Being a Course of Lectures Delivered at S. Petersburg in the Official Residence of the Chief Procurator of the Holy Synod to Audiences Consisting for the Most Part of Members of the Orthodox Church of Russia
The Legal and Spiritual Continuity of the English Church before and After Its Reformation (Part II).
I HAVE now dealt with all the Articles which I have time to discuss in this Course of Lectures. I have also said something about the other doctrinal formularies of the English Church, namely the doctrinal decrees of the General Councils, the Creeds, the Catechism, and the Book of Common Prayer, and I have explained to you how the Church of England draws her faith primarily from Holy Scripture; but I have pointed out that she uses as an authoritative help in the interpretation of Scripture the Holy Tradition handed on from the Apostles by the Fathers. So far as time has allowed, I have, I hope, made it clear that, when the Church of England was separated by the Pope from his communion, she not only maintained intact her legal continuity with her old self, as she existed before her breach with Rome, but she also maintained her adherence to the Catholic faith, as it was delivered once for all to the Saints; and therefore, so far as her faith is concerned, she has maintained her spiritual continuity and identity with the Church, as it was founded by our Lord. But in order to complete the demonstration of her spiritual continuity it is necessary that I should say something about her preservation of a validly ordained ministry.
This question has been very thoroughly discussed by Professor Basil Sokoloff from the point of view of history and of Russian Orthodox Theology in his learned book entitled An Enquiry into the Hierarchy of the Anglican Episcopal Church, to which I have already referred. The tenth and eleventh chapters of this book have been translated into English by Mr. W. J. Birkbeck; and Mr. Birkbeck has been kind enough to translate for me vivâ voce portions of other chapters, so that I am able, from a fair amount of knowledge of it, to recommend the book to Russian readers who wish to go fully into the matter. As, owing to my unfortunate ignorance of the Russian language, I have not been able to read the book from end to end, I cannot of course commit myself to an agreement with every statement and every argument put forward by Professor Sokoloff. But I am quite convinced that he has written on the matter with a very full knowledge of the facts, and in a scientific spirit which simply desires to find out and express the truth.
In itself the subject is in my opinion a very clear and simple one. But the Romanist enemies of our Church have done all they could during the last three centuries to make what is clear obscure, and to make what is simple appear to be complicated.
The point, at which they have all along mainly aimed their attacks, has been the consecration of Archbishop Parker of Canterbury. He was the successor of Cardinal Pole, who was Archbishop of Canterbury during the latter years of the reign of Queen Mary. But the Cardinal died on the very same day that Queen Mary died, that is to say on the 17th of November, 1558. Mary was succeeded by her half-sister, Elizabeth; and a few months after Elizabeth's accession to the throne, the Dean and Chapter of Canterbury elected Matthew Parker, a learned priest, to be Archbishop in Pole's place. In due time this election was confirmed, and on the 17th of December, 1559, Parker was consecrated by four Bishops in the Chapel of the Archiepiscopal Palace at Lambeth; and all the details of what was done at that consecration were duly recorded in the beginning of Archbishop Parker's register by Anthony Huse, the principal registrar of Archbishop Parker, as he had previously been the principal registrar of Parker's predecessor, Cardinal Pole. The record of Parker's consecration is in the hand-writing of the period; and that hand-writing is the same as that in which Cardinal Pole's register is written.
The reason why the Romanists move heaven and earth to discover arguments for invalidating Parker's consecration is that all the existing Bishops of the Anglican Communion trace their spiritual ancestry to Parker; and, if no account is taken of assistant consecrators, and if we only pay attention to the Archbishops or Bishops who acted as principal consecrators, the validity of all existing Anglican Bishops will seem to depend on the validity of Parker's consecration. The theory that assistant consecrators are mere witnesses and have no real share in imparting the gift of consecration is an entirely untenable theory. But I cannot attempt in these lectures to prove its untenableness. For the sake of argument I am content to accept the theory maintained by some, at any rate, of the Romanist impugners of the validity of our Ordinations, and argue the case as if everything depended on Parker alone.
At one time the Romanists rested their case on what is called the Nag's Head fable. They said that Parker was not consecrated solemnly in Lambeth Palace Chapel according to the rites of the Prayer-book, but that he and his consecrators came together in a tavern in London, called the Nag's Head tavern, and there he was told to kneel down, and one of the Bishops, Scory by name, laid a Bible on his head or shoulders, and said--"Take thou authority to preach the word of God sincerely." This absurd story was never heard of until forty-five years after Parker's consecration, when it was set forth by a Romanist named Holywood, and has been repeated over and over again until recent times. However, the more learned Romanists are now ashamed of it. For example the Romanist, Canon Estcourt, who about forty years ago published a painstaking book on the subject of Anglican Ordinations, says (p. 154):--"It is ... very unfortunate that the Nag's Head story was ever seriously put forward; for it is so absurd on the face of it, that it has led to the suspicion of [Roman] Catholic theologians not being sincere in the objections they make to Anglican Orders."
It seems that some of the earlier Romanist writers who committed themselves to the truth of the Nag's Head fable, felt in their heart of hearts some doubts as to its having really happened, and so they provided themselves with a second string to their bow, and they declared that Bishop Barlow, who presided at Archbishop Parker's consecration, had himself never been consecrated. And there are Romanist writers who even to this day maintain this position. I shall not weary you by any attempt to set forth and then answer the various arguments used by Romanists to uphold this untenable theory. It will be enough if I quote the illustrious Lingard, who was an ardent Romanist, but who was also one of the best writers of English history who has ever lived. Lingard, writing to the Catholic Magazine in the year 1834 in reply to some of his less learned co-religionists, says:--"To begin with Barlow. Why, I will ask, are we to believe that, of all the Bishops who lived in the long reign of Henry VIII., Barlow alone held and exercised the episcopal office without episcopal consecration? He was elected, and his election was confirmed in conformity with the statute of the 25th of that reign; why should we suppose that he was not also consecrated in conformity with the same statute? Was Cranmer the man to incur the penalty of praemunire without cause? Or was Henry a prince to allow the law to be violated with impunity? The act had been passed in support of the King's supremacy, and to cut off all recourse to Rome. Most certainly the transgression of its provisions would have marked out Barlow and Cromwell as fautors of the Papal authority, and have exposed them to the severest punishment. For ten years Barlow performed all the sacred duties, and exercised all the civil rights of a consecrated Bishop. He took his seat in Parliament and Convocation, as Lord Bishop of S. David's; he was styled by Gardiner, 'his brother of S. David's'; he ordained priests; he was one of the officiating Bishops at the consecration of Dr. Buckley. Yet we are now called upon to believe that he was no Bishop: and consequently that no one objected to his votes, though they were known to be illegal; or to his Ordinations, though they were known to be invalid; or to his performance of the Episcopal functions, though it was well known that each such function was a sacrilege! But why are we to believe these improbable, these incredible suppositions? Is there any positive proof that he was no Bishop? None in the world. All that can be said is that we cannot find any positive register of his consecration. So neither can we of many others, particularly of Bishop Gardiner. Did any one ever call in question the consecration of those Bishops on that account? Why should we doubt the consecration of Barlow, and not that of Gardiner? I fear that the only reason is this: Gardiner did not consecrate Parker, but Barlow did." [Catholic Magazine, vol. v. pp. 704, 705, Birmingham.] I will not spoil Lingard's trenchant and conclusive argument by adding any comments of my own.
Of course the Romanists, who maintain the truth of the Nag's Head fable, are compelled to assert that the whole account of Archbishop Parker's consecration which appears in the beginning of his register is a forgery. On this point again I will quote the words of the learned and candid Romanist historian, Lingard. He, writing in answer to the ignorant assertions of one of his fellow-Romanists, says:--"Your correspondent assures us that the Register contains 'so many inaccuracies, and points at variance with the history of the times, as manifestly prove it a forgery.' Were it so, there still remains sufficient evidence of the fact [i.e. the fact of Parker's consecration in the chapel of Lambeth Palace by four Bishops]. But what induces T. H. to make this assertion? Has he examined into all the circumstances of the case? or does he only take for granted the validity of several objections which are founded on misconception or ignorance that the Register agrees in every particular with what we know of the history of the times, and there exists not the semblance of a reason for pronouncing it a forgery?" [The Birmingham Catholic Magazine, 1834.]
These are grave words of remonstrance against the ignorant partizanship of some of his fellow-Romanists, written by another Romanist who has won for himself the renown of being one of the best English historians who has ever undertaken to write the history of England.
Other Romanists have admitted the historical fact of Parker's consecration at Lambeth, and the fact that Barlow was undoubtedly a validly consecrated Bishop; but they have propounded arguments with the object of showing that Parker's consecration was invalid. They have said that the service, which was used, was not a proper service; or they have said that the Church of England at the Reformation and since the Reformation has had no intention of continuing the three Orders of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, as they were instituted by Christ; or they have said that the Bishops, who consecrated Parker, had some hidden intention which vitiated and invalidated all that they did when they consecrated him. These sorts of objections cannot be properly treated in a lecture. They can only be properly treated in a book, and they have been very fully discussed by our Anglican theologians in many books, where full and satisfactory answers have been given to all these Romanist objections. I might mention a book written in Latin entitled:--De Hierarchia Anglicana Dissertatio Apologetica, by Mr. Edward Denny and Mr. Thomas A. Lacey, and published in 1895.
I see that Professor Basil Sokoloff in his excellent book, to which I have already referred, has covered the whole ground of these objections in a very learned and conclusive way. He shows that the record of Parker's consecration in his Register preserved at Lambeth is a genuine contemporary document which has accurately preserved the memory of what was done on that important occasion. He shows also that Barlow was a validly consecrated Bishop. He shows that no objection can be taken to the validity of Parker's consecration or of subsequent Episcopal consecrations in the Church of England on the ground of an absence of proper intention. And finally he shows that the Anglican rite of consecration, as it was worded during the reigns of Elizabeth and her two immediate successors, James I. and Charles I., and also as it was revised and improved in the reign of Charles II. and as it has been worded ever since his reign up to the present time, is a sufficient rite for validly bestowing the gift of the Holy Ghost for the office and work of a Bishop on any one who is consecrated in accordance with its directions.
I think that I have already quoted in one of these lectures a passage from Professor Sokoloff's book, in which after a long and learned argument he says:--"The extracts we have now given will, we think, suffice; they prove sufficiently convincingly that the Anglican Divines of the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries, down to the present time, have clearly proclaimed, and are still proclaiming, the same doctrine of the Divine institution and grace-giving significance of the hierarchy, that their Church has also always expressed in her religious formularies." [Birkbeck's translation, p. 30.]
The only reason, apparently, which makes Professor Sokoloff hesitate in coming to the conclusion that Anglican Ordinations are undoubtedly valid, is the way in which the 25th Article of Religion is worded. He thinks that in that Article it is decisively stated that there are only two Sacraments, and that Orders, which is one of the other five, is not to be counted as such. But really there is a mistake here. The question of the number of the Sacraments depends on the way in which the word Sacrament is defined. And the Catholic Church as a whole has never defined the word authoritatively. The Holy Fathers used the word of great number of sacred things,--and it would be almost impossible to enumerate the things which they called Sacraments. I should think that there were at least forty or fifty. Among that large number of Sacraments the Fathers separated from all the others the two which are necessary for all who would live the Christian life, namely Baptism and the Holy Eucharist. On the other hand in the twelfth century Peter Lombard was the first to group together the seven which during the later middle ages were commonly called Sacraments. But this grouping, which was a complete novelty, was never mposed on the Church by any Ecumenical Council. It may be a convenient grouping; but those who adopted it did so because in their private judgement they thought it convenient. I have nothing to say against them. But the Church of England in the sixteenth century was not very devoted to the schoolmen, who had done their best to support on a very rotten foundation the exorbitant claims of the Papacy. The Church of England was appealing from the schoolmen to the Holy Fathers and the Holy Scripture; and she chose to revive for herself the patristic way of speaking about the Sacraments. She did not attempt to impose that way on others, but she revived it for herself and for her own children. She used the word, Sacrament, as the Fathers used it in a wide sense and also in a narrow sense. When she used it in a narrow sense, she limited it, as the Fathers limited it, to the two necessary Sacraments,--the only ones the institution of which by Christ is recorded in the Gospel. In her phraseology those two were the only Sacraments of the Gospel. She nowhere in any of her formularies has ever said in an unqualified way that there were two Sacraments only. She always qualifies that statement. She says that there are two only which are generally necessary to salvation, or two only which were ordained by Christ Himself, or two only which are Sacraments of the Gospel. She proclaims that there are other Sacraments; but she says that those others are not of like nature of Sacraments with Baptism and the Holy Eucharist, because they are not necessary for all who would live a Christian life, and the record of their institution by Christ is not found in the Gospel, and therefore they are not Sacraments of the Gospel. They may be Apostolic Sacraments, they may be grace-giving Sacraments, but they are not in that select group which the Holy Fathers separated off from all the other Sacraments as being the two Sacraments out of which the Church is constituted, and which were typified by the Water and Blood which flowed from the side of Christ. [I see that in The Great Catechism of the Holy Catholic Apostolic and Orthodox Church translated by Dr. J. T. Seccombe from the Greek edition published at Athens in 1857, with the approbation of the Holy Synod of Greece, and the subsequent MS. approval of the Patriarch of Antioch it is stated on p. 26 that "Our Church has seven Mysteries: Baptism, Chrism, &c. Two of these--namely, Baptism and the Eucharist or Communion--are the chief and distinguishing mysteries of the New Testament."] There is no contradiction between the 25th Article and the other formularies of the English Church. It is admitted that the other formularies testify to the fact that Orders is a grace-giving ordinance. It is an ordinance which not only gives authority and power, but also gives the Holy Ghost to enable the ordained person to use his authority aright. The 25th Article does not deny this, nor does it assert it. It is not concerned with giving a full description of the effects of the Sacraments. Its whole purpose is to proclaim the patristic doctrine that two of the Sacraments occupy a much higher position than the others.
If at any time hereafter the happy moment shall have arrived, when the Russian and the English Churches shall feel that the time has come for conferring together to see whether there is anything which need hinder these two great Churches from communicating together as sister Churches, I fully admit that the Russian Church will have the right to ask the English Church whether she holds that Ordination is a grace-giving ordinance which conveys the gift of the Holy Ghost to those who are being ordained. And I am quite sure that the English Church will answer in the affirmative. If she refused to answer in the affirmative, a thing which is to me unthinkable, she would have to tear up her Ordination services and anathematize all her great theologians. But while I fully allow that the Russian Church would have a right to be satisfied that the English Church holds that Ordination is a channel not only of official authority but also of Divine grace, I cannot admit that the Russian Church would have a right to exact a promise from the English Church that she will give up the patristic use of the word, Sacrament, and the patristic way of grouping some of the Sacraments, and to adopt instead thereof the new way of using the word Sacrament, and the new way of grouping the Sacraments and numbering the Sacraments, which were invented in the twelfth century by the Latin schoolman, Peter Lombard. If hereafter an Ecumenical Council recognized as Ecumenical should give its high sanction to Peter Lombard's new ways, then the case would be altered. Then it would be our duty to submit to the ruling of the Council. But until that takes place Peter Lombard's ways cannot be made terms of Communion.
I have dwelt on this matter at some length, because it seems to be the only matter which makes Professor Sokoloff hesitate to recognize the validity of our English Ordinations. And I hope that in a peace-loving spirit, and with peaceable words, I have shown that he has no solid reason for hesitating.
If it is granted that, at the time of the breach between the Church of England and the Church of Rome in the reigns of Henry VIII. and Elizabeth, the Church of England retained her profession of the Catholic faith once for all delivered to the Saints, and if it is also granted that at the same time she retained a validly ordained hierarchy, then it follows that she not only kept up a legal continuity with her old self, as she was before the breach with Rome, but she also kept up a spiritual continuity with her old self. No doubt she dropped a number of things which depended for their justification on the papal claims, and she dropped some other things which she considered to be harmful or at any rate undesirable; but she has always maintained, and I believe rightly, that she retained all that was of Divine institution, all that was intended by God to be perpetually observed and taught in His Church. And she has therefore always believed that she is a true and living branch of the one, holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, which is founded on the rock of the Apostolate and of the true faith, and against which the gates of Hades shall never prevail.