DAVID HOYT, 6 STATE STREET.
LEE, MANN AND CO., PRINTERS.
A few weeks since, the author consented to the publication of two discourses, which were delivered by him in the ordinary course of pastoral duty, and which were printed as preached from the pulpit, with the addition of a few notes. Very unexpectedly he has been requested to prepare a second edition for the press, for a more general circulation, as the first edition was, for the most part, taken by subscribers. In doing this, he has thought it best to omit the close of the first discourse and the opening of the second, and thus make them, what they were originally designed to be, one continuous sermon. No addition is made, except one or two notes. The author is induced to send forth the present edition by the assurance that it will appear in a cheap tract form for gratuitous distribution. He is thoroughly convinced that the times call for line upon line, and precept upon precept, in regard to the subject which is here so imperfectly presented and discussed.
July 12, 1851.
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not
entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Galatians v: 1.
In the early ages of the Christian Church, there were many Judaizing teachers who had professedly received the Gospel, but who yet insisted upon a continued compliance with the ceremonial law, saying to believers in Christ that except they were circumcised after the manner of Moses, they could not be saved. On the contrary, it was the teaching of the Apostles, and of St. Paul in particular, that Christ had made his people free, not only from condemnation, but also from the ceremonial law; and, in the text, the Galatians are exhorted to stand fast in this liberty, and to be not again entangled with the yoke of bondage. The great Gospel doctrine of Justification by Faith had taken the place of ceremonial observances, and they were no longer under a dispensation of types and shadows. To yield to such a dispensation, therefore, under these circumstances, would be to renounce the gospel which it foreshadowed, and by which it was forever abrogated. The great Author of the Gospel had laid down the principle that whosoever believed in him should not perish, but have everlasting life; and St. Paul, speaking as he was moved by the Holy Ghost, had inculcated the same great truth, saying, that "being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ." According to this teaching, the work of man's redemption was completed when Jesus cried "It is finished," and gave up the ghost; and the benefits of the atonement thus wrought out were to be realized in individual cases by the exercise of true repentance for sin, and a lively faith in Christ as "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." This repentance and faith thus required as the conditions of salvation, were [3/4] represented as operative principles, eminently calculated to lead to practical obedience in all good works; though the inspired teachers of the Gospel were especially careful to insist that good works were the fruits of a justifying faith, but that works themselves were not of a meritorious or justifying nature. It was in strict accordance with this apostolic teaching that the twelfth Article of our Church was framed, entitled "Of Good Works," and reading as follows: "Albeit that Good Works, which are the fruits of faith, and follow after justification, cannot put away our sins and endure the severity of God's judgment; yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively faith; insomuch that by them a lively faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit."
This was the original, the primitive doctrine. But it was difficult to maintain it even in the life-time of the Apostles. It was abused by some, and perverted by others. Some contented themselves with a dead faith, a faith that the devils themselves exercise; and others because they were not under the law, but under grace, continued in sin, that grace might abound. Still the doctrine of Justification remained the same. St. Paul remonstrated, and exhorted, and reproved, and entreated; but he never preached any other doctrine than that man is saved by grace through faith; and if men abused and perverted it, theirs was the responsibility, and not his. It was a matter of course that if sinners were saved at all, it must be by grace, by undeserved favor; and the requirement of faith was a necessary one for a free moral agent, inasmuch as it was thus alone that man could acquiesce in the divine plan of redemption, and consent to his own salvation. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved," was therefore proclaimed as the great command and promise of the Gospel; and the view of man's justification which was herein involved, was the view which prevailed generally in the Church of Christ in its best and purest ages.
But, as I have said, this is a doctrine hard to maintain.--It strikes so directly at the root of human pride, that the natural heart rises in rebellion against it, and an unsanctified nature seeks a more congenial mode of securing pardon and [4/5] salvation. The idea of self-meritoriousness seems to be an inherent one in human nature; and it is this that has ever stood in the way of the doctrines of grace in Christ Jesus.
The primitive purity of the Church did not long survive the bitter persecutions that were visited upon the early Christians. Nor, indeed, was the Church ever wholly free from "erroneous and strange doctrines." The personal labors and teachings of the Apostles did not keep corruption and heresy entirely away, as we see from various portions of their Epistles. Even the divinity of Christ was called in question at a very early age, as well as the divinity and personality of the Holy Ghost; so that no longer after Christ than 325 years, the Nicene Creed was drawn up and set forth for the very purpose of reasserting and maintaining those essential doctrines of the Gospel. From the period of the conversion of the Emperor Constantine, which occurred about the year 312, the Church began to decline, with the cessation of persecution, and in close connection with the favor of the imperial throne. Although her Divine Head had expressly declared that his kingdom was not of this world, yet in an evil hour she grasped the sword of State, and became intoxicated with the love of temporal dominion. Proceeding step by step in the downward road, she was prepared, about 600 years after Christ, for the Papal supremacy, and for other usurpations and corruptions, which were the precursors and causes of that night of deep darkness which soon settled down upon the face of Christendom.
It is a most interesting and instructive fact in the history of the Church, that it was in the deepest darkness when it had the most erroneous views of the doctrine of Justification. In the ages of greatest declension, the greatest stress was laid upon human merit; and then it was that the doctrine of Justification by Faith only, gave place to penances, and pilgrimages, and indulgences, and absolutions, and monastic seclusion, and self-torture, and various other expedients, by which it was imagined that the divine favor could be merited, and heaven itself be purchased.
Thus heathen superstitions were adopted by professing Christians, and the Christian name was disgraced by the Christian Church. Idolatrous worship was offered to the [5/6] Virgin Mary; fabricated relics were reverenced as pagans reverence their gods of wood and stone; divine prerogatives were usurped by an ignorant and unholy priesthood; and the declared head of the Church on earth, claiming to be the vicegerent of Christ, and successor of St. Peter, made merchandise of the souls of men, dethroned kings, waged cruel wars, and persecuted the saints of God. So that it may be truly said that a yoke of bondage was placed upon Christians of the middle or dark ages far more intolerable than that referred to by the Apostle in the text. The ceremonial observances were of divine appointment, though designed for a particular period, to be dispensed with when that period had terminated. But the practices to which reference has been made, as existing in the Church of the dark ages, and, unhappily, not yet discarded by the Roman hierarchy, have no divine warrant or sanction, and never had any. The Papal authority itself is an usurped authority, all Bishops having been originally on an equal footing. The Virgin Mary, though pronounced "blessed" as the mother of Jesus, is no more an object of adoration than any other saint; and all invocation of herself or of other saints is not only not authorised, but forbidden, in the word of God. The doctrine of indulgences, as taught in the days of Luther, and sanctioned by a pretended infallibility, was one of the most monstrous and pernicious inventions ever imposed upon human credulity and superstition; while that of priestly absolution, in connection with auricular confession, gave a license to sin which could not fail to be seized upon by the mass of men, and turned to the most iniquitous uses. Then there was the doctrine of the sacraments, including the doctrine of transubstantiation and masses for the dead, which wholly perverts the language of our blessed Lord, gives a sensuous view of Christ and his Gospel, and leads men to rest in outward ordinances, while wholly ignorant of the life and power of true religion as a matter of inward personal experience.
Other perversions and corruptions might be named, as having disfigured and deformed the Church in past ages, and which still characterize a large portion of the nominal heritage of the Lord. But I have already specified enough to show that the liberty with which Christ makes his people free has [6/7] been wrested from multitudes calling themselves Christians, and that they have become entangled with a yoke of bondage, imposed without warrant or authority, and which has been borne with too much submission. How astonishing the fact that the Papal Church, with such palpable errors and absurdities, has been able to secure and maintain its dominion for so many ages over so large a portion of nominal Christendom, and over so many minds distinguished for their high achievements in learning and science! How surprising that the single doctrine of transubstantiation should be really received by any one who is endowed with common sense, who is capable of reading the Scriptures, and who knows, or ought to know, that the doctrine was never fully established and set forth till the twelfth century! A doctrine declared to be the doctrine of Christ and his Church, which was not openly taught till the ninth century, and, as I have said, not fully established till three hundred years afterwards! It originated in France, and when first proposed it was denied by almost all distinguished men in the Church at that period.--The dispute subsided, and little was said concerning it during the tenth century, which is usually looked upon as the darkest and the worst in ecclesiastical history. But about the middle of the eleventh century it was again revived, with a strong increase of favor on the side of superstition. [* Bishop Hopkins on the British Reformation] The deep darkness of the tenth century had been peculiarly favorable to the development of the doctrine; and after several Councils had been held on the subject, it became a settled law of the Church, and those who presumed to call it in question were anathematized and burned as heretics. The body of one distinguished individual, Amalric, who had written against it, was taken up and burned after it had been buried several years. And yet it was a novelty in the ninth century! But being finally received and enjoined by a Church claiming infallibility, it was deadly heresy to deny it!
And thus it was with other doctrines, which, taken together, constitute the yoke of Roman bondage. They crept into the Church by a gradual process of development. It being admitted that the Church was infallible, her decisions [7/8] and decrees were implicitly submitted to by the great body of the people, who, being ignorant of the Scriptures, were unable to judge for themselves. This doctrine of development, which is essential to the very being of the Church of Rome, "consists in maintaining that Christianity is a progressive system; that it existed at first in an imperfect germ only; that it has innate tendencies to growth, to gradual self-development; and that hence, those doctrines and practices of Mediaeval Christianity, of which the Bible and primitive antiquity know nothing, or which they know only to condemn, are but the results of this tendency to self-development.--They are but the germ expanded into the tree." [* The Rev. Dr. Stone.]
It is evident at once that this doctrine has a most injurious and frightful tendency. The natural inference from it is, that there has never been either error or corruption in the Church Catholic; that these are the faults of heretics and schismatics alone; that the Church of the middle ages was more perfect than the primitive Church; and that it has now a more complete system of doctrines than at any former period. By his absurd theory, of which it is difficult to speak with any degree of patience, the awful cruelties of the Inquisition are made to be as just and righteous as the setting forth of a prayer, or the appointment of a festival; for they were sanctioned by an infallible Church, which could of course do no wrong, and by which, therefore, they must be regarded as being as just and righteous now as in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. An infallible body cannot reconsider its acts, or be capable of reformation. Hence the idea of Roman infallibility must be discarded as a wretched delusion; or the ground must be taken and maintained that everything which has been ordained by the Church has been in accordance with the divine will, and with the principles of the Gospel of Christ.
The one consideration that a Church claiming infallibility cannot regard itself as capable of being reformed, had much to do with the great ecclesiastical disruptions of the sixteenth century, and constituted in itself a justification of them; for separation in defence of the truth is better than unity in error. The Protestant Reformation was simply the uprising of enlightened minds to cast off the yoke of bondage, which ages of darkness had fastened upon the Church. It was made necessary by the Romish doctrines of development and infallibility; and it was achieved by a simple appeal to the word of God, as the only infallible authority, before which Popes and Cardinals must bow, as well as the humblest mendicant that ever begged his bread. In its accomplishment, many things were done and left undone, particularly on the continent of Europe, which must be regretted by all who believe in an apostolical ministry and government for the Church of Christ; but the event itself was demanded by the circumstances of the age, and the awful corruptions of the Church; and few men have ever lived to whom the world is more deeply indebted than he who was the humble monk of Erfurth, the learned Doctor of Wittemberg, the undaunted hero of Worms, the Martin Luther of 1483.
The Roman yoke of bondage was cast off by the Church of England under somewhat different circumstances from those which characterized the Continental Reformation; which circumstances account for the undeniable fact that a purer Gospel has been and is now generally preached in England, and wherever England's Church has been planted, than in any other portion of the eastern hemisphere. I refer to the retention in England of the primitive order of the Church, to the adoption of a Scriptural liturgy, to a due appreciation of the appointed sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper; which, in connection with the preaching of the word, and the general dissemination of the Scriptures among the masses of the people, have preserved that country, in a great measure, from the blighting influences of Socinianism and Rationalism, and made it the most enlightened Christian nation in the old world. On the Continent, owing mainly to the absence of the distinguishing features of the Primitive Church, as to its order, polity and worship, the inroads of error have been numerous and melancholy. Socinianism reigns triumphant at Geneva, and Rationalism has overrun many parts of Germany. Provoked and excited by the usurpations of the Roman priesthood, the continental Reformers did not pause to separate the use from the abuse--the usurpation [9/10] of authority from the real authority which Christ committed to his Church and ministry. [* Bishop Hopkins] Hence they overthrew the whole system of ecclesiastical government, assuming the dangerous principle that no particular polity had any peculiar claims from primitive institution or practice, and regarding it as a matter of indifference what form of government was adopted, though giving the preference to what was novel and modern, rather than to what was ancient and primitive. This was a great error; it was probably the great error of the Continental Reformation; and this error was avoided by the English Reformers. They abjured Papal superstitions; but at the same time they paid proper deference to whatever was plainly apostolic and primitive. They in fact simply made the English Church what it was before it felt the bondage of the Roman yoke; for England had its Church and its Bishops, before Rome had its Pope or its Cardinals. Cranmer, Ridley and Latimer, and the whole noble army of English martyrs, with the help of the civil powers, only re-established the independence of the Church of England. They created no new Church, and no new polity or ministry. The Church to which they belonged was more ancient than the Papacy itself, and was not indebted to the Papacy for her Christianity. Her Bishops long refused submission to the Pope, though in process of time that submission was yielded. But let us thank God that in due time she asserted her rights and secured her emancipation; and let us rejoice that as being identical with that Church, so far as order and doctrine are concerned, we are in a Church that can point to a primitive age as the time of her origin, and that includes in her doctrinal standards the sum and substance of the Gospel of Christ.
My brethren, I am glad to reiterate what I have said on other occasions, that I honor, from my very heart, the noble old Church of England; not as a mere legal establishment, but as a true branch of the Primitive Church of Christ, in her doctrines, order, and worship. I honor her for her venerable antiquity; for her faithful defence of primitive and Scriptural truth; for her firm adherence to the simplicity of the [10/11] Gospel; for her vast exertions in extending the Redeemer's kingdom; I honor her, and I honor her children. And it is to my mind one of the most interesting and attractive features of this congregation, that it includes so many of the sons and daughters of the parent Church of England. They are children of a worthy and venerated mother; and we may rejoice together that we have such a noble parentage; that, through her, the faith once delivered to the saints has come down to us; and that in her we have that blessed liberty wherewith Christ makes his people free!
Let us stand fast, therefore, in this liberty, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. There are intimations of God's providence which seem to point to a struggle yet to come between the spirit of Protestantism and the spirit of Popery,--between the blessed doctrine of Justification by Faith, and that of justification by human merit and outward ordinances. Spiritual religion and formalism are even now engaged in a contest which is full of interest to every disciple of Christ, and to every friend of his race. England itself, while thousands upon thousands are thronging towards its great metropolis, to witness the products of a world's industry and ingenuity, England is at this moment the scene of an excitement, unparalleled since the full establishment of its Protestant character; an excitement arising from a Papal movement of an extraordinary nature, and occasioned by extraordinary circumstances, by which it is made evident that the hope is indulged by the Papal authorities that England will again come under their dominion, and once more acknowledge the supremacy and sovereignty of the Roman See.
To this interesting subject it is now my purpose to invite your attention. In deciding to make it a theme of pulpit remark, I have chiefly in view the numerous portion of the congregation who had their baptism and early training in the United Church of England and Ireland, some of whom have expressed a desire for information on the subject, and all of whom must be interested in every event that concerns the Church and the land of their fathers.
The movement to which reference is made, is the appointment of a Cardinal in England, who is also made an Archbishop, with the title of "Archbishop of Westminster;" a [11/12] proceeding unprecedented in that country since the time of the Reformation, and undoubtedly prompted by the great leniency which in late years has been manifested towards the members of the Romish Church in England and Ireland by the Government, and hastened by certain events in the English Church itself.
Concerning the policy of the British Government, in removing certain civil disabilities from Roman Catholics, by which their influence in the realm has been much increased, it is not my purpose to speak, except to say, in passing, that while such a policy seems to us the only one dictated by enlightened and tolerant views, it is yet attended with many difficulties and disadvantages in a country where there is a legal Church Establishment, against which Romanists are bound to contend as a schismatical and heretical body. England is declared Protestant by law; and to admit to her Parliament those who feel it to be their duty to overthrow every vestige of Protestantism, is certainly an inconsistency and a contradiction. In order to have perfect toleration in that or in any country, there must be no legal Church Establishment; though under existing circumstances, the Established Church of England is undoubtedly favorable to the preservation of Protestantism, and to the general interests of religion throughout the world.
But the chief encouragement which the Papal powers have received with reference to England and the English Church has without doubt arisen from a peculiar movement within the Church itself, by which its history has been marked during the last seventeen or eighteen years. The laws excluding Roman Catholics from public office were repealed in the year 1829; and in the year 1833 a series of publications was commenced at Oxford by Clergymen of the Church of England, for the avowed purpose of reviving ancient Church doctrines and practices, and strengthening and deepening the tone of Church feeling and principles. These publications, which are generally known as the "Oxford Tracts," were put forth in rapid succession; and in the course of three or four years they became the occasion of much controversy in the Church. The ground assumed by the writers, of whom the Reverend Doctor Pusey was the chief, was materially different from [12/13] that which had been occupied by the great majority of English divines from the time of the Reformation, and became the occasion of much anxiety and alarm to many who saw its legitimate and evident tendency. The series was continued until the year 1841, when the ninetieth Tract made its appearance, the object of which was to show that the collective doctrines of the Church of Rome might be substantially held by those who had subscribed the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England. This teaching was so utterly at variance with the standards and general sentiment of the English Church, that the Bishop of Oxford, who had all along regarded the Tractarian movement with too much favor, felt it his duty to interpose his official authority; and through his influence the publication of the Tracts was discontinued.
But the effect of these works, coming from learned and exemplary men, and inculcating views that have peculiar attractions for the human heart, was most evident and decided.--In some instances they were probably the means of imparting more adequate conceptions of the Church and ministry of Christ than were previously entertained. Some minds realized as they never had before that the Church had an existence and possessed prerogatives apart from the laws of the land, and that the ministry had a commission and an authority that came from Christ himself as the Great Head of the Church. But while these concessions may be made, it can yet hardly be denied that the general effect of this movement has been most unfavorable to the true Protestant character of the English Church. The doctrines which were put forth respecting the precise powers and prerogatives of the Episcopal office, and of the ministry in general;--the value of traditional customs in the Church, and of tradition as an evidence of matters of faith;--Regeneration as actually conveyed by Baptism; [* The Tractarian view of Baptism, in the case of Infants, is, apparently, the opus operatum view of the Romish Church, and it is this view only that the author would designate as having a direct tendency to Romanism.]--and the Lord's Supper as a literal communication of the body and blood of Christ;--these doctrines, and others intimately connected with them, having a direct tendency to Romanism, could not be received and believed without creating a strong sympathy for that corrupt system [13/14] of religion. The Tractarian writers actually "maintained the weakness of many Protestant arguments against Popery, and would have confined the discussion to such points as the denial of the cup to the laity; the necessity of the intention of the priest; the necessity of Confession; the unwarranted anathemas of Rome; purgatory; the invocation of saints; the worship of images; and throughout, the practice rather than the theory. They granted that all must be received, if taught by Scripture, as interpreted by tradition. They allowed that the English Church was incomplete and deficient. They professed that it was Reformed, not Protestant." [* Church Review for April, 1851.] They put forth most extravagant views of the Sacraments. They favored prayers for the dead. "They published extracts from the Roman Breviary, and appended imitations adapted to the commemoration of modern saints." They inculcated extraordinary doctrines in regard to Christ's incarnation. [* The late work of Archdeacon Wilberforce on the Incarnation, which has been quite extensively circulated in this country, though containing much that is sound and Scriptural, is justly criticized by one of our most learned and judicious divines, a Professor in our General Theological Seminary, as maintaining a "species of theology" which he regards as "tending to certain Romish errors, which our Church, in common with all Protestantism, plainly repudiate.] They recommended a system of reserve in communicating religious knowledge, and discouraged the exercise of private judgment in matters of religious faith. They extolled practices which originated in the dark ages, and professed to have made the wonderful discovery that what are usually termed dark ages were not so dark as some that succeeded them. They discarded the Protestant doctrine of Justification. They lost sight, in a great measure, of the truth set forth in the Nineteenth Article that the Church of Rome has erred, not only in her living and manner of ceremonies, but also in matters of faith. Indeed, they actually deprecated the Articles, or else gave them a non-natural sense, turning them from their original design and intention, and forcing them into some degree of conformity with doctrines that were distinctly Romish.
Under these circumstances, it would have been strange indeed if all who embraced the Tractarian views should have remained contented and happy in communion with the [14/15] Protestant Church of England. Common honesty would prevent those who actually or virtually condemned the Reformation, from continuing in a Church that took an active part in the Reformation, and even expressed her sympathy for the non-Episcopal Reformers on the Continent. And so it came to pass that some of the most prominent of the Oxford divines found themselves obliged for the sake of consistency, and from the indissoluble connection between cause and effect, to give in their adhesion to the Church of Rome; and up to the present time more than a hundred clergymen of the English Church have taken the same fearful step. [* Up to the present time the number is about one hundred and thirty.]
One of the most recent of these defections is that of seven clergymen in the city of Leeds, five of whom were connected with a Church, called St. Saviour's, of which Dr. Pusey himself is the Patron. They had adopted the peculiar views which are associated with his name, and for which he is so fearfully responsible, and went on, step by step, until he himself was unable to restrain them from carrying out the system to its natural result; and the only wonder is that he did not accompany them in their apostacy. He still remains in the English Church, and has expressed his purpose to die in its communion; but, although he is represented as an exemplary and devout man, it would be a happy thing for the Church, promotive of its true peace and prosperity, if himself and all who have embraced his system of theology, it being essentially Romish, should openly avow themselves accordingly, and enter the Papal Church. We can honor and respect a sincere and honest Romanist, notwithstanding his errors; but in regard to Romanists in disguise, we can have no other feelings than those of indignation mingled with contempt.
[* That a man is "devout" and in many respects "exemplary" in his daily life, affords no assurance either that he is not in error of doctrine, or in inconsistency of conduct. Both "deceivers," and those "deceived" may be apparently "devout" in worship, and in outward actions "exemplary." It is of course desirable that such errorists as Dr. Pusey should return to the good old paths of the Church; but it would be better for all such to leave a Protestant communion than to remain in it with views and practices essentially Romish.]
The profession of faith used on the occasion of the secession at Leeds, was, in part, as follows:
"I most steadfastly admit and embrace Apostolical and [15/16] Ecclesiastical Traditions, and all other observances and constitutions of the Holy Roman Catholic Church.
"I also admit the Holy Scriptures, according to that sense which our holy mother the Church has held, and does hold, to which it belongs to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the Scriptures; neither will I ever take and interpret them otherwise than according to the unanimous consent of the fathers.
"I also profess that there are truly and properly seven sacraments or the new law, instituted by Jesus Christ, our Lord, and necessary for the salvation of mankind, though not all for every one: to wit, baptism, confirmation, the eucharist, penance, extreme unction, order and matrimony: and that they confer grace: and that of these, baptism, confirmation, and order, cannot be reiterated without sacrilege. I also receive and admit the received and approved ceremonies of the Catholic Church, used in the solemn administration of the aforesaid sacraments.
"I embrace and receive all and every one of the things which have been defined and declared in the holy Council of Trent, concerning original sin and justification.
"I profess likewise, that in the mass there is offered to God a true, proper, and propitiatory sacrifice for the living and the dead. And that in the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist, there is truly, really, and substantially, the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ: and that there is made a conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the body, and of the whole substance of the wine into the blood; which conversion the Catholic Church calls transubstantiation. I also confess, that under either kind alone Christ is received whole and entire, and a true sacrament.
"I constantly hold that there is a purgatory, and that the souls therein detained are helped by the suffrages of the faithful.
"Likewise, that the Saints, reigning together with Christ, are to be honored and invocated, and that they offer prayers to God for us, and that their relics are to be had in veneration.
"I most firmly assert, that the images of Christ, of the [16/17] mother of God, ever virgin, and also of other saints, ought to be had and retained, and that honor and veneration are to be given them.
"I also affirm, that the power of indulgences was left, by Christ in the Church, and that the use of them is most wholesome to Christian people.
"I acknowledge the Holy, Catholic, Apostolic, Roman Church for the mother and mistress of all Churches: and I promise true obedience to the Bishop of Rome, successor to St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles, and Vicar of Jesus Christ.
"I likewise undoubtedly receive and profess all other things delivered, defined, and declared by the sacred Canons and General Councils, and particularly by the Holy Council of Trent. And I condemn, reject and anathematize all things contrary thereto, and all heresies which the Church has condemned, rejected and anathematized.
"I do at this present freely profess, and sincerely hold this true Catholic faith, without which none can be saved: and I promise most constantly to retain and confess the same entire and unviolated, with God's assistance, to the end of my life."
It was in the midst of circumstances and events like those now referred to, that the Roman authorities very naturally concluded that the time had arrived for a bold and decided demonstration on British soil; and, consequently, in the month of September, 1850, the Rev. Dr. Wiseman, a distinguished and learned divine of that Church, was declared a Cardinal and Archbishop of Westminster.
In our own country, an announcement like this would produce no general excitement, Romish Archbishops having for years been exercising the functions of their office in our midst; but in England, where Protestantism is a part of the very laws of the realm, and where from the period of the Reformation no Romish Bishop has been allowed to assume any local title, the excitement consequent upon this extraordinary movement has been very general and intense. Public meetings have been held, with noblemen as their presiding officers, and resolutions and addresses of the most decided character have indicated that the masses of Englishmen are still true to their National Church, and determined to resist [17/18] the encroachments of Popery. The subject has been brought before Parliament, and the prospect now is that an act will be passed in opposition to the Papal aggression, and in defence of the Established Church and the Queen's Supremacy. [* Whatever legislation on this subject may take place in Parliament, the safety of England and of the English Church must depend chiefly upon the intelligence of the people, and the faithful preaching of the simple Gospel.]--Meanwhile, the Queen, in compliance with the petition of more than two hundred members of the two houses of Parliament, and of more than three hundred thousand lay members of the Church of England, has requested the Archbishop of Canterbury, to adopt such measures as are within his reach, to maintain the purity of the doctrines of the Church, and to prevent innovation in the mode of conducting the Church service, not sanctioned by usage, and calculated to create dissatisfaction among the members of the Church.--In fulfilment of this request, the two Archbishops and all the Bishops, except three or four, have united in an address to the Clergy, in which the ceremonial innovations referred are discountenanced, and the Clergy exhorted to adhere to the general customs and usages of the Church.
[* It is to be deeply regretted that the Episcopal document to which reference is made above should fall so far short of what is demanded of the English Bishops in the present emergency. It does not strike at the root of the evil, which consists not mainly in ceremonies, but in errors of opinion and doctrine, which errors are manifested by certain ceremonial peculiarities. It may not be improper to add that the course of some of our own Bishops in regard to Tractarianism is also a matter of great regret. Though it is stated that but one (the suspended Bishop of New York) has given the Oxford Tracts an explicit official approval, yet too many have failed to utter a warning voice against them.]
Thus the matter now stands. What the final issue will be, God only knows. We cannot believe that any general defection will take place in the English Church. Thus far the defections have occurred chiefly among the Clergy; while the Laity, in proportion to their number, have been far less affected by Tractarian theology and Romanizing tendencies.--The same is also the case in this country, where the Oxford Tracts have been republished, and the views which they set forth quite extensively received. In Ireland this theology has met with a cool reception, scarcely any of the Protestant Clergy or Laity there having embraced it. The Protestants of that country are so familiar with the corruptions of the Papal system, and the cruel intolerance of the Papal priests [18/19] and people, that they have no inclinations or tendencies in that direction; so that none are less likely than they to be entangled again with the yoke of Roman bondage. God bless the Protestants of Ireland! They are a noble band, who have long contended manfully for the faith once delivered to the saints, and are at this moment more generally true and faithful to their professed principles than any other portion of the English Establishment. May they ever stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made them free, and show for generations to come, as they have in generations past, by the strong contrast between their social and spiritual condition, and that of their Romish neighbors and fellow-citizens, the great superiority of Protestant principles and institutions over those of the dark and degrading system of Popery!
In our own country, the influence of Tractarianism has been less manifest than in England, but sufficiently so to excite much division and controversy. [* While the effects of Tractarianism have been less manifest in this country than in England, the actual proportion of defections here has been about the same as in that country.] Though but twelve of our Clergy have entered the Papal Church, yet our former unity has been seriously broken, and our progress somewhat hindered. Old landmarks have been removed, new tests of Churchmanship have been applied, and the hearts of brethren have been alienated. The novelties of Oxford have disturbed our peace. [* Bishop Hopkins.] The good old paths in which our fathers were content to walk have by many been deserted; and now those who are not the most tolerant and moderate, and not the least exclusive and bigoted, are in some quarters regarded as the best Churchmen, while all others are looked upon with too much suspicion and distrust. We may hope, however, that the crisis has been passed, that the state of things in England will modify the views and feelings of many in our own Church, and that we shall yet enjoy some measure of our former harmony and peace. In order to have harmony and peace among ourselves, and to avoid still more serious contentions and divisions, there must be more mutual love and charity; and those who have adopted the Oxford system, or who are favorably inclined towards it, must desist [19/20] from their apparent determination to make their extreme views the test of doctrinal orthodoxy and of consistent Churchmanship. It is but reasonable that the first and chief yielding should come from those who have adopted unusual views of the Gospel and the Church; while those who have remained stationary in their theology and their Churchmanship should exercise great kindness and forbearance, and let their moderation be known unto all men. Just previous to the Tractarian movement, our whole Church was in a happy and enviable condition; and even now it is steadily increasing throughout the country. The general tone of Churchmanship was of a moderate and healthy character, being sufficiently "high" to make us consistent with our standards, and sufficiently "low" to keep us from a cold and lifeless formalism. This same tone must again pervade our ministry, our sermons and newspapers, our books and tracts,--or we shall look in vain for the return of quietness and peace. Until we can all unite upon reasonable and moderate views, controversy will be inevitable; nor is freedom from controversy to be desired until truth prevails and error is driven away. Religious controversy is in itself a great evil; but a quiet, peaceful, harmonious unity in religious error is a far greater evil. Christ and his Apostles thought so when they disturbed the peace of the world by the introduction of the everlasting Gospel. The English and Continental Reformers thought so when they disturbed the peace of Christendom by attacking, and resisting, and renouncing the corruptions and superstitions of the Papacy. And those now think so who are opposing what they believe to be the revival of an erroneous and discarded system in the midst of a Reformed and Protestant Church.
But, my Christian brethren, as I have said, it is to be hoped that we have passed the crisis in our ecclesiastical affairs, and that Romanizing tendencies in the English Church and in our own will be less prevalent in time to come than they have been for a few years past. When all who are Romanists at heart shall have gone to their own place, and those who are entertaining Romish sympathies shall awake from their strange delusion, our Church will again arise and shine, and prove, as in days gone by, the strongest and most effectual [20/21] barrier against Romish errors and usurpations, and the great bulwark of the Protestant faith and the simple Gospel. We may rest assured that no Christian body in the world possesses greater facilities for opposing Romanism than the Protestant Episcopal Church of England and of the United States. No doctrinal standards can be found in all Christendom in which Romanism is so pointedly and uncompromisingly attacked and discarded as in our own Thirty-nine Articles, and in our "glorious old Homilies." [* Bishop Eastburn] Hence the practice in some quarters, already alluded to, of undervaluing and deprecating these noble and Scriptural standards. They are so unequivocally Protestant, that they are distasteful and offensive to those who are infected with the virus and contagion of Rome. So that we have only to be true to our own standards, in order to avoid all Romish tendencies and sympathies, and to defend and disseminate the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Let us not then distrust but stand by a Church that has such claims upon our affection and support. Let us stand by her in all time of her tribulation, as well as in all time of her prosperity. Notwithstanding her present disturbances and commotions, [* The Protestant Episcopal Church, notwithstanding its present internal distractions, has not proceeded to open disruption, as has been the case with nearly all the other Protestant bodies in the United States. It is probably doing more at the present time to promote the union of the States, than any other ecclesiastical system. Some writer has said that "the Episcopal Church is the only body which can be truly said to have a national existence." The continuance of our ecclesiastical unity, and of our consequent conservative influence in the country at large, must depend in no small degree upon a return to moderate views on the part of those who have embraced the theology of Tractarianism. The great body of Episcopalians cannot be expected to unite upon any other than moderate grounds; nor is it desirable that they should.] she is a true branch of the Church of Christ; and let us never desert her, unless she deserts the faith of Christ crucified, unless she proves false to her trust, and denies, in her very standards of doctrine, the truth she has so long and so nobly defended. All Christian bodies have their days of division and controversy; and even proud Rome is not in all respects as a city that is at unity in itself. It is our wisdom and our strength to cling to the Church of our love, and labor and pray for its purity and prosperity.--So long as our standards remain as they are, or essentially [21/22] unchanged, we should adhere firmly to the Church, whatever may be the errors, vagaries, or follies of individual Bishops, Clergymen, or Laymen. Undoubtedly the great body of Episcopalians continue as sound as ever in the Protestant faith, and will remain firm and decided in their adherence to the principles of the Reformation. Rome may take courage because she sees some looking towards her with a favorable eye; but she is doomed to disappointment, if she expects the return of England to her dominion, or of England's Church to her corruptions. A struggle has commenced, and it may be long and desperate. Gradually losing her power and influence everywhere else, Rome turns with longing desire to England and America. By extraordinary measures, there and here, she fondly hopes to make good her losses in other portions of the world. Multitudes in Ireland are deserting her ranks, and seeking refuge among the various Protestant bodies, and particularly in the Protestant Church of England. In Italy itself the people are discontented with their civil and religious condition, and even the very person of the Pope is in jeopardy in the city of Rome. In other Papal countries the Papal power has sensibly declined, and the Papal influence been materially impaired. And under these circumstances, emboldened too by events already referred to, and perceiving that England and America are the great controlling powers of Christendom, the attempt has been begun, and will undoubtedly be persevered in, to extend the Papal dominion over the fairest portions of the heritage of the Lord, which owe their present preeminence to Protestant principles and institutions, and whose brightest hopes and prospects are identified with their preservation and perpetuity.
My brethren, I entertain no unkind or bitter feelings towards Roman Catholics as individuals. I have no doubt that many among them are kept by God's grace from the dangerous and fundamental errors of the system with which they are connected, and live and die as humble disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. Neither have I any doubt that among the various bodies of nominal Protestants there are many, on the other hand, who have the leaven of Popery in their hearts. But what I would contend against is the Papal system, in all its forms and modifications. Individual [22/23] Romanists may be devout Christians, having a personal faith in Christ, and walking closely with God; while the Romish system, as such, is a perversion of the Gospel, a corruption of the Primitive Church, and, as the immortal Hooker calls it, "the mystery of the man of sin." It has always been, and must always be, a system of intolerance, and bigotry, and persecution; and wherever it bears sway, it pursues and crushes those who stand out against it. It may, indeed, as another [* Melvill] has expressed it, wear "the variable appearance of the chameleon," ostensibly adapting itself to times, and circumstances, and civil institutions; but it has invariably "the venom of the serpent. Make peace with Popery," he continues, "if you will, shrine it in your Churches, plant it in your hearts; but be ye certain, certain as that there is a heaven above you, and a God over you; that the Popery thus honored and embraced, is the very Popery that was degraded and loathed by the holiest of your fathers,--the very Popery--the same in intolerance--which lorded it over kings, assumed the prerogatives of the Deity, crushed human liberty, and slew the saints of God." Its very claims and principles make it incapable of change or reformation; and it is now what it always has been, and always must be, as a distinct and defined system, until its very foundations are removed and superseded, the enemy of the cross of Christ, of the best interests of humanity, and of the true Church of the living God.
Entertaining these views, it is cheering to know that although the divisions and separate organizations among Protestants are too favorable to the increase of Popery, with its one supreme temporal head, and its consequent power of concentration, yet the proportion of the Protestant population of the world was never so great as at the present time. Fifty years ago, it was estimated that the whole number of Romanists in the world was one hundred millions, the number of Protestants forty-four millions, and of Greeks and Armenians, thirty millions; while now the Romanists are estimated at about one hundred and sixty-five millions, the Protestants at one hundred millions, and the Greek, Armenian, and other [23/24] oriental Christians, at sixty-five millions. From which it appears that the whole number of nominal Christians on the globe is three hundred and thirty millions, out of a population of about one billion. According to this estimate, the Greek and Oriental Churches have more than doubled in fifty years; the Protestants have doubled once, and almost half doubled again; while the Romanists lack thirty-five millions of having doubled once. In the year 1800, the Romanists bore rule over about one hundred and twenty millions of people; the Protestant rule scarcely exceeded twenty millions; and the Greek was less than thirty millions. Now the Romish sway extends over about one hundred and sixty-five millions; the Protestant, two hundred and twenty-five millions; and the Greek, about seventy-five millions. England alone bears sway over one hundred and fifty millions of people, or nearly one-sixth of the population of the globe; though fifty years since, the whole British Empire embraced but about fifteen millions. Over this vast multitude the English language and the English Church are exerting their influence. This includes, of course, the British Possessions in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America. So that while the Papal Church includes a greater number than all the Protestant bodies united, yet a far smaller number are under Roman Catholic than under Protestant governments, and the whole population of the Papal Church is equalled by the Christians who reject its authority. It should here be added that the large number, and even the general unity, of the Romish Church are no proof of its superiority in any other particulars; for Paganism, with its general unity, numbers not only far more than Popery, but twice the population of all Christendom.--On the American Continent, the population of the Roman Catholic countries has not doubled in fifty years; while that of the Protestant countries has doubled nearly four times. If the same proportional increase continues for fifty years to come, the population of what are now Roman Catholic countries will be less than thirty-five millions; while that of the Protestant countries will be three hundred and fifty millions. [* For most of the foregoing statistics the writer is indebted to the Church Review, the April number of which contains much valuable information on this subject, as well as an article of great interest and ability, entitled, "From A. D. 1829 to A.D. 1850," and giving a remarkably comprehensive view of the Tractarian movement in England and the United States.]
 With the increase of religious knowledge, of civil freedom, and intellectual education, the influence of Romanism will experience a still greater decline; and even in those countries where it shall continue to predominate, its legitimate effects upon human society will be essentially modified by the sprit of Protestantism. Let it therefore be our determination, not only to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, but to do all in our power to extend far and wide the pure principles and the beneficent institutions of the Protestant Religion. Let us set our faces like a flint against "Popery in flower and Popery in bud." [*Lord Ashley's Speech at the Lay Meeting in London, Dec. 5, 1850.] Let us ever be ready to avow our hostility to the spirit of Romanism, wherever we may discover it, or under whatever disguises it may present itself to us. While we cannot but reject many doctrinal and ecclesiastical systems that are included under the name Protestant, yet let us show that our sympathies are most decidedly with Protestants, as a body, rather than with Romanists; [* There are some professedly Christian bodies, included under the general term Protestant, whose doctrinal systems may be as unscriptural as that of Rome. But the great mass of Protestants agree substantially in holding the doctrines of the Thirty-nine Articles. It is a happy thing, however, that we are not obliged to leave our own Church for any other communion. To whom should we go? Still we must place doctrine before order.] and while we fully acknowledge and appreciate the disadvantages which arise from the variance, and divisions, and heresies, among Protestants, let us not hesitate to declare our preference even for the present discordant state of Protestant Christendom, rather than for the forced uniformity of the dark ages, and the gross corruptions of the Papal Church. Let us discountenance all views, sentiments, and practices, which have a legitimate and direct tendency towards Romanism; such as those views of the Christian Church which utterly exclude from it all who lack what we deem essential to its complete outward organization; those views of the Christian ministry which make it a sacrificing, mediating and absolving Priesthood; those views of the Christian Sacraments which either actually or virtually invest them with an inherent and invariable spiritual efficacy; [* The writer is fully convinced that the only safe and Scriptural view of the Sacraments is the Protestant view, as set forth in the Articles of our Church, which must be regarded as interpreting the Offices, the Articles being the most recent. According to this view, as stated by Bishop Griswold, "Baptism represents the new birth in like manner as the Lord's Supper does the body and blood of Christ: and the outward part and the thing signified are not more necessarily connected in the one sacrament, than in the other." The Catechism gives but one definition for the word Sacrament. Our standards wholly discard the opus operatum views of the Romish Church; and in bestowing the "outward and visible sign in the Sacraments our Church assumes that the conditions upon which the inward and spiritual grace" is contingent, are always duly complied with.] and [25/26] all other views, principles or customs, which have even a remote connection with Papal superstitions, and which are inconsistent with an honest and true Protestantism. It is thus only that we can make it manifest, especially in times like the present, that it is our full purpose to stand fast in the liberty of the Gospel, and not to be entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
I have thus, my brethren, though in a very hasty and imperfect manner, placed before you a subject of great interest and importance, and one which may yet demand of all true Protestants in England and America still more serious attention than seems to be required at the present time. I have, as I trust, presented it in no unkind or unchristian feeling, but with a sincere desire to be true to the Church of which I am a minister, and to give you such information and instruction as may guide you aright in these days of division and controversy. I am no friend to the doctrine of reserve in the communication of religious knowledge or of religious intelligence. It is my heart's desire and prayer to God, that as a congregation you may keep on in the old paths of the Protestant Episcopal Church, turning neither to the right hand nor to the left, opposing all novelties and innovations, and standing by the simple truth as it is in Jesus. This course in time past, under other and abler ministrations, has made you what you are,--a large, and prosperous, and influential congregation. Stand fast, therefore, in those principles which have thus far characterized you as a parish, and which are the principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and of the Church to which you belong; principles with which I for one, as a minister of Christ and his Church, am determined, by God's grace, to "sink or swim, live or die, survive or perish;" principles to which I am fully committed, and by which I shall stand, though I should stand alone; principles which are interwoven with the very [26/27] texture of my being, and which I can no more surrender, than I can surrender my own conscience; principles which, drawn from God's word, I imbibed from parental lips, and from the teachings of the meek and sainted Griswold; and which, being my comfort in life, I trust will be my support in death, and my joy in eternity. And it is to these principles that I call upon you to cling, and for which I beseech you to contend, whenever you see them exposed to peril. Many of you are sons and daughters of the mother Church of England, and have crossed the wide ocean to find a home for yourselves and your children in this land of your adoption.--To you I especially appeal on this occasion, and exhort you to stand fast in the principles in which you have been instructed from your baptism; principles which are the glory and strength of England, as well as the hope of unhappy Ireland. Stand fast in your Protestantism, and in your love for the Protestant Church of your fathers. In the language of one of your own eloquent divines, [* Melvill] from whom I have already quoted, "The spirits of departed worthies, who witnessed a good confession, and counted not their lives dear, so that truth might be upheld, bend down, one might think, from their lofty dwelling place, and mark our earnestness in defending the faith once delivered to the saints. O, if they could hear our voice, should it not tell them, that there are yet many in the Church, emulous of their zeal, and eager to tread in their steps; ready, if there come a season big with calamity, to gird themselves for the defence of Protestantism in her last asylum, and to maintain, in the strength of the living God, that system which they wrought out with toil, and cemented with blood? Yes, illustrious immortals! ye died not in vain. Mighty group! there was lit up at your massacre a fire which is yet unextinguished; from father to son has the sacred flame been transmitted: and though in the days of our security, that flame may have burnt with a diminished lustre, yet let the watchmen sound an alarm, and many a mountain-top shall be red with the beacon's blaze, and the noble vault of your resting-place grow illumined with the flash. Repose ye in your deep tranquility, [27/28] spirits of the martyred dead! We know something of the worth of a pure Gospel, and a free Bible: and we will bind ourselves by the name of Him who liveth and abideth for ever, to strive to preserve unimpaired the privileges bequeathed at such cost. The spirit of Protestantism may have long lain dormant, but it is not extinct: it shall be found in the hour of the Church's peril, that there are yet bold and true-hearted men within her pale, who count religion dearer than substance; and who, having received from their fathers a charter of faith, stained with the blood of the holiest and the best, would rather dye it afresh in the tide of their own veins, than send it down, torn and mutilated, to their children."
Beloved brethren, one and all, "stand fast, therefore, in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage." Be zealous for the truth of God, and give all diligence to make your own calling and election sure. Learn to discriminate between the true and the false; prove all things, and hold fast that which is good. Take nothing upon trust that you hear from the lips or read from the pen of fallible man; but, like the ancient Bereans, search the Scriptures daily, to know the certainty of those things wherein ye are instructed. Bring every thing to the test of that only rule of faith and practice, and take, as your best human interpreter and guide, the Book of Common Prayer; ever imploring the illuminating influences of the Holy Spirit, and receiving with meekness the ingrafted word, which is able to save your souls. Above all, look unto Jesus as your Wisdom, and Righteousness, and Sanctification, and Redemption; and then, when you have passed away from the Church on earth, you shall be received into the general assembly and Church of the first-born, whose names are written in heaven.