IN CONSEQUENCE OF THE RECENT JUDGMENT
GIVEN IN THE CASE OF
CONSTITUTION OF THE COURT.
AND 78, NEW BOND STREET.
"IF A KINGDOM BE DIVIDED AGAINST ITSELF, THAT KINGDOM CANNOT STAND; AND IF A HOUSE BE DIVIDED AGAINST ITSELF, THAT HOUSE CANNOT STAND."
IN these words our Blessed LORD appeals to the reason and to the common sense of His hearers, in refutation of the objection which the Scribes had just brought against His miracles. The fact of those miracles they could not deny. Our LORD, by His Word, had cast out devils before the face of the people. The fact was apparent and undeniable. How, then, were the people to be prevented from regarding Jesus as the Prophet sent from GOD? Wickedness is quick of invention, and the most preposterous assumption is better than the acknowledgment of the truth: and so "the Scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth He out devils." Was there ever a supposition so farfetched and absurd? How easily does our LORD at once and utterly refute it! "He called them unto Him, and saith unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand; and if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end."
You will perceive, then, that our LORD here asserts [3/4] a great principle, and gives an illustration of it,--and that illustration of the strongest possible kind. The principle is, that a kingdom or family divided against itself must fall. Internal division is a sure element of dissolution. Sooner or later the kingdom which admits it must fall. Outward assaults may be warded off, mere abuses may be corrected, but internal division, allowed and admitted, is fatal. And the illustration which our LORD gives of this principle is, as I have said, of the strongest possible kind: because if there were any exception at all to the principle laid down, it would surely be in the kingdom of Satan, where is confusion and every evil work. But if, even for the purposes of evil, an internal unity is necessary,---if even Satan cannot carry on his devices, unless with some unity of purpose, with some consistency and unanimity in the agents whom he employs; how much more will the principle apply to kingdoms and families which are constituted for good, and not for evil; and how, most of all, to that Kingdom and Household of GOD, the Church, which He has constituted for the salvation of men, which its Divine Founder built upon the essential element of unity, which He formed into ONE BODY and ONE SPIRIT--where there is one LORD, one Faith, one Baptism, one GOD and FATHER of all, Who is above all, through all, and in all.
Now it is a fact which cannot be denied, and which it would be foolish as well as wrong to shut our eyes to, that the Church, as it now exists in this country, does, at least at first sight, present the aspect of, "a house divided against itself." I suppose that this is a simple fact which no thoughtful person will be disposed to controvert. In ordinary times, I should feel that it would be unwise to dwell on such an afflicting [4/5] fact, otherwise than as presenting to us a motive and stimulus to prayer. At least one might feel that it is not a matter to be brought out broadly before a mixed audience, lest it might alienate affections from the object on which one would fain see them placed. And every one will feel that such a subject ought to be handled most cautiously and tenderly. One would fain strive as long as possible to insist rather upon points of agreement than of difference; and, so far as the supremacy of truth permits, endeavour to lessen rather than to widen the breach. For hitherto we have hoped, and I trust not without some reason, as I shall presently endeavour to show, that this character of division has been rather accidental and transient, than elemental and permanent. But what thoughtful person amongst us has not long lamented the fact, that such differences of opinion, such serious matters of controversy, such directly opposite principles, have found place amongst us? And what earnest-minded Christian has not hoped and prayed that such unseemly dissensions might have a speedy end, and that "all who confess GOD's Holy Name might agree in the truth of His Holy Word, and live in unity and godly love?" For it must be observed that the differences which have existed, and do exist, amongst us, are not merely exterior, and in a manner accidental to religion, but are such as enter into its most fundamental doctrines, and affect all but the highest, if not indeed the very highest, articles of our faith.* [* Perhaps I ought not to except even the very highest; for the mysteries of the faith involve each other, and are inseparably linked together. Thus the doctrine of the Sacraments can only be fully received by those who have apprehended the doctrine of the Incarnation; and this again implies the true knowledge of the mystery of [5n/6n] the ever blessed Trinity. So on the other hand it may be feared that an orthodox confession of the Trinity is an unreality, unless it developes itself into a true apprehension of the mystery of the Incarnation, and of the Sacraments.] [5/6] That this is so will be apparent, if I point out to you a few of those matters of faith in which our unhappy divisions are found. And that I may not misrepresent, I shall take care to quote from none but unquestionable sources.
1. In the first place, then, in reference to that which is the source of all our religious faith and knowledge,--the rule of faith--a large number of persons amongst us, including some hundreds of Clergymen--as is witnessed by a document to which their own signatures are affixed,* [*This document was put forth as a manifesto in the year 1844, and published in the religious newspapers. I quote from the "English Churchman" of January 25, 1844.]--hold and maintain that "every Christian is bound to examine and to ascertain the meaning of the Word of GOD for himself, and to receive no doctrine as the doctrine of Scripture, unless he sees it to be declared therein." Of course I do not, on this occasion, stay to show the unsoundness of the opinions referred to. This would occupy far more time than could be now given. Nor is it the immediate object which I have in view. But I have merely to state, that the difference existing in the Church is so great, that many of us hold and maintain that the course here recommended is the greatest misuse and abuse of GOD'S blessed gift of the Holy Scriptures; that the inevitable consequence of following it is to lead men into heresy and schism; that the Christian rule of faith is that which was first delivered orally by our LORD Himself to the Apostles; which has been handed [6/7] down to us by the Creeds of the Church, and which men are bound to believe, on pain of Gov's everlasting displeasure, whether they can see it in Scripture or not,--although, of course, we further maintain that, if they are faithful Christians, they will infallibly find it there. Surely, whichever opinion is right, nothing can be more diametrically opposed than the one to the other,--and this in a matter which affects the very foundation of the faith itself.
2. Again, on the Holy Sacrament of Baptism, it is held by a large number of persons, as appears by the same document, that ungodly persons have neither been born again of the Spirit, nor justified, although they were baptized in infancy. And in accordance with this, one, since promoted to the very highest position in this Church, has denied in the most pointed terms that Baptism, or newness of heart concurs towards our justification.* [* Charge of the Bishop of Chester, (now the Archbishop of Canterbury,) in 1841.--p. 79.] In direct opposition to this our own Diocesan has expressly taught us ex cathedra, that it is "the plain doctrine of our Church that, Baptism is instrumentally connected with justification," and that the opinion which denies Baptismal regeneration . . . . by no stretch of ingenuity, nor latitude of explanation can be brought to agree with the plain unqualified language of the Offices for Baptism and Confirmation."+ [+ Charge of the Bishop of London, 1842.--p. 25.]
So here is one part of the Church supported by the highest authority, teaching us that our children in Baptism were not justified, that is, I presume, had not "remission of sins;" nay, that. their Baptism did not even "concur towards" their justification: while [7/8] another part supported by equal authority, teaches us to accept in their truest literal sense, of every baptized infant, the words of the Catechism, that in Baptism the child "is made a member of CHRIST, the child of GOD, and an inheritor of the kingdom of Heaven." One Clergyman teaches the children of his flock, that they may be regenerate, although the chances are against it, inasmuch as the ungodly out-number the godly, and therefore exhorts them to be born again. Another teaches them that they all have been regenerated--and must now expand and develope the new life that is in them into all holy fruits. Can any discrepancy be more fatal to all unity of teaching?
3. Again, with regard to the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, it is held in the same document, (I still use its very words,) that "there is no scriptural authority for affirming that our LORD is present with His people at the LORD'S Supper, in any other manner (sic) than that in which He is present with them whenever they meet together in His Name, (S. Matt. xviii. 20,) and His Body and Blood are verily and indeed taken and received by them whenever they exercise faith in His atoning sacrifice, so that the imagination of any bodily presence, or of any other presence affected by the consecration of the elements is unscriptural and erroneous."
In direct opposition to this, many of us believe and maintain in the words of good Bishop. Ken, that "the Body and Blood of CHRIST are as really present as His Divine power can make them."* [* Ken's Manual.] We believe that we really, truly, spiritually, and substantially, "eat the Flesh of the SON of Man, and drink His Blood," according to his own Words in their literal and spiritual [8/9] meaning--in a manner transcending our understanding, but wholly distinct and different from any participation which we have in Him at other times.
4. Again, it is held in the same document, that "the notion of any sacrifice offered in the LORD'S Supper by the Minister as a Priest distinct from the sacrifice of praise and of devotedness, offered by every true worshipper, is unscriptural and erroneous.
In opposition to this we use the language of Bishop Wilson,* [* Sacra Privata.] when offering the Sacrifice of the Altar. "May I atone Thee, O GOD, by offering to Thee the pure and unbloody sacrifice, which Thou hast ordained by JESUS CHRIST." We believe that in the Holy Eucharist, the Priest really, truly, and spiritually offers the sacrifice of the Body and Blood of CHRIST, after a heavenly manner, applicatory of that one Propitiation offered for the sins of the whole world, both of the quick and dead.
I might carry on this proof of division much further, as for instance, in the doctrines of justification, of ordination, of sacramental grace in Confirmation, and in many other verities of the Christian Faith. But let what has been said suffice, as assuredly it does abundantly suffice, to show that the divisions which have obtained amongst us, are on no mere outward matters,--not on mere matters of ceremony, or in modes of stating the same truths; not on points where differences and oppositions may be fairly allowed; but they are on matters of most vital moment, affecting our faith, affecting our practice, and in fact involving the whole nature and character of our religion--the grounds of our dependence here, and of our hope of heaven hereafter. It may be asked then, How can it [9/10] be under these circumstances that the Church of England has stood so long, "a kingdom divided against itself," and yet not fallen? To this I think two answers may be given.
1. That it is not until a comparatively recent period that these differences have been developed. It may be true that ever since the Reformation, these two schools--the Catholic and the Puritan schools--have found place in the Church. But for some cause or other they have been more or less restrained,--they have not actively developed their opposite tendencies. After the first disturbances of the Reformation, in the reigns of Edward VI. and Elizabeth, were past, the Puritan element seemed for a time to sleep, and scarcely manifested itself again till the days of Wesley; and on the other hand, it must be fairly confessed that if the present High Church movement be a true development of Church of England doctrine, it has lain dormant, with few exceptions, till times even more recent. Hence these two elements perhaps have not hitherto come into direct collision. And then also during a long period, including the last, and early part of this century, a religious apathy prevailed, which practically kept divisions out of sight, or made but little account of them.
2. But secondly and chiefly it may be urged that the division, serious as it has been in a practical point of view, has not hitherto been of an elemental character. I mean of course so far as any acknowledgment on the part of the Church is concerned. This division, real and substantial as it is in itself, has rather been an accident, than an element in the Church. For example, there has been no more important or essential point of division than that which has existed on the [10/11] subject of Baptismal Regeneration. But this both sides have all along maintained has existed in some of the members of the Church, rather than in the Church itself. Each has maintained that the existence of error was traceable to the absence of discipline, not to any defect in the fundamental laws of the Church itself. And so each party, it may be, confident in its own integrity and truthfulness, has hoped either by the force of truth, or it may be by the revival of discipline to win over, or to force over, the other to its side. It was grievous indeed--most grievous to our flocks, that such a state of things should exist--grievous that such discordant doctrines should be taught by Ministers of the same Church. But still so long as it lasted each was free to think of himself as carrying out the true intention of the Church in consistency with what he believed to be the true doctrine of Scripture, and of the Universal Church from the earliest times.
But now a new state of things has arisen, which, if it be allowed to continue, has essentially altered the position of the English Church. And to this it is needful that I should briefly advert.
You are all of you aware that a short time ago a Clergyman was presented to a benefice in the Diocese of Exeter, to whom the Bishop refused to commit the cure of souls, on the ground that he held unsound or heretical views on the doctrine of Baptism,--in fact, denying the Baptismal Regeneration of Infants. The Clergyman in question maintained in the first instance that the Church of England required him to deny this doctrine as one of a "soul destroying" tendency. Afterwards he somewhat receded from this ground, and maintained that at least the Church of England allowed him to hold the doctrine pronounced by the [11/12] Bishop to be erroneous. This question then came to be tried in the Church Courts. In the first Court it was decided in favour of the Bishop: that is, it was decided that the Church of England allows no other doctrine than that of the unconditional Regeneration of Infants in Holy Baptism. But the case was carried up to a higher Court,--the highest Court of Appeal in all Ecclesiastical causes,--the Court of last resort, and therefore of final decision. And here the sentence of the Court below has been reversed, the Bishop has been pronounced to be in error, and it has been ruled almost by the unanimous voice of the Court,* [* Five out of six judges agreed to the judgment.] with the concurrence also of two out of the three prelates who sat as assessors, that the Church of England, in its Articles and Formularies, allows the doctrine, that infants may not be regenerated in Holy Baptism; and that her ministers are free to teach that Regeneration has no necessary connection with Baptism, but may take place before Baptism, in Baptism, or after Baptism indifferently. In a word, it is ruled that the Baptismal Regeneration of Infants is "an open question"+ [+ See Appendix A.] in the Church of England, a matter on which we may be divided without violating the rules by which we have bound ourselves, and without affecting our title to be teachers of her doctrine.
Now this does substantially alter the position of the Church: and, I say it with deep pain and sorrow, and I must add, not without long and painful thought, for this decision, though but recently given, has been long anticipated, that this decision does seem to me to bring the Church of England within the category of our LORD's judgment in the text: "A kingdom divided [12/13] against itself, a house divided against itself," which, if it continues so, cannot stand. For what is the effect of this decision? It is this: it legalises and authorises division. It plainly declares to us that it has been the design and intention of the Church of England, as indicated by her Articles and Formularies, to allow, and so to perpetuate, division on a most fundamental doctrine of the Christian Faith. For be it observed--and this is a most important feature in the case--there never has been any difference of opinion whatever amongst us as to the essential and vital nature of the doctrine at issue. Here at least we are agreed. Those who differ from us have not scrupled to call what we hold to be truth "a soul-destroying doctrine." More than one has declared, much, as I think, to their honour, that it would be impossible for them longer to minister in the Church if this doctrine were forced on their acceptance. We on the other hand have as freely denounced the opinion of our opponents, holding it to be heretical, contrary to the laws of CHRIST, against the plain statements of Holy Scripture, and involving the denial of the Article of the Creed in which we confess "one Baptism for the remission of sins." On the essential importance of the doctrine then both parties are agreed. Here there can be no mistake. And what then does the Church of England tell us, according to this Judgment? It tells us that both opinions may be held within her pale; nay more, that both opinions were intended to be allowed. What must this sentence be in the estimation of both parties, but in effect to say that light and darkness may dwell together? that living truth and deadly error may have communion with each other? What is a house divided against itself, if this be not one? Yes: both sides are placed in a new and impossible position. If [13/14] we believe what we have subscribed, that "the Church hath authority in controversies of faith,"* [* Article XX.; which, if it refers to the Church Universal, must equally refer to any particular Church acting within its own sphere, subordinately, of course, to the decisions of the whole Church.] if we act upon what we have solemnly vowed, "to minister the doctrine of CHRIST as this Church and Realm hath received the same,"+ [+ Office for the Ordination of Priests.] we are henceforth tongue-tied on a matter involving most essential truth, or most deadly error. Neither side may blame the other. This may be palatable to the Gallio-like spirit of the times,--palatable to those who think that all men may believe what they choose, and that all are equally right who are equally sincere. But what is it to those who believe that there is such a thing as truth, real objective truth, and who in reliance on that belief have subscribed to the dogma, "This is the Catholic Faith, which except a man believe faithfully he cannot be saved," and who have bound themselves under the most awful obligation "to be ready with all faithful diligence to banish and drive away all erroneous and strange doctrines contrary to Goo's Word?"++ [++ Ibid.]
I have heard but of two ways of escaping from these conclusions, neither of which I think can be fairly or honourably accepted.
1. The first is to repudiate the sentence of this Court altogether, to regard it as a mere nullity, to account the Court itself as a mere creation of the State, with which the Church has nothing to do, and to consider its proceedings simply in the light of a persecution.§ [§ See Appendix B.] Would, indeed, that we might so regard it! For persecution is but an outward evil, and cannot affect our principles. Persecution can do us no real [14/15] harm. But I cannot honestly so regard the matter. For in the first place this Court has been constituted by the same authority which has ruled in ecclesiastical matters at least ever since the Church ceased to assemble in Synod or Convocation. And when it was constituted it met with no remonstrance or objection from our spiritual rulers, nor from any one portion of the Church. Next, in this very case, a Bishop, one certainly not of the least able and acute that has adorned the English bench, pleaded before it without protest. The Archbishops of both provinces, and the Bishop first in rank in the Church, assisted as assessors at its deliberation,--the two first concurring in its sentence. How then can it be said that the Church does not recognise this Court? Who are we to look to for an expression of the Church's judgment but to our Bishops? and four of them have formally recognised the court, while the rest are silent. Or if we look further, what body of Priests or Laity worth speaking of in point of numbers have protested against it? With what fairness then can we now repudiate its sentence when it is against us? What pretext is there for regarding its proceedings as persecution? What body ever persecuted itself, or "hated its own flesh?" I must say that such a position seems to me a mere evasion of the difficulty, a pretext unworthy of men, of which the lightest thing we can say of it is, that it is childish.*
[* Surely those who would treat the Court as a nullity on the ground of its being a mere creation of the state must feel that common consistency requires of them that they should treat all mere State Legislation in Church matters as a nullity. But have they done this? Are they prepared to treat the Church Discipline Act, the Acts for the new division of dioceses, and for the division of parishes, for the regulation of Clerical duties and residence, whether [15n/16n] in Cathedrals or Parishes, as mere nullities? Has a single member of the Church, Clerical or Lay, acted upon such a principle? Is it not really "childish" to suppose that we may pick and choose for ourselves what laws we will receive, and what we will repudiate. It is really wonderful to find honoured names subscribed to a position so untenable and absurd.]
 2. But next, others have said, What practical difference does this judgment make? It was sufficiently notorious before that two parties existed in the Church holding diametrically opposite opinions on this subject, and both openly taught them. What difference then does this sentence make? Now in answer to this I trust that I have shown in this Discourse that there is all the difference between the existence of a mere abuse in the Church, and the introduction of a new elemental principle into it. Abuses to any extent we ought to bear. They may be but the chastisement for our sins, or they may arise from relaxation of discipline, which by GOD'S blessing may be restored. In this light we have been at liberty hitherto to regard the intrusion of those who, as we maintain, hold false doctrine. But it quite alters the case if we have to confess, AS WE MUST NOW CONFESS IF THIS JUDGMENT BECOMES THE PERMANENT LAW OF THE CHURCH, that these persons have a lawful place within the Church; nay, and have as much right to claim her authority for their opinions, as we have for what we believe to be Catholic truth. This is no mere abuse, no matter of "wood, hay, and stubble," which may have crept into the superstructure of the building. It is a flaw in the foundation. It is no mere abuse of the Church's Formularies, it is a lawful use of them.
Is there then any remedy for a state of things so grievous and perplexing? I confess, my brethren, I see but one remedy,--the most natural and obvious one,--that of obtaining an IMMEDIATE revival of the Church's [16/17] Synods, and the enactment of a more stringent Article upon the Sacrament of Baptism, an Article in such a form as will not admit of any ambiguous meaning. I say IMMEDIATE,* [*Those who agree that this is the proper remedy, and yet are willing that it should be postponed to a distant and indefinite period, can have scarcely considered the positive injustice which in that case would be inflicted. By the law, as it now stands, the Bishops must admit to the Priesthood, and institute to the cure of souls, those who deny Baptismal Grace. How manifestly unjust then would it be, some five, ten, or twenty years hence, if the legislature of the Church should enact or declare a law which would force them to resign their office and their benefices. Who would be a party to an act so palpably unfair? What the Church does in this way it must do at once, or the time is gone by for ever.] because where the wound is mortal without it, a remedy delayed is no remedy at all. I say this is the natural and obvious remedy, for it is strictly analogous to that which we naturally seek if aggrieved in any temporal matter. If by the decisions of our temporal Courts of Law any unintentional, or other practical hardship follows, the Legislature is immediately called upon to enact a new law, or by a declaratory act to make plain what before was ambiguous. And I must say, the reality of our professed convictions is now on its trial. If Churchmen have the same zeal for the preservation of CHRIST'S truth as they have for the preservation of their persons and property, they will leave no stone unturned, no effort untried, to obtain a similar remedy. They will insist upon the immediate assembling of the Church's Synod, and require the enactment of a new Canon or Article which shall make the voice of the Church of England so plain, that none can doubt its meaning.
If you ask me what hope there is of obtaining such a remedy, it is a question to which I would rather not [17/18] reply. It is a hard thing absolutely to despair where interests of such moment are at stake. There is one who tells us "to hope against hope," and whatever our impressions or feelings may be, it is my duty to remind you from this place, "that men ought always to pray, and not to faint."
I know that there are some who deprecate the introduction of such subjects as this before a mixed congregation. My answer to such on the present occasion is, "Is there not a cause?" GOD is my witness, and you also, my brethren, that nothing lies nearer my heart than to make the ministrations of this place subservient to building you up on your most holy faith. I am bold to say before those who know it best, that here CHRIST is preached, the Author and Finisher of your faith, the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever;--that in this place no name is known but His Who was crucified for us; CHRIST, the source of pardon, holiness, and peace, your food, your life, your hope, your all in all. This is, as you well know, our perpetual theme. But when a question arises which affects the very foundation of the faith of CHRIST, a question therefore in which all, rich and poor, male and female, young and old, are equally interested; a question too upon a matter which involves the necessity of immediate action, and where, as is ever the case in this country, so much depends upon publicity and the spread of information on the subject; I should feel most culpable before GOD and man if I did not avail myself of the opportunity and authority offered me in this place of enforcing what seems to me a most urgent and necessary duty.
But I have now done. If time and place be left for us, other subjects must now occupy our attention [18/19] on the ensuing Sundays; subjects which, sacred as they are, I will not call more sacred than the maintenance of CHRIST'S, truth. I will only pray now that what I have said may be well considered, and deeply laid to heart; that you, my brethren, may be really alive to the crisis which, long expected, has at length come; that in faith and prayer you will commit your way to Almighty GOD, asking of Him in words so suitably put into our lips this day, "that we who for our evil deeds do worthily deserve to be punished, by the comfort of Thy grace, may mercifully be relieved, through our LORD and SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST."* [* Collect for Mid-Lent Sunday.]
I THINK it only fair to state, that having had the advantage of hearing the arguments in the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in the late case, my opinion of what was really intended to be the force of the Article XXVII. has undergone considerable modification. I cannot now feel certain that the Reformers did not intend to leave Baptismal Regeneration an open question. In the very able argument of the Counsel for the appellant, Mr. Turner, it was urged with great effect, that upon a comparison of the Articles of 1536 with those of 1552, it might be fairly inferred that the latter were intended to open the question which was closed by the former. These Articles are as follow:
"Baptism is offered unto all men, as well infants as such as have the use of reason, that by baptism they shall have remission of sins, and the grace and favour of GOD, according to the saying of S. John, 'Nisi quis renatus fuerit ex aqua et Spiritu Sancto, non potent intrare in regnum clorum;' that the promise of grace and everlasting life, which promise is adjoined unto this Sacrament of Baptism, pertaineth not only to such as have the use of reason, but also [20/21] unto infants, innocents, and children; and that they ought therefore, and needs must, be baptized. And that by the sacrament they do also obtain remission of their sin, the grace and favour of GOD, and be made thereby the very sons and children of GOD; insomuch that infants and children dying in their infancy, shall undoubtedly be saved thereby, and else not."--Collier, II. fol. 123.
"Baptism is not only a sign of profession, and mark of difference, whereby Christian men are discerned from others that be not christened, but it is also a sign of regeneration or new birth, whereby, as by an instrument, they that receive baptism rightly are grafted into the Church; the promises of forgiveness of sin, and of our adoption to be the sons of GOD by the HOLY GHOST, are visibly signed and sealed; faith is confirmed, and [20/21] grace increased by virtue of prayer unto GOD. The baptism of young children is in any wise to be retained in the Church, as most agreeable with the institution Of CHRIST."
Now it certainly does seem unaccountable, that if the Reformers of 1552 intended to assert the same doctrine as that enunciated in the Articles of 1536, they should have used language (to say the least) so much more open to dubious interpretation. I do not say that this is absolutely decisive on the point; but it furnishes an argument not easily answered. Having this precise language before them, why did they not use it? Had they no reason for adopting more ambiguous terms? One cannot say that it is other than a probable conclusion, that they so worded the Article of 1552 as to include the subscription of those who would have refused to subscribe the definite language of the previous Article. I cannot but think that great weight was justly given to this consideration, in the very able judgment which was delivered.
In speaking of the judgment as very able, I must in all humility make an exception of that part of it which adopted the theory of "hypothetical or charitable assumption" in the offices of the Church. How such an absurd theory could be adopted by men so grave and learned it is really difficult to imagine. But ne sutorul tra crepidam. Ably as the judgment was drawn, there were certainly some indications of the judges having been out of their depth, when they got upon grounds strictly theological.
It seems strange that it did not occur to them that the hypothesis of charitable assumption, if it be worth anything, would just as much apply to Mr. Gorham's words and teaching, as to the Church's words and teaching. If the Church employs charitable assumption, so ought Mr. Gorham. If the Church says "This child is regenerate," so ought Mr. Gorham to say so, not only in the service, but at all other times. In fact, the Bishop only required of him really to mean what he said, when he used the Office of the [21/22] Church; whether on a charitable or any other assumption would be a matter for his own conscience. But what can be more unreasonable, than that any Clergyman should be allowed to make this charitable assumption when he reads the office of the Church, and yet to leave his charity behind him when he gets into the pulpit?
But really this whole theory of "charitable assumption" is a very absurd one. The Prayer Book means what it says, just like any other book. The argument so much insisted upon from the office for the Burial of the dead at once falls to the ground, if it be considered that it was intended to be used when the Church exercised discipline; when none, therefore, could have Christian burial but those of whose future happiness we ought to have a good "hope." No wonder that words constructed for one system will not apply to another.
But what would their Lordships think, if this theory of "charitable assumption" were applied to legal documents in their temporal courts of law? And why should they not believe that religion is as truthful as law?
But now, assuming that their interpretation of the Article is correct, how are we to account for its apparent discrepancy with the devotional formularies of the Church? It may be difficult to answer this question; but I think any one who considers it fully and fairly, will see that the charge of ambiguity is to be thrown on the Article, not on the formularies. This view of the matter will be confirmed by comparing another article with the devotional formularies. Thus, to place in the same juxta-position the Articles of 1536 and 1562, on the holy Eucharist.
"As touching the Sacrament of the Altar, we will that all Bishops and Preachers shall instruct and teach our people committed by us to their spiritual charge, that they ought and must constantly believe that under the form and figure of Bread and Wine, which we there presently do see and perceive by outward senses is very substantially and [22/23] really contained and comprehended the very selfsame Body and Blood of our SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST, which was born of the Virgin Mary, and suffered upon the Cross for our redemption. And that under the same form and figure of Bread and Wine, the very selfsame Body and Blood of CHRIST is corporally, really, and in every substance exhibited, distributed, and received of all them which receive the said Sacrament: and therefore the said Sacrament is to be used with all due reverence and honour, and that every man ought first to prove and examine himself, and religiously to try and search his own conscience before he shall receive the same, according to the saying of S. Paul, 'Quisquis ederit panem hunc,' &c."
"The Supper of the LORD is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves one to another; but rather is a Sacrament of our Redemption by CHRIST'S death insomuch that to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith, receive the same, the Bread which we break is a partaking of the Body of CHRIST; and likewise the [22/23] Cup of Blessing is a partaking of the Blood of CHRIST.
"Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of Bread and Wine) in the Supper of the LORD, cannot be proved by holy Writ; but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions.
"The Body of CHRIST is given, taken and eaten, in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the means whereby the Body of CHRIST is received and eaten in the Supper is Faith.
"The Sacrament of the LORD'S Supper was not by CHRIST'S ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshipped."
Now it will be seen that there is here very much the same difference as in the Articles on Baptism. The Article of 1536 is plain, dogmatic and unmistakable. The Article of 1562, ambiguous, hesitating, indefinite, and to a great extent negative. And yet the language retained in the Liturgy is far more in harmony with the earlier than with the later Article. As for instance, "We spiritually eat the flesh and drink the Blood of CHRIST," and again, we pray "so to eat the flesh of Thy dear SON JESUS CHRIST, and to drink His Blood that our sinful bodies may be made clean by His Body, and our souls washed through His most precious Blood." And there are several other passages of the same high tone.
As bearing on the same point, it is important to observe that the doctrine of Confirmation, in the English Church, is entirely obtained from the Devotional Offices of the Prayer Book. The only Article which refers to it, seems not merely to disparage, but even to condemn it, though of course it must be supposed unintentionally.
"Those five commonly called Sacraments, that is to say, Confirmation, Penance, Orders, Matrimony, and Extreme Unction, are not [23/24] to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel, being such as have grown partly of the corrupt following of the Apostles, partly are states of life allowed in Scripture, &c: Article XXV. Now as Confirmation is not "a state of life," like Orders or Matrimony, nothing remains but to suppose that it is classed under "the corrupt following of the Apostles." Yet this conclusion is utterly inconsistent with the language of the Offices for Baptism and Confirmation. The hypothesis of "charitable assumption," will scarcely help us out of this difficulty.
Is it not the simple truth that the offices and devotions of the Church are Catholic, which the Articles are not? And that these last really were more or less the offspring of that miserable mutilator of truth--COMPROMISE?
It should be observed that the objection to the Court of the Judicial Committee is, that it is appointed by the civil power,--that it is to all intents and purposes a Civil Court, naturally feeling its responsibilities to the State rather than to the Church.* [* See my recent Sermon on "The things of Cæsar," &c.] And our complaint is, that the Church acquiesces in such a Court, and either formally or virtually has given its sanction to it. No Court therefore would be satisfactory, unless the appointment of it shall originate in the free choice and deliberation of the Church in her lawful assemblies.
Of the actual constitution of the present Court, practically viewed, I do not see that any complaint can be fairly made. It would be difficult to devise one more fair or competent, or likely to be more impartial in adjudicating on the matters which may be brought before it--matters which require the application of minds accustomed to sift legal evidence, and to decide upon the just construction of words and sentences. For such purposes what better Court can we have than one formed of our highest legal functionaries, who call in the chief rulers of the Church to decide, as we must suppose, upon any question purely theological, which shall arise in the argument. Of course care ought to be taken that no one shall have a seat in the Court, who is not a member of the Church of England.
______________________________________________ LONDON: J. MASTERS, PRINTER, ALDERSGATE STREET.