From The Works of the Rt. Rev. Charles C. Grafton (Volume 6),
edited by B. Talbot Rogers, New York: Longmans, Green, 1914, pp. 180-230
Fond du Lac Tract III
CATHOLICITY AND THE VINCENTIAN RULE
THIS little treatise begins with giving an application of the Rule of St. Vincent to some theological questions concerning faith and practice. St. Vincent's name is a household one in our Communion, especially since the Reformation. He was often quoted by the Reformers and Anglican divines in their controversy with Rome. In his disputation at Oxford, Ridley said, when doubts arose in the Church, "I use the wise counsel of Vincentius Lirinensis, whom I am sure you will allow; who, giving precepts how the Catholic Church may be, in all schisms and heresies, known, writeth on this manner: 'When,' saith he, 'one part is corrupted with heresies then prefer the whole world before the one part: but if the greatest part be infected then prefer antiquity."'
On the southern coast of France, there is an island called St. Honorat. It had in Vincent's time the name of Lerins. A quite famous monastery flourished there. Under the discipline of its holy religious rule and the Church's sacramental system, St. Vincent's mind and character were developed.
It was about the year 434 that his short treatise appeared. The controversies which had been raging in the Church led him to put forth his little book as a practical guide for a Churchman in times of trouble. He must, through Divine assistance, fortify his faith in a two-fold manner: by authority of the Divine Law, and by the tradition of the Church. "Catholics," he said, "and true sons of the Church will make it their special care to interpret the Divine Canon by the tradition of the universal Church and according to the rules of Catholic theology. Wherein it is also necessary to follow the universality, antiquity, and consent of the Catholic and Apostolic Church."
This rule, which was so applauded by our Reformers as a guide for Catholics, is sometimes misunderstood and misapplied. It is sometimes taken as if it so commended private judgment as to make the individual an independent judge of what is true. Vincent sought to help those who were Catholics, and who believed in the Church as the organ through which Christ and the Holy Spirit spoke, to know what the Church had said. If there were seemingly conflicting voices, then by an appeal to universality, antiquity, and consent, to discern which was the authoritative and true one.
Whether he was always in the application of his rule, in all details, logically consistent with himself, is no detriment to the value of his general principle.
Our treatise is not an exposition of his commonitory, but a use of his recognized principle in reference to some matters of faith and practice.
As we have stated in the text, the Vincentian rule is an aid for those within the Body of Christ. It does not tell us how to reach those without. The appeal in that blessed work must be first to the needs of man. The better desires and aspirations of his nature must be appealed to. He must be brought to realize his own weakness and sins and the need of an aid other than his own. He must be led to see that it is not by reason alone that anything of a concrete nature is properly understood or known. He that seeks to walk by reason alone in such matters is like a man trying to walk on one leg. Our inherent desires, affections, conscience, moral nature have all a part in the composite act of belief. It is so in all matters save abstract science. It is the whole man that knows. If man's whole nature is trusted and exercised he can then see that Christianity presents the most satisfactory and most rational solution concerning man, his needs and his destiny.
And then, if accepting the Church's teaching, he enters within her portals and lives the life she teaches and uses her Sacraments, he will find the once probable hypothesis demonstrated by a witness within himself. He will come to know God and Christ with whom he is united, and in whom he lives as a child of God.
CATHOLICITY AND THE VINCENTIAN RULE
IN determining what is Catholic doctrine and practice, two principles in the application of the famous rule, "Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus," must ever be kept in mind.
The first is that the appeal made by the Church to "universality, antiquity, and consent," as made by the Church to her own children (we do not here consider how she reaches those without), is in confirmation of her teaching. The word to be remembered is "confirmation." Let us consider this proposition.
We all know that Jesus Christ is the sum and substance and completion of God's revelation to man. He dwells in His Church as the Sun in the heavens dwells in the centre of our planetary system. The Holy Ghost fills the Church as its atmosphere, and so is the instrumentality by which Christ's Life and Light are brought effectively to us. The Church is thus a spiritual organism in which the Light and Life of the Incarnate God are communicated to its members. It communicates these gifts to those who, being brought by Baptism within the sphere of the divine illumination, are thus made capable of receiving them in their fulness and power. The children of the Church thus listen to the Voice that resounds throughout the Church, and they believe what it says, because it is the Voice of God. Although outward communion between the several parts of the Church has been interrupted, the Catholic Church is yet one by a union which cannot be broken; and so in what the Eastern and Western divisions practically agree, as stated in their creeds and liturgies, is to be accepted by the Churchs devout and humble-minded children as the Catholic Faith.
As showing her faithfulness to her trust and in corroboration of her teaching, the Church points her children to three corroborative witnesses, viz., Holy Scripture, Church History, and Christian Experience.
Bearing in mind the difference between cumulative and corroborative testimony, and proof properly so-called by way of demonstrations, we see the difference between the way a Catholic and a Protestant treats these witnesses.
The Church, for instance, throughout the world, teaches her children to believe in the Blessed Trinity, in the Episcopal government of the Church, in the Real, Objective Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist. She tells those children of hers who are living within the sphere of her divine illumination, and who by use of all the sacraments are making it their own, that if under her guidance they will read the Holy Scriptures, they will find, that the Scriptures will bear such an interpretation as will be in conformity with her teaching, and so corroborate it. On the other hand, rejecting the Churchs teaching, the Protestant starts in the other way, and says that every proposed doctrine must be proved, i.e., demonstrated, by Holy Writ. You must, for example, show not only that the Catholic doctrine of the Holy Trinity is a reasonable interpretation, but that no other interpretationfor instance Sabellianismis possible to be maintained on scriptural grounds. You must show not only that there is a great deal in favour of Christ's absolute Deity, but you must prove that Scripture is capable of no other interpretation, like high Arianism. You must show explicitly from Holy Scripture that the chief government of the Church was placed in an order of local Bishops, apostolically established, and endowed with the sole power of ordination, and that this office did not develop later out of that of an elder presiding over his brother presbyters. If you cannot prove out of Holy Scripture that the latter was not the case, the Protestant says, I reject Episcopacy.
So, too, in the appeal to Church history. The non-Catholic mind says, You must prove your Church doctrine by the Vincentian Rule, as he understands it. It must have been explicitly stated from the earliest times, must be proved to have been proclaimed everywhere throughout the Church's world, and must have been universally accepted. As there have been schisms and heresies in the Church from the time of Peter and Paul, a Protestant, under a strict application of such a rule, might deny almost any accepted doctrine of the living Church. The Unitarian makes the same appeal to the fathers of the first three centuries to prove Christ was not consubstantial with God the Father, that other Protestants do against the commonly believed doctrines and practices of the Catholic Church of to-day.
The fallacy of the position lies in this. It is a perfectly sound proposition that if you can show that any doctrine has been explicitly stated from the beginning, has been everywhere promulgated and universally received, it must be true; but it does not follow that because a doctrine cannot be so demonstrated it must be false.
Mother Church appeals to history just as she does to her Holy Scriptures, not to demonstrate, but to corroborate her teaching. In doing this, she bids us observe that the remains of writings of the earliest or sub-apostolic age are very scanty. Also, that later, as Professor Salmon remarks, Church history passes through a tunnel. It is light at one end and at the other, but obscure in the middle. Again, on some other matters, less testimony can be found than others, because they were matters of common acceptance, or not brought by heretical attacks into the field of controversy. Moreover, before the Church had guarded her doctrine by conciliar definitions, loose language might be found used by orthodox fathers. It is therefore an easy matter for those who reject the Churchs teaching on any point or doctrine to say it cannot be proved by the earliest age, or by the ante-Nicene fathers. If you cannot prove, positively and negatively, by a number of explicit dogmatic statements that such was the form and no other in which a given doctrine was held, then the Protestant rejects it. He then triumphantly says you have not got the "Quod Semper" on your side. But the Church does not expect her children will demand that kind of proof. It is unreasonable. When proper allowances, such as we have above noted, are made for antiquity, the teaching of antiquity will be found to be in agreement with that of the Catholic Church as the Holy Spirit speaks through her to-day.
Consider in this light the doctrine of the-Real Objective Presence of Christ in the Eucharist by virtue of the act of consecration. It is declared by the whole Church, East and West, Russian, Greek, Roman, and Anglican, in their respective Liturgies. The outward and inward parts of the Sacrament are connected by the consecrating act. One proof of this is the different way our Church bids us treat the remaining unconsecrated bread and that which has been consecrated. The unconsecrated, the English rubric says, the curate may have to his own use. But the consecrated must be in church with reverence consumed. It were akin to idolatry to show It any reverence after the communion is done unless the Inward and Outward parts were still connected.
In the Anglican Catechism, the unseen, inward part of the Sacrament is stated to be the Body and Blood of Christ. In her Articles she says that Christ is not only "received" by the faithful, but "given and taken " in the Sacrament. In order to be "given" as the inward part of the Sacrament, Christ must be present in the Sacrament to be so given. But however defined, the whole Catholic Church to-day agrees in teaching the fact of the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist as effected by the priest's consecration and the power of the Holy Ghost. And what the Church so teaches, Holy Scripture and antiquity confirm.
We cannot here dwell on the testimony of Holy Scripture, but would refer our readers to our tract, The Holy Eucharist in the New Testament.
Concerning Antiquity, "the doctrine of the Real Presence," wrote Dr. Pusey (see his sermon "This is My Body"), "all who know so little of the ancient fathers and Councils know it to have been taught from the first." "Minds the most simple or the most philosophical, the female martyrs of Persia or the philosophic fathers; minds wholly practical as Tertullian or St. Cyprian, St. Firmilian, St. Pacian, St. Julius, or those boldly imaginative, as Origen; poetic minds, as St. Ephrem or St. Isaac or St. Paulinus; fathers who most use a figurative interpretation of the Old Testament as St. Ambrose, or such as, like St. Chrysostom, confined themselves most scrupulously to the letter; mystical writers, as St. Macarius; ascetics as Mark the Hermit or the Abbot Esaias; writers opposed to each other; the friends of Origen, as St. Didymus, or his opponents, as Theophilus of Alexandria; or again, St. Cyril of Alexandria, and Theodoret; heretics even, as the Arian Eusebius, or the defenders of the faith as St. Athanasius; Apollinarius or St. Chrysostom, who wrote against him; Nestorius, or St. Cyril of Alexandriaall agree with one consentient explanation of our Lord's words, "This is My Body," "This is My Blood."
"Taking Bread," says St. Ireneus, "of this creation, He confessed that it was His Own Body and He affirmed that the mingled drink of the Cup was His Own Blood." "The hand," says St. Cyprian, "receives the Lord's Body." "The Word," says St. Athanasius, " descends into that Bread and that Cup and it becomes His Body." "Thy living Body and Thine atoning Blood," St. Ephrem, "which I have received from the hands of the prieststhrough these, O Lord, may I be forgiven." "Eat, drink, having Jesus Christ the Son of God, the Saviour in thy hands" (Inscription at Autun, beginning of third century). " The bread of the Eucharist," says St. Cyril, "after the invocation of the Holy Ghost, is mere bread no longer, but the Body of Christ." " The bread is up to a certain time common bread," St. Gregory of Nyssa, "but when the mystery shall consecrate it, it is called and becomes the Body of Christ." "It is not man," St. Chrysostom, "who maketh what hath then to become the Body and Blood of Christ, but Christ Himself who was crucified for us." " The bread which ye see on the altar," says St. Augustine, "sanctified by the Word of God is the Body of Christ. That Cup, rather what the Cup holds, sanctified by the Word of God is the Blood of Christ." " The Spirit, on the Mystic Table," declares St. Isidore, "rendereth the common bread to be the proper Body of the Incarnation of our God and Saviour." This doctrine of the Real Presence was attested by canons of the ancient Councils. Deacons who had no power to offer were not to give to those who offer "the Body of Christ."
In like manner we may consider the subject of Eucharistic Adoration. It was a practice based upon the doctrine of the Real Presence. The modes by which this act shows itself have been regulated by the Church. The laity were not to remain in their seats. The Blessed Sacrament was not to be passed around as if it were a mere commemoration. The laity were to draw nigh unto the altar. They were to receive kneeling and in a position of worship. They were taught also to make acts of adoration. The object of their adoration was not the elements but Jesus Christ. No one worships the elements. But as when visible the acts of adoration made in the presence and directed to His Humanity had for their terminus His Divine Person, so the acts of homage before His veiled sacramental Presence are offered to Him. St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. Augustine, St. Ambrose, and Theodoret are witnesses of this fact. They declare it, not as if it was their opinion only, but give it as the common teaching and usage of the Church. A Protestant might say only a few fathers were thus cited, and not one of them of the second and third centuries. But as they bear witness to the custom of the Church and the inherited belief of early times, the Catholic sees that the Voice of God directing the Church to-day has confirmation in the teaching and practice of the past. Whether we consider Christ as being on earth and so with us, or He, being in heaven and we with Him, He is present in His Spiritual Body, the Church, and sacramentally manifests Himself to us as an Object of Love and worship in the Blessed Sacrament.
The second grave error, often made, in the test of Catholicity, is to apply the Vincentian Rule to practices. It was not so applied by St. Vincent himself, as seen in the twenty-eighth chapter of his first volume. The reason the Vincentian Rule does not apply to practice is this: The Church is a living Body. She has a corporate life. As the Bride of Christ, she repeats in her life the different phases of her Lord's Life. She has her hidden life, her missionary and public life, her disunited, rent, and crucified life when all her bones are out of joint. She has her glorified life. She is drawn consequently in special degrees in her devotions, sometimes to one Mystery of her dear Lord and sometimes to another. In the early Church we find no such intense devotion to the passion as we do when Christendom has become sore rent and the Church is torn asunder. The invocation of the Holy Spirit came as the Church felt more, amidst conflicting heresies, the need of Divine enlightenment and the aid of the Comforter. Again we see how the subjective side of religion as manifested in our hymns and sermons is peculiar to these later times, and so is the devotion to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Here perhaps our own Church takes the lead, reserving the Sacrament after the Communion of the people and singing the Gloria in Excelsis as an act of Worship in Christ's Presence.
The Church has also met the different phases of the world's attack by adaptations in her discipline, in changes in her worship, and by forging new spiritual weapons of her own. Under the Guidance of the Holy Spirit the Church adopted the custom of fasting communion, and it became a universal one. She changed her public penitential discipline and substituted for it private sacerdotal confession. She made use of Eucharistic Vestments and of Eucharistic Lights. She no longer in the Liturgy bade the unbaptized and others to depart before the consecration of the sacred elements, but allowed the faithful, though not always receiving, to be present at the Holy Sacrifice. Although not on the same plane with these, she introduced incense as an adjunct of her worship and it became universally adopted. The use of unleavened wafer bread on the other hand, which is used among us only as a matter of convenience and has no doctrinal significance, is not a Catholic custom. As the oneness of the whole Church in heaven and earth became more widely realized and its worship felt to be one, the saints were invoked, just as we call on all, even inanimate things, in the Benedicite, to praise the Lord. When evils were developed from the practice, our own Church, acting within her rights, omitted these invocations from her public services.
Thus the test of Catholicity of Church practices is not "Quod semper, quod ubique," but what has become the commonly accepted usage of the Church throughout Christendom. All the practices above mentioned have obtained in all parts of the Church, and have only fallen somewhat into disuse in the Anglican Church in evil times.
While thankful for the benefits which we have received from those lights of orthodoxy, the great post-Reformation Anglican divines, we ought as Catholics no more to follow English theology exclusively than Alexandrian, though Alexandria produced a Dionysius, an Athanasius, and a Cyril. Our loyalty, if we would be true to Christ, must not be narrowed into following these Anglican divines alone, while we honour all of them as theologians and venerate some as saints. As true Catholics we must primarily be loyal to that One, Holy, Catholic Church which Christ founded, rather than to any one of those divisions, be it Greek, or Roman, or Anglican, which the sin of man has made.
GOD speaks to us through His Church. We all need two conversions. We need to be converted from sin and take Christ for our Saviour, and to be converted to the Church and have her for our Mother. If a person has only experienced one of these operations he is only a half converted man.
Mother Church, like any other mother, expects her young children whom she gathers about her knees and teaches them her Catechism, to believe what she says, because she sits in the seat of authority and is wiser than they. But with true solicitude for their welfare, she desires them not to remain in the infant class, and believe merely because she says so, but to exercise their own powers of reason and understanding and come to see that her teaching is true for themselves. So in corroboration of her teaching she points them to the Holy Scriptures and Tradition. "If any one wishes," says St. Vincent, "to fortify himself with the Catholic faith" (notice he does not say demonstrate the truth of it), "he must do so by the authority of the Divine Law and the tradition of the Catholic Church."
In the Holy Scriptures or Divine Law he will find confirmation that the Church's teaching is true, and in Tradition how the Holy Spirit has guided the Church in understanding them. Scripture and Tradition are to go together. For it is not every doctrine that can be proved from Holy Writ without the aid of Tradition, and so St. Vincent tells us to apply Tradition to Scripture. We must, he says, "receive the Holy Scripture in the Catholic sense."
Trained up in the Church, we must read Scripture with our inherited presuppositions. Here St. Vincent is at one with our best modern philosophical thought. It is not by reason alone we know anything. It is the whole Man that knows. And he knows according to his presupposition. He must feel his need of a Saviour before he can become a Christian. He must be converted from Protestantism and become Catholic minded before he can understand the Catholic religion.
Construed together, and in the light which the Church gives her children, both Scripture and Tradition will be found capable of such interpretations as will be in accord with her living utterance, and so confirmatory of it.
Tradition is usually divided into three heads, called universality, antiquity, and consent. This is the way in which St. Vincent of Lerins divided it, and it has been commonly accepted. The faith as delivered to the Church's children must be capable of bearing the three tests, of "Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus." This rule requires some discrimination and care in the application of its several parts.
First, that which is propounded as of faith must be the utterance of the whole Church. It is what the living Church everywhere to-day proclaims as the faith. These two points, the living utterance and the universal promulgation, St. Vincent recognizes. He says " we follow universality by confessing that to be the true faith which the whole Church throughout the world professes." He does not say what the Church has professed, but what the Church professes to-day. Here he recognizes the voice of the living Church. And it is what she says, not in one nationality or branch of the Church, but that which she proclaims everywhere. Here is universality. The reason for this is that the Church is a solidarity and that apart from the utterances of the solidarity no local Church or teacher has authority to bind in matters of faith.
But it may be asked, may not some new doctrine have crept in and so temporarily the Church of any one age be misled? To guard against this danger we must apply St. Vincent's next test, viz., the appeal to antiquity. The appeal to antiquity is to guard against novelty. In proof or disproof of novelty two points are to be noticed. One is that the appeal to antiquity does not necessarily mean an appeal to the first age. Thus in St. Vincent's account of the Council of Ephesus he mentions eleven fathers who were quoted. But of these, eight belonged to the fourth and fifth centuries, three to the third, and none earlier. This Council was held early in the fifth century and St. Vincent wrote his treatise three years afterward. Antiquity then, according to his practice, does not mean necessarily the first age. Thus a doctrine is not proved to be novel because in the scanty records of the first age it may not be found.
The second point relates to the number of authorities by which novelty is proved or disproved. If a doctrine can be proved to have been generally used in ancient times, then it is seen not to be novel. "We follow antiquity," says St. Vincent, "by in no wise receding from those senses that the holy Elders and Fathers (celebrasse) set forth or commonly held." If a doctrine is found to be absolutely unknown, then on the other hand it is to be rejected as being novel. But it is not to be rejected as novel because it is not to be found in all or the majority of the Fathers. The test of novelty is satisfied as we have seen in St. Vincent's appeal to Ephesus. The existence of the doctrine is sufficiently certified by the reference to it by some of the accredited Fathers bearing witness to it as the Church's received teaching.
And now we come to the third test. The proclaimed doctrine must not only be free from the charge of novelty, but it must have been an accepted one. By whom must it have been accepted? St. Vincent says, "ab omnibus." But he does not mean by "all," all who called themselves Christians. He appeals to the "Holy Elders" and "the Holy Fathers." We must exclude then the heretics and schismatics, those who have been cast out or left the Church. Also all those who, abiding in her, do not acknowledge her authority and are not walking by her rule of faith. Nor does he mean all the faithful in every age and clime, for this it would be impossible to prove; and also there would have been no sense in his saying, "Quod ubique, quod semper," for these tests would have been included in this one.
A doctrine to be believed must, he says, be proclaimed by the living Church, seen to be no novel doctrine, and one which has throughout the Church become accepted. It took` time for the whole Church to adopt the definition of Nicea concerning our Lord's consubstantiality with the Father. The doctrine of our Lord's deity was part of the true faith from the beginning. But until defined and accepted by all, this further practical test, that St. Vincent gave to aid perplexed Christians in his day, could not be applied to it. If we would know the faith, first listen to what the living Church everywhere throughout the world, East and West, declares. Next, see by appeal to antiquity that it is not a novelty. Finally note if it has the imprimatur of acceptance. For this last note is not only a corroborating witness, but the seal of authority. So St. Vincent speaks of it as "the authority of ecclesiastical tradition."
The Church's appeal to "antiquity" proves her faithfulness to her trust; the appeal to "consent" confirms her teaching. The reason is this: it is because the Holy Ghost speaks through the whole body, in the utterance of the Ecclesia Docens, that gives it its completed authorization.
Apply these tests to our Anglican position. We reject the Church of Rome, differing from her, in Church government, the Rule of Faith, in doctrine, discipline, and worship. We reject the papal supremacy as overthrowing the Apostolic government of the Church. We reject her doctrines of the Immaculate Conception and Papal Infallibility, as thereby she cuts herself off from the communion of the universal Faith. Also because these dogmas have no support in Scripture and Tradition. Because she interprets the texts of Scripture, she alleges in their defence, in a sense unused by the Fathers. There are many other reasons, but we reject these new definitions of hers as being what St. Vincent calls "a new contagion which is trying to spread its foulness over the whole Church."
It has been asked whether St. Vincent's rule applies to Practice as well as Doctrine? It is applicable only to doctrine and to such practices as involve doctrine. St. Vincent says, "which ancient consent of the holy Fathers is with great care to be investigated and followed by us, not in all the lesser questions of the Divine Law, but only or at any rate principally in the Rule of Faith." In the case of rebaptizing of heretics, which was a case of a practice connected with a doctrine, St. Vincent applied his rule to it and condemned it. Other practices, like confession, express the Catholic doctrine of the power of the Keys; Fasting Communion, non-communicating attendance, and Eucharistic adoration are expressive of the doctrine of the Real Objective Presence of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. The power of the Keys is stated in Holy Scripture and fully evidenced by antiquity. The mode of their application is a matter of adjustment. To-day and for many years it has been by private administration. The doctrine of the Real Presence is stated by Christ in the Holy Scriptures and by the consentient witness of Antiquity and the living voice of the Church to-day. Fasting Communion as an act of reverent devotion, and the allowance of non-communicating attendance as a concession in the Church's missionary wisdom, are practices which have grown out of this belief. For acts of Eucharistic adoration we have the testimony of St. Cyril of Jerusalem in his catechetical lectures. Theodoret bears witness to the custom of the East, St. Chrysostom for the Greek Church, St. Ambrose for the West, St. Augustine for Africa. All these Fathers speak of the custom as a matter of course and there is no record of any protest against the practice. It is therefore a practice which can stand the test of the Vincentian Canon. No one adores the elements. But beneath the outward manifestation, in a way unknown to science or philosophy, there is the unseen Christ, and to Him our worship is due.
Such things as clerical vestments for the different Church functions and her ministers, the sign of the cross in Baptism and at other times, lights with their beautiful symbolical meaning as St. Jerome says of joy and of Christ as the Light of the World, incense so full of Scriptural meaning and significant of prayer and our acceptance only through the merits of Christ, are usages which by their general adoption by the Church are Catholic ones. It does not matter exactly when or how they began. They are the devotional expressions of the Church's increasing love of her Lord in rebuke to the coldness of the doubting and the denials of heretics. The use of wafer bread is not a Catholic custom, but is only a matter allowed by our Church as a matter of convenience. The name Protestant Episcopal, we may add in this connection, has not the hall mark of Catholic upon it, though doubtless some will contend for its retention with all the heat of orthodox heroes contending for an article of the Faith. No Catholic but acknowledges the right of a national Church to regulate the use of these things. No one of common sanity desires to revive the discipline or practices of primitive or mediaeval times. Our American Church has repealed the rubric that binds the English Church to the ceremonial of the time of King Edward VI. She has wisely left her children free, subordinately to her express legislation and with the consent of their Ordinaries, to make what is Catholic their own.
We will delay our readers with but one further question. It has been said that the doctrines of such loyal and holy men as Pusey and Keble and Carter and Liddon and all the host of learned Tractarians were innovations and unknown before their time in the Anglican Communion. In refutation of this erroneous opinion we will quote a few utterances of some of our recognized great Anglican writers.
Thus Bishop Jeremy Taylor says of Confession: "It is a very pious preparation to the Holy Sacrament that we confess our sins to the minister of religion." And again, " But the priest's proper power of absolving, that is of pardoning (which is in no wise communicable to any man who is not consecrated for the ministry), is a giving to the penitent the means of eternal pardon, the admitting him to the sacraments of the Church and the peace and communion of the faithful, because that is the only way really to obtain the pardon of God."
Of Eucharistic adoration, Archbishop Bramhall wrote: "The Sacrament is to be adored, said the Council of Trent, that is formally the Body and Blood of Christ, say some of your authors, we say the same. The Sacrament is to be adored, say others, that is the species of bread and wine. That we deny and esteem it idolatry. Should we therefore charge the whole Church (of Rome) with idolatry?"
Non-communicating attendance. The very fact that at the Coronation service, although only half a dozen receive, yet the whole congregation remains and that none of our great divines ever protested against this, but, on the other hand, took part in various coronations, is a sufficient answer as to its introduction being till lately unknown.
Of unleavened Bread, Bishop Cosin says that the present rubric in the English Prayer Book permits the use of either leavened or unleavened bread, and so do many others.
Incense was used in Bishop Andrewes' Chapel and in Ely Cathedral almost down to our own times, and Archbishop Sancroft provided a form for the benediction of a censer. Indeed the Ornaments Rubric in the English Prayer Book calls for its use.
The number of the Sacraments. Bishop Taylor says: "It is none of the doctrine of the Church of England that there are two Sacraments only, but that two only are necessary to salvation."
Invocation of Saints. Bishop Forbes of Scotland, in his Considerationes, said: "Let not the very ancient practice received by the universal Church as well Greek as Latin, of addressing the Angels and Saints after the manner we have mentioned be condemned or rejected as impious or even as vain or foolish."
Purgatory. What the Anglican Church objects to about the Roman doctrine of Purgatory is that Christ has not made a full satisfaction for sin, that there remains a debt due to God's justice, which can only be satisfied by punishment hereafter, which punishment is like hell, only not eternal, and from this persons are released by the Pope on prayers, money payments, and good deeds. But prayers for the dead is in the opinion of our Church far different. Jeremy Taylor says that our Lord found this practice in use and that He must tacitly have approved of it, which could not be the case if the practice were not innocent, pious, and full of charity.
Of course we are not saying that each of these divines approved of all these practices. In their struggles with Papist and Protestant they sometimes apparently seem to condemn in one place what they approve of in another.
For instance, while Bishop Taylor says as against the Papists that we must not adore the Sacrament, he says against the Puritans, "If Christ be not present, whom or whose Body do we receive, but if Christ be present . . . why do we not worship?"
This much we know, that there would be no difference between Pusey and Andrewes on the Real Presence, between Bramhall and Keble on the Eucharistic Adoration, between Thorndyke and Mortimer on the Holy Sacrifice, between Percival and Forbes on the Invocation of the Saints, between Carter and Jeremy Taylor on Confession. The greatest ingenuity cannot place in contradiction the Considerationes of Bishop Forbes of Edinburgh and The Explanations of the Thirty-nine Articles by Bishop Forbes of Brechin.
Bishop Cosin was persecuted as a ritualist in his day, and Mackonochie in ours. The Caroline Divines were spoken against as Papists in their time, and the Tractarians in these.
These venerable Fathers fought the battle of the Faith in their age and bequeathed their heritage of Orthodoxy to us. They are our masters in theology, our models in piety, and we trust our advocates before the Throne of God.
ST. VINCENT advised the Christian perplexed by the contrariety of opinions in his day to test any proposed doctrine. He was not to believe just because he was so told. He was not to shirk his responsibility by saying it was the Church's business to teach and he as an individual had nothing to do in the matter. It was his duty as a member of the Body of Christ to test any proposed doctrine by Scripture and Tradition. He was to search the Scriptures and be able by his own study to give a "reason for the hope that was in him."
We may be rightly impatient with that view of private judgment which makes every man judging apart from the Church and Tradition his own guide and an infallible pope to himself. On the other hand, we are not to accept the view that once having found there is a Church to teach us, we have nothing more to do, but to kick the ladder by which we have ascended to this pontoon from under our feet. This lesson St. Vincent teaches may well be laid to heart by all who call themselves Catholics, whether Roman or Anglican. "Search and see." "Tolle Lege." Take and read. The Scriptures and Tradition all, St. Vincent says, should read and study.
By Tradition, St. Vincent meant, as we have seen, three things. Did the whole living Church propose the doctrine, was it free from the charge of novelty, had it been concurred in by the faithful?
We have ventured to add to Vincent's rule one further test: the practical one of Christian Experience. What, we may ask ourselves, does the Christian Experience or Christian Consciousness bear witness to in any matter?
It is certainly a very useful test, to some minds more powerful than any other, and it may by God's blessing help to draw all schools of Churchmen closer together. This, we may remark if our Church is to fulfil its noble mission, is the thing pre-eminently to be laboured for by us all to-day.
Now there are those whose natural conservative tendency of mind leads them with St. Vincent to make their appeal to Holy Scripture and the Authority of the Church. There are others who naturally turn more to the practical results of Christianity as seen in conduct and character, and rest their belief on the approval of Reason and Conscience and the certification of truth by the Voice within. Then there are our Evangelical brethren who, while loyal to the Prayer Book, make the Word the lantern to their feet, and the indwelling Holy Spirit its interpreter. But I trust we may see that these three modes are not exclusive of one another, but may walk as friends peacefully together, lending to each other a mutual support. May they make a three-fold cord, the less easily broken because the strands somewhat differ.
But before saying how this may be, let us make reply to an objection that is brought against us by our Roman brethren. You Anglicans, or some of you, pretend to believe in the authority of the Living Voice of the Church; how can a Church, which you say is divided into three parts and out of communion with one another, have a Living Voice? To have a Living Voice, the Body must have a living Mouth, and your conception does not provide for one."
We make reply that by the Holy Spirit's indwelling in the Body of Christ, the Church is enabled to fulfil her prophetical office in declaring the Faith of the Gospel. He enables her to preserve the Faith in two ways. First, by guiding the Church in council assembled to protect the Faith against rising heresies by suitable definitions. But when the conditions are such that a council may be overborne by the world's power, or deceived by forged documents, or so involved in human frailty that it will decide amiss, then God by His Providence allows of divisions and takes away temporarily from the Church the power of making an authoritative utterance. In the first way He inspires the Church to speak, in the second He lays His hand on her mouth and keeps her silent. Thus the divisions of Christendom have been the very means which Christ has used to prevent the Church from committing herself formally to error. But as each portion of the Church, East and West, proclaims what the whole undivided Church has set forth in its councils and sealed with its authority and what is held in common by them all, each portion speaks with the authority of the whole and declares the faith. In this way Christ dwelling in His Church speaks in each branch, saying "this is the way, walk ye in it." The difference here between us and Rome is not that we have no living voice and she has; that she has authority and we have not, but for what we each have authority. While for some of her doctrines Rome has only that part of the Church which is under the Pope; for all we teach as of faith we have the united utterance of the whole of Christendom.
And now to return to St. Vincent and his rule. An objection from an opposite quarter is sometimes brought against it that it ties us too much to the past. The world is whirling onward with gigantic energy. Discovery is daily opening gates with enchanting vistas. The darkness of ignorance and superstition is passing before the new dawn. "The pastit belongs to libraries and bookworms; it belongs to graves and sextons; it belongs to ruins and antiquaries. It has no claim on the living, working, thinking men, who are moving the world." Let us in religion break with authority as we have in science. Let us break with Tradition and old dogmas and this antiquated reverence for Scripture. Let us be men of the twentieth century, not of mediaeval or primitive times. Let us, in a word, be progressive.
Our answer to this line of thought is the commonsense one that it is impossible for us to break with the past. We are very largely what the past has made us. To break with Tradition and dogma and Holy Scripture is to cease being Christian. But if we cease to be Christians we go back to paganism and so cease to be men of progress. For with Christianity as in no other religion is the idea of progress inextricably interwoven. It is its very life. In this it differs from the religions of the East and all others. For Christianity is built upon a gradual and progressive revelation of God to man made according to His tender consideration of His children's needs. This unfolding of the Mind of God, throughout the ages, at last culminates in Christ. And Christthe embodiment of the Eternal Light and Lifeis Progress Itself. He is not only progress, but the element of progress is manifest in His method. He teaches progressively. He leads the Apostles slowly on from one stage of discernment to a higher respecting Himself. Yet He has not even at the close of His ministry announced to them all that it is essential they should know. "I have many things to say unto you but ye cannot bear them now.'' The Holy Spirit when He came was to unfold Christ's seed truths into their ripened fruit. See how this was done. Christ had spoken of His Blood, as the Blood of the New Covenant, and the Apostles expanded it into the doctrine of the Atonement. He had suggested another mode of God's dealing with man in the parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard, and out from it and others like it there comes to us the blessed doctrine of Salvation through the grace of Christ. The Eastern Magi came to Bethlehem; the Syro-Phoenician woman gains by faith her petition; the Master speaks of sheep other than of His fold who must hear His Voice, and the truth subsequently dawns upon the Apostles of the breaking down of the old barriers and of a wider covenant, which should take in the whole Gentile world. Christ had said nothing about the forms of worship, but had Himself worshipped in the Synagogue and the Temple. And so under the Spirit's guidance the Church developed her two-fold forms of worship of Synagogue and Temple. The Recitation of the Divine Office as seen in Morning and Evening Prayer being one, and the spiritual sacrifice of the Eucharist being the other. The latter summing up the meaning of the old sacrifices, and setting forth the spiritual sacrifice of the New Covenant with all the glory that art and music and ceremonial can give it. For if the ministration "written and engraven in stones was glorious . . . how shall not the ministration of the Spirit" . . . "exceed in glory?"
So, too, the Church, acting under the Divine Guidance, was led on by outward circumstances as well as interior prompting to the unfolding of the Apostolic College into three orders of the sacred Ministry; and the constraint of fierce heretical controversy led her to see with illuminated exactness the union of our Lord's dual natures in the one Person of the Eternal Son. Again, they realized that Christ as the Good Shepherd had led His sheep out from the old fold of Judaism, not that they might remain unsheltered and roam at will, but that He might gather all into the one larger Fold, where they were to be under-shepherds to Him. They received their power when the Spirit came and the New Fold of the Catholic Church came into organized being.
Men objecting to the Church's conciliar definitions forget that like the stone rim of an Eastern well, they only define the limits within which the living waters of the mind may rise, they do not repress active thought.
There is a distinction to be observed between those dogmatic definitions which protect the Faith and those speculative systems of theology which are the product of theologians. What we need is a more vivid realization that the Church is indwelt by a Living Present Christ, and His Presence and that of the Spirit makes her a Living Organism and a Living Church. Adopting the words of Liddon, we may say, "Christ is movement, and yet He is identity: He is to us what He was to our forefathers, and yet He is ever displaying to each successive generation new aspects of His power and His perfections, to those at least who hold a true communion with Him. He is at one and the same time stability and progress, here preserving the unalterable lines of His one perfect revelation of Himselfthere leading us on to new and enriched perceptions of its range and significance."
Is it not well then to add the test of Christian Experience to St. Vincent's rule? In addressing those without, her appeal takes on a somewhat different character. The need of religion must be first felt as a want before it can become a saving grace. But as to those without so to those within the Church appeals to men's understanding and conscience. Illuminated by the Spirit they must bear their witness to the truth of the Gospel and its transforming Power. The Church first teaches her children on the strength of her office and authority to receive the creed; and next having appealed to their illuminated intelligence and conscience, enables them to understand it; lastly, she leads and trains them, by acting it out and living it, to make it a part of themselves. So they pass from childlike acceptance and matured belief to the final and higher stage of knowledge. The soul comes not to believe only but to know God and Christ, for they dwell in Him, and He in them. "I do not deny," said Liddon, " that the language of the written Word and the grace of the Sacraments can alone reach the soul through the organs of sense, so that if all the copies of the Bible could be destroyed and the administration of the Sacraments prevented, the ordinary means of grace would be cut off; but, when it is driven to bay and in the last resort, the soul falls back upon a certificated presence which is independent of sense. The world in the first ages could proscribe the Christian worship. It could destroy the Scriptures. But its legislation was just as powerless against the Presence of the Divine Redeemer in the inmost sanctuary of the soul as they would have been against the clouds and the sunlight. Our first fathers knew they had within their hearts One who would not desert them, One who would be a light to them when all else was darkness, One who when all outward aids were denied, was of Himself 'a well of water springing up to everlasting life."'
Having this progressive character of the individual Christian life in mind we can more easily bear with those who differ from us. It was a wise remark of Archbishop Whately when asked what he thought of a Unitarian: "It depends," he said, "in which way he is travelling." So now it is with all Churchmen. Whither tendest thou? God's immanence in nature and so our natural union with Him is recognized by us all. It was so earnestly taught by Pusey and the early Tractarians that some called them Pantheists.
When Churchmen come to realize the further truth that what God is to the natural universe, that Christ the God-Man is to the new creation, and that it is by as actual a participation and union with His Nature as with that of the First Adam, we can attain the gift of Eternal Life, the theological differences between the different schools in the Church will melt away. Just also as the sects see the value of the appeal to the general consciousness of Christians they will look toward the Church. For then they will see for themselves that we have something they have not. For if one thing is clear it is this: that in every part of the Catholic Church, East and West, its members as tested by their professions, devotional writings, hymns, and prayers bear witness to having in the Blessed Sacrament a Real Presence and a Gift that, save in a few individual cases, the Protestants do not claim to have.
THE TESTIMONY OF EXPERIENCE
WHAT has the experience of Churchmen to tell us of these doctrinesof the Real Presence, of Adoration, of Sacerdotal Confession, of Ritualism? Let us begin with the first of these.
Contrast the belief and devotion which is to be found in the Orthodox Russian and Greek and Latin Churches, and wherever the Catholic faith has been recovered in our own, with the ordinary belief found in the sects respecting their communion. Their worship expresses what their religious experience tells them they do and receive. Catholic Worship testifies to a sacrifice that is offered, and to the Real Presence of Christ's Body and Blood. Why should not the consciousness of three-fourths of Christendom be accepted to a fact which they have experienced? Where there are Orders and a Catholic Liturgy, the worshippers bear witness to doing and receiving something different from that which the sects claim. We admit the latter have what they claim to have. We believe the testimony their worship gives to their belief. Is it illiberal to say they have what their experience tells them they have: preachers of Christ and a memorial communion service, and to deny to them a priesthood and sacrificial Offering and Presence which they repudiate? But if we trust their experience, why should not they trust ours?
If they say most forcibly to the unbeliever and sinner, "Believe and trust in Christ and you will experience the peace of acceptance we Christians have," why may not Catholics ask them to trust the experience of so many millions of their fellow Christians in all lands and from the earliest times, and of the most saintly men, declaring that where there are orders and a Catholic Liturgy, there is a Real Presence and Gift which by their mode of worship and ordinary statements they acknowledge they do not possess?
Adoration goes along with the belief in the Real Objective Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. We do not define the mode of union between the two parts of the Sacrament. It is by no method known to science. It is by no physical change. But believing in Christ's own words, He there makes Himself present to us. Any one who believes this even in the most untechnical way, who merely acknowledges that in some unusual manner Christ is present, must feel that an act of Adoration is due to Him. It comes from the law of courtesy, to say nothing more, that every act of condescension on the part of a superior demands an act of acknowledgment. If the King draws nigh and salutes us, we must salute Him in return. And our salute to Jesus our King is an act of homage. Wherever He is, as the saintly Bishop Andrewes said, Christ is to be adored. Thus the Christian who believes that His Lord is present under the veils by which He mercifully hides the glory of His Person from us, can but cast himself at His Feet in adoration. And so while it is true that the Eucharistic Sacrifice is offered to the Eternal Father and the prayers in general are made to Him, yet the Church must in her Gloria in Excelsis address herself to Jesus present after "the communion is done," and say "Thou only art holy; Thou only art the Lord; Thou that takest away the Sins of the World, have mercy upon us." The faithful believer in Christ as present can but worship Him along with the whole Company of Heaven, as the adorable, true, and only Son.
Belief in the Sacramental Presence of Christ seems to be, in our day, the touch-stone of faith, and adoration is its natural manifestation. Go where you will in Christendom, belief in the one is ordinarily accompanied by the other. To those few who hold back from any mistaken fear, the assurance comes from millions of Catholics: "We have worshipped Him and He has by the Blessings bestowed accepted our homage." The Roman Communion may have its errors, but its devotion to Jesus in the Sacrament makes it dear to God. Not till the Anglican Communion realizes the Treasure she possesses, and her faith and love centres about her Lord and honours Him so condescendingly present with her, will she be able to accomplish her great mission. Money and intellect will never overthrow the walls of Jericho, but Christ's presence will. Such is the testimony borne by Christian experience.
What has it to say about fasting communion? It is an act of love and devotion to our Blessed Lord.
It began in very early times, became an ecclesiastical custom, was made a Church law, one which has never been formally repealed by our Church, though it has fallen into abeyance. No canonist would say it was a mortal sin for us not to come fasting, and no theologian would assert it to be any dishonour to our Lord's Body and Blood to take food before receiving, any more than it is to take food, which is allowed to be done, after it. Fasting is, however, an act of love. This raises the whole question of asceticism. The Indian Brahmins and the Manicheans regarded the body, or matter, as something evil from which they ought by macerations to deliver themselves. The Catholic knows that all that God has created is good. Philosophers and Christians admit the need of self-discipline and self-denial. The Catholic does not disregard' this duty. But the Church as a whole and the saints in particular have found a delight and joy in sharing in the life of their Master. How miserably petty is the argument that we are not bound to fast, because no rubric or canon obliges us to do so! What an ungenerous spirit is shown in the objection that it is not of obligation, because it cannot be proved to have existed in the days of the martyrs. Perhaps not, O twentieth century Churchmen, living in ease and often in luxury! Where do you show and bear in your body "the marks of the Lord Jesus"? If Christendom were asked why she fasts to-day ere she receives the heavenly Food, she would say it came to her out of a pierced Hand, and she fasted because she loved Him.
What has Christian Experience to say about Sacerdotal Confession? It is of no account to say of it, as of some other good things, that it may be abused. The Bible has suffered more than any other book in this way. It is of no force to say some surgeons and physicians are unskilful and so we ought not to use any of them. In giving the power to His priests to absolve, Christ foresaw the future, and knew what was best. The objections against confession are made mostly by those who have had no experience of its benefits. The world and Satan hate it, but the Church rejoices in it. It is the tribunal of mercy. It is Jesus as the Good Shepherd among His flock. It restores the sinner, develops a manly character, helps to make saints.
It has two sides, man's side and Christs. It gives to man an opportunity, by making a confession to God in the presence of His priest, to make an act of reparation such as otherwise he cannot make. For since the Incarnation our sins have been committed, not against the Invisible God, but against the person of Jesus Christ. As honour always prompts that an apology or reparation should be made according to the nature of the offence, so having wronged the Man Christ Jesus, it is the way of honour to make the acknowledgment in the presence of the man who represents Him.
We are apt to forget Christ's side in absolution. He loves to exercise it. He bought the right by His Cross and Passion. It cost Him much. But nothing more delights Him than, through His priests, as they exercise the ministry of reconciliation, to apply the pardoning, cleansing power of His Precious Blood.
And what is the result on the Church and Christian character? We may admit that Protestant countries are more prosperous, more civilized, more advanced than Catholic ones. In all that pertains to this world, Protestantism is superior to Catholicity. But so far as faith and spirituality are concerned, it is otherwise. Contrast the villages of northern New England with those of the French Canadians. It is, however, rather by its highest results that the value of any religious system is to be tested. Let us note herein three things.
First: Wherever we find a lack of the Church's means of grace or of appreciation of them, we find less spiritual insight. The Protestant German writers are often great in intellect, but not living in the sphere of divine illumination, their intellects only hinder their spiritual apprehension of the Gospel. Again, outside the Catholic system there is less knowledge of prayer. Indeed, of it as an art or of those higher stages of it and those special communions with God which enable us to understand how Apostles and Prophets were inspired, by Protestants there is little known. Again, for the highest ideals and science of the Christian life we must go most frequently to such Catholic books as Thomas ý Kempis and the Sancta Sophia; not to Protestant ones. The ordinary spirit can see no difference between the life of a saint like Pusey and the life of good men like Charles Kingsley. It has often not the spiritual capacity to discern a saint, for it does not like them. But the Oxford movement, noted for its learning, is yet more noted for the multitudes of saintly lives it has produced.
Again, Protestantism, with its lack of the Real Presence and Sacerdotal Confession, does not give us the consecrated lives of the Religious as Catholicism does. "The Religious life," said Lacordaire, "is the finest fruit of the Christian Church, and Protestantism does not produce it." Years ago the writer heard two sectarians speaking of a certain hospital which was under the charge of sisters.
"Why," one asked, "do not some of our people consecrate their lives in this way as these High Church Episcopalians seem to do?"
"We can't get them," was the answer.
"Well, then, they must have something we have not got."
It is objected against those who are trying more closely to follow Christ, and who, in loyalty to our own Church and Prayer Book, are seeking to recover our inherited Catholic faith and practice, that they are Ritualists. They use incense' and wafer bread, and vestments, and much ceremonial. We can only reply that God is a Ritualist. Americans have never found Ritualism unmanly. Naught is ever done to attract, or for show. It is, as testified by their Christian experience, the outcome of their homage and love. It is a triviality to try and confine love's expressions to those of any past age. Love puts aside such pedantry, ever seeking to find new expressions of her devotion to her Lord.
"And the glory of our Altars
Is the homage of our love."
"By their fruits ye shall know them," said our Lord. " Why is it," said Bishop Whipple to an English prelate, "you can permit such things to be done by these men?" The English Bishop replied with tears in his eyes: "Those are the only men that seem to have found out that those poor people have souls to be saved."
"When I went to England," said Bishop Whipple, "I was much prejudiced against these men, as any one of Puritan ancestry could be; but their self-denying devotion in giving up allwealth, position in society, and life itselfwithout anything to reward them in this life, led me to change my mind."
TWO GREAT PROVIDENCES
EVERY student of the history of the Anglican Church realizes in what a wonderful way it has been protected by Divine Providence. It has been in a remarkable manner restrained and disciplined and guided like Israel of old. Doubtless this has been in preparation for the greater, grander mission of evangelization that is now opening before her throughout the world. It is somewhat startling to read that four hundred millions of people, or about one-fourth of the world's population, are under British influence or rule. It requires no prophet's vision to see that the Latin race has largely done its aggressive work, and that apart from the Slavonic Mission for Asia and the East the era of the Teutonic and Anglo-Saxon has come.
It has come not only with its priceless gifts of civil liberty and legislative government, but with its fresh promulgation of Gods Fatherhood and the Brotherhood of Man. It comes, bringing the divine revelation of man's duty to God and his fellow, hand in hand with the demonstrations of science with which it is in accord. It comes not only with the glad assurance of a future life, but enfolds us in the environment here on earth of the blessings of a heavenly kingdom. It comes with the power not only to save men from some future punishment, but by its teaching and sacramental gifts to deliver men here from doubt and superstition and the thraldom of sin. It comes in the power of the Spirit to bring Christ into men's lives and homes and so help humanity on and upwards. It comes bringing to us, in a word, Catholic Christianity, emancipated from the narrowness of mediaeval scholasticism, the uncertainties and barrenness of Protestantism, and the novel doctrines and worldliness and absolutism of the Papacy.
Looking back we may see that one, and perhaps the greatest providential blessing vouchsafed our Church, was the early death of King Edward VI. To be sure, he was followed by Queen Mary of unhappy memory. But the evils wrought by Mary were recoverable ones. Had, however, King Edward lived, the Ecclesia Anglicana would have lost her Catholic heritage. With all the tyrannous spirit of a Tudor monarch and all the narrowness and self-conceit of a reforming Calvinistic Protestant, the king would have made the English Church like unto the deformity of the continental Geneva reformers. We read in Strype's Memorials of Cranmer, that Edward had determined to make further changes, and if the Bishops refused, to make them himself by his own authority. The continuity of the Church would have been so broken, and her Catholic doctrines so marred, that she would have largely lost her heritage and become a withered branch of Christ's Church. She was preserved from this destruction by the merciful removal of this conceited and fierce "young tiger-cub," as both Dean Stanley, we believe, and Dr. Littledale called him. The Reformation movement then passed through several phases and lasted into the next century. The Church went painfully through her double struggle, first with Romanism and next with Puritanism, and emerged from it in 1662, with our present Prayer Book and Ordinal. The Prayer Book as thus finally established embodies our Reformation principles, which preserves to us our Holy Orders and the Sacraments and the Catholic Faith. As we think of what our Church is, and the magnificent future before her, we can never be too devoutly thankful to God for the great Providence that removed by death, and so early from his place of influence, King Edward VI. By it the Church was saved.
Another and, we deem it, the second great Providential blessing vouchsafed the Anglican Church, and one which has occurred in our own day, is the denial of the validity of our Orders by the Pope. It, like the former Providence, has wrought in a wonderful manner for the safety and preservation of the Anglican Church. It has helped to unite her members, has dissipated dreams of corporate union with Rome, has painfully revealed to us by a practical example the worldly policy of the papacy, has destroyed the possibility of any belief on our part in the papal infallibility, has helped to fill the Anglican Church with new courage and trust, and enabled her to turn her eyes towards her true mission, and discern the tremendous work of evangelization, if she will but unite her forces, she may do for God.
We may see this the better by asking ourselves what would have been the result if the Pope had decided other than he did? In the first place, the hearts of many of our High Church people would have gone out to the Pope with unbalanced restraint. He would have been regarded as if he were a very father indeed of all Christendom; the protector of all who appealed to him; as the wisely if not divinely appointed judge of controversy; and who in the Apostolic See sat in the seat of authority and wisdom. Nothing can express the rejoicing that would have been felt and the enthusiasm that would have been kindled for the papacy and the trust that would have been created in it. By this strong tide of popular feeling, the former antagonisms of many would have been swept away. The old scriptural and patristic arguments against Rome would have melted like ice in a summer's sun. Emotion and kindly feeling would have dominated both prejudice, reason, and sound judgment. The past could have been by many all forgotten and forgiven, and with an enthusiasm like that with which the English welcomed back the Stuarts, men would have begun to speak with exaggerated reverence of the decisions of the Holy Apostolic See.
But the Pope did not so decide, and the result was quite the contrary. Anglicans knew they possessed valid Orders. They knew this, not by mere argument, but by the assurance of God Himself working in themthey knew that they received Christ in the Sacraments. They could no more doubt this than they could doubt the existence of God or any essential fact of Christianity. Were I to doubt my orders I should not go to Rome, but give up Christianity; for there is no better proof of God's existence than there is for the truth of our Sacraments. None were looking, as we were skilfully misrepresented at Rome, to the Pope's decision to confirm their faith in what they knew to be true, but to see if the Pope was what he claimed to be. When he decided against what Anglicans knew with divine certainty to be true, then they knew with the same divine certainty that he was not infallible. It was seen to be a decision as contrary to the truth as if he had decided against Galileo and the planetary system.
So for many the glamour of the papacy passed away and the papal Curia looked in its nakedness but as a piece of skilfully constructed political machinery. The old man was, as we are told, fooled by Cardinal Vaughan and English Romans, whose pride and policy could not brook a contrary decision. We cannot be too thankful that God wrought our deliverance as He did of old that of David when He turned Ahitophel's counsel to naught. Had there been a decision given favourable to Anglican Orders, the great barrier which has held so many back from joining Rome would have been removed. A disruption of the Catholic party would have taken place in England. Impatient of the Church's union with the State, and pained with the unrebuked heresies of rationalizing teachers smarting under the malignant misrepresentations of their doctrines, tried by the persecutions of the Church Association and disheartened by the decision of the Archbishops, many would have sought peace in Rome. There would have been a veritable landslide. It would have been far worse than at the time of the Gorham decision. And it was in the air that many of the moderates and married priests would have petitioned Rome for an English Uniat Church. With such a secession the English Church would have become more and more Erastian. She could not have endured such another strain. The Oxford movement would have ended in disaster. The Church's spiritual life would have decayed and it would have found itself like Samson with its power gone. From this woeful calamity God by this Providence saved us. The papal idol to which some, not discerning its worldliness, had begun to turn, went down like that of Dagon before the Ark of the Lord. The hopes and dreams of Pusey and other kindly disposed unionists were dissipated. Rome had during the century widened the breach by her additions to the Faith, and she has in this decision made reunion impossible. It has done us an immense service. It has begun to be realized that if God intended any outward reunion of Christendom it was not by way of union with Rome. Men began to see the truth, that they had partially turned away from, that Christ's prayer that His Church should be one as He and the Father were one, had been answered. We cannot doubt it. The unity of the Church is indestructible through union of its members with Christ. Corporate reunion of the three branches may be impossible, but Christian union is not. The duty of the different branches of the Church is to cultivate Church recognition and Christian fellowship, to learn from one another what each has of good and avoid what has anywhere been found harmful, and if possible, under certain conditions and special circumstances, to allow of inter-communion. This would be a real union of Christendom and is all that can be hoped for or wisely desired. For it may be questioned whether corporate reunion of the Anglican and Roman divisions would advance the cause of Christ. It is doubtful, because no such union could take place by any mere adjustment of creeds and theological terms. It could only come by such a revolution in the whole papal system, as would bring down the papacy with a crash, and as would thus upset the faith of half the Roman Catholics. On the other hand, no union could take place with Anglicans without the Church's separation from the State and complete disruption of the Anglican Communion The now cohering schools or parties would then fly apart like released gases. Satan could not do a better work for the destruction of confidence in any Church teaching. More souls in each communion would be lost to Christ than any good that could possibly come. Corporate reunion thus is neither desirable nor does it enter into the sphere of sane speculation. If it is, as a late writer has said, "impossible for Rome to alter," it is equally impossible for our Bishops, now delivered from the papacy, ever to put themselves under the papal rule. It were as much as to expect that the emancipated American slaves would vote themselves back into the bondage of slavery. It would be as sane as to expect the British Parliament to burn up Magna Charta, do away with legislative government and put the nation under an autocratic Czar. If any Anglicans are still looking Romewards, the best thing they can do for the cause of Christ is to give it up; to do nothing in the way of initiating it in the foolish idea that it would help reunion. Our duty as Catholics is to seek to gain the confidence of the Church in our loyalty and aim, and work in the spirit of a large charity towards all the members of our household, for holiness of life and the Catholic Faith.
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