The Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven: A Sermon Preached at All Saints', Lambeth, September 10th, 1878.
By Thomas Wimberley Mossman, O.C.R.
London: David Nutt, 1879.
“I say unto thee that thou art Peter. . . . . and I will give unto thee the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven.”—St. Matthew, XVI, 18.
You will observe that in the quotation of these words as a text I have omitted all that follows after the word “Peter” until we come to “I will give unto thee ——.” This is done to avoid as much as possible all questions of controversy. And those omitted words, following after "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build My Church," have, perhaps given occasion to more controversy than any equal number of words in the whole of the Scriptures. I would not say that I have read everything that has been written about them, but I have examined a good deal of what has been said both upon the Roman Catholic side, as well as upon that of their opponents, Anglicans and Protestants of every shade. So far as I am able to form a judgment, the view which is universally adopted by all non-Roman Catholic theologians and commentators is as follows:—When our Lord Jesus Christ uttered the words—"I say unto thee that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church." He had no intention of saying anything either to, or about Saint Peter. The interpretation of the words which finds most acceptance I believe to be this: "Blessed art thou Simon Bar-jona, for flesh and blood hath not revealed unto thee this doctrine of My Eternal Sonship, which thou hast just declared, but My Father who is in Heaven. And I say unto thee that thou art Peter, a rock, or a stone, but not upon thee will I build My Church. By 'this rock,' I mean Myself. And when I say, 'upon this Rock I will build My Church,' let no man mistake My meaning. I will build My Church upon Myself, and upon the doctrine of my Eternal Godhead, which Peter has just declared. For it is that doctrine which is the solid and immovable Rock upon which the Catholic Church, against which the gates of hell shall never prevail, shall be built."
One can scarcely imagine that this is the interpretation [2/3] which plain men, of ordinary common understanding would put upon these words of Christ without the assistance of tradition, and the aid of commentators. But there can be no question of the fact that almost everyone reads and interprets Holy Scripture in accordance with their own traditions, and under the guidance of interpreters and commentators of their own particular section of the Christian Church, and their own school of theology. The exigencies of controversy are so severe that they necessitate the interpretation of Holy Scripture in such a way as to bring it into harmony with individual views and opinions. This passage upon which I am now speaking is anything but an isolated instance of what we may call the great “law” of interpretation, that passages of Scripture are very seldom held to mean what plain men, without bias, or uninfluenced by traditional exposition, would understand by them. Let me give one or two instances of what I mean. In the third chapter of St. John's Gospel our Lord uses these remarkable words, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye must be born again.” And when the Jewish ruler, Nicodemus, to whom he addressed them, asked in his perplexity, "How can these things be? Can a man enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born," our Lord explains and unfolds His meaning as follows, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of Heaven." As all the world knows, volumes upon volumes have been written in the past, and will continue to be written until the end of time, with the endeavour to show that the words just quoted have no especial reference to the Sacrament of Baptism; and that for all practical purposes of interpretation the word water is redundant. It is contended by the anti-sacramental school that nothing more is either signified, or intended than that a man, in order to be saved, must receive the renewing, sanctifying, regenerating influences of the Holy Spirit of God, of which, water is a lively emblem. In like manner, in the sixth chapter of St. John, our Lord uses some of the most striking and most powerful language which has ever been uttered upon our earth concerning the spiritual efficacy of eating His Flesh and drinking His Blood. And He seems to give us a clue at least to His meaning, and to direct our minds in what would seem to be a natural train of thought, to the Holy Eucharist, when He proceeds to say, "The Bread which I will give, is My Flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." This being so, it is not wonderful, or surprising, that the majority of professing Christians have in every age of the Church understood these passages in the sixth of St. John as being intended to refer to the Sacrament of [3/4] the Altar. It would be a simple impossibility for them to believe that these are the words of Christ; and that the same Christ immediately before His death, in the most solemn manner imaginable, took bread into His holy undefiled Hands, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to His Apostles, and said, "Take, eat, this is My Body, which is given for you; do this for a commemoration of Me," without feeling that there is some connection between the sixth chapter of St. John and the passages in the other Evangelists which record the institution of the Holy Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ. It seems to me that these are cases in which the general conscience of Christians and Christendom brushes aside the theories of commentators, treats as of small moment the Voice of Tradition, so far as the words of even an Augustine, a Basil, an Origen are adverse to its convictions of what is the meaning of the Master, and prefers to rely upon its own unbiassed interpretations, supported as those interpretations are by the concurrent testimony of the great mass of those who in all ages and generations have named the Name of Christ and acknowledge Him as their infallible Teacher and their Supreme Lawgiver.
Whilst all this is unquestionably true, we must not ignore the fact that there is another aspect of this question. We ought cheerfully to allow that there is a minority which takes what may be called an uncatholic view of these great questions. And I will say at once that I do not think we, who believe ourselves to hold the true faith; ought to treat that minority either with contempt or abhorrence. I must, for my own part, avow that I believe abuse and anathema are the worst possible weapons which can be employed in controversy; and that if no other means had ever been employed by the Church to convince the gainsayers and opponents of her doctrines save calm argument and discussion, based upon logical and scriptural grounds, we should never have had to bewail a distracted and divided Christendom, and the miserable spectacle of a general revolt against all Authority, human and divine.
What one has to do, is this—in all such matters to appeal to the Christian conscience. There is nothing else left in these days to which we can appeal in common, nothing else here upon earth which all who profess and call themselves Christians, regard as of absolutely binding force. In the ages that are gone for ever, Authority was an engine of tremendous moral force. Authority,—using the word in its technical sense,—is in these days but of slight avail for deciding controversies of faith; and year by year it is becoming less so. Protestantism and Nonconformity are avowedly based upon the right of private judgment. [4/5] Anglicanism, although frequently found repudiating private judgment, is, as a matter of fact, nothing but private judgment which has assumed the garb of Authority. When Anglicanism does not mean, as it too often does, the private view, or opinion of the individual Clergyman with whom one may chance to be brought into contact, it is simply private judgment systematized, and in a concrete form .. The position taken up by the English Church at the time of the Reformation was that a national, or local; or particular Church has a right to sit in judgment upon the Church Universal: that a part of the Church has a right to decide for herself whether or not the doctrines which she has hitherto held in common with the whole Church Universal are true or false, and accept them; or reject them accordingly. A right to decide whether or not the Canons of the Church Universal are in accordance with the laws of Christ and His Apostles, and abrogate them, or establish them accordingly; a right to decide for herself, as against the rest of Christendom, which Sacraments were ordained by Christ, and which were not: and a right to decide finally what ritual and ceremonies of the church are lawful and edifying, and so to be retained, and what, on the other hand, are unlawful and unedifying, and so to be rejected, as tending to superstition and idolatry to be abhorred of all faithful Christians.
There is no more frequent phrase current in these days than the expression, “the principles of the Reformation,” and we continually hear the question asked, What are the principles of the Reformation? The answers that are actually given are exceedingly various, but the reply is most simple. The “principles of the Reformation," so far as the English Church in her corporate capacity is concerned, are the right to interpret Scripture for herself, and to maintain her own interpretation as the only true one, even though that interpretation should be opposed to that of all the other portions of the Church of God at anyone given time existing upon the earth. Thus the Dissenter maintains his own right of private judgment as against every other individual as well as against every Church in the world. The Anglican maintains the right of the individual and independent exercise of the judgment of the English Church as against every other Church in the world. Thus it is manifest that the principles of the Anglican Churchman and the Protestant Nonconformist are virtually and logically identical. They spring absolutely from one and the self-same root. They differ in nothing except in external expression, or outward manifestation. It is not the acceptance or rejection of certain formal statements of doctrine which makes the distinction between the Catholic and the [5/6] Protestant. In every age there have been devout and holy men who have lived and died in full communion with the Catholic Church, who have not been able to command the assent of their inner conscience to every dogmatic thesis which she has seemed to formulate, and as expounded by her then living voice. A man may hold the doctrines of Transubstantiation and the Invocation of Saints, and of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary and yet be a Protestant of Protestants, if he hold them merely because they commend themselves to his own judgment and reason as true.
The very clearest exposition of the principles of the English Reformation which has ever been put forth was also the earliest. You will find it in the much lauded Preamble to what is known as "the Great Statute of Appeals" passed in the year 1532.
The words are these: "Whereas by divers sundry old authorities, histories and chronicles it is manifestly declared and expressed that this realm of England is an Empire, and so hath been accepted in the world, governed by one supreme head and king, having the dignity and royal state of the imperial crown of the same: Unto whom a body politic, compact of all sorts and degrees of people, divided in terms and names of spiritualty and temporalty, been bounden and owen to bear next to God a natural and humble obedience.
"He being also institute and furnished by the goodness and sufferance of Almighty God with plenary, whole and entire power, pre-eminence, authority and jurisdiction to render and yield justice and final determination to all manner of folk, residents or subjects within this his realm, in all causes, matters, debates and contentions happening to occur, insurge, or begin within the limits thereof, without restraint, or provocation to any princes or potentates of the world. The body spiritual whereof having power, when any cause of the law divine happened to come in question, or of spiritual learning, then it was declared, interpreted and showed by that part of the body politic called the spiritualty, now being usually called the English Church, which always hath been reputed and also found of that sort, that both for knowledge, integrity and sufficiency of number, it hath been always thought, and is also at this hour sufficient and meet of itself without the intermeddling of any exterior person or persons to declare and determine all such doubts, and to administer all such duties as to their rooms spiritual doth appertain.
"For the due administration whereof, and to keep them from corruption and sinister affection, the king's most noble progenitors, and the antecessors of the nobles of this realm have sufficiently [6/7] endowed the said Church with honours and possessions.
"And the law temporal, for the trial of property of lands and goods for the conservation of the people of this realm in unity and peace without rapine or spoil was and yet is administered, adjudged and executed by sundry judges and ministers of the other part of the said body politic, called the temporalty.
"And both their authorities and jurisdictions do conjoin together in the due administration of justice, that one help the other."
Such are the principles of the English Reformation, and they are perfectly clear and intelligible. They constitute the logical m intellectual basis upon which rests the whole theory of the Anglican Church. Let us endeavour to examine it by the light of reason, and of Holy Scripture interpreted upon the principles of reason. In an age like the present it seems to me well nigh useless to appeal to the voice of antiquity or authority. And I believe it is the part of wise builders to employ such materials as they have at hand, and not fold their hands and sigh for what they have not, and it may be never will have.
Let us then endeavour, in the first place to try to ascertain the meaning of the words, "I will give unto thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven." Thus far it is universally allowed that Our Blessed Lord told St. Peter that He would give him the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven.
1. Then what is meant here by the "Kingdom of Heaven." It is certain that by this expression is to be understood Christ's Catholic or Universal Church. It is a synonym for what has immediately preceded—"Upon this Rock I will build My Church." It is the same phrase which is so constantly used by Our Lord in His Parables, when He says "the Kingdom of Heaven," or "the Kingdom of God" is like unto such and such a thing. The same thing is meant when Our Blessed Lord says to Pilate, "My Kingdom is not of this world." The first and most important point to be noticed in connection with this spiritual Kingdom here is, that it is and must be One—One, undivided and indivisible. We must take two sayings of Christ and compare them together. In this passage He says," the gates of hell shall not prevail against My Church." In another passage He says, "Every Kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation." Unless therefore we are prepared to admit that the Catholic Church has been brought to desolation, we cannot admit that she is, or ever has been divided against herself.
Let us examine in the next place how, as regards our own [7/8] country, the great Statute of Appeals has attempted to divide the One Catholic Church of God against herself. "England is an Empire, both spiritually and temporally." Temporally, yes. Spiritually, a thousand times No. What is the great characteristic of Empire? It is the same as the characteristic of a Kingdom, only still more decidedly and emphatically—absolute and unconditional independence, What then are the facts which we in our day and generation have to face and to deal with? The Holy Scriptures tell us that Our Lord Jesus Christ founded a universal spiritual Empire, or Kingdom, one which was to embrace all earthly states and kingdoms. When England embraced the Christian faith, she became a part of Christ's spiritual Kingdom or Empire. She did not become the whole of that Kingdom. It was an absolute impossibility for her to do so. Until therefore one part of anything can be equal to the thing itself, so long is it impossible that a part of Christ's Kingdom can be His whole Kingdom. In other words, England is not an Empire, speaking spiritually. And if England is not a spiritual Empire, but one mere Province of a spiritual Empire, then appeals cannot have their final determination without the assent and consent of the other Provinces of the universal Kingdom. If such a thing were possible then might one Province claim to decide a spiritual question in one way, and another Province in another way. Thus direct conflict would arise. There would be instead of One spiritual Kingdom, or Empire of Christ, as many spiritual Kingdoms as there are Christian nations in the world, all absolutely independent one of another, and everyone possibly divided against every other, and fighting against every other. And thus the Catholic Church would have long since been brought to desolation, and have had an end. This was not the way, beloved, that the Divine Wisdom built His House, and hewed out His Seven mystic pillars. It is the Statute of Appeals, and the assertion that England is, spiritually speaking, an Empire, and that the Church of England as a part is equal to the whole; and that this part of the one Kingdom of Christ is competent to decide spiritual questions apart from the other Provinces of Christ's Kingdom and independently of them; in other words, without the consent of the rest of Christendom, which is in direct and irreconcilable antagonism to the revealed word of God, and a bold and daring contradiction to the express will of the Incarnate Son of God.
2. The next point for us to consider is, what is meant by "the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven"? I will give unto thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven.
There are only five or six passages in the whole of the [8/9] Scriptures in which the word key or keys occur. I shall refer to all which can have any possible bearing upon our text. The first passage to be examined is Is. xxii, 22: "And the key of the House of David will I lay upon his shoulder: so that he shall open and none shall shut: and he shall shut and none shall open." This passage is a clear and direct prophecy under the personal type or figure of Eliakim, the Son of Hilkiah, of Christ's Supreme Headship over His Church, and His government of it. That there may be no possible doubt as to what is meant, we find the prophet speaking as follows in the verse preceding. He had already intimated that spiritual authority was to pass away from the Jewish Church for its unfaithfulness, under the personal type of Shebna, to the Christian Church under the type of Eliakim, which means in Hebrew, remarkably enough, the God of the Resurrection. Of him it is declared by the inspired Prophet in the name of Jehovah, "And it shall come to pass in that day," meaning in Gospel times, “that I will call my servant Eliakim," or the God of the Resurrection, "the son of Hillkiah,” or the gentleness of the Lord Jehovah, “and I will clothe Him with thy robe," referring to the now rejected representative of the supreme spiritual authority and jurisdiction of the literal Israel. “And I will strengthen Him,"—i.e. Christ”—with thy girdle. And I will commit thy government into His hand. And He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah." And then follow the words about the key of the house of David. And as if to remove every chance or possibility of misunderstanding that the supreme spiritual jurisdiction of the Christian Church is intended, we find in the greatest and most direct prophecy of the Birth of Christ in this same prophet Isaiah (ix, 6), "Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His Name shall be called the Mighty God, the everlasting Father," or the Father of the Age, or Dispensation to come, "the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his Kingdom to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice."
So far then it must be clear to every student of prophecy, indeed to everyone who believes the Bible to be the inspired word of God, that our Lord Jesus Christ was to have the supreme authority and jurisdiction in the Christian Catholic Church under the figure of holding and possessing the key of the House of David. The only other passages which have any bearing upon this question are two in Revelation. (1.) “These things saith He that is holy, He that is true, He that hath the key of [9/10] David, He that openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth" (Rev. iii, 7), being an evident reference to the passage quoted from Isaiah. The other passage is Rev. i, 8: "I am He that liveth, and was dead, and behold I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of Hades, [or the world invisible], and of death." These passages are of some importance with reference to our present subject, both in respect to what they affirm, and what, by implication they deny. Our Lord Jesus Christ, in strict accordance with prophecy, has had committed unto Him the supreme Government of all created things, whether visible or invisible. His to rule and govern is the Church universal, His the Church on earth, the Church in Hades, the Church in Heaven. Over all His authority and jurisdiction are plenary and absolute. And we see that in the text He gives to Peter fully and unreservedly His own authority, to exercise it in His Name, in His stead, in the Church on earth. When He says, “I will give unto thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven" it is impossible that He can mean any less than this; and I cannot see any good ground for thinking that He meant any more. FOT, as we have already shown, the Kingdom of Heaven in this passage means the Kingdom of God, or of Heaven here upon earth, that is, as every Christian child is aware, the Church Catholic throughout the world. But although Christ has given the keys of this His visible Kingdom to Peter, He Himself retains the keys of His invisible Kingdom, His Kingdom in the worlds unseen of Heaven and Hades. This is, to my mind, a plain deduction from the words of the Apocalypse, “I have the keys of Hades and of Death." These keys the Lord retains in His own hands and commits to no one. This is just as clear as that He gives the keys of His Kingdom here on earth to Saint Peter. There can be but one appeal therefore from Peter's authority, and that is to Christ Himself. And any individual and any nation which felt that Peter had decided wrongfully against them, would have in my judgment at least, a perfect right to appeal from Peter to Peter's Master and Peter's God, and leave it calmly and confidently to Him to decide, in His own good time, their cause, and maintain their right. But was it this which was done by the great Statute of Appeals? Indeed it was not. What that Statute professed to do was this—to take a way spiritual authority and jurisdiction out of the hands to which our Lord Jesus Christ had committed it, and commit it to the hands of King Henry VIII. In other words, the English Parliament three hundred years ago took away the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven from the hands of [10/11] Peter, as far as England is concerned, and gave them into the hands of a tyrant, a murderer, and an adulterer. And putting aside honourable and individual exceptions, the English Church has ever since acquiesced, without one word of protest, in this transference of the keys.
Nothing can possibly be more complete and comprehensive than the claim on the part of Parliament for the plenary, spiritual jurisdiction of the English Crown. Let me repeat the words. The tautology and iteration would be utterly wearying, were it not for their vital importance to millions upon millions of Christian souls. “He, being instituted and furnished by the goodness and sufferance of Almighty God with plenary, whole and entire power, pre-eminence and authority, prerogative and jurisdiction to render and yield justice and final determination to all manner of folk, residents, or subjects, within this his realm, in all causes, matters, debates, and contentions happening to occur within the limits thereof."
And then the Statute proceeds to declare that spiritual or ecclesiastical causes may be and are to be judged by the spiritual portion of the English body politic, subject of course to the revision, or final determination of the Crown itself, from whom its own power to adjudge and decide spiritual causes was professed to be derived.
It is here, my Brethren, that we of the Oxford Movement, take our stand. In 1841 Mr. John Keble, on the Anglican side, and Cardinal Wiseman on the Roman, respectively issued “Prayers for Reunion.” About fifteen years afterwards the A.P.U.C. was founded; all members claiming the inheritance of the priesthood and the name of Catholic being bound in a common bond of Prayer. The public letters of Dr. Newman in reply to the “Eirenicon” of his friend Dr. Pusey greatly advanced the Reunion movement. Other publications did the same. The condemnation of the A.P.U.C. at Rome informed Foreign Catholics of Anglican longings for a truce. Fourteen months ago a policy of action was added to a policy of prayer: for the Order of Corporate Reunion was duly founded. Since then the Lambeth Synod has sanctioned the appointment of a day of intercession for Reunion. Some well-meaning persons, beginning with sandy principles have set up a Home Reunion Society. We of the Order, however, go back to the very root of all the miserable Erastianism, which has for three hundred years tainted, and at last well-nigh destroyed, the Christianity of the English people. We advocate no half measures. We are no mere fairweather pilots. We take no rose-coloured view of our position. But we take our stand upon the Sacred Word of the living God. [11/12] And we say that this whole ecclesiastical policy is wrong and sinful. We deny the right of Parliament to legislate in spiritual matters at all. We repudiate the claim of any temporal body, such as the English Parliament, to confer ecclesiastical jurisdiction, or of any temporal monarch, like Henry VIII, to receive it. We say, without the hesitation of a moment, that neither Henry VIII, nor any other temporal monarch, was ever either furnished, or instituted by the goodness, or the sufferance of Almighty God with plenary ecclesiastical preeminence, or authority, or jurisdiction. We deny, in the most emphatic language which we are able to make use of, that Almighty God ever committed to any earthly Prince, or Potentate whatsoever the charge, or the right or the power to yield justice in spiritual things to the Family of Christ. No! the Family of Christ are God's people, the sheep of God's pasture. They owe no allegiance, they own no obedience in spiritual things to anyone except their Divine Shepherd and their eternal Lawgiver.
These then are the principles of the O.C.R. Asked continually on all sides what are its principles, and what are its objects? I answer "that it is a Society, or an organization of English Churchmen within the English Church, which aims at extirpating, cutting up, destroying and annihilating the deadly plant of Erastianism, which has for three centuries and a half well-nigh smothered her spiritual life." “Every plant which my Heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up," are the words of our Blessed Lord. The present ecclesiastical settlement of the English Church is such a Plant. It was rooted originally in the soil which was prepared for it by the lust of an adulterous king. It was watered by the blood of Saints and Martyrs. It has reared its baleful head on English soil long enough to fill the land with a pestilential miasma of strife and schism, of heresy and profaneness, of infidelity and superstition, of the idolatry of mammon, of the idolatry of self. It is time to cut it down. It is time to root it up. We believe that God has called us to this work. And we shall leave no lawful means untried in order to do so.
God Himself, in His own marvellous way, has bestowed upon that organization the gift of an Episcopate, which none can question. And it appears to me that the gift has been given for the extirpation of Erastianism. Let us look at the matter in the light of an historical parallel. Without entering into the question of the origin of the Episcopal Order, one thing is absolutely certain—that for at least a millennium and a half the whole Catholic Church of God, north and south, east and west, has [12/13] been agreed in regarding the united Episcopate as the highest form or expression of spiritual and ecclesiastical authority and jurisdiction here on earth. We have seen that Christ gave to Peter plenary spiritual power by the delivery to him of the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. That power is the heritage of the Church of God throughout the world—her inalienable and indefeasible inheritance; The united Episcopate hold and possess that supreme spiritual power in trust, and merely in trust, for the Family of Christ. They may not abuse it for selfish ends, and they may not surrender it into any other hands. The English Bishops of 1532 had no more real power, or right, to give ecclesiastical supremacy to Henry VIII, than Peter would have had to receive the keys fresh from the hand of his Master and go and lay them upon the lap of Nero in his palace at Rome.
But we have to deal with facts, and we must neither ignore nor deny them. And what are these facts with which we have to deal? They are very terrible and very awful facts. There was here, in Christian England, three hundred and fifty years ago, a portion of the one Episcopate of the Catholic Church, clothed with the plenary spiritual authority of Peter, and in full possession of the power of the keys, and having no superior as to the exercise of this power and this authority except the rest of the rulers of the Kingdom of God throughout the world. That most solemn and awful of all trusts they, so far as they were able, basely and wickedly surrendered into the hands of the temporal power. For that fearful breach of trust they will have to give an account at the Judgment Seat of Christ. And may the Lord grant unto them all—Cranmer and Ridley as well as Bonner and Gardiner—that they may find mercy of the Lord and pardon for their sin at that day. For with the men themselves we care not to meddle, further than to condemn the hideous sin of their Erastianism. For what they did—this was their terrible crime—was to lay the keys of Christ's spiritual Kingdom at the feet of an earthly master. What those unhappy men did, was, as I have already said; the very self-same thing as if Peter had prostituted the supreme spiritual authority with which his Master had invested him, by making it subservient to the will of Nero. And now in the marvellous Providence of Almighty God that supreme spiritual authority, which has been in abeyance for three hundred and fifty years, has been restored to a body within the National Communion in the persons of the Rulers of the O.C.R. Once more there are prelates in the English Church, who have the plenary power of the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, which Christ gave in trust for all Bishops and Pastors [13/14] until the end of time to the Apostle Peter. And this supreme spiritual jurisdiction there is, I trust, little fear, that either themselves, or their successors will ever again surrender into the hands of the State. The Church of England, before the Statute of Appeals and the Submission of the Clergy, was founded upon the eternal and inexpungable Rock of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and the plenary, spiritual authority which He gave to St. Peter. The work of the Reformation—I use the word only for the sake of convenience, and not at all in the popular sense—was to change the basis of the Church of England, so that instead of reposing upon the Divine Rock, they placed her upon the shifting quicksands of State Authority and human opinion.
The Rulers of the O.C.R. have power, which as report says they are resolved, God helping them, to use, in order to restore the English Church to her ancient basis, in which she rested upon spiritual authority.
It is true that when they avow this determination they are met with the discordant shrieks of “You are calling into question the Reformation Settlement: you are undoing the work of the Reformation.” Well! be it so. I know of no more sanctity attaching to the Reformation Settlement than to any other human Settlement. The Bishops of the Reformation era—by whom I mean Gardiner, Bonner, and Tunstall, more than Cranmer, Ridley and Latimer overturned the Catholic basis upon which the Church of England had rested for a thousand years, and placed it upon the basis of mere human authority. By so doing they justified every Nonconformist who, from that time to this, whether he were a Roman Catholic, or a Protestant Nonconformist, has ever dissented from the Church as now by law established.
I know of no law, human or Divine, which forbids me, or any other freeborn Englishman, whilst submitting to every existing ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, to use all constitutional means for the repeal and abrogation of all such laws as I believe to be mischievous and contrary to the revealed and declared will of God. What I, for one, mean, when I say that I will do my utmost to undo the work of the. Reformation, is this:—I believe that the chief and most important work which was done at the Reformation was to render the things of God unto Caesar. I shall always strive, to the best of my humble ability, to give back to God the things of God. And the cuckoo-cry of “the principles of the Reformation are in danger,” certainly will not scare me from my purpose. If the Reformation gentlemen considered themselves justified, as I suppose they did, in upsetting the Settlement of Magna Charta, a Settlement brought about [14/15] and cemented by the martyrdom of our most glorious Saint and Patron St. Thomas, why should I have a moment's hesitation in doing my best to strive to alter the Reformation Settlement and go back to that of Magna Charta and St. Thomas?
I wait for an answer.
I embrace the O.C.R. therefore, with all my heart, because I see in it the best, or rather the only means available for striking an effective blow at Erastianism, which is to my mind the very deadliest heresy which has ever afflicted the Church of God through her long and checquered pilgrimage. And this is why the Rulers of the O.O.R. invite all Catholic-minded men to join them instead of thinking of individual secession. Believe me, beloved Brethren, the battle for Christ is to be fought here in the Church of England, and we want your help to fight it. We want the help of everyone who believes in the Incarnation of the Co-equal Son of God, the alone Redeemer of a lost and ruined race, the One Mediator between God and man. We want the help of all who look with horror at the transference of the diadem of spiritual supremacy to the Head of anyone but the brow of the Word made flesh, Jesus, our Emmanuel. We want the help of all who shudder at the thought of laying the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven at the feet of Nero, or of any kings or potentates of this world.
We want the help of all who can read the Divine Book of Revelation, and can see that the mystic Babylon, with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, is not the Church of Rome exclusively, or more than other Churches, but that it is any Church which has entered into unhallowed relations with the powers of this world, which has given, or which has sanctioned the giving supreme spiritual jurisdiction to temporal rulers. We must not be anti-Erastians only when temporal rulers chance to be against us. High Churchman, as I profess myself to be, to my mind it is just as shocking that Henry VIII and Mary should send men to the stake for disbelief in the Sacrifice of the Mass, as that Elizabeth should disembowel Priests for saying Mass.
Therefore it is that I call upon every Christ-loving Englishman to join us and help us to cleanse once for all, now and for ever, the Temple of God from the spiritual filthiness of Erastianism. Let us break down the image of Baal, and burn it with fire and stamp it small to powder, and cast it into the brook Kidron and purify the house of Christianity.
It is a real Reformation which we want in the Church of England. A casting away of the real idols which stand between the soul and God—the worship of Mammon, the adoration of [15/16] earthly rank and station, the ascription of spiritual authority to temporal rulers. These are the superstitions against which our Order declares eternal war. Against these she raises the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, and swears never to sheathe it until there are no rivals to the Supremacy of King Jesus in the Church which He has purchased with His own Blood.
This is the struggle in which we are engaged and in which we invite your help. If you think you can fight Christ's battle in the Roman Church or anywhere else better than in the Church of England, I have no controversy with you. It is only that I am unable to agree with you. For, speaking in God's House, and before His Holy Altar, and as in His Presence, I believe that at this present time I can fight best for Christ in the Church of England; and that being in the Church of England, I can best serve the cause of my Divine Master and only Saviour by uniting myself to the O.C.R.
Come then with us, and help and strengthen us, and we will do you good. Come with us, and help us to clear away all the stumbling-blocks which Satan and wicked men have placed in the King's Highway to overthrow the footsteps of the meek of the earth. Come with us and fight the battle, which is not with confused noise and garments rolled in blood, but that battle in which everything that offends the jealous eyes of the glory of the Lord shall be burnt up and utterly consumed: the battle in which the Holy Ghost is the Fire, and the hearts of the faithful are the willing fuel. Fight then until the pealing Alleluias of Victory shall resound and re-echo from the hills and the valleys of earth to the topmost arch of Heaven—Alleluias which shall proclaim the cleansing of the House of God, which is the Church of the Living God—Alleluias which shall make known to men and angels that our yearning for Zion, and our longing prayers for the peace of Jerusalem, are accomplished—Alleluias because the highway is prepared upon the mountains of Israel for the coming of Jehovah Jesus—Alleluias which shall usher in the dawning day of a re-united Christendom, when the whole family of God shall be one, never again to be divided, and when, as I believe this little heap of corn; the O.C.R., shall be found to have borne fruit that shall shake like Libanus. And they of the City of God shall flourish like the grass of the earth. For blessed be the Name of His Majesty for ever. And all the world shall be filled with His Majesty, who is King of kings and Lord of lords. Amen and Amen.