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religion from government, science, and trade, are truly declared to be two grand evils under which the Church has groaned; which have destroyed its unity, robbed it of its Divine grandeur, and laid its glory in the dust.
No less true is the remark that the exaltation of the sacraments out of their right place has been a fatal and deadly error, and has obscured the very truths which those sacraments were themselves designed to illustrate. It is opposed alike to the earliest remains of Christian antiquity, to the whole scope and tenor of the Apostolic doctrine, and the pure gospel of God the Saviour.
So far we have full sympathy with the views of this Fraginent, but there are grave exceptions which still remain. The errors of such a mind as that of Dr. Arnold are themselves instructive, and the deserved weight of his character makes the exposure of them doubly necdful. There is a keen eye and a steady hand to resist and oppose clerical formalism, with a quiet and deep tone of Christian feeling; but we miss that wisdom and caution which dreads a needless paradox, and fears equally to err on the right hand or on the left. Hence his protests against superstition lead him sometimes to the verge of a dangerous neology. Our chief object, in clearing away these parasitic errors, is to secure à hcartier welcome for the seasonable and weighty truths which the Fragment really contains.
The first paradox of Dr. Arnold appears on the very first page of the work. We are there told that the distinction of the visible and invisible church "seems only a later refinement of interpretation, because the Church, in the obvious sense, was neither pure nor spotless." The remark is not more inconsistent with scripture than with the views of Dr. Arnold himself. To confound the visible church with the company of true believers, known to God only, is consistent in fanatics, who claim all piety for their own petty sect, and denounce all other churches; or in those who think that the visible sacraments act as a charm, and secure their passage to heaven; in the lips of all others the doctrine must be absurd. And still more absurd is the reason here offered for denying it. Let us grant, as we do fully, that prophecy announces a happier state, when the church visible and spiritual shall be one and the same. Still the fact remains unaltered, and is allowed by our anthor himself
, that bitherto they have differed widely. Many have been called, but few chosen. How strange then to fancy that the word of God would pass by, in utter silence, that state of the Church, which has lasted eighteen hundred years, and confine its descriptions to some future state of millennial glory! It would be just as reasonable to infer that, because scripture reveals to us the resurrection
of the body, and its future union with the glorificd spirit, it is "a later refinement of interpretation” to fancy that the same scripture speaks often of the body as mortal, or announces a deadly conflict, in this present life, between the spirit and the flesh. No prophecies of the future can alter the history of the past; or disprove the plain fact that the visible extension of the church has far ontstripped the progress of true and inward piety. And those must be blind who do not see that the scriptures themselves announee this contrast, and hold it up for a warning to nominal Christians, as well as to increase the watchfulness and diligence of the faithful.
in Dr. Arnold, seems little more than a momentary dizziness of thought, for no one is less infected with the practical error of confounding the Christian name, or even an orthodox profession, with true religion. But in the present day the bare sound, the first appearance of a delusion so ruinous, must be opposed, gently, but firmly, that the abuse of terms may not lead on to more fatal mischief. It is no human refinement, but a main principle of Christ's gospel, that “many are called, but few chosen,"—that “all men,” even in the visible church,“ bave not faith,”-that “all are not Israel who are of Israel,” and that the tares are mingled with the wheat until the time of the harvest. Once deny this, and the fiercest fanaticism or the blindest superstition is sure to follow.
The explanation offered of the contrast between the actual and the ideal church is no less faulty. It cannot be, Dr. Arnold afirms, that “God's purposes have been defeated by the greater power of God's enemy, that sin has been stronger than grace, or Satan mightier than Christ.” “Scripture will not allow us to donbt of God's gracious will towards us all, and to doubt his power is blasphemy. What remains but that we have weakened and corrupted the medicine, which was in itself sufficient to heal
How strange that a mind so richly gifted, after proposing the most grave of all questions, could rest satisfied with so futile an answer! For how could sin more plainly show itself to be stronger than grace, than by corrupting and annulling the message of
grace; or how could the power of God's enemy triumph more, than by weakening and perverting that gospel which is termed " the power of God ?” Surely it were better to leave these deep things of God in reverent silence, than to solve them by answers that refute themselves. But since the difficulty has been raised, we will offer a few remarks, which may help to remove it, and which may also show the practical evils that must result from such nugatory explanations as our author has given.
The whole inquiry is based on an awful mystery, the power and stubbornness of evil. This is a truth which scripture and experience equally reveal to us in a thousand forms.
And it is an ultimate truth, beyond which we cannot travel, or explain it by one deeper than itself, though we may, by the light of history and prophecy, trace its varied phases, and define, in some measure, its limits and its laws. The first of all truths is the being of God, infinitely good, and the One who only is good, with absolute perfection. The next truth is the spiritual chaos, or the infinite possibilities of evil, in a created universe. The third is the solemn fact, that in our world the possible has become the actual. Evil, the serpent, has unwound itself from its deep slumber and mystery, and become a manifest reality, whose terrors are around us, and death the tokens of its universal power. The whole course of redemption is one vast and ceaseless conflict-"supernal grace contending with sinfulness of men.” We might infer from our infant conceptions of Almighty Power and Infinite Goodness, that such a conflict must cease the moment when first it began. But if these conceptions were just, there would be no room for Divine Wisdom; and accordingly the scriptures, in every page, condemn them as erroneous. For these proclaim that God's power is infinite, and yet that there may be a stubbornness of evil for which there is no remedy; and that the mercy of God is boundless; and yet that it is the mercy of a sovereign, who "will have compassion on whom he will have compassion. They reveal to us, it is true, a final triumph of grace, though still secured only amidst solemn judgments: but they predict a long delay; and ascribe it to its true causes, the snares of the world, the deceitfulness of the human heart, and the fearful power and subtlety of the great Enemy of souls and the Deceiver of the nations. It is vain, then, to think of disproving this fearful strength of evil, attested alike by scripture and sad experience, by our own dim views of Almighty power and perfect goodness. And still more vain it is, while we deny the fact in its naked and simple form, so humbling and solemn, to admit it when put in masquerade, and like ignorant quacks, to prescribe some favourite and infallible remedy, when the whole head is sick and the whole heart faint. The truth once distorted in this manner, its moral effect perishes and is lost. We are no longer humbled in God's sight under the sense of our common ruin, and of the stubbornness of those sins which fight against His grace and seem to frustrate its power. Our thoughts are turned aside to the relative merits of this and the other abstract theory,--some pill, which, duly administered, would restore health to the Christian world ; the primacy of St. Peter, or the
Presbyterian discipline; the complete severance of church and state, with the excellent Professor Vinet; or, with our equally pious and still more gifted author, their complete incorporation into one. Surely the error and folly is not slight, and cannot be without danger, which confounds one or the other wavelet of evil with that great and awful deep which lies outspread beneath.
It is true, then, we allow, that faulty views of the nature of the Church have led to serious mischief, and been one great hindrance to the success of the gospel. But this fact, which Dr. Arnold offers as the true key of the mystery, is rather one out of many forms of that deeper truth which he seems to deny. How come such false views to prevail, and the power of the medicine to be thus impaired, unless because sin is very stubborn, and the great Enemy of God very strong and mighty in his power to deceive? The corruption of ecclesiastical discipline is only one way, out of many, in which the strength of evil has been displayed. To think of curing the disease by removing this one symptom would be the part of a quack, not of a true physician; and under such treatment even the lower and partial object would never be attained. Once let us have a church of living Christians, where faith and love are reigning in every heart; and they will soon build themselves into unity and manifest the gospel in its power. But till the materials are provided, our efforts at this spiritual architecture must be vain, and our complaints that the discipline of the Church is corrupt are misdirected and futile. The divine candlestick was all made of beaten gold; but we should wonder indeed, either in the type or the antitype, to see a candlestick of beaten hay or stubble; and shonld have little value for one of potter's clay.
The evil effect of such partial views must be clear on a moment's reflection. The fault which is thus singled out, and presented as the true cause of the Church's malady, becomes at once invested with a false importance, and other forms of evil, thrown into comparative neglect, thrive all the faster in the shade. The specific, for instance, which Dr. Arnold suggests, may assume the form in his hands, of a strong protest against absolute church authority, and a denial of the very existence of all human priesthood, or of any efficacy in words of consecration. But once allow that false views of Church order are the sole cause of our maladies, and twenty rival theories will start up at once, and dispute for the honour of the cure. One party will clamour for the separation of Church and State; another for the league and covenant against intrusion and prelacy; another for a model diocese on the Laudian pia n; and others for a penitent return to our natural mother, the church of Rome, and that simple and only effectual cure for 1845.
church divisions, an infallible living head. But since all would agree in the common error, that a right view of church order is the sole remedy to be desired, the certain result must be, that the view most opposed to Dr. Arnold's would gain the victory. Lay the stress of the evil on this one point, and men will never be satisfied with a view of church order that amounts to little more than a mere negation, No, if the cure lies in discipline only, they will go to work boldly, and build up, as they have done in ages past, a city and a tower that may reach to heaven. The true cure is to learn that church disorders, and false views of the sacraments and of the gospel ministry, are symptoms, but not the disease. The real disease is the secret dislike of the fallen heart to spiritual religion. But it is a serpent which has many windings, and a Proteus which can disguise itself in various forms. Every religious falsehood, and not one class of them alone, is the index of its presence, and a symptom of its power. No remedy will therefore avail but a true conversion of the heart, and that living communion of believers, which is sure to follow, wherever this deep and inward work of divine grace has prepared the way.
We pass over, with reluctance, some just and beautiful remarks, —and especially those on the danger of excessive interference in teachers of the young, as applied to the government of the Church, —that we may pause longer on the main paradox of the work. Dr. Arnold vehemently denounces all human priesthood, as in its own nature sinful and Antichristian. To expose the evils that have arisen from this foreign element in the Christian Church is one main object through the rest of this fragment. Persons have often, he remarks, very confused ideas about priesthood, and this we fully allow; but his own views appear to us to be perhaps the most startling instance of this confusion which has ever appeared. The dread of a Judaizing spirit, and the controversy with Romish divines, have confused, we suspect, the judgment of many; but we could not have thought that the obscurity had been so deep as the words of our author prove. One error has produced another by the recoil, and “the unbloody sacrifice" of the body of Christ in the mass, has led to the monstrous assertion, that the idea of the priesthood is in its essence “unreasonable, unmoral, and unspiritual.”
How, it will be asked with surprise, could Dr. Arnold, with the Scriptures before him, venture on so rash an assertion ? The answer is very simple. He lays down a definition of priesthood, no less novel than the assertion is startling, and which reason and scripture equally disown. For, doubtless, if a priest be “a person necessary to our intercourse with God without being necessary or