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LETTERS OF THE RIGHT REV. THE LORD BISHOP OF EXETER, AND ALSO OF THE CHAPLAIN OF HIS GRACE THE ARCHBISHOP OF DUBLIN, ON THE SUBJECT OF THE MEMORIAL FROM THE PROTESTANT ASSOCIATION.
Our January number contained a Memorial on the recent secessions from the Church of England to the Church of Rome. *
The following two letters, from the Bishop of Exeter and the Chaplain of his Grace the Archbishop of Dublin, have been received in consequence, and are here presented to our readers. Though not of so decided a tone as we could desire; though less satisfactory than the sentiments contained in the answer of the Bishop of Ripon to the Memorial of the clergy assembled at Leeds, they will yet be perused with interest by a great proportion of our readers.
Bishopstowe, Dec. 24, 1845. DEAR SIR,—I have this day received your letter of the 10th inst., enclosing "A Memorial addressed to the Archbishops and Bishops of the United Church of England and Ireland, by the Committee of the Protestant Association."
The subscription of two such names, as those of Mr. Plumptre and yourself, I am willing to take as a pledge of the general respectability of that body, though I know not of whom, besides, it consists.
But I must frankly say, that I object, on principle, as a Bishop, to recognise the propriety of any Association whatever delivering its corporate judgment to my brethren and myself, on any matters of doctrine or discipline; and, as respects the Protestant Association” in particular, my objection would be strengthened in a degree which I need not express, if I have rightly understood, that it is not a body consisting of members of the Church only. For, in that case, I should, by receiving the Memorial, encourage persons, whom I cannot but regard as schismatics, to interfere in my discharge of the high duties of the office which it has pleased God that I should bear in the Church.
To Mr. Plumptre, however, and to yourself, individually, (as I believe that both of you are Churchmen,) I willingly express my sentiments on the main particulars in your paper following the order in which they are presented.
1. I should consider myself as a traitor to the Church, if I did not testify, on all fit occasions, my firm and uncompro
* See, January Number, 1846, p. 32, where the Memorial here referred to is given.-Ed. P. M.
mising opposition to all who, calling themselves members of the Church, “have not scrupled to declare that they must recede more and more from the principles of the English Reformation.”
2. To what you “ took occasion to express to the Bishops two years ago," I am not able to make any reference; for I have not the slightest recollection of it. If it was said in the form of a Memorial” to me from the “ Protestant Association," as I could not have recognised the propriety of such a Memorial, it is most likely that, in the pressure of business, from which I am rarely free, it was laid aside without my reading it. The Memorial now before me would have been so dealt with, had not my notice been caught by the two respected names which are appended to it.
3. Subscription to the Articles, “in a non-natural sense,” so called, appears to me inconsistent with common sincerity, and worthy, therefore, of the reprobation of every ingenuous mind. I fully assent to your proposition, that the clergy, professing to subscribe to the Articles, ex animo, thereby bind themselves to subscribe to them in their plain and grammatical sense.
4. I certainly assent to your opinion, that it is the duty of the Bishops to “perseveringly exert themselves to maintain and diffuse among every portion of the clergy a high and holy standard of conscientiousness, integrity, and faithfulness, both in taking upon themselves, and in fulfilling, their ordination vows and engagements."
I will not discuss with you the necessity of your thus bringing to our mind, a duty, which ought never to be absent from it. But I most utterly repudiate your advice to us," to hold up to general detestation, all Jesuitical reservation and evasion, in regard to an office so sacred, and pledges so solemn and important."
În saying this, I hope I am not less disposed than yourselves, to testify all Christian zeal for the truth; but I cannot reconcile with Christian charity and soberness the "holding up to general detestation,”—in other words, the exciting the fury of the people, not only against whatever they may be taught to consider “Jesuitical reservation and evasion;" but also against the persons * of those who may appear to them to be guilty of it. To say the truth, I believe there are few among us, however enlightened and spiritually-minded they may be, (I am sure I am not of the number,) who can safely permit themselves to cherish such a feeling as “detestation” against any conduct or
* From the Memorial which appeared in our January number for this year, it will be seen that the language objected to was not used with reference to any person or persons, individually or collectively. 56 Jesuitical reservation and evasion were objected to in the abstract, without any reference to the party, who might unhappily have adopted them.-En. P. M.
opinions -- much less against any persons — except on the plainest and most undeniable evidence of wilful guilt, not only of the highest order, but also of the most precise description. To endeavour, therefore, to rouse “general detestation” against any men, or any opinions, on a charge so vague, as that of “ Jesuitical reservation and evasion," is a responsibility which I should myself shudder to incur.
5. While, therefore, I thank Mr. Plumptre and yourself for offering to me your assistance in my “ efforts to drive away these erroneous and strange doctrines,” to which you have referred, I respectfully, but frankly, own, I am not sure, that I should be quite safe in availing myself of it.
6. In conclusion, I fervently join in your “prayer” with all humility and, I hope, singleness of heart, “ that the Spirit of the Lord may rest upon the Bishops, and direct and bless their pious endeavours for the purification and protection of our Church.”
I am, dear Sir, your faithful servant, James Lord, Esq., Sec. &c.
Palace, Dublin, Dec. 30, 1845. Sir,– The Archbishop of Dublin has received your communication enclosing a circular, purporting to be from “The Protestant Association." It is, however, to you in
individual capacity that his Grace desires me to acknowledge the receipt of the communication, as it is not his practice (being considered by him to be somewhat hazardous) to recognise self-constituted Societies. And more especially does he feel it needful to use this caution, in the case of Associations formed for religious objects, when not under the control of any ecclesiastical authority. In the present instance, his Grace does not know whether this Association is necessarily composed even of members of our Church; at any rate it is not represented to him as being in any way under the official control of the recognised Church authorities.
I will, however, take the liberty of laying before you some remarks of my own, on the Memorial, as I am satisfied that in substance they coincide with the Archbishop's sentiments on those points; and his Grace has left me at liberty, knowing the general coincidence of our views, to offer any observations that may seem to me pertinent.
You cannot but be aware (though probably not acquainted with the half of what his Gràce has done in the cause) that the Archbishop has been one of the earliest, as well as most steady and active of those who have laboured (whether in the University of Oxford or in the Church) to counteract the party that are seeking to subvert; as he thinks, the principles of our Reformation; and he has never shown himself unwilling to take ito consideration the suggestions, either of the other public functionaries of the Church or of private friends, but he has always been most careful to avoid not only the reality but the appearance of submitting to the guidance of self-constituted Associations possessing no recognised authority in the Church.
As to the Tractite party, the Archbishop always utterly disapproved not only of their opinions but of their mode of procedure, as schismatical. Certain men banded themselves together in a conspiracy—this is the very term applied by Mr. Perceval himself, one of the first members—to inculcate certain articles of faith and rules of practice (since published) in what. ever way should seem most advisable. They very early combined to sign and publish a document denouncing as heretical the Regius Professor of Divinity; they themselves possessing no authority to make any such decision; but, being a self-constituted body, usurping the functions of a Church. This was schismatical, and would have been so, even if Dr. Hampden had been ever so erroneous; just as in the case of a man really guilty of some crime, it would have been illegal for them to have constituted themselves judge, jury, and executioners, and to have put him to death.
Then they published a series of Tracts, part of the doctrines of which were disapproved (as has since appeared from the publications of Mr. Perceval and others of the party) by those who yet carried on the system, on account of its general principles ; and they were drawn on, more and more, to appeal to the extraneous authority of a certain undefined Universal Church, and of the Fathers, and of antiquity (none of them being recognised by the Church of which they were originally members), and ultimately of the Church of Rome; and as this last admits of no divided allegiance, many have been at last led to join it fully. Such was the natural course gradually followed, step by step, by those who began by combining themselves into a religious association independently of all ecclesiastical authority from their own Church.
Now, supposing the Bishop of Rome to have renounced all that we think his erroneous tenets, and that the consent of the Fathers and the voice of antiquity were all in favour of those which we hold as scriptural, and as agreeing with those of our own Church, still the proceedings of that party deserve to be condemned as schismatical, in discarding and setting at nought the legitimate authority of their own Church, and setting up, and appealing to, the extraneous authority of their own body, and of a supposed Universal Church, and of the Fathers, and of the Church of Rome. It tends to break up the existing order of things, without a sufficient reason, and thus to “ cause divisions, which the apostle forbids; and thus, even though not heretical, they would have been schismatical.
Of course, therefore, if the Archbishop disapproves this in
others, he is bound not himself to practise or countenance the like, by establishing or encouraging submission to any authority extraneous to the Church, whether that of a foreign Church or of a self-constituted body, consisting either wholly or in part of our own members.
And it appears to me, that the proceedings of your Association are not unlikely to defeat their own objects; partly by countenancing and sanctioning the proceedings of the Tractites, so far forth as they are schismatical, and partly because, though some of the Bishops, like the Archbishop, will, in all cases, proceed according to the best of their own judgment, just the same as if no such advice had been offered to them, still it is very conceivable that some may be even deterred in some degree from taking such steps as would be most conformable to your designs, by the dread of appearing to recognise and submit to an extraneous authority. And such a feeling would be the more readily created and fostered in the minds of some, by their foreseeing the advantage likely to be taken by the party your Association seeks to oppose-of their raising an outcry against such interference with Episcopal jurisdiction. For that party are always claiming peculiarly the character of the champions of Church order, and will be eager to seize any opportunity of representing opposition to their system as connected with disregard of constituted authorities, and as tending to the subversion of Church order.
It may perhaps be urged, that the very circumstance of your Association making a respectful appeal to the recognised authorities, is, in fact, a full disclaimer of any intention of undue interference; and that it ought not to be expected that non-official members of the Church should patiently acquiesce in the continued spread of so great a mischief,
The like plea, however, might have been urged by those who adhere to the principles of the Tractites ; who, indeed, have always shown themselves ready to address the Bishops when they thought it likely to be of advantage to their cause; and if any individual, as individuals, think fit to address Bishops, for the more strict observance of the Rubrics, or for the discouragement of Antinomian preaching, or for the suppression of any irregularity, no one would have a right to censure such a mode of proceeding. But as soon as they formed themselves into a body, the natural consequences resulted; the majority influenced the minority,—the bolder, more active, and more astute members, controlled the more yielding,—the more indolent and undiscerning; and the Association became conscious of its own strength resulting from combination; so that, ultimately, such principles were advocated, and such usurpations were attempted, as, doubtless, were not contemplated in the outset by most individuals of the party. Such, I apprehend, is the natural