CHURCH AND ITS BRANCHES:
T. HARRISON, BRIGGATE;
F. & J. RIVINGTON; AND EDWARDS AND HUGHES, LONDON.
The following Sermon was preached at the consecration of Bishop Luscombe, who was consecrated in Scotland, 1825, as a Missionary Bishop to exercise episcopal functions among the British subjects in France and Belgium.
From the concluding words of the Letters of Collation, delivered to Bishop Luscombe by the Prelates who consecrated him, the object of his mission will be best understood: "He is sent by us, representing the Scotch Episcopal Church, to the continent of Europe, not as a Diocesan Bishop, in the modern or limited sense of the word, but for a purpose similar to that for which Titus was left by St. Paul in Crete--that he may set in order the things that are wanting among such of the natives of Great Britain and Ireland as he shall find there, professing to be members of the United Church of England and Ireland and the Episcopal Church in Scotland. But, as our Blessed Lord, when he first sent out his Apostles, commanded them, saying, 'Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel;' so we, following so divine an example, which was certainly left on record to the Church to guide her conduct in malting future converts to her faith, do solemnly enjoin our right reverend Brother, Bishop Luscombe, not to disturb the peace of any Christian society established as the national Church, in whatever nation he may chance to sojourn, but to confine his ministrations to British subjects, and to such other Christians as may profess to be of a Protestant Episcopal Church.
"And we earnestly pray God to protect and support him in his arduous undertaking, and to grant such success to his ministry that among those who 'have turned many to righteousness, he may at last shine as the stars for ever and ever.'"
Whether one member suffer all the members suffer with it, or one member be honoured all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ and members in particular.
1 Cor. xii. 26, 27.
Deeply impressed with the importance of the solemn office for the celebration of which we are this day assembled, and equally aware of my own unworthiness, as a simple Presbyter, to discuss the great questions which naturally arise out of it in the presence of so many right reverend Fathers of the Church, it is with sincere humility and diffidence that I take upon me a duty, to the performance of which I am capable of bringing little more than that fervent zeal which such an event is calculated to call forth in the breast of every true servant of our holy Catholic Church. Heartily, however, as humbly I pray unto Him "who worketh great marvels," to send down upon this whole congregation such a portion of the "healthful spirit of His grace," as may supply all deficiencies on the part of the creature, and bring our designs and labours to a happy conclusion, to the honour and glory of the Creator.
In contemplating a measure which forcibly brings back to our recollection the primitive periods of the Church of Christ, and awakens the memory of those events which have marked its career from the first mission of the Apostles, down to the present hour, we are necessarily reminded of the distinguishing features by which, and by which alone, the true apostolic and Catholic character of it may be traced.
 In the regular procession of events, first principles too frequently become obscured, or are only referred to, as they partially appear to justify a latitude of interpretation. In an age of professing liberality especially, men are apt to be fascinated by words, and to merge the distinctive character,--to lose sight feature by feature, of TRUTH itself--in the prevailing mode of generalizing principles, as well as systems. Thus by an error, venial perhaps as far as concerns the ignorant multitude, but criminal in those who either through prejudice, or for the purpose of deluding others, foster and extend it,--every sect, every shade and denomination of dissent or departure from the institutions of the Apostles and the primitive Church, are comprehended equally with the most rigid and conscientious adherence to them, under the general head and title of the Catholic Church.
In such an assembly as this, I need not insist upon the impropriety,--to use no harsher term--of such a general classification; but it may not be considered irrelevant, if in discussing the merits of our present undertaking, in order to anticipate misunderstanding, and to guard against misrepresentation, we explain distinctly and clearly what we mean by the Catholic Church; and hence endeavour to shew how perfectly in accordance with its principles and objects, is the purpose now contemplated by the pious and venerable governors of this pure and legitimate branch of it.
That the Church of Rome has unjustly arrogated to herself an exclusive claim to the title of Catholic--that name so dear to all who are imbued with the love of primitive Christianity--has been too satisfactorily proved by a succession of the ablest divines, and, indeed, is too self-evident, to need any discussion upon the present occasion. We shall rather direct our observations against the error, not only of those who dissent from our apostolic Church, but even of too many careless professors within its pale--who, ignorant or regardless of the [36/37] primitive institutions of Christianity--the restoration to which was the object of our Reformation,--content themselves with a literal interpretation of this designation of the one true Church, and thus predicate it indiscriminately of all believers.
That their principle of interpretation is erroneous, a little consideration will serve to shew. Ascertaining kaqolikoV to mean universal, they demand where is to be found a universal Church. They perceive the disagreement which exists with respect both to doctrines and ceremonies among the various religious establishments throughout the world, and finding, strictly speaking, no satisfactory answer to the question, they, at once, assume the fact, that under the general title of the Catholic Church, must necessarily be included every sect and denomination of professing Christians, however different in doctrine, in discipline or even in faith, from the primitive Church. But is this a just or legitimate mode of interpretation? Is it the mode of interpretation, with which any one who comes to the consideration of the subject will be satisfied? If in the study of the literature, the philosophy, or the political economy of the ancients, we were to meet with a technical expression or a term of art, should we rest contented with the imperfect notions conveyed by either, in their first and literal sense? Should we not rather refer to the writings of the poet, the philosopher and the politician, and adopt the term, whether agreeable or not to its strict etymological signification, in the precise sense to which it had been restricted by them? This surely is consonant with every principle applicable to the investigation of truth, and must, injustice, be adopted in analyzing any question connected with the first and greatest of all truths--"the reason of the faith which is in us."
When, therefore, we adopt and daily repeat the creed of the early Christians, we are surely bound to ascertain not only the meaning of their words, but the precise [37/38] sense in which they were used, and in which those holy Fathers intended that we should receive them.
By this test, then, we are prepared to abide; and we may, without presumption, challenge the opponents of our interpretation to point out one instance in which the term Catholic is applied by the ancients in the indefinite and indiscriminate manner for which they contend. They will invariably find it used, for a purpose directly opposed to that which they profess. They will find it used, to speak logically, as a word of the second intention, to distinguish the one true and apostolic Church--the Church which was established at Jerusalem by the preaching of St. Peter, and existing through all ages the same, by the succession of its Bishops--from the various sects, heresies, and schisms which even then brought scandal upon the name of Christians. "Christianus mihi nomen, Catholicus cognomen," the former to distinguish him from the heathen, the latter from the heretics, was the motto not of Pacian alone, but of every orthodox member of the Church.
If earlier than the age of Irenaeus the distinction is not so clearly marked, it is only because the errors of the first and the former part of the second century, were so gross in their nature that they could scarcely lay claim to the common term of Christian, and that, consequently, the line of demarkation between Churchman and Heretic was too clearly ascertained to require that nice distinction which afterwards became necessary when Schism as well as Heresy divided the believers in the name of Christ. But to the writings of Irenaeus, Tertullian, and St. Cyprian,--the polar star of the Ecclesiastical Antiquary,--we might, with safety, appeal, for the fullest proof of our assertion; were it not amply sufficient for the object we have in view to ascertain the meaning which was attached to the term by those who first adopted it in the Creed.
Although the article concerning the Catholic Church [38/39] had been inserted in many of the Oriental Creeds at the beginning of the fourth century, and although the term itself had been applied to the Church, as we shall presently see, from the apostolic age; it did not form part of any of those Creeds which are retained by us, until the Council of Constantinople added it to the Nicene. Now it would be perfectly fair to infer that the very circumstance of its insertion in the Creed is sufficient, if not to support, our argument, at least, to invalidate that to which we are opposed. The design of a Creed is not the expression of all that we believe, but the profession of certain truths which, although denied by some, are maintained by us. There is, consequently an antithesis to every article. We profess to believe in God the Father, because the Pagan rejects Him; in God the Son, because the Arian blasphemes him; in God the Holy Ghost, because His personality is denied by the Macedonian. Now, if in the profession of belief in the existence of the Catholic Church, the primitive Christians had intended nothing further than the acknowledgment of the existence of large masses of believers in the name of Christ, scattered over the face of the earth, no one in his senses would have objected to that which was self-evident. To have denied it, would have involved an absurdity too gross for the most weak and illiterate of mankind to have been guilty of; and to have inserted the article in the creed, would, in consequence, have been, at least a work of supererogation. But if, on the other hand, they intended, as we maintain, to distinguish by that title the true and Apostolic Church from the different sects of Schismatics and Heretics; then they asserted a fact, against which those sects would vigorously contend, and then, also, we can readily account for its adoption in the various Symbols or Creeds of the Church.
But we are not driven to the necessity of drawing our conclusion by inference, or from merely general views of [39/40] the subject. The article now under consideration we repeat was first added to the Creed of Nice, by the Council of Constantinople. [The reader is requested to bear in mind, that the clauses which in our Prayer Books succeed the mention of the Holy Ghost, were not originally in the Nicene Creed, but added to it, as stated in the text, at the Council of Constantinople, in the year 381. It is sometimes maintained that this alteration was made not at the general Council, but at one holden immediately afterwards at the same place. Without entering into controversy upon this subject, it is sufficient to observe, that--even supposing this to be the case,--since it is agreed on all hands that the same Fathers, (or at all events, the triumphant majority of the previous Council,) acted in both, our argument will not be effected by it.] The question, then, is--what was the idea which the Constantinopolitan Fathers intended to convey by the term. This may be answered at once if the authenticity of the seventh Canon of that Council be admitted, and I trust I do not presume too far in affirming that the arguments in its favour are of equal strength, at least with those of its opponents. Now, these Fathers in their seventh Canon make a manifest distinction, between the various Schismatics and Heretics, and "the Catholic and Apostolic Church of God," by the appointment of particular ceremonies to be observed by the former upon their admission into this Church,--of which, had they previously been members, there would have been no necessity. And let it be particularly observed that among the Schismatics specified in the seventh canon, and alluded to as being without the pale of the Catholic Church, are the Novatians,--the Novatians who differed less from the Church then, than any one sect, whether Calvinistic or Lutheran, differs from it now,--who were, in faith Homo-ousians, and in doctrine Episcopalians. Their only distinguishing characteristic was the uncompromising rigour of their discipline; so that if the Novatians were not considered as members of the Catholic Church, to that high privilege no other sect surely could prefer a claim.
 But even admitting the arguments against the authenticity of this Canon to be valid, we are still at no loss to discover the intention of the Constantinopolitan Fathers, since they admitted the Creed and Decrees of the Council of Nice. For although the Nicene Fathers did not insert it as an article of faith, they nevertheless not only applied the term Catholic to the one true Church, in contradistinction to the assemblies of the Heretics, but actually made use of it, in this sense, at the conclusion of their Creed. The original Niceue Creed, as is well known, concludes with an anathema against the Arians, in the name of "the holy Catholic and Apostolic Church;" of which Church, by a reference to their eighth Canon, it will plainly appear they did not consider either Heretics or Schismatics to be members; since that Canon was expressly framed to legislate for those of the Puritan or Novatian Clergy who might "come over to the Catholic Church," peri twn onomazontwn men eautouV kaqarouV pote, prosercoumenwn de th kaqolikh kai apostolikh ekklhsia, manifestly implying that they did not previously belong to it. This is the more remarkable, since the validity of the orders of these Novatian Clergy--who had preserved the episcopal succession, and had among them Bishops regularly consecrated,--is, by implication, in this very canon acknowledged.
Enough I trust has been said to establish the sense in which the term Catholic, was by the compilers of the Creed applied to the Apostolic Church of our blessed Lord and Saviour. It was evidently used, I repeat, as a word of the second intention to distinguish the true Church from the heretical and schismatical sects. Adopting, therefore, the term in its legitimate and restricted sense, we might now, if the time permitted, enter upon a curious and interesting inquiry concerning its origin. It may be said, indeed, that upon this point nothing can be asserted with any degree of certainty. The testimony of the Fathers is, no doubt, various and conflicting. The later [41/42] Fathers, and particularly St. Augustin, while applying the term in the same restricted sense with ourselves, appear to have believed that it was originally given because "the Catholic Church was not like the Churches of the heretics confined to certain places and provinces, but enlarged by the splendor of one faith, from the rising up of the sun, to the going down of the same." [August. Tom. 10 Serm. de Temp.] But whether such was its original signification may admit of a doubt. The earliest writer by whom the word has been used is Ignatius the Apostolic Bishop of Antioch. It occurs, also, twice in the Epistle of the Church of Smyrna upon the martyrdom of Polycarp, their venerable Prelate. That neither the Church nor Christianity was at that period the universal religion must be apparent to every one. The name, therefore, must either have been given prophetically, purporting that the one true Church would eventually be the universal one,--or might, more probably, have been adopted to distinguish the Christian Church from the Jewish; the one having been confined to a single chosen nation, while the other was destined to spread throughout all the nations of the world. When we consider the disputes which were early prevalent between the Gentile converts and the Judaizing Christians, we can easily conceive the readiness with which the former would adopt a title which proclaimed their liberty, as the sons of God.
But whatever may have been the origin of the word, the manner in which it was applied by the Fathers of the Church, and the purpose for which it was used, are palpable and clear--upon the whole, then, I conclude, according to my first position, that, in adopting the Creed of the ancients, we are bound to interpret the articles in the sense in which they were understood by them, and thus to receive the article in question, as applicable wholly and exclusively to that one Church, [42/43] which--founded on the day of Pentecost by the preaching of St. Peter at Jerusalem,--is to exist through all ages the same, by the succession of its ministers in an unbroken line from the Apostolic period.
As a branch of this Church, the Church of England, (from which the Churches of Scotland and of North America have derived their succession,) was established: in the middle ages it became not a new Church, but corrupted: and in the sixteenth century it was not made a new Church, but it was reformed. Our Reformers gradually and carefully removed the corruptions by which it was defaced, and brought it to the state in which we find it now.
Resolute against error, yet, cautious of innovation, the divines of England consulted Scripture by the light of antiquity. The traditionary comments of the Fathers and the authoritative decrees of the four first general councils were a check upon the presumption and too prevailing error of self-interpretation. Truth, not the spirit of party animated their councils, mhd upersebonteV mhd uposebonteV, was their motto. The doctrines which were rejected by them had never been the doctrines of the primitive Church, and while they scrupulously abscinded all that was Popish, they tenaciously adhered to every thing which was Catholic. [See end note.] Thus through [43/44] their agency, under the guidance of providence, was reformed that Catholic Church for the high privilege of [44/45] belonging to winch, on bended knees and with uplifted hearts, we should pour forth our praises and thanksgivings to the Almighty "giver of all good things." We [45/46] conscientiously believe that this Church thus restored to primitive parity,--restored in countries, wherein it is by law established, to the state in which it existed in the days of Constantine,--restored in countries like this and America where it is simply tolerated, to the state in which it existed in those still purer ages, which boast of a Cyprian, an Irenaeus, an Ignatius, even of the Apostles themselves--is that true Catholic Church, "against which," (He, whose words shall remain firm, though heaven and earth pass away, has declared it) "the gates of hell shall not prevail." [It is to be remembered that this Sermon was preached in Scotland.]
Under this view of the subject, we shall easily perceive our relative position with respect to the leading sects of the Reformation on the one hand, and the Romanists on the other. To both can we hold out the hand of Christian charity, with neither can we enter into entire communion. We consider the former in error for having seceded from that Church which required reformation, but which we were forbidden, as the institution of our Saviour and His Apostles, to overthrow; the latter we regard as a branch of that Catholic Church, to which we ourselves belong--but a branch so scathed by time, and cankered in the sap, that we dare not rest upon it our hopes of salvation. [The same may be said of the Greek Church.] The one, in short, we censure for having revolutionized instead of reformed, the other for pertinaciously defending instead of correcting errors--unknown to antiquity--the creatures of barbarism, ignorance, and superstition. But as long as the [47/48] continue to hold the doctrine of the holy undivided Trinity, we regard neither the one nor the other with feelings of severity. Our fellow Protestants, although on many points erroneous, worship the same Father, Son, and Blessed Spirit with ourselves, they confide on the merits of the same crucified Redeemer; they look for, and will, we trust, through His mercy, receive the graces of the Holy Spirit; if not in all their fulness, yet so as to secure the salvation of their souls. The same charitable feelings we would extend to the Church of Rome. That the Church of Rome, amidst all its errors, still retains faith sufficient for salvation--that amidst all its corruptions it still cherishes something which is pure--that amidst all its superstitions it still points out to the sinner the road of virtue and the path to heaven--that it still can boast among its members, many who, however mistaken in their doctrines, are to be esteemed for their virtues, and honoured for their piety, God forbid that the most devoted Protestant should deny. But at the same time with these charitable, Christian and liberal sentiments, with respect to other communions, our Church has ever united the most uncompromising firmness in maintaining the doctrines of its own. We have a duty to perform to ourselves, and above all to our God, paramount to that even which we owe to our neighbour. Believing, therefore, according to our previous statement, that the Almighty, having in His wisdom instituted one Church, (which, for the sake of distinction, has received the title of Catholic) intends, through the agency of His creatures, that it should last for ever--and conscientiously believing, through a clear and impartial interpretation of the Gospel commission, that the high trust of preserving the purest branch of it, has been confided to us,--we feel it a solemn duty incumbent upon us, not only to preserve its faith intact and pure, but equally to vindicate it from the glosses of ignorance and prejudice, and zealously to cultivate those peculiar doctrines, which [48/49] have always marked and do still continue to mark the distinction between THE CHURCH OF CHRIST, AND THE SECTS OF CHRISTIANITY.
By these principles, which instruct us how to perform our duty to God, without violating our obligations to man, we are actuated in whatever nation we may reside. We seek not to interfere with, much less to overthrow any Christian form of worship which may be established by its civil constitution, so long as it tends to promote the great ends of virtue and morality. For ourselves, we, at the same time, lay claim to the privilege of worshipping the Almighty in the manner we conceive to be prescribed by Him, and of keeping clear from what we consider to be error on one side or on the other, whether resulting from the innovations of the Protestant or of the Romanist. In this country, grateful for the toleration which is afforded to the reformed Catholic Church, its pious ministers, while they vindicate its doctrines and maintain its discipline, seek not to interfere with the Presbyterian establishment; but, although they cannot enter into its communion, or attend its services, they duly appreciate its merits in contributing to rear and foster a thinking, a sober, a moral people. The same sentiments influence us, when resident in a country where the Church of Rome is established. Far be from our views that misdirected and fanatic zeal, which would seek, at all hazards, the downfall of even an erroneous mode of Christian worship, reckless of the consequences which in removing one stumbling-block may open the door to a thousand others, and give loose to passions which war against the spirit of Christianity itself. That the day indeed will come when those branches of the Christian Church which still lie obscured under the corruptions of Rome, in the same slate now, or nearly so, in which we were three centuries ago, will gradually be reformed according to our example, and by its own members be restored to that primitive purity [49/50] to which we have returned, Christian charity commands us to hope--that the day may not be far removed Christian charity induces us to pray; still Christian humility instructs us to wait, in patience, for God's own time for the accomplishment of this glorious event. But if our charitable sentiments are thus largely exercised, when forming our opinions of other communions, how naturally, I repeat, are they exalted to brotherly love, when regarding the members of our own. There is, accordingly, among all true members of the reformed Catholic Church, a bond of union which no time, no distance, no disagreement even, on certain points in themselves indifferent, can ever dissolve. In its welfare, wherever it may exist, in England, in Ireland, in presbyterian Scotland or republican America, in the regions of the East, or the islands of the West, a true Catholic will take an interest, not less fervent, not less sincere, not less devoted than that which he experiences for the particular branch of it to which he may himself belong, "whether one member suffer, all the member's suffer with it, or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it."
Thus bound by every tie of duty and affection to have in honour all those of our brethren, who "continue to hold last the form of sound words which they have heard;" we deem it equally incumbent upon us to prevent the rise, or to animadvert upon the progress of error, whenever it appears to be insinuating itself within the pale of our vineyard. It is not, therefore, with an indifferent eye, that we observe its stealthy growth among the scattered members of our communion, in the different parts of the continent of Europe. It is a vvell known fact that many thousands of British subjects are at the present moment resident 'abroad. The difference which exists between that branch of the Church to which we belong, and the various Protestant Establishments, as well as the Church of Rome, are too striking not to be at once discerned. These absentees from the land of their [50/51] fathers, therefore, feel a natural dislike to attend, for a continuance, the public worship, as established in those countries in which they may have taken up their abode; while awful, indeed, must be the reflection to the pious, that there is either none qualified or none willing to administer the Sacrament of Baptism to the infant, or the Eucharist to the sick. An English clergyman is, consequently, the first object of their search; and with his aid, if attainable, they are accustomed to establish a chapel, under the sanction or the connivance of the government, in which the English service is performed. In doing this, they are at present, by necessity, compelled to act upon the principle of the Independents, with their ministers unlicensed, their chapels unconsecrated, and their children unconfirmed! There is scarcely a mark of our Church to be discovered, excepting its liturgy; nay, even the propriety of the conduct of that clergyman who takes upon himself to officiate among them, for a permanency, may be questioned. The truth of this assertion, which is made without any feeling of disrespect towards the many pious and excellent clergymen, who are at present compelled by necessity to perform their functions unlicensed,--will easily be perceived by a slight reference to the ordination office. The Bishop immediately after the laying on of hands, is directed to deliver the Bible to the new-made priest, and to say: "Take thou authority to preach the Word of God, and to minister the holy Sacrament,"--(not, observe, in any place where he may find it convenient, but) "in the congregation where thou shall be lawfully appointed;" and those only we ought to deem lawfully appointed, according to our Twenty-third article, "who have been chosen by men who have authority in the congregation or Church, to call and send minister's into the Lord's vineyard"--that is to say, upon our episcopalian principles, by a Bishop. Thus, then, the clergy who officiate in the episcopal chapels in different parts of the Continent, are, through necessity, assuming [51/52] an authority which was not bestowed upon them at their ordination, and which can only be conferred by a Bishop. It may be said this license might be obtained from an English Bishop;--and although an English Bishop, unable to visit the spot, might not, in every instance, be qualified to judge of the expediency of granting or of withholding such license, we are ready to admit, that if this were the only reason, it would scarcely justify the recourse now had to a measure of an extraordinary nature; but when coupled with others of equal or of greater importance, it is not to be overlooked. There is no person, I believe, properly instructed in the principles of the Church, who will not readily acknowledge the very great importance of the solemn rite of confirmation. The fear, indeed, of falling into the error of the Romanists, and of classing it with the two great Sacraments of the Gospel, has, perhaps, induced some persons to rank this sacred ordinance too low, and to regard it merely in the light of an edifying ceremony. Upon its real importance as the sfragiV dwreaV pneumatoV agiou, in a congregation so versed in primitive lore as the present, it were presumptuous in me to insist. Of this holy, apostolical, and important rite the children of many thousands of our brethren, not merely travelling over, but actually resident upon the Continent,--who being engaged in trade or business, are likely there to remain--are now deprived. If this, then, were the sole object to be gained, who would not rejoice at the pious work to which these venerable Prelates are this day about to lay their hands. But we go further, we not only lament the want of that order and regularity which result from the spiritual government of a Bishop,--we not only complain of the anomaly of Episcopalians dependent upon no Episcopus,--but we look, with some degree of alarm, to the precedent which is set, of presbyters establishing, when out of the jurisdiction of their national Bishops, independent congregations. Such a procedure, unwarranted by the doctrine, [52/53] the canons, or the example of the primitive Church, can only be palliated by extreme necessity,--a necessity which it is the present object to remove. The occasional visitation, also, of a superior,--the influence of one coming like a father among his people, especially upon the younger and less inexperienced clergy, who are frequently employed in the continental chapels, and who are thus placed in situations where the want of advice and experience is deeply felt;--the check, too, which this will have upon those who may be gradually, and almost unawares, yielding to the allurements of dissipation unchecked by any moral or religious restraints--these sue benefits which cannot--ought not to be overlooked.
To promote then, these holy objects to which we have alluded, and to avert those evils which we so justly apprehend,--to counteract, also, that too prevalent opinion, that our Apostolic Church exists wherever its liturgy is read, or its doctrine preached;--to convince foreigners in general, and the Roman Catholics in particular, that our's is the primitive faith, and that with St. Ignatius we hold it not only necessary "to have one common prayer, one supplication, one mind, one hope," but that it is also necessary "that nothing be done without the Bishop;" [Ep. ad Magn. cap. vii.]--that in the words of the same Ignatius, confirmed by the 32nd of the apostolical canons, "it is lawful neither to baptize nor to celebrate the holy communion without the Bishop," without that is to say the episcopal sanction--to evince in short our faith, that "sine Episcopo nulla Ecclesia," without a Bishop there can be no Church--is the present pious design of our right reverend fathers. [Ep. ad Smyrn. cap, viii. Tertullian also speaking of Baptism, "Dandi quidem habet jus summus sacerdos, qui est episcopus dehinc Presbyteri et Diaconi--non tamen sine episcopi auctoritate." De Baptismo, cap. xvii.] Aware of their two-fold character, as Bishops bound particularly to the discharge of their episcopal functions [53/54] within the districts to which they have been appointed by Providence, and generally as Bishops of the Church at large, to promote the true faith in every place to which their influence may extend--aware also that to avoid great evils it is necessary to prevent small ones,--and that a schism may at the beginning be easily closed, which if left to widen unnoticed, may eventually be beyond our power to heal,--they have determined to invest with the episcopal character a pious and zealous presbyter of that branch of the Church which is established in England, who has for years voluntarily devoted himself to the spiritual interests of our absent brethren;--one, who qualified by his learning and piety as well as by his local experience, will cheerfully be guided by their advice, and in humility follow their example. And where--where can he find an example more worthy of imitation that that which has been afforded him by the Bishops of Scotland? Should persecution await him,--which God of His infinite mercy avert! where could he find an example more worthy of imitation than that which has been afforded by those venerable Prelates who, not a century ago, achieved the work, without the fame of confessors,--who exposed themselves to the storm of persecution, to shelter their ark from the annihilating blast which swept around it,--who undauntedly defended the priesthood from the aggressions of Korah and his company, but were like Moses, "the meekest of men,"--who "dared to be honest in the worst of times," that they might transmit their Church,--and they have transmitted it, uninjured to you,--who having renounced every worldly comfort, every temporal hope for the sake of their conscience and their God, are now, we doubt not, enjoying a celestial crown with the martyrs of old.
Should he meet, on the contrary, as we hope and pray that he may, with that toleration abroad which we extend to the Romanists here, where can he look, I would ask again, for an example more worthy of imitation than [54/55] that which is afforded him by the Bishops of Scotland, who have inherited the virtues, but blessed be God, not the sufferings of their ancestors,--whose learning, talents, and unassuming piety shine forth the more conspicuous from their very poverty--who with the most uncompromising adherence to principle, unite a truly Christian liberality of sentiment--who in their zeal as Churchmen forget not their duty as subjects, but while vigorously contending for the faith that is in them, through the fear of God, yield, without a murmur, the precedence which the laws have conceded to others, in their duty to the King.
Commissioned by these holy fathers, he goes, according to the principles before laid down, not to interfere with, (let this be constantly borne in mind,) not by word or deed to give offence to any established Church or sect, but simply and exclusively to superintend the worship of the British residents in France and Belgium; to afford them the means of worshipping God in their own way; to authorize their Sacraments, to confirm their children, to license their clergy, and where many have fixed their abode in one place, without a clergyman to officiate among them,--to ordain some person qualified on the spot.
This, my brethren, is the truly evangelical object which has brought together, upon the present occasion, the venerable fathers of your Church. But, "except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain." We call upon you, therefore, we earnestly exhort you, to put up your prayers to the throne of grace, that the Great Disposer of all human events may prosper their pious design, that He may grant a full proportion of "his heavenly benediction and grace" unto him who will be this day consecrated a successor of the Apostles; that, following their bright example, "he may turn the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just;" that, "by his life and doctrine, he may set forth the glory of his gracious Redeemer, and set forward the salvation of all men." [55/56] Finally, brethren, we call upon you, and earnestly exhort you to pray, that, by the important business of this eventful day, the knowledge of our apostolical doctrines may be more universally diffused, and, in consequence, more generally appreciated. May generation upon generation arise to preserve uncontaminated and pure that ONE HOLY, CATHOLIC, and APOSTOLICAL CHURCH which was planted by the Apostles, and watered by the blood of martyrs--which was corrupted by our grandsires, and reformed by our sires. Thus may our children's children--may generations yet unborn, who shall bear our names when all other memorial of us will be lost--join with us and all good Christians, in the Church triumphant in heaven, in ascribing blessing, honour, glory, and power unto the Great Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, which was, and is, and is to come.
As the Bishops both of Scotland and America, have derived their succession through the Bishops of England--the former in the reign of James I. and Charles II. the latter in that of his late Majesty--they have an equal interest in the English Reformation with ourselves. It is impossible to trace the history of the English Reformation, without perceiving the strong desire and constant care of the Reformers, throughout, to reject "every thing Popish and to retain all that was Catholic." To give a few, out of the many instances which might be adduced: in the articles drawn up by Convocation, in the reign of Henry VIII. and signed by the members in 1536, (which was the first real step towards the Reformation) "all opinions contrary to the Articles of the Creed are condemned, which were of long time past condemned in the Council of Nice, Ephesie, and Chalcedonense, and all others since that time in any part consonant to the same." In the institution of a Christian man, published in 1537, it is declared, in the notes upon the Creed, "that heterodoxes condemned in the four first general councils, must be renounced, and the Creed interpreted agreeably to the sense of Scripture and antiquity." In the act for the conformity of prayer and the administration of the Sacraments, in the reign of Edward VI, it is expressly stated, that the Bishops and Divines who had been appointed to draw up the reformed Liturgy, "had been directed to have a regard to the direction of Scripture, and the usages of the primitive Church." Cranmer, who drew up the answer to the rebels of Cornwall and Devon, in the same reign, states, "that the practice and belief of the Church of England is agreeable to the decisions of the general councils." In the act for recalling the liturgic books, the first book of Edward is declared "to be agreeable to the order of the primitive Church." In the letter sent by the council to the Lady Mary, A. D. 1550, (that part which relates to religion having probably been written by Archbishop Cranmer, assisted by a greater than Cranmer, Bishop Ridley,) it is said, "that all the Articles of the Creed were professed both by the Romanists and the Church of England men--that the difference lies in the ceremonies, and the use of the Sacraments--that in these particulars the English Reformation has recovered the worship to the directions of Scripture, and the use of the primitive Church." The reformed preachers, who from prison addressed Philip and Mary, offered to prove their doctrines "by catholic principles and authority, by Scripture and antiquity." Cranmer, at his last trial, and previously to his recantation, declared, "that he was not only willing to be determined by the sense, but to subscribe the very phrases and terms of the ancients relating to the Eucharist." Horne, in the conference between the Papists and Reformed at Westminster, at the beginning of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, asserts: "that his party were guided by the practice of the Church for the five first centuries." Elizabeth herself, in her reply to the foreign powers who applied to her to receive the ejected Bishops, gave, as one of her arguments for refusing their request, "that no new faith was propagated in England, no religion set up, but that which was commanded by our Saviour, and practised by the primitive Church, and unanimously approved by the Fathers of antiquity. I shall only further add, that by 1st Eliz. 1, what was adjudged to be heresy by the four first general councils, is allowed to be so by the English statute law. Having thus shewn, from the commencement of the Reformation in the reign of Henry VIII. to its consummation in that of Queen Elizabeth, that it was merely the design and object of the English Reformers, by abscinding the novelties which popery had introduced, to place the Church in the same situation in which it stood during the primitive ages; we have only to appeal to history for a most triumphant proof of their success.
It has been the boast of the Roman Catholics, and of late years they have upon tins ground, appealed with too much success to the feelings of the ignorant, that their's is the old Church, and our's the new one. That their's is the old Church, when it is compared with the other Protestant sects,--with the Presbyterians and Independents, we are free to confess,--but that it is not so, when compared with the Church of England, has been, and must always be, maintained by every sound Churchman. What is a new Church? That which adopts or supports novelty of doctrine; not that which, retaining the Episcopal succession, rejects all those doctrines which want the stamp of antiquity. If this definition be correct, we are bold to assert, that OUR'S IS THE OLD CHURCH--and the ROMAN CATHOLIC A NEW ONE. Every one of those peculiar tenets which distinguish them from us is a NOVELTY; the charge of novelty we retort upon them. Nothing but impudence itself," says Bishop Bull, (Vindication, p. 119,) "nothing but impudence itself, dares affirm that the Scriptures teach or the primitive Church practise image worship, invocation of saints, the half communion, prayers in a tongue not understood by those who are required to join in them;" and to these we may add transubstantiation, the supremacy of the pope, and the adoration of the host. It was after enumerating these innovations of the Church of Rome, that Bishop Jewell declared, that "if any one of his adversaries were able to make good a single proposition amongst them all, either by sufficient declarations of Scripture, or by the testimony of the ancient fathers or councils, he would give up the contest, and declare; himself a proselyte." His ever memorable challenge, in which he defied the Papists to "bring one sufficient sentence out of any old catholic doctor or father, or out of any old general council, or any one example of the primitive Church, in favour of these doctrines for the first 600 years," has hitherto been unanswered--because it is unanswerable. We might, at the same time, defy the Romanists to shew that we have not received any doctrine or tenet which was not received by the Catholic Bishops of the primitive Church. We are justified, therefore, in proclaiming in the words of Bishop Hall: "Be it known to all the world, that our Church is only reformed or repaired, NOT MADE NEW--there is not one stone of a new foundation laid by us; yea, the old walls stand still, only the overcasting of those ancient stones with untempered mortar of new inventions, displeaseth us; plainly set aside the corruptions, and the Church is the same." [Quoted by Bishop Bull, "Vindication," p. 164.]
I will only add, that if it be true, as some persons would have us believe, that the objectionable doctrines of their Church are no longer holden by the Roman Catholics, all controversy is at an end--all bone of contention taken away--let them set aside their corruptions--let them cast off their bonds of human superstitions, and the Churches are the same. That there would be no backwardness on the part of the Church of England, to lend her assistance to any part of the Romish Church, which might be willing to renounce all, or even most of its errors, is sufficiently proved by the friendly correspondence which was entered into, on that subject, between Archbishop Wake and the historian Du Pin. [See the Appendix to Mosheim.] But the fact is, that their objectionable doctrines are not renounced by the great body of the Roman Catholics; and it is as absurd, as it is useless, to seek to ascertain the doctrines of a Church or Sect, from any singular opinions which may be entertained by a few individuals, however exalted in station or distinguished in character. By the law and the testimony--by their canons and ritual are they known--until those be altered, their Church must remain what it was MADE at the Council of Trent.
Much as this note has been extended beyond my original purpose, it is impossible to conclude without observing, that if the design of our Reformers in renouncing Popery was to return to true CATHOLICISM, and if we are commanded, as we undoubtedly are, by the canons, to preach nothing but what is agreeable to the Catholic Fathers, and the Ancient Bishops,--they will be the truest and most orthodox Churchmen, who devote their time to the study, (not of the continental Reformers, of Luther, Melancthon, or Calvin,) but of primitive Christianity--"nequaquam hujus temporis consuetudinem, sed veterum Scriptorum auctoritatem sequentes."--It would have been better perhaps, inasmuch as it would have explained the true character of our pretensions, had our Church in Scotland and America assumed the title of the Reformed Catholic Church, instead of that by which it is now designated--the Episcopal Church.