Lecture IV. The Independence of National Churches "Standfast, therefore, in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free." Gal. v. 1.
In the Preface of the Prayer Book of our Mother Church, under the heading, "Of Ceremonies: Why Some be Abolished and Some Retained," we find this weighty utterance:
"And in these our doings we condemn no other Nations, nor prescribe anything but to our own people only; for we think it convenient, that every Country should use such ceremonies as they shall think best, to the setting forth of God's honor and glory, and to the reducing of the people to a most perfect, and godly living, without error or superstition; and that they should put away other things, which, from time to time, they perceive to be most abused, as in men's ordinances it often chanceth diversely, in divers countries."
In this spirit the official work of the reformation of the Church of England was conducted. Recognizing the right, which a National Church possessed, to make such changes as may be expedient, subject to the strict observance of Catholic essentials, English Churchmen proceeded to act on it; but they also recognized it, for other Churches as well as for that of England, and claimed to be the advocates of change and reconstruction, only within the bounds of their legitimate jurisdiction. This independence of National Churches, is one of our fundamental principles. The principle is thus stated by a distinguished scholar:
"A National Church, through the medium of its representative synod, duly convened, has inherent authority, from its Divine Founder, to remove every species of abuse, whether of doctrine, or discipline, existing within its own jurisdiction; nay is absolutely bound by its allegiance to Christ, and its regard for the people committed to its charge, to vindicate, and extend the truths of the Gospel, as once for all delivered to the saints, and taught in the early Church."
It is unnecessary to say, that the Protestant Episcopal Church fully accepts this principle of the Church of England, and acts on it. In the Preface of our Prayer Book it is counted "a most invaluable part of that blessed liberty, wherewith Christ hath made us free, that in His Worship different forms, or usages, may without offence be allowed, provided the substance of the Faith be kept entire; and that in every Church, what cannot be clearly determined to belong to doctrine, must be referred to discipline, and therefore, by common consent, and authority, may be altered, abridged, enlarged, amended, or otherwise disposed of, as may seem most convenient, for the edification of the people, according to the various exigencies of times, and occasions."
It has been contended, that a National Church, in regulating its doctrines and discipline privately and apart, without considering the doctrine of the rest of the Church (to quote the words of Bossuet), "separates itself from the Universal Church, and renounces the unity of faith, and doctrine."
But the criticism will not stand the test of history. For it is admitted by all men, that provincial and national synods have, by immemorial practice of the Catholic Church, the right to condemn errors, and heresies, and to correct abuses in particular churches. They have been considered perfectly competent to discuss, and take action, in all these matters of doctrine, and discipline, with due regard to the traditions of the Universal Church. The rights of provincial synods, to make decrees, in causes of faith, and in cases of reformation, where corruptions had crept into the Sacraments of Christ, were freely allowed, and acted on, more than a thousand years ago.
Paul of Samosata, Sabellius, Arius, Apollinaris, the Donatists, the Pelagians, were all condemned by provincial synods, in the first instance. A provincial council at Rome A.D. 348, condemned the Sabellian heresy. A provincial council at Carthage, A.D. 848, condemned rebaptization. A provincial council at Aquileia, A.D. 381, condemned Palladius for his Arian heresy. An African council, A.D. 416, condemned Pelagianism. Another African council, A.D. 424, decreed the belief and preaching of the doctrine of the Trinity. At Orange, a provincial council handled the great controversies of grace and free will. The fourth council of Toledo actually added to the Creed. "Sot only did Bishops, in national and provincial councils, reform the particular churches under their care; but asserted that it was their duty to do so.
The fourth council of Toledo decreed that if there happen a cause of faith to be settled, a general synod of Spain and Gaul should take action thereon.
That which had been so often practised in many places, with the consent of the whole Church, is surely allowable, also, to a national council, of the Church in England, or in America. But it has been objected, that these churches never acted without regard to the Faith of the Church, and sent their decrees to other Churches for confirmation. To which we may truly reply, that our Church has been more scrupulous regarding the Faith of the Church at large, than any other; and has never made any reformation in doctrine, without the fullest reference to the authority, and usage, of the Universal or Catholic Church.
It was the essential principle of the English Reformation throughout, that the doctrines and traditions of the Catholic Church of Christ in all ages were to be obediently followed. Even Parliament, when it suppressed the Papal jurisdiction, A.D. 1533, declared, that it was not intended to vary from Christ's Church about the articles of the Catholic faith of Christendom.
The Church of England, A.D. 1543, declared the Unity of the Catholic Church to consist, chiefly, in unity of doctrine, and that particular Churches ought not to vary from one another in the said doctrine.
The Archbishop of Canterbury declared: "I intend to speak nothing against One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolical Church, or the authority thereof, the which authority I have in great reverence, and to which my mind is in all things to obey."
The Church, then, when acting with national independence it made such reforms in doctrine and discipline as seemed necessary, did not act without duly considering the doctrine of the Church in all ages. The examples of ancient councils prove that it was not necessary to wait for the reformation of errors and abuses, until the judgment of the existing universal Church could be made known, by means of an (Ecumenical Council. If, after taking action, the National Church did not send its decrees to other churches, for their approbation, it was simply because this discipline had long become obsolete; and brotherly intercourse with other Churches had, by their act, been interrupted.
In the assertion of its national independence, the Church of England entered into no contest about the Faith. When the Church in the 16th century asserted its independence, it was a question, not of doctrine, but of money. The primacy of order, which had been freely and justly accorded to the bishop of Rome, had developed gradually into a supremacy of power, and under the irritation of these constantly increasing encroachments on their liberties, English Churchmen earnestly protested. From the time of the dispute on the subject of investitures, in the days of Anselm, when the King, and his nobles, the bishops, also, and others of inferior rank, were so indignant as to assert that rather than surrender the privileges of their forefathers, they would depart from the Roman Church, down to the final struggle of the sixteenth century, the encroachments of the Roman See called forth spirited opposition, which may be seen in the civil enactments to repel papal aggression, and preserve the liberties of the Church.
The aggressions were made up of these particulars:
A judicial power was claimed by Rome in matters ecclesiastical, or cases of appeal.
Power was claimed to grant licenses, and dispensations.
Liberty was asserted, to send legates into England, and hold legatine courts there. The right was claimed, and exercised, to grant investiture to bishops, to confirm episcopal elections, and to distribute ecclesiastical patronage.
The privilege was claimed, of receiving first fruits, the tenths of English benefices, and the goods of the clergy who died intestate.
It was an attractive scheme of plunder, under which the court of the bishop of Rome could live in splendor, at the expense of the rest of Europe. No portion of the field had contributed so largely, to this golden harvest, as the Church of England.
And the crime of the Church of England, against the papacy, was that it refused to be plundered any longer.
No attempt was made to dispute the primacy of the Roman See in the Catholic Church; no effort to deprive the Pope of any really spiritual power, or to question his right to summon a general council, to define questions of faith; or to act as the centre of Catholic unity. No, the attack was of a very different kind.
On petition of the clergy, the temporal power passed certain acts, concerning Annates, Bulls, Appeals, and Dispensations.
The English Parliament, A.D. 1532, decreed that all first fruits, as annates, and other payments to the Roman See, for pensions and annuities, should cease. There was, surely, no schism, or heresy in the suppression of these taxes, which were of comparatively recent obligation, dating from the fourteenth century, and which, over and over again, have been suppressed in other national churches, like that of France, or of Austria. Pensions began to be fixed on benefices, by the popes, for the benefit of cardinals, and other members of the Roman court, about the time that the first-fruits device was invented; but it was idle to say that there was religious obligation to continue these exactions. The same law, which withdrew the annates from the grasp of the Pope, vested them in the King, and they remained part of the royal revenues, until the reign of Queen Anne, when they were restored to the Church, and appropriated for the augmentation of poor livings, under the designation "Queen Anne's Bounty."
It was also enacted, A.D. 1532, that there should be no more money paid for bulls, or papal letters of institution to bishoprics; and that, if these bulls were refused, the bishop-elect was to be consecrated in England, without them. In the following year the necessity of any bulls, briefs, or palls from Rome, was dispensed with, utterly.
This was a very righteous law. The necessity of papal bulls, was founded on the laws of the Roman pontiffs, collected by Gregory the 9th in the Decretals. It was a modern innovation, for as late as A.D. 1373, English bishops were confirmed, and ordained by their metropolitans, and not by papal bulls. The custom of obtaining bulls, for newly elected bishops, rose entirely from the papal reservations, and usurpations of patronage, during the great Western schism, and they were continued afterwards, by concordats between sovereigns and the Roman See, who divided the plunder of the Church between them.
That these Bulls may be freely dispensed with, by the authority of national Churches, is an evident fact. The Synod of Ems, in Germany, A.D. 1785, declared that if the papacy refused to confirm the bishops, they would find resources in the ancient discipline.
The commission of cardinals, archbishops, and bishops, instituted by Napoleon, A.D. 1811, acknowledged that a National Council of France, could order that bishops should be instituted by the metropolitan, or senior bishop, instead of the Pope, in urgent circumstances. And when the Roman bishop refused to institute bishops in Portugal, the Portuguese applied to the Gallican Church, to intercede with the pontiff on their behalf, and, in case of failure, to consecrate their bishops. And, accordingly, the Gallican bishops intimated to the Roman bishop, that, in case of his continued refusal, they would supply his defect, and consecrate the Portuguese bishops.
The necessity of obtaining a pall from Rome, before metropolitan jurisdiction could be exercised, was founded on the spurious decretals, to which Gregory 7th and the succeeding bishops of Home appealed, in justification of their claims, on this point.
The pall was at first given to the Archbishop of Canterbury as a compliment, an external ensign of honor; and it conferred on him no greater power than he, and his predecessors, had always exercised. Only by its own consent, and permission, could this figment, regarding the necessity of the pall, exist in the National Church of England; and, when that permission was withdrawn, the claim went with it.
In the year 1532, it was enacted, that all causes concerning wills, matrimony, divorce, tithes, oblations, etc., should be determined within the realm of England, by the proper ecclesiastical tribunals; and that no appeals should be made to the bishop of Rome. Similar action had often been taken by National Churches.
The African Church prohibited, expressly, all appeals to Rome. The grand duke of Tuscany, and the King of Naples, prohibited appeals. In Austria, France, and Spain, no appeal was allowed, except for the purpose of procuring a rehearing of the case, within these countries; a very different thing from sending the case to a Roman tribunal. The privilege of hearing appeals was a favor granted to the bishop of Home which the National Church of England had a perfect right to withdraw at pleasure.
In the year 1533, it was also enacted that no one, in England, should hereafter sue to the bishop of Rome, for dispensations, and licenses. Originally, all bishops had granted these; but, from the tenth century onward, the right to do so had been gradually usurped by the Roman, pontiffs; and the facility with which they were granted, for a pecuniary consideration, had told heavily against the discipline of the Church. The evils arising from this abuse afforded a sufficient reason for the limitation of the powers of dispensation to English bishops, who would naturally feel more deeply interested in the preservation of discipline among their own people, than the Roman Court, which viewed this power, chiefly as a means of supplying its pecuniary necessities. Papal dispensations have frequently been abolished by national churches; in Austria, for illustration.
These were the changes made by the Church of England, which caused the break with the Roman See. These measures made no change in the Faith, and interfered with no privilege, which belonged to the Roman See, either by primitive custom, or by any grant of an cumenical Council.
The bishops, and clergy, of the two convocations, when the question was propounded to them, "Whether the bishop of Rome has in the Word of God any greater jurisdiction in the realm of England, than any other foreign bishop," determined that he had not. The Universities, the Chapters, the Convents of regulars, Mendicants, etc., also declared their assent, only one bishop, Fisher of Rochester, dissenting. All the branches of the jurisdiction, thus abolished, had risen, one by one, ages after the foundation of the Church of England, either by permission of that Church, or by deliberate usurpation; and there could be no obligation to continue these privileges to the Roman See longer than seemed expedient.
In assuming its national rights, our Mother Church did not, in fact, or in intention, separate itself from the Communion of the rest of the Catholic Church. It excommunicated no other Churches, and none of their clergy or people were ever refused Christian Communion, or intercourse, by the Church of England. It did not fail to recognize them as Churches of Christ and to acknowledge that it was the duty of Christians to remain united to them.
In the institution of a Christian man, A.D. 1537, approved by twenty-one archbishops and bishops of the Church of England, years after the papal jurisdiction had been abolished, the following passage is to be found: "I do believe that the Church of Rome is not, and cannot worthily be called, the Catholic Church, but only a particular member thereof; and cannot challenge, or vindicate of right, and by the Word of God, to be head of this Universal Church, or to have any authority over the other Churches of Christ, which be in England, France, Spain or any other realm. And I believe, also, that the said Church of Rome, with all the other particular Churches in the world, compacted, and united together, do make and constitute but one Catholic Church."
Again, A.D. 1543, in the "Necessary Doctrine" approved by the English bishops, all the other Western Churches are acknowledged, as parts of one Catholic Church; and the faithful in every country are exhorted to obey them.
It is obvious, therefore, that in asserting its independence of the usurpations of the Roman bishop, and in denying his right to meddle with English causes, or to plunder English Sees under forms of law, there was no desire to separate from the Communion of other Western Churches.
The origin of the Roman jurisdiction over particular Churches, was an unholy thing. Use was made of forgeries to establish this jurisdiction, and one usurpation of authority followed another, the aim being almost always a sordid one; to gratify avarice, or the lust of worldly power. The principle of obedience to the bishop of Rome as the test of Catholic unity, was a principle tending to schism. It divided the Western from the Eastern Churches, and separated the Church of England from the other National Churches of Europe.
But the act of separation was the work of the Roman bishop. Despising fraternal unity, he condemned the Church of England as schismatical and heretical, because it suppressed his jurisdiction, which he had either illegally usurped, or had received as a privilege, which of course could be withdrawn at pleasure. He, and those who sided with him, were guilty of the sin of schism, and he aggravated his sin by sending missionaries to England, to excite divisions in the Church, and withdraw the people from obedience to their pastors. He set up altar against altar, in this ancient Church, which once had been looked upon as a world beyond the sea, entitled to its own Caesar, and to its own pontiff.
Pope Urban tells Archbishop Anselm that he is "Alterius orbis Apostolicum et Patriarchum;" or, to quote the words of William of Malesbury "Alterius orbis papam." And another writer designates Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury, as "gentium transmarinorum summus Pontifex." Into this ancient Church the Roman bishop sent his emissaries to encourage schism, and withdraw men from their obedience to the Catholic Church of England. And the sect thus formed, he recognized as the Church of Christ, and gave it bishops and pastors.
From the year 1538, when the papal jurisdiction was abolished, down to the eleventh year of the reign of Elizabeth, all people in England were subject to the same pastors, attended the same churches, and received the same sacraments. It was only about the year 1570, that the Romish party, instigated by foreign emissaries, separated itself, and fell from the communion of the Catholic Church of England.
Sir E. Coke, at the trial of the Jesuit Garnet, declared that until, in the eleventh year of her reign, the Queen was excommunicated, and deposed by the Pope, and all persons cursed who should obey her, there were no popish recusants in England; but thereupon, they refused to assemble in our churches, not for conscience of anything there done, against which they might justly except out of God's Word, but because the Pope had excommunicated, and deposed the Queen, and cursed those who should obey her. The prisoner admitted, that most Catholics did indeed go to church before this date.
This separation from the Church, in the year 1570, was commented on, by all men, as a thing unprecedented, and strange. What shall we say of a society, thus formed, or of the instigator of this separation from the Church of Christ? The whole separation, or schism, was originated and effected by the Roman pontiffs, and their adherents. We did not go out from them, but, as the Apostle says, "They went out from us."
In asserting its independence, the national Church of England took its stand on the fact, that all bishops of Rome, when they are consecrated, and made bishops of that See, do make a solemn profession, and vow, that they will inviolably observe, and keep, all the ordinances made in the first eight general councils; among which it is specially provided, and enacted, that all causes shall be finished, and determined within the province where the same be begun, and that by the bishops of the same province; and that no bishop shall exercise jurisdiction out of his own diocese or province.
When, presently, the Church followed its assertion of independence in its own internal affairs, by taking order with regard to rites and ceremonies, and in defining doctrine, and questions of faith and worship, its aim was to regain for the English nation, the pure and practical elements of the Faith which in the middle ages had been obscured, distorted, or denied, by the dominant class of schoolmen.
To quote the words of a memorable document, of that age: "This pure doctrine of the gospel, which we have embraced, is without doubt, the very consent of the Catholic Church of Christ, as the testimonies of the old Church, and of the holy fathers, do evidently declare. For we do not receive,, or approve, any wicked opinions, or such as fight against the consent of the holy fathers. Yea, rather, in many articles we do renew the teachings of the old synods, and fathers, which the latter age had put out of the way, and for them had given forth other false and counterfeit doctrines, with the which our adversaries do shamefully fight, with the judgments of the fathers, and authority of the Synods."
In using the term "National Church," we must remember that it by no means implies, that the boundaries of a civil government shall necessarily limit the jurisdiction of a National or provincial church. Sometimes an independent provincial church has only included one or two provinces of an Empire, sometimes, it seems to have included two or three countries, practically independent of each other in civil affairs.
In speaking of the National Churches of Europe, the Necessary Doctrine goes on to mention some of the particulars which render independence necessary. These are: "distance of place," "diversity of traditions," "not in all things unity of opinions," "alteration of rites, ceremonies, and ordinances, or estimation of the same, as one church doth, peradventure, esteem their rites, traditions, laws, ordinances, and ceremonies to be of more force, and efficacy, than another church doth esteem the same."
It is added, that "these particular churches, with local diversities, are members of the whole Catholic Church, and each, by itself, worthy to be called a Catholic Church, when it professes, and teaches the faith and religion of Christ according to Scripture, and the Apostolic doctrine. And so every Christian man ought to honor, give credence, and follow the particular Church, of that region wherein he is born, or inhabited."
It follows, therefore, that where there is practical unanimity in the traditions, opinions, rites, ceremonies, and ordinances, or estimation of the same, and where distance of place does not prevent, particular churches may be united in one province, irrespective of civil divisions. The genius of a people, its ideals, its civilization, its ambitions, have a great deal to do, in determining the boundaries of provincial churches.
The Spanish and Gallican Churches, ministering to portions of the Latin race, could easily unite, as they have done in the past. But the Gallican and German Churches were compelled, by race differences, to follow different paths. And where a people is essentially one, in all that goes to make up its civilization, although it may exist under several independent civil governments, it should, as a Church, be one.
It seems intolerable that the unity of a national Church, should be dependent on the freaks of politics. When civil war broke out in our country, was the American Church divided? When peace came, did two independent national Churches again become one? It seems to me, that a truer interpretation of facts would insist that the Church remained one, no matter how terrible might be the disruption of the state.
Or, again: Canada is part of the British Empire, but practically it is an independent country, completely controlling its own affairs, and levying taxes on Commerce from Great Britain, as really as if it were imported from Russia. But, in a very real sense, the Canadian Church is a portion of the great Anglican Communion, independent in its own affairs, yet preserving an absolute identity of traditions, opinions, rites, ceremonies, and ordinances, with the Church of England; and sharing in all the missionary activities of that great Communion. The same may be said of the Church in Australia, South Africa, and other portions of the world.
Wherever our Anglo-Saxon civilization has penetrated, we find substantially the same communities of men, with the same ambitions, the same ideals, the same rules of morality, the same passion for freedom and righteousness, the same scorn of tyranny, the same reverence for law. And everywhere, our National Church, which asserted its rights to its ancient liberties in the Sixteenth Century, is to be found, with identity of traditions, opinions, rites, ceremonies, and ordinances.
Ought we not recognize that fact, and to act upon it more freely? The civil lines that separate one portion of our race from another, are growing fainter, and possibly under the influence of a more enlightened civilization will practically disappear; so that, wherever the English-speaking race is to be found, it will, to all intents and purposes, be one; and the barriers that have separated the great family, will be flung on the dust heaps of the barbarisms of the past.
Ought not the Church of the English-speaking race to anticipate, and show the wTay, to that union of hearts, by a closer organic union, which shall enable it to concentrate its energies more effectually, in its warfare with evil, and in its effort to extend the Kingdom of Christ throughout the habitable earth? Why should not the Church in Canada, and in the United States be one, with one general Convention, or Synod, one House of Bishops, one field of missionary activity, controlled by one policy?
And, from such a beginning, organic union, disregarding mere civil lines, might grow, until our whole communion, under the primacy of Canterbury, could be gathered in one great provincial, or national Church.
Think what it would be, if all the missionary work of the Anglican Communion throughout the world were our mission work; if all our sympathies could be quickened by the consciousness, that, wherever our race was represented, there the whole Church was represented, with all the power of oiir great Communion behind it, to animate its zeal, and stimulate its effort, and, with the steadying guidance of the voice of the Church, to preserve the traditions, and the opinions, rites, ceremonies, and ordinances of the National Church.
How much wider our sympathies would be, if, not only in theory, but in practice, the mandates of the Church, and the field of its labor, were not limited by the mutations of worldly politics! Necessarily, the National Church must be limited to the English-speaking people, throughout the world, and those whom they have assimilated, so that they have become one with them, in their civilization, and their ideals.
Other races of men require a particular church, with rites, traditions, laws, ordinances, and ceremonies that would not commend themselves to the English-speaking people. So long as they profess, and teach the faith and religion of Christ, according to Scripture and the Apostolic doctrine, the Church of the great Anglican Communion has for them only words of affectionate benediction.
"In these our doings, we condemn no other nations, nor prescribe anything but to our own people only. For we think it convenient, that every country should iise such ceremonies, as they shall think best, to the setting forth of God's honor and glory, and to the reducing of the people to a most perfect and godly living, without error or superstition; and that they should put away other things, which from time to time, they perceive to be most abused, as in men's ordinances it often chanceth, diversely, in diverse countries." Instead of "country," read "race," and this quotation, from the preface of the English Prayer Book, is the best solution of the difficult question of evangelizing the world.
The Negro, or the Japanese, or the Hindoo cannot, at least for a long time to come, become one with the English-speaking race. The modes of thought, the temperament, the ideals, of these races differentiate them from us; so that, to expect that our worship could become naturalized among them, is absurd. We cannot make them Prayer Book Churchmen. But, under God's blessing, we can help them to form a particular Church for their race, which, while holding fast to Catholic Faith, and order, on the one hand, shall, on the other, adopt and create such traditions, opinions, rites, ceremonies, and ordinances, as will express most fully, the spirit of devout worship, and obedience to the Law of Christ.
Wherever that particular Church, say of the Japanese, is represented, whether in the islands of the far Pacific, or in some colony, possibly in the West Indies, or in South America, why should it not be considered the one national Japanese Church? No matter in how many civil divisions of the globe it may exist.
It is the same oneness, that we would wish for the Anglican Church, over all the world, with provincial government, which would guide its onward movement, and preserve inviolate everywhere, our faith, and order. Nothing would so powerfully tend to restore the discipline of the Church, and give such articulate voice, to its authoritative utterance.
It becomes Churchmen to guard with reverent and loyal love the rights and liberties of our National Church. In a divided Christendom our Church is the one possible rallying place, of those who long, and pray for the reunion of the family of Christ. The full heritage of the Catholic Church is our possession.
Our faith is the faith once delivered to the saints. Our orders are those of the Apostles. Our tradition is that of absolute loyalty to the teaching of the fathers, and obedience to the Canons of the ancient councils.
We have not separated from our brethren, however ready they may have been to go out from us. We have not added to the Catholic Creed, a series of Articles, which must first be renounced, before we can seriously ask others to unite with us. But, standing fast in the old paths, as an independent National Church, we wait, with confidence, the day when all men will also come to this common heritage of the faith, which we have never deserted.
As Churchmen we have our duty to perform, and must not shrink from it. On what terms may other men come to our Communion? It is an inquiry which has not received an adequate answer. But there should be a solemn rite by which men may be received, who come to us from other religious bodies. They have, let us suppose, been baptized with water, "in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost"; and therefore may be presumed to stand in the same relation to the Church, as persons who have received clinical baptism from our own clergy. Charity could not go any farther than that. Such persons we know are required publicly to confess the vows of Holy baptism, and are solemnly received into the Church; and I think that the same confession, and public reception, should mark the admission of every soul that comes to our Communion, from other religious bodies.
All such persons should be reconciled to the Church also, by the rite of Confirmation. Of course, when members of the various evangelical denominations, as they are ordinarily designated, have been received into the Church, their confirmation is a necessity, as they have never received the Apostolic rite; but when persons come to us from the Roman Communion, or in the remote contingency, of their coming to us from the Greek Communion; is it sufficient, solemnly to receive them into the Church, and admit them to the Holy Communion, or should they be Confirmed afresh? It seems to me that they must receive the rite of Confirmation.
Our National Church is the guardian of the truth, and it is pledged to be loyal to it, under all circumstances. It stands by the ancient tradition of the Church, and reverently obeys the Word of God. From the eighth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles we derive our authority for the Form of Confirmation. The text reads: "Then laid they their hands on them and they received the Holy Ghost." And again: "When Simon saw that through the laying on of the Apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given." The divinely appointed ritual act, by which the seven-fold Spirit is imparted, is the Laying on of Apostolic Hands.
But this Apostolic ordinance has been practically disregarded, in both the Greek and Roman Communions, and the ceremony of anointing has been substituted for it. Originally, the anointing was part of the ceremony attending the administration of the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. There was an anointing of the candidate before the administration of the Sacrament, and an anointing afterwards.
In the Roman Office of Baptism we find traces of these ancient ceremonies. The infant, before it is baptized, is to be anointed on the breast, and between the shoulders with the "Oleum Catechumenorum;" and, after baptism, it is anointed again with the Chrism "in sumitate capitis, in modum crucis." It was this second anointing, which in the course of time, became attached to the rite of Confirmation, and presently was substituted for it. When the corruption took place we cannot say.
In the Eastern Church, it had become firmly established in the age of St. Cyril, who, in his catechetical lectures, mentions the mysteries in the following order: Baptism, the Chrism, the first Communion. He has nothing to say about the Laying on of Hands, but describes the Eastern mode of Confirmation in these words: "The ointment is applied to the forehead, ears, nostrils, mouth, and breast, implying that the soul is sanctified by the holy and life-giving Spirit." The Bishop is to consecrate the Chrism, but it may be applied by a priest. Substantially, this is the present form of Confirmation in the Eastern Church.
In the Roman Pontifical, there are three offices of Confirmation. There is the ancient office, in which the Confirmation is said to be effected by the application of the Chrism. "Signo te signo Crucis, et confirmo te, chrismate salutis in Nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti;" and in the appendix there are two Offices of Confirmation, in which the rubric allows for a sort of stealthy or surreptitious laying on of hands, probably inserted here, as a sort of answer to criticism.
The rubric says, that when the Bishop confirms, saying: "I sign thee with the sign of the cross, and confirm thee with the chrism of Salvation, in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost," he is to lay his right hand on the head of the person he is confirming, and with his thumb anointed with chrism, makes the sign of the cross on his forehead. Can we condone this substitution of an unauthorized rite, for the Scriptural ordinance of the Laying on of Hands, and call it Confirmation?
In the Eastern Church, the oil has become so completely the confirming instrument, that a Bishop is only needed to consecrate it. It can be carried anywhere, and applied by a priest. No one pretends that a priest has any Apostolic authority to confirm, so that the Confirmation depends altogether, on the Chrism, and not on the orders of the person administering it.
But it is not so with the Laying on of Hands. When Simon Magus desired to have the power to confirm, he did not offer money for a flask of Chrism, but he said: "Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost." The Roman rite of Confirmation does not seem any more justifiable than the Eastern rite, from which the Laying on of Hands has been completely eliminated. For the Roman rite solemnly declares that the Chrism is the instrument of Confirmation. "Confirmo te Chrismate Salutis." There is a sort of stealthy laying on of hands by the Roman bishop, provided for, in the service, in the Appendix of the Pontifical.
But we have no business to attach any more importance to it, than the Roman Church does. It does not attach any virtue, or significance to it whatever. But it deliberately declares, that the application of the consecrated oil, is the confirming act.
What, then, is the duty of the Apostolic Church, when persons thus Confirmed, seek admission to its Communion? If fidelity to the teaching of Holy Scripture is a primary obligation, I do not see how we can justify a confirmation which does not profess to be effected at all, by the Laying on of Hands, but by the application of Chrism. It certainly must be doubtful to say the least, and therefore, in charity the Church should bestow an undoubtedly valid Confirmation on those coming to its communion, who have received this defective rite.
It was only very gradually that the unscriptural anointing usurped the place of the Laying on of Hands in the Western Church. Cyprian does not mention it at all in his description of Confirmation. With him, Confirmation meant the imposition of Hands. Even as late as A.D. 441, the first Council of Orange ordered that Chrism should not be administered at Confirmation, unless, from some necessary cause, it had been omitted at baptism. Centuries later, Alcuin describes Confirmation, mentions only the Laying on of Hands, and says nothing about any anointing with Chrism. "ISTovissime, per impositionem manus a summo sacerdote, septiformis gratiae Spiritum accepit."
But in the case of Romanists seeking admission to our Communion, Confirmation must be administered, not only to supply a rite which is defective, but for the further reason, that they come from a Communion which is schismatical, and heretical.
In the year 1570, the Bishop of Rome excommunicated and deposed, so far as he could, Queen Elizabeth, and cursed all who should yield obedience to her. Thus he encouraged a party to separate from the Catholic Church of England; a separation which is spoken of, by all writers at that time, as novel and unprecedented; and to this sect he sent missionaries, and vicars-apostolic, to withdraw the people from allegiance to their legitimate pastors. He, and those who followed him, separated from us.
As I have shown, the Catholic Church of England never separated itself from the rest of Christendom, or refused fraternal recognition of other Churches. We did not go out from them, but they went out from us. They have committed the sin of schism. And when the schismatic returns to the Church, he must be formally reconciled to it.
Again, the Church of Rome has been guilty of heresy. Heresy is not only the denial of the Faith; it means, also, adding to the Faith unwarrantable and false dogmas. This was the sin of those false teachers, who had perverted the Galatian Church, and whom St. Paul visits with the extreme sentence of excommunication. In addition to the Christian Faith, they had added certain requirements of the Mosaic law, such as Circumcision, as necessary to salvation. "Except ye be circumcised ye cannot be saved."
The Church has, in General Councils, set forth the Nicene Creed as the true confession of Faith. To this Faith, Rome added the so-called Creed of Pope Pius IV., A.D. 1564, in which the belief in the seven sacraments, in transubstantiation, in purgatory, in the veneration of saints and images, in indulgences, in the Roman Church- as the Mother of Churches, and in the bishop of Rome, as the successor of Peter, and the vicar of Christ; and the acceptance of all the definitions of the Council of Trent is pronounced the true Catholic faith, without which no one can be saved. To these particulars, there has been added, the dogmas of the Immaculate Conception, and of the Papal Infallibility.
If, when the Judaising teachers added to the Faith the requirement of circumcision, as necessary to salvation, St. Paul counted them accursed, we cannot hesitate to brand as heretical, those false teachings which the Roman Church has fastened on the Creed, as necessary to salvation.
And when Romanists seek admission to our Communion, it is necessary that they should be reconciled to the Church, by that solemn rite by which the Catholic Church has, from ancient days, always reconciled the schismatic and the heretic; that is to say by Confirmation.
We stand by the principles of the ancient undivided Catholic Church: When penitents returned to the Church, from heretical, or schismatical bodies, if their baptism was formally complete, it was recognized as valid. The orders of their bishops, priests, and deacons, also were recognized; but their confirmation was regarded as null and void, and they were invariably re-confirmed.
It is admitted that the heretic and schismatic were, in ancient times reconciled to the Church by the Laying on of Hands; but it has been often taken for granted, that this was a sort of benediction, or a penitential ceremony, and not Confirmation. But antiquity does not offer a shred of evidence for any such theory. In the anonymous treatise, on the re-baptism of heretics, written by some ecclesiastic attached to Stephen, bishop of Home, at the time of his contest with Cyprian, and in several of the epistles of Cyprian, the reconciling of heretics by the Laying on of Hands is mentioned again and again, and the ceremony is treated as identical with the confirmation administered by the Apostles to the Samaritans.
Sixty years after Cyprian's death, the Council of Aries orders that heretics, returning to the Church, should be reconciled by the imposition of hands, that they might receive the Holy Spirit. Siricius, bishop of Rome, writes, A.D. 384, that converts from Arianism are not to be re-baptized, but attached to the Catholic Communion, by means of the invocation of the Holy Spirit only, by imposition of the bishop's hand. Pope Innocent, A.D. 415, says, Arians are to be received into the Church, by imposition of hands to give them the Spirit. St. Augustine says that the Laying on of Hands is not, like baptism, incapable of repetition, and insists that heretics must thus be reconciled to the Church. Jerome, in his dialogue with the Luciferian, also declares that the heretics are to be received with the Laying on of Hands, and identifies the rite with the gift conferred by the Apostles on the Samaritans.
About this time, the Chrism began to be widely recognized in the Western Church as part of the Confirmation rite, and so the first Council of Orange, the second Council of Arles, and the Council of Epone declare, that heretics must be reconciled with the Chrism, and the Laying on of Hands.
We see, then, that in the Western Church, in ancient days the penitent, coming from heresy, or schism, was invariably reconciled by the rite of Confirmation. The practice of the Eastern Church was the same. The seventh Canon of the second General Council, held in Constantinople, A.D. 381, directs that heretics, whose baptism is valid, are to be reconciled to the Church, with the precise ritual, acts and words of Confirmation. They are to be anointed on the forehead, eyes, nostrils, mouth, and ears, with the Chrism, the officiant saying, "The seal of the Holy Spirit." The Council of Laodicea, Canon seven, declares that heretics are to be anointed with the Chrism, and then admitted to the Holy Communion. St. Basil, and the pseudo Justin Martyr, give the same directions, and the Quinisext Council reaffirms the decree, of the Second General Council, which I have already quoted.
Further testimony is unnecessary, as these voices are final and authoritative. Looking over the history of the Catholic Church from the age of Cyprian, to the sixth century, I cannot find, anywhere, any difference mentioned between Confirmation and the rule by which penitents were reconciled to the Church. Over, and over again, writers compare the rite, by which the heretic was admitted to the Communion, with the two cases of Confirmation mentioned in the Acts of the Holy Apostles.
There is a wide spread notion, that the penitential laying on of hands, by which the heretic was reconciled, was not Confirmation. The early church knew no such distinction. It was the invention of some obscure interpolator. It is first to be found in a letter purposing to have been sent by Pope Vigilius, A.D. 538, to Himerius. This letter speaks of the reconciliation of heretics, and in it we find this sentence: "Their reconciliation is not effected by means of that imposition of the hand, which takes place through invocation of the Holy Ghost, but by means of that imposition, by which the fruit of penitence is acquired, and the restoration to the Holy Communion is performed." The letter is a discredited document. It exists in more than one form, and has been largely interpolated in the interest of the Roman See, and the sentence I have quoted is one of these interpolations. Like many other Roman novelties, it contradicts the teaching of Cyprian, of Augustine, of Jerome, of the early councils, of the early bishops of the Roman See itself, all of whom expressly declare, that the imposition of hands is administered to the penitent heretic, for the express purpose of conveying the seven-fold gifts of the Spirit. It seems to me, therefore, that the Anglican Communion, as the guardian of Catholic tradition, and the witness of the truth, has only one course open to it, when those who have been brought up in the Roman Church, seek admission to our fold. Whereas the rite of Confirmation which they have received is so unscriptural, and defective as to be of doubtful validity, and whereas they come to us from a Communion which has separated from us, and is, therefore, guilty of schism, and which has added to the Creed false and unwarranted articles of faith, it is our duty to receive all such penitents with the rite of Confirmation, in accordance with the ancient tradition of the Catholic Church.
The independence of National Churches is one of our fundamental principles. It seems to me that often we have a very inadequate conception of the grandeur of our spiritual inheritance. Our attitude is apologetic as if our venerable Communion needed many excuses for its shortcomings.
We need apologies, indeed, because we are so unworthy of our spiritual birth-right; but the great Church of which we are such unworthy members, has nothing to take back, nothing to apologize for, nothing to be ashamed of.
It has been the faithful keeper, and witness of the Word of God, and has ministered the Sacred Scriptures to the whole English-speaking race throughout the world, which receives, and reads the Word of God, everywhere, as this Church hath interpreted it.
It has kept inviolate the Creeds of the Church, neither mutilating, nor interpolating the symbol handed down from ancient days; it has loyally followed and submitted to the ancient traditions and Canons of the Catholic Church, and has generously striven, under great provocation, to follow peace with all men, and to seek the re-union, of all who profess and call themselves Christians in one holy Catholic Church.
It has reverently preserved and obeyed the Apostolic ministry of bishops, priests, and deacons, and with a willing mind has sent forth that ministry to the ends of the earth, that the nations may, by its labors, be gathered into the flock of Christ. And it has stood in the evil day, and having suffered many things, it still stands, in its national independence, the one great bulwark against spiritual oppression, and moral corruption, the one steadfast witness of Apostolic order, of Catholic tradition, of evangelical truth.
It is, to-day, the one steadfast representative of the Catholic Church. It occupies the homestead, and to its position other men must come, from the East and the West, when the hour of re-union shall arrive.
If our Church desired to base its authority on fables, it would be an easy matter for some master of romance, to invent for it a body of Pauline claims which would offset the Petrine claims with which Rome has so successfully conjured in the past.
There is more contemporary evidence to show that St. Paul had the primacy of the whole Gentile world, and that he founded the British Church, than there is for the assertion that Peter ever visited Rome. Not a word in the account of his life, or in his writings, nor in the letters that St. Paul wrote at Rome, nor in the letter he wrote to the Romans, ever hints that Peter was within a thousand miles of the Imperial City. The Apostle had been dead more than one hundred years before anyone mentioned, so far as we know, that he had visited Rome. And one hundred years is a long time. Many a story with no basis of fact could be invented in that space of time.
All the Apostles sleep in obscure graves; the time of their departure was not a relic-worshipping age. Christians were living in constant anticipation of the coming of Christ. In their estimation, it mattered little where the saints might be sleeping. It was only for a little while. In a few days, in a year or two at most, the Resurrection would occur. Hence no pains were taken to remember or commemorate the death of the Apostles.
Some time about the middle of the second century, an Ebionite Jew, the writer of the Clementine forgeries, invented the story of Peter's visit to Rome, and in the course of a few centuries the minute details of his life there for twenty-five years, were elaborated, many of which would be a great surprise to Peter if he were to come back to us from his unknown grave in Mesopotamia.
I have often thought what an opportunity for the writer of the marvellous was lost, when the Primacy of St. Paul was not exploited! He had an Apostolic commission beyond any question, that included all the Gentiles. While the rest of the Apostles were to confine themselves to those of the circumcision, to him was committed a universal episcopate including all the nations. It was, we know, from his own confession, the ardent desire of the Apostle not only to visit Rome, but to carry the Gospel to those unknown western regions where the power of the empire was slowly extending.
We have the testimony of Clement, that after his first imprisonment at Rome, lie penetrated to the utmost bounds of the West, an expression which probably refers to Great Britain. It is possible that it was he who founded the Church in Great Britain, and the great Cathedral in London dedicated to his blessed memory may also mark the seat of the only episcopate which has any positive Oecumenical authority. But our Church rests its claims on no shadowy and superstitious figments. It stands for the Christian liberty of the whole family of Christ, and asserts the independence of national Churches.
It is a curious fact that the Roman Church virtually asserts the same principle. It sees that a majority of the cardinals shall always be Italians, so that the rights of that national Church shall at all events be secured. But if one may read the signs of the times, it is God's will that our national Church should be the spiritual heir of that Apostolic heritage committed to St. Paul. The day of the Latin race has passed away. The ghost of the old heathen empire, which has so long sat by the Tiber asserting claims to universal empire is fading out.
And it seems to be God's will that the leadership of the world should pass to the English-speaking people. Already one fourth of the inhabitants of the world are subject to its influence, and daily that influence is extending. Under God's providence, the course of human events is tending to fuse the English-speaking people into one great brotherhood, animated everywhere by the same ambitions, cherishing the same aims, and holding in common the same traditions and sympathies.
And surely it is God's will that the Church of the English-speaking race, which has given it the Bible, which has educated it until it is the foremost of the nations, has before it a grand future, whose possibilities of usefulness and beneficence are unbounded. If it can gather together the scattered sheep in one fold, if it can raise up the standard of truth, so that all who love our Lord shall flock together, and if it can show the wav where the hosts of the Redeemer can follow, to win new conquests for the Prince of Peace, how blessed shall be its mission!
It can surely do so if the men who serve it today will respond to the grandeur of their birthright. The Church needs men valiant, loyal, and obedient, to do its bidding. Its sons should be true men, knowing that they serve the Catholic Church. Its peace should be the deepest desire of their heart, and its authority their final and conclusive rule. Its rites and ceremonies must be their standard of ritual. It has all authority, and can change them at will. What it orders, therefore, what its custom or tradition may be, is the rule for the loyal.
It is the Keeper of the truth; and its interpretation of truth, its Creeds, its Orders, its Sacraments, are to its loyal sons the messages of God. All the pettiness of those internal conflicts about ritual, or minor points of doctrine, which divide men into schools, and turn their energies against each other, should be shamed into silence. In an army on the march against the foe, the soldier is a traitor who creates dissension among his comrades in the ranks.
But the Church is more than an army. It is a family, and the chivalrous tenderness, the reverence, the obedience, of sons serving their mother, should mark the attitude of the sons of the Church. Hugh James Rose rebuked John Henry Newman for his lack of that spirit ten years before the man became an apostate. His lack of the spirit of loyalty and love for the Church, his unfilial temper, was the beginning of his perversion.
Our blessed Master has left us an example. The Good Shepherd layeth down His life for the sheep, but the hireling fleeth because he is an hireling. Selfishness is his animating principle, and his thought is self, and not the Church. Christ loved the Church, and gave Himself for it.
If in this respect we can follow our Master even afar off, then the boundless opportunities which God has set before the National Church of the Anglican Communion will be seized, and the blessings it is empowered to bestow on the world as the pillar and ground of the truth, as the steadfast witness of Apostolic tradition and of Christian liberty, and as the rallying place, where men may meet and find unity and liberty, will be made so manifest that everywhere the seekers after truth will exclaim, "We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you."