Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

difference. The history of the present controversy affords a melancholy confirmation of these remarks; for the few who have ventured to appear on the liberal side of the question, have for the most part been assailed by ungenerous insinuations and odious personalities. Some churches, in their zeal, have even lost sight of their own principles, and substituted the doctrine of strict communion instead of the ordinance of baptism. Others have refused the privilege of occasional communion to such (Baptists) as have been known to sit down with pædobaptists at the Lord's table.”

And who are the persons of whose bigotry and uncharitableness their own wounded brother thus complains ? Not a mere offset of the body; not a few of the more illiterate and obscure members; but the great mass of the ministers and their flocks; the very men who are striving to force their opinions upon the Bible Society, after having for so many years muzzled the Religious Tract Society; for though Mr. Hinton is not quite certain, whether the Baptists in England think it essential that our authorised version should be altered by the substitution of immersion for baptism, not a few of his brethren in the United States have very unequivocally declared their mind upon that subject.

That we may not be deemed unjust when we ascribe to the general body of the Baptists the intolerant opinions denounced by Robert Hall, we will add the following corroboration. Of England he says: “Strict communion is the general practice of our churches.” Of Scotland he remarks: “ The Scottish baptists, as I have been informed, uniformly abstain from a participation in sacred offices with the members of other societies; and, without pretending to judge of their final state, treat them, on every occasion, as men whose religious pretensions are doubtful.And are matters better in America, where the Baptists are a large and proselyting body of persons ? Listen to the following statement given by Dr. A. Cox and Dr. Hoby, who formed the deputation sent out, in 1835, by the Baptist Union in England, to visit their transatlantic brethren.

“ The Baptists of America are almost universally strict communionists; that is, they admit none to a participation with them of the Lord's supper who have not been baptised or immersed.” “Scarcely any of the churches would tolerate open or mixed communion, or even allow the latitude of an occasional fellowship with those whom they deem unbaptised, or any of their members. Some small churches in the vicinity of Providence, who advocate it, have acquired the designation of Potter Baptists,' from a minister of that name.”

This spirit of unscriptural exclusionism, and unchurching of true churches, we feel bound to protest against, in whatever quarter it appears. We have not been silent in regard to the Oxford Tracts, which the Baptists, who are too generally warm political Dissenters, are not the least forward in making a stalking-horse of, to injure the Church of England. We have equally condemned the same sort of language when applied to the Church of Scotland; though we lament to say, that if there is a party in the Church of England which calls her Samaria, there is a party in the Church of Scotland which is not slow in returning the compliment. The late religious solemnities in Scotland exhibited far too much of vain-glory; and some of the allusions to the Episcopal church must have grated upon the ear of many pious and large-hearted Presbyterians. We cut the following passage out of the newspapers :

“Friday week was the second Centenary of the rising of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, which met in the High Church of Glasgow in November and December, 1638. The commemoration at Glasgow was a grand affair.

From an early hour in the morning, the bustle of preparation commenced for the processions to the Cathedral and the Barony Church, where divine service was celebrated. At five o'clock, five hundred gentlemen sat down to dinner at the Trades' Hall, and two hundred dined in a side room, who were admitted to the great hall after dinner. The Lord Provost presided. : “At Edinburgh, a meeting was held in the Assembly-rooms on the same day. The chair was occupied by Sir G. Sinclair, supported by Sir A. Agnew, Sir J. Spittal, &c. Among the resolutions passed was the following:- That, independently of the circumstances attending the introduction of Episcopacy into Scotland, in the reigns of James VI. and Charles I., and the enforcement of a book of canons and of common prayer, by royal authority, and independently of the peculiarly Popish character of the worship which was then prescribed, the General Assembly of 1638 were fully justified in abolishing Episcopalian government and worship, and restoring Presbytery, as alone resting on the authority of Scripture ; and that we have much reason to be thankful that since that time, except during the period of the persecution, Presbyterianism has been the established form of church government in Scotland.'”

Let the members of the Church of Scotland follow their conscience, and enjoy their privilege ; but to pass a resolution at a public meeting that “ Presbytery ALONE rests upon the authority of scripture," thereby unchurching all churches but their own, as they did in England in the days of Cromwell, is not a very edifying or brotherly proceeding. We leave these sturdy advocates for the exclusive Divine right of Presbyterianism, to the arguments of Dr. Owen and other Inde. pendents who equally stickle for the exclusive Divine right of congregationalism ; though to be sure the great mass of congregationalists themselves look very small by the side of the anti-pædobaptist section of their body, who, forming a little circle within a circle, add to the exclusive Divine right of Independency the Divine right of unchurching all Independents except themselves. We have no wish to he competitors in this race of intolerance. The Church of Rome used to be the Atalanta ; but she has found more than one rival Protestant Hippomanes. Mr. Gathercole, whose pestilent writings we should oftener have noticed and animadverted upon, if they exhibited any evidence of being dictated by honest conviction, or a desire to speak “the words of truth and soberness," is pleased to say that “ Dissenters cannot expect to be considered Christians;" they commit “a greater sin than that of drunkenness;" “ the curse of God appears to me to rest upon them ;" and they are to be regarded “as heathen men and publicans ;" the very way, Robert Halls says, quoting those very words, in which the Baptists regard the whole Christian church. These mutual denouncers do not allow each other even the benefit of Leviticus iv. 27, &c. Some of the exclusionists at the late meetings in Scotland, are well matched by the writers of the Oxford Tracts, whose ally, the Rev. W. Palmer, in his “ Treatise on the Church of Christ, for the use of students in Theology," asserts that what is commonly called “ the Church of Scotland,” but to which he gives no higher name than “ the Presbyterian community," is not any portion of the church of Christ, having rejected “ the authority and communion of the existing successors of the apostles in Scotland, and therefore of the universal church in all ages." It would be laughable, if it were not pitiable and awful, to see a man shut himself up in his closet amidst his Popish tomes, and hurl his reckless thunderbolts, with the most complacent feeling that what he is pronouncing upon earth will be ratified in heaven. We bless God that there is not a syllable to this effect in the formularies of the Church of England. She calmly sets forth, and vindicates by Scripture, her doctrines, orders, and rites; but she does not go about to unchurch other churches. It has always been the bitter complaint of the Laud and Sacheverell divines, and it has been of late lugubriously re-echoed by every Oxford Tract tyro, that her formularies are lamentably lax in this matter, and particularly her Nineteenth Article, “ Of the Church," which ought to have said that the visible church is known by the sole historical mark of uninterrupted apostolical succession, being thereby enabled and entitled to the exclusion of all pretenders—to communicate the Holy Ghost in baptism, and the material body and blood of Christ in the Lord's supper, (unless Dr. Hook meant to burn immateriality, or to pour it out on a material pavement, and Mr. Newman and Dr. Pusey to administer immateriality to an insensible person); and that this sole badge of the true church is totally unconnected with scriptural doctrine or Christian manners ; being enjoyed by Rome in all its licentiousness, and being wanting to all Protestant churches, except the Church of England and her branches. But instead of asserting this high prerogative, and excommunicating all other communions, our church only says, that “The visible church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in the which the pure word of God is preached, (which the Altitudinarians account irrelevant words ;] and the sacraments duly administered according to Christ's ordinance, in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same." These necessary requisites, say the Laudean divines, ought to have been specified, so as to shew that not one of the Protestant churches but our own has them. Our church, more catholic, was content to assert and enjoy her own privileges ; leaving other churches to stand or fall to their own master.

The Scottish confession of faith is equally catholic in this matter. It does not so much as mention Presbyterianism ; much less assert that it is of Divine right to the unchurching of Episcopal churches. It declares that,

“ The catholic or universal church, which is invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect that have been, are, or shall be, gathered into one, under Christ the head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all.

“ The visible church, which is also catholic or universal under the Gospel (not confined to one nation, as before under the law,) consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion, together with their children; and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation."

If this be the doctrine of the Church of Scotland, we need not be violently angry because there are hot-headed individuals, who blurt a notion that episcopal orders are not valid, and that the Church of England is a limb of antichrist. We suppose also that all candid Presbyterians, reading the definition of the Church of Christ in our Nineteenth Article, and seeing the exposition of it in the conduct of her clergy and spiritual rulers, with the exception of some intemperate spirits, will be content to think that the Church of England has not lost all claims on their toleration, notwithstanding the popish boastings of some who call themselves her members, but who abhor English Protestantism quite as much as Scottish Presbyterianism.

While we are writing, the long-expected Prize Essay on Schism, to which the Hon. and Rev. Baptist Noel and the Rev. J. Sherman adjudged Sir E. Wilmot's premium of £100, has fallen into our hands, It is a closely-printed volume of nearly six hundred pages ; and what

CHRIST. OBSERV. No. 14.

do our readers suppose is its ultimate drift and object? It is to prove that the Church of England is the most factious, intolerant, and schismatical of all churches, that of Rome barely excepted ; indeed there are shrewd intimations that she wants not much of the spirit of Rome itself. “ It has sometimes been asked,” says the writer, “ whether England ever was, or is, included among the nations represented by the ten horns of the Apocalyptic dragon, that stood ready to devour the offspring of the woman.” The answer is, that if she adopts the notions of the Oxford Tracts, she will become so ; but the very proposal of the question, in the insidious form of “ It has been sometimes asked,” is hostile ; and the whole spirit of the book tends so to represent her; the Oxford Tracts furnishing a convenient pretext for that purpose. The writer, who does not add his name to his · treatise, is, without the slightest shadow of doubt, an Independent mi. nister ; *-a minister, for he stands up for his rights and privileges as such, in a way which some ruling Dissenting laymen will think too priest-like ; and that he is an Independent, needs no particular adduction of proof, as it is prominent in the whole course of his argument and inferences. “It is manifest," he says, “ that those apostolic churches to which the epistles were addressed, were local and popular institutions, independent of foreign human control." He looks in vain in the New Testament for any sanction to episcopacy; for “ bishops and presbyters in the New Testament are one and the same;"-as if the argument depended on a mere word, and that Timothy and Titus were not set apart to rule and ordain. The Bishop of London, (for though C. J. B., or C. J. L., is not written over his effigy, no one can doubt who is specially meant, notwith, standing the charge is general) is censured for “ Prohibiting those of the clergy who are disposed, from uniting with their Dissenting breth

* We are not sure whether he is a (strange to say !) by those who do not pædobaptist, or an open-communion hesitate to believe that they have been anti-pædobaptist. The following pas- accounted worthy to be received into sage might have been written by either : the heavenly Jerusalem ;' and to join

" The most decided example, in the innumerable company of angels, which change of system appears called the general assembly and church of the for, among the orthodox Dissenters, is firstborn, and the spirits of just men the practice of strict communion; as made perfect!' The sincerity of the Inaintained in the majority of the Bap- pædobaptist is not denied. His brother tist churches. The same cause of dis- who differs from him may rejoice to union is found in America, even to a hear the gospel from his lips—his visits greater extent. In the United States, may be welcome in the sick-chamberthere are four thousand ministers, and the dying may receive from him their half a million of communicants, who final consolations-he may be known at would have refused to unite in com- the grave, and in the house of mourning, memorating the Saviour's death, with as a brother and a friend. Also, in all the martyrs of the Reformation—the these, and other christian relations, his Latimers, the Ridleys, the Hoopers Baptist brother may reciprocate with who shed their blood for the truth! - him. He may regard him as a true mi. with the Nonconformist confessors, the nister of Christ, and a fellow-helper in Howes and the Baxters, who suffered the gospel. He may avow the strongest loss, 'for conscience toward God;'- esteem for him, while living; and pubwith Jewell or Leighton- with Watts licly hold him up as an example of or Doddridge! Were these holy men christian excellence, when he is no here below, they might sue in vain at more :-yet, as to participation in the the door of thousands of churches, for communion, he is to be placed on the a place at the table of the Lord! Bless. same footing as the infidel, or the proed men--they would have been denied fane!pdmission into the church on earth,

ren, to carry the Gospel into the hovels of those neglected outcasts whom the machinery of the Establishment does not reach ;"—as if the Bishop were not acting more befittingly in extending, as he is so indefatigably doing, that machinery to meet their necessities, so that we may have zeal without “schism ;" and this in spite of the Prize Essayist's assertion that “of all the sources of schism existing among us the relative position of the Established and Dissenting Churches is by far the greatest ;"—the fault being on the side of the Church, and the remedy being to raze it to the ground. It would deserve that fate, if it gave, as the anonymous author asserts, "ecclesiastical supremaey,” in the sense of spiritual authority, “ to the Sovereign, be that Sovereign young or old, male or female, virtuous or vicious.'' This statement indicates either lamentable ignorance or wilful perversion. The Church of England does not give any such “ecclesiastical supremacy" to the Sovereign ; but only authority over ecclesiastical persons. “The King's Majesty," says the Thirty-seventh Article, “ hath the chief power in this realm of England, and other his dominions, unto whom the chief government of all the estates of this realm, whether they be ecclesiastical or civil, in all causes doth appertain, and is not, and ought not to be, subject to any foreign jurisdiction.” The court of Rome, under the pretext of spiritual authority, had interfered between rulers and their people; and her priesthood arrogantly claimed exemption from God's ordinance of civil sway, and set up the pope as their king. Our Sovereigns therefore asserted their rightful prerogative; but the Article expressly declares that it is only to “rule all estates and degrees committed to their charge by God, whether they (the estates] be ecclesiastical or temporal, and restrain with the civil sword the stubborn and evil doers." When Cranmer was taunted by his popish persecutors, who said that according to his argument Nero was the head of the church while he persecuted it, he replied, that he was the head of the church considered as a temporal society of men in his dominions; the Christians in Italy having no right to carry their allegiance to foreign jurisdictions. He said that Christ was the true and only head of the church, and of the faith and religion of the same; but that the king was head and governor of his people, who were the visible church. The illustrations might not be the most happy; but the denial of giving spiritual rule to kings is clear enough. As to spiritual offices, excommunication, and so forth, does not every person know that these are under episcopal, not royal, authority in every diocese in the kingdom?

The following passages, under the head of “ Cure of Schism,” will shew how well the writer has applied the remedy in his own case. To us, at least, the remarks appear very schismatical ; and we are not grateful to Mr. Noel for being the instrument of obtruding them upon us. They are not discussional, but vituperative ; and assuredly they will not tend to heal the breaches between Churchmen and Dissenters,

" If the principles which have been maintained in the present essay, be scrip tural; is it not difficult, we may ask, to come to any other conclusion than this that, Among Protestant churches, the Church of England, as a system, has been pre-eminently chargeable with schism? In this estimate, it is not forgotten how many of her clergy have been among the most devoted ministers of Christm-men of peace an honour to human nature. Many such there are now within ber pale. Had all resembled them, she would not have been the same church, which she is. She has numbered prelates, too, who have not lost the Christian in the politiciap

« AnteriorContinuar »