Изображения страниц

I mean fatal for themselves-to compass the destruction of the Church of England. I believe that there is much plausibility in the opinion of Schleiermacher, that an Established Church kept awake by the healthful antagonism of surrounding sects, forms the best normal condition of the visible Church. Indeed, the existence of sects almost necessarily flows from the acknowledgment of Protestant principles and the right of private judgment, which lies at the basis of Protestantism. We have, indeed, an infallible standard-the Bible; but we have, as Protestants, no infallible interpreters; and can we wonder, therefore, that the history of Protestantism should present us a constant play of secessions and reabsorptions! If this be a right view of the case, dissenters and Churchmen have a strong additional motive to live at peace with one another, and not to seek one another's destruction. The two interests may be partially divergent-they may not act as conspiring forces in the same linebut yet, as in the mechanical composition of forces, they may combine to produce one resultant which shall be to the glory of God.

Feeling how greatly the interests of Christ's kingdom depended on the state of religion in the Church of England, it was with much trembling anxiety that I listened to the young man in the Temple Church. He lisped a good deal, and my hearing being now none of the acutest, I lost some parts of the sermon. I still heard enough to fill me with sadness. The subject which he took up was that of the fallen angels, -but this was soon lost sight of, for he slid at once into the heart of Tractarianism,-Apostolical Succession,-Baptismal Regeneration,-and Spiritual Independence. I could easily understand, that whatever text he took up, he would land in these points,-just as my Highland brethren in former days were sure to end with the five points of Calvinism, whatever subject they began with. It was plain, that Tractarianism, instead of being a collateral subject, was the sum and substance of the preacher's faith, and from his being totally destitute of any individualism, it was obvious that he was a fair type of a class. It was plain that it was such husks that were supplied as the spiritual food of the immortal souls committed to the charge of the party to whom he belonged.

It required all the patience I could command, to listen to the doctrines propounded by this youth in the Temple. It was more with the manner that I was fretted, than with the simple advocacy of the doctrines in question. This comely simpering youth propounded the monstrous doctrines of Pusey, as if there could be no doubt on the subject. He did not deal in apologetics; he laid down his views with such dogmatic simplicity, that you might suppose that there was no other side to the question. Now, I am not constitutionally intolerant of views opposed to my own. I can read with patience and even interest Dr. Pusey's casuistry about the Confessional. I have read with great interest Dr. Newman's defence of Romish miracles, and did not get angry though he argued for St. Januarius's voyage in his cloak, for bleeding pictures, and for winking Madonnas. He condescends to argue with you, and however absurd the point maintained may be, you feel some compensation in the ingenuity of the argument, or you feel interested in the workings of a sincere though bewildered mind. Above all, you feel that he respects

you, by appealing to your reasoning faculties. Although his aim is to lead you to a blind faith, yet you are interested by the startling contradiction he affords, by making the most subtle appeals to your reason. There was no such redeeming feature in the case of the preacher in the Temple. The three points were laid down as axioms, in regard to which there could be no possibility of doubt. Think of a man telling a welleducated English Protestant audience, that he had the power, as a priest, by the mere opus operatum, of regenerating a child by the sprinkling of water: That he belonged to a fraternity who possessed some mysterious mesmeric-like power, transmitted through the fingers of their superiors, from generation to generation, in virtue of which they were alone entitled to admit to, or exclude from the kingdom: That all who did not acknowledge this fraternity were given over to the uncovenanted mercies of God: That as this fraternity acknowledged the sole headship of Christ, they could not recognise the right of any earthly power to question them for their doings. These doctrines, when imbedded in casuistic reasoning, and rendered plausible by the genius of a Newman, might be patiently listened to, but they appeared to me simply monstrous, when laid down in the form of naked dogmatism to a Protestant audience. I believe a Muggletonian, a Swedenborgian, or a Mormonite, would at the present day be ashamed of preaching such doctrines, worthy only of the dark ages. What is the sacramental theory of the Tractarian, but a species of incantation, handed down from our superstitious forefathers? The thaumaturgy of the middle ages, as far as the external miracle is concerned, has now ceased. Science has put it down: it has exposed the deception of the external marks of the miraculous. The wonder-seeker has been driven to take refuge in the invisible, beyond the ken of science. Chemistry can supply no re-agent to test the genuineness of the work of baptismal regeneration. No delicate electroscope can declare the non-reality of the invisible fluid with which the bishop charges the candidates for orders, and therefore the incantation can be practised without any chance of detection. It may be asserted without any fear of challenge from science, that the external rite is necessarily followed by the invisible change within. The pretensions of Tractarians appear to me quite on a level with those of mesmerism, clairvoyance, homoeopathy, or any other quackery of the day. No doubt it is a very flattering doctrine, very agreeable to vain human nature, for a man to believe that he has the power, by some external rite, to influence the fate of his fellow-men for eternity; it would be very soothing to a man's feeling of self-importance, could he get others to believe that he possessed such a power. But what is all this but downright quackery, an artifice to make a man's importance. to be felt, altogether irrespective of those moral qualities on which all personal influence should be founded!


As I withdrew from the church, the feeling of my heart was,—If this is the teaching of the Church of England, well may "Ichabod-the glory is departed" be written on her walls. But it is a source of great comfort to think, that there is such a great company of godly men in the Church of England who repudiate the Romanising doctrines of the Tractarians. The immense number who signed the late address to the Archbishop of Canterbury in reference to the Gorham case, shews that a cheering pro

portion adhere to Evangelical principles. Believing that there are many who breathe the spirit of the angelic Bickersteth, now gone to his reward, I cannot look with despondency on the state of the English Church. May the Lord lengthen her cords and strengthen her stakes, and may she be long spared to be a nursery of true piety in the midst of prevailing declension!

The state of the question between us and Tractarianism simply is,Truth versus Ritualism. The genius of Protestantism consists essentially in the position, that the kingdom of God is to be advanced by the power of Divine truth. Man is regarded as a moral and reasonable being, and the engine employed for his spiritual development must be adapted to the essential principles of his nature. Truth is that engine, and ritualism is valued only in as far as it may be useful to bear on the mind and heart of man. Tractarianism hardly rises higher than mere fetichism. It does not deal with moral agency. The power of truth is forgotten, and the ritual is the fetich from which some occult qualities emanate. To any person who has imbibed the genuine spirit of Protestantism, the ritualistic points distracting the Church of England must appear grossly absurd. That a Protestant church should be torn asunder by disputes about gowns and surplices, altars and candles, is beyond comprehension. Some of the points in dispute are almost laughable. The orthodox practice in the Church of England at the Communion-Service, is for the minister to stand on the north side of the table, with his face towards the south. The genuine Tractarian, however, stands with his face towards the east, and consequently with his back towards the people. Waverers, however, hold intermediate positions, such as N.W., W.N.W., or N.N.W. They have eight points of the compass to pass through, so that their transition may be very gradual. We speak figuratively of a man's opinions veering round to all the points of the compass. But here we have the change of opinion literally measured by the points of the compass. Sometimes the conscientious nglo-Catholic is sadly put out by the position of the church. As a general rule, the Churches of England lie east and west; but sometimes they occupy a different position. The direction of a street occasionally requires a departure from the rule; and even in the case of old churches in the country, the line of direction is sometimes not that of due east and west. It seems that, when a church was erected to the honour of some saint, the building was made to point to the quarter of the heavens in which the sun rises on the saint's day in the calendar. The consequence was, that the strict Tractarian sometimes found, to his great dismay, that his face had been turned towards the north or south instead of the east. To remedy this scandalous state of matters, an instrument was devised and exhibited before the Camden Society, for determining the exact bearings of the church. This instrument is called an "Orientator," and the act of determining the bearing is called "Orientation." Before a priest can therefore officiate at the altar, he must determine his positfon like a mariner taking lunars or boxing the compass. If he depends on the needle, the operation will sometimes be a very nice and uncertain one. He must have one of Gauss' magnetic charts to ascertain the precise variation of the place, and he must allow

for any local attraction or electric disturbance, and this will not be willingly done by men who generally ignore the existence of newspapers and the march of science. It is difficult to believe that such fooleries are practised by men trained in a Protestant university, officiating at the altars of a Protestant church, and moving daily amidst the triumphs of Protestant enlightenment. Strange that medieval superstition should be revived in the midst of the spinning-jennies, and electric telegraphs, and steam-engines of the 19th century!

This ritualistic tendency is not confined to the Protestant Church of England. Some alarming symptoms of the same kind are fast manifesting themselves in that section of German Protestantism from which we expected most in the war with Rationalism. In the United Church of Prussia, and in those congregations which were most famed for orthodoxy, views and practices have been adopted which savour strongly of Popery, and these are vindicated by the Evangelische Kirchen Zeitung, edited by the great champion of orthodoxy, Dr. Hengstenberg. A liturgy is advocated, to the entire exclusion of extempore prayer. The ordinance of preaching is disparaged as a clerical weakness. The dislike to sermons on the part of the laity is to be met by liturgical devotions. This depreciation of the preaching of the word is very ominous. The sermon asserts the individualism of the preacher; but Rome, whenever she could help it, always made the priest the mere mouthpiece of the Church. Nothing can argue more strongly a departure from Protestant spirit, than this depreciation of the pulpit as an instrument of enlightenment. Vespers are also recommended to consist of some read prayers, singing, and chanting. But the chief strength of the Journal is put forth in recommending the use of pictures and images in the churches as helps to devotion. Surely such ritualistic tendencies, where we would least expect to find them, are calculated to fill the mind of every thoughtful Christian with deep


It is plain that the Christian Church must once more grapple with the question, which in the early period of its history caused such distraction and unhappy discord,-I mean the bearings of the fine arts upon Christian worship. This was a subject which early forced itself upon the Christian Church. The heathen worship, that prevailed around the early Christians, consisted essentially in the representation of the fine arts. The Fathers felt, that if this artistic symbolism were once admitted into the Christian Church, Christianity would present a medley of Christian truth and heathen superstition; and hence the sternest opposition was offered to the aids of the fine arts in Christian worship. Tertullian, Augustine, and Clemens of Alexandria, signalised themselves by their opposition to the introduction of art. When the immediate danger subsided, the question presented itself on its own naked merits,-Was the Church warranted to take advantage of the fine arts in representing the truths of Christianity? Much has been said on this subject in recent times, but nothing that has not been better said in the early controversies, when the Church was divided between Iconoclasts and Iconolatræ. The following defence of John of Damascus, in the controversy with the Emperor Leo the Isaurian, contains the substance of all that

has been said as an apology for the use of painting and sculpture. "The Lord called his disciples happy, because their eyes had seen and their ears had heard such things. The apostles saw with bodily eyes, Christ, his sufferings, his miracles, and they heard his words. We also long to see and hear such things, and so to be accounted happy. But as he is not now bodily present, and we hear his words by books, and venerate these books; so we also by images behold the representation of his bodily form, of his miracles, and his sufferings; and we are thereby sanctified, and filled with confidence and delight. But while we behold the bodily form, we reflect as much as possible on the glory of his Godhead. Since, moreover, our nature is twofold-not spirit merely, but body and spirit -we cannot attain to the spiritual without sensible aids. And thus, as we now hear with the ears, and by means of sensible words learn to think of what is spiritual, so by sensible representations we attain to the view of what is spiritual. Thus, too, Christ assumed a body and soul, because man consists of both; and baptism, and the Lord's Supper, and prayers, songs, lights, incense, all, in short, are twofold, and are at the same time corporeal and spiritual."

It is plain that a most scientific à priori argument can be constructed in defence of the use of sculpture and painting. Admit certain general principles, and their use flows as a necessary conclusion; but it ought not to be overlooked, that we are not thrown on à priori arguments,—that we have the far surer ground of human experience, which unquestionably declares that the unsparing use of the fine arts leads to idolatry. The enlightened defenders of images would shrink from the charge of idolatry; but it would require a deal of casuistry to shew that the popular use of images differs essentially from idolatry. It is no answer to say, that the Christian merely uses the image as a symbol of the spiritual-for in the grossest idolatry there is always a spiritual element. The very African, in his fetich worship, invests the block of wood which he adores with an atmosphere of spiritualism. It is to him the symbol of an idea, or a spiritual power. So that this plea of symbolism affords no essential distinction between idolatry and the use of images in Christian worship.

All admit that the Christian Church is warranted, nay commanded, to take advantage of the fine arts; but the question is, to what length may she go? Now I hold that this is one of the many questions which cannot be decided by any infallible general rule, but must be left to the experience and wisdom of the Church. It is held by some, that a clear line of demarcation is afforded by the symbolical and non-symbolical. It is said, Can we not adopt the decorations of the fine arts, without making them directly symbolical? but then it must be remembered that all art is symbolical. It is of the very essence of art to symbolise. The great achievements of Grecian art were only the embodiments of the conceptions of the divine. They were realisations of the ideas of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. Let us take Müller's definition, as given in his "Ancient Art and its Remains." "Art is a representation, that is, an authority by means of which something internal or spiritual is revealed to sense. Its only object is to represent; and it is distinguished

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »