Page images
PDF
EPUB

§. 2. Must there not, again, be many others, who, while they love and venerate the Church of England, both as "the pillar and ground of "the truth" and as the only ark (in this our own kingdom, at least) of any thing like proper toleration or just religious liberty, yet cannot blind themselves to flaws and weaknesses which may be here and there detected" in its aggregate condition, of which it were no less than folly to deny the existence? Must it not be grief to these, to mark the almost equally erroneous violence and pertinacity with which these frailties are respectively defended and assailed? which imperfections they would wish, of all things, to have corrected and removed, but which it is made scarcely possible to touch, for any such good end, by reason of the fierce, ungenerous clamour round about the sanctuary, and the variety of enemies all ready to rush in to build

a It is not necessary here to offer an opinion what some of these may be. They will occur to different people differently, according to the turn in each of some prevailing bias. Some will assign them to one department, some to another. The only point, perhaps, in which all will agree is, that there are imperfections. It is enough in this place to admit the fact, without hazarding specifications.

up their own visionary schemes, or schemes of selfishness, upon its ruins.

§. 3. What, again, must be their fear and their opinion, to whom it seems as plain as any such thing well can be, that almost every sect and party, in this same all-important province of religion, is doing (as it were) its adversary's work?-how Calvinism, for instance, is by a natural re-action, and under a new form of that so frequent turn in men's opinions-the meeting of extremes-enlisting numbers in the ranks of Arianism, or Socinianism: again, how the outrageousness of an enthusiasm derived from brood

66

Or if not precisely either of these (for it is of the very nature of heresy that there can be no precision in it, and I have no desire to fix on any man inaccurately a name, which he may reckon of reproach) then I would say " some vague "and unsupported form of self-opinionated tenets, which is, to every practical intent and purpose, neither more nor less "than a revival of one or other of those ancient heresies, "only with modern adaptations." If any reflecting reader shall doubt this, or think the fear expressed here to be either unreal or too strongly stated, let him examine and digest the writings of Dr. Channing; and recollect-I will not say, the impression which these may be judged likely to make, but which they have made. (See a passage from Capt. Basil Hall's Travels in North America, quoted in the British Critic, No. xiii. pp. 208-10.) And yet Dr. Channing cannot be right, unless Scripture is wrong!

b

ings over dark and unaccomplished prophecy, or the unsatisfying vagueness, and desolateness to the heart of man, of every form of that which has been pleased to call itself a rational religion, or the blind spirit of unjust and indiscriminating condemnation, derived from no authority but that of an habitual unreflecting prejudice, is taking the most likely course to cause a rally and

As I would not willingly be thought a favourer of Popery, I hope to be excused for once more holding up before me the broad shield of Bishop Sanderson. The following extracts from the eighteenth section of the Preface already quoted, seem not a little pertinent (mutatis mutandis) at the present day; nor is the entire section, or the whole Preface, less deserving of attention.

"But (says the Bishop) I have somewhat to return upon "these our brethren. Possibly it will not please them; but I "must speak it out, both for the truth's sake and theirs. To "wit, that themselves are in truth, though not purposely and "intentionally, (whereof in my own thoughts I freely acquit "them) yet really and eventually the great promoters of the "Roman interest among us; and that more ways than one. "First, by putting to their helping hand to the pulling down "of Episcopacy. . . . . Secondly, they promote the interest of "Rome, by opposing it with more violence than reason. "Which ought not to seem any strange thing to us; since

66

we see by daily experience the like to happen in other "matters also. Many a nan when he thought to make it "sure, hath quite marred a good business by overdoing "it. . . . . Thirdly, they promote the interest of Rome and

diversion in favour of Popery, in many minds of quality that can be least spared from the communion of our own Church; I mean, in dispositions of a more devotional and at the same time a more dutiful complexion—reflecting, meek, patient; minds, therefore, which can never follow such a fiery zeal to all its lengths, yet do not seem to find that settled anchorage of faith and hope which they desire in fellowship with some communion of their brethren, except it shall be bound with cords of

"betray the Protestant cause; partly, by mistaking the

66

question, (a very common fault among them) and meddling "therewithal not seldom with so much weakness and im"pertinency, that they leave the question worse than they "found it, and the hearer (or reader) if he brought any " doubts with him, to go away more dissatisfied than he came. "Others of them (that have better knowledge) are yet so "bound up by some false principle or other they have re"ceived, which having once imbibed they think themselves "bound to maintain, that they cannot without deserting the same (and that they must not do, whatsoever betideth them) treat to the satisfaction of a rational and ingenuous "adversary."

66

[ocr errors]

That I may not myself be charged with disingenuousness in making this extract, let it be understood that, for shortness' sake, it is both selected and abridged from out of the whole section, and is in one place even slightly transposed; but any reader who will take the trouble of referring to the original will see whether or not any unfairness has been exercised.

virtual infallibility:—in a word, how almost every humble and ingenuous mind that will not lend

The temper and moderation of the Church of England, as exhibited in and deducible from her Liturgy, would seem, in the present effervescence of religious opinion, by far too mild and indecisive to content excited minds. It were a great mistake to think that timid and submissive spirits alone, being ill at ease, require the rallying point and shelter of a virtual infallibility; and a still greater to suppose, or to admit, that the presumptuous temperament which can advance such claims, belongs exclusively to the Church of Rome. It would be difficult to show to what extent the confidences of PURITANISM fall short, in spirit, of the infallibility of POPERY. And since the more self-willed and restless dispositions of the time must have some corresponding strong-hold, no less than the more gentle, they find it in the notions of an indefectible grace, bestowed upon themselves, and in a consequent monopoly of the name and privileges of the elect. Or if this should not fully serve their turn, it were no miracle, if even some of these should throw themselves at last into the gulf of Popery! It is an infinitely easier thing (as almost every day's experience shows us) to screw the courage to a desperate leap, than to possess a soul disquieted in patience.

And yet, in spite of all phenomena, there probably are many who can still persuade themselves, that the genius of our Church is Calvinistic! Where any seek for this persuasion from her Articles, I would entreat them to consider soberly a most material distinction. Her Book of common Prayer is confessedly intended for the daily and familiar use of all her children. It is indeed true, that the Articles are now regularly printed and included in the Prayer Book, and it is well it should be so. But he must be a very pre

« PreviousContinue »