DUTIES OF CHURCHMEN IN RESPECT OF THIS CASE.
§ 1. THERE remains the very serious practical inquiry, how the position of persons so believing within the Church of England was or is affected by these proceedings. I call it a "practical" inquiry, because, although that particular case is at an end, the points involved in it may at any time be mooted in some other instance: and in the present unhappy state of parties, are too likely to be so. It is, indeed, two questions in one; for it may be taken-as relating either to our legal or to our moral and spiritual position. With regard to the former, it is useless now to speculate. We can but leave it to receive solution, if need be, from the proper authorities in due course of law. But should it again arise, and be finally decided as it was the other day in the Court of Arches, then (as the judgment on appeal will be legally binding at least on the diocesan courts of England,) the other question will arise, How shall we stand, morally and spiritually, as clergymen bound by certain Articles, when the legal interpreters of those Articles have declared them to be, by implication, contrary and repugnant to a tenet which we hold as a vital doctrine of the Gospel?
§ 2. But before going on to this, it may be worth while to say one word more on the comparatively immaterial question of our legal position. Speaking under correction, I believe that, as a matter of course, until the legislature decree otherwise, the decision of the highest court of appeal rules all subsequent decisions. Therefore every clergyman from that day forward will understand, that if he be known in any way to hold the duty of worshipping Christ, "in and with the Sacrament, as the Thing signified of the Sacrament," his place and benefice in the Church of England will be at the mercy of any one choosing to exhibit articles against him. And since it is known that there is a numerous and powerful, and in these matters (may we not say it?) an unscrupulous section of the Church, watching to see whom they may take at such an advantage; there can be small doubt, humanly speaking, what will become in a few generations, not only of the custom of adoration, but of the doctrine inseparable from it--the doctrine of the Real Presence among us.
Again; it is doubtless true that legally the act of Elizabeth, under which the judgment has been obtained, would not, taken by itself, constitute the Articles the sole test of doctrine. But those who have expressed a fear of such a result were thinking not of that act only, but of its effect taken conjointly with the Gorham decision. The latter seemed to rule that nothing should be held obligatory, unless it were affirmed in the Articles. The former, that nothing, however plainly affirmed in Holy Scripture, or the Prayer-book, should be so much as allowed, if it appeared at first sight contrary to the Articles; assuming thereby that that one document had nothing in it ambiguous, nothing equivocal, nothing which could need to be interpreted by comparison with other documents of co-ordinate authority. What more could be desired by any one who might wish to escape from Holy Scripture and the Prayer-book, and make the Thirty-nine Articles our sole standard? If a man were minded, for instance, to deny the Inspiration of Scripture, the Eternity of hell-torments, or the personal existence of the Evil Spirit, he would have only to point out that they are not affirmed in the Articles. If he wished to deny S. James's doctrine of Justification by works, or to enforce his way by quoting the letter of the eleventh and seventeenth Articles.
If it be really the mind of the present English Church so materially to narrow her pale of admissible doctrine on one side, and enlarge it on the other; would it not be wiser, better, more seemly, to do it once for all, deliberately, and in the face of day, that all men might know what themselves and others are about, rather than go on in this unhappy, vexatious course; watching for seasons when an adversary happens to be unwary or unpopular, or when sympathy may be hoped for from a prime minister or a judge; and disposing of deep and high points of theology by a side-wind, et quasi aliud agenda? En de faei kai olesson, epei nu toi euaden outwV.
§ 3. But be that as it may, the question will remain for individuals, supposing the sentence confirmed, What ought they to do, who have gone on hitherto believing the Heal Presence, and adoring accordingly, in no undutifulness to the English Church, but in full conviction that they were but carrying out what they had learned in the Catechism and Communion Office? They cannot give up their convictions, they cannot cease to believe and adore, in deference to a mere affirmation, even from the highest human authority, the reasons (for whatever cause) being withheld; nor yet upon such reasons as have hitherto been alleged. Neither is the matter an abstract one, such as one may withdraw his mind from, and exclude it from his teaching, or even in a way suspend his belief of it, in a dutiful wish to obey those whom God's providence has set over him. Such cases are conceivable; perhaps (e. g.) a person's view of predestination may admit of being so treated; but whether or no Jesus Christ the Son of Man is specially present in the Holy Sacrament, as the Inward Part thereof, and whether to worship Him accordingly or no,--these are thoughts which cannot be put by; they come before the mind and heart as often as you go to His altar. And if you believe them to be essential parts of Christian truth and duty, you must teach them to all entrusted to your care.
The only question will be, Is a person continuing so to believe and teach bound to resign any privileges which he may enjoy in virtue of his subscription to the Articles? or is he free in conscience to retain them as long as he can, if he consider it otherwise his duty to do so?
Now this question seems to resolve itself into another and a more general inquiry. It being allowed that human laws bind the conscience of the subject to obey them according to the intention of the legislature, if not contrary to the law of God; we are to consider whether the like submission is absolutely due to the judicial interpretations of the same laws? For example: certain goods of foreign manufacture are, or were lately, prohibited in this country, and no doubt it was a moral duty to abstain from importing what were unquestionably known to be goods of that description; but let us suppose that in a particular instance a question had arisen, whether such and such a fabric came under that description, and the judges had determined it in the affirmative, while the merchant, from his technical knowledge, was thoroughly convinced of the negative; was he bound in conscience to abstain from importing the like in time to come? or might he innocently risk the transaction if he thought it worth while? Other imaginary cases might be put, but this one will be sufficient to explain what is meant.
Now, as I can hardly conceive any one imagining that the tradesman in this instance was morally guilty of breaking the law, so neither, or rather much less, would the same guilt seem to attach to a clergyman retaining his cure, if he could, after his opinions and teaching had been condemned, supposing him sincerely and seriously convinced before God that the condemnation proceeded on a mistake in the law. It would be a question, not of right or wrong, but of expedient or inexpedient; and surely, in the event we are now contemplating, (may God avert it! but if it should happen,) truth and charity, and loyalty and devotion, the honour of God Incarnate, and the salvation of the souls of our brethren--all the motives that can be imagined going to make up the highest expediency--would render it the duty of every Catholic clergyman to abide in his place until he was forcibly expelled from it, either by a like prosecution, ending in like manner, or from inability to bear up against the worry and expense of the proceeding.
If any misgiving occurred to a right-minded person in adopting this course, it would probably be on the ground that there was some appearance of breach of trust, in respect of those under whose authority he was taking the benefit of his subscription, conscious all the while that he was subscribing in a different sense from what they might be willing to allow. But this scruple might at once be met, by taking care to give sufficient notice of your mind and purpose to the persons concerned, and so enabling them, if they thought proper, to put you also on your trial.
§ 4. So much may suffice with respect to our legal difficulties: but there are others more serious, connected with our ecclesiastical position. We know too well, by very sad experience, that some earnest persons regard the Church of England as distinctly committed by the sentences of that which may happen practically at a given time to be her supreme Court of Appeal. So that if the late judgment against adoration (e. g.) had been unhappily affirmed by her Majesty in Council, there would have been, according to them, no help for it: the Church by law established would have denied the faith, and believers must have sought another home where they might.
Now many will feel as if this saying refuted itself by its very extravagance. To suppose that for one sentence, once promulgated and enacted, by a court constituted as that of which we are speaking, every one's faith and practice remaining just what it was before, by far the greater number of our communicants knowing nothing at all of the matter, not even aware that there was any trial going on, and ready, for aught any one can tell, to disclaim the doctrine implied in the sentence, if it were duly explained to them, from the very bottom of their hearts;--to suppose, I say, that by one such decision all these believing multitudes were fairly turned out of God's Church on earth, and left with the heathen to the forlorn hope of incurable ignorance,--all this would be intolerable, nay, impossible, unless some unquestionable word of some infallible authority were shewn for it. Compare it with the known dealings of the Almighty towards either Churches or individuals. See how it looks when judged of by the analogy of the faith. No doubt there are fearful instances of one person falling in a moment, and drawing after him in ruin thousands, themselves at the time unconscious, or not yet existing. We do not forget Adam in Paradise, nor Esau selling his own and his children's birthright, nor Saul when Samuel turned away from, him, nor Jeroboam when he made Israel to sin ; nor the several ringleaders of heresy and schism among Christians, and how their unhappy followers were cast out with them; nor (in a word) how the fathers' sins are by the Divine law visited on the children: and it is, of course, possible that any particular instance of transgression and misleading may prove to be one more in that list; but who at the time shall declare it so? Surely none may do that with authority but the Judge Himself; and when He has done so, He has constantly done it by signs unequivocal--miracles or prophecies, or the consenting voice of His Church; and even then not until after long endurance and repeated warnings. But for private Christians to take upon themselves to pass that sentence,--which a man would in effect be passing, if he forsook the Church's communion for any such proceeding as is now dreaded,--this would seem not unlike the error of those who were warned that they knew not what manner of spirit they were of. One mortal sin, we know, deliberately consented to, is enough to destroy a soul; but we know also how long and how tenderly He whose name is Merciful as well as Jealous has borne with whole years of transgression and has not destroyed; we know that His mercy is over all His works; that it extends to the thousandth generation, while He is said to visit iniquity upon children only and children's children. The antecedent probability therefore is, in every case, until the Church has examined and ruled it, that the error complained of, however real and deadly in itself, does not bring such a taint of heresy over those communicating with its professors, as to separate them, ipso facto, from the Church.
§ 5. Secondly, in this particular case, the error coming out not in the shape of a synodical or legislative enactment, but of a judicial decision; as it is no part of the law of the land, of force to bind the conscience of the subjects, so is it no part of the law of the Church, (the provincial Church, of course, I mean,) with power to bind the conscience of its members. It betrays, indeed, a sad want of discipline, and threatens and forebodes an eventual corruption of doctrine; but it leaves the formularies of the Church and the faith of its present members just where they were. If any one doubt this, let him consider one or two parallel cases. Suppose, from some epidemical delusion, (we have seen such things at no great distance,) it had become morally impossible to obtain a verdict of guilty against a murderer in a particular country--would any one think of laying it to the charge of that country that it had no law against murder? Or what if, at any time, by connivance, corruption, or indolence, it should appear that the slave-trade is still being carried on in English vessels, or slavery practised in some English colony--would it be fair to say that slavery and the slave-trade had again become part of the laws and institutions of England? Or again,--to put a case nearer the actual one,-- if we imagine the days of Arian ascendancy returned, and, by some such combination as we read of under Constantius, a judicial body formed which had a leaning that way, and skill more or less to carry with it the popular feeling, and thus a sentence obtained against orthodoxy: would such a decision, or a hundred such, prove the English Church to be in its essence really Arian? They would certainly cause great anxiety lest it should quickly become such; but instead of their affording any excuse or reason for separation, every heart that was truly loyal to our Saviour would assuredly feel called on to cling to its profession the more earnestly, and take away the reproach from Israel; and if any made that state of things an argument for withdrawing himself and joining some other Christian body, how very sure should we feel that he was either indulging temper, or but availing himself of the first excuse he could find for carrying into effect what for other reasons he had before determined on! [167/168]
The matter may be put in this light. Casuists are agreed that the proper authorities to determine the meaning of documents subscribed to, are the same by whom the subscription is enforced; i. e., in this case, the Church and State of England. There can he no reasonable doubt that when these bodies last legislated on the subject, in 1661, they meant to receive subscriptions in the sense now condemned. If they have changed their mind and will, let them declare it in the only way in which it is competent for them to do so; namely, by fresh legislation corrective of the former. Until they shall have so done, they must be taken to be of the same mind as before, and the old interpretation to stand good. Any court of justice interpreting the document on any other principle narrower than this, must be presumed to be mistaken, and cannot bind the conscience by its decision. Nothing can do that, short of the voice of the legislature, distinctly enacting the new interpretation. The synod or convocation so decreeing may bind us as Churchmen; the parliament as Englishmen; until they have spoken we are free.
§ 6. It would appear, then, that by the decision, simply as a decision, we really need not feel ourselves or our Church in any degree bound or committed. It may be a great scandal and a bad precedent, but no man is pledged as a Churchman or as a clergyman to abide by it, and therefore no man need think of retiring on account of it. But there is one circumstance connected with it which yet requires grave consideration; it presents, indeed, as far as I see, the only real difficulty of the case, in the view of a conscientious Churchman, knowing and wishing to hold by the rules of antiquity. That circumstance is the share which the Metropolitan has had, and is likely to have, in the whole transaction; and the difficulty which it raises is incurred already: we have not to wait for it until some fresh appeal shall have been dealt with: we have been burdened with it ever since the first solemn declaration of the Court at Bath in the case of Archdeacon Denison. It is simply this: that if there be any soundness in the statements and arguments set down above, the proposition of the Court touching [169/169] worship in Holy Communion would seem, even by the existing law of the English Church, to he heretical, or verging on heresy; and of course the question might occur, Can Christians knowingly go on in communion with a spiritual superior who has publicly so committed himself, and not be partakers of the ill? This question I should answer, without hesitation, in the affirmative, and that for reasons strictly ecclesiastical. I will endeavour to explain, as briefly and clearly as I can, the grounds both of the difficulty and of the solution.
For the primâ facie suspicion of heresy: the measure and extent of that evil, as is well known, are legally determined among us by the statute, 1 Eliz. i. 56, where it is ruled that persons commissioned by the Crown to determine ecclesiastical causes "shall not in any wise have authority or power to order, determine, or adjudge any matter or cause to be heresy, but only such as heretofore have been determined, ordered, or adjudged to be heresy, by the authority of the canonical Scriptures, or by the first four general Councils, or any of them, or by any other general Council wherein the same was declared heresy by the express and plain words of the said canonical Scriptures, or such as hereafter shall be ordered, judged, or determined to be heresy by the high court of parliament of this realm, with the assent of the clergy in their convocation;" and "it hath been since generally holden, that although the High Commission court was abolished by the statute 16 Chas. I. c. 11, yet those rules will be good directions to ecclesiastical courts in relation to heresy." [Burn's Eccl. Law, ii. 277. 5th ed.]
Now the third cumenical Council, that of Ephesus, A.D. 431, gives the full authority of the Church to the following paragraph of the remonstrance sent to Nestorius a little before by S. Cyril and the Synod of Alexandria. [§ vii, ap. Routh, Opusc. ii. 25.]
"And there is another point which we must of necessity add; how that, setting forth the death after the flesh of the Only-begotten Son of God, that is, Jesus Christ, and confessing His resurrection from the dead, and ascension into the heavens, we celebrate in the Churches the unbloody [169/170] Sacrifice. And thus we draw nigh to the mystical Eucharists, and are sanctified by becoming partakers of the holy Flesh and the precious Blood of Christ the Saviour of us all. And not as common Flesh do we receive it, (God forbid!) nor yet as that of a Man sanctified, and united unto the Word as having one and the same dignity, or as having received God to dwell in Him, but as truly life-giving, and the very Flesh of the Word Himself. For being, as God, in His nature, Life, in that He became One with His own Flesh, He manifested it to be life-giving. So that, although He say to us, 'Verily, verily I say unto you, Except ye eat the Flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His Blood,'--we are not to infer that it (like the rest) is the flesh of a man, one of those who are such as we are; (for how shall the flesh of a man be life-giving, according to its own nature?) but that it has truly become the very own Flesh of Him who for our sake both became and is entitled as well a Son as a Man." [kai uiou kai anqrwpou. Some false reading may be suspected.]
Here it is plain, first, that the Council, adopting the phraseology of the Liturgy then in use at Alexandria, gives distinct sanction to the doctrine contained in that and all the ancient Liturgies, of the unbloody Sacrifice offered in all Churches continually. Next, that it attributes our participation of Christ's Body and Blood, and our consequent sanctification, not to the whole action, including the prayers and the rest, but to that which we do when we draw nigh to that which has been sacramentally blessed, and partake of it. Thirdly, that what we so draw nigh to receive and to partake of is not "common flesh," (God forbid!) but the "very own Flesh of the Word, Who, as God, being by nature Life, because He had made Himself one with His own Flesh, declared it to be life-giving." It is for those who deny the Real Presence, and forbid adoration, to reconcile these sayings, if they can, with their own views; or else to shew some reason why they are not to be accounted so far heretical, according to the standard of heresy in the Church of England.
§ 7. Consider, again, in connection with the foregoing, what follows, and observe how it is sanctioned; it is not a statement made incidentally with a view to establish something else, but was regarded by the cumenical Council as so necessary a portion of our holy faith, that they guarded it with a special anathema: [Ibid. § xi. p. 32] "If any one confess not the Flesh of the Lord to be life-giving, and the very own Flesh of the Word Himself who is of God the Father, but [regard it] as belonging to some other beside Him, however closely knit unto Him in dignity,--i. e. as having simply received an indwelling of the Deity, and not rather as life-giving, (to repeat the expression,) because it hath become the very own Flesh of the "Word who hath power to quicken all things," (or "to make all His living progeny," [zwogonein]--"let him be anathema."
Observe that the life-giving quality is declared to depend on Its being "the very Flesh of the Word who hath power to quicken all things;" which implies that It is life to us not simply by Its merit as a Sacrifice on the Cross, but also by a real participation of It on our part. That Flesh, the Council means, which we approach and partake of in the Eucharist: no one, if he fairly compare the two passages, can avoid seeing this. Or if there were any doubt, it would be settled by the use of the same phrase, "the mystic Eucharist," in the following dictate of S. Cyril: "I hear that some affirm that the mystical Eucharist avails not for sanctification, if any relic of it remain unto another day. But in so saying they are beside themselves. For Christ is not estranged [therefrom], neither will His holy Body admit alteration. But the power of the blessing, and the life-giving grace, do therein continue." [Ep. ad Calosyrium, Op. t. vii. 365 B. ed. Aubert.: cf. Cosin's Works, v. 130.] The particular idea denoted by that word "objective" could scarce be set forth more distinctly. Can we help recognising it, when the same phrase, "mystic Eucharist," is employed by the Council itself, over which the same S. Cyril was presiding, and in a document of which it is impossible to doubt that he was himself the author? And this document has been in such sort adopted by the Church of England, as that any contradiction of it is enacted to be positive heresy.
§ 8. Nor may it be omitted that the first Nicene Council so far encourages the same notion, as not only to call the holy Eucharist in three several canons a Gift and an Offering, but also to imply that the giving and receiving of it is giving and receiving the Body of Christ. [Ap. Routh, Script. Eccl. i. 373, 377, 381.] In the fifth canon they say, (and surely it is an enactment not unseasonable to be brought just now to our recollection,)--"At the provincial synod twice in the year inquire into the causes of the excommunicate, lest some narrowness of mind or party-spirit, or other uncomfortable feeling, should have caused the exclusion; and let one of the synods be holden before Lent, that all such ill-temper being done away, the Gift may be offered pure unto God." In the eleventh, certain penitents are directed, without offering, to communicate in the prayers only. The eighteenth runs thus: "It hath come before the holy and great synod, that in some places and cities the deacons give the Eucharist to the presbyters, a thing transmitted to us neither by canon nor custom, that such as have no authority to offer, should give to those who offer the Body of Christ. And of this, too, we have been informed, that certain of the deacons approach the Eucharist even before the Bishops. Wherefore, let all this be done away. . . . Let them receive the Eucharist in their own order, after the presbyters, at the hands either of the Bishop or the presbyter." Here is a distinct recognition of the Eucharist, as a sacrifice in which the Body of Christ is offered by Bishops and presbyters, and cannot be offered, in the same sense, by deacons and laymen.
§ 9. No one who really reflects upon these sayings of the great councils, and is at all aware of the mass of undesigned testimony, diffusing itself through all antiquity, to the same effect, can doubt what sort of a decree would have been passed at Nicæa or Ephesus, had the doctrine of the Eucharist required synodical assertion in those days. But whether it be that the sacramental system does not require to be doctrinally known in order that its benefits may be received, any more than a person need be able to analyze what he eats and drinks before he can have it for "food and gladness," [172/173] or for other causes unknown to us; it pleased Providence that the Church should enter on its era of sad division without any oecumenical decision primarily and directly pronounced on that subject. And therefore that portion of Christ's truth has not come down to us in distinct dogmatical assertions guarded by anathemas, as the statements concerning the Trinity and Incarnation have. And it is consequently a more adventurous thing, and more largely partaking of the boldness of private judgment, to denounce any person as a heretic in respect of the former class of errors. It is not so plainly our duty to withdraw from his communion, as it would be if he had been distinctly excommunicated by the Church. Materially he may be in heresy, but formally he is not yet so,--a distinction acknowledged by all theologians. "Simple error is not heresy, without the addition, 1. of something in the matter of it, viz. that it take place in somewhat appertaining to the faith; and, 2. of something in the erring person, i. e. pertinacity, which alone makes a heretic. And this pertinacity arises from pride; for it cometh of great pride, when a man prefers his own sense to the Truth Divinely revealed." [S. Tho. Aquin. De Malo. Qu. viii. Art. i. Ad 7mum t. xv. 165. ed. Venet. 1781.] And S. Augustine says, "Though men's opinion be false and perverse, yet if they maintain it not with any obstinate wilfulness; and especially if it be one which they have not daringly and presumptuously engendered for themselves, but have received it of parents misled and fallen into error; and if with careful anxiety they are seeking the truth, and are ready, as soon as they have found it, to receive correction; such are by no means to be accounted among heretics." [Ep. xliii. 1. t. ii. p. 67. ed. Bened. Antwerp, 1700.] "Because" (as Aquinas, quoting the passage, adds) "they have no choice, airesin,--no set purpose,--of contradicting the doctrine of the Church. In this way," (he proceeds to say,) "certain doctors appear to have differed, even in some things appertaining to the faith, which had not yet been determined by the Church. But after they had been determined by the authority of the universal Church, if any one kept obstinately resisting such an ordinance, he would be accounted a heretic." [Sec. Secundæ, qu. xi. art. ii. ad 3. t. xxii. 55.]
In the case before us, the determination of the whole Church is so far less unequivocal than it might be, in that it has never been sealed with an anathema by an cumenical Council, Nor is there any proof of its having been so distinctly set before those who have denied it, that they can be rightly and at once accused of heretical pravity in resisting it. And even if they might, that were no excuse for separating from the hundreds of thousands of simple Christians who go on believing our Catechism and partaking of our Eucharist, with or without any definite perception of the doctrine of the Sacraments, vital though it be. "For" (to quote again the same author [In 3 Sent. dist. 25. qu. 2. t. xi. 349.]) "the simple are not condemned as heretics for not knowing the Articles of the faith, but because they obstinately maintain things contrary to those Articles; which they would not do, if they had not their faith corrupted by heresy."
In sum: heretical as this or any similar decision may appear to a well-instructed private Christian, it cannot, under existing circumstances, so taint with heresy those who pronounce or favour it, as to render it his duty to break communion with them, and with all, sound or unsound in faith, who abide in the same body with them. It might and would be his duty, had they been pronounced heretics by sufficient authority; but such is not now the case. For example: were there now a Chrysostom or an Aquinas in the Roman Church, he might perchance upon good grounds seriously apprehend that the recent decree touching the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin does in fact promulgate a material heresy, and that a true cumenical Council, were such an one ever to meet and decide upon that doctrine, would assuredly condemn it with an anathema. But it does not follow that a person so convinced ought to withdraw himself from the present Roman Catholic Communion. It might be his duty to make such a profession of his faith as would probably involve him in serious ecclesiastical penalties.
[174/175] But excommunication or deprivation incurred for conscience' sake is one thing, voluntary separation is quite another thing. The application to our own case is evident.
There are, indeed, instances in Church history of private persons, lay or clerical, refusing to communicate with heresiarchs; as Eusebius of Dorylæum, and others separating themselves from Nestorius, in the beginning of the movement which led to the Council of Ephesus: but they did not thereby break communion with the mass of believers at Constantinople; and it seems not to have been so much from an apprehension of contracting the heretical taint from him, as because such separation was the received mode in that time of bringing such questions to a legitimate issue: as if one shoudl say, "Either he must be excommunicated or I." It is not longer so, now that the holy discipline is so generally, alas! in abeyance.
§10. But is there, then, no remedy? nothing for clergymen or faithful laymen to do, who may feel with the whole Church for so many ages, that he who touches the doctrine of the Real Presence after Consecration, touches--to use sacred words--the very "apple of their eye,"--whether it be by prohibition of worship or in any other way? Yes, surely; they have first and chiefly hearts to lift up night and day in prayer to the Most Holy Trinity, and they have the commemorative Sacrifice of their Lord, in union with which to present their intercessions. As towards men they have tongues and pens, wherewith to protest and appeal; they have influence with more or fewer of their brethren; they have more or less substance, of which they may give to such as are suffering in any way for the same truth, (of whom not a few may be found, if they are well looked after). And in the present instance there is something yet more to be done, by all subscribers to the Articles at least; their protests and appeals need not be mere words, as on other occasions the like may have appeared; they may be so worded, and so publicly notified, as to make them liable to the same molestations and penalties which others for the same teaching have incurred. Such sayings are real doings, and if God [175/176] give them grace to utter them not rashly or in the way of challenge, but in the serious discharge of a painful duty, they may be blessed, if trouble ensue, with somewhat of the peculiar blessing of Christ's confessors.
§ 11. One word more to point out why the way of Appeal as well as Protest is recommended. Protest, strictly speaking--i.e. a mere 'solemn declaration against a thing'--appears to be the course of those who feel themselves aggrieved, but know of no legal remedy. But to appeal, taken also strictly, is to apply to another, a superior judge; it assumes that there is a grievance, but supposes also a constitutional corrective. A protest, as such, simply relieves the mind and conscience of those who take part in it; an appeal adds to this a call upon certain others who are supposed to have power to redress the wrong.
A protest in any juridical matter supposes the final authority to have spoken; an appeal, of course, supposes the contrary.
For which reason, among others, it seems a matter of regret that the term protestant rather than appellant was adopted by those who, not intending schism, were cut off from the Church of Rome in the sixteenth century; especially as the former term arose from the mere political accident of their representatives forming the minority in the Diet of Spires, 1529, whereas the latter would have kept in mind Luther's appeal long before to a general council: a much more legitimate and ecclesiastical ground to stand on, were it only that by simply protesting we do in some sense admit he paramount authority of Rome, by appealing we assert Rome herself to be under authority.
However, in our own position--I mean, the position of English Churchmen--it seems to be of the very last importance that we should keep in our own minds, and before all Christendom, the fact that we stand as orthodox Catholics upon a constant virtual appeal to the oecumenical voice of the Church, expressed by the four great Councils, and by general consent in all the ages during which she continued undivided. And if that voice be disputed, is there any conceivable way of bringing the dispute to an issue, except only another true Oecumenical Council, when such by God's grace [176/177] may be had? In the meantime, what can we do but continue as we are in those points of our creed which other portions of the Church dispute, (unless we can be proved to be wrong:) not denying their life and catholicity, but maintaining our own, with submission to the whole Church? The position may be called unreal or chimerical, but it is that which has been claimed fo rthe Church of England by two great men (to mention no more) whose names may as fairly as any betaken to represent the great schools or sections in this Church: Cranmer, when drawing towards his martyrdom, and Bramhall in his exile, expressly asserting not simply the truth, but the Catholicity of the English Church. And they were not either of them persons apt to take up with a chimerical, unreal view.
Nay, the question may well be asked--much more easily asked than answered--whether, in the present divided state of Christendom, all who believe in the holy Catholic Church must not in reality, however unconsciously, be going on under this very appeal: at least, as against other claimants? The Greek will say, "I go by the voice of the present Church diffusive;" the Latin, "I go by the infallible voice of the See of S. Peter;" the English, "I go by what has been held fundamental every where, always, and by all:" but who is to decide between them, which of these measures is right? Yet all, one may hope, would agree to defer to the decision of such a Council as has been specified, were it obtainable. It is our common position; and we in England have so much the more reason to acquiesce in it, as it does not force us to "unchurch" (as it is termed) either of the other great sections of Christendom, as they do mutually one another and us.
Many a devout and loving heart, I well know, will rise up against this view of our case. To be on this conditional, temporary footing, will strike them as something so unsatisfactory, so miserably poor and meagre, so unlike the glorious vision which they have been used to gaze on of the one Catholic Apostolic Church. And poor, indeed, and disappointing it undoubtedly is, but not otherwise than as the aspect of Christianity itself in the world is poor [177/178] and disappointing, compared with what we read of it in the Gospel.
Men will not escape from this state of decay by going elsewhere, though they may shut their eyes to the reality of it. Rather, whatever our position be in the Church, since God Almighty has assigned it to us for our trial, shall we not accept it and make the best of it, in humble confidence that according to our faith it will be to us?
This (please God) is the way of truth and peace, and therefore in it we may hope for a blessing; the rather, if it should prove to be the way of the Cross also. But to engage oneself, by a strong act of the will, to the whole system of a body new to us, not upon the proper evidence of that system, but because some in temporary authority among ourselves have denied our holy doctrine--this has something in it so very unreal, that it can hardly agree with truth; and so like ill-temper, that it gives but a bad omen for peace. This is said, not from any special apprehension of such evil in store for us now, but from sad remembrance of what has occurred on former ministerpretations of our Church's doctrine.
But we may hope for better things. If only two kinds of people would be patient with one another--those who have hitherto worshipped Christ in the Eucharist undoubtingly, and those who for vague fear of certain errors have shrunk from owning, even to themselves, that they worshipped Him; if both sorts would pray and strive to be helped to take simply the plain words of Holy Scripture and the Church, as they do in respect of other mysteries;--then this Sacrament of peace, ceasing to be to believers a Sacrament of contention, would be free to work its Lord's work among men: being, indeed, that wonder-working Fire which He came to kindle on the earth, of power to transform and subdue all to itself.
Should what has been here set down contribute towards that blessed end but in one single instance, God be thanked! it will not have been written in vain.