From The Works of the Rt. Rev. Charles C. Grafton (Volume 1),
edited by B. Talbot Rogers, New York: Longmans, Green, 1914
Christian and Catholic
ANGLICANISM AND REUNION
THERE are among others these glories which belong to the Anglican Church. The first is her continuity. She is not a sect of yesterday. She is not a man-made organization. She did not begin, as is falsely asserted, with King Henry the Eighth. He had about the same relation to her as Pontius Pilate had to Christianity. She reaches back in her history to Apostolic times. The authority and spiritual powers the Lord gave His Apostles have been transmitted to her. The golden network of the Apostolic succession binds its bishops and clergy to Christ. At the Reformation no new Church was founded. The Catholic Church in England rejected the mediaeval growth of the papacy as the great Eastern patriarchs and the Orthodox Churches of the East had done before. The ancient faith, as declared in the creeds and the undisputed Ecumenical councils, was retained. The appeal the Church made in the conduct of her reforms was to Holy Scripture and antiquity. While the general principle was correct in the undertaking, no doubt some mistakes were made, and the Church, while gaining much, suffered some loss. "We buy," as Burke said, "our blessings at a price." But no new church was created, no change made in the orders of the ministry. The priesthood was preserved; the validity of the sacraments was secured; the torch of living truth was handed on.
One proof of this is to be found in the fact that of the fifty-six hundred clergy who celebrated mass in Queen Mary's reign, only about some three hundred beneficed clergy are known to have refused to accept the book of common prayer and conform in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. It is stated, on the authority of Chief Justice Coke, in a charge delivered by him at Norwich, that the pope offered to allow the use of the book of common prayer if the queen would only submit to his supremacy. "There is no point," said the non-Conformist Professor Beard in his Hibbert lectures, "at which it can be said, 'Here the old Church ends; here the new begins.'" The historian Freeman, the Lord Chancellor Selborne, the great statesman Gladstone, emphatically said so likewise. Judge Sir Robert Phillimore declared, "It is not only a religious, but a legal error to suppose that a new church was introduced into the realm at the time of the Reformation. It is not less the language of our law than of our divinity that the old church was restored, not that a new one was substituted." Thus the church founded and organized by Christ and His Apostles has come down to us through the ages, bearing the majestic treasures of the Apostolic order, the life-giving sacraments, and the Catholic faith.
It is to be admitted that there are differences of doctrinal expression, ceremonial, and practices to be found. These are often made a target by Roman critics. But the existence of different schools of theology is a sign of interest in religion. The Western Church has its Thomists and Scotists, its Gallicans and Ultramontanes. So long as the creeds and dogmas proclaimed and certified by the whole Church are held, differences of opinion on subordinate points are allowable. We have not any such bitterness and party spirit as has been found existing between contending schools in Rome. There are extreme dogmatists and men of exaggerated utterances on both wings. But the differences between the great body of churchmen are not so great as they seem to superficial observers, or as the interested advocates would make them out to be.
It is a help in understanding these differences to remember the theological distinction between dogmatic and systematic theology. By the first we mean the great underlying and essential facts of the Christian faith, and the creeds and the accredited dogmas put forth by conciliar authority which express and guard them; by systematic theology, the philosophical expressions, theories, and explanations which unite them scientifically together. Now leaving out the extremists, there is concerning the dogmatic faith and creeds comparatively little difference. The Anglican Church puts the creeds and liturgy and ordinal and catechism and prayer-book into the hands of her clergy, and bids them interpret Holy Scripture according to the ancient fathers. Where this is honestly done, men will find themselves standing not so very far apart.
It, moreover, is to be observed that the high and low schools are not in principle antagonistic, but are supplementary to each other. The low churchman emphasizes the subjective side of religion. He dwells on the sinfulness of man's nature, and his redemption by the atoning efficacy of Christ's cross, and the necessity of conversion and a living faith. The high churchman dwells on the objective aspect of religion. Christianity came into the world as an institution. An Apostolic ministry is essential to connect us with Christ's authority. The sacraments are the ordained channels and instruments of conveying grace. The two aspects do not exclude one another. The truth lies in their combination.
Every school, high, low, or broad, has its own danger. The subjective or low church system, unbalanced by the objective side of religion, leads to a denial of the visible Church, its priesthood, and the sacraments as instruments and effective signs of grace; the broad, or rationalizing, to a denial of all that is supernatural in God's Word, and of authority, and the Church's inherited dogmatic faith. The extreme Catholic or pro-Roman one, by his devotion to Western scholasticism, centralization in government, mistaken interpretation of Scripture, impatient with the condition of the English Church, turns in faint-heartedness to the papacy.
But these errors lead to their own cure. The divine life of our Church is no more forcibly shown than in her inherent power of self-purification. Christ is in her, and she shares in His indestructible and resurrection life. The faith is preserved in her, not by ecclesiastical trials, necessary as they must be. Extremes lead to their own elimination; and so we have found the extreme low churchmen, who deny priesthood and sacramental grace, seceding from the Church and founding a new sect, called the Reformed Episcopalians. They tried in America to get the Church to alter the prayer-book, which they admitted was not in accord with their theology. It taught, they said, the Apostolic succession, priesthood, baptismal regeneration, and the real presence. The Church refused to change the prayer-book, and they withdrew. It was the honest course to pursue and the logical outcome of their theology. Likewise Catholics, who have become pro-Romans, believing in the divine power of the papacy, and our duty to submit to its dominion, naturally gravitate to Rome. They go out from us because they have ceased to be Catholics and become papists. The rationalizing broad churchmen who deny the fundamental facts of the creed, such as the virgin birth and the resurrection of Christ's body, are eventually pricked by conscience, which tells them they have no right to go on saying one thing at the altar and denying it in the pulpit. It is like leading a double life. They are in a false position. It is dishonorable to eat the bread of the Church whose creed they do not teach. It is far better for all those who do not believe in the creed and sacramental system of the Church to be outside of it. They then are delivered from the sin of saying what they do not believe, or not discerning the Lord's body in the Eucharist, and so eating and drinking to their own condemnation.
In Western Christendom a tremendous struggle is going on. It takes two forms,--one in the Roman, another in the Anglican communion. They are alike in this, that Rome is having her struggle with the State in France, and the Anglican with the State in England. Both churches are assailed, in France by unbelief in Christianity, in England by unbelief in Catholicity. For all that is Catholic our sympathies must be with the French Catholics, and we can but sorrow that so many priests there are leaving the Church. There is, however, a difference between the struggle of the English Church to restore the Catholic faith and worship, and that between the papacy and the Italian Government. The two contests differ radically. The English Church is trying to free herself in things spiritual from State control, while the papacy is trying to recover her lost temporal sovereignty. The one is seeking to be loosed from bondage to the world's power; the other is trying to make herself a worldly power. The English Church is struggling to resume her spiritual rights; the papacy is plotting to regain her earthly sovereignty.
The positions also of the two bodies in England are very different positions. The Church of England, as possessed of a continuous life from the establishment of Christianity in England, alone has lawful jurisdiction; while the new modern Italian mission is an intruding schismatical organization. Moreover, as the sin of schism lies with that party that compels withdrawal, by demanding uncatholic or uncanonical terms of communion, the Church of Rome is in schism everywhere. She is in schism in the city of Rome, though not equally and for the same reasons that she is in London. Again, the English Church (unlike other portions of the Anglican communion) is suffering from her present connection with the State, and so is feeble in the exercise of her own courts of discipline; but since she declares the faith in her formularies, Catholics are not committed to heresy by communicating with her. On the other hand, while the Anglican Church is succeeding in recovering the faith as once delivered, and by all everywhere received, the Romans by late additions and the turning of what were once acknowledged to be but opinions into dogmas of the faith are failing in holding fast to it.
Again, the Anglican Church has not added to the faith, while the Roman has. The doctrine of the papal infallibility and the immaculate conception of the Blessed Virgin cannot bear the test of Catholicity. Neither can that of the treasury of merits accumulated by the saints' works of supererogation, and placed at the disposal of the pope, on which the modern system of indulgences is based. The withdrawal of the chalice from the laity is in contradiction of the universal custom of the Catholic Church for over a thousand years, and that of the Eastern Church to-day. And while no one would question the marvellous grace bestowed on the ever-blessed Theotokos, the Bringer-Forth of God, yet the assigning to her the position and office of the neck of the mystical body through whom all graces must pass from the head to the members, is no part of the original deposit of the faith. It is not the language of the fathers to say "God has constituted Mary as the ordinary dispensatrix of His grace," nor that it is safer to go to the Blessed Virgin than to our Lord, or that "Mary so loved the world that she gave her only begotten Son." "Mary is the most faithful mediatrix of our salvation." "Thou, O Mary, art the propitiatory of the whole world." "From whom thou turnest away thy face there shall be no hope of salvation." "It is impossible any sinner can be saved, save through thy help and favor, O Virgin." "For whom the justice of God save not, Mary saves by her intercession, by infinite mercy." "The nation and kingdom which shall not serve thee, shall perish."
The Anglican Church is thus seen to be free from the charge of schism, and her formularies from heresy. On the other hand, Rome is both schismatical and, as testified by her decrees and accredited teachers, in error. It follows that while Anglican Catholics are not committed to heresy by communicating in the Anglican Church, because there may be some heretics in it, yet to enter the Roman communion is to make oneself responsible as a partaker of authorized schism and formally promulgated heresy. It is painful to write this, for all that is Catholic in the Latin communion we love, but in the presence of efforts to unsettle the faith of English Church members, loyalty to the Catholic faith requires it.
If Anglicans are ever desponding, they have only to look to the past and see how God has protected their communion. A branch cut off from the tree must perish, but a living branch is known by its persistent vitality and fruit. Assaulted, as seldom any portion of the Church of Christ has been, during the past three hundred years, it has by its inherent power resisted all attacks and emerged a victor. Neither the assaults of Rome under Mary, nor of the Puritans under Cromwell, nor the disaster of the non-jurors' withdrawal in the seventeenth, nor the Erastianism of the eighteenth century, nor all the worldly combinations of the nineteenth, have crushed out her Catholicity.
And not least of God's goodness to her is seen in two great providences. The first was the early death of King Edward VI. He was followed by Queen Mary of unhappy memory. But the evils wrought by Mary were temporary ones. Had, however, King Edward lived, the Church would have lost its Catholic heritage. With all the tyrannous spirit of a Tudor monarch and all the narrowness and self-conceit of a reforming Calvinist, the King would have made the Church like unto the deformity of the Continental reformers. We read in Strype's "Memorials of Cranmer" that the king had determined to make further changes, and if the bishops refused, to make them on his own authority. The continuity of the Church would have become so broken, and her Catholic doctrine so marred, that she would have largely lost her heritage and become a withered branch of Christ's Church. God preserved the Church by Edward's merciful removal.
Another, and we deem it the next great providential blessing vouchsafed the Anglican Church, was the denial of the validity of our orders by Leo XIII. It, like the former providence, has wrought in a wonderful way for the preservation of the Anglican Church. It has helped to unite her members, has painfully revealed to us the worldly policy that governs the papacy, has destroyed the possibility of any belief in the papal infallibility, has dissipated the dreams of corporate reunion with Rome, has helped to fill the Church with new courage, and, fixing her gaze on her true mission, to discern the mighty work of evangelization she may do for God. Had the pope decided otherwise, it is impossible to estimate the strong tide of love and trust that would have impulsively turned towards him. But providentially he did not so declare. Anglicans know they possess valid orders and sacraments. They can no more doubt this than the existence of God or any essential fact of Christianity. So that when the pope decided against what Anglicans knew, with a divine certainty, to be true, they knew with the same certainty that he was not infallible. It was seen to be a decision as contrary to the truth as when he condemned Galileo and the planetary system. So, for many, the glamour of the papacy passed away, and the papal curia, looked at calmly and dispassionately, was seen to be but a piece of skilfully constructed human machinery. The papal idol, to which some, not discerning its real worldly origin and character, had begun to turn, went down like that of Dagon before the Ark of the Lord. Corporate union with Rome, as she is, is seen to be beyond the range of human possibility, and not the terminus of the Tractarian movement, or the leading of Divine Providence.
But while this is so, there are brightening prospects in the East. Thither, it would seem, God's providence is directing us. The venerable orthodox Russian and Greek Church is turning to us with friendly expressions of interest. She says, "We do not ask you, as Rome does, to 'submit' we only ask, 'Do you hold the same Catholic faith we have inherited from the Fathers? 'If you do this, we are brothers." When we consider that the East has been but little affected by the schoolmen, and had not to pass through the convulsions of a Reformation, and has for nine hundred years borne consistent witness for the faith once delivered, and against Roman errors, Anglicans should be willing to free themselves from their prejudices and somewhat self-conceit, and listen to her kindly words.
The Church, indwelt by Christ, guided by the Holy Spirit, is a living organism, and we may trust the Voice of God speaking through her before she was rent into Eastern and Western divisions. The Voice of God speaking to the churches is not confined, as some Anglicans seem to think, to any particular centuries. But in the seven Ecumenical councils we have the Voice of the Spirit and in the seven holy mysteries, the means of grace.
The question presenting the most difficulty has to do with the Filioque. There is no difference in belief between the Anglican communion and the venerable East on the doctrine of the Filioque, but without Ecumenical consent it has no right to be in the Creed.
May God inspire the wise men of the Church to solve the difficulty. Each church in the case of restored intercommunion would retain its own independent government and liturgy. Anglicans and Easterns must be content with agreement in the ancient faith,--not in the uniformity of its outward expression. While the faith is unchangeable, the Church, as the bride of Christ, has been led to follow her Lord's life, and sometimes has been more absorbed in devotion to His incarnation, sometimes to His passion. The faith abides from age to age; but ceremonies and practices of devotion are the fresh outcome of the Church's love. The East and the West have their own ceremonial traditions, and the differences existing should not hinder the restoration of Christian recognition and fellowship.
If a reunion of Christendom is to be attained, it will come through the union of the Anglican and Eastern Churches. It is in this direction the safe guiding providence of God directs His people. It requires largeness of vision and generous toleration of unessential differences, and much of the charity that hopeth all things, believeth all things, and of the faith that believes that with God all things are possible. For so glorious a consummation Anglicans must be willing to recognize the devotion, the missionary zeal, and the orthodoxy of the Russian and Greek Churches. The cause of the reunion of Christendom is the dearest to the heart of Christ. What saints have longed and prayed for, let the Catholics of to-day labor to accomplish. We can do much by learning more of the Easterns and their worship, and studying their catechism. The all-availing power of the Holy Sacrifice is ours and the promise of answer to prayer in His Name. May the sacrifice of the altar be more frequently offered for the reunion of Christendom, and the prayer of blessed Bishop Andrews be more in use among us!--
Bless, O Gracious Father, thy Holy Catholic Church; fill it with truth and grace; where it is corrupt, purge it; where it is in error, direct it; where it is superstitious, rectify it; where it is amiss, reform it; where it is right, strengthen and confirm it; where it is divided and rent asunder, heal the breaches of it; O Thou Holy One of Israel; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Jesu hear, Jesu bless, Jesu answer our petition, for thy Mercy's sake. Laus Deo.