From The Works of the Rt. Rev. Charles C. Grafton (Volume 8),
edited by B. Talbot Rogers, New York: Longmans, Green, 1914, pp. 350-379
THE THREE RELIGIONS
PROTESTANTISM, ROMANISM, AND CATHOLICISM
"Ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the Saints" (St. Jude 3).
THERE are three diverse religious systems existing amongst Christians, known as Protestantism, Romanism, and Catholicism. I believe that all who are baptized in the Name of the Holy Trinity, and have a living faith, are entitled to the name Christian. I have a love for them all, and I rejoice to think that, in respect of many of the great essentials of the Christian Religion, they agree with one another. They all profess to believe in God, most of them in the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity, in Christ, His Divinity and Atonement, in the necessity of faith and conversion, and in a promised Heaven.
My subject, however, leads me to deal with their differences. But in what I may say, let me ask you to remember that I am not passing judgment upon any individuals, but simply comparing the three different systems, and trying to see which is the safest and best one. I write chiefly to the people of my own Communion: for my prayer and desire for them is that they may be wise and instructed Churchmen and evangelical Christians.
I. THE RULE OF FAITH
Now these three systems differ in their Rule of Faith. By their Rule of Faith, we mean, what are their respective methods of knowing what Christ taught, and bade His followers believe and do. It will be admitted by all who regard Christ as a Divine Teacher, bearing an important message to all mankind, that He must have left some method by which His sincere followers could know, with reasonable certainty, what they were to believe and do. It is obvious that the method which Christ established must be the safest and best way; and, if we are sincere followers of Him, we shall say we will adopt and make it our own.
Now the Protestant Rule of Faith is expressed by the epigram, "The Bible, and the Bible only, the religion of Protestants." This is their ordinary and accepted statement when appealed to. We ask, then, did Christ give the Bible into the hands of all His followers, and promise that, if they sought diligently, they should find the truth?
A serious objection to this theory is, that printing on paper was not invented till about the fifteenth century. Christ might have had it invented in the first, but He did not. It is evident, therefore, that this is not the way He established for men to know His doctrine. Besides, this method has not worked well. For it has led to hundreds of competing sects, not agreeing with one another in matters held to be essential, yet all based upon individual interpretations of the Holy Scriptures. We will each of us acknowledge that there are abler scholars in the denominations than ourselves, and we must believe that they are equally in earnest. This Rule, then, of Protestantism, was not established by Christ, and gives us no security, if we adopt it, that we shall find the truth.
Take again the Romanist Rule. Rome claims to speak with an infallible authority, and as having at its head a Pope whose judicial declarations to the Church on matters of faith or morals are, apart from conciliar approval, infallible. The Romanist triumphantly points out the failure of Protestantism, and points to the universality of the Faith as held in his own communion.
But there is, however, a difficulty in accepting this Rule; for the infallibility of the Pope, which is so essential an element in its Rule of Faith, is a very modern dogma. The infallibility of the Pope was not regarded as a dogma of Roman belief until the year 1870. Before that time, Papal Infallibility was openly declared not to be a dogma of the Roman Church. Thus, in Keenan's Roman Catholic Catechism, published by authority, the question is asked, "Is the Pope infallible?" and the answer given is, "No. This is a Protestant invention."
If the Protestant Rule, then, fails, because not practicable for nigh fifteen hundred years, the Roman theory is three hundred years later, and therefore more modern still. As the early Church could not give a Bible to all its members, printing and paper not then having been invented so until 1870 (the date of the Roman pronouncement of Papal Infallibility), Christians did not know, as a dogmatic and decreed certainty, that the Pope was infallible. Thus the same objection of modernism lies against the Roman Rule as against the Protestant one.
Clearly, the Roman Rule was not made the rule by Christ for all Christians from the earliest times. Moreover, we know that Pope Honorius was condemned by the Sixth General Council, and by subsequent Papal successors, for pronouncing heretical opinions. Whether he did so or not is not the point; but the Church, by condemning him, clearly held that the Pope by himself was not infallible. The Roman Rule thus breaks down under the test of history. It was not established by Christ Himself.
The third Rule is that of Catholicism. The word "Catholic" means universal. A Catholic believes that the Holy Ghost descended at Pentecost to abide permanently in the Church. He came, not to reveal new truths, but to lead the Apostles into all truth; by bringing to their remembrance all things Christ had told them, and enlightening them to the full understanding of His Gospel.
They were thus enabled to say, "We have not shunned to declare unto you the whole counsel of God." The Faith, thus once delivered, has been preserved by the Apostolically-descended churches throughout all the ages. What the whole Church has, from the beginning, held and taught, and holds to-day, that we know must be the mind of Christ. For we cannot suppose that a Divine Teacher would have so badly taught His doctrine, and that the Holy Ghost so failed in His office of preserving it, as that the whole Church should go, on points essential, radically wrong.
We find this teaching authoritatively declared in the universally-received Ecumenical Councils, guarded by the Creeds, set forth in action in its Apostolically-descended governments, witnessed by the Sacraments, and by the common consent of undivided Christendom.
It is true that the Apostolically-descended Church has become divided, and intercommunion suspended. It is in fulfilment of the prophecy that, while not a bone of Him should be broken, all His bones that is, of His Mystical Body should be out of joint. Now the Holy Spirit dwelling in the Church, preserves it in its prophetic or teaching office by two methods. The Holy Spirit enlightens the Bishops when they come together in Council, and enables them to declare the Faith which was once delivered. But when they have been deceived by forged documents, or are under duress, or for other reasons, and, being human, might be led astray, God allows a division to take place in order to prevent the Church from authoritatively uttering what would be error. He thus either opens the mouth of the Church to speak, or lays His hand on her mouth, and prevents her adding definitions. He can remove the disability when it is wise or needful to do so. Division is what has happened in Christendom between East and West, Anglican and Roman Churches. Yet, as each portion of the Church of Christ delivers the Faith received from the beginning, it fulfils, in all sufficiency, its office of declaring the faith.
This, then, is the Catholic established Rule of Faith, viz.: What the whole Church has from the beginning declared, and now though intercommunion is disturbed declares, is the way to know what Christ would have us believe and do. It is the living voice of the living Church. It is a voice that comes from the past, but has grown in volume and intensity with every age, and is uttered torday, reenforced by the experience and Christian consciousness of nineteen centuries, saying, "This is the way, walk ye in it."
II. THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY
Another source of difference between the three Religions relates to the Christian Ministry.
The Catholic system has preserved a ministry founded by Christ, derived and preserved from Apostolic times, and is a Priesthood. In this respect Rome is Catholic. Priesthood has its roots in the universally experienced need in man's nature, and its establishment by God in the Old Dispensation. As in the Old Dispensation the whole body of Israel was a nation of Kings and Priests unto the Lord, yet this did not prevent the existence of a special Priesthood, so it is in the Christian Dispensation.
As in the Old Dispensation it was a very grave offense (as the case of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram proved) for any one to take upon himself the duties of the special Order without proper authorization, so it is now. The Christian Priesthood is of a higher and more spiritually endowed order than the old one. It is a Good-Shepherd Priesthood. Its members are messengers from Heaven, watchmen guarding the Church, stewards of the Sacraments. They are ambassadors of Christ, and represent Him. They are His agents, and, through their office and acts, bind Him and His actions. "Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven."
"He that heareth you heareth Me, and he that heareth Me heareth Him that sent Me."
The Apostolic Ministry, thus founded by Christ under the guidance of the Holy Ghost, unfolded itself into three separate orders, known as Bishops, Priests, and Deacons. These three Orders in Holy Scripture, in the case of the Mother Church at Jerusalem, and established by St. John in the first century in Asia Minor, are admitted at the end of the second century to have been universal. "We can enumerate," writes Irenaeus, "those who were instituted by the Apostles as bishops in the different churches." This threefold Ministry, transmitted by Episcopal ordination, has existed to the present time, and is thus, according to our Rule of Faith, the Voice of God speaking to us through His Church.
The Protestant Ministry differs from this. Its form cannot be traced to Christ. It has no continuity of succession and authorization from Apostolic times. It fails of authority, because it cannot trace by visible signs its authorization to the God-man Christ Jesus. Its ministers sometimes claim that they are ambassadors from the court of Heaven. But the Catholic Ministry is not like that of the Prophets of the Old Dispensation, formed of persons separately and individually called and sent from God. Catholic ministers are the ambassadors and ministers of the visible God-man Christ Jesus. They must, therefore, trace their authority by visible means to Him, just as an ambassador of the United States must be certified as such by some outward sign, or visible document.
This, Protestant ministers cannot do. They rely upon an interior call to be ministers; the validity of their call being witnessed by a Christian congregation, and by the extension to them of Christian fellowship and recognition from ministers like themselves. The Presbyterians claim a succession through Presbyters. But this is contrary to the Church's tradition. Protestants point to the superior material prosperity of non-Catholic countries; but, as this is often connected with a growing spirit of worldliness, and unbelief, it does not argue much for its spiritual claims. They also claim that their prosperity, growth, and success, evidence God's favor, and their Divine Mission.
But success does not certify seeing all the prominent sects are successful that any one is right rather than the others. Mohammedism and Buddhism might, on the same ground, claim Divine sanction. Sectarians' success only proves, therefore, not that they are right, but, like as heathenism has some truths, so they have a certain but imperfect hold of the Gospel. Moreover, they do not claim to be priests. They repudiate the title. It is not therefore illiberal to deny to them that which they reject. They are, therefore, simply Christian laymen, going everywhere, as Christians may do, telling of Christ; but they cannot be regarded as His authorized ambassadors, or stewards of His mysteries.
The ministry of the Roman Church preserves the Priesthood, and three orders; but divides the latter differently from the Catholic Church. It makes the Priests and the Bishops of one order, and regards the Pope as of the highest rank. He contains in himself the whole executive, legislative, and judicial powers of the Church. He nominates, and can remove, all Bishops at his pleasure. He is the source of all jurisdiction. No one is in the Church who is not under him. He can authoritatively declare the Faith, apart from any General Council. In his ex-cathedra announcements he is infallible. He is the Church's absolute monarch. He is the Vicar of Christ.
It has been popularly taught to American Roman Catholics that the Roman Church's government is like that of our country, where each State has its own governor, but the whole country has a President for its head. The differences, however, are vital. Obviously, our President is elected by the people. The Pope is elected by a small body of Cardinals, of papal appointment. The President is elected for a short term of years, the Pope for life. The President has no authority over the government of the State. The Pope may appoint the Bishops, and remove them at his will. The Governors may have their own political opinions, and be opposed to the President. The Bishops must believe what the Pope teaches, otherwise they are not regarded as true Catholics.
The objection to the Roman system of government is, that it has not the sanction of the whole Catholic Church from the beginning. The Papacy is not accepted by the large bodies of the Eastern and Anglican Churches. Lacking in this authorization, according to our Catholic Rule of Faith, we cannot accept this system as given by Christ.
Roman controversialists repeat unwisely the text, "Thou art Peter, and upon this Rock I will build My Church." They say it over and over again without apparently understanding its real meaning. Our Lord did not say, "Thou art Peter the rock on which I will build My Church," or, "Upon you I will build it." Blessed Peter had confessed Christ to be the Son of God. Now in the Old Testament the word "Rock" referred to Divinity. When our Lord therefore said, "Upon this Rock I will build My Church," the Apostles naturally understood Him to refer to Himself, whom Peter had confessed to be the Son of God.
Our Lord gave him, it is true, the keys, and so the authority to exercise an office respecting the Kingdom. This, Blessed Peter did on the Day of Pentecost, when he opened it to the Jews, and when he baptized Cornelius the Centurion, and opened it to the Gentiles. The Kingdom of Heaven was thus opened to Jew and Gentile, and it has ever remained open. The privilege thus given to Blessed Peter was a personal one. It did not convey any authority over the others, nor is there any proof in Holy Scripture or elsewhere that he ever transferred this privilege to any other. If it cannot be explicitly proved that he did so, whatever his privilege was, it must have died with him. Moreover, the Bishop of Rome cannot trace his authority to Blessed Peter, for this authority is not transmitted from one Pope to another. When the Pope dies, the Papacy becomes vacant. The new Pope gets his authority from the College of Cardinals, who represent the Roman parochial clergy, and who elect him. But our Lord did not say, "I build My Church on the See of Rome," and so the Pope cannot prove that his special prerogative comes through St. Peter from Christ.
We cannot but remark here in respect to the Protestant and Roman churches, that, if ever corporate union is to be regained, Protestantism must recover the lost truth of the Priesthood, and the Roman Episcopate recover its full rights now absorbed by the Papacy.
III. OF THE CHURCH
Again, the three systems differ in respect of the Church. Protestantism regards it as an aggregation of Christian believers. According to the Congregationalist system, each little society is independent of the rest. Some sectarians, regarding the Church as more corporately united, yet look upon their respective denominations as confined to this world. There are no sects, it is said by them, in Heaven. The true Church in their view is an invisible body, composed of true believers, and known to God.
The Catholic holds that Christ founded the Church, and only one Church. It became, by the gift and indwelling of the Holy Ghost, a spiritual organism. "The Spirit was imparted, not to isolated units, but to an institution." It had a visible ministry. As developed into the three orders under the Apostles, it was Apostolic in its foundation and government. As teaching the whole faith, as received from Christ and understood by the Spirit, it was Catholic in doctrine. As possessed of all the sacraments and means of grace for sanctification, it was Holy. As united to the God-Man by sacraments its members partake of His nature, and, so united, the Church was indissolubly One. It was an organic unity such as our Lord prayed for when He prayed that the Church might be one, as the Father and the Son were one. It was a union by way of nature. Each Christian being baptized, partakes of the nature of Christ, and so the members of the Church are brothers and sisters in the Christian family.
As brothers and sisters they may quarrel, and so break up the union of the family, while outwardly as a family they remain indissoluble. So it has been in the Christian Church. We should pray that its union may be restored, but this can only be brought about by repentance in all parts of the Church, the development of a spirit of Divine charity, and a willingness of the various parts to submit to the judgment of the whole. Now the Church founded by Christ was a visible Church. It had visible officers; it had visible means of salvation; it had visible and tangible sacraments. It was a visible institution for objectively preserving and communicating the truth and redemptive life. It was entrusted with the Gospel, and was the sphere of the operations of the Spirit.
This Church exists in three parts, as the Church Militant, the Church Expectant, the Church Triumphant. "The conception of the Church as a Divine institution was universal down to the sixteenth century, and is the more prevalent one at this present day. There is thus a continuous tradition of nigh to two thousand years in behalf of the Church as a Divine institution."
The Roman system, by its claim of papal absolutism, makes the Church on earth an entity in itself. It argues it must therefore have a visible head. But there is no more need of a visible head for the Church Militant, than there is for the Church Expectant. The one true Head of the whole Church is Jesus Christ. The visible representative of this headship is to be found in the Bishop of every Diocese. It is thus true, as every family has its head, and every earthly government has one, so each Diocese has one in its Bishop. But it does not follow that there must be one head over all families, or one ruler over all earthly rulers; and so there is no need for a Pope over all Bishops. The Church in her corporate capacity is bound together by Divine charity, and by each part being subordinate to the whole through General Councils.
The Roman system is not Apostolic; for we find that all the Apostles exercised equal authority, and St. Peter, so far from governing the Church, was sent by the collective Apostles to do work in Samaria, and his jurisdiction was assigned to the Jews, as St. Paul was sent to the Gentiles. Again, the Roman system is not Catholic, for the Papacy cannot claim the assent of the whole Church. It has not been the promoter of unity, but of division. For more than nine hundred years, her exclusive claim has been repudiated by the Eastern Churches. As the maker of schism, by demanding uncanonical and unscriptural terms of Communion, she is in the position of schism.
IV. OF DOCTRINE
Divided in respect to their government, these three systems differ, also, in respect to the Faith. The sects differ amongst themselves. The Presbyterians are Calvinistic, the Methodists insist on sensible conversion, the Baptists on immersion,although, since they have introduced rubber suits, their practise seems inconsistent with their teaching. They all, however, agree that we are saved by faith, and faith only. Protestantism preaches Christ, and Christ crucified, as the source of our salvation. It bids its hearers believe in Christ, trust in His saving work, make an act of confessing Him before men, and then holds that they are in a state of salvation. Its leading doctrine is justification by Faith only.
Man is justified by Faith only, and not by his own works or those of the Law. But he is not justified by Faith only apart from the gift of the new life in Christ. Justification, according to Catholic definition, is being just or righteous. It means a man's being as he should be in God's sight. Its causes may be regarded under the three heads of efficient, formal, and final. The efficient causes are God the Father and God the Son. The efficient proximate cause is God the Holy Ghost, given before baptism, as preparatory to it, and given through baptism as the regenerating principle. Thus objectively given, it is subjectively received by faith. The formal cause is the remission of sins as we state in the Creed; the final cause is immediate and ulterior. It is immediate in receiving the gift of a new nature, being made a member of Christ, and ulterior in becoming an inheritor of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Justifying faith in Protestant theology is an act of belief and trust in Christ's merits and is complete in itself. Justifying faith is, in Catholic theology, the act of a man's whole nature, believing, trusting, loving, and willing to obey God's Will. It is sometimes expressed as faith working by love. This condition is produced by the prevenient grace of God which brings to man incipient faith and repentance, the necessary conditions of baptism.
Protestantism, moreover, confuses conversion with regeneration.
But we read in Holy Scripture in the case of Saula man truly converted, if ever there was onethat his sins were not forgiven at the time of his conversion. For Ananias the Prophet subsequently comes to him in Damascus, and says, "Brother Saul, arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins." His sins were thus not forgiven by his act of faith, or acceptance of Christ, but through the instrument of baptism. The Church holds that, while faith and repentance are necessary conditions for the Sacrament, Baptism is the efficient agent of communicating God's gift of the new life to us. Again, all Protestants, with the exception of Lutherans, look upon the Holy Communion as a mere symbolical and memorial service. It looks back to the death of Christ, as Jewish sacrifices looked forward to it. Thus they reduce this Christian sacrament to the old level of a Jewish symbol. Well might we say, with St. Paul, O foolish or mistaken Christianswho has bewitched you to introduce a Jewish ordinance into Christianity!
The Roman Church holds to Holy Baptism, Confirmation, Absolution, and the Sacramental system, and is, so far, orthodox. It believes in the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, though it makes a dogma of the manner of that presence. It gives the sacrament to the laity, but, contrary to the custom of the first one thousand years, in one kind only. It believes in the validity of the Priest's absolution, as Christ's Representative, but it makes confession compulsory. It adds to the Faith, and teaches the doctrine of a penal purgatory, where faithful souls, whose sins have been forgiven, must suffer temporal punishment to satisfy the Justice of God. These punishmentswhich are described as terriblecan be mitigated by the acquisition of Indulgences. The indulgence does not, indeed, give permission to commit sin, but, as a Roman Catholic divine once said, "It relieves the sinner from the punishment of it, which is what he chiefly cares about." The doctrine of Rome is also, that Mary is the neck of the mystical body of Christ, and that all graces consequently must pass from Christ, the Head, through her to us. This gives her a unique office. The new doctrines, also promulgated by Rome, of her Immaculate Conception, and of the Papal Infallibility, are unsupported by the early Church. We cannot, therefore, according to the Catholic Rule of Faith, accept them. The Episcopal Church, on the other hand, has Catholic consent for all she declares to be dogma. But it is to be admitted that through the strain and stress of the Reformation, she has lost the comfort derived from her former official practise of praying in her Liturgy for the dead.
In respect to worship, these three systems widely differ.
From the beginning there have been always two forms by which men in worship have approached their Creator. These are, roughly stated, by word and act. Word worship is intimated by Adam's communing with God in the evening of the day; and, by act, in abstaining from taking of the "Tree of knowledge of good and evil." In the Jewish Dispensation there was the Temple worship, where was offered the daily sacrifice, together with the burnt offering, the peace offering, the trespass and sin offerings for individual needs. There, too, on the day of atonement, was the great offering made for the yearly reconciliation of the nation. Also in every little village there was, since the time of Ezra, the synagogue. There every Saturdaythe Jewish Sabbath daythe Jew went for worship. This consisted in reading the Holy Scriptures, recitation of Psalms, exposition, and prayers. Both of these forms of worship were continued in the Christian dispensation. But Protestantism has chiefly retained but one. It has, for the most part, synagogue worship. Having no Priesthood, it has no altar or sacrifice. It presents thus but a mutilated Christian worship. It makes the argument that our Lord offered one Sacrifice on the Cross, and did away with sacrifice. But, as the Jewish sacrifice on the day of Atonement reconciled the Jewish nation as such to God, and restored to the Jewish Priesthood the suspended power of offering the daily sacrifice, so Calvary reconciled God and man, and gave to the Christian priesthood the power and duty of offering the Eucharistic sacrifice for the needs of individuals. In the Catholic Church, and especially in the Anglican branch of it, we have both forms of worship preserved. We have priesthood, and altar, and Eucharistic sacrifice, and the offices of morning and evening prayer. Thus we have preserved both the synagogue and the Temple worship.
Believing that our Lord's words, "This is My Body, and this Cup is the new covenant in My Blood," are to be taken literallythough it is in a mysterythat the broken bread and the separate consecration of the Chalice set forth and plead Christ's death, it is not a reiteration, but, a representation of Calvary. On Calvary, Christ effected a reconciliation between God and man. His Atoning act did away with the barrier which hindered the full and free action of God's love to His creatures. This act is set forth and pleaded in the Eucharist, and by a partaking of it, man becomes identified with Christ's offering for humanity, and thus is individually saved by it.
As the Church believes that Christ is really and truly present in this sacrament, she adorns her altars with lights, clothes her priests with vestments, and accompanies her service with music and song. Protestantism asks, "Where is the authority for all this?" The Church has ever answered, "So have we received it from the beginning." As God took Moses up into the Mount, and showed him the heavenly worshipwhich was the pattern he was to followso our Lord took St. John up into Heaven, and showed him the heavenly worship, with its choirs, lights, vestments, which became the directory of the Christian Church.
It is sometimes asked, in objection to the Church's sacramental system How can material things be the instruments of conveying spiritual gifts? One answer is, that as God is immanent in nature, matter is a real thing, being a manifestation of Divine power. Man does not live by bread alonethat is, bread apart from God. It is God's power that makes it the instrument of conveying physical life. So when by consecration the Divine power in the elements is re-enforced by Christ's life, and the visible elements are known by their invisible realities, they become the instruments of conveying the spiritual food of His Body and Blood to our bodies and souls. It is objected by students of comparative religions that some of the Christian doctrines and its worship are to be found in undeveloped forms in heathenism. This is true; but, as God is immanent in nature and man, what, in respect of religion, is of universal custom, is seen to have its origin in Him. Thus we find everywhere the idea of a God, or gods, and the need of propitiating Him, the existence of a Priesthood, of different kinds of sacrifice, of bodily and spiritual worship, of prayer, song, priestly vestments, and incense. It is said that the old priests of Egypt wore surplices. The figure of a cross, as symbolically used, is to be found. The rite of circumcision was anterior to Abraham. Some accounts in the Old Testament are accounts from heathen annals. All this does not show, says Liddon, "that the true religion is a conglomerate of false religions." It rather shows that what is universal in religion comes from God. It shows that the Holy Spirit lays under contribution customs, symbols, and rites, and invests them with a higher meaning, and efficacy. He turns the water into wine.
Rome has a true Priesthood, altar, and sacrifice, and we can rejoice that it is so. She is part of the Catholic Church. But we must state that she says her Mass in Latin. She has, however, comparatively little of the Synagogue service. The Priests may recite their breviaries by themselves, but the people have little part in it. The addition of devotions founded on the Faith is not open to the same objections as additions to the Faith itself. Rome dedicates the month of May for special devotions to the Blessed Virgin, the month of October to the associations of the rosary; the month of March is assigned to the honor and devotion due St. Joseph, and the month of June to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She has instituted the Festival of Corpus Christi in thanksgiving to God for His gift to us of the Bread from Heaven. In contrast with this, Protestantism appears thus, as tested by our older Faith, to be defective in its worship. The Eastern Churches have probably best preserved Apostolic and primitive traditions. Let us gladly acknowledge the devotional spirit found in the Roman Communion, and let us be thankful to God for the great revival that has taken place in the Anglican Communion in respect to worship and devotion to our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Protestants have established the Feast of a Thanksgiving Day in recognition of God's bounty in giving us the fruits of the earth.
VI. THE RESULTS
What is the result of these different systems on Christian life? This is, of course, an important, but a most difficult and delicate matter to comment upon, and we are forced to do it briefly and, necessarily, imperfectly. Reading carefully many of the great Protestant revivalists, it looks as if their knowledge of sin and man's sinfulness was less complete than that of advocates of the other systems. They condemn, like the prophets of old, the gross sins of mankind, such as adultery, stealing, murder, and general unbelief. When it comes to worldliness, they make certain artificial standards of their own. It is worldly to play cards, to dance, to attend the theater, to indulge in like amusements. Worldliness, in the Church's view, is anything the Christian soul finds coming between himself and God, and separating the soul from Him.
We do not find the Christian standard and union with God set forth elsewhere as we find it in Anglican sermons, like those of Pusey, Carter, and others. The effect seemingly aimed at by the revivalists is the acceptance by the sinner of Christ and His Cross, and so obtaining thereby a state of peace. Higher attainments in spirituality belong to the few, and are not like those set forth in the Catholic system.
In this system of Catholicity, conversion of adults is equally insisted on, but children are not brought up without the covenant grace. They have been made members of Christ and the Church in their baptism. They are brought up in the Church as its members, and are strengthened by the gift of the Holy Ghost in Confirmation, and so prepared to receive the Blessed Sacrament of the Body and Blood. The Church offers them Christ's gift of absolution for their sins. She takes them in her care from childhood to death, giving them means of grace and sanctification. They come to know that, if faithful, they are in Christ, and Christ in them. The Holy Spirit develops within them the higher gifts of sanctity.
This is apparently to be seen in the popular books of devotion, which have a deeper realization of the union of the soul with Christ in the Catholic theology, than in that of Protestantism. Protestantism has never produced such books as the Imitation of Christ, or the Sancta Sophia, or the Vita Sacerdotalis, or the Spiritual Combat, or sermons like Pusey's, or Randall's Retreats. Protestantism seems to know little of the higher degrees of prayer, of meditation, the prayer of acts, of contemplation, of quiet, of union with God, as revealed in the writings of St. Theresa, or St. John of the Cross. Protestantism does not produce the consecrated Religious Life. It produces good Christians, but the Catholic system makes Religious, and Saints.
Rome does this also, and she may well boast of such saints as Philip Neri, Carlo Borromeo, Francis of Sales, and in modern times of such miracle-working saints as the Cure d'Ars; and so may the Russian Church rejoice in a John of Kronstadt, and Anglicanism in a Pusey, or Carter, or King.
But the Roman system has been criticized by her own members for the development of the system of Mariolatry, which, in an aggravated form, produces a pietistic and emotional religiousness, which is lacking in strong and solid virtues. Rome has also been censured for cultivating in European countries a superstitious belief in legends, and reputed miracles, which have led the intelligent people to remark on their worthlessness, and to repudiate Christianity. She has thus largely been responsible for the great prevalence of unbelief amongst men in the southern nations of Europe.
VII. THE TREND OF THE THREE SYSTEMS
Finally, let us look at the trend of these various systems. Philosophically considered, Protestantism may be said to stand for individualism, Catholicism for collectivism, Romanism for imperialism. Protestantism thus lends itself to independency. It throws off authority: it is controlled by private opinion. It lives outside of the sphere of Divine illumination, which is the Church. It has not therefore the same gifts of the Holy Spirit. It indulges in the freedom of Higher Criticism. It minimizes the inspiration of Holy Scripture. Its extremists reject as far as possible miracles, and the supernatural. It is impatient of the old theology. Its trend is to give up, as unessential, some of the facts of the Christian Faith.
In this system, we find a denial of the full deity of Christ. He is Divine in a modified sense, but not absolutely God. It is not considered essential by many to believe in His Virgin Birth, in the Resurrection of the Crucified Body of our Lord, or of the literal fulfilment of His promise to come again. It goes along thus with the spirit of the age. It makes Christian faith as easy of belief as possible to the man of the street. Not requiring much in the way of belief, it does not require much in the way of strictness of life, or aim at sanctity.
There is a Conservative school among Protestants who do not tend this way. But the general trend is to minimize dogma as unessential, and reduce Christianity to an ethical and philanthropic position. It holds up Christ as an example, although it does not insist upon the literal meaning of all His words. It arouses men's better nature by an appeal to philanthropic work. It talks much of the enthusiasm for humanity, and the bettering of mankind. Such is its attitude, and it is a popular one. Consequently, as Protestant sects become more amalgamated, and present a common front under popular leadership, Protestantism will become a popular religion.
Romanism as an imperial form of government tends to consolidation. It exercises a tyrannous power over faith, morals, and politics. The Pope governs the Bishops, and the Bishops control the Priests. The Priests, in their turn, control the laity. It is possessed of a very solid and efficient machinery, which works for its own aggrandizement. It is extremely active in making converts, and has a college where priests are trained for the purpose of giving missions to non-Catholics. It has been greatly increased by our enormous immigration. It has a great love for power, and exercises an increasing political influence. It looks to getting the control practically of our government, and has made large progress in that direction. By its wealth, organization, and political influence, it has made much progress.
As a Conservative element in the protection of social order, it has gained the sympathy and financial support of many outside of its communion. In its claims to infallibility, claims to Catholicity, its sacramental systemhowever superficial these may beit successfully appeals to a certain class dissatisfied with Protestantism. The devotion of its religious orders, the earnestness of the majority of its adherents, the unmarried lives of its priests, its devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, its realization of the Communion of Saints, appeal to many devotional minds who crave for a guide which asserts itself to be Catholic and infallible. We must therefore expect that the Roman Church will become more and more fully established as a power in our land.
The Catholic Church, to which we belong, stands for collectivism. It has a broad, and yet liberal, basis for its belief. This belief rests in the invulnerable basis of Catholic consent. What has not been so certified, we regard as matters of private opinion. The Church is thus at once conservative and liberal. Her comprehensiveness is shown in her allowing of different schools of theological thought. The high, low, and broad Churchmen, though differing from one another in expression of their faith, are, nevertheless, bound together in unity by the government of the Church, the Sacraments, and the Book of Common Prayer. They are divided like the waves thus superficially, but they are one as the ocean is one.
The Church is not heretical, for she requires nothing to be believed but what is held by the whole Catholic Church. She is not schismatical, for she is not the maker of schism, demanding uncanonical or unscriptural terms of communion. She passed through her Reformation, preserving her continuity, her Catholicity, her Priesthood and Sacraments. She did not separate from Rome, but Rome, in 1570, separated from her. Having preserved the priesthood and the Sacramental means of Grace, and the ancient Creeds in the Church, we obtain certainty of Faith, and sanctity of life. It, however, requires intelligence and a well-balanced mind to appreciate her position. She will do her work in training souls in righteousness, and fitting them for the coming of her Lord.
Those who live within her and use her Sacraments know her as outsiders cannot, and love her intensely. There is no tie that binds men together so closely as that of the Church. To leave her for Protestantism, or Romanism, is to fall into grave sin. It is to lose sacramental grace by joining Protestantism, or to deny the sacramental grace received, by uniting with Rome. What God may have in store for us, we do not know; but as He has protected the Anglican Communion by a wonderful series of providential assistances, so we believe He will continue with her, and enable her to recover her full Catholic heritage.
In conclusion, we will answer the question why we have written a sermon like this. We do not expect to make many, or any, converts from the opposing systems. Men remain, as a rule, in the sects in which they have been brought up, or where they have social affiliations, or where business advantages compel them to remain. We have written chiefly for our own people, that they may become better instructed in the principles of their own religion. The great contest between unbelief and faith is going steadily on in our own land. Our great foes are unbelief, worldliness, indifference, luxury, pleasure-seeking, and money getting, on the one hand, and new religions, superstition, imperfect presentations of Christianity, on the other. The work of the Church is not to convert the world, but to gather out of the world those fitted for the coming Kingdom of Righteousness. All Churchmen must earnestly strive, by prayer and the Sacraments, to make their own calling and election sure, and, by personal efforts and self-sacrifice to build up the Kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.