« ZurückWeiter »
Jast session) they referred to Rome or the Sorbonne, and "it was returned from the Sorbonists that it was lawful for Roman Catholics to work changes in governments, for the Mother Church's advancement, and chiefly in an heretical kingdom, and so lawfully make away the king."*
If any one supposes that these intrigues are not rife among us now, we would refer him to the last work of the lamented Dean of Ripon, which will show him, by a series of facts, what Rome has done to gain a footing in England; and if he imagines that the success of Rome is to be ascribed to the influence of Courts, we would ask him to read the instructive evi. dence of Rome's success in the United States, which a recent American magazinet has collected. It there appears that Irish Papists have possessed themselves of the most important muni. cipal offices in New York, and many of the judicial posts; that, with their help in the different corporations, the Romish Church has set up an enormous establishment, with 2000 priests, monks, and nuns—an army moving in perfect order under the direction of their Primate; that they have established 150 superior institutions, such as academies, colleges, or hospitals; have spent on land and building fifty millions of dollars, and have obtained a property which they themselves estimate at nearly £200,000.
By their influence they have induced the City of New York to pay to them a yearly sum of nearly 200,000 dollars, and they had the modesty to propose (and it was with difficulty that the proposition has been for the time resisted) that every Roman Catholic child shall be sent to a priest's school, and that every child shall have eight dollars yearly paid for his education out of the public taxes. When we consider that above 100,000 children could claim and receive this in New York alone,-that every school is under the absolute control of the priests, and that all this enormously large property is held by the Romish Bishop,- we may learn how, with the dissolution of Protestant sects falling into decay, this colossal Establishment rises and extends its power over the Legislature and Corporations, till it overshadows the liberties of the Republic and the order of society.
That Rome should unite with Voluntaries to overthrow in England the only body capable of resisting them, the Established Protestant Church, is only natural and wise. But that the Nonconformists should lend themselves to such schemes, and work out the demolition of the fortresses of Protestantism, is one of the many examples of the infatuation which, under the influence of passion and prejudice, drives men
* Bramhall's Works, vol. i. p. xcv.
into calamitous blunders. Far wiser were the Nonconformists of our Revolution, who, in the face of dangers less considerable, and a Romish confederacy less powerful, joined the Church of England in their resistance to Rome, and postponed their minor differences till the great question of Protestantism was settled in their favour.
We rejoice to see that some classes of Dissenters, and some individuals both among the English Nonconformists and the Scotch Free-churchmen, see the true state of things, and take their place on the side of Protestant Churchmen. All honour to them! We hail their help; we commend their wisdom. The best return we can make them for their sagacious and disinterested aid is to direct our own attention to the evils within our Church, which weaken our hands, and alienate friends. These evils we now desire to notice, and to suggest a remedial and practical reform.
Two pamphlets, both written by clergymen, and addressed to two Premiers, treat of the question of Church Reform. The one was written last year, and complains of the necessity of Reform, its exigency, the delays in the Ritual Commission, which may render its existence a delusion and its report a sham. The feelings of the writer are given in words which we quote, as they record the impatience and annoyance which now prevail among thousands of our most zealous laity,—"If the whole Church system of to-day is to be stereotyped, with its muffled Popery in some parishes, with its sluggish deadness in others, with its semi-uniformity, with its defective discipline, with its maintenance of phraseology and formulas in its Ordination and Occasional Offices distinctly derived from Romish sources in dark ages of Popery,---many will hail that man as a deliverer and true Reformer, be he Liberal or Conservative, who shall cut away the supports of such a system, and thus afford Protestant Churchmen the opportunity of forming a free church in a free country.”
The next pamphlet, that of Mr. Laurence, proposes, as the cure for our evils, the increase of our Bishops from 28 to 76, the nomination of ten of these new bishops by the Crown, i. e. by the Premier, and the election of 37 new bishops by the clergy.
On this scheme, and this feature of it, it is needless to waste words. The unrestricted selection of bishops by the Premier will, we imagine, before Mr. Gladstone has finished his term of office, be felt to be unendurable. But, bad as the system is, it will be unexceptionable as compared with the election of a bishop by the clergy. If, by happy accident, the choice of a Premier is at times guided to the selection of a suitable man, the choice of a Bishop by the prejudices of clerical partisanship will never fail to be bad. If they don't choose firebrands, they choose the feeblest nonentities. No recipe for degrading the Episcopate could be more effectual than Mr. Laurence's scheme.
But, independently of this preposterous theory, Mr. Laurence's suggested Reform is worthless. We want a stimulant for our Church, and Mr. Laurence suggests an opiate. The laudanum which our bishops have infused into their action has caused the very disease from which the Church is now suffering. For what are now the chief dangers of the Church of England ? Is it the fall of the Irish Church? That may be a warning; but the cases differ widely. The spread of Voluntary opinion, and the desire to place all sects on an equality,—that scheme has many partisans; but it is so indefensible in argument, that a vigorous discussion will shatter it to fragments, as it did in 1833. That is not the quarter on the horizon from which the storm, that is now gathering, will fall. On this point we differ from the views of Dean Alford and the remarks of Dr. Vaughan of Doncaster.
The real danger was touched by the perverse sagacity of Mr. Bright. He pointed to the internal divisions in our Church as the source both of our weakness and peril. Every man, outside the petty cliques which surround a bishop, sees clearly that, if Romish teaching and ceremonies are suffered in our churches without check, the force of honest public opinion, on which our Church rests for its life, will be turned from it, and converted into hatred. In how many parishes do we see the body of parishioners, high and low, driven out of their churches, and the clergyman exhibiting a histrionic performance to empty walls. The parishioners may not yet have taken the final step which was taken at Calne, of building a new and free church and schools. That is the last remedy. But who that has lived in a Ritualistic parish in the country has not seen the disgust and estrangement which these wretched practices have caused ? In towns, these results are hidden; the places of parishioners are filled up by strangers, by the curious, the superstitious, and the idle; but in the country, a deserted church marks the work of Romanizing priestcraft. At this moment, in the county of Wilts, you may see numerous parishes in which young clergymen, encouraged by the lessons of their late Bishop, affect sacerdotal authority, teach that they can bring down Deity into the elements and offer Him to the people, prescribe penances, and invite confessions. Wherever this system prevails, the great body of parishioners go away. Those that remain are disgusted; a feeling of hostility springs up, which will bear bitter fruits whenever the popular voice can make itself heard. Nor is this peculiar to the diocese of Salisbury,
too often compte departe iskohurches Pily and coldlants and decises for the ith these for the evil, appily, the desertecester. In urrey
though there the evil has reached great proportions. It will be found in the diocese of Oxford largely. " It is producing, we learn, great secessions and disgust in Wales. There are cases which we could cite nearer home, in Kent and Hants and Surrey, in London, and in the dioceses of Ely and Gloucester. In Cornwall, many of the parish churches are deserted, and the mass of the people depart. Unhappily, the practice of our bishops too often enhances the evil; for, even where they have no sympathy with these Romish practices, their habit is to make excuses for the clergyman, and to repel the people; till the people, disgusted with vain appeals to their diocesan, settle into a sullen indifference, and wait for the time, which is not far off, in which they may exert their power and have their revenge.
In this condition of our Church, which every man of observation who recollects the past and considers the future, looks at with apprehension,—what are the remedial measures proposed by the clergy of the Church?
We take first the device which Bishop Wilberforce presents to us, and to which he has given some twenty-five years of unwearied and most unprofitable labour. We mean the revival of Convocation.
We invite our readers' attention to the Chronicle of Convocation-dreary reading, we admit, from which we rise with a sigh. The report is not accurate; for we see that hasty speakers, like Archdeacon Denison, who blurt out rash truths, expunge them from the record ; the Chronicle is therefore watered down to a blue tinge. But take it as we have it, it is curious; for it shows us what are the ideas of a section of the clergy, when shut up by themselves, and left to their own thoughts. Like the Bourbons, they come back to us as they were in the days of Queen Anne, unchanged in their notions, their sacerdotal pretensions, and their ignorance of the thoughts and ways of the outer world.
The Committees appointed by the Lower House of Convocation are characteristic. There is one, indeed, on Intemperance, which, through the energy of one able clergyman, led to a useful result. But notice the extraordinary topics that, in this clerical dreamland, engage the thoughts of the members. One committee is on Intercommunion with orthodox Eastern Churches,-on which Canon Conway justly observed, that for his part he could not advise his flock “ to attend where the worship of the Virgin Mary is taught, and where the Invocation of Saints is practised” (p. 359); and Dean Alford remarked, that, in place of coquetting with the Churches of the East and of Rome, he prayed “that a proximate union between us and the other members of Protestant communions may yet be reached” (p. 358). Another committee sits to examine the
variations introduced by the Sealed Book into the Book of Common Prayer. Another looks up the exploded Canons. Another would destroy Missionary enterprise, by a Board of Missions ! Another considers how a Harvest Service may be used without breaking the Act of Uniformity. One only has a practical character, though it will puzzle wiser men to attain its end-how to get for disabled incumbents (who never had a maintenance) enough to maintain them when they retire.
When these committees have made their reports, and in June Convocation meets to decide,* we find that the current idea of clerical discipline is, that a clergyman ought to be tried in the Bishop's Court, where the Bishop (by his single will) is to fix the lot and faith of the unfortunate incumbent; for, says one of the speakers, "true doctrine is, by the theory of the Church, supposed to reside in the bosom of the Bishop;' and another remarks, "the Bishop is supposed to be eternal in law." Therefore all the practice of all our law courts, and all the wisdom of all our learned judges, is to be set aside, and a rash divine is to declare what he likes to be fact and law; for, as one speaker says, “the law of the Church is essentially different from the law of the land,
"Is it to be considered that the decision of questions regarding Christian doctrine can be made by lawyers better than bishops ?" — “Lawyers have come to exercise undue influence."
No wonder that one or two wiser members whispered that such a change could not be carried without the assent of Parliament, and that such a change was not likely to be made, as it would place in the hands of a bishop arbitrary power. Another suggested that the question to be tried is not what faith the Church will now adopt; but whether the faith declared by the clergyman, and the acts done by him, are consistent with the written Formularies and established faith of the Church of England—a question this on which legal minds are the most competent to speak and the least partial. But these ideas were coughed down by a loud outburst; and the House of divines declared that no one should or could judge in Church matters but ecclesiastics.
Hence they will not accept Parliamentary legislation. Par. liament must not presume to legislate on Church matters till it knows what Convocation desires. Parliament must content itself with giving the clergy power to pass canons, and confer on these canons the force of law.
And this project is gravely discussed in June, 1869, when the report of one of their own committees had just
* See Debates of June 15th and 16th.