Reverend and dear Brethren:
YOUR names are not before the world, in your editorial capacity. But I believe you are all young men, and assuredly the periodical paper which, during more than a year, you have given to the Church, is stamped with a high order of talent and ability. Moreover, this has been happily united to a commendable spirit of Christian kindliness and courtesy; and from such a combination it is easy to augur a strong, and I trust a salutary influence. I speak not thus as a matter of compliment, because you deserve no credit for the powers which the Almighty has seen fit to bestow upon you. On the contrary, I hold that the possession of those powers involves a solemn responsibility, in precise proportion to their extent and value. For, "of those to whom much is given, much will also be required;" and the servant who received five talents had five times as much to account for, as the servant who but received one. The measure of your intellectual abilities is determined by the will of God. It is the use you make of it for which you have to answer. And therefore it results that just so far as it has pleased the Lord to give you a capacity beyond others to edify His Church, so far you must be accountable beyond others if you lead her into error.
I am ready however, to give you credit for a higher and a rarer quality, for I trust that you have Christian grace and wisdom sufficient to receive, in a proper spirit, a few pages of friendly remonstrance from one who loves you well, and who deems it his duty to oppose certain views which you have ably and ingenious supported in your generally excellent and unexceptionable paper. At all events, there are some special aspects in my position, which justify me in this conclusion. For you are young, and I am old. With you, the morning sun is rising upwards to its meridian. With me, the day-star is fast declining in the West, and must, ere long, set below the horizon. Your counsels to the Church will probably continue for many years. Mine are most likely to be a parting legacy. I think you will allow that these differences of circumstance, to say nothing of my office, give me a fair claim to your serious consideration. Take then, I pray you, in good part, what I have to say; and believe that I am influenced as truly by regard for you, as by my anxiety for that precious religion, which we are all equally pledged to maintain, to the utmost of our power.
The topic which I propose to treat is the deeply important question involved in the charge made against the present zealous and worthy Bishop of Jerusalem. In aiding his accusers by your support, you have been, apparently, led to your position by those learned and able writers in our beloved mother-Church of England, who are commonly known as the Tractarian Party. The establishment of the Church in Jerusalem was opposed by them at the outset, because they conceived it to be an act of schism against the pre-existing rights of the Oriental Churches. Failing in their opposition to the measure itself, they succeeded in persuading the former Archbishop of Canterbury, the amiable and excellent Dr. Howley, to give instructions to Bishop Alexander, the first occupant of the See, which excluded all interference with the Eastern Patriarchs, or with those who were under their ecclesiastical jurisdiction. The same counsels were enforced by Lord Aberdeen, the then foreign Secretary of the British Cabinet, and Bishop Alexander acceded to their propriety, and observed them to his dying day. The present Bishop, Dr. Gobat, succeeded him. The present Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Sumner, succeeded Dr. Howley. No new instructions were given. No new pledges were made. But Bishop Gobat has sent out certain Scripture-readers, whose labors have resulted in convincing many of the Oriental Christians that their own Churches were corrupted by idolatry and superstition, and that the Church of England was pure. On their application, he has received these proselytes to his communion. The Eastern prelates are alarmed and indignant. The Tractarian theologians of England have enlisted in their defence, and accuse Bishop Gobat of having violated the pledges imposed on his predecessor. They have gone so far as to address a solemn Protest to the Eastern Patriarchs, in which they condemn Bishop Gobat, and assure them that his schismatic course is not in accordance with the voice of the Church of England. The four Archbishops of the English and Irish Church have thereupon united in a formal disapproval of this Protest, as being entirely without authority, and deny that Bishop Gobat has done aught worthy of censure. And the Protesters, instead of acquiescing in this act of their ecclesiastical superiors, arraign it before the public without stint, and continue their accusation against the Bishop of Jerusalem. Now you, my brethren, have seen fit to take part in this controversy, very needlessly, in my opinion. And you have chosen the Tractarian side of the question. The matter has therefore become a topic of agitation among ourselves, on which I consider it my duty to express my deliberate judgment. And this judgment, I can most truly say--whether it be right or otherwise--is at least formed without the slightest party-feeling, and on a long and careful examination.
When I say that I have no party-feeling on the subject, I wish to be understood as speaking advisedly: for I have no disposition whatever to condemn, as a whole, the school of Tractarianism. Many years have elapsed, since I endeavored, in my humble way, to do honor to their zeal, their devotion and their learning. Long before I ever heard of them, I was employed perhaps as diligently as themselves, in the study of the old Councils and fathers to which our great Reformers so frequently appeal, and a knowledge of which is so essential to a thorough acquaintance with the Romish controversy. That many of the Tractarian writers, in their pursuit of ancient Catholic principles, fell into grievous error, which finally led them to Rome, is a fact which we have all had reason to deplore. But as soon as that melancholy proof of perversion, Tract No. 90, appeared, I was compelled to see the perilous consequences of their course, and promptly contributed my own poor share in denouncing the delusion. In doing this, however, I was careful to follow the true path of Catholic doctrine; proving every position, first, by Scripture, and next by the fathers of those early ages, when the Church was Catholic in fact as well as name, because, as yet, the ambition and corruption of Rome had wrought no serious change in the pure and primitive system. To the same method of investigation I adhere still, and have found no reason to abandon it. And I am as willing as ever to acknowledge the merits of the party whom I then opposed, so far as I think them right, on what is really Catholic principle.
What then, is that principle? I answer that it consists in a faithful adherence to the Holy Scriptures as THE SUPREME RULE, and to the primitive Church as THE BEST INTERPRETER, This is precisely the maxim of the famous Vincent of Lerins, Quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus. That alone is truly Catholic, which was adopted ALWAYS, EVERYWHERE AND BY ALL. In the whole of my humble contributions to the literature of the Church, I have held this principle with the most constant fidelity. I hold it to this day. I shall never hold any other. And I maintain that the Reformation of our mother Church of England owes its vast superiority, under God, to her honest consistency with this same great rule of action. By this, she has a right to be called the most Catholic Church in Christendom, because she retains the most perfect unity with the Catholic faith and worship of the first pure ages of Christian antiquity. By this, she is able to draw the true line of distinction, between genuine Catholicism, and the manifold corruptions of Popery. By this, she is pre-eminently the Church of the Bible, the Church, of the Apostles, the Church of God. Here, then, is the principle which is above and beyond all parties, and which no man who clearly understands its use and value, can ever surrender to any party. On all the more important points to which, it can be applied, our own admirable Prayer-Book is the true exponent of its authority; and for ordinary purposes, the Churchman does not need to go beyond that unequalled standard. But for the justification of that standard, for the right management of our ever-during controversies with Rome and our other adversaries, and for the correct settlement of those new questions which, are constantly arising, it is necessary for some amongst us to be thoroughly familiar with the monuments which still remain of Christian antiquity. To the study of these monuments the Tractarian party have given themselves with great assiduity and success; and for that, as well as for their spirit of reverence, their zeal, and their devotion to the poor, I honor them. Their most active opponents, for the most part, give their attention to the inspired word of God, and are equally zealous to enforce their views on its authority. And for this, I honor them likewise. But I do not see any necessary conflict between them, because, on true Catholic ground, the Scriptures must always be the supreme RULE, and the voice of the Church in the early ages must be the best INTERPRETER. Nevertheless, both parties are liable to error, by attaching too little importance to the RULE on the one side, or to the INTERPRETER on the other. And hence, I cannot profess to belong to either, but am compelled to agree, sometimes with the Tractarians, sometimes with their opponents, and often with neither party; just as it seems to me the whole truth of each question demands, according to the governing principle which keeps the divine authority of Scripture and the judgment of the pure Catholic Church, in their just unity and agreement together.
But perhaps you may say that such a position as this must be very impolitic, very uncomfortable, and, worse than all, very presumptuous. Believe me that I should neither state nor defend it, if I did not regard the principle as being not only right in itself, but of the highest importance to religious truth, and to our own peace and unity. And therefore, at the risk of the reproach of egotism, I must tax your patience a little longer, while I explain the view which, for nearly thirty years, I have held on the subject.
Parties in the Church, like parties in the State, I regard as inevitable evils--inevitable, because in our present condition of imperfection and infirmity, it is impossible to get rid of them; and yet evils, because they are always liable to bigotry, to uncharitableness, and to a one-sided zeal, which operate very unfavorably on the enlarged affections of the Christian heart, and on the higher influence of ministerial character. Therefore, though I grant that their object may be good, and their instrumentality lawful--yea, though I doubt not that they may often be useful in preventing greater evils, as storms and tempests, by their powerful agitation, keep the air and the water pure --still they are always to be viewed with prudent watchfulness and apprehension. Truth must be ONE, like its divine Author. And if we could all be equally well acquainted with the whole truth, there would be no ground for party to occupy. For party necessarily involves partiality. But St. Paul commands the Bishop of Ephesus to "do nothing by partiality," and he tells the Corinthians that they were "yet carnal," because there were "divisions" among them. Clearly, then, you cannot, on apostolic principles, blame any Christian minister, who resolves to keep himself aloof from party.
You may say, however, that it is impolitic. That, I conceive, depends upon what we understand by true Church polity. I know, quite as well as any man can tell me, that party names divide the Church, as they do the State, and that an independent mind is exposed of necessity to constant distrust and misrepresentation. I am perfectly aware that I have sometimes been called a Low Churchman, and sometimes a High Churchman, and perhaps yet more frequently, a wavering, unfixed, and uncertain anomaly, on whom no one could certainly calculate; because the great majority are so accustomed to party distinctions that they cannot conceive the possibility of being a Churchman, neither more nor less, on broad independent principle. But what then? Is there really any policy in the work of internal discord? Can the Gospel or the Church gain anything by these divisions? Is there not controversy enough all round us, to employ our powers of disputation? And is it impolitic to endeavor, so far as lies in us, to "keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace," and do all that we can to discourage the common propensity to dissension and party strife, both by precept and example?
But I may be told that my position is uncomfortable. And this, again, will depend on our idea of Christian comfort. I grant that there is a kind of comfort, not to be despised, in belonging to a large body of friends, who regard you with unwavering confidence and affection, as a true and trusty adherent of their party. I doubt not that there must be a large measure of the same sort of comfort, in being cheered and followed as a party-leader, and in achieving that species of reputation which is sure to follow partizan success. But while I frankly acknowledge that I have been obliged to pursue my humble course without any of this comfort, yet I have found another comfort, of a far higher character, in the consciousness of sacrificing the natural thirst of party praise to the principle of duty. And when I have been most misrepresented and abused, I have never failed to "possess my soul in peace," when I recalled to mind the touching declaration of that great apostle, at whose feet I am hardly worthy to sit, "With me, it is a small thing that I should be judged by you, or by man's judgment. He that judgeth me is THE LORD."
There yet remains, however, that worst of all imputations, namely, that my independence of party association must be the product of presumption. For Who is the bishop of the little diocese of Vermont, that he should stand aloof from the general course of his brethren, and fancy himself able to decide for himself, without regard to the support of any party? Truly this is a serious charge, but yet I cannot plead guilty. So far from it, that the plan which I have endeavored to pursue is that of entire adherence to the judgment of men whom I esteemed far wiser and better than myself--the great Reformers, and those to whom they always appealed--the primitive Catholic Christians,--the martyrs and confessors and exiles for the faith--true saints, who, like the English Reformers themselves, "counted not their lives dear to them, and suffered the loss of all things that they might win Christ," but who possessed this advantage, that they were nearer to the apostolic age, and best qualified to give testimony to the apostolic system. These were the great lights of the ancient Catholic Church, and of our own, which has inherited their genuine teaching. And is there, I pray you, any presumption in following such guides, in preference to any modern party? Is there any presumption in tracing all my opinions to the highest and purest authority? Is there any presumption in the discouragement of all wanton change and self-willed innovation? In this, therefore, I ought to stand abundantly justified on the highest principle. I am not conscious that I have ever been guilty of the unpardonable vanity of setting up my opinion as a guide to any man. But I have invariably quoted the authority of Scripture and of the primitive Church Catholic, and our own Prayer Book, and standard authors, as the ground of my conclusions; and I have only desired that the minds of others should be convinced by these evidences of truth, assuming nothing for my individual decision. I have always remembered that my brethren owed no deference to me, and the whole claim which I advanced to their attention has been rested on the judgment of those, to whom they and I were equally bound to give our confidence and veneration.
I have been thus particular in explaining the course which I have constantly endeavored to pursue, in order that you and others may understand why I profess to stand aloof from all our modern parties, and plant myself firmly on the ground of the Church, as the true inheritor of real Catholic principle. The conclusions to which I am compelled to arrive may please or displease my brethren, just as they may happen to agree or disagree with their party feelings. For that result, I cannot hold myself accountable. I do not support those conclusions in reference to any party, but simply because I am persuaded of their truth, on the scriptural and primitive ground of Church principle. It is my desire to regard all my brethren with sincere fraternal affection, to make the kindliest allowance for their mistakes, to do honor to their zeal and good intentions, and to give the little influence of one obscure name to the support of peace and unity. With that desire I have lived. With that desire I hope to die. And I have no reason to fear that it will be imputed to me as a fault, when I stand before the divine tribunal.
Craving the forgiveness of my readers for this long explanation of my own personal position, which I should not have inflicted upon them if it. were not so liable, in these party days, to be misunderstood, I proceed now to the question proposed, which I hold to be one of the deepest importance, because it involves not only the conduct of Bishop Gobat with regard to the Churches of the East, but our own course in reference both to those Churches and to Romanism. And I shall commence with the very able and ingenious argument presented by yourselves, in your paper of the 23d March, 1854, examining it step by step, so as to shew, fairly and candidly, the true aspect of the controversy.
You begin by saying that there are circumstances under which it is the bounden duty of one branch of the Church Catholic to cease holding communion with another--that the breaking of such communion is incontrovertibly an act of discipline, and the most extreme exercise of that power of which any portion of the Church is capable--that when whole Churches, (alluding to the Eastern Churches) are to be cut off by one summary act of discipline, as too corrupt for our pure communion, and must be proselytised into our Church before they can pass from darkness into light, then we look for some higher authority than the opinion of one bishop, viz. the highest and most solemn act of power which it is competent for the Church to put forth--that even then, before the Eastern Churches can be lawful subjects for proselyting, they must have been, in substance, laid under a formal anathema or excommunication.
Much of the above is unquestionably true, only it has not the slightest connexion with the question, while the last portion is altogether a Trac-tarian mistake, and a very serious one. You will perceive, I think, at once, that the power, the right, or the act of breaking communion with the Eastern Churches is quite out of the case, simply because that communion has never existed since the 9th Century. The question, therefore, is manifestly not about the breaking of an old communion, but about the forming of a new one. You are too well acquainted with ecclesiastical history to be ignorant of the notorious fact, that the Church of Rome brake communion with the Eastern Churches in that 9th Century, and that the breach has never been healed to this day-- that the Church of England was then involved with the Church of Rome, and included in her action, and that since she recovered her purity and independence by the Reformation of the 16th Century, there has not been a single declaration or movement of those Eastern Churches which could possibly be tortured into a display of their willingness to hold communion with the English Church, or with any of her offspring. Of course I speak here of authoritative official acts. Private speeches of individual courtesy, especially in the mouth of the Orientals, are nothing to the purpose. The truth is that those Eastern Churches hold our mother-Church to be heretical, and I shall shew, by and by, that she is bound, with infinitely better reason, to hold them so. And I shall further prove that the true Catholic rule, founded on Scripture, and maintained by the whole Church from the beginning, utterly forbids the formation of any ecclesiastical communion between them.
When you say, therefore, that in order to render the Oriental Christians lawful subjects for proselyting, they must have been, in substance, laid under a formal anathema or excommunication, I am totally at a loss to imagine where your Tractarian guides learned their notions of true Catholicism. For, since the Church began, it was never held unlawful to proselyte heretics, but quite the contrary; and this without the least regard to any previous sentence of condemnation on the Church or individuals concerned. You will hardly venture to deny that it is lawful for our ministers to make proselytes from the Church of Rome, whenever it is in their power. And yet, When did the Church of England attempt to lay the Church of Rome under a formal anathema? Must the Church first pronounce a curse, before she offers a blessing? Cannot individual heretics be reclaimed to the truth, until the whole body has been solemnly consigned to Satan? Here, therefore, I consider you as having laid down a fundamental proposition in plain contradiction to all Catholic principle both of theory and practice, and one which we shall find to be of the most perilous tendency, if logically extended to its consequences, as I shall prove more fully before I close.
You assert nest, that the Church of England, so far as she has acted towards the Eastern Churches, has gone in the very opposite direction to that of excommunication--that when the bishopric of Jerusalem was founded, the most friendly and fraternal letters were sent to the Eastern Patriarchs and bishops, and the desire for union was expressed in language too plain to be misunderstood--that this being the position formally and authoritatively taken by the English Church, there had been no act, no Council, no Convocation since, which has in the slightest degree changed her relation to the Eastern Churches, and therefore she stands where she has placed herself of her own accord, on the ground of Catholic unity and "in the bond of peace," expressly disclaiming all idea of making or receiving proselytes from the Churches of the East.
To this statement of the course pursued by leading men in England I make no objection, because I suppose it to be quite correct. I presume also that the foundation of the new See at Jerusalem was generally assented to by the great body of our English brethren, although you cannot have forgotten that it was hotly opposed by the Tractarian party, on the extraordinary assumption that it would be an act of schism!--a perfectly novel discovery and without a shadow of authority, as I shall presently shew, notwithstanding the advocacy of the learned Mr. Palmer. Failing, however, in their hostile assaults on the measure itself, our Tractarian brethren did doubtless succeed in obtaining from Archbishop Howley and Lord Aberdeen instructions to the newly appointed Bishop of Jerusalem, not to interfere with the Eastern Churches. And these instructions that prelate accepted and faithfully pursued.
But I pray you to inform me how this act of the good Archbishop and Lord Aberdeen can be called "a position formally and authoritatively taken by THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND." By what "Council or Convocation" did the Church signify her judgment in the matter? Is it not perfectly notorious, on the contrary, that the views of our Tractarian brethren on this subject are held by only a small fraction of our mother-Church, and would be utterly repudiated by a vast majority? Certainly you will not venture to maintain that the Archbishop of Canterbury had any official right to commit the Church on the point, because you have denied this power to the subsequent act of the whole four Archbishops, acquitting Bishop Gobat from all censure. Neither can it be pretended that any English Archbishop has the slightest authority over the Bishops, by which the just and ordinary exercise of their office can be forbidden or restrained. Much less could Lord Aberdeen interfere with the regular discharge of the episcopal function. And the consent of Bishop Alexander to these instructions, however it might affect himself, could as certainly have no authority over his successor. It results therefore, beyond all controversy, that your assumption of the Church of England's assent to the position for which you contend, is a pure mistake. The regular duty of every bishop is determined by the command of Christ to the Apostles, to "preach the Gospel to every creature" within his reach. And if there be a schismatical or heretical communion in his immediate vicinity, he is bound, by every law of Catholic as well as Scriptural obligation, to reclaim them from their errors so far as he may have the opportunity. Hence I maintain that those instructions of the Archbishop, however well intended on his part, were only advisory. AUTHORITATIVE they could not be, because they were neither sanctioned by the Church, nor were they in accordance with true Catholic principle.
The whole of this indulgent policy, however, produced no effect whatever on the relative position of the Churches. I grant that the good Archbishop wrote very friendly and fraternal letters, in which, as you say, "the desire of union was expressed" in the plainest terms. For in truth, at that time, there were prominent and influential men in the Tractarian party who were ready to embrace even the Church of Rome, through their excessive yearnings after what they were pleased to call Catholic unity; as if there could be any Catholic unity, in its proper primitive sense, unless it were based on Catholic truth! The famous Tract No. 90, proved how easily the 39 Articles could be made to harmonize with the Council of Trent. It was only necessary to put upon them a non-natural interpretation--only necessary to understand the words in direct opposition to their manifest meaning, and the thing was done. The heresies of Borne could all be digested, and why should the somewhat less aggravated heresies of Greece stand in the way? Deluded by this absurd phantom of unity, although in the teeth of all Scriptural and Catholic principle, they did doubtless prevail with the kind and amiable prelate to indite such letters. But what operation had they upon the Oriental Churches? Precisely none at all. Those Eastern Patriarchs and Bishops took no official notice of them. They maintained their old position with perfect inflexibility. They did not receive the new English Bishop of Jerusalem into any degree of ecclesiastical fraternity. And so "the desire of union" proved to be all on one side, and the Churches remained as far apart as ever.
To my own mind, indeed, it has always appeared very obvious that these letters must have been regarded with absolute ridicule, by the proud and magnificent Patriarchs of the East. I doubt not that the Greek Church, especially, with more than 70 millions of adherents, and all her past history of power and splendor, viewed it as a piece of the coolest effrontery to be invited to a union with a body of upstart heretics, not half so numerous, whom she confounded most unjustly with the various Protestant communities thrown off by her great rival, the Church of Rome, in the revolutionary commotions of the 16th Century. I doubt not that these Oriental Prelates laughed full often at the ignorance of the European doctors of theology, who sought for such fraternity in the most innocent unconsciousness of Catholic discipline; while, accustomed to their own gorgeous robes, their flowing beards, and the profound respect of their subjects, who never saluted them without kissing their hands with pious veneration, they looked down with ill-suppressed disdain or pity on an English Bishop, whose attire was so plain, his face so smooth, his manners so simple, and his whole I bearing and pretensions in such humble contrast to their own. I confess that I have never been able to reflect on. the position which our beloved mother-Church must have presented, when she was thus made to assume the attitude of a suitor for union with those corrupt but most lofty Patriarchs of the East, without a sense of shame and humiliation. For this feature of the case has always seemed to me as much at war with common sense, as it was in contrariety to the maxims of genuine Catholicism.
But I pass on to the next point made in your ingenious argument. You say that you raise no question in regard to the alleged heresy, corruption, superstition or immorality of the Eastern Churches. You are even willing, for the sake of argument, to grant that these charges are true. You ask, however, What is the proper authority for declaring their truth? Such controversies are "controversies of faith," and authority is held--NOT BY MERE INDIVIDUALS, THOUGH THEY MAY BE BISHOPS OR ARCHBISHOPS--but by the Church. And until the Church has acted, it is not lawful for individuals to act even upon what may be most certain facts. For instance:--we may know a man to be guilty of murder, but it is not lawful for us thereupon to hang him ourselves. Lynch law is no more to be justified in the Church than in the State.
Such is the very plausible, yet most perilous argument on which you rely, as a triumphant vindication of your general position in the controversy. And I have read it with more sorrow than I can easily express, because it is the very same, only differently applied, which has led our unhappy perverts into the jaws of Romanism. Thank God ! it is not only entirely fallacious, but it is demonstrably in opposition to Scripture, to Catholic rule, and to the very analogy derived from the laws of secular justice which you have so ingeniously appealed to in its support. And I pray you to attend carefully to the conclusive proof which I shall exhibit, in its total and absolute refutation.
First, then, I say that it is contrary to Scripture, because St. Paul commands Titus, the first bishop of Crete, to reject heretics, and he orders Timothy, the first bishop of Ephesus, to withdraw from them. But these were individual bishops. How then can you suppose that it is not competent for "individuals, though they may be bishops or archbishops," to judge and condemn heretics, when the inspired apostle thus makes it a special duty of these bishops, singly and severally, to do this very thing?
I say, nest, that your argument is contrary to the maxims and practice of the primitive Church, in the ages of real Catholicity. For what Council of the Church had met, when Irenaeus, the bishop of Lyons, wrote his books against heretics? What Council gave authority to Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria, and Origen, who were only Presbyters, to specify and denounce the heretics of their days? What Council had pronounced against the heresy of Arius, when the bishop of Alexandria excommunicated him? Nay, what Council has ever pretended to name all the varieties of heresy? Augustin, himself "a single bishop," enumerated eighty-eight heresies, in the fourth century, of which you cannot find one-third part condemned by any Council. Epiphanius, another single bishop, had previously described and refuted eighty of the same heresies, without the least reference to your fancied preliminary, that they must first have been reprobated by some regular and formal act of the Church. And Vincent of Lerins, when he lays down his great rule that "in the Catholic Church itself we must be particularly careful to hold that which was believed every where, always and by all; since this it is which is TRULY AND PROPERLY CATHOLIC, as the very force and reason of the word declares," goes on to suppose a case in which the true Catholic may find the general voice against him. "What," saith he, "if some new contagion should labor to stain not a portion only, but the whole Church together? Even then also, he (the Catholic Christian) will take care that he adheres to antiquity." And he applies his rule to the actual state of the Church, before his day. "Thus when the poison of the Arians contaminated not a portion only, but almost the whole world, so that the minds of nearly all the Latin bishops were overspread with a certain darkness as to the course which should be followed in such a confusion of things, even then, whoever was a true lover and worshipper of Christ, preferring the ancient faith to the new perfidy, was not spotted by the plague of this contagion."
Now here, Vincent does not refer to any Council, nor to the official duty of a bishop, but states the broad duty of every true Catholic Christian, and makes that duty incumbent on all believers, whether clergymen or laymen, even though the whole Church should be overspread with darkness. And why? Because the authority of God in the Holy Scriptures was still accessible, and the voice of the Church must not be listened to, unless it were in strict accordance with this supreme law. And therefore the same Vincent, in the 2d ch. of his Commonitorium, saith, "If any man,"--take notice, I pray you, that he does not say any bishop, nor presbyter, but any man--"desires to avoid the frauds of heretics, and to remain safe and sound in the saving faith, he must fortify his faith in a two-fold manner. First, namely, by the authority of the divine law, and then by the tradition of the Church Catholic or universal." For the first is the supreme rule, and the second can only be taken in subordination to it. Hence, in our 8th Article, establishing the Creeds, our Church has most wisely determined that "they ought thoroughly to be received and believed: for they may be proved"--not by any formal declaration of the Church in council or otherwise, but "by most certain warrants of holy Scripture."
This might suffice to show how entirely deceived you have been by your Traotarian leaders, in stating that "no individual, not even though he be a bishop or archbishop," must presume to condemn heresy or heretics, until the Church has formally given him her authority by a previous sentence of anathema. Such a notion is perfectly erroneous and popish in its tendency. It is in flat contradiction to the whole voice of Scripture and true Catholicity. And it never came into existence, until the lust of power and the ambition of the papacy made it the prime and favorite argument with Rome. I have no words to express my surprise and regret to find you among the number of its advocates, because its sole effect is to make religious truth depend, not on the word of God, and the Catholic practice of the primitive Church, but on the power and influence of a dominant majority.
It may be well, however, as this is truly a main artery of the very jugulum causæ, to refresh your memory on the Catholic doctrine that the Scriptures are the RULE OF FAITH, both to the Church and the individual believer. And this I shall prove, by a few brief references to the fathers, which are perfectly conclusive on that all-important principle.
Beginning with Treasons, in his work against Heresies, we find him declaring, that "we know the plan of our salvation by no others except those by whom the Gospel came to us, which truly they then preached, but afterwards, by the will of God, delivered to us IN THE SCRIPTURES to be the foundation and pillar of our faith." "Let us then flee," saith he elsewhere, "from the doctrine of heretics, and beware of them, and we shall not be troubled. And let us take refuge in the Church and be brought up in her bosom, and be nourished by the divine Scriptures, for the Church is planted as a Paradise in the world. You shall eat food, therefore, from every tree of Paradise, saith the Spirit of God; that is, Eat of all divine Scripture, but of my foreign doctrine you shall not eat, neither touch the dissentient heretical opinions."
Thus also, Tertullian saith, "We come together to commemorate THE DIVINE SCRIPTURES.--We have the apostles of the Lord for authors, who did not chose of their own will what they should set forth, but faithfully delivered what they had received from the teaching of Christ. Although an angel from Heaven should evangelize otherwise, he should be called Anathema by us. How can they speak of the things of faith, except from the SCRIPTURES OF FAITH? Therefore they are not Christians who do not take the law from the Scriptures of the Christian." To this I shall only add two important maxims from the same father. "Heresy," saith he, "is not overcome by the charge of NOVELTY, so much as by the TRUTH. Whatever is wise against the truth is heresy, although it be an ancient custom." And again, "That which is first is TRUE, and that which comes after, is adulterous." Here is the sure ground on which our Reformers stood, when they appealed to the fountain-head of the Scriptures and the primitive Church, notwithstanding the errors of Rome and Greece had become venerable by antiquity.
So also Clement of Alexandria saith, "We do not expect the testimony which is given by men, but we prove what is sought by THE VOICE OF THE LORD, which is more worthy of faith than any demonstration, or rather which is the only demonstration, by which knowledge those who have only tasted the Scriptures are believers. Therefore we, perfectly demonstrating from those Scriptures, are persuaded demonstratively by faith."
So Origen; "The whole Scripture is a perfect and apt instrument of God, which utters one harmony from many sounds to those who wish to learn the voice of salvation." Again, saith he, "Paul writes in a certain place, 'According to my Gospel.' Yet among the writings of Paul there is no book extant which is commonly called Gospel. But whatever he preached or said was the Gospel, AND WHAT HE PREACHED AND SAID HE ALSO WROTE, and therefore it is properly inferred that his WRITINGS ARE HIS GOSPEL."
So Cyprian, the bishop and martyr of Carthage, speaking in reference to the opinion of Stephen, bishop of Rome, who had appealed to tradition: "From whence is this tradition? Has it descended from the divine authority of the Gospel, or does it come from the commands and epistles of the Apostles! For God testifies that those things are to be done WHICH ARE WRITTEN."
So Athanasius: "These heretics ask in vain for Councils concerning the faith, when THE DIVINE SCRIPTURE IS MORE POTENT THAN ALL. Nor were those who assembled at Nice neglectful on the subject, but they wrote accurately in order that whoever should read their writings might be easily reminded of that religion in Christ, which is announced BY THE HOLY SCRIPTURES.--For the orthodox Church, rightly reading and exactly examining the divine Scriptures, builds herself upon the rock."
So Cyril, the Bishop of Jerusalem: "Embrace and keep the faith which is now delivered to you by the Church, taken from all the Scriptures--And this faith I command you to have as your viaticum through life, and to receive nothing more besides it, not even if an opposing angel, transformed into an angel of light, should seek to lead you into error. For the sum of the faith was not composed as it pleased men, but the most important things selected out of all thy Scriptures, complete one doctrine of faith."
So Ambrose, Bishop of Milan: "All truth is in the New Testament. The reward of the Scriptures is our faith--God walks with me in Paradise when I read the divine Scriptures--the TRADITIONS OF THE SCRIPTURES ARE THE BODY OF CHRIST."
So Jerome: "Our care is to say not what any one can or may, BUT WHAT THE SCRIPTURES AUTHORIZE--Love the Holy Scriptures, and wisdom will love thee."
So Augustin: "In the Scriptures we learn Christ, in the Scriptures we learn the Church.--The city of God" (that is, the Church) "believes the HOLY SCRIPTURES, both old and new, which we call Canonical, from which the faith itself is conceived by which, the just man liveth."
Here, then, we have the true Catholic rule of the primitive Church, and hence there is little difficulty in perceiving why the early Christians were in no need of waiting for the formal declarations of Councils, before they condemned heresy and heretics. They had the doctrine of our Lord and His inspired apostles. That, neither more nor less, was the true saving faith, and no Council could add to its divine authority, on the one hand, or take away from it upon the other. What, indeed, on your ground, could the first generations of Bishops have done, during more than two hundred years before we read of a single Council, and when the spirit of heathen persecution rendered such meetings impossible, if the Redeemer had not furnished each one with knowledge and authority sufficient to guard the truth and condemn error? And what, even at this day, would be our condition, if we could not oppose and reject the various heresies which have arisen, since the last free and really general Council was holden? Most un-catholic therefore, and most perilous, is the position which you have so incautiously adopted on the subject. And no ingenuity can reconcile it with the theory and practice of antiquity, any more than with the express command of the apostle to Timothy and Titus, to which I have already referred.
And this brings me to the third head of objection, in which I shall have to shew you that your reasoning about Lynch law, properly considered, is most unfortunate, because the whole administration of earthly justice is against you. True indeed, it is, that the private citizen or citizens, even though they may know a man to be guilty of murder, cannot proceed to hang him, because the State has provided the office of a Judge, by whose warrant alone such a sentence can be lawfully executed. And in like manner, the private members of the Church, even though they know a man to be guilty of heresy, cannot put forth a sentence of excommunication, because the Church has provided the office of a Bishop, by whom alone that sentence can be lawfully pronounced. But what then? Is it not the duty of the private citizen, knowing the guilt of an offender, to inform the magistrate, and have him brought to justice, and give his testimony against him? And is not equally competent to the private Christian to make known the heresy, and expose the heretic, if he refuses to be reclaimed? Has not a single commissioned Judge full authority to give sentence in the one case, and has not a single Bishop equal power to give sentence in the other?
In this therefore, you have fallen into a strange mistake. Indeed you seem to have confounded the legislative and judicial and personal duties all together, until they are lost in a perfect mist of confusion. It is the office of the legislature to make the law, but only in strict subordination to the Constitution. It is the duty of every citizen to know that law, and aid to bring the criminal to justice: and it is the duty of every regularly commissioned Judge to try the charge, pronounce the sentence, and cause it to be executed. And take notice, I pray you, that this Judge must discharge his office as well, whether a multitude or only a single culprit is concerned. Nay, he must decide that the acts of the legislature are void, if ha thinks them inconsistent with the Constitution; and he must even set aside and condemn the decrees of foreign nations, when they would destroy the rights of a solitary individual.
Now apply this fairly to the question before us. The Church has her inspired Constitution, the Word of God. She has legislative Councils, which, in subordination to that supreme rule, have laid down certain laws: and she has her commissioned judges, the bishops, whose office it is to apply those laws, and give sentence accordingly. And every Christian is bound to know those laws, and, instead of giving aid and comfort to offenders, he should assist in having them detected and exposed. And the duty of every bishop requires him to pronounce void every decision even of a Council, which is plainly opposed to the great Constitution, the Holy Scriptures; and he is equally obliged to perform that duty even if whole foreign Churches are concerned, in defence of the rights of the humblest believer. But every man has an indefeasible right to religious truth, because it is the cardinal law of Christ that his Gospel should be preached to "every creature." And any Council, instructions, laws or declarations to the contrary, are not only void but positively sinful. The Eastern Churches therefore, had no authority to keep back their people from the true Gospel of Christ, and the English Archbishop and Lord Aberdeen could have no authority to enforce their heretical despotism, even if they had so intended. For every English bishop is bound, according to the strictest character of his office, to pronounce upon their heresy--bound to give the Scriptures to every soul within his reach--bound to restore their long lost rights to the poor Greek, Armenian and Nestorian, who seek them at his hands. And if Bishop Gobat took any other course, he would be acting in subservience to a false and heretical influence, in ignorance of his real duty, in contrariety to all the rules of fair legal analogy, in violation of all true Catholic principle, and in direct opposition to the recorded command of his divine Lord and Master.
I pass on to your nest argument, in which you say that the pledges of non-interference with those Eastern Churches were given by the Ecclesiastical authorities of England, and the civil authorities both of England and Prussia, not only to parties at home, but also to the Prelates of the Eastern Churches and to the civil government of the Porte. They are binding until they are withdrawn as formally as they were made, and by the same powers who joined in making them. No evidence has yet been offered to prove that they have been withdrawn, and therefore they are as imperatively binding now, as at the first.
There is no doubt in my mind of your perfect conviction that this, with all the rest, is a very fair representation of the matter. And yet I cannot but marvel how your own strong minds could be imposed upon for a moment by its transparent fallacies. For your "Ecclesiastical authorities" of England were only the single Archbishop of Canterbury, who might give advice, but had no authority at all to give any binding instructions. And your "civil authorities" of England were only Lord Aberdeen, who had not the slightest pretence of official right to restrain the duties of a bishop. And these pledges could hardly be said to be given to parties at home, when there was no party at home who was authorized either to exact or to receive them. Neither could they be given to the Eastern Prelates, because they have never consented to be parties to the arrangement in any shape, nor under any condition. Nor could they be pledges to the civil Government of the Porte in respect to Bishop Gobat, because two firmans have been since obtained, the first of which was in A. D. 1847, establishing complete Protestant toleration. As to the King of Prussia, it is certain that he never asked for such pledges, and has never, directly or indirectly, complained of their violation.
And who does complain? No one that I have heard of, but the Tractarian party. And they complain of a breach of faith which Bishop Gobat denies his having committed. For you have not succeeded in shewing that his acts amount to any interference whatever with the Eastern Churches. I have proved, on true Catholic principles, that he would have been perfectly justified in doing a vast deal more than he has done, because those Churches are heretical, and an active assault on heresy, by fair and open argument, was always the duty of a genuine Catholic, according to the whole course of the primitive fathers to which I have referred. But all that he is charged with, is sending out men to read the Bible to those who were willing to hear, and receiving those into the Church who applied for admission. Is that interfering? Did the Church of Rome interfere with us, when they admitted a dozen of our perverted clergymen into her communion? Do we interfere with our Presbyterian or Congregational brethren, by freely admitting into the Church all who chuse voluntarily to leave their system, and unite with us? If Bishop Gobat had put forth half the attacks on the Eastern Churches which we are in the habit of publishing against Rome on the one side, and our non-episcopal Communions upon the other, you might talk with some plausibility of interference. But we do not consider this to be any interference at all, and if we did, nothing of the kind has been imputed to him.
And this is the reason, namely, because he has really done no act which could be properly called interference, that he denies the whole charge of violating these pledges, although he never made them. This is the reason that the four Archbishops acquit him of the charge, even supposing the instructions of the former Archbishop of Canterbury to have had, what I maintain they had not, anything more than an advisory character. It is very natural that those estimable Prelates should desire to avoid even the appearance of casting any censure upon the course taken by the excellent Dr. Howley, whatever may be their individual opinion of its ecclesiastical propriety. My position is a very different one, because I am bound to contend for the whole operation of true Catholic principle on the subject, since it is by this alone that our own future course should be governed, if we would be consistent in our duty. But so far as your argument is concerned, there is no evidence as yet of any act which can be fairly considered interference with the Eastern Churches, if you will only be reasonable enough to understand by interference in Jerusalem, what is called interference everywhere else.
Hence, after all the ink that has been shed about the matter on both sides of the Atlantic, when we look round for the real complainers, we can find them nowhere but amongst the Tractarian Protesters. The Government of Prussia has not remonstrated with Bishop Gobat. Neither has the Government of England, nor the Sublime Porte, nor the English and Irish Archbishops. But some nine hundred of the clergy have seen fit to sign a Protest against their own Prelates, and you have seen fit to endorse, (virtually if not formally) the propriety of what I certainly consider a manifest act of contumacy. O Catholic consistency! that one twentieth part of the clergy should presume to address heretical Patriarchs and Bishops in the language of profound respect, in open resistance of those rulers whom God has placed over them, and in condemnation of a distant Bishop of their own Communion, for doing in Jerusalem towards heretical Greeks, what their brethren are doing in England and Ireland every day, towards heretical Romanists, not only without censure, but with the strongest praise and commendation.
I do not mean, however, to be unjust to my Tractarian brethren. I am perfectly aware that they have invented an ingenious hypothesis, by which they imagine that the rights of the Roman and the Greek Churches must not be interfered with, wherever they have gained the first possession, although, when they are intruders on the jurisdiction of the English and Irish Church, they may be regarded as schismatics, and resisted lawfully. This new theory, which makes the authority of Christ's Gospel depend, not upon the truth, but only on questions of date and geography, is supposed to be a necessary deduction from the doctrine that these Churches still retain the true Creeds and a regular Episcopacy, by virtue of which they are parts of the Holy Catholic Church, notwithstanding their heresies and corruptions, and must therefore be respected in their proper homes, however they may be attacked elsewhere. But there is not a particle of really Catholic authority, nor a single argument of reason or common sense for the assumption, that I have ever been able to discover. The honor of its paternity, if honor it be, belongs solely to this modern school, and its birth is owing to their inordinate thirst after their favorite phantom of Catholic union, to which they are even willing to sacrifice Catholic purity of doctrine, whenever it stands in their way. Nevertheless, as these apparent guides of yours attach so much importance to this perilous notion, I must pay it the respect of a fuller examination.
First, then, I am willing to grant that every Church which retains the fundamental truths of the Gospel, is, so far, a portion of the Church Catholic or universal, and therefore Hooker saith, "we must acknowledge even heretics themselves to be, though a maimed part, yet a part of the visible Church." (B. 3. ch. 2, § 11.) But I maintain that notwithstanding this, heretics have no rights as against the truth, since, if they had, there must be a right in what is wrong, and the command of our Lord to "preach the Gospel to every creature" must be entirely neutralized by the mere fact that error was in possession along with a certain amount of truth, before the advocates of the unadulterated faith of the Saviour could gain access to it. Your Tractarian friends might as well persuade us that the physician must not attempt to extirpate a cancer from a patient, because he admits the sufferer to be a man, or because the disease is of long standing, as that heresy must not be extirpated from a Church, because we acknowledge it to be a Church, or because the false doctrine has existed for many centuries in the same quarter.
In the second place, I maintain the perfect correctness of the same truly "judicious" Hooker, where he saith, "Heretics are not utterly cut off from the visible Church of Christ. If the fathers do anywhere, as oftentimes they do, make the true visible Church of Christ and heretical companies opposite; they are to be construed as separating heretics, not altogether from the company of believers, but from the fellowship of sound believers. For where professed unbelief is, there can be no visible Church of Christ; there may be, where sound belief wanteth. Infidels being clean without the Church, deny directly and utterly reject the very principles of Christianity; which heretics embrace, and err only by misconstruction." (Ecc. Pol. B. 3 C. 2, § 11.)
Hence it results that heretics may well be reckoned as a part of the Catholic or Universal Church in one respect, while they are cut off from it in another. Just as the lepers in ancient Israel were still a part of the nation, although they were separated by the divine law from the fellowship of their brethren, by reason of their uncleanness. Just as the criminals in our penitentiaries are still citizens of the State, and objects of its care and protection, while they are excluded from the social intercourse and privileges of citizens, by reason of their crimes. Just as the inhabitants of a district infected with the plague or yellow fever, are still counted amongst the general population of the country, although it may be necessary to preserve the rest from infection by surrounding them with a cordon sanitaire, and forbidding them to travel beyond their own limits. Just as a rebellious province is still regarded as a part of the whole State, even when it is in open hostility with the government, and must, be treated as an enemy until it submits. Nothing is more plain and simple than this proposition of our great master in Israel, when it is considered in the light of sound common sense, and fair analogy.
I contend, in the third place, for this eminent teacher's doctrine, where, in the conclusion of the same section of his admirable work, he saith: "Wherefore heretics being Christians in regard of the general truth of Christ which they openly profess, yet they are by the Fathers every where spoken of as men clean excluded out of the right believing Church, by reason of their particular errors, for which all that are of a sound belief must needs condemn them." But if this be so--and what follower of real Catholic principles will deny it?--there can be no prescriptive right of time, place or numbers, by which the "right believing Church" can be authorized to join communion with them, or treat them as if they were justly entitled to maintain their heretical position. For our Lord commanded his apostles to "go into all the world and preach the Gospel"--not the Gospel as it might be distorted and polluted by heresy, but the Gospel as it should be perfectly made manifest to them by the Holy Spirit. Hence that apostolic Gospel has the same DIVINE RIGHT in every quarter. The divisions of nations, patriarchates, dioceses, are all human. And they are to be religiously respected by every Christian on the Scriptural rule of obedience to "every ordinance of man, for the Lord's sake." But this obedience may only be rendered so long as they do not interfere with the DIVINE RIGHT of the genuine and unadulterated Gospel. It was to His apostles that the glorious Redeemer said, "I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me." The boundaries of that kingdom embraced ALL THE WORLD. And their true successors--not true by lineal descent only, but also by their apostolic doctrine--are bound to carry out that celestial command to the utmost of their power; and no heretical body or bodies of men, however numerous, or wherever established, or under whatever circumstances of time or place, can have a shadow of right to exclude that pure Gospel from the people.
This may suffice, for the present, on the novel hypothesis of our Tractarian brethren, which Mr. Palmer has endeavored to establish in his learned and able, but in some important respects very dangerous work, "the Treatise on the Church." And I mention it here, not because you have adverted to it specifically in your ingenious argument, but because it is the real basis of the whole opposition to the establishment of the Jerusalem Church, as well as of the loud complaints made about the violation of the pledges said to have been made by its first bishop. I wish to give it prominence, also, for another reason, to which it is high time that one American Churchman should open their eyes clearly. For the same hypothesis of Mr. Palmer and his school, applied as he very fairly and candidly applies it, condemns the whole attempt to establish the Church in the great Mississippi valley, in Florida, in Texas and in California, as an invasion of the pre-existing rights of the Church of Rome. It condemns likewise the establishment of the Church of England at Paris, in Canada and Malta. And therefore every solitary instance in which, through all these regions, a proselyte from Home is received into the Church, is liable to precisely the same charge, on his new and most uncatholic principles, that is now brought against the bishop of Jerusalem.
But I pass on to your next argument, which I have partly anticipated. And here, I have to notice your strange conclusion that because Bishop Gobat denies his having done anything inconsistent with these pledges, therefore he admits that they are still binding. Certainly this is not by any means a legitimate or logical inference. He may think that they are not binding, and never were binding on himself in any way; and yet, from a desire to do his duty without raising a Tractarian clamor in England, or seeming to reflect on the course adopted by his predecessor and the late amiable Archbishop, he may abstain from any act which could be rightly esteemed a violation of them. Thus far, I believe that he has not stated his opinion upon their validity at all. And I do not see that any one has a right to infer it from a course, which may be accounted for just as naturally on quite a different hypothesis. The rest of your remarks in this paragraph present not so much of argument as of accusation. You say that the friends of Bishop Gobat have defended his course inconsistently, some by one kind of reasoning and some by another. Very likely. Men are apt to take a variety of views of every controverted question. But I suppose we are trying to discover wherein Bishop Gobat has done wrong, and need not trouble ourselves about the consistency of those who have undertaken to justify him. You are still more uncourteous however, when you undertake to declare that "such defences as these from the Bishop's warmest friends, prove that they know his acts to be utterly irreconcilable with those pledges, and we have therefore a right to take that for granted." For this is virtually saying that although the Bishop denies his having done anything inconsistent with the pledges, yet his own best friends do not believe him ! I trust that you must have written these words inadvertently, for I would not willingly accuse you of so gross an error as the converting a charge against the propriety of his official acts, into an attack upon his personal frankness and veracity.
Nevertheless, according to your statement, the Bishop admits that "he is actively engaged in a course which he knows will make proselytes and has made proselytes, from the Greek Church to his own. He excuses himself by saying that this is not his intention, though he candidly states that he knows it will be the result. He also admits that his course has stirred up the most violent opposition, hatred and persecution from the dignitaries of the Eastern Churches, which is not much like the amity and brotherly love he stands pledged to cultivate." On this portion of the paragraph I have a few words to say, to which I ask your attention.
The active course of the Bishop is stated to consist in his having sent forth persons to read the Scriptures to all who were willing to listen. Now I shall not concern myself with the precise terms which. you say he has employed, in his defence against the charge of having broken these famous pledges. If, according to your statement,--which I have no means of testing by any other evidence,--he has really said that he sent out those Scripture readers with the knowledge that they would make proselytes, while yet it was not his intention that the certain result would follow, I admit my inability to understand his real motives. But the Bishop may have used this word in a different sense. He is a remarkably able linguist, yet some allowance for inaccuracy should be made, when we remember that the English is not his native tongue. I presume, therefore, that there must be some mistake in this apparent discrepancy, and I pass it by as a verbal mystery which I do not think of any consequence to the real points at issue.
But I wish to observe that the Bishop, in expecting the mere reading of the Scriptures to open the eyes of the Greek Christians to the corruptions and heresies of their Church, calculated very differently from our own Missionaries at Athens, for they have been employed in teaching the Scriptures to some thousands of Greek youth for twenty years, and we have never heard of a single proselyte. On the contrary, this teaching has been patronized by all the dignitaries of the Greek Church, and they seem to feel perfectly satisfied that there is not the slightest danger to what they call the faith, to be apprehended from that quarter.
Let me therefore remind you and my readers generally, that the Greek or the Roman may peruse the Bible till he is blind, and never be the wiser, so long as he is not taught the good old Catholic doctrine that the Scriptures are the rule of faith to every true Christian. Both these corrupt Churches hold the same fundamental heresy, that the Bible does not contain the whole faith of the Gospel, but that the apostles delivered orally to the Church another rule, on which they maintain the worship of the Virgin and the Saints, and Purgatory, and the veneration of pictures, images and relics, and Transubstantiation, with all the rest of their unscriptural superstitions. Most certain it is that reading the Scriptures ought to recover men from heresy, and just as certain it is that they may be read without any such result, by those who learn their faith, not from the Word of God, but from imaginary apostolical tradition. When we compare, therefore, the very opposite effects of this Bible-reading at Jerusalem and at Athens, an inquiry presents itself worthy of the most serious reflection. How have Bishop Gobat's agents read the Scriptures, so as to bring the Greeks to the knowledge of the truth? How have our Athenian Missionaries read the Scriptures, so as to win the approval of the Greek clergy themselves, and leave their pupils content and satisfied in error?
Of course I must infer that you condemn the Bishop's plan, because you say that the opposition, hatred and persecution which it roused against him are quite the reverse of "the amity and brotherly love he stands pledged to cultivate." And yet I have to learn how "brotherly love" is to be cultivated towards heretics with whom there can be no Church communion--especially such heretics as are not only most proud and lofty in their errors, but ready to "hate and persecute" those who dare even to read to their people the Word of God, unless it be done under the special wing of their protection. The "brotherly love" however, like the "desire for union," must, it seems, be all on one side, and the truth of Christ's Gospel is to have no practical bearing on the question. If this be what some call "Anglo Catholicism," I can only say that it has taken a false name, because it has completely turned its back upon the genuine Catholicism of the primitive Church, and of the faithful Church of England.
The idea which you mention in your next paragraph, as a plea for setting up a rival Church in the East, viz. that it need be only of temporary duration; and that as soon as, by its means, the great mass of the Eastern Churches is reformed, the new Church can cease its operations, and merge back into the body to which its members originally belonged, I regard as you do, though probably for different reasons. It is, in my judgment, perfectly absurd in every aspect of the question, and it is not worth while to waste time in discussing it, unless some fanciful projector should undertake to present such a scheme to our General Convention. And then I shall, (if living) maintain, that the Church of Christ should always and everywhere be planted, with the design that it shall grow and flourish, by His blessing, to the end of the world.
Your following argument, however, strikes me as a very strange one. For you say that the pledges given at the foundation of the Jerusalem Church bound its Bishop to abstain from proselyting Mohammedans, as well as the Oriental Christians, and that the pledges in regard to the Mohammedans have been kept, while, in regard to the Christians, they have been broken. "Why," you ask, "this difference? Are the souls of Mohammedans less immortal or less perishing than the souls of Christians? Surely among the five or six hundred millions of heathens and Mohammedans in this wicked world of ours, one would think there were immortal souls enough to care for, without plunging into an interminable controversy with the ancient Churches of the East."
Now here you have given us a new and powerful proof of the un-catholic and most unchristian character of these supposed pledges. What! An Archbishop of Christ's Church instructing the Bishop of a new See not to convert the infidels! And a bishop pledging himself to obey such a nefarious kind of counsel! And the whole Tractarian party, who think themselves apostolic by eminence, approving such instructions and pledges, and ready to manifest their indignation if they be violated! Why, did not the Jewish Sanhedrim give just such counsel and demand just such pledges from the apostles, in that same Jerusalem? And did not those apostles flatly refuse compliance, saying that they must "obey God rather than men?" Were they not scourged for that refusal, and yet did they not thank the Lord that they were "accounted worthy to suffer shame for His name?" Was not their whole course the doing of this very thing, converting the infidels, though the laws of the Jews, the Greeks and the Romans were all against them? And were not their worthy successors, the primitive bishops, full often,--like the apostles themselves--actual martyrs to this, their highest official duty?
I cannot, therefore, believe it possible that you are correct in your statement. The documents themselves are not within my reach, and I have thus far argued the question on your own ground, so far as facts are concerned. But here, surely, you must be mistaken. It would be a stain forever upon the character of all the parties, if such instructions were really given, or regarded with the slightest favor by any man bearing the name of Christian. All that I can conceive possible is, that no public and formal assault was to be made upon the national religion of the Turkish empire. And even a restriction like this must have been a dictate of secular prudence, without the slightest claim to an apostolic or catholic character. But that Mohammedans should be actually shut out from reading the Scriptures--shut out from listening to the true faith, however much they might desire to learn--shut out from Christ and his saving Gospel altogether, by the command of an Archbishop of the English Church, and the assent of an English Bishop, and that, too, in the very city where the Saviour died for the sins of the whole world, and ordered His chosen ministers to preach the Gospel to every creature--this is a statement which I can never receive. The proposition is too monstrous in its terms for the largest stretch of my credulity.
But you may say: How then has it happened that there are no Turks among the proselytes? I answer that the well known Turkish law which makes it death to become an apostate from the religion of Mohammed, accounts sufficiently for the fact. The difference, therefore, lies plainly in the circumstances of the parties. The Greek was accessible to the Bible-readers of the Bishop. The Turk was not. The Greek might listen to the true Word of God and apply for admission into the pure Church of England, not only without the forfeiture of life, but with the assurance of legal protection. The Turk could not do the same without the certainty of immediate martyrdom. The Greek was taught because he was willing to learn. The Turk was not taught because he dared not hear the teacher.
Hence I cannot perceive the slightest ground, in this feature of the case, for your ironical question, whether "the souls of Mohammedans are less immortal than the souls of Christians." It is one thing that they should be less immortal, and it is quite another thing that they are less accessible. Neither do I understand the meaning of your remark that "in the five or six hundred millions of heathens and Mohammedans in this wicked world of ours, one would think there were immortal souls enough to care for, without plunging into an interminable controversy with the ancient Churches of the East." Do you really desire to put an end to all controversy with corrupted Churches, until the whole heathen world is converted? Then we must stop our controversy with Rome as well as Greece. We must lay aside all active efforts to defend the truth of the Gospel against heresy and schism. You must yourselves abandon your editorial work, and go to Africa or China. What, I pray you, could induce you to think that there was anything like argument in such language as this?
Your next observation is, to my humble judgment, equally unaccountable. For you say that "if these new Churches of proselytes from the Orientals are to be set up on the principle of Independency, rather than according to the godly order of the Holy Catholic Church, they most certainly ought to be Congregational, Presbyterian, or anything in the world but Episcopal." What, I beseech you, has this to do with the question? Has Bishop Gobatbeen making his proselytes Independents, Congregationalists, or Presbyterians? Have they been united through his zeal with any other than the godly order of the Holy Catholic Church, as we maintain, and as the heretical Greeks do not maintain it? Has he not restored to them their long-lost privileges in strict accordance with the true principles of Catholicism by cleansing them from the idolatry and superstition with which they were defiled? And is it possible that you would rather that sacred duty should be altogether abandoned by the Church to the hands of Presbyterians and Congregationalists?
I confess, and with the deepest regret, that I cannot understand such language as this, except upon the preposterous hypothesis of Mr. Palmer, already mentioned, and which I shall now present to my readers in three extracts from his own words, in the 1. Vol. of the American edition.
First, then, he lays it down as a general principle that "It is inconsistent with the true principles of Catholic unity, for any branch of the Church to send missionaries to raise a rival worship and seek for converts in the bosom of another." This rule is right, because Catholic unity supposes Catholic communion, which cannot exist with heretics. But he errs entirely, by applying it in this most perilous statement, "When Roman Churches were founded in South America, Canada, the Philippines, &c. by the Europeans who first colonized or subdued those countries, such Churches are altogether free from schism, and are invested with the original rights of Catholic Churches, so that no one has a right to establish rival communities among them, with a view to oppose their authority or draw proselytes from them." And thirdly, he errs yet more extravagantly, in stamping upon what he absurdly calls this violation of "Catholic unity" the most awful character, by declaring that "it is a sin which, unless repented of, is eternally destructive to the soul. The heinous nature of this offence is incapable of exaggeration, because no human imagination, and no human tongue, can adequately describe its enormity."
Now this hypothesis will fully account, from first to last, for the Tractarian opposition to the See and to the Bishop of Jerusalem. But I hesitate not to say that a more flagrant and monstrous doctrine was never penned by any writer, calling himself an advocate of Catholic principles. Many years ago, being in New York, when the American edition of the work was announced, I took the pains to point out this pernicious novelty to the learned editor. I endeavored to shew him the falsehood of the proposition, and its fatal bearing upon the position of the Church of England and our own, in all those countries and States which had been first settled by Komanists. And I urgently requested that he would at least supply a corrective to the error by his own notes, if he did not feel at liberty to expunge it altogether. My argument was heard very kindly and respectfully, and I hoped that I had succeeded. But I found, when the publication was completed, that my labor was all in vain. Nay, the work has since been adopted amongst the Text Books of our General Seminary, and, for aught I know, has engrafted on many a young and unguarded mind this most unscriptural, unapostolical, and uncatholic absurdity.
Since that day, whenever the subject has occurred, I have freely expressed my opinion privately; and I reproach myself that I have not, until now, done it publicly, as an act of official duty, so far as lies within my humble power, to "banish and drive away from the Church all erroneous and strange doctrine contrary to God's Word, and both privately and openly to call upon others to the same," according to my vows of consecration. Indeed it is mainly with the intent to do this neglected duty, that I have taken up the present controversy. For if, under existing circumstances, I were to shrink from it, I should condemn myself for suffering personal feeling to triumph over Christian principle; and could hardly expect to finish the remainder of my course with "the testimony of a good conscience," in tranquility and peace.
You must not understand me, however, as charging you with a formal adoption of Mr. Palmer's hypothesis. I do not pretend to decide, for you, where you give me no authority. I only say that your last quoted remarks would be quite intelligible on that ground, and that I find it difficult to comprehend them on any other. But I acknowledge, with pleasure, that your closing statement seems intended to exclude every aspect of the question, save that which depends upon the pledges supposed to have been made by Bishop Alexander; although here, as everywhere throughout your argument, you assume that "the action of the Church of England, (right or wrong) has been utterly in condemnation of any attempt to proselyte, and therefore, until the Church herself formally and officially reverses her present position, no attempt, on the part of her ministers or members, to proselyte from the Orientals, can be regarded as regular, justifiable, or, in the face of existing pledges, even morally honest." And to this you add that "even if the attempt should be successful, the starting of a new Church is the least likely way to reform the old ones, and therefore the surest to defeat the sole object which the proselyters themselves profess to have in view."
With regard to the first part of this closing paragraph, I have already proved, I trust, that "the Church of England" has taken no action whatever, and therefore she has no action to reverse, whether formally or otherwise--that you have yourselves denied to the whole four Archbishops any authority to acquit Bishop Gobat, and therefore it is manifest that the previous action of one Archbishop, even if so intended, could not avail to condemn him--that the so-called pledges, supposing them to have been made as you assume, were unscriptural, uncatholic and unlawful, because it was always held a duty of every bishop to reclaim heretics, so far as it was in his power--that the Eastern Churches are heretical, have never been in communion with the Church of England since the 9th Century, and are not in communion with her now--that the so-called pledges were given by the first bishop, and even if they did bind him, could not bind his successor, unless they were--what they certainly were not--in accordance with the laws or principles of the Church; and therefore that there could be no rule of true Catholic discipline, of ecclesiastical duty, or of moral honesty, obliging Bishop Gobat to regard them as having, at least on him. the slightest shadow of obligation.
And with respect to your last remark, that "the starting of a new Church is the least likely way to reform the old ones," I must first deny that the Church of England is a new Church, because it is descended as truly as the Orientals themselves, from the Church of the apostles at Jerusalem, and is many centuries older than the Greek Church in Russia, whose subjects form her main strength. I maintain, secondly, that although the Church of England may be new in Jerusalem, (which I suppose must have been your meaning,) she owes no comity to those old Churches which are heretical, which regard her as heretical, and obstinately refuse to acknowledge her claims, as a sound and pure branch of the Holy Catholic Church, and a faithful witness against their numerous errors. I say, thirdly, that their ignorance of her true character, after our own American Missionaries have spent twelve years in a very extraordinary effort to teach them, is a wilful ignorance; and that even independently of that bootless mission, it was their duty to have known the difference between Catholic truth and heretical pravity. And I contend lastly, that the Church of England had no other possible way open to her, of opposing heresy with the least prospect of success, except by the old, universal and direct mode of establishing her own Scriptural system in a visible organization of Bishop, Priest, Deacon, and Laity, with their proper appendages of Sacraments and worship, which might be "known and read of all men."
I have now gone through, step by step, with your ingenious argument, without adverting to any other view of the facts than that presented by yourselves. But it is my duty, before I conclude, in justice to the late Archbishop--with whom I had the pleasure, in the year 1839, of enjoying much personal intercourse, and for whose wisdom, learning and meek urbanity I entertain the most sincere respect--to state another aspect of the matter, which seriously weakens the whole foundation of your charge, and relieves both him and Bishop Gobat from even the semblance of inconsistency. My authority is the letter of the Bishop's Chaplain, Rev. W. Douglas Veitch, to the Bishop of Oxford, in which I find a calm, reasonable and far more satisfactory account of the whole matter.
In the year 1841, when the Church of England was established at Jerusalem, the existing laws of the Turkish empire forbade all change or transfer of the members of one Christian Church to another, and Proselytism was thus made a legal offence against the supreme civil power. It was under these circumstances that the instructions were given, which our Tractarian brethren regarded as a concession to their theory of Catholic unity, but which the Archbishop seems to have considered in the same light as Lord Aberdeen, namely, as necessary to guard against the danger of collision with the secular government of the country, whose consent was requisite to the peaceful establishment of the new See.
Six years afterwards, however, namely, in 1847, at the solicitation of Lord Cowley, the British Ambassador, the Sultan issued his famous decree of Toleration, by which all the members of the Oriental Churches who chose to register themselves as Protestants, should enjoy the same recognition and protection as any other Christians. This, of course, removed the legal barrier, and allowed full liberty, so far as the Turkish government was concerned, to all the proselytism which was unlawful before.
The Oriental Patriarchs, nevertheless, occasioned so much trouble and vexation to those persons who thought fit to leave their communion, that Sir Stratford Canning, the British Ambassador who succeeded Lord Cowley, procured in A. D. 1850 an additional firman from the Sublime Porte for the protection of the Proselytes. And this representative of the English Government at that time gave his public attestation to the piety and excellence of Bishop Gobat's character, and the Christian consistency of his whole course.
The principles on which he acted, moreover, were freely communicated to Archbishop Howley himself, and were approved by that eminent Prelate, as well as by the present Archbishop, who was then the highly-esteemed Bishop of Chester. For they both told Bishop Gobat that "he could not be prohibited preaching, or causing to preach, the Gospel, even to the Greeks, and that if any of them came to the knowledge of the truth and wished to unite with the Church of England, they did not see how he could refuse them, although they advised him to preach with caution, and to avoid receiving great numbers or whole communities at once." This conclusive fact has not been denied, and settles the whole controversy, so far as Archbishop Howley is concerned, in a manner which relieves his venerated name from all suspicion of having intended to sacrifice the official duty of Bishop Gobat, to the preposterous notions of the Tractarian party. And hence the zealous perseverance which the nine hundred Protesters have displayed, in the face of such testimony, and against the subsequent judgment of the whole four Archbishops of England and Ireland together, only proves the melancholy power of a perverted theology, to resist all the ordinary evidence of truth and reason.
And now my painful task is done, unless you, or some other prominent and responsible champion, should undertake to deny that the Oriental Churches are heretical, which I have not formally proved from the rules laid down in the Scriptures and the fathers, because you have expressly argued on the admission that they are so. But if this be disputed, or if there be any respectable attempt made to sustain openly the monstrous doctrine of Mr. Palmer, I pledge myself, (life and health permitting, under the gracious Providence of God,) to demonstrate, by all that deserves to be called authoritative in the Church, that this doctrine is a dangerous error, opposed to all true Christian and ecclesiastical principle. And I undertake, still further, to convince any candid and unprejudiced mind, that my Tractarian brethren, with all their laudable learning and zeal for much that is truly good and useful, have not yet mastered, on that point, the first elements of real Catholicism.
I have used this term "Catholicism" freely, not because I am particularly fond of it myself, but partly because the Tractarian party, for whose especial benefit I write, are so noted for their love of Catholicity, and partly because the word itself ought to be delivered from its slavish bondage to the corrupt Church of Rome, and placed in its true light before all consistent Episcopalians. We profess, in the Creed, to believe THE HOLY CATHOLIC CHURCH, and we profess rightly. We are bound therefore to understand what is really Catholic, so as to distinguish it, with care and judgment, from those polluted compounds of truth and falsehood which would fain monopolize that venerable name. And for this, there is no other course but that which I have established from the fathers,--the divine Scriptures as the RULE, and the pure primitive Church as the INTERPRETER. That is the faith which is truly apostolical. That is the faith of the martyrs and confessors. That is the faith against which the gates of hell shall never prevail.
The sickly, sentimental and unscriptural yearning after a union with heretics, which my Tractarian brethren so strangely miscall "Catholic unity," is not only most uncatholic in reality, but unmanly and absurd. There can be no Catholic unity, except by a universal return to the first pure Catholic system, and that we have no right to look for, under the awful declarations of the prophetic Scriptures, until our Lord shall come again to judge the world. Meanwhile, what ails our brethren that they must long for an adulterous union with corrupted Churches? Why cannot the Church of England stand alone, as well as the Churches of Rome, and of the Orientals? Count up the noble mother with her offspring, embracing at this moment 108 bishops, and carrying on her sublime mission, with true apostolic consistency, in every quarter of the globe, constantly growing and extending in all directions, by the favor of her divine Lord and Master. Think of her millions of enlightened laity, so many of whom stand in the highest rank of earthly influence and honor; and estimate, if you can, the blessed results of her pure faith and primitive polity, upon the future religion of a jarring and distracted world. There is a Centre of Unity, worthy of all our. confidence, because it is upheld in all things by the Word of God, and free from every shade of error. And most sadly are those men misguided who would sully its purity by an unholy compact with idolatry and superstition, or sacrifice its harmony and peace to a wild coalition between heresy and truth.
You must not suppose, however, that I attribute any such intention to you. I greatly prefer to believe that you have been led into the mistake which I certainly think you have committed, by too much confidence in your English guides. Neither do I attribute such intention to those learned, able, zealous, but in some respects entirely deceived theologians, who appear to be your favorite leaders, because I regard them as involved in a fog of mystification, which I trust they may yet be able to clear away. As I have said in the beginning of this argument, so I now repeat, that I honor all that is good and true in every man and every school among my brethren. And I utterly repudiate that bigoted and contracted spirit, which refuses to praise the right, because the brother who maintains it may have adopted some other opinion which is wrong, and wholly indefensible. Neither do I ask you to abandon that or any other party. But I would have you, if possible, rise above mere party. And I do, with all regard and true affection, advise you to beware of party spirit, and party influence. "PROVE ALL THINGS" by the unerring standard of the Scriptures, and that best earthly interpreter, the Church, which is the most faithful exponent in the world, at this day, of the true primitive and really Catholic system. "HOLD FAST THAT WHICH IS GOOD," and use your admirable talents and energy to give it a constantly increasing circulation. I trust that you are destined to be "burning and shining lights" in the ecclesiastical firmament, long after my own humble career is closed in the silence of the tomb. And it is my hope and prayer that this, my frank but friendly remonstrance, may serve to give a wholesome caution to your future course, so as to further your advancement, in the end, to a surer eminence of usefulness and honor.
But do not mistake my motives, I pray you, in thus expressing my genuine feelings, as if I deprecated any controversy on my own account. Where the truth of the Gospel and the purity of Christ's Church are involved, I hold, and I wish you to hold, that personal considerations should have no place whatever. If you, or any other responsible author, can confute my argument, I seek no shelter from age, or office, or any other circumstance. For when Moses pronounced his parting benediction on Levi, he blessed him for having "said unto his father and his mother, I have not seen him, neither did he acknowledge his brethren, nor know his own children; for they have observed thy word, and kept thy covenant." And a greater than Moses has said: "Whosoever loveth father or mother, son or daughter, yea, or his own life, more than he loveth ME, is not worthy of Me, and cannot be my disciple." Do then, in this and all other things, what you conscientiously judge to be your duty to God and the Church; and believe, whatever the result may be, that I shall not the less remain,
Your affectionate friend and brother in Christ,
JOHN H. HOPKINS.