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POPERY IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND.
A Christian Peace-Offering ; being an Endeavour to abate the Asperities
of the Controversy between the Roman and English Catholic Churches. By the Hon. A. P. Perceval, B. C.L. Chaplain in Ordinary to his Majesty, Rector of East Horsley, and late Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. London:
Rivingtons. 1829. WE review the work before us, that our readers may know
what is now going on. the booksellers of the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge, and bearing the name of a beneficed clergyman, late a fellow of All Souls, and now one of the King's chaplains, is to us a portent, which may well prepare us for any that may soon be seen, in the sun, the moon, and the stars. The religious world, dumb, paralysed, betrayed, divided, prostrate, and dead, without a settled plan, and without a leader, lets these things pass; and suffers Popery to take its triumphant and still widening sweep through the land, almost without so much as venturing to peep or to mutter. And as to the falsely-socalled High Churchmen; the men who were ever for setting the mitre above the cross; the men who held things ecclesiastical of infinitely higher moment than things spiritual; the men who thrust themselves into the treasuries of the temple, that they might clutch its gold, while they let its walls go to ruin ; the men who were so wrathful against the least informality, but so tolerant of the most atrocious heresies; the men who would rather that the Bible should not be circulated, than that, in the mode of circulating it, there should be the least apparent injury to our venerable Establishment;"—these men are now
VOL. III.NO. IV.
allowing the Church of England to be secretly undermined, and Protestantism to be openly attacked, without moving so much as a finger to avert the mischief.
A person hearing the professed object of the present work, might be much deceived as to its real character. Its professed object is peace. This appears in the title : and the design of the writer is further set forth in the following words:
The plan intended to be adopted in the following pages, is to make a fair and impartial examination (so far as an examination by one whose mind is made up on the subject can be impartial) of what the Church of England considers herself justified in esteeming the errors of the Church of Rome : not for the purpose of making them out to be more numerous, or more heinous than they really are-a purpose as contrary to the
truth as it is to the charity of religion, which however the partizan writers on the Protestant side seem too often to propose to themselves,—but, on the contrary, for the purpose of looking at them in the most favourable light that truth will permit; and considering, whether what can fairly be advanced in their favour, is or is not sufficient, to justify a pious and enlightened Christian, who has been educated in that church
, in conscientiously maintaining them; and therefore sufficient to prevent them from being, though errors, prejudicial to the salvation of such a person.” pp. 7, 8.
But as we advance, the real character of the work comes out. The author goes on cautiously for a time; but, as he proceeds, forgets his bounds : till at length, losing all restraint, he breaks from his steady pace into an open, earnest, warm, and strongly written vindication of Popery, inflicting in his course some most cruel thrusts on his mother church : and such is the attachment which he betrays for many things in Romanism, that if the true saying admit of application here, that where a man's treasure is
, there will his heart be also, then will it become plainly apparent to every reader, that the author's heart--that is, his good will, his affections, and in many things his decided preferences—are with Rome. Át times, also, he perfectly forgets the temperance of language so becoming in a professed advocate of peace;
and, against the decided supporters of our Church and opponents of Popery, manifests great violence, peculiar rancour, and absolute bitterness of spirit. The work, our readers may depend upon
it, is far more than a mere feeler : and it contains expressions, which, in these surprising times, we felt surprised to meet with, -Having foretold, in our last two or three numbers, the things which are now taking place, we may seem, in speaking of surprise, to talk superfluously. But watch for the flash of a cannon, or the bursting of a shell-yet, when it takes place, it will make you start. And though aware, all along, of the excavations which have been of late going on, and of the trains, which have been laid, yet, as every fresh mine is sprung, the shock appals us, though our eyes are upon the spot ere the earth begins to
The real character, then, of the present work, we hesitate not to say it, is a defence of Popery, and an attack upon the Church of England. Of course, in each of these features, its character is masked. Some things in the Establishment are vindicated; some things in Romanism are condemned. But the fact is as we have stated it; and though a cloke be used, yet it is in some places very thin.
The language of a writer, whose professed object is peace, must of course maintain all possible smoothness. Accordingly, we find, throughout, the well-known tone of what is now called Liberality. This is at the present day in great request; because, under cover of it, a man may bring in any thing. The author gets rid, as soon as possible, of some of the worst practices of the Church of Rome,“ in order that the unwelcome and unwished-for task of positive condemnation may the more speedily be got over;" and proceeds
to others which, however erroneous he must think them, have, he is willing and, for the sake of his brethren of that church, glad to imagine, at least some plausible defence and excuse.
We find him speaking of the “ upright and conscientious members of that church” (p. 40). Of the "Liturgy” (!) of the Roman Catholics he writes as “their admirable service (for so in many points it is.)” p. 56. And as to their church, he must needs think it “a most calumniated portion” (p. 76) of the church at large. In the same tone of conciliation he disclaims all feelings of party; and recommends “a fair and dispassionate inquiry into the principal points of difference between the two ehurches; not in the spirit of partizanship on either side”(p.5). -In order to win by kind concession, it is insinuated that both sides are much on a par: and, in harmony with the expression in the title-page, “the Roman and English Catholic churches,” we read, “all honest and religious Catholics, whether of the English or Roman church” (p. 103). With these winning ways, and silver tones, does our author plead for peace: and, having tried what can be said for Popery, of course we ought to see whether any thing can be said for the existing Establishment; and accordingly the Honourable and Reverend
writer pleads for both, stepping over, and passing backwards and forwards, from one side of the court to the other, like a barrister hired by both parties; or rather like certain individuals of lost character and foundered honour, who, during the discussions of the last two or three years, have made speeches on both sides of the Catholic question.
But in the midst of all this smoothness, candour, and conciliation, the reader, as he proceeds, will discover much to excite
suspicion. Perhaps, if a Christian and a divine, he will begin to wonder what can be the author's views concerning justification. On this subject, he will meet with such expressions as these :
As it is the multitude of individual sins, which make up the guilt of a nation, and draw down God's anger; so is it the multitude of individual repentances and amendments, which appease that wrath, and render the nation, through Jesus Christ, acceptable in his sight. p. 136.
In another place, where he proceeds to vindicate the views of justification held by the Church of Rome, the author writes thus :
He will remark therefore, that even if the Church of Rome or her writers professed, as they are charged with doing, the doctrine of justification by works alone, i.e. without grace, or without regard had to the merits of the Saviour, the ritual of that church would be a proof that there must be some error in their manner of stating their opinions; or that we must have misunderstood their statements. pp. 76, 77.
The charge against Rome and her writers is not merely that they profess“ the doctrine of justification by works alone, i.e. without grace.” It is, that they should have mixed up works at all with the subject. Meanwhile, by the indistinctness of his language, the author leads us strongly to suspect, that his own doctrine is that of the Romanists, and not that of the Thirty-nine Articles : so that he succeeds, if not in clearing the Church of Rome, at any rate in fixing the character of his own theology.
Suspicion is still further excited in the work before us, by the manner in which the errors of the Romanists are extenuated. Thus, on the subject of prayers in an unknown tongue, it is said, “Perhaps in extenuation of the error it may be affirmed, that the evils consequent upon the practice are not so great as might be expected.” (p. 37.)' So also with regard to the withholding of the Scriptures :
The withholding the Scriptures from the people, is a point which has frequently called forth the unqualified condemnation of Protestants; and no terms have appeared to them strong enough to express their indignation. Yet, if the reasons which may fairly be supposed to weigh with a conscientious member of the Church of Rome to uphold and maintain their system, be impartially examined, it is thought that it will appear to have been too much insisted on.
That the custom has a bad look, is unquestionable ; as seeming to betray a wish for concealment, and for avoiding the light, which none but those who do evil desire: and the woe denounced by our Lord against the Jewish lawyers, for “ taking away the
key of knowledge" from the people, should induce the present rulers of the Romish Church to consider seriously and deeply, whether the reasons which lead them to this course are sufficient to warrant them in coming, even apparently, within the reach of that curse. But then, in their behalt let it be said, that when they see, as they do plainly and openly, the effects of the indiscriminate distribution of the Scriptures on some persons, &c. pp. 45, 46.
All this reads very strangely from the pen of a clergyman.So also the exceedingly cautious and qualified manner of condemning “the invocation of angels and saints.”
The invocation of angels and saints, in use in the Church of Rome, and the respect paid to them, have often been brought forward against that church, as conclusive proofs of idolatry and false worship; and the excess to which, in many cases, the practice has been carried, does, indeed, seem to countenance the charge. p. 50.
Neither are our suspicions allayed by the great earnestness with which we are reminded that Rome is a true church. We are well aware that there are some senses in which this position may be vindicated with a shew of reason : but the assertion is seldom made without the practical effect of conveying erroneous views, and confounding truth and falsehood : and never, never, did we know an instance of its escaping the lips or the pen, without seeing the greatest grounds for suspecting far more in the heart than the words express.—Now our author, in avowing this opinion, does not mince the matter as some do, but employs the strongest terms.
The exercise therefore of this spiritual authority is not to be denied to the Church of Rome, which is undoubtedly a true and Apostolical branch of the Catholic Church. p. 99. And again:
To consider them, as what undoubtedly they are, our kinsmen and brethren in Jesus Christ. p. 118.
So that the bond, it should seem, is not merely ecclesiastical, but spiritual. They are not merely a branch, but a true branch: “a true and apostolic branch of the church catholic.” (p. 118.) Again :
So long therefore as the Church of Rome upholds the true, essential, and fundamental faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; in defence, and for the propagation of which, she has often shed her blood, and professes her willingness to do it again, if called on; so long will that true faith keep her safe and harmless from all such envenomed shafts of accusation : they will glance off without effect; or if they produce any, it will be to return and palsy the hands that threw them.
Certainly this is more the language of vindication than of mere impartiality and charity: and if published in an anonymous form, might be taken rather for the production of some RomanCatholic priest, than of a clergyman.
But the suspicions of the reader are further excited, when he finds the two churches represented in the work before us as about equally in the right : for example, in the rejecting, on the one side, and retaining, on the other, of auricular confession and indulgences.
But to return-If it may fairly admit of a doubt in the case of auricular confession, whether the Church of Rome in preserving the mutilated remains of