صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

system of mere private judgment is, indeed, a “mere theory.” The system of infallibility is not even that; for it seems impossible even to set it down on paper at all.

Now, in attempting to shew that the “ Via Media” is the doctrine of a party in the English church, and not of the church itself, the reviewer proposes to test the church's opinion by the “ universality of consent," on the one hand, or “ diversity of teaching," on the other, concerning any given point. And yet, at p. 58, when it appeared that the great body of the English church thought the Prayer Book to be necessary as a safeguard, or interpreter, of the Bible, then we are reminded that the “ smaller portion" who might think differently is as much a part of the church as the larger. It seems to me that a test is instituted, and almost exulted in, for its logical accuracy, at p. 54, and then ridiculed, as practically absurd, at p. 58.

The Roman controversialists are accustomed to shew what the opinion of the church is on any point by quoting the testimonies of the leading fathers of every age. The modern Anglican writers have adopted a similar method, and illustrate from their standard divines the true doctrine of their church as occupying a middle position between Roman and latitudinarian extremes.—(See a work just published, entitled, " The Judgment of the Anglican Church on the Sufficiency of Scripture,” &c. T. F. Russell, T.C.L.) And that they have been in some measure successful herein, the reviewer can hardly help admitting, (p. 60.) But then he begins to inquire, Who are the authorized divines—the “ acknowledged authorities ?” This is not wise or Christian, because it is mere equivocation to pretend that this is a real and practical difficulty. Has any infallible council ever settled the question, Who are “ the fathers ?" Yet we know that ignorant protestants have often urged this question seriously against Romanists. But such a method surely was unworthy of the reviewer.

Page 64. It is next urged as an objection to the Anglican doctrine, that, after all, it throws us back upon individual judgment. « Each one has to judge for himself whether the church be contradicting the doctrine of scripture.” But I see not how any system can possibly steer clear of some such difficulty as this. I might just as well object against the doctrine of infallibility, that, after all, “ each man has to judge for himself whether the church be infallible.” And I leave the reviewer to decide whether, in this case, the private judgment Romanist has not a rather more difficult task than that of the Angli

And it may not be deemed, perhaps, an inappropriate comment on the whole of the additional remarks on the “obscurity" of the English system, that the same objections, at least, lie against the undefinable system of Roman infallibility. And is there not much of religious impatience in these complaints of obscurity, or these attempts to deny its existence? Is it not murmuring against Him who, for the trial of our faith, has ordained that now we see through a glass darkly?

Page 67. In order to shew what the reviewer calls the “ practical inutility" of our speculative system of “authority," he puts a case : Is a man who surrenders his own opinion to the judgment of the Anglican church more secure of the truth by so doing? And it is answered,

[ocr errors]

that the honest and explicit" reply could, on our principles, be no better than this—“Our church, indeed, may err; but the immense advantage of joining us will be, that you are joining a part of the church catholic; and that church, taken altogether, all over the world, will never agree in teaching and enforcing what is not true”! Now, is this an impartial statement of the best that could be said by us? I will hope that the reviewer thought so; and I submit whether the following be not a better reply to such an inquiry as has been supposed : “ The advantage of surrendering individual judgment to that of the church lies in this, that it is a thousand fold more likely that an individual should err than that a church which generally agrees with the holy church throughout all the world should, in a given particular, go fatally wrong.”

From this passage in the Review the writer continues in a spirit very different from that in which he commenced his article. At the outset there was what might be termed a controversial fairness and impartiality in his remarks; but from page 67 his readers are doomed to meet with taunts instead of reasons—banter instead of argumentand sneers at our church's alleged misfortunes and imperfections, instead of the sorrow of a Christian sympathy. At p. 68, we are upbraided with our want of communion with other churches. Is this generous in point of feeling, or sound in respect of argument ? Have we not been goaded and alarmed into our exclusiveness? And will the Romanist say that a temporary suspension of the communion of any one church with the rest severs that church from all union with, and membership of, the body catholic ? If he will not say this, his argument amounts to nothing; and if he will, then, at certain periods of the history of the early church, the churches of Antioch and of Constantinople, and even of Rome, ceased to be parts of the catholic body. But who that bears in mind the anxious efforts made by our divines, at different times, to promote our communion with foreign churches who that remembers that our bishops are catholically ordained, our liturgies derived from catholic antiquity, and our efforts in spreading our succession and our “ COMMON Prayer" in the new world are crowned with so divine a success—will, after all, venture to deny our union and communion in principle, and, as far as we can gain it, in practice also, with the whole body of Christ?

It is with unfeigned regret that I perceive, however, throughout the reviewer's remarks, the latent spirit of an ungenerous rivalry. Even when his statements are verbally impartial, he does not seem to try to enter into (if I might so say) the spirit of our theory, even so far as to appreciate our relative position. I confess, I long to see this controversy handled in a far different tone. Is it too much to ask of a serious-minded man, of any creed, to consider with candour and generosity the opinions and circumstances of others, equally sincere with himself, we trust, and not less intelligent or less informed ?

I honestly believe that the English church was literally driven into protestantism. I should be sorry for the state of that man's mind who can see in the Reformation nothing but an act of ecclesiastical rebellion. I put it to any Romanist of reflection to decide whether there must not have been some weighty cause, some fearfully latent evils, which could have compelled a numerous company of men (beyond all honest doubt, many of them men of lofty minds and holy lives) to revolt against the existing regimen of the church? The evils, indeed, which the church in this country has suffered since the Reformation we pretend not to deny: we publicly lament some of them in our servicebook; and for many of them we are indebted to the tyranny of the state. During our connexion with the state we have striven oftentimes for a purity as yet unattained. But are these ineffectual struggles of our church fit subject for taunt and triumph ? Is it not rather a spectacle to strike a thoughtful man with awe, to see a zealous and enlightened church thus fruitlessly striving, from age to age, in an evil world, each generation in turn leaving on record its faithful witness of holy discipline neglected and deplored ? I will not recriminate, or there surely might be room. If, however, the Romanist will still dwell on our imperfections, and consequent “ insecurity," as though he himself were faultless, I must ask him to remember that there were once seven churches in Asia, some of them not very pure; but let him decide whether they were branches of the church catholic, or were their members in an insecure state altogether, on account of their corporate imperfections ?

Pages 71, 72. The reviewer next discovers another “inconsistency" in the Anglican system-viz., in our doctrine respecting general councils. The difficulty seems to be this : “ If (as is allowed on all hands) the catholic church is indefectible, then its opinion, authoritatively declared, must be infallible ; whereas the Anglicans say that general councils may err.” To this we reply, that, in the strictest sense, no council can be called so truly and properly general as to be able to claim, certainly, all the prerogatives of the church catholic scattered throughout the world. The indefectibility is in the church herself, and is only manifested in her councils in proportion as the idea of universality is realized in them. Hence this degree or proportion is to be tested by the nviversality of the subsequent reception of the decrees of any council. It is not tested by numbers: at the council of Chalcedon there were six hundred fathers; at Constantinople I., only one hundred and fifty. Yet they were, popularly speaking, both “ general councils,” because they both had the general imprimatur of the church catholic—i.e., they were universally received, or nearly so. If it were possible that the catholic church could, in the highest and exactest sense, meet in a CATHOLIC COUNCIL, we should receive its sentence as infallible truth. In proportion, then, as a “ general council" realizes this idea, we hold its decisions. in reverence. Is there anything “ inconsistent” in all this ? On the contrary, is it not most reasonable?

Another difficulty, urged in the same page of the Review, is this: “ That because the same texts convey the promise of indefectibility and authority, then whoever pretends to the authority must, in consistency, pretend to the indefectibility also.” To which I make brief answer, that this proves too much; because every individual priest has authority, and yet he is not indefectible, or infallible. It is plain that many things may be predicated of the church as a whole which cannot be predicated of all its parts. That which is the characteristic of the whole, as a whole, cannot (by the very force of terms) be attributed to all the distinct parts thereof, except in some inferior degree.

Page 76. The reviewer, in the next place, boldly affirms that his church claims “ no more authority” in matters of faith than that of declaring and defining what had been believed” from the beginning.

66 Concerning which I only say to the reviewer, that he is grossly mistaken. Let him ask any parish priest of his communion in all Ireland, and he will learn that much more authority than this is claimed by the church of Rome.

Page 78. Another glance at this page induces me to lengthen this letter by a sentence or two more. Why is all this exultation at the prospect of the contentions of a synod of the English church? Would the Roman church herself wish to court the scrutiny of another“ general” council ? I think there are certain remembrances connected with the history of Trent which might make her members rather more humble !

But why, I would ask, must our controversy be still conducted in this spirit? I would to God that our Roman fellow-Christians would soberly enter on the debate in a grave and honest temper. Why will they not look boldly in the face of the question, for example, of the validity of our English orders ? Either we are priests, or we are not. Why cannot this question be justly and honourably investigated and settled for ever. The present position of the Anglican church is an enigma which the Romanists are bound to try to solve, one way or the other. Without this, no step towards unity can be taken. I earnestly protest, that though my mind is fully satisfied on the point, I am as desirous as any man that this matter should be thoroughly gone into, for the sake of that universal church which our Saviour Christ hath purchased with his own blood.

I am, Sir, your faithful servant, William I. IRONS, M.A. Queen's College, Oxford.

COMMERCIAL EDUCATION.

SIR,—Will you allow me, through the medium of your Magazine, to communicate to “our bishops and curates” in particular, and the other members of the church in general, a few observations and suggestions respecting the present state of commercial education ? Of the different orders of society in this kingdom, it appears

that some are educated in the public schools, some in the grammar schools, and some in the proprietary schools, and the children of the poor receive their education in the national schools. Over all these schools the clergy exercise a control, more or less, and the consequence is, that, (saving always what may occur from want of church-room,) in these several grades of society, dissent is, comparatively speaking, but little prevalent.

On the other hand, over the education of the children of those who are usually denominated tradesmen, the clergy have scarcely any control whatever, and the consequences are such as we might naturally expect. There is in my parish, among other places of education, a commercial school, kept by a most respectable individual, assisted by bis son. Circumstances connected with the erection of a protestant episcopal chapel brought the schoolmaster and myself more than once into contact with each other. In the course of time, I suggested to him the propriety of my attending his school for the purpose of examining the boys in the Catechism, and giving them, at the same time, such instruction in religion as they might require. Though I disclaimed all interference with secular matters, the schoolmaster at first, as I expected, had some little reluctance to accede to my proposal but seizing my opportunity from time to time, I succeeded effectually in removing his objections. It is now something more than a twelvemonth since I have begun my WEEKLY visits to this school, and, setting aside the time spent in my church, there are few half hours in the week which afford me greater satisfaction than the half hour which I spend at this school ; not, I hope, because it is something new, but because it is something old,-I mean, an attempt to put more effectually into execution the rule of the church which requires that the youth of the several classes of society should be instructed in the Catechism by her ministers. The schoolmaster assures me that the behaviour of the boys is improved since the commencement of my visits, and traces of this improvement are easily discerned by myself

. The system which I pursue is nearly the same as that which is adopted in my national school. To learn the Catechism by heart is the first thing which I require of the boys. I then put into their hands, and they are pleased with the present, a neat blank book, which I call their textbook. In this book, week by week, they write down, and learn by heart, texts of scripture which prove the doctrines of the Catechism. This gives me an opportunity of stating, and, as far as may be, of explaining, these doctrines, and of proving to my scholars that the doctrines of the church are the doctrines of scripture. The text-book commences with “ The necessity of baptism to salvation," or words to that effect; a line is then drawn under these words, and the scripture proofs follow, beginning, as is natural, with St. John's gospel, iii. 5, or passages of a similar import. Then comes the Baptismal Vow, then the several articles of the Creed, distinguished from each other with the line, the scriptural proofs following, and so on through the Catechism. Ken's Manual I put into the hands of my scholars as a book of devotion. This, and any other books which I may think it expedient to give them, I hope will be preserved in conjunction with the text-book as manuals of piety, records of sound doctrine, and as monuments, in after-life, of the anxiety of a minister to train up the child in the way in which he should go. I would rather recommend my plan for adoption from its conformity with the rules of “ the holy catholic church” than from any visible effects which it may produce; but in the mean time I may say, that the present appearances are very encouraging. The boys are delighted with what they consider my notice of them; they greet my arrival with their innocent smiles, and they are ready to do or learn anything which I require them. I use my best endeavours to convey my instructions in a pleasing manner,

« السابقةمتابعة »