? how to reconcile the various portions of the ritual? how to defend certain formularies, or how to explain others? Another series of unsettled difficulties arises out of the question of education and teaching: What are the records, what the rule of faith? what the authority of the Church? how much is left to Private Judgment? what are the objects and best mode of religious training? and the like. The subject of Church government opens another field of inquiries, which are more or less unanswered, as regards their practical perception by our clergy. The Thirty-nine Articles supply another. And in all these topics we are not left to ourselves to determine as we please, but have the guidance of our standard writers, and {24} are bound to consult them, nay, when they agree, to follow them; but when they differ, to adjust or to choose between their opinions.

18.

Enough has now been said by way of explaining the object of the following Lectures. It is proposed, as has been said above, to offer helps towards the formation of a recognized Anglican theology in one of its departments. The present state of our divinity is as follows: the most vigorous, the clearest, the most fertile minds, have through God's mercy been employed in the service of our Church: minds too as reverential and holy, and as fully imbued with Ancient Truth, and as well versed in the writings of the Fathers, as they were intellectually gifted [Note 4]. This is God's great mercy indeed, for which we must ever be thankful. Primitive doctrine has been explored for us in every direction, and the original principles of the gospel and the Church patiently and successfully brought to light. But one thing is still wanting: our champions and teachers have lived in stormy times; political and other influences have acted upon them variously in their day, and have since obstructed a careful consolidation of their judgments. We have a vast inheritance, but no inventory of our treasures. All is given us in profusion; it remains for us to catalogue, sort, distribute, select, harmonize, and complete. We have more than we know how to use; stores of learning, but little that is precise and serviceable; Catholic truth and individual opinion, first principles and the guesses of genius, all mingled in the same works, and requiring to be discriminated. We meet with truths over-stated or misdirected, matters of detail variously taken, facts incompletely proved or applied, and rules inconsistently urged or discordantly interpreted. Such indeed is the state of {25} every deep philosophy in its first stages, and therefore of theological knowledge. What we need at present for our Church's well-being, is not invention, nor originality, nor sagacity, nor even learning in our divines, at least in the first place, though all these gifts of God are in a measure needed, and never can be unseasonable when used religiously, but we need peculiarly a sound judgment, patient thought, discrimination, a comprehensive mind, an abstinence from all private fancies and caprices and personal tastes,—in a word, divine wisdom. For this excellent endowment, let us, in behalf of ourselves and our brethren, earnestly and continually pray. Let us pray, that He who has begun the work for our Holy Mother with a divine exuberance, will finish it as with a refiner's fire and in the perfectness of truth.

19.

Merely to have directed attention to the present needs of our Church, would be a sufficient object for writing the following pages. We require a recognized theology, and if the present work, instead of being what it is meant to be, a first approximation to the required solution in one department of a complicated problem, contains after all but a series of illustrations demonstrating our need, and supplying hints for its removal, such a result, it is evident, will be quite a sufficient return for whatever anxiety it has cost the writer to have employed his own judgment on so serious a subject. And, though in all greater matters of theology there is no room for error, so prominent and concordant is the witness of our great Masters in their behalf, yet he is conscious that in minor points, whether in questions of fact or of judgment, there is room for difference or error of opinion; and while he has given his best endeavours to be accurate, he shall not be ashamed to own a mistake, nor reluctant to bear the just blame of it.

Top | Contents | Works | Home


Notes

1. Clarendon's Life, vol. i. p. 74.
Return to text

2. Tertull. ad Scap. 5.
Return to text

3. [This is what the Author thought, before to his confusion and distress he found in early history a veritable Via Media in both the Semi-Arian and the Monophysite parties, and they, as being heretical, broke his attachment to middle paths. Vid. Difficulties of Angl., Lect. xii.]
Return to text

4. [Vid. however supr., Preface to this edition, 1.]
Return to text

Top | Contents | Works | Home


Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
Copyright 2007 by The National Institute for Newman Studies. All rights reserved.