A Letter Congratulatory to All Concerned in the Late Ecclesiastical Proceedings in the Diocese of Maryland.
By John F. Hoff.
Baltimore: Sherwood & Co., 1875.
DOES THE CHURCH ALLOW PRAYERS FOR THE DEAD?
Every presbyter of the Church engages to minister in doctrine and discipline as she "hath received the same."
Among her Articles of Religion is one "Of the Homilies," published in the time of Edward VI and Elizabeth, “containing a godly and wholesome doctrine."
The 19th of these Homilies is on Prayer, and concludes with several pages on the subject of Prayers for the Dead and Purgatory. The substance is as follows:
"Now to entreat of that question whether we ought to pray for them that are departed or no. Wherein, if we will cleave only unto the word of God, then we must needs grant that we have no commandment so to do. For the Scripture doth acknowledge but two places after this life, the one proper to the elect and blessed of God, the other to reprobate and damned souls." After quoting the parable of Lazarus we read: "These words as they do confound the opinion of helping the dead by prayer, so they do clearly confute and take away the vain error of purgatory." After another quotation from Scripture the question is asked: "Where is then the third place which they call purgatory? Or where shall our prayers help and profit the dead." The authority of Augustine, Chrysostom and Cyprian is alleged, and then we read: "Let these and such other places be sufficient to take away the gross error of purgatory out of our heads, neither let us dream any more that the souls of the dead are anything at all holpen by our prayers, but as the Scripture teacheth us, let us think that the soul of man passing out of the body goeth straightway either to heaven or else to hell, whereof the one needeth no prayer, the other is without redemption." There is more to the same effect.
The reader is requested to weigh the above words in connection with the acknowledged fact that prayers for the dead which had been contained in the first Prayer Book of Edward, were omitted in the second, (which in substance is the same as ours) and determine what is the duty of ministers and members of this church. No doubt many names (some of them of distinction) can be given of persons who have taught differently; but the more they may be, the greater is the number of the offenders against her authority.
A LETTER CONGRATULATORY
TO ALL CONCERNED
IN THE LATE ECCLESIASTICAL PROCEEDINGS IN
THE DIOCESE OF MARYLAND.
The termination of the Board of Inquiry affords relief and is an occasion of congratulation to all who were in any way connected with the transaction.
First of all we naturally think of the distinguished person chiefly concerned, and congratulate him on the fulfilment of his confident expectation, that he would be supported in the appeal made to the judicial processes of the Church. He has hosts of friends who sympathize with him, but none more sincerely desire that the rest of his days may be undisturbed by such unpleasant proceedings than those who have had to do with the prosecution of the presentment against him. He, more than many, understands the principles involved and knows them to be important, and however he may be affected for a while, in the end (if he does not now), he will do full justice to the motives of those who in the attempt at securing discipline against others according to the law of the Church, have had the misfortune to find his great influence and office in their way. He never expected that the principles of a Cyprianus Africanus, illustrated in their spirit and unhappy effects in the history of the great Primate of England in the seventeenth century, styled by Heylyn, his biographer, [3/4] “Cyprianus Anglicanus," could be brought into active employment in this land without a struggle.
As long as those views are only theoretical, no one troubles himself about them. When they are occasionally asserted or acted on, they are excused as the peculiarities of an individual. If once they could be expounded in all their proportions and acted out without reserve, the number of their supporters would be small indeed.
Next to the bishop, the excellent gentlemen, clerical and lay, who constituted the Board of Inquiry, are to be congratulated. At the call of the Church through her proper officer, they left their important duties at home, or abstracted from their summer vacation the time necessary for the purpose, and for four or five days devoted themselves patiently to listening to and weighing the evidence laid before them. The interest and selfsacrifice shown is worthy of all commendation. A large majority satisfied their minds of that in which all would have been pleased to concur, that there was no need of proceeding farther. They are released.
And they have released others from an irksome task. None are to be more heartily congratulated than the presenters themselves, unless it be the witnesses. The presenters did not satisfy nine of the thirteen gentlemen of the necessity for further proceedings, but they used their best endeavor to spread out the evidence in the case, and have thus fully completed what they designed, which was to follow up the question wherever duty might lead. All of them are thankful that the responsibility of the decision does not rest upon them, and are at the same time conscious that as little of human infirmity mingled with what they did as in any important act of their lives. The most of them, certainly those of advanced age, are for the rest of their days released from all personal care and labor in maintaining the discipline of the Church. Having contributed an humble share in the endeavor to preserve her doctrine on an important matter, they feel at liberty to compose their spirits and to leave to younger hands the work of contending for the truth.
The greatest trial of the presenters has been, that they should be inflicting pain in any degree upon others. Among the lesser evils of their position, has been the encountering of all kinds of misrepresentations of their own acts and motives. I wonder that those who are so ready to put the worst construction upon the conduct of others, do not see that they expose themselves to the suspicion of an incapacity to appreciate the higher views which may be supposed to govern the course of their fellow creatures. There is not only the command which says, “Thou shall not bear false witness," but there is a law of God's kingdom enunciated by His Son, which admonishes us, "that with what measure we mete, it shall be measured to us." None so likely to be hardly judged as those who are hard judges of other men.
The two clergymen of Mount Calvary may congratulate themselves upon the disposition of the presentment against the bishop as settling the matter of the movement against themselves. They are not to be tried by an Ecclesiastical Court of the Diocese. But this satisfaction comes to them mingled with something of a different kind. Instead of that prospective trial they have been tried, convicted and punished. already, without a hearing, by a court convened only to inquire whether their bishop was to be arraigned for straining the law on their behalf. When they remember that according to the seeming judgment of the same court they had been sufficiently dealt with before by the bishop's admonition, they will justly feel that they have no assurance of not [5/6] being punished yet more in other unexpected forms. Perhaps they will conclude it would have been better to have had their case submitted to the Diocesan Court, when they might have defended themselves and satisfied the judges that they had (as they learn the bishop all along maintains) not exceeded the bounds of their liberty in the matter of “teaching." The inference they will naturally draw is that they must not be quite so public in inculcating what they think so comfortable and important a practice.
The Standing Committee, as such, was not a party to the recent transaction, yet the majority may be congratulated on the conclusion of the affair. They are relieved from all official responsibility by the action of the Board. They were much shocked at the first bold step of a minister of Mount Calvary, on the occasion of the funeral of one of her ministers, using for the deceased a prayer found in another office, as a prayer for a person yet alive, and when the same thing occurred at a subsequent funeral (in both cases in the presence of those known to be utterly opposed to such prayers), the dissatisfaction of the Committee found expression in a call upon the bishop to interfere, and events at last culminated in a formal presentment of the two concerned. In this the writer and some others of the Committee thought there was a purpose to maintain the purity of the Church as to doctrine and practice. It was known, indeed, that the bishop did not take the same view as that set forth in the presentment; that he thought the matter complained of was not capable of satisfactory settlement by an appeal to the law; and had intimated that whatever the Committee might determine, he could not be induced to convene the Ecclesiastical Court of the Diocese; yet the Committee considered they were not thereby excused from proceeding, and the presentment was made.
 Immediately after the refusal of the bishop, as foreshadowed in his written answer and confirmed by his replies to a committee sent to ascertain his mind, there was manifested a disposition on the part of some to be satisfied with the bishop's view of the case and the settlement he had thereupon made with Messrs. Richey and Perry, namely, that they were not to use that prayer in that place in the burial service, nor to continue on sale the manual of prayers for the dead.
The readiness to accept this as a proper settlement of the matter is hard to explain on any ground consistent with the Committee's judgment before and since. They had unanimously entered on what they thought the way of duty, but they encountered an obstacle (not indeed unexpected), and so declined to proceed. Still there was a positive, determined refusal, then as afterward, to withdraw the presentment, and when it was returned the Committee simply resolved to take charge of it. Whatever force there was in that paper remains to this day.
Whatever causes of congratulation individuals may have, a more important inquiry is, what ground is there of satisfaction to the Church?
Under her law a Board was convened for the purposes of preliminary inquiry as to charges brought in due form on a subject of grave importance. It could not be said that the persons moving in the matter were of no reputation; that the violation was only in letter not in spirit; that the subject was of little concern; in short, that the whole was frivolous. Upon these or similar grounds the Board might have refused to proceed, and Church sentiment would everywhere have sustained them.
The Board had before them the question whether there was probable reason for believing that in declining to act upon the presentment against the clergy of Mount Calvary, the bishop had violated a canon of his [7/8] diocese. That and that only was the matter before them. While engaged in its consideration and things properly bearing on it, they were in the line of their vocation. When they turned their inquiries to other matters, or acted from views and feelings having relation to other offenders than the person named in the presentment, they did that which, as a Board, they had no authority to do, and their course brings ‘ them under suspicion of aiming to satisfy public opinion instead of enforcing public law. Somebody had offended, and somebody must be punished, and they seem to have thought it enough to seize upon parties not then and there arraigned, but sufficiently unpopular, and to pour upon them the vials of their judicial disapprobation. I am sorry there was no dissent from this course on the part of any of the Board. I am sure that on reflection some of them will think it was rather their duty to decline taking part in such a rough kind of justice. They should have remembered they were not sitting as associates of Judge Lynch, nor as a court of compromise, nor as a company of churchmen, clerical and lay, having opinions to express on persons and principles, but as an organ of this Church.
One of the grounds of refusal to proceed against the Mount Calvary clergy in the matter of prayers for the dead was, that there is no clearly defined limit in the standards of the Church in that direction, and in case of condemnation by a court and infliction of punishment by the bishop, he could be proceeded against in a civil court for injuring the reputation and interests of parties in violation of the liberties allowed in the Church to which they belong. If that be so, the Board have committed the same offence in principle of law, whether or not there be any way of proceeding against them.
Whatever reason of complaint the persons thus [8/9] summarily dealt with may have, the Church has much more. I do not mean the Church, considered in a popular way, as represented in the opinions and acts of a majority, large or small, but the Church expressing her thoughts and restraining her actions, and that of her members in well considered formularies of doctrine and worship. Those who in their generation most heartily accord with her words taken as a whole, be they many or few, have the best right to speak in her name.
The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America has a Constitution and Canons, as well as usages of her own. She provides for the preservation of Christian doctrine by standards of teaching, and has elaborate arrangements for the selection and sending forth of ministers.
But she has done more; she has provided means of controlling their subsequent course. For the clergy of all orders there is provided a scheme off discipline covering the whole range of their duties, personal and official. The canons of the general Church, specially relating to the trial of bishops, fill many pages. The Church thus contemplates the possibility of even a bishop offending and the necessity for proper investigation. When, therefore, in accordance with her own explicit rules, proceedings are initiated and carried on to the point of judicial inquiry, the Church may be considered as demanding that the consideration of the judicial shall not be exchanged for the consideration of the expedient. It is not to be 'presumed that all these canons concerning discipline are a mere sham. It is not respectful that her children, in their individual or public capacity, should unite in the cry common to all transgressors and their sympathizers, and particularly heard now in ecclesiastical matters, that they do not believe in trials. True, there are great evils and imperfections connected with [9/10] them in State as well as Church. But let the most obtuse consider what a condition they would be in without courts, and if the laws were considered as mere admonitions to evil-doers. The catching a rogue once in a while, and the severest punishment of the greater criminals occasionally, is observed to be of wholesome effect in the community. Just so in the Church, things as to doctrine, discipline and life cannot be safe unless the existing law is enforced, and if found defective, amended, that it may be enforced.
So far as her interests are subserved by discipline, the case is one to be regretted as a signal failure. Yet, on the whole, we may congratulate her that things are not worse. If there must be failure at any point, it is better that the result should come at once in the Board of Inquiry. Failure before the Court of Bishops would have been to give color to extreme views of Episcopal prerogative; and failure to sustain the presentment of Mr. Richey and Mr. Perry before a diocesan tribunal, would have been to legalize the teaching of prayers for the dead at least in the Diocese of Maryland.
It is a received maxim that the administration of law never rises above the average moral condition of a people. The case in hand is an illustration of this truth. The administration of discipline in a church is a just measure of the common appreciation of the spiritual inheritance which has been received.
What a noble treasure of truth, experience and law is that which our branch of the Redeemer's kingdom has had transmitted through the channel of the English Church. There is first the Bible, to whose interpretation she calls not only the skill of the present but the wisdom of all the ages; and against the cry of setting forth new doctrine at the Reformation period, she called attention to the fact that the earlier streams were [10/11] purer; that, for instance, the Church in Rome, as the Apostles left it, and for a long time after, was not the same Rome which through her chief bishop dominated over so large a part of Christendom. Then there are the ancient Creeds, and to meet the later Romish errors we have the XXXIX Articles, which to this day stand in harmonious testimony with other confessions of various reformed churches, and superior to them all in avoiding the extremes of too much and too little definition. There is also the Common Prayer, together with the Offices of the Church, indebted so much to the learning and piety of other times, standards so agreeable to Scripture, disputed words in the former being also disputed words in the latter, and troublesome mainly because of the readiness of some to impose their own sense upon others. In addition we have popular sermons called Homilies, which in one of the Articles are declared to be "necessary for those times," and they are very useful now as showing how the Church would teach her children. No sensible person looks in such writings for the accuracy of words demanded in documents to be judicially interpreted; but he is strangely constituted, or must have some evil purpose to answer, who does not heartily inquire into and value their general spirit, meaning and drift.
Yet in these days how few among those who rule the Church, and among those who are loudest in their assertion of churchmanship, are forward to recommend the Articles and Homilies to the people? Those who call attention to them and their illustration from the writings of the divines who drew them up are often treated as offenders; so little do many know or care for the doctrine of their own church.
The Church has been marching on of late, not under these ancient banners (somewhat discolored and [11/12] mutilated, it is true, in the changes of 300 years), but under newer and gayer ones, on which are inscribed such sentences as: "Apostolic Succession," "Baptismal Regeneration," "Real Presence" and the like. Very excellent phrases they are, properly understood. It happens that the first and the last were expressly repudiated by those who reformed our Church. But who does not hold that our ministry is apostolic? that there is a certain connection between baptism and regeneration, and that Christ is really present with His people in the Eucharist? But when in the confusion of words and the progress of opinions our bishops, young or old, fancy they are Apostles, with all their power save the miraculous—when people are taught that the Real Presence is one in the elements on the altar, there to be adored, and that Baptismal Regeneration means a certain "spiritual" if not "moral" change which takes place in baptism, removing the person from the number of those who are out of Christ to those who are within, so that he is then endowed properly with a new nature or capacities, it is time to protest against being answerable for such catch words as these.
But it is claimed that it is precisely under these banners that the Church has advanced so prosperously and overspread the land. There is no doubt that she has grown. Her dioceses and bishops have been multiplied, and the contributions for church extension have been considerable. Yet on examination it is perceived that the results do not correspond to the flattering appearances. In the cities and large towns there has been much increase. Perhaps this may be accounted for by the comparative readiness with which the excitable population of cities receives what is new and showy, while that of the country is rather prejudiced against the introduction of fashions in religion as in anything else.
 If, however, the increase were tenfold what it has been, the question would still remain whether the growth is healthy. Unless the results are connected with the spread of the true principles of the Gospel "as this Church hath received the same," her children have no reason to rejoice.
The growth, such as it is, which has taken place is attributable to a variety of causes. Among others, I venture to set down Ritualism. This is by no means an unmixed evil, troublesome as it proves to deal with. It has given a popular form to High Churchism, which, left alone, would have slumbered still in its dignity. It has helped to release the Church all around from the absurd view of the Rubric as being a kind of law to be minutely enforced, instead of being (as Gladstone and other sensible men have declared) in its own nature only a general direction to be sincerely and honestly carried out. It has put life and spirit into services which formerly were too cold and removed from the sympathies of the people. It has put many a man and woman at work who would at best have been only a worshiper. It has brought out prominently a personal Christ to be worshiped and served with all the heart. It has afforded a good example to all of self-denial, labor, and disregard of what the world may say. It has in many cases elevated the standard of the Christian life above the level of mere church-going. I cannot join in the cry of even High Churchmen against it. I give it credit for as large a proportion of sincerity as belongs to any class of men in the Church. There may be some who have taken up Ritualism from a love of notoriety, but it is to be remembered, on the other hand, that they know they expose themselves to condemnation and ridicule for their opinions and practices, in addition to the labor most of them undergo in carrying them out.
 Besides High Churchmen, others have been "provoked to good works" by the rise of Ritualism. I mean such as entertaining Evangelical opinions and prejudices have not inherited the zeal of those who for a hundred years in England and in this country, have borne the reproach of the same name.
But Ritualism, which is credited with some good, has the peculiarity of being openly and often professedly at variance with the very principles of the Protestant Reformation as carried out in England. The leaders lament that the Reformers went too far in departing from the doctrines and practices which preceded. Their declared purpose is to strive for a restoration of things which they claim to be Catholic. Thus far their labors have been directed to what they suppose to be greater honor to the Lord's Supper, which in language and in ceremonial, according to their use, is hardly to be distinguished from the Mass, against which, as the concentration of many errors, the Reformers everywhere protested even unto death. Eucharistic adoration and Confession to a priest as an ordinary part of the Christian life have been long in use among them. We have now pressed on our attention Prayers for the Dead, and that sometimes in a form little short of Purgatory. The worship of the Virgin and of the Saints, and a number of other things equally resting on early example and continued use, will all come in due order and time. In short, they claim by authority of the Church Catholic to introduce into this branch of it, whatever according to their view is sanctioned by primitive and general consent.
Thus it appears that there is no security for the doctrine, discipline and worship of this Church under the prevalence of these opinions. With their principles, there is nothing left but disobedience and agitations. [14/15] They are in the Protestant Episcopal Church, but not of' it. Sometimes they object to the name. They have been known to express abhorrence of her Articles of Religion. They lament the weakness, or denounce the unfaithfulness of those who framed them.
In all this, the least guilty are some of those who have most offended against the peace of the Church. They have been misled by their teachers. A generation or two of ministers in our Church and that of England has grown up in large part under the training of those who have had little sympathy with the men who carried through the revolt from Rome in the sixteenth century. For the follies and inconveniences of Ritualism, some are responsible who have always been careful to say they are not Ritualists. Oh no! not they. But they have instilled prejudices, inculcated principles and encouraged practices which have led to these results, and in cases too numerous to be easily summed up, they have induced such a state of mind that individuals have found relief from their inconsistencies by uniting with the Church of Rome. There they think they have found what they have been taught to think so necessary, unbroken continuity of church existence and authority, the channel along which flows the grace of everlasting life.
It is very true that the great body of those in England and America who boast the name of Conservative or High Church, or simply Churchmen, has all along maintained a strong feeling against Rome and a traditional regard for those who with their labors and blood delivered us from its power. It is also true, that the same body has received and entertained strong feelings against those, who, whether called or calling themselves Low Church, Evangelical and the like, are known with considerable variations among themselves to lay great [15/16] stress on the points of doctrine to which all the confessors of the Reformation bear witness. He would be a partizan indeed who should undertake to say that those entertaining such views have given no just occasion of offence. They have dangers of their own, and sensible men will not be slow to acknowledge it. But in that sympathy which they feel and manifest for all the great principles of the Reformation period, they have claims on this Church not to be measured by numbers and names, learned or unlearned.
The Church is like one of the grand cathedrals of the old world, not only a collection of wood and stone, but these and all other proper materials put together in the order and proportions, from base to pinnacle, which constitute it what it is. Each has a style of its own. It has happened in the course of ages to those structures that in the necessity of repairs, or perhaps sometimes in the wantonness of change, portions have been rearranged in a manner quite out of harmony with the rest. Occasionally it is found that ornamental parts which the architect delighted to conceive and the builder to complete, have been covered up with lath and plaster, and only after many years are now revealed in all their beauty. So it has fared with the Church to which we belong, considered as one from the period so often referred to. It was in some respects more perfect at first than afterwards. Its true plan and proportions are even now in parts only beginning to be appreciated. Its style is its own. Those who survey it as a whole find that the more they study it the more harmonious are its parts. To those who know how to appreciate that combination of truth, of experience, of order, of sobriety, of chastened devotion which belongs to this Church, there is little difficulty in determining that such and such doctrine, such and such usages are quite out of [16/17] harmony with her spirit. It is not necessary that one should be able readily in word to show the difference. Perhaps it cannot be exactly defined, but there is an instinct which settles judgment in the matter.
This Church was meant to be not only in sympathy with all that was good in the ages preceding, but in protest against the corruptions of Christianity of later time, aiming to bring all things to the standard of Scripture in things therein determined. As to the rest she has declared her freedom except so far as that is to be controlled by wisdom and experience.
The Church, while clear in its renunciation of Romish errors, with a fuller protest against them than any of the Reformed communions, is yet framed on no narrow basis. With a wisdom which was from above, where she does not mean to define, she generally uses Scriptural language only, and thus on several points of doctrine and discipline, leaves room for the necessary development of opinion into what is popularly known as higher and lower views of the ministry and sacraments.
High Church and Low Church there will always be, but in innumerable cases when those who, with more or less tenacity, cleave to these names begin to explain themselves they find no great difference after all. I have never been ashamed, or considered it inexpedient to class myself in a general way with those who accept the latter designation, though all along numbering among my choicest friends those who preferred the other and that not inconsistently.
The difficulty is not from the existence of these distinctions, but that the large and respectable body of Churchmen calling themselves High or Conservative, do not generally seem to be aware of the nature of the crisis, or for some reason are not willing to take their part in the maintenance of the doctrine and usages of [17/18] the Church. In England, as well as among us, there has been an abundance of denunciation against the innovators, but still the evil exists. Recently the mother Church has begun to see the necessity of the application of legal remedies. What there is of law is to be ascertained, and where it is defective it will no doubt be amended, but the settled determination of bishops and people (and it is hoped of the clergy generally), is that the extreme views and practices so inconsistent with her genius shall be restrained.
This is the meaning, nothing more nor less, of the movement in the Diocese of Maryland. It was an endeavor to apply the law of the Church so far as it would go for the correction of a great evil. The occasion of the first steps was not sought; it was providentially presented, and those who took official notice of it felt they could do nothing else and preserve a good conscience. Up to a certain point the proceedings met the hearty co-operation of brethren of various views. The desirableness of such union for such a purpose was fully recognized. When it was found all would not proceed to the steps necessary to the consummation of this purpose, the grave question the rest had to consider and did consider, was whether they would be justified before God and man in declining to employ the last painful remedy. As they were not alone in thinking the acts of the clergymen referred to were grave offences, and the proper ground of judicial determination, they thought consistency required them to advance. The result has not changed their views of duty.
Though there has been a failure to get a judicial settlement of the two great questions involved, it is hoped that some good may result. Certainly the folly and danger of disregarding law in obedience to a sudden impulse for the attainment of a present result must by [18/19] this time be evident to most of those who so generously gave their votes to sustain, as far as was possible, the claim put forth from the Episcopal chair. To see how in a moment we may be stripped of the great shield of what is written, is an important lesson not often taught as it was on the floor of the Convention.
The clergy of Mount Calvary, and others whose steps are only a little in the rear of theirs, it is hoped maybe somewhat restrained by the consideration of the trouble and anxiety their course has occasioned. It cannot be said that these disputed subjects of doctrine and rite concern only themselves. They concern every member of the Church. There is a common responsibility for what is done or left undone in every congregation in each diocese. The seed sown in one place, sooner or later, is blown into many surrounding parishes. In addition to this, the clergy of that church (four or five, I believe), gather in force with a corresponding number of laymen at every convention, and are as regular in their attendance as any others. They help to make our laws. One congregation after another, constituted after the same pattern, knocks at the door of the convention, and the smallest brings with it as many votes as some of the larger congregations of the diocese. We thus see that if we do not control them, they will control us.
The question is how far individual or congregational fancy is to have sway in a Church which professes to set forth one doctrine and to require one form of worship. These two points are essential to every body which can be called a Church. As to doctrine, there may be very extensive limits, but there are bounds beyond which she cannot suffer her teachers to stray. As to worship, there may be some diversity in the manner of its performance, but it is obviously of vast importance to the comfort of her members generally, that wherever they [19/20] go they may worship God without being distracted with new things, especially if they do not tend to edification or are suggestive of strange opinions. It is to be regretted that the churchmen in our large cities are not in a condition to see all the evil of these diversities. They are surrounded with churches of all shades of doctrine and rite. Each man takes his choice. But consider the case of the numerous class of persons who have but one church to which they can conveniently go, and the more unhappy case of the congregation in which a strife is commenced as to which of several parties shall have control. How sacred ought to be considered those settlements of law and usage which hitherto have preserved peace and promoted piety, and how awful the responsibility of clergymen or laymen who, by the unnecessary introduction of anything, give offence to even a smaller portion of the congregation? It is here we see the importance of what is already settled. The persons least able to comprehend the situation, and who know and care least for its perils, are precisely those who are most ready for change. And it is for such as these that law must be made and enforced. As long as Churches were in their first light and love we may believe the rules required were few. When Churches declined, as too many did even in early times, and became indifferent to the proper service of God, the old rules lost their power, and doctrine and discipline became awfully corrupted, as we see they often continue to this day. It is only in the half revived condition in which we live that there comes to be earnest conflict about such matters.
Already great advance has been made in our communion in retracing the lines of the Reformation. The lessons of the last forty years are beginning to be read. Whatever of good has attended the movement, which [20/21] began at Oxford, it is to be hoped may remain. Meantime Rome, and all that leads to it, has been tested anew, and all who are not blind must see that the hope of the world is not in that direction, and that her boastful Church is subject to such mutations and uncertainty as would be a matter of reproach to the most contracted sect.
Under the force of discussion the absurdity of the claim deliberately made by the celebrated Dr. Newman, to hold in our Church all Roman doctrine, has been exposed and satisfactorily refuted by his subsequent acts and words. Several extreme statements of doctrine have been greatly modified by his former followers. All that is wanted is heartier co-operation of faithful men of different schools of thought in the endeavor to preserve and confirm the doctrine, laws and institutions we have received.
Mr. Gladstone has been writing on the question, whether the Church of England is worth preserving. A more pressing inquiry is how it shall be preserved. It is the Church of England only so far as it is faithful to its own standards. How then can it be safe unless in good measure it rids itself of things which corrupt its doctrine and mar its harmony? As long as divisions so fundamental as to obtrude themselves upon the eye in public worship, and especially in the most solemn act of our religion—when differences deep and wide must manifest themselves at the holy table on every occasion of what is meant to be a feast of loving communion with each other as well as with Christ—there cannot be the unity which is necessary in a Church.
If we were concerned only with the amiable request of gratifying every party and person with the exercise of his own tastes, the matter would be easy. But since we have only to consider whether there is any living [21/22] authority in the Church to regulate doctrine and worship and any necessity for its exercise, and whether this Church shall change her principles and practices to greater likeness to the unreformed Churches, we think it is sheer trifling, or something worse, to express surprise at those who are earnest in resistance. For a long time the pretence was simply a return to customs of former days. Those who look beneath the surface find that there is alienation from the very principles of the Reformation.
If anything could add force to our inherited or assumed obligations as members and ministers of this branch of the Church of Christ, to preserve her unchanged in essential particulars, it is the present condition of Christendom. A movement under wise and good men, formerly of the Church of Rome, and now calling themselves Old Catholics, has been inaugurated. Amidst the discouragements of their condition they look for sympathy and example to the Church of England and our own. They have learned the vanity of thinking that the Divine promises are linked to any ecclesiastical organization, and they, too, have had to adopt the course so condemned in the Reformers, of separating from what claims to be exclusively the Church, if they would be faithful to the truth of which the Church was meant to be a pillar. They have seen a council calling itself universal, speaking in Christ's name, consisting of nearly a thousand bishops from all parts of the world, after a little faint resistance, uniting in the daring ascription of infallible authority to one human being. They have been startled by this as by a voice from heaven, telling them not to put their faith in bishops, one or many, except so far as they limit themselves in their teachings and actions by the "word of God written," by the testimony of the purer ages, and the consent of the body of believers. They are looking to our communion as an example [22/23] of an Episcopal Church, governed by law and maintaining ecclesiastical authority in a form best adapted to the present state of the world. While I write I see evidence of this in words written lately by such men as Döllinger, of Germany, and Hyacinthe, of France.
On the other hand the many divisions of our Protestant brethren, and all the inconveniences connected with them, admonish us to beware of whatever may increase their prejudices against our Church, preserving as she does so much that the more thoughtful among them would like to recover. These religious bodies differing widely among themselves, all unite in a just aversion to the corruptions of the Church of Rome. If, therefore, by exaggeration of doctrinal expression, or by the introduction of new rites or old, which assimilate us with that Church, their prejudices are unnecessarily offended, we are robbing them of what is their as well as our inheritance from the early Church, and deferring indefinitely an approximation to that visible union (whatever it be) which Christ seemed to contemplate, and which in due time He will effect.
As to our brethren of the Church of Rome, against which we have to continue our Protest, how is that impaired in its influence as long as there is tolerated among us so much which is only an imitation. of what in a more perfect form is found among them? We best perform our duty to the many whom we respect in that Church when we are most faithful in maintaining intact the witness against her errors, borne for three hundred years by the communion to which we belong.
So far as the late ecclesiastical proceedings are concerned, the following seems to be the situation:
1. The Standing Committee presents the clergymen for their "teaching." The bishop, knowing of that action, anticipates the formal opening of the papers and [22/23] proceeds to punish them by admonition for something else—the misuse of a prayer and the publication of a manual. He expresses the hope that the Committee will be satisfied, and some of them begin to act as if they were. But the same persons to this day will not consent to withdraw the paper of presentment.
2. The Convention refuses to interpret or to change the canon favorably to the bishop's views; and afterward in a resolution of sympathy declares the difficulty is one "growing simply out of a differing interpretation" of the canon—a declaration which the bishop has never made, and will not make.
3. The Board of Inquiry which pronounces severely upon the clergymen for their "teaching," in the same resolution says the bishop had admonished them for the same, and yet the Board had the bishop's letter and other evidence before them to prove that he took no account of what they did, considered as "teaching," but for other reasons; partly for what he called a "depraving of the Prayer Book."
Into such thickets and quagmires do men fall, when from fear or favor they leave the high road of the law.
August 14, 1875.
The papers of 14th publish resolutions of the Vestry of Mount Calvary complaining of the proceedings of the Board in condemnation of their clergy as being "unlawful," &c. Thus the necessity of law by and by becomes evident to all. If it be needed for the protection of individuals, is it not necessary for the security of the Church? If the rules of judicial proceeding ought to be kept, what shall we say of the obligation to maintain the great principles of faith and worship as embodied in our standards?
P. S.—To add to the perplexities of the case Mr. Richey is now reported as denying that the bishop administered anything which might be considered as official censure.