« AnteriorContinuar »
or regarded more particularly in the other Commissions, I have now placed it after those Commissions. This has been done partly because the solemnity with which the other two Commissions were given appears to put them into a more eminent and important rank than the Pastoral; and partly because the Pastoral having been given, although to all the Apostles in design, yet to one only in word, I was unwilling to write or print any thing which might, even mistakenly, lead to the impression of my wishing to support that doctrine which I cannot but regard as the source of corruption in the Church, the true cause and provocative of all the manifold schisms of later years, the apūrov Heudoc of debased Christianity, the doctrine of the supremacy of the Pope, or the absolute need of submission to him in order to membership of the Church of Christ, and his consequent infallibility in matters of doctrine.
This impression, which I would never have incurred willingly, it has now become most important to render impossible. And I therefore trust that I may not be doing what is faulty, in point either of taste or duty, in expressing my deep conviction of the soundness of the ground taken by the Church in England as against the See of Rome. The equality of the Apostles, which is capable of the most abundant proof, seems to lead directly to the equality of Bishops, and of Churches. Nor is it easy to conceive that what
was a real and acknowledged equality in the primitive ages, can have become a legitimate and due dominion in later ones. When this claim of dominion is found to involve an actual denial of the full Episcopal power to all Bishops throughout Christendom, except the single holder of the See of St. Peter, from whom all other Bishops are thought to hold only a delegated and vicarious authority; when this claim of dominion is used to substantiate and accredit a body of doctrine widely dissimilar from what the Holy Scriptures teach, and the writings of the primitive Fathers exhibit as believed in their times, it becomes a matter of the very first and most momentous consequence to ascertain whether that claim itself is well-founded, or whether, in fact, it be an usurpation, and therefore to be resisted by those who tender the true constitution of the Church of Christ, and the integrity of the Faith once delivered to the Saints. It is no longer then a question of peace, or of a meek spirit which can yield itself even to illegitimate claims of superiority; but it is a real, vital question. The Pope is not an individual whom for honour's sake, or for the sake of the antiquity or apostolicity of his See, we may inoffensively, and without evil consequence, regard with even more respect and submission than is his due; but he is the claimant of an universal monarchy, the very symbol of a theory of Church government unheard of for many centuries of the Church's existence; the representative and enforcer of a system of doctrine, uniform in spirit, but very various in details, which, be it true or be it false, is very far from being identical with the system of doctrine of the Holy Scriptures, or the Creeds, or the primitive Church.
To a person bred within the bosom of the Church of Rome it is probably extremely difficult to gain the point of view from which the question of the validity of this wonderful claim can be rightly regarded, and adequately judged. His entire Christian knowledge and training have been so mixed up with the acknowledgment of the monarchical constitution of the visible Church, it so occupies the foreground of his view, that he can hardly, by any exercise of mind and judgment, disembarrass himself of it sufficiently to test the real, historical grounds on which that monarchical constitution claims to rest; and the comparative withdrawal of the Holy Scripture from popular use, and other like measures of keeping Christian doctrine at a distance from popular examination and study, greatly increase the difficulty.
But every legitimate claim must have assignable grounds. Even though some persons may not be in a condition to see them, and though it may not be desirable for them to be often brought forward, or much talked of (as in the case of the regal authority and others such), yet grounds it must have, or else it is groundless. And these grounds must be such as can be produced, and being produced, such as can be judged of.
Whatever these grounds be, a candid member of the Church of England, living in this age, and desirous above all things to assure himself that he is a “very member incorporate in the mystical Body of Christ, which is the blessed Company of all faithful people,” would seem to be not unfavourably situated to judge of it. The heats of the Reformation are to him long since passed away. He neither participates in the sins of many of the individuals who contributed to place the Church of England in her independent position, nor in the angry feelings with which his fathers regarded their long since dead antagonists as merciless tyrants and persecutors, who only lacked the power, not the will, to force them either to recantation or the flames. If the Pope be indeed the Vicar of Christ, so that his decisions are indeed the present form of the Divine scheme of mercy for the restoration of the world, then, in the name of Him whom we desire to serve, let the point be proved, and we are ready to yield. If Christ be personally represented on earth by one man, so that to be, even reluctantly, painfully, and by compulsion out of communion with that one man, is equivalent to not having the Spirit of Christ, and so being none of His, then let the case be cleared the argument made good, and we will submit; yes, and if his priests declare it necessary, undo our very baptisms, acknowledge ourselves to have been no members of Christ, nor children of God, nor inberitors of the kingdom of heaven, by receiving re-baptism at the hand of his delegates.
But, alas! this very acknowledgment has been made, this very re-baptism received, the point of argument yielded, the Bishop of Rome's power submitted to as the true and legitimate ordinance of God, by many, and those not of small name, nor light esteem in the English Church, within these few weeks. We lament their loss; we lament it sore for ourselves, for we have lost their zeal, their learning, their piety, their fraternal love; still more do we lament it sore for them, for we believe them to have incurred the guilt of schism, to have contributed to strengthen a grievous usurpation and tyranny in God's Church, and therewith to have given their support to a mass of unauthorized and unfounded “traditions of men,” to the corruption of the true primitive Faith of Christ.
But why have they done this? what grounds do they state? what argument has told upon them with weight unfelt before? what have they seen, or read, or thought, which has caused them to desert the place in which they found themselves, and yielding to the Roman submission, to confess that every Church is essentially in schism which does not maintain, by acknowledgment of