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New Jerusalem Magazine.
No. 25. — JANUARY, 1842.
REFLECTIONS OCCASIONED BY THE REV. G. GIBBON'S RECENT ATTACK UPON
SWEDENBORG's “ TREATISE ON CONJUGIAL LOVE."
So strongly is the lust of power implanted in the human race, that he who well considers its nature, and the mischiefs it has produced (particularly in the church), will be in want of no other argument to induce him to reject the claims of any religious community to supreme authority over the human mind. Society, however divided, where there is liberty, is far more susceptible of a healthy condition than society, however united, where there is none. Hence, in this respect, Protestantism, with all its sects, is preferable to Romanism, with all its union. This remark has been suggested by the principles recently advanced by a clergyman of the Church of England ; principles however which we are happy to say would be unquestionably repudiated by a considerable portion of the clergy of that church. In reply to a respectful request that Mr. Gibbon would concede the favour of an interview with Mr. Smithson (who doubtless in the most friendly manner was ready to listen to Mr. Gibbon's objections), the latter is reported to have said in his lecture, “ When a general of an army condescends to discuss with a common soldier military tactics, or when a physician deigns to discuss medicine with his patient, he would be willing to speak with Mr. S. on theology.”
To this we would respectfully reply, that when Mr. Gibbon can shew that in the ordination service he was commissioned to the office of general of an army, then his auditors, as subordinates, will have no right to discuss with him military tactics; and again, when he can shew that his auditors are bound to receive all that he says with as much ignorance as a patient follows the prescription of a physician, then certainly his spiritual patients have no right to discuss with him the propriety of his medical advice. The ordination service invests a candidate with the office of dispenser of the Word of God, and in case
NEW SERIES. No. 25.--VOL. 3.
of erroneous and strange doctrines, recommends him to use private monitions; but it no where authorizes him to say to his flock (with regret we repeat the words) “ We are they that ought to speak; who is lord over us !” We say this, because we deeply venerate the office of Mr. Gibbon, and are sorry that he should confound it with that of either a military despot or an empiric. Indeed the general tone and spirit of his lectures would seem to border so closely upon those of the Church of Rome, that we cannot help reminding him of a very useful comment in the Family Prayer Book of D'Oyley and Mant. .
On the question, “ Will you be ready with all faithful diligence to banish and drive away all erroneous and strange doctrines contrary to God's Word, and to use both public and private monitions and exhortations,” &c., the comment we refer to is as follows: “ This interrogatory was placed here in lieu of that in the Roman Pontifical,
Do you curse or pronounce an anathema against every heresy which advances itself against the holy Catholic Church ? Ans. “I do.' This was, upon wise consideration, thought fit to be changed, and the ordained person obliged only to promise with all faithful diligence to drive away, that is, by good argument and persuasion to refute erroneous doctrines.”—Family Prayer Book. : We trust Mr. Gibbon will abide by good argument and persuasion : upon this ground we shall be ready to listen to him; and to this, and this alone, he has solemnly pledged himself in the ordination service. Here we would leave this part of the subject, and now pass on to the question more immediately before us; in doing which we shall begin by taking a brief survey of the moral principles of matrimony as treated of in the Church of Rome, and in the Protestant church.
Mr. Taylor, in his “ Ancient Christianity,” has shewn how the doctrine of the Manichees, that matter was essentially evil, had at an early period infused itself into the Christian church; how the monastic life originated partly from this doctrine; and consequently how a life of celibacy, extinguishing all earthly relationships, came to be considered as the purest and most chaste. He shews also how this doctrine led to a state of the church the most impure and the most unchaste. The corruption of the church was such as ultimately to lead to the Reformation, and this again led to the council of Trent. At this council the Church of Rome maintained that marriage is a sacrament, and that it is a sign of the union between the Lord and his church, as indicated by St. Paul. Having however maintained this principle, it afterwards proceeded to institute the following canon (See canon 10 on Matrimony) :-“ Si quis dixerits tatum conjugalem
anteponendum esse statui virginitatis vel cælibatus, et non esse melius ac beatius manere in virginitate aut cælibatu quam jungi matrimonio,-anathema sit.” Thus we see, that although the matrimonial is declared to be a sacramental state, yet that the single life is preferable. In the foregoing canon the latter is said to be better and more blessed; that is, according to writers of the Church of Rome, more chaste; the married state being, comparatively with the unmarried, unchaste. Although therefore the married life be a sign of the union between the Lord and his church, yet it is only a sign, and an earthly, carnal, and sensual sign ; the realization of the union between the Lord and his church being only in the single and mystical life, in which the soul is cut off from all earthly relationships, and is supposed to be given up to God. Hence in the works of St. Liguori, one of the saints lately canonized, vol. 8, where the subject of matrimony is treated of at large, we find the fact that marriage is a sacrament just barely mentioned, the essential principle of matrimony being by no means explained as sacramental, but as a state in which the parties “ sibi mutuo legitime corpora sua tradunt ad perpetuam vitæ societatem, usum prolis suscipiendæ, et remedium concupiscentiæ.” The vinculum animorum is indeed mentioned, but as resulting from marriage rather as a contract than as a sacrament; the fact that marriage is a sacrament being only a matter of faith, while that it is an outward contract is a matter of fact. Thus in the Church of Rome it is a matter of faith that matrimony is a sacrament, that is, a sign; but, as we have observed, only a carnal sign; consequently it is not the thing signified : nay more, the sign itself is opposed to the thing signified ; for chastity cannot be predicated of it as it may of a life of celibacy. The reasons why it cannot may be further inferred from a perusal of Liguori's work, which is just such a work on the principles of chastity as one might naturally expect from the mother of harlots. The enormities resulting from these principles formed one of the causes which led to the Reformation by Luther, Melancthon, and others. Let us now see what was the state of morality in the Protestant church. We shall first refer to principles, then to practice.
Mosheim.observes, in his eighteenth article on the sixteenth century, that those who are sensible of the intimate connection between faith and practice, will easily perceive the necessity that existed for a reformation of the corrupt morality of the church of Rome. He remarks, however, that although much progress was made in the reformation of corrupt doctrines, yet that comparatively little was made on the subject of morality. One reason which he assigns for this, is, that Melancthon, Luther, and others, were so much engaged in doctrinal controversy, that they had not sufficient time to attend to the principles of morality, which, therefore, were not duly examined or determined, and which consequently were left unsettled. “ This consideration,” he says, “ will diminish our wonder at a circumstance which otherwise might seem surprizing, that none of the famous Lutheran doctors attempted to give a regular system of morality.” “ Melancthon,” he continues, “never seems to have thought of treating morals in this manner, but, on the contrary, has inserted all his practical rules and instructions under the theological articles that relate to the law, sin, free-will, faith, hope, and charity.” Where, however, it is maintained, that Christian morality does not justify a man, but faith only, consequently that faith alone is the foundation of man's salvation, it is evident, that the principles of morality are a subject of subordinate consideration; and in illustration of this fact, we refer to the passage quoted by Mr. Smithson, from the works of Luther.
Let us now come to the Church of England.
The doctrines of this church are acknowledged to be founded on those of the Reformers; and when any controversy has arisen upon the eleventh and twelfth articles relating to Justification and to Good Works, an appeal is always made to the Homilies. But these Homilies are so thoroughly Soli fidian, that we are informed in Two Memorials addressed in 1837 to the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, that Archbishop Tillotson, Bishops Burnett, Patrick, and others, were of opinion that some Solifidian expressions in them were carried to a height that wanted some mitigation; and accordingly, Bishop Burnett was asked to write another set of Homilies, where solifidianism should not be carried to such a height, and the principles of Christian morals and Christain duties should be more largely explained, and more strongly insisted on. These Homilies were accordingly written; “but,” observe the Memoralists, “it is quite clear that they could never stand on the same shelf with those of our Reformers,"—i. e. as they say, on the article of Justification by faith alone; and it is certain that the original Book of Homilies is the only one which is adopted by the Church of England. Let us now apply these remarks more particularly to the subject of Matrimony.
The only authorized statements upon this subject in the Established Church, are those in the Matrimonial Service in the Common Prayer Book, and in the Sermons on the state of Matrimony and on whoredom in the original Book of Homilies.