RESPECTED AND BELOVED BRETHREN,--
In this, my fourth and concluding address to you, on the Novelties which disturb our peace, but which--I thank God--have no power to destroy it, I have to solicit your kind indulgence on a variety of topics, which would bear a far more extended investigation. The chief of these, however, is the theological notion, that the tenets of the Council of Trent may be reconciled to Catholic, or in other words, to primitive and orthodox doctrine. This idea has been for the first time eliminated in the recent ordination of Rev. Arthur Carey by my highly esteemed brother, the Bishop of the diocese of New York; and I cannot discharge what appears to be an act of obligation to the Church of God, without discussing the principal points involved in that interesting transaction, and suggesting the best practicable safeguard against future difficulties. A few observations upon the system of Rome compared with Tractarianism, the general scope of the sacramental theology, the theory of priestly power, and the strange attempt made of late to beat down the doctrine of justification by faith, and unprotestantize the Church of England, will bring these Letters to a close, and relieve my own mind, at least, of what I have long felt to be a most painful and oppressive duty.
In entering upon the questions connected with Mr. Carey's ordination, I beg leave to premise, that there are probably very few men in the Church, or in the world, who have a higher or more affectionate regard for my youthful brother in the ministry, than I profess to cherish. Consigned, by his estimable father, to my care, in A. D. 1833, he remained a constant inmate in my family until 1837, the class-mate of my eldest son, and accounted as one of my own children. In my house, he and his elder brother passed through the studies appropriate to the Freshman year in College, and the larger portion of the Sophomore, under the tuition of thorough and accomplished instructors; and were forthwith received into the Sophomore class of Columbia College, where they earned an honorable rank, and sustained a most pure and elevated character. And when, after graduating with uncommon credit at that excellent institution, I was informed that my young friend and beloved pupil had become a candidate for holy orders, I shall not undertake to describe the gratitude to God which the intelligence inspired, nor the deep interest with which I listened to the best accounts of his consistent piety and remarkable attainments, from time to time.
I should be very reluctant to publish facts, of this description, if it were not for the opportunity which it affords me to do justice to Mr. Carey's personal claims, on the one hand, and to assign a reason, on the other, for my absolute confidence in himself, while I shall be compelled to question the consistency of some of his opinions, with the act of his ordination. Whatever may be the error in judgment which the case presents, it can hardly be charged on him with justice or propriety. I take it for granted that he only studied, with all the undoubting confidence of youth, those productions of our Oxford brethren, which were eminently attractive in themselves to a thoughtful and a pious, but inexperienced mind, and which were, moreover, warmly advocated and recommended by many of the best theologians around him. And who can wonder, if, under such circumstances, the very prestige connected with the time-honored University of Oxford, awakened the strongest enthusiasm in an English heart, and gave every possible advantage to the lessons of those divines who had already set the Church of his native land in such unwonted commotion? Nor was it strange, independently of all national partiality; for when has the world beheld such a band of intellects, combined in such an enterprise? The startling energy of Froude, the lovely poetry of Keble, the learned mysticism of Pusey, the profound yet simple eloquence of Newman, the tact and directness of Percival, the straightforward and unflinching honesty of Hook, the scholastic exactness and ponderous erudition of Palmer, the varied power and sparkling brilliancy of the British Critic, to say nothing of a host of auxiliaries in every form of taste and feeling, operating in every quarter of the vast ecclesiastical field, church music, church painting, church architecture, church history,
church ritual, and, unhappily, church doctrine--in tales for the young, and arguments for the old, in grave truth and amusing fiction, while "the whole tended to the same end with marvellous strength and harmony? No, the result is not strange, when we look back upon the wonderful union of capacities, which, for ten successive years, had been laboring to produce it. And no one who has been brought within the influence of that charmed circle, who can reverence the aspect of piety, or honor learning, or sympathize with zeal', or appreciate refined sentiment, or admire the prismatic splendors of an almost universal genius, will be likely to wonder at the strong impression produced upon the minds of others, however thankful he may feel that the overruling Providence of God has said to it, Thus far shalt thou go, and no farther--however fervently he may supplicate the Almighty Bestower of all good, that not one of that gifted band may be finally lost to the ranks of Christian truth, or be deluded so far as to mistake the Church of Rome for the true Catholic Church of the Redeemer.
Regarding, therefore, the case of Mr. Carey as the natural result of his position, knowing, as I think I do, the peculiar capacities with which the Lord has endowed his intellect, and confident in the rectitude of purpose which I doubt not the grace of God has established in his heart, I am under no anxiety about the ultimate soundness of his theological principles. Nor do I question, in the least, that if it should please the Most High to prolong his life until age and experience, under the divine blessing, have given ripeness to his powers, he will stand in the front rank of those authors whose writings shall be quoted by future generations in the Church, with confidence and praise.
But all this, however satisfactory with respect to the probable result in this particular instance, has nothing to do, in strictness of argument, with the serious question, whether a candidate, holding the opinions imputed to Mr. Carey at the time, ought to have been ordained at all. I am aware, indeed, that this is said by some to be a question which concerns only the diocese of New York, and her highly esteemed bishop. And therefore it is thought to be an invasion of his peculiar province, if any other bishop should express his disapproval. But I have no hesitation in saying that this is quite a mistaken idea. Nor shall I believe, unless upon his own direct assertion, that the bishop of New York himself holds any such unfraternal and thoroughly anti-episcopal doctrine. On the contrary, I feel quite confident that all our bishops admit the general and common interest which the entire body must take in questions of ordination. For no man can enter the ministry of a separate diocese without becoming, at the same moment, a minister of the whole Church. His letters of orders, accompanied by the usual certificate of dismission, entitle him to claim his ministerial rights from every other bishop, as perfectly as from him who ordained him. And consequently the grounds and qualifications which are acted upon by any one bishop, concern every part of the Church alike, and must therefore be equally, in every quarter, open to a candid review, and, if need be, to a frank though affectionate animadversion.
It is further an obvious result from the very object of the sacred office, that there is nothing of such cardinal importance to the interests of the gospel and the welfare of the Church, as the qualifications of the ministry. They are ordained as the guides, the teachers, the authorised examples of the flock of Christ. If the guide does not know the road, how shall he direct the traveller? If the teacher be ignorant, how shall the scholar learn? Or in the emphatic words of our Lord himself, If the blind lead the blind, shall not both fall into the ditch? Hence the Church has laid down the rules in her general canons, for the qualifications of candidates for holy orders: from which canons no bishop or diocese is at liberty to depart. But I risk nothing in asserting that the Church does not contain an individual, by whom a serious or wilful contempt of those wholesome laws would be visited with more unsparing reprehension than the bishop of New York himself. His whole ministerial life has been distinguished by a strict and even punctilious regard to every rule of ecclesiastical obligation. And if, therefore, under new and peculiar circumstances, he may seem to have erred in judgment--for who is infallible?--it needs no argument to prove what all will cordially and spontaneously concede, that it must have been an error of the head, and not of the heart.
I pass on, accordingly, to consider the aspect of this novel case, and shall premise a statement of the facts, which I shall endeavor to put into a shape free from every possible objection.
In A. D. 1842, Mr. Carey completed a full course of three years' theological study at the General Seminary in New York, passed his examinations with great credit, and might have been ordained without scruple, or delay, if he had not lacked a year of the age of twenty-one, under which the Canons of the Church allow no one to receive Holy Orders. His habits were those of a devoted student, and as he naturally felt a strong attachment to the associations of the seminary, he resolved to continue there in the character of a resident graduate, until the time of his ordination should arrive. Having attached himself meanwhile to the Church of Rev. Dr. Smith, and become a teacher of his Sunday-school, he applied to him, at the proper period, for the usual certificate. Before the paper was delivered, however, Dr. Smith had reason to apprehend that Mr. Carey had adopted the Tractarian theology, to an extent which he considered inconsistent with the doctrines of the gospel as set forth in the standards of the Church. As a matter of conscientious duty, therefore, and calling to his assistance the Rev. Dr. Anthon; the difficulty was communicated to the bishop, who promptly directed a special examination in the presence of himself, Drs. Smith and Anthon, and six other clergymen, for the purpose of investigating how far there was any real ground for doubting Mr. Carey's soundness in the faith.
The decision of the board, thus constituted, was not unanimous. The bishop and the six presbyters approved of Mr. Carey's theological qualifications Drs. Smith and Anthon, on the other hand, were satisfied that he had become a perfect convert to the Tractarian school, and did not hold the true sense of the thirty-nine Articles.
Understanding, however, that their objections were over-ruled, and perceiving no other regular mode of preventing, what they regarded as a precedent, fraught with danger to the soundness of our future ministry, they resolved to avail themselves of the opportunity which the ordination service allowed, in the question which the bishop is bound to address to the people; requiring them, if they know of any crime or impediment in the person about to be ordained, to come forth and declare it in the name of God.
Accordingly, having intimated their intention to the bishop, the Rev. Drs. Smith and Anthon repaired to St. Stephen's Church, where the ordination was to be held, on the appointed Sunday, habited as clergymen in our cities usually are on that holy day, and took their place among the congregation. At the proper time, when the bishop addressed the people in the words of the ordinal, they rose and read their objections to Mr. Carey's ordination, in the form of a written protest. The bishop replied that these objections had been already laid before him by the same gentlemen, had been thoroughly investigated, and judged to be not sustained; and therefore he should proceed with the ordination. Immediately after this annunciation, Drs. Smith and Anthon withdrew from the Church, and the candidate was ordained. Their conduct was forthwith strongly assailed in the columns of the Churchman, which rendered it proper for them, in self-defence, to publish a statement of their reasons. This statement called forth a variety of answers, and an unexampled agitation arose throughout the Church, in which the secular press engaged with zealous emulation. The tempest of conflicting feelings and opinions thus unhappily excited, will probably continue long, before it passes into calm and sunshine; but we may well hope in God, beloved brethren, that, like storms in the material world, it will serve to purify the spiritual atmosphere, and brace our whole Church into renewed health and vigor.
A number of novel and important questions have been raised by this deeply interesting occurrence, which I shall now proceed to examine, according to the best light which I have been able to obtain. They may be reduced to three: First, as to the validity of the objections to the ordination of the candidate; secondly, as to the propriety of the course taken by the protesting clergymen; and thirdly, as to the judgment of the bishop.
It is neither pleasant nor necessary to attempt the reconcilement of the apparently conflicting statements with regard to the facts which took place during Mr. Carey's examination. I would merely observe that the contrariety is often more apparent than real, and may be sufficiently accounted for, as I conceive, without the slightest impeachment of veracity on either side, by making due allowance for the particular aspect in which the parties severally regarded the points under discussion, and for the extreme difficulty which the best men experience in doing full and perfect justice to the opinions of an antagonist. Experience has always proved that this difficulty is not a little increased by theological zeal, and it is usually brought to its utmost height, when the decision affects the personal claims or rights of a third party.
Avoiding, therefore, the whole of this debated ground, it is enough for me to adopt the pamphlet of my friend, Rev. Professor Haight, who was one of the six presbyters in favor of the ordination, and who, of course, must have taken the most kindly view of Mr. Carey's side of the question. And one item of this pamphlet will embrace all that the case seems to me to require, which I shall proceed to quote in the language of its estimable author.
"In regard to the Council of Trent," saith Professor Haight, "I understood Mr. Carey simply to say, that the doctrinal decrees of that Council, apart from the damnatory clauses (which hind them as articles of faith upon the consciences of Romanists,) taken in their literal sense, and not as interpreted by the writings of Bishops and Doctors of the Romish communion, were not, in his opinion, absolutely irreconcilable with the Catholic faith."--"Now this is a very different thing from saying that he adopted the decrees of the Council of Trent as his confession of Faith, or that he would choose to express his own belief on any given point in their language. He simply gives it as his opinion--let it go for what it is worth--that the naked words of those decrees, with the above limitation, and without reference to the Romish system as generally displayed, and as gathered from the teaching of her divines, are susceptible of an interpretation not inconsistent with the received doctrines of the Universal Church. It is an exceedingly charitable view of the subject, some may call it a very loose and unsafe view; still it does not follow as a matter of course, that he who holds it is unsound in the faith."
In selecting this particular portion from all the rest, I am actuated mainly by the desire to regard the case in the most favorable light of which it is susceptible. And I confess myself most reluctantly compelled to "say, that this single opinion, deliberately avowed and defended, is enough, in my mind, to prove a disqualification. Let me endeavor to explain the reasons which have led me to this conclusion.
First then, I hold that nothing but a corruption of the faith can justify our glorious Reformation. Corruptions in practice, in morals, in interpretation, in any and every imaginable form, may exist, but while the system of doctrine remains pure, there can be no true ground for entire and total separation. This was the argument which not simply excused our mother Church for taking her stand against the papacy, but made it her solemn duty to protest against all the corruptions which the Roman Church had added to the true faith, and to which she claimed absolute adherence from every soul, under the fearful penalties of temporal ruin here, and eternal misery hereafter.
Therefore our 19th Article expressly asserts that the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of ceremonies, but also in matters of faith. And the most important portions of the other Articles are devoted to the protesting against those several points in which the errors of Rome consisted. In making this assertion, I except, of course, the first five Articles, which treat of the Trinity, the Incarnation of Christ, the Holy Spirit, the descent of our Lord into the place of departed spirits, and his glorious Resurrection; not because I would depreciate their paramount importance,--God forbid!--but because, if the Articles had said nothing of them, they would still have been secured in the Creeds, the Litany, and the other offices of the Book of Common Prayer. Selecting, however, only a few from the remainder of these admirable documents of religious truth, let us see how the Church and the Council of Trent will agree together.
The 6th Article sets forth the correct Canon of Scripture, asserting that it contains all things necessary to salvation, and denying that any thing which is not contained therein shall be required as an article of faith; thus directly opposing the claims of Tradition, and accounting as Apocryphal no less than fourteen distinct writings, which the Council of Trent commands to be received with as much reverence as any portion of the real Word of God. Now in this single Article there are three distinct propositions, embracing in their details a multitude of questions concerning the authority of Tradition in matters which Rome holds to be de fide. So that if there were no other quarrel betwixt us than this alone, it is sufficient to keep us apart for ever.
The 11th Article asserts the cardinal doctrine of Justification by Faith, or, as the Church of England expresses it, By faith only, to which the Council of Trent stands strongly opposed, confounding justification with sanctification, making our Baptism the instrumental cause of our first justification, our good works the instrumental cause of its subsequent increase, and our inherent righteousness the ground of our final acceptance. So serious and important is the difference here, that the Tractarian divines have made the most determined and persevering attacks upon the doctrine of our Church, not hesitating to brand it as the "Lutheran heresy," and even placing it below heathenism itself.
[Thus the British Critic, (Nov. 391) does not scruple to use this language, "The very first aggression, then, of those who labour to revive some degree at least of vital Christianity, (in the return of those gross corruptions and superstitions which have, in these latter days among ourselves, overlaid and defaced the primitive and simple truth,) their very first aggression must be upon that strange congeries of notions and practices, of which the Lutheran doctrine of Justification is the origin and representative. Whether any one heresy has ever infested the Church, so hateful and un-Christian as this doctrine, it is perhaps not necessary to determine; none, certainly, has ever prevailed so subtle and extensively poisonous."--"We must plainly express our conviction, that a religious heathen, were he really to accept the doctrine which Lutheran language expresses, so far from making any advance, would sustain a heavy loss, in exchanging fundamental truth for fundamental error."]
The 12th Article places good works in their true light "as the fruits of faith, and pleasant and acceptable to God, although they cannot put away our sins and endure the severity of God's judgment." Here is a plain opposition to the Council of Trent declaring, that the justified are in no respect deficient, but may be considered as fully satisfying the divine law (as far as is compatible with their present condition) by their works which are wrought in God, and as really deserving eternal life, to be bestowed in due time,---for this is called OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS, because WE ARE JUSTIFIED THEREBY, through its indwelling in us.
The 22d Article is directed against the Romish doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping and Adoration as well of Images as of Relics, and also the Invocation of Saints, calling this doctrine, "a fond thing, vainly invented, and repugnant to the Word of God." Now of all these, the Council of Trent treats more or less at large, and a considerable Treatise would be required to point out the detailed corruptions of truth, and sad superstitions in practice, which are virtually condemned by the comprehensive language of the Article. The style of argumentation in which the famous Tract No. 90 endeavored to evade this and some other of our doctrines, is so unworthy of its author, and so degrading to the framers of our Articles, that it is one of the standing wonders of the age how an Episcopalian could write, or the Church could endure, such a production.
The 24th Article condemns the Roman doctrine, in holding religious service in the Latin tongue, without any regard to the question whether it can be understood by the people. And here again is a positive contrariety to the Council of Trent.
The 26th Article denies that five out of the Seven Roman Sacraments ought to be accounted as such; in which list, that most important subject of Penance occurs, and the doctrine of Rome concerning it is said to have "grown out of a corrupt following of the Apostles." It is quite incomprehensible to my mind how any one can approve the decrees of Trent upon the Sacrament of Penance and at the same time approve the doctrine of our Church, for if ever there was a set of plain contrarieties, they may be found here. Indeed this Article alone contains more than twelve propositions, in which the two Churches are not to be reconciled by any fair process of reasoning.
The 28th Article expressly condemns the Roman doctrine of Transubstantiation, and defines the spiritual presence of Christ so as to limit it to the faithful receiver. And here we have corrected a large circle of error, in open contradiction to the Council of Trent, so that the notion which reconciles that Council to Catholic antiquity, and at the same time maintains that we are in agreement with the same Catholic antiquity, strikes a plain mind with perfect astonishment.
The 30th Article condemns the Roman doctrine of withholding the cup from the Laity. But the Council of Trent pronounces a curse upon any one, who shall deny that Christ is whole and entire under the species either of the bread or the wine, and in every particle of the same.
The 31st Article rejects the sacrifice of propitiatory masses, "in which it was said that the Priest did offer Christ for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain and guilt," as being a "blasphemous fable and dangerous deceit." That this doctrine was not, as the Tractarian theologians would persuade themselves, the vulgar error of Romanists, but the doctrine of that corrupt Church herself, is manifest from the whole body of her divines for ages before the Reformation, and the Council of Trent was so far from reforming it, that they expressly confirmed the whole.
The 32d Article condemns the Roman doctrine of priestly Celibacy, in which also we stand opposed to the Trentine Council.
Now here are between twenty and thirty dangerous errors in the faith, taught by the Council of Trent, and condemned by our Articles; and yet a candidate shall be thought qualified to be ordained as a minister of our Church, who thinks the decrees of Trent not "absolutely irreconcilable" with the Catholic, meaning thereby the pure, apostolic, and primitive doctrine!
"It is," saith Rev. Professor Haight, "an exceedingly charitable view of the subject, some may call it a very loose and unsafe view, still it does not follow, as a matter of course, that he who holds it is unsound in the faith." This remark of my esteemed friend and brother suggests a few observations, which I think have been rather overlooked on that side of the controversy.
There is a certain official fitness required on behalf of the candidate for holy orders, which no other quality can supply. A man may not be unsound in the faith which is essential to his own salvation, and yet profess an honest belief in a hundred erroneous notions. He may be a thorough Romanist, like Pascal, or Fenelon, and yield a mental acquiescence to every corruption of their creed, while yet his heart clings to Christ, and his actual trust and confidence are neither in the virgin, nor in the saints, nor in the sacraments, nor in his own good works, nor in the power of the priesthood, but in GOD HIS SAVIOUR. Thousands of men, I doubt not, have lived and died in the communion of that corrupt Church of Rome, who were Protestants in their real, faith, that is, in the doctrines which their hearts have: acknowledged. But suppose such persons to be under examination for the ministerial office, and to avow, in plain language, that they believed our thirty-nine Articles, taken in their literal sense, were not absolutely irreconcilable with Catholic doctrine, I ask any man of common sense whether the Church of Rome would think them qualified to receive the ministerial commission, merely because they professed, at the same time, their entire consent to the decrees of the Trentine Council, and therefore could not be directly condemned as unsound in the faith? Would not such a notion be taken as decisive evidence, that whether they were sound in their personal faith or not, they could not expect consistently to be authorized to teach others; that the Church of Rome wanted men who knew how to proclaim her doctrines, and condemn all that had gone out from her under the pretence of a Reformation, and that the man who was not ready to teach as that Council taught, was unfitted for her purpose, however great his other merits might confessedly be?
But if this would be correct reasoning on the part of Rome towards us, is it not equally applicable to our position with respect to Rome? Does it follow, that because we do not condemn the soundness in the faith of a particular individual, we must therefore grant that he is to be trusted as an authorised and commissioned leader? Because we may think it highly probable that Pascal and Fenelon are now in the Paradise of the just, should we, therefore, if they were on earth again, be ready to ordain them? Or if we should marvel at the inconsistency of Rome, in ordaining a candidate who openly declared that he did not think our Articles irreconcilable with sound doctrine, should we not marvel as much at the ordination of one amongst ourselves, who regarded the decrees of Trent with equal complacency?
It is not enough, therefore, in the case of a candidate for holy orders, that he have competent learning and piety, and be not unsound in his own faith. He must be, in the language of the canonical certificate, "Apt and meet to exercise the ministry to the glory of God and the edifying of the Church," and if he is not honestly believed to possess a reasonable measure of this fitness for the work, we have no real authority to ordain him. Hence we are obliged to examine him for the very purpose of ascertaining whether the mind, and spirit, and character of the Church are in him. The Church is a Reformed Church: Is he prepared to justify her reformation?
The Church is a Protestant Church,--emphatically and distinctly such, because her duty to PROTEST against error, is, in the nature of things, inseparable from the right of REFORM. Is he ready to repeat her protest, to defend its duty, and to demonstrate its truth? The Church is a Catholic Church, that is, a branch of the ancient, Universal Church of Christ, in contradistinction from all heresies and schisms. Is he thoroughly persuaded of this fact, and ready to assert, against all gainsayers, but chiefly and preeminently against that corrupt system which would fain be called the only Catholic Church, the purity and faithful consistency of her doctrines? If not, let him be put back awhile until he learns to understand the office which the Church expects of him. He may have piety, he may have learning, he may have all high moral and intellectual capacities, he may be sound in the essentials of his individual faith so far as concerns his own salvation. But all this he might be, without any of the distinctive principles which can alone authorize us to clothe him with the commission of the ministry. Our power to give him this commission is a solemn trust, delegated to us on certain specified conditions. And if those conditions, or any of them, be manifestly wanting, we have, strictly speaking, no legal right to ordain.
My esteemed friend and brother, Professor Haight, does himself, indeed, seem to hold the same views, substantially, in the following passage, (p. 167:) "That the clergy who consent to the ordination of a candidate, and the bishop who ordains him, are to be held responsible for all his opinions, no Churchman, I presume, will venture to assert. If his doctrines are in conformity with the doctrines of our standards--his honesty, intelligence, piety, and general fitness being granted--nothing more can be demanded of him." To this I cheerfully subscribe. It is the very ground of my difficulty, that the doctrines of Mr. Carey did not agree with the doctrines of our standards; not with the Homilies, not with the Articles, not with the doctrines of the Reformers who accomplished the blessed work in the midst of every obstacle, and sealed it with their blood. For how could it be inferred from any of those standards, that the decrees of the Council of Trent are not absolutely irreconcilable with the truth of the gospel? If not absolutely irreconcilable, they may be reconciled. If not false, they must be true: He that is not against us, saith our divine Master, is on our part. And again, HE THAT IS NOT WITH ME is AGAINST ME. In the things of God, therefore, we know nothing of a medium between falsehood and truth. There are confessedly things indifferent, about which men may argue to the end of the world, without affecting the character of their Church, or the honor of the gospel. But the mind of a Churchman seems to me under a strange cloud, when he can reckon the merits of the Romish controversy amongst them. For on our having the truth with us, in that controversy, depends our very being as a Church, our character as Christ's ministry, our right to ordain, our power to preach, our justification before men, and, more than all, our justification before the throne of the "KING ETERNAL, IMMORTAL, and INVISIBLE."
I am aware, indeed, that my esteemed brother would claim a distinction here which my argument has overlooked, ft is the distinction between opinions and doctrines; a distinction sometimes very real and tangible, and sometimes very delusive and vain. Perhaps I may be understood more clearly, however, if I illustrate my meaning by a hypothetical example.
Suppose, then, that a candidate for Orders should tell his examiners that he had formed an opinion--only an opinion--that the Koran of the impostor Mahomet was not absolutely irreconcilable with truth; that in some respects Mahomedanism had the advantage over Christianity, and that he could not precisely decide which was the better religion of the two. Now is it possible to believe that such an opinion, declared to his examiners, and therefore perfectly known by them to be really entertained by the candidate, would not be deemed a disqualification? Would it be competent for him to say, "I do not hold this as a doctrine, it is only my individual opinion. I shall not preach it, nor teach it; and as I hold and subscribe, ex animo, if you please, to all the Articles, principles, worship and discipline of the Church, you may rely on my faithfulness and official consistency." Would not the plain answer to such a statement be, "My friend, we do not question your good intentions, but your scheme of conduct involves an absurdity. Your opinion may be called what you please, but so long as you hold it, you cannot preach the doctrines of the gospel, because you do not believe them in your own heart.
You have, indeed, become so mystified upon the subject, that it is plain you do not at present see the gross inconsistencies of your position, else you would not have so frankly avowed it. But we cannot become accessories to such a fearful error. May God give you repentance, and bring you to the knowledge of the truth."
Now here, I admit, is an extreme case; but certainly it suits my purpose in proving, that the distinction between opinions and doctrines cannot save a candidate's consistency, when it so happens that they are diametrically opposed to each other. For not a whit more subversive of Christian faith is the opinion that Mahomedanism may be reconciled to truth, than it is subversive of our Protestant Church to hold the opinion that the Council of Trent may be reconciled to sound primitive doctrine. Nay, on some accounts, the half-way Turk would have a better apology than the half-way Romanist. He might say, and truly, that Mahomet adopted the Scriptures, and admitted the mission of Christ, and considered him the son of God in the Socinian sense, and represented him as occupying a place in the seventh heaven. He might plausibly insist, moreover,that he had aright to think as he pleased about the matter, because it was not mentioned in the Standards of the Church at all, and therefore, it was impossible to show the contrariety except by indirect inference and implication. And he might fairly argue that on all topics of the Bible and the Prayer Book, except a very few, he could preach without difficulty. The authority of Scripture, the unity and attributes of God, the mission of the prophets and of Christ himself, the day of judgment, the future state, all the moral virtues, the efficacy of prayer, fasting, and good works, would all be left to him as common ground; and the few expressions of the Litany and the Creeds which might produce a difficulty, could be gotten over by the aid of the reasoning in Tract No. 90. Above all, he might say, that there was nothing to prevent a vigorous urging of the doctrines of the Articles so far as the Reformation was concerned; for with all his private leaning towards Mahomedanism, he had not the least doubt of the awful corruption of the Church of Rome.
And yet, all this would not save him from rejection. The case would be too clear for argument, because on this subject, there has been nothing to lead our minds astray from the simplicity of truth.
I cannot therefore, consent to tolerate this novel system, which maintains that Romanism, as defined by the Council of Trent, may be reconciled to pure Christianity, merely because it is professed as an opinion, and not as a doctrine. Because so long as the individual entertains that opinion, it will be absurd to expect him to feel like a true son of the Reformation. He cannot, without violating his conscience, preach plainly and distinctly upon the various corruptions which the Homilies and the Articles detail. He cannot condemn, in strong and decided terms, the idolatrous worship of the Virgin mother, nor the invocation of saints, nor the veneration of images and relics, nor the doctrine of Transubstantiation, nor the merit of our own good works, nor any other point in controversy. He can, indeed, preach upon a large scope of faith and practice, without recurring to Rome at all; and he may possibly be quite a useful and a respectable man, if he can only contrive to bury this opinion in his own bosom. But he must either have very little conscience, or very extraordinary self-control, to persevere in the effort to conceal it. And if he could, what right have we to ordain men whose opinions are such, that they cannot promulgate them without defeating the very object of their ministry? Is not the fact that the opinion must not be openly avowed, sufficient evidence to prove that it ought not to be held at all?
I do not, however, desire to pass by the argument which my respected and beloved brethren seem to think so satisfactory, namely, that the Church has always allowed the most liberal range of sentiment on other subjects, namely, on Calvinism, Arminianism, and Episcopacy; from whence the conclusion is deduced that a correspondent laxity or even contrariety of sentiment must be allowed, with respect to Rome. It may be owing to my own obtuseness that I cannot see the relevancy of this reasoning. But assuredly it was not Calvinism, nor Arminianism, nor Episcopacy, which produced the struggles of the Reformation, These were not the questions which filled Germany with slaughter, and brought the martyrs of England to prison and to death. Our candidates may construe the Articles in the Calvinistic or the Arminian sense, and they may think episcopacy a divine or a human institution, and yet leave every important doctrine of the blessed Reformation precisely as it was before. But if they begin to tolerate the Council of Trent, and fancy its decrees reconcilable with pure primitive Christianity, it appears perfectly incontrovertible to me, that they virtually subvert the foundation of our whole reform, and convert our Apostolic Church into a band of Schismatics. Nothing therefore, seems to my mind more obvious, than the paramount importance of this vital question. If Rome can be proved to be doctrinally right, we must be doctrinally wrong. To prove that we are both right, and yet to admit and defend the principles or the act of the Reformation, is a manifest contradiction.
Such, then, being my own humble judgment on the subject of the qualifications of the candidate, and thus far agreeing with Drs. Smith and Anthon in thinking that he was not, according to the true spirit and meaning of the Ordinal and the Canons, ready to be ordained, the next question arises, namely: Were they right or wrong, in openly protesting against the ordination?
And here, I think it due to those reverend brethren to say, that they plainly sought for a regular and legal mode of attaining an object of high and important principle. They acted on an established part of the service appointed by the Church, and, as they conceived, in strict conformity to the provisions of the Rubric. What deprived them of a right given to every member of that congregation?
It is said first, that the right is given to the people, that is, the laity; and secondly, that these objectors, being clergymen, had free access to the bishop in their clerical capacity, and had actually used their privilege already: hence it is deemed absurd that they should use it again.
In answer to the first part of this argument, I must confess myself unable to see that a right, given by the Church to every layman present at an ordination, is lost forever, if such layman becomes a clergyman. Can any other case be shown in which the clergy must no longer presume to use the privileges of the laity? Is it indeed a principle of sound construction, that a layman, having certain rights as such, forfeits them all as soon as he becomes a clergyman? This is, to me, a very novel, and I must needs think, perfectly indefensible idea. The clergyman doubtless acquires certain official rights by his ordination, but he loses no right which he had before, unless it be such as is either incompatible per se with the sacred function, or is made incompatible by positive ecclesiastical law. Hence, as neither of these can be alleged, these clergymen had the same right to act on the exhortation which the ordinal addresses to the people, as they had to sit amongst the people, and become, for the time, a part of the congregation.
The second branch of the argument, however, has more apparent force; since it is a very plausible idea that these clergymen had exercised their privilege already, and the Church could not mean to give them, two distinct modes of doing the same thing.
At the first view of the transaction, I was inclined to adopt this opinion; but further reflection has led me to doubt, whether the information given to the Bishop, and the private examination held thereupon, were the thing which the Church intended to insure to the public objection in the Ordinal. Let us look to the language of the Prayer book, which is as follows, viz.
"And if any great crime or impediment be objected, the Bishop shall cease from ordering that person, until such time as the party accused shall be found clear of that crime."
Now an important question arises on these words, viz. By what mode is the party to be found clear of the alleged crime or impediment? BY A REGULAR, CANONICAL TRIAL, conducted according to the established laws of the Church, or by an informal, private examination? By the first, as it would seem to me; because no accused person can be found "clear" of an alleged crime, without a trial; or at least without an examination conducted according to some known forms of law. And as the language of the rubric embraces not only crimes but impediments, and doctrinal unsoundness is an impediment of the most extensive kind, which may vary from the lightest shades of error, up to the most grievous heresy, it seems plain that the interests of the Church, the character of the candidate, and the rights of the accusers, would all require, that a decision so grave and important should be attained in the most canonical, complete and satisfactory manner.
If this reasoning be correct, the result will be, that Drs. Smith and Anthon had not had the kind of investigation which the Ordinal contemplated. That what they desired was what the rubric had expressly provided for, namely, a canonical, regular, legal investigation. And it would certainly be a strange anomaly in our system, if a single layman, making public objection according to the Ordinal, should have a right to a more solemn, strict and thorough examination of the charge, than the Church intended to allow, where the same charge was made at the same time and under the same circumstances, by two doctors of divinity.
There is one argument more, however, advanced upon the other side, and that is derived from a new meaning of the word impediment; which is ingeniously supposed to exclude all theological unsound-ness, and to embrace only acts or habits of vice or immorality. I acknowledge myself quite unable to perceive the authority for this definition. If such were the meaning of the Church, I presume the language would have been the familiar word, misdemeanour, instead of the much more comprehensive term, impediment. It is not impossible, indeed, that our General Convention may think fit to affix this meaning to the word, for the future; but they cannot extend such a novelty so as to give it a retrospective operation on the past. If Congress cannot create a crime by an ex post facto law, it would seem very hard that the Church should make an offence by an ex post facto interpretation.
I must frankly say, therefore, that Drs. Anthon and Smith, in my humble judgment, had sufficient ground for their objection, and as that objection was over-ruled in the private examination of the candidate, they had a plain right to make their public protest, in order that the ordination might be suspended, according to the express law of the Church, until the candidate should have been found "clear," by a regular, canonical trial. Their leaving the Church, as soon as they were told that their objection was disregarded, has been severely censured, but I could never perceive the ground of censure. For certainly, they were compelled either to leave the Church, or else to take part in the very ordination against which they had conscientiously protested. It will hardly be thought, I presume, that it would have been reverential on their part to have remained, without uniting in the prayers and responses proper to the occasion. And yet how could they have thus united, when they honestly believed the candidate unfit, and the Bishop mistaken?
The result then, in my mind--and I state it with deep regret--is quite at variance with the decision of my highly-esteemed brother, the Bishop of New York. But he has every possible claim to a favqrable construction of what--at worst--can only be considered an error in judgment, to which the best men are liable. The more especially as the case was new, and he must have felt strongly inclined to regard it in the most indulgent light for the candidate. Let me ask a few moments' consideration to what seems to my mind the natural course of his reflections. At least, they would have been my own, on such an occasion; although it would not become me to say, until I am similarly circumstanced, how far they would govern my decision.
Here is a youth of uncommon piety, talent and learning, who is plainly devoted to the Tractarian school of Oxford. He is but just twenty-one, and is only to be admitted to the diaconate, where he cannot even be allowed to preach without a special license, which can be at any moment withdrawn. His highly respectable connexions, and large circle of friends, will be deeply wounded in their feelings if he is put back; especially as a full year has already elapsed since he had passed most honorably through his Seminary course. He himself will probably be powerfully affected by such a public censure, and his constitution, already enfeebled by severe application, and frail at best, may be crushed under his mental depression. Why should such a dangerous experiment be tried, when the Church can be guarded as surely by passing gently over his extreme opinions upon a scholastic subtlety now, and recommending him to a sounder course of reading and reflection before he applies, three years hence, for ordination to the priesthood? At that time, should he prove unsound, there will be another and a sufficient opportunity for thorough investigation, and he can be withheld from the higher office which includes the cure of souls. Therefore, on the whole, is it not better for the candidate, better in view of his future usefulness to the Church, better for the sake of his estimable friends and connexions, that he should be admitted without further delay, trusting to experience and time, under the influence of divine grace, for the correction of opinions which now seem inconsistent, and at all events keeping a strict guard over his next examination?
Now surely this must be allowed to be a strong case, on the part of the decision formed by my highly-esteemed brother, the Bishop of New York; and yet it is far from being the whole of what probably occupied his thoughts, when employed in the serious task of deliberation: for as Drs. Smith and Anthon expressly state that his mind was not made up at the close of the private examination, it may well be supposed that the whole of the intervening day, (Saturday,) was spent in a careful and anxious survey of all the direct and indirect bearings of this new and difficult question.
The next set of inquiries, therefore, which I venture to presume must have passed through his mind, would perhaps be such as the following: How will the rejection of this interesting and most conscientious young man affect the General Theological Seminary, and its valued Professors? Will it not be seized on with avidity by the enemies of the Church, as a manifest proof that this most important institution is infected with a tendency to Popery, when even the Bishop himself, who is already supposed to be somewhat over-friendly to the Oxford Tracts, bas been obliged to reject a candidate of the highest merit, for no other reason than his having imbibed the errors of that system? Will not the hue and cry against "Puseyism" be thus raised to such a height, as may seriously injure the future welfare of this school of the prophets, stain the professional character of its worthy and talented instructors, and even extend to those excellent and long experienced men, who have no sympathy whatever with the supposed error? And how can the Bishop repair the evils which an excessive strictness in this matter may make him instrumental in producing? He may inflict the wound, but he cannot heal it. He may open a breach which he cannot close. And why should such a risk be incurred merely on account of a single example, a novel case, which never occurred before, which, with proper care, may never occur again, and which cannot produce any imaginable evil, if due attention be paid to the interval which must be spent before the candidate is presented for the priesthood?
There is yet remaining, however, an argument which merits some serious consideration. The bishop might have doubted whether it was just, with regard to the candidate himself, to delay his ordination at a stage like this. The canons, in laying down certain requisites for ordination, do impliedly authorize, as it were, a contract with every candidate, that if he fulfils these requisites, he shall be ordained: and therefore Mr. Carey, having done his part to the full extent, and even more than was required by an extra year of study, had a right to demand the fulfilment of the covenant on the part of the Church. True, there were opinions charged upon him which were believed to be radically inconsistent with her doctrines. But ought he to suffer for holding such opinions, so long as he evidently could not see their inconsistency, and was not prevented from subscribing, ex animo, to all that the Church required? Should a solemn contract be thus violated on the strength of a new hypothesis, which had started up without either party having anticipated it, which one party, the candidate, did not believe to belong to the main question at all, but honestly held it as a private speculation; and which the other party, the Church, had not defined as yet, while her ministers held it differently, some regarding it one way, and some in another? Surely, it might well be said, that contracts may not be avoided on such doubtful grounds as this. The candidates for the ministry have certain vested rights, and no new matter, especially when it is of a disputable kind, can be justly suffered to despoil them.
The answer to all this is sufficiently obvious. To the first it may be truly said, that the bishops have received their sacred commission under the solemn pledge to banish and drive away from the Church all erroneous and strange doctrines, and that their highest function, the power to ordain, may not be lawfully subjected to any arguments of personal regard or expediency. To the second, that the best interests of the General Seminary would be promoted instead of injured, by any act, which proved, to the public satisfaction, a strict and thorough vigilance over sound doctrine, especially where Rome was concerned. And to the third, that the candidate can have no vested rights, which, in the reasonable apprehension of his examiners, can possibly expose the Church to danger. His inability to see the inconsistency of his opinions could not alter the fact, however it might affect our feelings towards him personally. The ministry is only to be conferred on those who are qualified. The qualifications must be judged by others, and the very existence of a reasonable doubt whether the candidate possesses them, deprives him of all right to complain, because it lies upon him to satisfy the Church that he is fit, and so long as there is ground for doubt, the evidence cannot be called satisfactory. Finally, it might be said, that the fear of evil consequences can never be admitted in the scale against positive rules of obligation. It is our part to fulfil, so far as in us lies, the present duty, and leave the question of results, in humble faith, to that overruling Providence, who can cause the very wrath of man to praise him, and make all things, however adverse they may seem to our shortsighted apprehensions, ultimately work together for good to those that love him.
Nevertheless, although, as I have frankly said, my judgment would have differed from that of my respected brother, yet it would be quite unfair to deny that his probable view of the case is a very plausible, amiable, and inviting, if not a very strong one. To a man of warm and generous feelings, I can readily imagine that the appeal on the side of Mr. Carey would be very hard to resist; and I honestly confess, that granting it to be a mistaken decision, it seems impossible for me to regard it with any serious fear or apprehension. It was a novel case, in all respects, and one of considerable difficulty; there was but little time for weighing the objections, and perhaps but little of that preparation of mind which could perceive their force: and if ever there was an error of judgment which could claim our sympathy for its feelings, our respect for its probable motives, our all-but-allowance for its difficulties, I think we may find it in the case of Mr. Carey's ordination.
It needs but small wisdom, after we have made a mistake, to tell how it might have been avoided. We can all see, now, that it would have probably saved the Church from this whole intense agitation, if the request of Drs. Smith and Anthon to conduct the examination in writing had been granted, if the previous paper of notes had been admitted in evidence, and if but one week had been allowed to give the candidate time to see the true nature of the difficulty before him. But so far as the published documents would lead one to infer, there was quite too much feeling on the occasion to allow the proper exercise of cool and calm reflection; perhaps too much for the exhibition of that fraternal confidence and Christian courtesy, which clergymen owe to each other, but which, when under the influence of excitement, they, like other men, sometimes forget to render. And thus has the whole Church been thrown into an unexampled state of alarm and consternation, by a result, which a little patient allowance for the honest doubts of the objectors, a little kindly attention to their conscientious scruples, a little wholesome self-distrust, and a postponement long enough to give the whole matter the thorough searching which its importance-deserved, might, under God, have avoided. B|U, as I have said, any one can see this now, when the painful results are before us. I am far from intending to insinuate that I should have done better, or even as well, under the same circumstances. Nor have I, for myself, the slightest doubt, that the whole has been ordered most wisely by the Providence of our heavenly Father, for the better establishment of his Church, and the furtherance of his blessed gospel, by the opportunity which it holds out for future protection against the inroads of error, for securing, in every suspected case, the fullest inquiry, for clearer and more definite views of doctrine, especially as it regards the Roman controversy, and for the adoption of an arrangement by which the conflicting judgments of our bishops may be regularly submitted to some appellate jurisdiction, instead of being spread in open contrariety before the public eye.
With no desire, therefore,--God forbid!--to encourage strife or promote dissension, but with the hope of aiding, according to my humble capacity, in pointing out the course which our General Convention might wisely adopt, to guard against the possible recurrence of any difficulty hereafter, and thus to turn our past experience to the true account, by making it the ground-work of an improved system, I have frankly considered the main features of the case before us, for the purpose of drawing your attention, in due time, to the best practicable mode of accomplishing an object so desirable to every friend of unity and-peace.
In order to give the Church the full benefits of a simple and complete system, three measures seem to me required.
First, that we should have but one code of canon law, enacted by the whole Church in General Convention, and superseding, of course, all diocesan legislation.
Secondly, that this code should be administered, in each diocese, by the Bishop, acting as judge, with the assistance of a certain number of his Presbyters, as assessors.
Thirdly, that from the judgment of each bishop, an appeal should lie, under proper regulations in every case, to a Board or Council, consisting of not less than seven bishops, with from four to six laymen, in the capacity of advisers and assistants, all of whom should be elected by joint ballot at each General Convention, and should hold their sessions at such time and place as the President of the Council should appoint; the necessary expenses of such meeting being provided for by the Church at large, in the same manner as is now done for the meetings of the General Convention.
I shall not here repeat what I have already printed on this subject, in my humble work called "The Primitive Church," the first edition of which was published in the spring of 1835. [See the 10th ch. of the Dissertation, p. 378 of second edition, as also the Journal of the House of Bishops, at the General Convention of 1835, p. 88, &c.] It may be well, however, to state briefly, on the present occasion, a few general reasons for some such arrangement as I have proposed.
We have about twenty-seven dioceses in the vast territory of the United States, with one General Theological Seminary, and three or four Diocesan Seminaries. Our Prayer Book, containing the Articles of the Church, the. Ordinals, the worship, and a portion of our discipline, is wisely delivered to the General Convention; and no Bishop nor diocese has power over a single word of those inestimable formularies. The same body has authority to make Canons which bind the whole Church. So far, all is placed, consistently enough, upon the only practical principles of unity. But the anomaly begins as soon as we leave the language of the law, and come down to the work of interpretation. Here we have no standard of unity at all, no general regulator, no officer of the Church, and no constituted body, to which we can appeal, to remedy the occasional mistakes of judgment to which all are liable. There is no sufficient respect paid to the decisions of any one Bishop, because there are other Bishops, probably, who may think differently, and thus the clergy cannot always be expected to yield with cheerfulness, even when their diocesan may be right. And if he should be wrong, which is certainly a very possible thing, notwithstanding his purest intentions and best efforts, there is no mode of rectifying the error. Hence, of necessity, arise complaints, murmurs, factions, parties; and good men--yea, some of our best men--become perfectly conscientious in the temper and spirit of opposition to their Bishop, on the acknowledged ground, that they have no other mode of preserving their rights, or of guarding the liberty wherewith Christ has made them free.
Now it is impossible to justify a condition of things like this, because it has no warrant in the history of the Church, none from the Scriptures, none from our mother Church of England, none from any well-ordered civil commonwealth, none in reason or common sense. In the Church of Israel there was a complete series of appeals. In the early Christian Church there was an appeal from the Bishop to the Metropolitan, and from him to a Provincial Council. In England there are appeals of a similar kind, although, unhappily, their system is so trammeled by its subordination to the civil courts, that it is of very little use to them. Nay, the Presbyterian and Methodist denominations of our own country, defective as they are in some most important points of apostolic order, have nevertheless a far better provision for unity of judgment than ourselves. Hence it must surely be granted, that in some way or other we ought to supply this manifest defect. And although the shortness of the period since our distinct organization, our scattered population, and the potent conservatism of our principles in other things, have enabled us, under God, to dispense with it thus far, without actual schism: yet as long as our position in this respect presents an anomaly, in plain contradiction to all our acknowledged maxims, we cannot hope that we shall always escape the consequences. Nor have we any right to expect that a continued miracle will keep the Church together, while we refuse to employ the only established instrumentality.
Until some such arrangement is carried into effectual operation, I do not see any hope of discipline or lasting concord; and the recent case in New York may serve as one out of many practical illustrations. Had the decision of the Bishop on that occasion been open to a regular appeal, a few weeks would have settled the question, and would probably have laid down a rule by which he himself would have been relieved from a painful responsibility, and his clergy from a still more painful opposition. For want of this, those who felt aggrieved, having no other remedy, appeal to the Church and public at large, and set up a new periodical to defend what they honestly believe to be true Church principles. Will any man contend that it is desirable to have an organized division in every considerable diocese, each sustained by an established press, which must again, in the very nature of things, tend to perpetuate and consolidate its own party? Surely not. But it cannot be otherwise, if the judgment of a single Bishop is the only judgment which practically decides the most serious and important questions. For if appeals were allowed in those primitive times, when there was an hundred-fold more respect felt for the office of a Bishop than we shall ever see again, how much more, beloved brethren, must they be required, in the unchecked freedom of the nineteenth century!
It may be thought, indeed, by some, that our General Convention affords an adequate remedy for every episcopal mistake, and by others, that the late Canon for the trial of Bishops secures ample protection. Both of these opinions, however, in my humble judgment, are untenable, for the following reasons:
The first idea, which would bring the mistakes of episcopal decisions to the General Convention, is opposed to all experience and analogy. That assembly is the supreme legislature of the Church, whose business is not so much with men, as with principles. No such body can advantageously unite the judicial with the legislative function. The very form of their proceeding, in having two separate Houses, like the Senate and the House of Representatives in the Congress of the United States, or, more properly, like the English Convocation, utterly forbids the attempt to hear appeals, or sit in judgment. It might, indeed, be otherwise, if, like the ancient Provincial Synods, they consisted only of bishops, or if, like the Presbyterian General Assembly, they sat together. But constituted as they are, (and, as I believe, most wisely,) nothing like an appellate jurisdiction can be exercised by them. They may correct abuses to a certain extent, by Canons and resolutions; but the full remedial power of an appellate Court demands a distinct examination. There are other reasons which would lead to the same result, but this appears to he conclusive.
As to the other idea, that our late Canon on the trial of Bishops might be applied to the correction of errors in judgment, I apprehend that it is equally inadmissible. For although this Canon does indeed say, that a Bishop may be presented, not only for any crime or immorality, or for heresy, but also for violating the constitution or Canons of the Church, or of his own diocese, so that the whole range of possible offences seems to be included, yet I think it obvious that in sound legal construction, it can only apply to offences. That is to say, a criminal intent must be attached to the act on which the presentment is founded, and therefore mere errors in judgment, to which the best and most conscientious men are liable, can by no means be a proper ground for a presentment under that Canon. The answer of the respondent to every such presentment would be, substantially, either Guilty, or Not guilty. But there is no guilt when the intention is right; and therefore many serious mistakes may be committed, and much opposition may exist between the declared opinions of the bishops, and the official action founded thereupon, which the true spirit of that Canon could never reach at all. The distinction may be readily understood by a recurrence to the familiar analogy of our civil judges. For they may all be subject to impeachment for official misconduct; while an illegal opinion, delivered without wilful corruption, and in the execution of their office, must be corrected either by Writ of Error, or Appeal, and no rebuke nor censure, much less the loss of office, can possibly follow from those honest mistakes of judgment, to which the very exercise of their functions, in the nature of the case, must always expose them. In like manner, as it seems to me, should the Church be provided with some mode for the correction of those errors, which are no proper ground for impeachment or presentment, since the Canon, which was designed for this latter purpose, cannot, with any legal consistency, be applied to the other.
Independently of these arguments, however, I frankly confess that there is another view of this subject which has long had great influence on my own mind. We are obliged to listen to a vast amount of accusation without, and of apprehension within our own pale, concerning the dangerous and despotic character of episcopal power, and the terrible abuses to which it is applicable. Now so long as we have no appeal from the judgment of a single Bishop, it is evident that there will be room left for ihe reiteration of those complaints and lamentations. No change that we can make, indeed, will be likely to satisfy those who are determined to censure episcopacy, right or wrong. But for Ihe sake of some amongst our own brethren, it is surely worth our while to do any thing lawful in itself, by which we may quiet those fears of episcopal tyranny which seem to disturb them. So far as I know our Bishops, they desire the exercise of as little official power, as may consist with the faithful administration of the system committed to their especial oversight and care. And I cannot see any reason to doubt, that they would have cause to rejoice in a measure, which would strengthen their hands by the influence of unity in all that the interests of discipline and order could require, while it would take away all pretext for complaint, and all excuse for opposition.
There is yet one service more, and that of no small importance, which I should desire might be performed by the Board or Council of Appeals, which I have been advocating. It is the censorship of the press within the circle of the Church. I need hardly say to you, my beloved and respected brethren, that this censorship formed a serious part of the duty discharged by the English Convocation, and that no branch of the Church can expect to be long at rest, in which there is not some mode by which it may be faithfully exercised. No reflecting mind can doubt, for instance, that if the Convocation had been in possession of its former powers, the mischievous excitement produced by the objectionable portions of the Oxford Tracts, and especially of the British Critic, would have been effectually arrested in due season. Nor do I see how any sober Christian, who loves to follow the things which make for peace, and who has been an attentive observer of our episcopal press for some years past, can help desiring, that if possible a wholesome curb might be put upon that powerful engine, by which its vast strength could still be used for good, while it should be restrained from evil.
I should feel self-condemned, if, having touched upon this subject, I did not discharge my own conscience, by openly protesting against the sad abuse of anonymous publications, written by nobody knows whom, and often replete with a temper and a language, which, it must be confessed, few men who have any character to lose would be willing to appropriate. This pernicious custom, however, seems to me particularly blameworthy, when it is adopted in our Church Periodicals. For at least it must be granted, that the author of a scurrilous pamphlet stands alone, and pays for the privilege of printing it. But the writer of as scurrilous a communication in the columns of a religious paper, is put to no cost; and is brought, without their leave, into respectable company. By this convenient vehicle, he is introduced to a thousand eyes to which he would not Otherwise have gained access, and is aided in his malevolence or folly by an implied approbation, while all real accountability is turned off upon the editorial prerogative of not being responsible for the sentiments of correspondents.
The activity of this ingenious management has procured us a succession of invisible and intangible monitors, who reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with all authority, at one moment; and jest, and flout, and sneer, with all irreverence, at another. Who the persons may be that thus undertake to illuminate the Church, or flagellate her unhappy officers, is all a mystery. It is a literary masquerade. A young gentleman, perhaps, whose theological studies have but just begun, assumes, with ail proper gravity, the cognomen of one of the martyrs; and Ridley, or Latimer, or Hooper, or Cranmer, appears in such a guise, that assuredly their best friends would never know them. It may be that some young lady, warmed with a generous emulation, next pens a letter to the editor; and after discussing her ecclesiastical difficulties with a reasonable measure of profundity, subscribes herself, the judicious Hooker. Alfrthis, however, is but conjecture, for whether the contributors be young or old, male or female, gentle or simple, mere phantoms or substantial realities, is quite a secret to the reader. It is trfoe, nevertheless, that the plan presents a goodly variety, a sort of Protestant Carnival in type. One nobody'patronizes the democratic principle, and calls himself, Vox populi. Another nobody prefers the honor of the magistrate, and signs himself, Fiat justitia. A third nobody contents himself with being an Observer, meaning, of course, to be considered an exceedingly shrewd one. A fourth nobody has better ideas of impersonality, and only aspiring to represent a maxim, calls himself, Suum cuique. A fifth nobody has a strong bias towards State rights, and takes the style of Vermont, Maryland, or Ohio. A sixth nobody shrinks from such arrogant presumption, modestly contracts himself within the bounds of a single city, and so dubs himself, New York. While a seventh disdains such adventitious dignity, and puts upon his mask a solitary letter, as if he felt himself quite above the vulgarity of having any name at all. Meanwhile our host of nobodies display a great deal of spirit, and not a little temper at times. Gross personality, keen, asperity, heartless ridicule, fulsome adulation, and downright insult, may be found among their contributions; mingled, indeed, with much better things, sound argument, solid learning, and polished style, which deserve to be found in very different society. But who and what are they? For the most part, nobody knows. Sometimes there may be a private signal for the benefit of friends, or a peculiarity which favors detection, or a long appropriation of the same vizor, which at last becomes recognized as if it were the man's own countenance. It is very seldom, however, that the more objectionable maskers are known at all, by the bulk of those who peruse the paper. Practically speaking, we only see them in print, under a name assumed to balk our curiosity. Who, then, is responsible? Nobody. If injury be inflicted, who shall repair the wrong? Nobody. If reparation be denied, on whom shall the discipline of the Church descend? Of course, on nobody. But are they not the Editor's correspondents? Doubtless; but they are nobody, notwithstanding. Then must not the editor himself be responsible? Yes, truly, in law; but it may be a difficult point to ascertain whether he holds himself accountable in cot>-science: and in Church practice he is so far from being responsible for the sayings of his correspondents, that he is not always expected to justify his own.
Now all this is surely preposterous, and ought not to be tolerated by any community which calls itself the Church of God. The truth is, that the model and the license of our religious periodicals have been too much taken from the world, and their editors seem often to have imagined, that there was some tribunal for an avocation like theirs, from which the law of Christian responsibility must be excluded. Honorable exceptions there are, doubtless, to this remark, but, as a whole, we have still to look forward to the time when our editors shall remember that their works do follow them, and that they are responsible, whether they declare it or not, for every thing published through their instrumentality. This is a lesson, therefore, which it is the duty of the Church to teach them. Especially does it seem to me, that they should suffer no man to assume the task of advice or reprehension in the Church of Christ, who is ashamed or afraid to do it in his own name. We have a right to know our teachers, and to have a fair opportunity of judging how far they seem entitled to discharge so grave an office. Young persons may doubtless be encouraged to try their skill on moral or religious essays, poetry, &c., with all propriety, and on the score of modesty they may be indulged with a private signature. But to place them in the seat of the scorner under such a disguise,--to encourage them in the scattering of fire-brands, and counting it sport,--to sustain them in libelling the characters of men who were laboring for the Church before they were born,--and to prostitute the sacred influence of a religious paper in order to gain attention for what the writers dared not to have printed in their own person--these are abuses for which I can imagine no apology; and if there were no other, these alone call loudly for some power to regulate the press. I speak not, of course, with respect to the world. The secular press must manage its-own concerns in its own way, subject to the law of the land, and to the tribunal of public opinion. But I speak of the press which is professedly connected with the Church, in the hands of her clergy, the organ of her bishops, commended publicly to her Conventions, and therefore, in theory, subject to her control. Still farther is it from my intention, directly or indirectly, to deprecate the voice of honest censure or reproof, either as it may respect myself, or any of my brethren in the episcopate. On the contrary, I would desire at all times to say, in the words of the Psalmist, Let the righteous smite me friendly, and rebuke me. But let me see that my reprover is acting as becomes a Christian and a man, in obedience to his duty, and in the light of day. And let not the Church of the Most High God tolerate the principle of the assassin, who only inflicts the wound when he has his face disguised, and hopes that darkness will shroud him from observation.
Before I close my remarks on the improvement proposed, however, it is incumbent upon me to notice the objection, that the adoption of but one code of canon law, and the consequent abolition of diocesan legislation, would interfere with the rights, of the dioceses themselves, and counteract a plain provision of our existing Constitution.
I freely admit that this argument deserves a serious consideration, and at once concede,-that as our Constitution now stands, the improvement suggested would be impracticable. But that instrument can be readily modified or changed at the will of the Church. No one regards it with any other feeling than that of profound respect; but yet no one is so ignorant as to claim for it the reverence due to an tiquity, much less the unchangeable authority which alone belongs to inspiration.
The first part of the objection, therefore, is the only one which demands attention, namely, that the plan proposed would interfere with the rights of the dioceses. Now the rights of the dioceses, under the Constitution, I grant; but the rights of the dioceses, as such, to make Constitutions or canons, properly so called, I beg leave to deny utterly. A brief reference to facts, as they stand upon the face of the Church's history, will explain this position clearly.
A Constitution, or a canon, is a decree, law, or rule, binding upon the Church, in the highest sense of merely ecclesiastical obligation. And the first example of such decree or canon is in the remarkable instance of the Assembly or Council held by the Apostles at Jerusalem, in order to settle the controversy which had arisen upon the question; Whether the Gentile Churches were under the ceremonial law of the Mosaic economy. Here the decree was framed by the authority, not of one Apostle, but of all; and from this has been properly derived the great model of all subsequent legislation in the Church of God.
The next example bearing upon the subject, occurs in the venerable code familiarly known by the name of the Apostolic Canons, purporting to have been made by the collective authority of the blessed Apostles. I need hardly say that such a claim as this is quite apocryphal. But nevertheless, their great antiquity is unquestionable; and the respect with which they are referred to by the Councils of the primitive Church, is well known to every theologian. I mention them, however, as furnishing the second proof of the principle already stated, namely, that a decree or law, intended to bind the Church with any permanent obligation, was regarded as the work of all the apostles, and not of one alone.
There is yet a third example of the same thing, in the very interesting collection called the Apostolical Constitutions. That this title is also apocryphal, or rather, I shouldsay,confessedlysupposititious,detracts nothing from the evidence which they afford of the principle: since, like the Apostolic Canons, they profess to be the decrees of the whole Apostolic College, met together in solemn Council.
It may be as well, perhaps, to notice here a difficulty, which may probably trouble some amongst my readers. How, it might be asked, should the authority of all the Apostles be supposed necessary for the production of these Canons, when St. Paul, single and alone, claims absolute obedience from the Churches, and plainly saith: "If any man among you seem to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge what I say to be the commandment of our Lord Jesus Christ." The answer is: Because the Apostles sometimes spake by inspiration, and then their authority was indeed equivalent to the very word of the great Redeemer, since, according to their Lord's own promise, it was not they who spake, but the Holy Ghost who spake in them. But St. Paul himself records some counsels which he declares were not by inspiration; as, for example, where he saith: "Now concerning virgins, I have received no commandment of the Lord, yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful," (1 Cor. vii. 25.) It is perfectly plain, too, on the face of the sacred history, that there was no inspiration granted to decide the question whether the Gentiles were free from the ceremonial law; nor did St. Peter speak, nor did St. James deliver his judgment, in the authoritative style which became a divine communication. But after the sentence pronounced by St. James was found to be unanimously acceptable, and the Apostles were persuaded, by a secret consciousness, that the Spirit of God had approved it, they then say in the decree, "It seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us." From this we may readily understand, that the primitive Church did not esteem the apostolic Canons as actually inspired, else they would, doubtless, have reckoned them among the Holy Scriptures. But they understood them to be the joint result of the Apostles' consultation, without any other divine aid than the ordinary succours of heavenly grace promised to the apostolic ministry. Consequently, although they doubted not that they "seemed good to the Holy Ghost," yet they distinguished between that which was spoken "by permission" and that which was spoken "by commandment." The first was apostolic, the second only was divine.
But to return from this digression: I have next to observe, that the model of these apostolic consultations was followed scrupulously by the Christian Church in every quarter, and, so far as I can find, without a single exception. What the blessed Apostles were known to have done in the Council of Jerusalem, and what they were generally believed to have done in the enactment of the apostolic Canons, was done by the bishops who succeeded them. No single bishop, therefore, with only the clergy and laity belonging to his own jurisdiction around him, ever thought of establishing Constitutions or Canons for his particular diocese; but a whole band of bishops, more or less numerous, met together, as the Apostles had done before them, and Canons were the joint product of their united wisdom, not intended to guide a single district only, but designed to express what they believed to be equally suitable and acceptable for the whole body of the faithful. Nor do I know of any deviation from the rule, until the enterprizing spirit of our own Church, smitten «with the love of legislation which characterized the country and the time, made the privilege of enacting ecclesiastical Canons commensurate with the limits of every diocese, past, present, and to come; so that we not only give to a real diocese, (that is, a district, having a bishop of its own,) the full right of making its own laws, but we even allow every State to be called a diocese prospectively; and where, as yet, there is no bishop, nor the slightest probability that there will be any for years to come, we nevertheless accept the doings of one or two clergymen and three or four laymen, as an equivalent. We call a fire-side company like this, a Convention: we receive from their assembled wisdom a Constitution and Canons, and thus, we have brought the solemn work of pronouncing laws for the future Church of God to such a point of facility, that it may be fairly compared to any other mechanism of our prolific days.
I should be exceedingly grieved, my beloved brethren, if these remarks were understood to indicate the slightest want of respect and affection for the work of those excellent and admirable men, who were called, by divine Providence, to act as pioneers in the arduous task of Church legislation. They doubtless did all that was at that time possible. They surmounted obstacles which we can scarcely even imagine. And far be it from any of those who have entered into their labors, to pluck one leaf from the wreath of pre-eminent honor, with which the grateful veneration of millions, in England and America, has long since crowned their brows. But the advancement of a mighty work, which could not, in the very nature of the case, be otherwise than imperfect in its beginning, should never be regarded with jealousy on account of those revered men; for in, truth, the argument, rightly applied, would tend the other way.
Imagine, for illustration's sake, the children of a first settler, shedding their tears of filial devotion at the grave of their departed father. They dwell with affectionate remembrance upon his hardships in the wilderness: the Indian tomahawk, the panther's ferocity, the serpent's venom,--all was encountered, and all was overcome. In due time, peace and security rewarded his fortitude and courage, fruitful harvests bore witness to his labours and his toils, hundreds and thousands came thronging around him, a goodly city rose up on the field which his hands first planted, till at length, after reaching to the borders of a century, with praises and honors heaped on his reverend head, he went to his eternal rest, leaving his hard-earned but noble estate to his grateful children. Now what would be the value of their love for their departed sire, if they used it as an apology for refusing to goon in the improvement of the property? Should they be so weak as to say, "Our father built the house, and therefore we will neither add nor alter. The foundation which he laid of timber, we will not rebuild with stone. Some of the tenements were hastily constructed, under the pressure of surrounding difficulties, and the beams are threatening to give way; but our filial piety will suffer them to fall upon our heads, sooner than replace them by a firmer structure." Surely such folly as this could never be mistaken for the true principle of manly and rational affection. Instead of this, we should charge the sons of such a father, to prove their admiration of his virtues by emulating his energy and perseverance; to carry forward the work which he had begun in the midst of so many obstacles, and to leave no labor undone, which might make the perfection of the end, worthy of the wisdom and the courage displayed in the beginning.
Precisely under such an aspect, do I desire to regard every effort to supply the existing deficiencies in our ecclesiastical system, as a tribute of the highest practical reverence to the American patriarchs who have gone to their rest. They were the great pioneers in a mighty undertaking. Theirs were the struggles, the dangers, the conflicts, the fears, which we only know in history. Instead of wondering that they left anything for us to do, our only wonder ought to be that they effected so much, and effected it, by the good hand of God upon them, so wisely and so well. And therefore, far from recurring to their venerated names as an argument for doing nothing, I would cite them as a high example, to encourage our ardour, and to stimulate our zeal.
It may be objected, however, that the proposed abolition of all diocesan legislation, and placing all the dioceses under the same code, framed by the same comprehensive authority of the General Convention which already has the sole power over the system of the Church in doctrine and worship, would destroy the interest of our clergy and laity in our diocesan Conventions, and thus work a serious evil.
Such a result, if it were likely to happen, would indeed be an evil of no small magnitude. But I am quite convinced that the very contrary would be the practical effect of the alteration which I take the liberty of recommending. For all experience proves, that the work of legislation can hardly ever be conducted with perfect unanimity; and therefore it is apt, in small bodies, such as our diocesan Convention, to be attended with strife, heart-burnings, and lasting dissatisfaction, where all ought to be unity and peace. The portion of the diocese who acquiesce reluctantly, are tempted to form a party. Discontent is propagated by uneasy spirits, of whom there are always found more or less, and who, though doubtless with very good intentions, exaggerate alike the supposed existing evil, and the importance of the-contemplated change; and thus a feeling of opposition and division is kept up, which of all things proves most thoroughly hostile to the work of the ministry, and often grieves the Holy Spirit, if it does not deprive the whole diocese of the blessing of God. The inevitable disadvantages of the existing system have been exemplified by almost every diocese in the Union. Their Constitutions and Canons, so called, are subjected to revisions as often as decency can allow. Matters of the smallest possible importance become the subject of serious and lasting difficulty, and a wound is inflicted upon the feelings of unity and brotherly affection, which may possibly be never healed again.
Another, and perhaps a much greater evil, however, is connected with this diocesan legislation; namely, the general indifference or contempt towards the Canons of the diocese, which every experienced observer must have noticed. Nor is this a subject of surprise to a reflecting mind. For how, I beseech you, brethren, can there be any solemnity of obligation felt towards a set of laws, passed by one bishop, and perhaps a dozen clergymen, with their attendant parochial laymen, and with more or less opposition, when every one knows that they rest on no higher authority than their own will, and can be altered as soon as the minority, by a few changes in the ministry of the diocese, can become the majority? What Churchman can be expected to obey, in religious matters, what he cannot reverence? And what reverence is he likely to cherish for any thing so mutable, so slight, so easily set up, and so easily cast down, as this diocesan legislation?
But all this vexatious, uncertain, and troublesome set of subjects, only interrupts and deranges the proper objects for which the Convention of the diocese meet annually together. The hearing the statement of their bishop's labors, and the parochial reports, the raising and paying in the various contributions for missionary and other purposes, the settling of any doubts or difficulties which might be proposed touching the meaning of the ecclesiastical system, the listening to the wants of the weaker Churches, and consulting how to supply them, the mutual encouragement derived from mutual intercourse, and the multiplying and strengthening those bands of Christian love, which ought to bind the members of every diocese together, as, indeed, one family in Christ,--these are the true and important objects of these annual meetings. And so far would they be from suffering, if the provocations and temptations which arise out of this vice of legislation were removed, that, in my humble judgment, they would flourish and prosper incomparably more than ever. As the matter now stands, these legislative topics, in their relation to our Diocesan Conventions, are like the suckers of a valuable tree, which drain the trunk of its proper vigor. And hence, one of the most certain means, under God, to improve the quality of the fruit, would be to prune them utterly away.
All these objections, however, to diocesan legislation, vanish, when we consider the action of the General Convention. For the strifes and difficulties which sometimes attend the task of legislation, are never dangerous in a body gathered from every diocese in the Union, at longer periods, the members of which scarcely know each other, who may never have met together before, and most probably will never meet together again. There is here, therefore, more solemnity, more dignity, more courtesy, more self-restraint, more thoughtful deliberation. Even if dissension should arise, there is no opportunity for renewing or extending it, and therefore it soon dies away. In all respects, indeed, it is an assembly of an incomparably higher character. Then there is the whole College of our bishops, met together with every advantage, which the knowledge, wisdom, experience and piety of each, can bring to the common work of deliberation. Then there is more than ten times the period, during which their labors continue; and can we reasonably doubt that there is an increase, proportionate to all this, in the essential work of faithful prayer, and earnest supplication to that blessed Spirit, who alone maketh men to be of one mind in a house?--a proportionate realizing of the insignificance of each individual man,--a proportionate feeling of entire dependence on the wisdom which cometh from above? Then there is the necessity of an united judgment in favor of each canon enacted, securing the benefits of a revision by either House, of the acts proposed by the other. So that you have the principle of the primitive councils in the House of bishops, along with the safeguard of the clergy's assent, as in the British Convocation system; and superadded to both, a principle, to which every year's observation and experience has more and more attached me, namely, the distinct approbation of our laity. Everything, therefore, is here combined, which exhibits the ideal of the Church's admirable unity. Some of our brethren, indeed, have been induced to apply to our system the term, VETO, which seems, to my mind, exceedingly ill-judged, and totally inapplicable; since neither the bishops, nor the clergy, nor the laity, can be truly said to forbid the action of the rest. But the correct rationale of the matter is simply this: that the Church is ONE BODY, and for that simple reason, it must move together, or it cannot move at all. The bishops cannot take one step without the clergy and laity, nor these, again, without the bishops, merely because they are "every one members one of another:'" for just as the human body cannot act efficiently without the harmonious consent of every limb, even so the Church cannot act efficiently without the concurrence of all her members.
In canons pronounced by the General Convention, therefore, and in none other, shall we find the attributes properly belonging to the work of ecclesiastical legislation. These would form an authoritative rule to each diocese. Every bishop could be sure of universal concurrence when he enforced them, and men could never find encouragement in an attempt to charge their diocesan with tyranny, or partiality, or the love of power, so long as he was only doing his manifest duty in claiming conformity to the law of the whole Church and a regular appeal was allowed to every complaining party.
Having thus, my respected and beloved brethren, gone over the principal topics proposed in my first Letter, it only remains that I should present to your indulgence a few concluding remarks, upon the characteristic features of the Tractarian system, and the general aspect which it wears to a reflecting mind.
I am compelled, with deep regret, to avow my own entire conviction, that the fundamental error of this system is one and the same with the theory of Romanism. For both seem perfectly agreed in the idea, that the Church militant on earth is a vast CORPORATION, whose members have no individual rights under the Charter, except as parts of the great whole. From this they derive the principle, that the visible Church is the reservoir of all spiritual influence; that grace is given by her, and only through her instrumentality. In a word, they invest her with a SUBSTANTIVE PERSONALITY, dispensing through her officers, by the very appointment of Christ, all the powers, gifts, rights, and privileges, belonging to the kingdom of heaven.
This view is grand, sublime, and imposing; but I believe it to be thoroughly unscriptural in principle, false in fact, and dangerous in operation. My reasons are briefly as follows.
I hold this notion of the Church to be unscriptural, first, because all the promises of Christ are made to the individual believer, conditioned on his personal repentance and faith; secondly, because the only clear promises made to the Church, as the Spouse of Christ, and possessing the kingdom, are made in connection with his second advent; and thirdly, because our Lord, speaking of the present dispensation, especially saith, My kingdom is not of this world.
I hold this theory to be false, in fact; because the eighteen centuries of the Christian era have not. yet witnessed its successful application. This mighty unit has never been without more or less division in its outward government, and the papacy, which was indeed a wonderful attempt to make the kingdom of Christ of this world, has only proved to be a splendid failure.
I believe the notion to be dangerous in operation, because its inevitable tendency seems to be, to sink the individual responsibility of each conscience in a blind reliance on the privileges of the whole; to cherish an excessive and superstitious dependence on the Sacraments, to attach an extreme and absurd faith to the supposed teaching of tradition, to invest the Church with the authority which belongs solely to her divine Lord and Master, to rest our whole justification upon ordinances rightly administered, rather than on the living principle of faith, and to lead each believer, instead of using, with humble confidence, the rights of his adoption, by coming boldly to the throne of grace in every time of need, rather to lean upon the priesthood, as a class of appointed mediators between Christ and the soul.
The true aspect of the Church, therefore, as I apprehend it, is not so much CORPORATE as aggregate. Its living principle is faith, by the operation of the Holy Spirit, in the soul of each individual man. Its essential unity is inward, having fellowship with the Father and the Son, through the Spirit that dwelleth in the temple of the renewed heart. Its outward or formal unity follows after this, as a privilege and a dvity, so far as it consists with truth; but its life depends not on that unity. Hence, the fathers speak of the Church as essentially existing in Abel, Enoch, Noah, and Abraham. Hence all who are united with God as their Father, through faith in Christ, become necessarily the brethren of each other, and members of the heavenly household; although they may not have the power to congregate together upon earth. Hence, too, there is a sense in which the saying of Cyprian is true, that "he cannot have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his mother"; but that Church, rightly understood, is "JERUSALEM ABOVE," which, as saith the inspired Apostle, "IS THE MOTHER OF US ALL."
The congeniality of Tractarianism with Rome has been painfully manifested during the last two years, by a variety of publications; but especially by the whole course of the British Critic, in an open assault upon the doctrine of justification by faith, which its editor has boldly denounced as the Lutheran heresy;--infrequent advocacy of the Romish principle of development, of the sacramental power and grace attributed to the external unity of the Church, of auricular confession and private absolution by the priest,--in high praises of the Romish formularies of devotion, veneration for the saints, and especially for the Virgin Mary, laws of clerical celibacy, and monastic institutions,--in a plain preference for the theology and practical piety of the middle ages,--in an injurious and subtle strain of palliation towards all the superstitions of Rome,--in an undisguised contempt for the characters of our great Reformers, and in a studied opposition to the name and spirit of Protestantism. Several of those points it was my intention to have discussed at large; but I am rejoiced to find that I have been superseded by other and far abler hands, and therefore I consider myself relieved from the duly of pursuing the painful subject any farther.
I cannot conclude, however, in justice to my own feelings, without again recording my belief, that on many points of ecclesiastical order and discipline, the writings of my Tractarian brethren have been highly useful. Nor would I omit the opportunity of renewing my cordial acknowledgments to such of those eminently gifted men, especially Mr. Newman himself, whose personal intercourse, when at Oxford, I esteemed as a peculiar privilege, and to whose liberal kindness, hospitality and attention, I was, in various ways, so much indebted. The highest compliment that I can pay them is to express my conviction, that they would be amongst the last to suffer acts of courtesy or friendship to interfere with the conscientious expression of religious truth. "He that loveth father or mother more than me," saith the blessed Redeemer, "is not worthy of me." But although even the. most sacred of all personal relations may not be suffered to stand in the way of our allegiance to Christ, and our fidelity to his Gospel; yet we can hardly fail to regard it as a real affliction, when admiration of the men must be united with hostility to their doctrine.
It may be proper that I should add another remark, in order to account for the fact, that while I have been occupied with opposing some of the errors of Tractarianism, I have made my chief quotations, not from the Oxford Tracts, but from Mr. Palmer's Treatise on the Church. My reason is, because I regard that work as being the most authoritative exponent of the system, which is likely to abide, with considerable influence and honor, long after the Tracts, and the transient publications which have grown out of them, shall have passed away; and therefore any error of principle or of application, in a treatise so eminent for its scholastic method and its immense research, deserves, and indeed demands, the most thorough examination. I have seen, with the liveliest satisfaction, that this distinguished writer has himself become a declared opponent to the extravagances of the school with which he has been so long identified. And I earnestly hope that the next edition of his great work will exhibit the results in such a form, as shall leave no further ground for animadversion.
I stated, in the first of these Letters, that my object was not so much to consider the whole Tract-arian controversy, simply with regard to its precise measure of theological soundness, as to examine those novelties which disturbed our own peace. And I selected the points which I thought most important to my object, under the full conviction, that so long as we retained our established doctrines on the Sacrament of Baptism, on the true idea of the Church, on the Holy Eucharist, and on the essential antagonism of the Roman system as set forth in the Council of Trent, there would be small danger of our being led astray on any other topic. I have called the Tractarian system new, not because I was ignorant that it is indeed very old, inasmuch as it is mainly taken from the later fathers, as interpreted by the Church of Rome; nor yet because I was not aware that it may be found, scattered here and there, amongst the writings of English divines, especially in those of Laud, Montague and Thorndike, but because it is new in its aggressive, combined, and sustained character, even in England, and new in all respects amongst ourselves. No other writers of our mother Church have ever dared to stigmatize the Reformers, to call the doctrine of justification by faith, a heresy, to attack the epithet of Protestant, to concede a high superiority to Rome, to mourn over our separation from her corrupt communion, and to display their sympathies with her enormous superstition. And the indignant spirit aroused against them, throughout the length and breadth of the Church of England, notwithstanding the acknowledged learning, and talent, and personal worth of the individuals concerned, together with the unparalleled excitement which has marked the first instance, in which our own Church has had reason to mark their influence in the recent ordination, bear a testimony, not to be mistaken by any candid mind, that small indeed is the number on either side of the Atlantic, who are deeply infected by this novel system. Still, although I had no fears of the ultimate result,--nay, although I doubted not that the whole would be gloriously over-ruled, in the gracious order of divine Providence, for the purification and advancement of the Church of God in general, and of our own branch of it in particular, yet I felt it incumbent on me, as one of her bishops, however inferior to the rest, to state, frankly, on what side our dangers seemed to He, and by what measures, through the blessing of our Redeemer, we might be most surely protected against them.
And now that my proposed work is done, I beg leave to repeat my conviction, that we have nothing, under God, to dread; tiince I doubt not that the bishops, the clergy, and especially the laity, will arouse themselves to a careful and prayerful examination of the whole merits of the question; resolving that so far as in them lies, the Church which was restored to her primitive purity in the flames of the Reformation, shall be transmitted to future ages, without any infusion of Romanism, or deterioration of Scriptural truth. If, in the execution of my own share of the common duty, I have in any respect trespassed against the laws of fraternal affection or of Christian courtesy, I beg my respected and beloved brethren to believe that nothing could be farther from my intention. It is indeed written that Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but I have labored in the hope that my friendly efforts could inflict no wound, because I had no errors to mention that were not notorious already, and none for which I was not anxious to make the largest allowance in my power. Abundantly conscious, nevertheless, of my own manifold defects, and aware, that in suggesting any improvement in our ecclesiastical polity, I have undertaken what is always an invidious and unpopular task, I commit the whole to your indulgence, with my fervent prayer to our Almighty Father, that the defects of the advocate may not lessen the influence of truth, and that my humble work may contribute, in some degree, to promote the welfare of his Church, and the extension of his glory.
Your faithful brother.
And servant in Christ,
JOHN H. HOPKINS.
Burlington, Vt., Jan'y. 19th, 1844.