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Church of England is the nation, ecclesiastically considered. This, whoever has the honour of its parentage, is the best definition that can be given of a national church. Hence, the Dissenter, though refusing to worship within its walls, bas, as a citizen, a civil relation to it, which cannot be destroyed so long as he remains in England. This, however, is by the way. We have stated, as a fact, that very few of the adherents of the Church of England are satisfied with it. This is in reality better known to its own members and clergy, than to those who are beyond its pale. Clear-headed men among the latter may probably see the causes of their disquietude better than the former, but those feel it more. It is to many of them matter of painful anxiety. Believing in the propriety of an establishment, and consequently rejecting the doctrine, that its separation from the state would contribute to the purity and stability of the Episcopal Church, they are anxious to vindicate the soundness of their faith in this particular by facilitating movements towards internal reform. This party, however-for, in describing the Church of England of to-day, we must refer to the leading parties that compose it—feels itself hampered and restricted by the very constitution of the system whose prosperity it desires. It feels itself bound hand and foot. The worthy men to whom we refer may plan, but they cannot execute; they may desire, but they cannot realise their own desires; they may have an ideal establishment, but they cannot summon it into being, and give it form and reality. It is a pleasant dream, the actual embodiment of which is earnestly longed for ; but it is only a dream. The theory is beautiful, but the thing comes not; and, under the present constitution of the Church, it cannot come. Freedom of action is impossible. They are under law. Canonical authority is imperative. They are sworn to a master. Him they must obey, or leave his service. They are there, not to reform, not to re-arrange, not to act upon
the dictates of judgment or to exercise freedom of will, but to “ do duty." Their work is assigned, their limits fixed, their orbits traced; they are not, and, from the nature of the case, cannot be, freemen. Any alteration in the rubric, or the omission of any part of (say) the burial service, which they may desire, they cannot effect. Over the dead body of every man, though his life may have been notoriously wicked, and his character infamous, “ the priest shall say–Forasmuch as it hath pleased Almighty God, of his great mercy, to take unto himself the soul of our dear brother here departed, we therefore commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in sure and cer. tain hope of the resurrection to eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change our vile body, that it may be like unto his glorious body, according to the mighty working whereby he is able to subdue all things to himself." These are glorious words to utter over the grave of a Christian, who has fallen asleep in Christ; but to pronounce them over the corpse of a blasphemer, whom God “will not hold guiltless,” or that of an adulterer or drunkard, who “shall not inherit the kingdom of God," is truly appalling. It turns all moral distinctions into a frightful chaos, and makes the solemnities of sepulture a mockery and a snare. This has long been felt by enlightened and pious clergymen in the Church of England; but what can they do? We anticipate the answer which many of our readers are prepared at
once to give to this question ; but let them remember that their prompt
l remedy cannot be adopted by men who conscientiously believe the Church of England to be, upon the whole, “the most Scriptural church in the world,” the “bulwark of Protestantism in England,” and “the glory of the land.” Having assumed this premiss—the soundness of which we shall test by and by—to throw off the yoke, by abandoning the system, is a conclusion which they cannot logically reach. Besides, so compact is the organisation of the Episcopacy, that they cannot do this if they would. Priestly orders are indelible. So says the law. From the moment when the bishop lays his hand upon the head of the “humbly kneeling" candidate for the office of priesthood, and says“ Receive the Holy Ghost for the office and work of a priest in the Church of God, now committed unto thee by the imposition of our hands," the man is invested with a sacred character which remains with him to his dying hour. “ He may be guilty of some ecclesiastical offence -he may be under the censure and ban of the Church-or the sentence of excommunication may have gone forth against him; but still be retains his priestly character. He may be guilty of a crime for which his life is forfeited, and may have to expiate his crime by an ignominious death, and yet up to the last moment he retains intact his priestly character. He is clothed with attributes which he can never lay aside, and of which no power, civil or ecclesiastical, can divest him. And he may secede, but he can never ensure himself against prosecution and penalty. He is at the mercy of his diocesan. His bishop may drag him into all the meshes of law, and leave him in its crushing fangs, a helpless and hopeless victim. The case of Mr Shore is to the point. Even now, the bishop may at any moment interdict his performing clerical duty. Disobedience may be followed by prosecution, and prosecution by extreme penalty; and yet he is a priest, and a priest always.” Such is the state of the law; and our readers may infer, without comment by us, how it operates upon the minds of men who, whilst groaning under the yoke, hold the opinion that their disquietude springs, not from the constitution of the system, but from accidental circumstances which convocation, or parliament, or her Majesty, the head of the Church, may remove. The fact, however, seems strangely overlooked, that the whole system is stereotyped by law.
- The power of the clergy in convocation,” may sound well in the ears of the hopeful clergyman; but what is that power? Nothing ; nor can there be any such convocation without the permission of the Queen. Hear the voice of majesty, in the preface to the Articles :—“That we are supreme governor of the Church of England ; and that if any difference arise about the external policy, concerning the injunction, canons, and other constitutions whatsoever, thereto belonging, the clergy in their convocation is to order and settle them (this looks like a grant of liberty, but the sentence is not completed], having first obtained leave, under our broad seal, 80 to do; and we approving their said ordinances and constitutions; providing that none be made contrary to the laws and customs of the land.” The twenty-first Article, which has the tempting title “ Of the Authority of General Councils,” dashes the cup from the lip in an instant, by beginning thus—"General councils may not be gathered together without the commandment and will of princes."
Such, then, are the position and prospects of those whom we may call, for want of a better name, the reform party in the Anglican Church. To call them the movement party would be absurd, as motion in such a strong net as this is impossible. Should it ever please the three estates of the realm to widen the meshes, their hopes may, to some extent, be realised; but till then they must bear the galling yoke which was laid upon their necks by the imposition of the bishop's hands.
There is, however, a movement party in the Church-the admirers and disciples of the renowned Dr Pusey. Its movements, we need not say, are not towards “ the Protestantism of the Protestant religion," but towards that masterpiece of mental slavery, vice, and hypocrisy, whose abominations “the monk that shook the world ”exposed to the indignation of mankind in the sixteenth century. That Popery is now what Luther found it then, of course, it would be no compliment to it to deny; for the insinuation of change in an infallible church, even though the change should gratify the best feelings of our common humanity, is virtually to assail its fundamental principle. Let Rome-Christian, then, have the honour which it demands. Give it the full benefit of its alleged infallibility, and what then? Why, to this system, reverend clergymen and honourable laymen, who have been nursed in the English universities, the ostensible conservators of Protestant doctrine and disci. pline, are weekly seceding. They are doing so, be it observed, for three chief reasons: first, because of its alleged infallibility ; secondly, because of the distractions of the Anglican Church ; and, thirdly, because of the opinion that the Reformation was a mistake and a heresy. It may be that ignorance has much more to do with this retrograde movement than information, that the love of ceremony is a more influential passion than the love of Christianity, and that Bishop Shirley is right, when he says—"I have no doubt that Puseyism is the result of conceit much more than of study ; most of those whom I have met are pitiful and supercilious coxcombs ;” but, still, unsophisticated minds are apt to put the common-sense question- Why are clergymen allowed to proceed to Rome with impunity, and to indulge in all the Pagan pomp of that system, which the Anglican Church has denominated damnable heresy, whilst the good man, who took, as he thought, the benefit of the oaths in favour of Protestant Nonconformists, is hunted like an outlawed crimi. nal, and ultimately lodged in Exeter Jail, over the door of which remains the edifying symbol of a gridiron for the last bed of incurable heretics ? No man with a well-furnished head will laugh at this question. It is no subject for ridicule. For “ Irish reciprocity," or one. sided liberty, we have no particular love ; and now that our pen is fairly at liberty, we shall try to answer this oft-propounded query. We could not lay our head comfortably on our pillow, if we allowed this opportunity to pass unimproved.
Mark, then, the answer to the question- Why is the Romanist permitted to escape unscathed, whilst the Protestant Dissenter is incarcerated in a dungeon, and ruined in health and property? Throughout the Church of England, at this moment, the corrupting leaven of Popery is fermenting the mass of nominal Protestantism to an extent, of which the people at large have no conception. In the diocese of Exeter, the thing is notorious. But in other bishoprics, where the evil is little
dreaded, it is proceeding with the silent certainty of the midnight thief. We are not in the habit of speaking without proof; but it will be time enough to produce witnesses when they are called for. With all our esteem for good men in the Church of England, and with all our admiration of the illustrious names that shine in her history, like stars of the first magnitude glowing in a cloudy sky, we have some heavy charges against her ; but they are all light, compared with her last offence of feeding on Protestant bounty, the known enemies of that Bible Christianity which has hitherto made England glorious in the eyes of the nations. She knows well that the Lord of the Church has decreed the signal destruction of the great apostacy, by the spirit of his mouth and the brightness of his coming; but, recreant to the charge regarding which she has so often sworn fidelity and vigilance, at this hour, even in this middle year of the nineteenth century, she is permitting men, who are impotent for good, but powerful for evil, to turn the communion-table into an altar, to celebrate the intercessory virtues of the Mother of Jesus, to do obeisance to the relics of canonised sinners, to enact all the harlequinism of a Church which is drunk with the blood of martyrs, to deceive the souls of our countrymen with another Gospel, and then, when they have gone through their tyro exploits, to depart to the city of the seven hills to finish their education, and to watch their time to return to the land of their fathers for the purpose of retrieving the grand error of the Reformation!
This is our heavy and solemn charge against a large and rapidlyincreasing party in the terribly expensive English Establishment. Need the friends of the Establishment wonder that multitudes are calling for the withdrawment of state patronage from a hierarchy charged with such criminality as this? Is it strange that there should be mutterings, which are likely to swell into thunder_“Give an account of thy stewardship, for thou mayst be no longer steward ?” The nation is not yet sunk into such alarming lethargy, as to allow the dead sea of formalism to welter over it without an indignant protest. The seed of the Puritans, the ancient troublers of a dominant priestism, may yet yield a harvest of fullgrown men, who will not only point to the trash-relics of Rome in the churches of this beautiful island, saying, in the words of their insulted Master—" Take these things hence!” but will command, from the conviction that these things are only fruits of a bad system, that a ploughshare be passed orer its foundations! But we scarcely think the aid of such mon will be required. The conflict is more likely to be internal. The house is divided against itself. There are ominous rents and fisBures in all parts of it; and its builder, the state, begins to be ashamed of the dangerous edifice, tired of the expense of eternal scaffolding and repairs, and seriously to ask whether its removal would not be a national boon. When statesmen come to this, it is the beginning of the end; and if the enormous question of patronage could be solved, in which the government is specially interested, it is probable that Puseyism would not much longer have national wealth to aid its mischievous operations. We say not this from an impression that the government has any particular dislike to Puseyism, as such. Indeed, we are aware that it has frequently been charged with strong tendencies in its favour. “A weak device of the enemy!” Puseyism would like nothing better than to spread the rumour that it is favoured in high places. Jesuitical to the core, this would bring a host of parasites to its side, whom it would em
а ploy as its useful tools to gain the favour which, above all things, it desires. If the government, as such, has any particular religious sympathies (of which we should be sorry hastily to accuse it), probably they are rather in favour of a wide liberalism—an all-endowing generositythan towards any distinct sect of religionists, or series of doctrines. But the incessant trouble occasioned to the government by the clamorous partisans of sects within the divided “ United Church of England and Ireland,” is more likely to bring it to a decision than any sympathy with, or dislike to, dogmatic or practical peculiarities. This is our position, and it remains to be seen whether those coming events, which cast their shadows before, will justify its soundness.
There is a third party--the Evangelical, or, as they are called, with less courtesy, by their lofty brethren of the high school, the Low Church party. Because of their reverence for the truth, we reverence those men ; because of their piety as Christians and fidelity as pastors, we greatly esteem them. But we think them in a false position ; whilst assuredly they have allowed one or two golden opportunities to pass of vindicating, by practical action, that spiritual religion, concerning which they so often preach to their flocks. Our sympathy with many of their opinions induces solicitude for their consistency. We see them on Bible, missionary, and other catholic platforms; we hear them express fraternal sentiments towards the pastors of Nonconformist Churches. We listen to their vindication of the Reformation, their exposition of Evangelical doctrines, and their reverential recognition of Jesus Christ, as the King and Head of the Church ; and we hear them appealing to the benevolence and liberality created by the principles of the Gospel in the hearts of believing men, as a reason why efforts for the evangelisation of the world should be energetically sustained. So far well. But what shall we say of their conduct relative to matters of hot polemical warfare in the Church in which they minister? They mourn over the Puseyite defection, yet receive their bread from the hand that feeds is. They denounce the Sacramentarians, yet laud the Church that shields them. They plead for liberty of conscience, yet encourage Erastianism, by appealing to the civil magistrate to settle doctrinal disputes. And they are bound by authority “not to put their own sense or comment to be the meaning of an article, but to take it in the literal and grammatical sense;" yet their opinions on the baptismal question—whether Scriptural or not is not the point-require à liberty which this authority does not grant. They are in a false position. They are attempting an impossibility-to serve two masters. But we have reason to know that many of them are ill at ease. Previous to the decision respecting the baptismal controversy—we cannot call it the settlement of that dispute—they felt great anxiety. Meetings were held. Rumours were wafted on the breeze. A modified Episcopacy was talked of as a possibility. A "Free Church” loomed in the distance. There was a worse alternative than absolute dissent. The idea was not desirable ; but it had, at all events, the certainty of liberty in its favour. The Free Church in Scotland was at once a grand historical fact and a valuable precedent. But nothing must be done rashly. Time may work deliver