Page images

The first element for general union. nied us in this walk, will not he be startled when we say, that we believe, that it will be found that the Episcopal church rests upon this substratum, and occupies this area.

To illustrate the grounds of this belief, we will briefly advert to a few facts :

1. It has been made obvious throughout this volume, and especially in the last chapter, that the Episcopal church is truly catholic; that she does not un-church those who do not enter the fold, at the door at which she is stationed ; so far from this, that she considers all those as belonging to the church of Christ, who have been baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity, and have professed faith in Christmand who acknowledge Him as their Lord. Perhaps some may require more evidence on this point.

I am not ignorant that we are sometimes accused of an exclusiveness, that would lead us to deny to other denominations, the honor and consolation of being an integral part of the Christian church.

In answer to a charge of this kind, the editor of the Church. man, a religious periodical, advocating the sturdiest church views, remarks—

If this be regarded as “an exposition of the views maintained by the Protestant Episcopal Church, we discard it in every line and letter. The Episcopal church makes no com. parison of her own ordination with that of other churches, and of course, neither asserts its superiority, or its exclusive excellence. It is not true that she restricts her ministers from communing with others at the Lord's Supper. It is not true that she un-churches other denominations, or denies them the honor and consolation of being an integral part of the christian church. We trust, therefore, that no such ungrounded prejudices as to the exclusiveness of the Episcopal church, will prevent any from examining those claims to superiority, which her clergy, as the clergy of every church are in consistency and good faith bound to do, unanimously advance in her behalf: a superiority-viz. in purity of doctrine—a superiority in scriptural warrant for her government—a superiority in approximating, in all her usages, the model of the Primitive church; a superiority in organization which enables her to throw off extraneous influence, avoid distractions from with. out, and evolve her energies simply from the word of God

Y ?

Bp. Burnet.—Bingham:-Bp. Andrews. within ; and a superiority in fine, in the delicate task of combining the antagonist forces of the vigor which conquers the world and the stability which retains the conquests. Such claims of superiority the clergy of the Episcopal church do make in her behalf, and the clergy of all other denominations ought, if they are honest men, to make these or equivalent claims in behalf of the church to which they respectively be. long,*

Bishop Burnet, in commenting upon the 23d Article of the Anglican church, and in adverting to non-Episcopal churches, established in various parts, remarks

“ We are very sure that not only those who penned the Articles, but the body of this (the Episcopal) church for above half an age after, (the organization of those churches, did, notwithstanding those irregularities, (the want of Epis: copacy) acknowledge the foreign churches so constituted, to be true churches, as to all the essentials of the church, though they had been at first irregularly formed, and continued still to be in an imperfect state. And therefore, the general words in which this part of the Article is framed seem to have been designed on purpose not to exclude them."

Burnet, as is well known, is a standard expositor of our Articles, and this very work is recommended to our students of Theology by the House of Bishops. In perfect keeping with this, are the remarks of Bingham, who is another stan. dard writer of the church—and who in reply to a charge of exclusiveness, says :

“ In all their disputes with the Papists, these churchmen, (who were accused of being excessively bigoted,) never re. quire more than these two Notes of the church. They say with Bishop Andrews—“that though Episcopal government be of divine institution, yet it is not so absolutely necessary, as that there can be no church, nor sacrament, nor salvation without it. He is blind that sees not many churches flour. ishing without it." +

The senior Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church, in the United States, the venerable Bishop White, in a charge delivered to his diocesan Convention, in 1831, remarks

“ In connexion with a determination to sustain the Episco* Churchman for August, 1835. 4 Bingham's Folio Works, vol. 2. p. 727.

Bp. White.

pacy, it is not impossible, that in the different grounds on which it may be rested by different advocates of it, there may ensue a cause of disunion. We shall be safe in this matter, in proportion as we continue on the ground taken for us, by the reformers of the Church of England. They unequivocally affirmed the apostolic origin of the Episcopacy, as a fact; and then, as a suitable consequence, they ordained, that there should be no other ministry within their bounds. The same is the limit within our church. If


should carry the subject beyond this, it is private opinion; and can. not be acted on, in proceedings regulated by the rubrics and the canons, without hazarding the issue intimated : and the same might be the effect of the extending of these provisions, with the view of accomplishing such a project.”

And again, in 1834, adverting to this subject, he expresses the following sentiments :

“ With deep solicitude for the sustaining of the integrity of our system in this matter, there is not perceived the necessity of carrying it to the extreme of denouncing all com. munions destitute of the Episcopacy, as departing from the essentials of the christian faith, and as alien from the cove. nants of promise. Let it be borne in mind, that the object is to inculcate the duty of continuing the subject in the institutions of our church, on the ground on which it has been transmitted to us by the Church of England. While in her Articles and in her Ordinal, there has been regarded the precise medium here advocated, contemporary with the enactments of them, there are uncontradictory facts, which are their safe expositors, and undeniable evidence of the sense of the reformers. If there should be any among us who make larger conclusions from the same premises, it is matter of private opinion, and not to be obtruded as the determina. tion of the church. The deliverer of the present charge, in the exereise of the like freedom of opinion, is rather disposed to adopt the sentiment of an able and learned Archbishop of Canterbury, (Dr. Wake,) where he says, in a letter to an eminont foreign divine, ‘far from me be such an obdurate heart, as that because of this defect,' [meaning the want of the Episcopacy,] I should say to some' [meaning of churches correct in the faith] that they are to be cut off from our communion; or I should pronounce with over ardent writers

Hooker and Bp. Secker. among us, that they have no valid sacraments, and are scarcely Christian. Many English prelates might be cited to the same effect. But let it suffice to name a man, than whom no other has been more respected in the mother church, and who lived in the age next to that of the reformation, the Rev. Richard Hooker. The said profound divine, in refer. ence to churches not Episcopal, holds the language—“This their imperfection I had rather lament; considering that men oftentimes, without any fault of their own, may be drawn to want that kind of regimen which is best, and to content themselves with that which either the irremedial error of former times or the necessity of the present, hath cast upon them.”

That in the view of the Episcopal church, all are regarded as members of the Catholic church, who are by profession christians, and hold the essentials of christian faith, may be made farther evident by another quotation from Hooker.

“ All those,” says he, “ belong to the visible church, who are signed by this mark, one Lordone faithone baptism. In whomsoever these things are, the church doth acknowl. edge them for her children: them only she holds for aliens and strangers in whom those things are not found. If by external profession they be christiansthen they are of the visible church:

“ And christians by external profession, they are all, whose mark of recognizance hath in it those things which we have mentioned. *

Archbishop Secker, also declares, as we have seen

“ Christ's church is the whole number of those who believe. The catholic church, is the universal church spread throughout the world—and the catholic faith is the universal laith—that form of doctrine which the Apostles delivered. Every church or society of c!ıristians that preserves this catholic or universal faith, accompanied with true charity, is a part of the catholic or universal church. And in this sense, churches that differ widely in several notions and customs, may, notwithstanding, each of them be truly catholic churches.t

No church that did not entertain these catholic views could have any prospect of seeing the dispersed members of

* Hooker's Ecoles. Polity. Book 3. sect. 1. f Secker's Works, vol. iv. p. 327, 329,

Freedom in unessentials.

Christ's flock gathered within its pale. This is one feature in the Episcopal Church which we think opens a wide door for christian union. It is a noble trait in her organization, and one which cannot fail to exert a wholesome influence in promoting peace and harmony within her own borders.

2. Another feature in our organization promotive of peace and harmony, is the principle that there shall be agreement in essentials-and freedom in unessentials. We fully believe there is no greater obstacle in the way

of christian union, than the drawing out the “ standard of faith into all the more minute ramifications of metaphysical and polemic theology.”

There are unquestionably many points of doctrine, not at all essential to salvation, in reference to which christian men, governed by the purest and holiest principles, will differ. The great secret of keeping the bonds of union unbroken therefore, unquestionably, is, adherence to the principle-agreement in essentials and freedom in unessentials. This principle seems to have been rigidly adhered to by the original framers of the 39 Articles. In proof of which, I will venture to affirm, that there is no human standard of faith extant, to which so many evangelical christians would be found so ready to subscribe, as to that contained in the 39 Articles.

3. As a consequent necessarily resulting from the foregoing principle, there is recognised among us the right of discussing freely those various doctrinal points, upon which there is disagreement.

So far from this being productive of discord, it is the only expedient by which men can be held together in the bonds of union. To suppose that thousands of minds, having a great diversity of association and having been subjected to different habits of discipline and training, would embrace on all minor or metaphysical points the same stereotype opinions, is absurd -and to suppose that men whose great study is truth, should not be allowed the privilege of expressing freely their views in relation to truth, is equally absurd.

The great matter is to have this right understood and recognized—then there will be no alienation of affection or bitter denunciation among brethren though they widely differ on some points. That this right is fully recognized by our standard of faith might be made evident by a reference to

« PreviousContinue »