Lecture 6. The Providential Course of the Movement of 1833 Not in the Direction of a Branch Church

The Establishment is not Your Place

Branch Church Synonymous with National Church

Collision between Church and State Inevitable

Providential Means of Preserving Church Independence

    St. Thomas and Henry II.

    Experience of 18 Centuries of Christian History

Isolated Church cannot Resist State

Bp. Warburton's Alliance of Church and State

Catholic Church Alone Proof against Erastianism



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{164} THERE are persons who may think that the line of thought which I pursued in my last two Lectures had somewhat of a secular and political cast, and was deficient in that simplicity which becomes an inquiry after religious truth. We are inquiring, you may say, whether the National Church is in possession of the Sacraments, whether we can obtain the grace of Christ, necessary for our salvation, at its hands? On this great question depends our leaving its communion or not; but you answer us by simply bidding us consider which course of action will look best, what the world expects of us, how posterity will judge of us, what termination is most logically consistent with our commencement, what are to be the historical fortunes in prospect of a large body of men, variously circumstanced, and subject to a variety of influences from without and within. It is a personal, an individual, {165} question to each inquirer; but you would have us view it as a political game, in which each side makes moves, and just now it is our turn, not, as it really is, a matter of religious conviction, duty, and responsibility.

But thus to speak is mistaking the argument altogether. First, I am not addressing those who have no doubt whatever about the divine origin of the Established Church. I am not attempting to rouse, or, as some would call it, unsettle them. If there be such—for, to tell the truth, I almost doubt their existence—I pass them by. I am contemplating that not inconsiderable number, who are, in a true sense, though in various degrees, and in various modes, inquirers; who, on the one hand, have no doubt at all of the great Apostolical principles which are stamped upon the face of the early Church, and were the life of the movement of 1833; and who, on the other hand, have certain doubts about those principles being the property and the life of the National Church—who have fears, grave anxieties or vague misgivings, as the case may be, lest that communion be not a treasure-house and fount of grace—and then all at once are afraid again, that, after all, perhaps it is, and that it is their own fault that they are blind to the fact, and that it is undutifulness in them to question it;—who, after even their most violent doubts, have seasons of relenting and compunction; and who at length are so perplexed by {166} reason of the clear light pouring in on them from above, yet by the secret whisper the while, that they ought to doubt their own perceptions, because (as they are told) they are impatient, or self-willed, or excited, or dreaming, and have lost the faculty of looking at things in a natural, straightforward way, that at length they do not know what they hold and what they do not hold, or where they stand, and are in conflict within, and almost in a state of anarchy and recklessness.


Now, to persons in this cruel strife of thought, I offer the consideration on which I have been dwelling, as a sort of diversion to their harassed minds; as an argument of fact, external to themselves, and over which they have no power, which is of a nature to arbitrate and decide for them between their own antagonist judgments. You wish to know whether the Establishment is what you began by assuming it to be—the grace-giving Church of God. If it be, you and your principles will surely find your position there and your home. When you proclaim it to be Apostolical, it will smile on you; when you kneel down and ask its blessing, it will stretch its hands over you; when you would strike at heresy, it will arm you for the fight; when you wind your dangerous way with steady tread between Sabellius, Nestorius, and Eutyches, between Pelagius and Calvin, it will follow you with anxious eyes {167} and a beating heart; when you proclaim its relationship to Rome and Greece, it will in transport embrace you as its own dear children; you will sink happily into its arms, you will repose upon its breast, you will recognise your mother, and be at peace. If, however, on the contrary, you find that the more those great principles which you have imbibed from St. Athanasius and St. Augustine, and which have become the life and the form of your moral and intellectual being, vegetate and expand within you, the more awkward and unnatural you find your position in the Establishment, and the more difficult its explanation; if there is no lying, or standing, or sitting, or kneeling, or stooping there, in any possible attitude; if, as in the tyrant's cage, when you would rest your head, your legs are forced out between the Articles, and when you would relieve your back, your head strikes against the Prayer Book; when, place yourselves as you will, on the right side or the left, and try to keep as still as you can, your flesh is ever being punctured and probed by the stings of Bishops, laity, and nine-tenths of the Clergy buzzing about you; is it not as plain as day that the Establishment is not your place, since it is no place for your principles? Those principles are not there professed, they are not there realised. That mystical sacramental system on which your thoughts live, which was once among men, as you know well—and therefore must be always with them—is not the inheritance of {168}Anglicanism, but must have been bequeathed to others; it must be sought elsewhere. You have doubts on the point already; well, here is the confirmation of them. I have no wish, then, to substitute an external and political view for your personal serious inquiry. I am but assisting you in that inquiry; I am deciding existing doubts, which belong to yourselves, by an external fact, which is as admissible, surely, in such a matter, as the allegation of miracles would be, or any other evidence of the kind; for the same God who works in you individually, is working in the public and historical course of things also.

I think, then, that in my last Lectures I have proved, not adequately, for it would take many words to do justice to a proof so abundant in materials, but as far as time allowed, and as was necessary for those who would pursue the thought, that the movement to which you and I belong, looks away from the Establishment, that "Let us go hence" is its motto. I cannot doubt you would agree with me in this, did you not belong to it, did you disbelieve its principles, were you merely disinterested, dispassionate lookers-on; in that case you would decide that you must join some other communion: judge then as disbelieving, act as believing. If the movement be a providential work, it has a providential scope; if that scope be not in the direction of the Establishment, as I have been proving, in what direction is it? Does it look towards Greece, or towards {169} America, or towards Scotland, or towards Rome? This is the subject which has next to be considered, and to which, in part, I shall address myself today.

Here then, when you are investigating whither you shall go for your new succession and your new priesthood, I am going to offer you a suggestion which, if it approves itself to you, will do away with the opportunity, or the possibility, of choice altogether. It will reduce the claimants to one. Before entering, then, upon the inquiry, whither you shall betake yourselves, and what you shall be, bear with me while I give you one piece of advice; it is this—While you are looking about for a new Communion, have nothing to do with a "Branch Church." You have had enough experience of branch churches already, and you know very well what they are. Depend upon it, such as is one, such is another. They may differ in accidents certainly; but, after all, a branch is a branch, and no branch is a tree. Depend on it, my brethren, it is not worth while leaving one branch for another. While you are doing so great a work, do it thoroughly; do it once for all; change for the better. Rather than go to another branch, remain where you are; do not put yourselves to trouble for nothing; do not sacrifice this world without gaining the next. Now let us consider this point attentively. {170}


By a Branch Church is meant, I suppose, if we interpret the metaphor, a Church which is separate from its stem; and if we ask what is meant by the stem, I suppose it means the "Universal Church," as you are accustomed to call it. The Catholic Church, indeed, as understood by Catholics, is one kingdom or society, divisible into parts, each of which is in inter-communion with each other and with the whole, as the members of a human body. This Catholic Church, as I suppose you would maintain, has ceased to exist, or at least is in deliquium, for you will not give the name to us, nor do you take it yourselves, and scarcely ever use the phrase at all, except in the Creed; but a "Universal Church" you think there really is, and you mean by it the whole body of professing Christians all over the world, whatever their faith, origin, and traditions, provided they lay claim to an Apostolical Succession, and this whole is divisible into portions or branches, each of them independent of the whole, discordant one with another in doctrine and in ritual, destitute of mutual intercommunion, and more frequently in actual warfare, portion with portion, than in a state of neutrality. Such is pretty nearly what you mean by a Branch, allowing for differences of opinion on the subject; such, for instance, is the Russian Branch, which denounces the Pope as a usurper; such the Papal, which anathematises the Protestantism of the Anglican; {171} such the Anglican, which reprobates the devotions and scorns the rites of the Russian; such the Scotch, which has changed the Eucharistic service of the Anglican; such the American, which has put aside its Athanasian Creed.

Such, I say, is a Branch Church, and, as you will see at once, it is virtually synonymous with a National; for though it may be in fact and at present but one out of many communions in a nation, it is intended, by its very mission, as preacher and evangelist, to spread through the nation; nor has it done its duty till it has so spread, for it must be supposed to have the promise of success as well as the mission. On the other hand, it cannot extravagate beyond the nation, for the very principle of demarcation between Branch and Branch is the distinction of Nation or State; to the Nation, then, or State it is limited, and beyond the Nation's boundaries it cannot properly pass. Thus it is the normal condition of a Branch Church to be a National Church; it tends to nationality as its perfect idea; till it is national it is defective, and when it is national it is all it can be, or was meant to be. Since, then, to understand what any being is, we must contemplate it, not in its rudiments or commencements, any more than in its decline, but in its maturity and its perfection, it follows that, if we would know what a Branch Church is, we must view it as a National Church, and we shall form but an erroneous estimate of its nature and {172} its characteristics, unless we investigate its national form.

Recollect, then, that a Branch Church is a National Church, and the reason why I warn you against getting your orders from such a Church, or joining such a Church, as, for instance, the Greek, the Russian, or some Monophysite Church, is that you are in a National Church already, and that a National Church ever will be and must be what you have found your own to be,—an Erastian body. You are going to start afresh. Well, then, I assert, that if you do not get beyond the idea of Nationalism in this your new beginning, you are just where you were. Erastianism, the fruitful mother of all heresies, will be your first and your last. You will have left Erastianism to take Erastianism up again,—that heresy which is the very badge of Anglicanism, and the abomination of that theological movement from which you spring.

I here assert, then, that a Branch or National Church is necessarily Erastian, and cannot be otherwise, till the nature of man is other than it is; and I shall prove this from the state of the case, and from the course of history, and from the confession, or rather avowal, of its defenders. The English Establishment is nothing extraordinary in this respect; the Russian Church is Erastian, so is the Greek; such was the Nestorian; such would be the Scotch Episcopal, such the Anglo-American, if ever they became commensurate {173} with the nation. And now for my reasons for saying so.


You hold, and rightly hold, that the Church is a sovereign and self-sustaining power, in the same sense in which any temporal State is such. She is sufficient for herself; she is absolutely independent in her own sphere; she has irresponsible control over her subjects in religious matters; she makes laws for them of her own authority, and enforces obedience on them as the tenure of their membership with her. And you know, in the next place, that the very people, who are her subjects, are in another relation the State's subjects, and that those very matters which in one aspect are spiritual, in another are secular. The very same persons and the very same things belong to two supreme jurisdictions at once, so that the Church cannot issue any order, but it affects the persons and the things of the State; nor can the State issue any order, without its affecting the persons and the things of the Church. Moreover, though there is a general coincidence between the principles on which civil and ecclesiastical welfare respectively depend, as proceeding from one and the same God, who has given power to the Magistrate as well as to the Priest, still there is no necessary coincidence in their particular application and resulting details, in the one and in the other polity, just as the good of the soul is not always the good of the body; {174} and much more is this the case, considering there is no divine direction promised to the State, to preserve it from human passion and human selfishness. You will, I think, agree with me in judging, that under these circumstances it is morally impossible that there should not be continual collision, or chance of collision, between the State and the Church; and, considering the State has the power of the sword, and the Church has no arms but such as are spiritual, the problem to be considered by us is, how the Church may be able to do her divinely appointed work without let or hindrance from the physical force of the State.

And a difficulty surely it is, and a difficulty which Christianity for the most part brought into the world. It can scarcely be said to have existed before; for, if not altogether in Judaism, yet certainly in the heathen polities, the care of public worship, of morals, of education, was mainly committed, as well as secular matters, to the civil magistrate. There was once no independent jurisdiction in religion; but, when our Lord came, it was with the express object of introducing a new kingdom, distinct and different from the kingdoms of the world, and He was sought after by Herod, and condemned by Pilate, on the very apprehension that His claims to royalty were inconsistent with their prerogatives. Such was the Church when first introduced into the world, and her subsequent history has been after the pattern of her commencement; the State has ever {175} been jealous of her, and has persecuted her from without and bribed her from within.

I repeat, the great principles of the State are those of the Church, and, if the State would but keep within its own province, it would find the Church its truest ally and best benefactor. She upholds obedience to the magistrate; she recognises his office as from God; she is the preacher of peace, the sanction of law, the first element of order, and the safeguard of morality, and that without possible vacillation or failure; she may be fully trusted; she is a sure friend, for she is indefectible and undying. But it is not enough for the State that things should be done, unless it has the doing of them itself; it abhors a double jurisdiction, and what it calls a divided allegiance; aut Csar aut nullus, is its motto, nor does it willingly accept of any compromise. All power is founded, as it is often said, on public opinion; for the State to allow the existence of a collateral and rival authority, is to weaken its own and, even though that authority never showed its presence by collision, but never concurred and cooperated in the acts of the State, yet the divinity with which the State would fain hedge itself would, in the minds of men, be concentrated on that Ordinance of God which has the higher claim to it.


Such being the difficulty which ever has attended, {176} and ever will attend, the claims and the position of the Catholic Church in this proud and ambitious world, let us see how, as a matter of history, Providence has practically solved or alleviated it. He has done so by means of the very circumstance that the Church is Catholic, that she is one organised body, expanded over the whole earth, and in active intercommunion part with part, so that no one part acts without acting on and acting with every other. He has broken the force of the collisions, which ever must be, between Church and State, by the circumstance that a large community, such as the Church, necessarily moves slowly; and this will particularly be the case when it is subject to distinct temporal rulers, exposed to various political interests and prepossessions, and embarrassed by such impediments to communication (physical or moral, mountains and seas, languages and laws) as separation into nations involves. Added to this, the Church is composed of a vast number of ranks and offices, so that there is scarcely any of her acts that belongs to one individual will, or is elaborated by one intellect, or that is not rather the joint result of many co-operating agents, each in his own place, and at his appointed moment. And so fertile an idea as the Christian faith, so happy a mother as the Catholic Church, is necessarily developed and multiplied into a thousand various powers and functions; she has her Clergy and laity, her seculars and regulars, her Episcopate and Prelacy, {177} her diversified orders, congregations, confraternities, communities, each indeed intimately one with the whole, yet with its own characteristics, its own work, its own traditions, its graceful rivalry, or its disgraceful jealousies, and sensitive, on its own ground and its own sphere, of whatever takes place anywhere else. And then again, there is the ever-varying action of the ten thousand influences, political, national, local, municipal, provincial, agrarian, scholastic, all bearing upon her; the clashing of temporal interests, the apprehension of danger to the whole or its parts, the necessity of conciliation, and the duty of temporising. Further, she has no material weapons of attack or defence, and is at any moment susceptible of apparent defeat from local misfortune or personal misadventure. Moreover, her centre is one, and, from this very circumstance, sheltered from secular inquisitiveness; sheltered, moreover, in consequence of the antiquated character of its traditions, the peculiarity of its modes of acting, the tranquillity and deliberateness of its operations, as well as the mysteriousness thrown about it both from its picturesque and imposing ceremonial, and the popular opinion of its sanctity. And further still, she has the sacred obligation on her of long-suffering, patience, charity, of regard for the souls of her children, and of an anxious anticipation of the consequences of her measures. Hence, though her course is consistent, determinate, and simple, when viewed in history, yet to those who {178} accompany the stages of its evolution from day to day as they occur, it is confused and disappointing.

How different is the bearing of the temporal power upon the spiritual! Its promptitude, decisiveness, keenness, and force are well represented in the military host which is its instrument. Punctual in its movements, precise in its operations, imposing in its equipments, with its spirits high and its step firm, with its haughty clarion and its black artillery, behold, the mighty world is gone forth to war, with what? with an unknown something, which it feels but cannot see? which flits around it, which flaps against its cheek, with the air, with the wind. It charges and it slashes, and it fires its volleys, and it bayonets, and it is mocked by a foe who dwells in another sphere, and is far beyond the force of its analysis, or the capacities of its calculus. The air gives way, and it returns again; it exerts a gentle but constant pressure on every side; moreover, it is of vital necessity to the very power which is attacking it. Whom have you gone out against? a few old men, with red hats and stockings, or a hundred pale students, with eyes on the ground, and beads in their girdle; they are as stubble; destroy them;—then there will be other old men; and other pale students instead of them. But we will direct our rage against one; he flees; what is to be done with him? Cast him out upon the wide world! but nothing can go on without him. Then bring him back! but he will give us no {179} guarantee for the future. Then leave him alone; his power is gone, he is at an end, or he will take a new course of himself: he will take part with the State or the people. Meanwhile the multitude of interests in active operation all over the great Catholic body rise up, as it were, all around, and encircle the combat, and hide the fortune of the day from the eyes of the world; and unreal judgments are hazarded, and rash predictions, till the mist clears away, and then the old man is found in his own place, as before, saying Mass over the tomb of the Apostles. Resentment and animosity succeed in the minds of the many, when they find their worldly wisdom quite at fault, and that the weak has over-mastered the strong. They accuse the Church of craft. But, in truth, it is her very vastness, her manifold constituents, her complicated structure, which gives her this semblance, whenever she wears it, of feebleness, vacillation, subtleness, or dissimulation. She advances, retires, goes to and fro, passes to the right or left, bides her time, by a spontaneous, not a deliberate action. It is the divinely-intended method of her coping with the world's power. Even in the brute creation, each animal which God has made has its own instincts for securing its subsistence, and guarding against its foes; and, when He sent out His own into the world, as sheep among wolves, over and above the harmlessness and wisdom with which He gifted them, He lodged the security of His truth in the {180} very fact of its Catholicity. The Church triumphs over the world's jurisdiction everywhere, because, though she is everywhere, for that very reason she is in the fulness of her jurisdiction nowhere. Ten thousand subordinate authorities have been planted round, or have issued from, that venerable Chair where sits the plenitude of Apostolical power. Hence, when she would act, the blow is broken, and concussion avoided, by the innumerable springs, if I may use the word, on which the celestial machinery is hung. By an inevitable law of the system, and by the nature of the case, there are inquiries, and remonstrances, and threatenings, and first decisions, and appeals, and reversals, and conferences, and long delays, and arbitrations, before the final steps are taken in its battle with the State, if they cannot be avoided, and before the proper authority of the Church shows itself, whether in definition, or bull, or anathema, or interdict, or other spiritual instrument; and then, if, after all, persuasion has failed, and compromise with the civil power is impossible, the world is prepared for the event; and even in that case the Sovereign Pontiff, as such, is spared any direct collision with it, for the reason that he is no subject in matters temporal of the State with which he is at variance, whatever it be, being temporal Sovereign in his own home, and treating with the States of the earth only through his secular representatives and ministers. {181}


The remarks I have been making are well illustrated by the history of our own great St. Thomas, in his contest with King Henry II. Deserted by his suffragans, and threatened with assassination, he is forced to escape, as he can, to the Continent. He puts his cause before the Pope, but with no immediate result, for the Pope is in contest with the Emperor, who has supported a pretender to the Apostolic See. For two years nothing is done; then the Pope begins to move, but mediates between Archbishop and King, instead of taking the part of the former. The King of France comes forward on the Saint's side, and his friends attempt to gain the Empress Matilda also. Strengthened by these demonstrations, St. Thomas excommunicates some of the King's party, and threatens the King himself, not to say his realm, with an interdict. Then there are appeals to Rome on the part of the King's Bishops, alarmed at the prospect of such extremities, while the Pope on the other hand gives a more distinct countenance to the Saint's cause. Suddenly, the face of things is overcast; the Pope has anathematised the Emperor, and has his hands full of his own matters; Henry's agents at Rome obtain a Legatine Commission, under the presidency of a Cardinal favourable to his cause.

The quarrel lingers on; two years more have passed, and then the Commission fails. Then St. Thomas {182} rouses himself again, and is proceeding with the interdict, when news comes that the King has overreached the Pope, and the Archbishop's powers are altogether suspended for a set time. The artifice is detected by the good offices of the French Bishops, the Pope sends comminatory letters to the King, but, then again, does not carry them out. There is a reconciliation between the Kings of England and France, at the expense of St. Thomas; but, by this time, the suspension is over, and the Saint excommunicates the Bishop of London. In consequence, he receives a rebuke from the Pope, who, after absolving the Bishop, takes the matter into his own hands, himself excommunicates the Bishop, and himself threatens the kingdom with an interdict. Then St. Thomas returns, and is martyred, winning the day by suffering, not by striking.

Seven years are consumed in these transactions from first to last, and they afford a sufficient illustration of the subject before us. If I add the remarks made on them by the editor of the Saint's letters, in Mr. Froude's "Remains," it is for the sake of his general statement, which is as just as it is apposite to my purpose, though I may not be able to approve of the tone or the drift of it. Speaking of St. Thomas, he says, "His notions, both as regarded the justice and policy to be pursued in the treatment of Henry, had suggested this course [the interdict] to him from the first opening of the contest; and he seems always to have had such a measure before {183} him, only the interruptions occasioned by embassies from Rome, and appeals to Rome, and other temporary suspensions of his ecclesiastical powers, had prevented him from putting his purpose into effect; these having, in fact, taken up almost the whole of the time. For an embassy, it must be observed, from the first day of its appointment, suspended the Archbishop's movements, who could do nothing while special and higher judges were in office … In this way, there being so much time, both before and after the actual holding of the conferences, during which the Archbishop's hands were tied, he may be said to have been almost under one sentence of suspension from the first, only rendered more harassing and vexatious from the promise afforded by his short intervals of liberty, and the alternations, in consequence, of expectation and disappointment. It was a state of confinement, which was always approaching its termination, and never realising it. With a clear line of action before him from the first, and with resolution and ability to carry it out, the Archbishop was compelled to keep pace, step by step, with a court that was absolutely deficient in both these respects; and found himself reduced throughout to a state of simple passiveness and endurance." [Note 1] Of course;—a Branch Church indeed, with the Catholic dogma and with Saints in it, cannot be; but, supposing the English Church had been such at the time of that contest, it {184} would, humanly speaking, have been inevitably shattered to pieces by its direct collision with the civil power; or else, its Saints got rid of, its Erastianising Bishops made its masters, and ultimately its dogma corrupted, and the times of Henry VIII. anticipated;—this would have been the case, but for its intercommunion with the rest of Christendom and the supremacy of Rome.


This, however, is what has been going on, in one way or another, for the whole eighteen centuries of Christian history. For even in the ante-Nicene period, the heretic Patriarch of Antioch was protected by the local sovereign against the Catholics, and was dispossessed by the authority and influence with the Imperial Government of the See of Rome. And since that time, again and again would the civil power, humanly speaking, have taken captive and corrupted each portion of Christendom in turn, but for its union with the rest, and the noble championship of the Supreme Pontiff. Our ears ring with the oft-told tale, how the temporal sovereign persecuted, or attempted, or gained, the local Episcopate, and how the many or the few faithful fell back on Rome. So was it with the Arians in the East and St. Athanasius; so with the Byzantine Empress and St. Chrysostom; so with the Vandal Hunneric and the Africans; so with the 130 Monophysite Bishops at Ephesus and St. Flavian; so {185} was it in the instance of the 500 Bishops, who, by the influence of Basilicus, signed a declaration against the Tome of St. Leo; so in the instance of the Henoticon of Zeno; and so in the controversies both of the Monothelites and of the Iconoclasts. Nay, in some of those few instances which are brought in controversy, as derogatory to the constancy of the Roman See, the vacillation, whatever it was, was owing to what, as I have shown is ordinarily avoided,—the immediate and direct pressure of the temporal power. As, among a hundred Martyr and Confessor Popes, St. Peter and St. Marcellinus for an hour or a day denied their Lord, so if Liberius and Vigilius gave a momentary scandal to the cause of orthodoxy, it was when they were no longer in their proper place, as the keystone of a great system, and as the correlative of a thousand ministering authorities, but mere individuals, torn from their see and prostrated before Csar.

In later and modern times we see the same truth irresistibly brought out; not only, for instance, in St. Thomas's history, but in St. Anselm's, nay, in the whole course of English ecclesiastical affairs, from the Conquest to the sixteenth century, and, not with least significancy, in the primacy of Cranmer. Moreover, we see it in the tendency of the Gallicanism of Louis XIV., and the Josephism of Austria. Such, too, is the lesson taught us in the recent policy of the Czar towards the United Greeks, and in the present bearing {186} of the English Government towards the Church of Ireland. In all these instances, it is a struggle between the Holy See and some local, perhaps distant, Government, the liberty and orthodoxy of its faithful people being the matter in dispute; and while the temporal power is on the spot, and eager, and cogent, and persuasive, and dangerous, the strength of the assailed party lies in its fidelity to the rest of Christendom and to the Holy See.

Well, this is intelligible; we see why it should be so, and we see it in historical fact; but how is it possible, and where are the instances in proof, that a Church can cast off Catholic intercommunion without falling under the power of the State? Could an isolated Church do now, what, humanly speaking, it could not have done in the twelfth century, though a Saint was its champion? Do you hope to do, my brethren, what was beyond St. Thomas of Canterbury? Truly is it then called a Branch Church; for, as a branch cannot live of itself, therefore, as soon as it is lopped off from the Body of Christ, it is straightway grafted of sheer necessity upon the civil constitution, if it is to preserve life of any kind. Indeed, who could ever entertain such a dream, as that a circumscribed religious society, without the awfulness of a divine origin, the sacredness of immemorial custom, or the authority of many previous successes, while standing on its own ground, and simply subordinate as regards its constituent {187} members to the civil power, should be able to assert ecclesiastical claims, which are to impede the free action of that same sovereign power, and to insult its majesty?—a subject hierarchy, growing out of a nation's very soil, yet challenging it, standing breast to breast against it, breathing defiance into its very face, striking at it full and straight,—why, as men are constituted, such a nuisance, as they would call it, would be intolerable. The rigid, unelastic, wooden contrivance would be shivered into bits by the very recoil and jar of the first blow it was rash enough to venture. But matters would not go so far; the blandishments, the alliances, the bribes, the strong arm of the world, would bring it to its senses, and humble it in its own sight, ere it had opportunity to be valiant. The world would simply over-master the presumptuous claimant to divine authority, and would use for its own purposes the slave whom it had dishonoured. It would set her to sweep its courts, or to keep the line of its march, who had thought to reign among the stars of heaven.

For, it is evident enough, a National or Branch Church can be of the highest service to the State, if properly under control. The State wishes to make its subjects peaceful and obedient; and there is nothing more fitted to effect this object than religion. It wishes them to have some teaching about the next world, but not too much: just as much as is important and beneficial {188} to the interests of the present. Decency, order, industry, patience, sobriety, and as much of purity as can be expected from human nature,—this is its list of requisites; not dogma, for it creates the odium theologicum; not mystery, for it only serves to exalt the priesthood. Useful, sensible preaching, activity in benevolent schemes, the care of schools, the superintendence of charities, good advice for the thoughtless and idle, and "spiritual consolation" for the dying—these are the duties of a National or Branch Church. The parochial clergy are to be a moral police; as to the Bishops, they are to be officers of a State-religion, not shepherds of a people; not mixing and interfering in the crowd, but coming forward on solemn occasions to crown, or to marry, or to baptize royalty, or to read prayers to the House of Peers, or to consecrate churches, or to ordain and confirm, or to preach for charities, and to be but little seen in public in any other way. Synods are unnecessary and dangerous, for they convey the impression that the Establishment is a distinct body, and has rights of its own. So is discipline, or any practical separation of Churchmen and Dissenters; for nationality is the real bond, and Churchmanship is but the accident, of Englishmen. Churches and churchyards are national property, and open to all, whatever their denomination, for marriage and for burial, when they will. Nor must the Establishment be in the eye of the law a corporation, even though its separate incumbents and {189} chapters be such, lest it be looked upon as politically more than a name, or a function of State.


Now, in order to show that this is no exaggeration, I will, in conclusion, refer in evidence to the celebrated work of a celebrated man, in defence of the Establishment; a work, too, which disowns Erastianism, and, in a certain sense, is written against it, and which, moreover, is, in breadth of doctrine, behind what would be maintained or taken for granted by statesmen now. For all these reasons, if I would illustrate what I have been saying of the certainty of a theoretical Branch Church becoming, in fact, and in the event, a Branch of the State, and of the liking of the State for Branch Churches and nothing else, I could not take a work fairer to the National Church, than "The Alliance of Church and State" of Bishop Warburton. A few extracts will be sufficient for my purpose.

In this Treatise he tells us, that the object of the State in this alliance is, not the propagation of the truth, but the wellbeing of society. "The true end," he says, "for which religion is established," by the State, "is not to provide for the true faith, but for civil utility." [Note 2] This is "the key," he observes, "to open the whole mystery of this controversy, and to lead" a man "safe through all the intricacies, windings, and perplexities {190} in which it has been involved." Next, religion is to be used for the benefit of that civil power, which, it seems, does not in any true sense provide for religion. "This use of religion to the State," he says, " was seen by the learned, and felt by all men of every age and nation. The ancient world particularly was so firmly convinced of this truth, that the greatest secret of the sublime art of legislation consisted in this—how best religion might be applied to serve society." [Note 3]

Well, so far we might tolerate him; such statements, if not simply true, are not absolutely unheard of or paradoxical; but next he makes a startling step in advance. "Public utility and truth coincide," [Note 4] he says; nay, further still, he distinctly calls public utility "a sure rule and measure of truth;" [Note 5] so that he continues, by means of it the State "will be much better enabled to find out truth, than any speculative inquirer with all the aid of the philosophy of the schools." [Note 6] "From whence it appears," he continues, "that while a State, in union with the Church, hath so great an interest and concern with true religion, and so great a capacity for discovering what is true, religion is likely to thrive much better than when left to itself." The State, then, it would appear, out of compassion to Religion, takes it out of the schools, and adapts it to its own purposes to keep it pure and make it perfect. {191}

He does not scruple to bring out this very sentiment in the most explicit statements, that there may be no mistake about his meaning. He considers conformity to objects of State, the simple rule of truth, of purity, of exaggeration, of excess, of perversity, and of dangerousness in doctrinal teaching. "Of whatever use," he says, "an alliance may be thought for preserving the being of religion, the necessity of it for preserving its purity is most evident … Let us consider the danger religion runs, when left in its natural state to itself, of deviating from truth. In those circumstances, the men who have the greatest credit in the Church are such as are famed for greatest sanctity. Now, Church sanctity has been generally understood to be then most perfect, when most estranged from the world and all its habitudes and relations. But this being only to be acquired by secession and retirement from human affairs, and that secession rendering man ignorant of civil society and its rights and interests, in place of which will succeed, according to his natural temper, all the follies of superstition or fanaticism, we must needs conclude, that religion, under such directors and reformers (and God knows these are generally its lot), will deviate from truth, and consequently from a capacity, in proportion, of serving civil society … Such societies we have seen, whose religious doctrines are so little serviceable to civil society, that they can prosper only on the ruin and destruction of it. {192} Such are those who preach up the sanctity of celibacy, asceticism, the sinfulness of defensive war, of capital punishments, and even of civil magistracy itself. On the other hand, when Religion is in alliance with the State, as it then comes under the magistrate's direction (those holy leaders having now neither credit nor power to do mischief), its purity must needs be reasonably well supported and preserved. For, truth and public utility coinciding, the civil magistrate, as such, will see it for his interest to seek after and promote the truth in religion; and, by means of public utility, which his office enables him so well to understand, he will never be at a loss to know where such truth is to be found." [Note 7]

He takes delight in this view of the subject, and enforces it as follows:—"The means of attaining man's happiness here," he says, "is civil society; the means of his happiness hereafter is contemplation. If, then, opinions, the result of contemplation, obstruct the effects of civil society, it follows that they must be restrained. Accordingly, the ancient masters of wisdom, who, from these considerations, taught that man was born for action, not for contemplation, universally concurred to establish it as a maxim, founded on the nature of things, that opinions should always give way to civil peace." [Note 8] And he proceeds to defend it as follows: "God so disposed {193} things, that the means of attaining the happiness of one state [of existence] should not cross or obstruct the means of attaining the happiness of the other. From whence we must conclude, that where the supposed means of each—viz., opinions and civil peace—do clash, there one of them is not the true means of happiness. But the means of attaining the happiness peculiar to that state in which the man at present exists, being perfectly and infallibly known by man, and the means of the happiness of his future existence, as far as relates to the discovery of truth, but very imperfectly known by him, it necessarily follows that, wherever opinions clash with civil peace, those opinions are no means of future happiness, or, in other words, are either no truths, or truths of no importance." Behold the principle of the reasonings of the Committee of Privy Council, and the philosophy of the Premier's satisfaction thereupon! Baptismal regeneration is determined to be true or not true, not by the text of Scripture, the testimony of the Fathers, the tradition of the Church, nay, not by Prayer Book, Articles, Jewell, Usher, Carleton, or Bullinger, but by its tendency to minister to the peace and repose of the community, to the convenience and comfort of Downing Street, Lambeth, and Exeter Hall.

If the Bishop makes doctrine depend upon political expedience, it is not wonderful that he should take the same measure of the Sacraments and Orders of his {194} Church. "Hence," he says, "may be seen the folly of those Christian sects, which, under pretence that Christianity is a spiritual religion, fancy it cannot have rites, ceremonies, public worship, a ministry or ecclesiastical policy. Not reflecting that without these it could never have become national, and consequently, could not have done that service to the State that it, of all religions, is most capable of performing." [Note 9] And then in a note, on occasion of Burnet's statement, that "Sidney's notion of Christianity was, that it was like a divine philosophy in the mind, without public worship or anything that looked like a Church," he adds, "that an ignorant monk, who had seen no further than his cell, or a mad fanatic, who had thrown aside his reason, should talk thus is nothing; but that the great Sidney, a man so superlatively skilled in the science of human nature and civil policy, and who so well knew what religion was capable of doing for the State, should fall into this extravagant error, is, indeed, very surprising."

Accordingly, he mentions some of the details in which ecclesiastical ceremonies are serviceable to the State; and in quoting his list and reasons of them, I shall conclude my extracts from his very instructive volume. "There are peculiar junctures," he says, "when the influence of religion is more than ordinarily serviceable to the State, and these the civil magistrate only knows. Now, while a Church is in its natural state of independency, {195} it is not in his power to improve these conjunctures to the advantage of the State by a proper application of religion; but when the alliance is made, and, consequently, the Church under his direction, he has the authority to prescribe such public exercises of religion, as days of humiliation, fasts, festivals, exhortations and dehortations, thanksgivings and depreciations, and in such a manner as he finds the exigencies of State require." [Note 10]


And now I think I have shown you, my brethren, as far as I could hope to do so in the course of a Lecture, that if your first principle be, as it was the first principle of the movement of 1833, that the Church should have absolute power over her faith, worship, and teaching, you must not be contemplating an ecclesiastical body, local and isolated, or what you have been accustomed to call a Branch Church. The fable of the bundle of sticks especially applies to those who have no weapons of flesh and blood,—to an unarmed hierarchy, who have to contend with the pride of intellect and the power of the sword. Look abroad, my brethren, and see whether this union of many members, divided in place and circumstances, but one in heart, is not most visibly the very strength of the Catholic Church at this very time. Then only can you resist the world, {196} when you belong to a communion which exists under many governments, not one; or should it ever be under some empire commensurate with itself (which is not conceivable), a communion which has, at least, an immovable centre to fall back upon. But if this be the state of the case, if you must, on the one hand, leave the existing Establishment, yet, on the other, not seek or form a Branch Church instead of it, I have brought you by a short, but I hope, not an abrupt or unsafe path, to the conclusion that you must cease to be an Anglican by becoming a Catholic. Indeed, if the movement, of which you are the children, had any providential scope at all, I do not see how you can disguise from yourselves that Catholicism is it. The Catholic Church, and she alone, from the nature of the case, is proof against Erastianism.

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1. Froude's Remains, vol. iv. p. 449.
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2. Bp. Warburton's "Alliance of Church and State," p. 148, ed. 1741.
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3. Bp. Warburton's "Alliance of Church and State," p. 18.
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4. Ibid. p. 147.
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5. Ibid. p. 135.
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6. Ibid.
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7. Bp. Warburton's "Alliance of Church and State," p. 58.
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8. Ibid. p. 126.
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9. Bp. Warburton's "Alliance of Church and State," p. 104.
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10. Bp. Warburton's "Alliance of Church and State," p. 63.
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Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
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