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The Unity of the Church. By Henry EDWARD MANNING,
M.A., Archdeacon of Chichester. 8vo. Murray : 1842. Pp. 373. Die Einheit in der Kirche. Von JOHANN ADAM MÖHLER.
Tubingen, 1825. Pp. 363. We have to thank Archdeacon Manning for a profound and interesting treatise on the most stirring subject which at present exercises the minds of theologians—the Unity of the Church. The importance of this subject is as great as its ramifications are extended. Regard merely the historical phenomenon, as admitted by those who depreciate, as well as by those who love, the institutions of the apostles, and what is there more wonderful in the history of mankind ? See how fluctuating has been the destiny of Europe; how often its most durable features have been effaced, by the stern assay of conquest, or the gradual corrosions of time ; and how imperishable must be that one only institution which forms the connecting link between its ancient and modern destiny! And this single enduring thread in the shifting tissue of modern policies, which alone reaches back to the era when Christendom had not begun to be, is the selfsame which gives shape and consistency to the earlier part of the history of mankind. For how unmeaning are the first acts of the great drama of Time, unless interpreted by their reference to that Church of Christ which formed their consummation! How essential is it to look forwards to the fortunes of the 5th empire, if we would see unity and design in the four which preceded it! How partial and limited that view of things which does not discern how God's purposes were the providential effect of men's efforts !
All this must strike even the worldly philosopher, if he delights to trace the devious stream of contingencies. It were as impossible for Guizot or Gibbon to avoid mentioning the Church, as for Cooke to visit the Antipodes without venturing to sea. Indeed, we may describe this grand exemplification of God's providence in the words which one of our writers (an orator, to borrow Quintilian's expression, rather than a poet) has used of that wonderful part of the material cre
NO. XXV.--N. S.
ation. To the discerning mind, even the casual expressions used respecting the one admit of a singular adaptation to the other.
“Thou glorious mirror, where the Almighty's form
Glasses itself in tempests, in all time
Thy shores are empires, changed in all save thee :-
-Their shores obey
As thy creation's dawn beheld, thou rollest now.” But not only is the Church's unity striking as a fact ; it responds also to a want in man's nature, which admits of no other satisfaction. Nothing is more perplexing to thoughtful minds than the multifariousness of life. Take the phenomena of society, its pleasures and wants, its schemes and policies, the private tastes and occupations of individuals, the public necessities of cities and of states, and how bewildering is it to elicit order from such a tangled mass of motives and actions ! How hard is it for the “strong swimmer," who, amidst such confusion, would hold any onward course, either in business or speculation. To minister to the good of men, when the best attempts are so often defeated; to initiate any lasting scheme, when so many prove abortive-how vain such efforts of mortal penetration ! How cheering at such a season to see a vista open, like that which is presented in so many of our glorious cathedrals, where, line after line, and moulding upon moulding, all harmonize themselves into a majestic agreement, of which some lofty arch, pointing heavenwward, in the extreme distance, is the termination ! Now, such a contentment does the thoughtful observer derive, when he sees the purpose and harmony of the divine dealings in the over-ruled adaptation of the works of men in God's earthly kingdom of THE CHURCH.
The religious literature of the present period shows that this subject, interesting as it must always be, has of late received peculiar attention. We cannot be at a loss to divine the reason. The events which in our day have shaken Europe have put a stop to a state of things, which it was not possible to contemplate with satisfaction. When the religious convulsions of the 16th and 17th centuries had worked themselves to rest, a singular inaction overspread the public mind of Christendom. Its several nations, according to their character and circumstances, settled themselves down to the enjoyments of life, as though its graver works were completed. France was gazing at the starched magnificence of Louis the Fourteenth, till the stately puppet-show found its appropriate afterpiece in the profligacy of the regency. Germany was drilling, and playing at soldiers ; Spain and England were busy in cementing their colonial empires,-a fallacious attempt, because the first, unhappily, taught no morals, the second no religion, to its subjects. The princes of Italy were amusing themselves, like children at a fair, with whirligigs and spectacles. All Christendom was like a band of voyagers, who, disembarking on a tropical island during the fine season, pitch their tents among the thick trees of the forest, and enjoy the clear sky and balmy atmosphere. At length a sudden thundercloud indicates the approach of the season of storms. In a few hours the heaven is black with wind and rain ; the tall palms are bent and stripped by the blast; and they discover that some more substantial covering is needed; and that mirth and joyousness is not the sole business of life.
Such a change as this have men's spirits undergone! A century ago, and they thought that the existing forms of European society had assumed a permanent shape.
“ Prostrati gramine molli, Propter aquæ rivum, sub ramis arboris altæ
Non magnis opibus jucunde corpora curant.” But the revolution in France was the first note of the thunderstorm. Since that time the thrones of Europe have been shaken, and its most durable institutions carried away. Nor does the rainy season appear to be past; cloud gathers upon cloud, and to-day's thunderstorm is only the precursor of to-morrow's explosion. Now, all this has infused an increased seriousness into the minds of men. They look around for some new principle which shall give order and harmony to the elements of the moral world. Not in our own land only, but on the continent of Europe, the Church has everywhere been hailed as the seed of social regeneration. To this circumstance we attribute the unprecedented success of those who have been labouring for the last ten years to recal the national mind of England to the fact, that Christ's kingdom is set up among us. Whatever may be their errors, it is idle to deny that they are, in fact, contending for this mighty truth. Indeed, we need no further proof of it than the recent Charge of the Bishop of London. Hostile as are many of its expressions to the persons in question, it is yet regarded both by friends and foes as a decided sentence in their favour. Yet what is there in it, which can be so interpreted, except that it deals a fatal stroke to the principle of religious infidelity ? Would the wrath of a certain semi-presbyterian newspaper have been so vehemently called forth, had it not felt that the real question of the day respected the existence of Christ's kingdom, and that the Bishop would not be found, as was hoped, in the line of Judas, but among the faithful successors of the Apostles ?
But we must come closer to our subject. The search after some new principle of harmony and order has led men back to the only true and real bond of concord--the kingdom of Christ. And to this