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desire therefore, in a spirit of Christian forbearance and love, to deal with things as they are, without enquiring too rigidly, how they came to be so.
But it is time to take notice of two objections which we know will be urged. It will be said by some, Do we not pray to be delivered" from all false doctrine, heresy and schism?" How can we then unite in any way, with heretics and schismatics? Will not this be encouraging them in heresy and schism?
We answer that we enter into this petition of our Litany, as fully and cordially as any man living; and it is in the very spirit of this petition that we approve of and join the Evangelical Alliance, By so doing we recognize nothing in those with whom we unite, but the Catholic Faith-"the faith once delivered to the saints -which they all profess, and the Scriptural duty of loving all the true disciples of Christ, though many of them from ignorance, and prejudice, and misconception, may yet in many respects, be in error. But every error is not a heresy: and we hold no one to be a schismatic, who is willing to unite with all who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, and to manifest Christian love to all Christians as far as opportunity offers. There may be schism in separating from a visible church: but we conceive that he who separates himself in feeling and affection from the true disciples of Christ, and rends to pieces (as far as unchristian tempers and estrangement can do it) His mystical body, is guilty of schism in a far more awful sense. The scriptural sin of schism consists mainly in making divisions and separations between those whom Christ has united, and in sowing strife and enmity between those who are brethren in the faith and hope of the everlasting Gospel: and who ought, therefore, to "love one another with a pure heart fervently." We have been too often talking about schism in regard to the Visible Church, till we have quite overlooked this far more fearful sin : and not a few among us have been, and still are, contending for unity in the very spirit of schism: yea, while they rail against schism, are themselves the greatest schismatics. We hail the Evangelical Alliance as both intended and calculated to put an end to very much of this. It proceeds upon the scriptural principle, "Whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing." (Phil. iii. 16.) By joining it we neither compromise our own views, nor sanction those of others on the points in which we differ from them. The desire and endeavour is to unite all who maintain and love the great, essential, saving truths of the Gospel, in opposition to "every form of anti-christian superstition and infidelity, and to promote our common Protestant Faith" at home and abroad;--that is to say, in other words, to
oppose "false doctrine and heresy," while we renounce the spirit of "schism." And we humbly trust the result will be, to bring all real Christians, more and more, not only to a right understanding of one another, but also, in due time, to a more right and full understanding of what is revealed in the Scriptures, and thus to a more full agreement in all truth.
Another objection will be drawn from the Canons of our Church, which it behoves us to look full in the face.
We shall readily allow that in the Canons there is more to countenance the overbearing and intolerant spirit, which too many among us manifest, than in the Articles, Liturgy, and Homilies of our Church. They were drawn up in 1603,-at a time when the artifices of the Jesuits had prevailed so far as to exasperate Churchmen and Puritans, one against the other, to a fearful degree. It was also a time in which all parties were involved in the mistake of thinking to gain their ends by main force, rather than by gentle persuasion, Christian forbearance and love. The history of these times affords melancholy proof, that the means adopted to promote unity, may only tend to aggravate and multiply divisions. And we confess, with deep humiliation, that several of the Canons appear to us to have been drawn up in anything rather than a healing spirit. We cannot reconcile them with the Catholic spirit which pervades our Liturgy; nor to the moderation and Christian wisdom which characterizes our Articles; though, when we consider the circumstances of the times, we can make full allowance for those who framed them. If there were faults on one side, there were grievous provocations on the other.
But the question is, How far are the Canons binding now? Certain it is that several of them have fallen into complete neglect, and are entirely obsolete.' And no one, that we know of, is called upon to subscribe them. If a bishop should enforce any of them against a clergyman in his diocese, we suppose the clergyman would be bound by his oath of canonical obedience to submit. Further than this, we do not know what force or authority they have, in law or conscience.
We are, however, quite clear, that some of them (by the very expressions used) have reference to a state of things which no longer exists. That is to say, in which all dissent from the Church of England was forbidden by the laws of the land, and in which all conventicles, or meetings in places of worship not belonging to the Church of England, were unlawful assemblies. It is not so now. The eleventh Canon is, therefore, by mere change of
For example, Is there any bishop living who examines and ordains according to the 35th Canon?
circumstances, made null and void. For, "by the laws of this land," as they now stand in our statute-books, dissenting "meetings, assemblies, or congregations," are as fully "allowed," and (we rejoice to say) as fully protected by those laws, as the congregations in our parish churches. Full liberty of conscience and of worship, is now secured to all our dissenting brethren; and "the Three Denominations" have freedom of access to the Throne itself.
Moreover, if we consider the expressions and opinions which are denounced in the first twelve Canons, we believe that, generally speaking, the unchristian harshness and bitterness of these expressions would be condemned by the vast majority of the dissenters of the present day. There are not many of them who would not be ashamed of" Martin Marprelate." And those who are still of that stamp are not likely to join "The Evangelical Alliance." Even with regard to the controversies of the present day, we believe that Christians of all classes and parties are getting weary of them, and longing for a period in which there shall be nothing but amicable and brotherly discussion on points on which we differ, and cordial union in those on which we are agreed.
From such longings,-we believe, the Liverpool Conference originated. That Conference carried on the face of it a plainly expressed desire for peace, and union, and love, among all those who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity: it invited British Protestants to unite on the ground of their common Protestantism, to resist a common enemy, and to promote their common faith. Those Dissenters who came there appeared in a very different character and position from those impugners of the Church of England to whom our Canons refer: and that "Charity which hopeth all things" would surely induce (as it did induce) some ministers of the Church of England to meet the overture of peace and love in the spirit of peace and love,-unless there had been something far more evidently bearing upon the point, and more manifestly binding upon their consciences, than the Canons to which we have referred. We think they had most weighty reasons and sufficient grounds for so doing: for every one of them, in his own person, had been asked at his Ordination,
"Will you maintain and set forward, as much as lieth in you, quietness, peace, and love among all Christian people."
And he had solemnly answered, in the face of the Church,--"I will so do; the Lord being my helper."
And if he felt convinced, in his own judgment, that this was a suitable occasion for making the attempt-for doing what in him lay --for the maintenance and furtherance of such Christian objects, he was only fulfilling his ordination vow in readily embracing it.
We say this, without intending the least reflection upon those clergymen who did not see that it was a suitable occasion. Our object is to justify those who did attend, and not to find fault with those who stayed away.
Our own conviction is, that the original conflict between the Church of England and the Non-conformists-as it disturbed the latter years of the reign of Elizabeth, and went on, with increasing vehemence, and more and more of disastrous results, through the two succeeding reigns,-was the work of the Jesuits; and we need only refer to the series of articles, which appeared in our pages of last year, on "The Jesuits of Old, and of subsequent Times," for proofs of this fact. We believe, that all that has been done since, to keep up the conflict and division, has only been doing, to a vast and lamentable extent, the work of our worst enemies. There have been many and great faults on both sides, which show that our enemies fearfully prevailed against us, and beguiled both par. ties into much that was unchristian in its character, and ruinous in its consequences. At the Restoration, the Church party had a golden opportunity for doing much to heal those divisions. They had not the Christian spirit to use it wisely and well; they adopted measures whose inevitable tendency was to perpetuate divisions and animosities: and we have been paying the penalty to this very day, of their sinful neglect of that blessed opportunity.
Since then-when the Church had everything its own way, and the whole weight of Government and Parliament to help it-we went on neglecting our increasing population, till it overgrew, in some places, ten and twenty-fold, both Church accommodation and the pastoral care of the clergy. Thus myriads were left, either to the care of Dissenters, or to mere Infidelity and Atheism! Here was another fearful sin of neglect and omission the guilt of which is enormous, and the evil consequences of which cannot be told. Must we not thank ourselves that there are so many Dissenters? yea, and (in a better sense) thank God that some of them have laboured effectually to supply our lack of service, and have watched over the souls which we have neglected?
We think that the objections of Dissenters against the principles and formularies of our Church are weak and frivolous; that they have little real ground to stand upón, but that which we our selves continually give them, by our practical inconsistencies with our own doctrines and principles: and that, but for the practical evils, which abound, unredressed and unregarded, in our Churchthey would have but little hold upon the minds of the people of this country; there would be but few Dissenters. And when Dissenters bring forward captious objections, and manifest a wrong spirit;
-most of all, when any among them sink into the character of mere political Dissenters, and even good men are sucked into the political vortex ;-we can see, we can lament, we can denounce their errors and their sins. We consider Dissent, in itself, to be an evil; and that it (too naturally) brings many evils in its train. But we cannot forget, that we ourselves are very much to blame, →that we have not clean hands in this matter,-that we have to thank ourselves for by far the greater part of the evil which we behold. We dare not, therefore, sit in judgment on our brethren, or join in any unmeasured denunciation of them. We find reason, rather, to humble ourselves in the dust; to confess our own sins and theirs, with contrition of spirit; and to cast ourselves upon the mercy of our God and Saviour, for ourselves and for them.
And,-feeling thus humbled for our own sins, though we are not blind to theirs,-when an overture of peace is made, we are, as Churchmen and as Christians, most ready to embrace it. Even if our hopes should be disappointed and our confidence betrayed (to suppose the worst that can happen) we had rather suffer the worst consequences for endeavouring to act in the spirit of Christian humility and love, than escape by maintaining a proud position,--which our own consciences tell us (when we look at past sins, and present inconsistencies and short-comings)-we could not justify in the sight of God, nor reconcile with the spirit of the Gospel.
But we must confess that we are hopeful as to the issue. We greatly rejoice, that some clergymen were present at Liverpool, and that more are joining the movement every day. We are persuaded, that such are really consulting their duty as Christians and as Churchmen, and acting for the best interests of our Church. A movement towards Christian Union has begun; and it must go on. Every meeting that is held proclaims that it must. True Christians in the Church of England must either take part in it, and use their best influence in directing and promoting it; or it must degenerate into a mere Dissenting movement, in opposition to all establishments, and threatening them with such dangers as they have never yet been exposed to. We say this, without imputing any ill intention, or bad motive, to any one who is connected with it;-merely as considering the natural tendency of things. While, on the other hand, if it becomes a general movement,-in which Christians of all parties and sections of the Evangelical Church, at home and abroad, shall cordially unite,-we conceive that very much good may be effected. For example-we think that much strength, which has hitherto been wasted in biting and devouring one another, may be concentrated against our common