Page images
PDF
EPUB

that, as regards the substance of the elements themselves, we are to understand them as if He had said, This is the Figure of My Body, &c.; he proves that if, with Rome, we dwell exclusively on the first line of truth, we incur the risk of obscuring or rejecting the second, and so of doing damage to the analogy of the faith;—and if with the Calvinistic or Socinianizing Protestant we take the second alone, we end in nothing short of denial of the faith. He then proceeds to prove that the dogma of the elements ceasing by Consecration to be what they were before, and becoming what they were not, is neither in itself, nor by analogy, a necessary truth. For as if after Baptism we are truly born again and become new men, and yet there is no physical transmutation—and if we die and rise again in the same Sacrament, but yet only in figure, remaining afterwards the same physical men, children of Adam, as we were before; so, if we assert a physical change in the consecrated elements of the Eucharist, we ought also to assert the same physical change in the new birth of Baptism; and vice versa, denying a physical change in the former, we should also deny it in the latter Sacrament; and if there is no suspension of physical accidents in us without a subject, after the regeneration of Baptism, we should in consistency hesitate to assert that there is such in the elements of the Eucharist, and that their physical accidents remain miraculously suspended and inherent in no subject. The same argument from our new birth, which is not physical but spiritual, and the object of faith only, he next applies to our new food (as such), which must also in consequence be of the same nature; or as we have two natures in the same subject, so in that consecrated food, there may be also two foods,—one consubstantial with the first Adam, natural, earthly, and corruptible; the other consubstantial with the second Adam, supernatural, heavenly, and incorruptible; and these two will not interfere with one another. (P. 216.) So that truth on the Sacrament of the Altar plainly consists, in Mr. Palmer's opinion, in avoiding equally the destruction of physical substance taught by the doctrine of Transubstantiation; the union in one subject of both the spiritual and physical, as held by Luther in his scheme of Consubstantiation; and the bare denial of all spiritual Presence, of Zuinglius and his followers: or, to use Mr. Palmer's own words, it lies in

'the preservation of the due distinction between the two orders of grace and nature, of the spirit and of the flesh, so that the one is neither confounded with the other, nor denied because of the other. And the same three forms of language will be perceived to become each of them erroneous in so far as the contrary is the case: as when an absence Of change, which belongs only to the order of nature, is insisted upon, so as to exclude the change which belongs only to the order of grace; or secondly, when a union of two things which Bony be asserted with truth only in respect of the two distinct orders conjoined, is asserted in respect of one order alone, so as to subvert the numerical unity and identity of the man or of the food, and that change of each which is according to the spirit: or lastly, when a change which belongs only to the order of spirit is insisted upon so as to subvert or exclude the order of nature. And of these three errors, the first will directly subvert faith, and faith only; the last, physical truth, and physical truth only; while the second will subvert, but iudirectly, both physical truth and faith.'—Pp. 117, 118.

Mr. Palmer's fifteenth Dissertation contains some remarks on the subject of Confession, which are worthy of the closest attention. He commences with telling us that because there was in the first ages of Christianity no obligation to Confession,

'Protestants and Anglicans have either abolished the Confession of secret sins altogether, or have made it optional; and they tacitly assume that that state of things which in the present day results as a necessary consequence from their abolition of the law of Confession is agreeable to antiquity and to the Gospel.

'But the truth is directly the reverse. The existing tradition and practice among Anglicans and Protestants with regard to the participation of the Holy Communion is manifestly much more unlike what prevailed in the primitive Church, than is the existing tradition and practice among the Roman Catholics and the Easterns. So that if antiquity is to be followed, and it is impossible to reproduce antiquity exactly—but we must choose between the so-called corruption and the so-called reformation, every serious person ought at once to submit to the discipline of the Romans and the Greeks as being the nearer approach to antiquity of the two.'— P. 227.

But we may bo allowed to ask why,—assuming that the English Church, in not compelling the practice of Confession, does fall short of the rule of antiquity,—we must of necessity accept one or other of the alternatives here laid down by Mr. Palmer, and go as far or further from the mean in the other direction? The practical moral result of the Greek and Romish custom in general, is at least no sufficient answer to this question, for the moral standard of the members of those Churches is in many respects no higher, and in some is notoriously lower than that of the members of our own Church. There are, no doubt, difficulties on both sides of the question, but it may, at least, be a doubt whether the Confession which is optional will not be more likely to produce really good results in the end, though to the few alone who may choose to have recourse to it, than that which, being compulsory on all alike, may possibly, at times, incur the danger of degenerating into a dry, and formal, and matter of course routine,—not to say of being occasionally perverted to the extension of a false security.

In addition to the subjects already mentioned, Mr. Palmer has given us Dissertations on some of the secondary ecclesiastical questions, e. g. the Septenary number of the Sacraments or Mysteries; the worship due to the Saints and the Blessed Virgin Mary—and the veneration of Icons. He then proceeds to compare, in a dissertation equally curious and instructive, the conduct of Nikon as an ecclesiastical reformer, with that of Luther and Calvin; the conduct of the Russian Patriarch standing out in marked and happy contrast with the irregular and destructive proceedings of the self-elected 'Apostles' of Germany and Switzerland. The author then enters, at length, into certain things which seem to be needed for the Eastern Church, and the chief of which appear to be the following:—

'IX. That it should be required of all who read anything in the Church, to read distinctly and reverently; and that the readers and clerks should be trained to do this: and, if good readers are not to be found, that some of the priests or deacons themselves, or some religious layman of education, should read; or even that the reading should be omitted altogether, rather than that anything should be gabbled over profanely.

'XI. That education, both of the clergy and laity, and of girls as well as boys, should be more generally extended; and that the knowledge of the Church Books, and especially of the Catechism, should be made a primary part of it.

'XV. That, on a just occasion occurring, the empire of the infidels should be overthrown, and the regions of the East regained to Christianity. • XVI. That the Patriarchate, or personal primacy, in the Russian Church should be restored, according to the requirements of the Apostolical and (Ecumenical Canons; and that just liberty should be allowed to the Patriarch or Primate, and the other Bishops, to hold Synods and to make Canons in spiritual matters; to hold and manage real property with the same freedom as other proprietors; and to appoint, pay, and remove their own officers; aa was the case before the middle of the seventeenth century in Russia. Or, if the present Synodal government be retained, that at least the constitution of the M. H. Synod should be corrected in some such way as that in which the Patriarch and Synod of Constantinople in 1850 attempted to correct and reconstitute, with the concurrence of the civil government of Greece, the Holy Synod of the Church in that kingdom.

'XVIII. That the inconsistency existing, at present, in the Books and Canon Law of the Eastern Church, and in the thoughts and language of her members, respecting the definition of the visible Catholic Church, should be done away: and that it should be made clear that the Eastern Church pretends no more for herself than to be a. part of the whole (as her very name implies), and admits the Latin Church to be also a part; and desires the correction in some secondary matters, not the radical conversion or destruction of this latter.

'XX. That, with regard to such as are already Christians, the following principle should be laid down and acted upon: That the Orthodox Church should not call upon them to condemn or renounce anything that is in itself true, or good, or indifferent, of what they have, or suppose themselves to have, already; nor prohibit the retention of anything in itself good or harmless, to which even individual proselytes have been accustomed; nor impose unnecessarily any new burden to which they have been unaccustomed; but should make them renounce only what is false or evil, filling up their Christianity, hitherto imperfect, so as to make it conformable, not to any Greek, or Russian, or Eastern type, but to the (Ecumenical Creed, and discipline, and tradition.'—Pp. 306—308.

We have no doubt that to the xvth, at least, of the requisites here enumerated, the Russians would willingly listen, if they were the only parties concerned, or if others abstained from interference, and the leading Powers—those which ought to be the great and good of Europe—did not combine to keep up the authority of the Crescent, and prevent one Christian nation from assisting another, merely for the sake of maintaining the balance of secular power. As it is, the Greek Christian subjects of the Turkish empire are oppressed and kept down by the concurrence and aid of their fellow Christians; and Mahometans are placed over them, and allowed to injure them, and insult their Religion, for the sake of maintaining some doubtful point of worldly policy: thus real evil is done that fancied good may ensue.

Still more important, however, is it, as Mr. Palmer proceeds to say, that an (Ecumenical Council should be held, when, if ever, the Churches may be again united. Difficult, and indeed almost impossible, as he admits such an idea to be, he does not wholly despair of its yet taking place. He conceives that the East may be glad to connect herself again with that portion of Christendom in which the pastoral authority, as such, has not yet been entirely prostrated to the imperial; and that the West (by which is here understood the Church of Rome alone) may be glad to strengthen her hands against the growing evils within her own pale, by the accession to her side of a body of Christians, to the number of sixty or seventy millions.

Mr. Palmer concludes his volume with a somewhat fanciful dissertation on the Seven Apocalyptic Epistles addressed to the Seven Churches of Asia, on which we will only say that, as each of those Churches must have formed part, and been members of the one Catholic Church—otherwise they must have been heretical or independent—and as each was ruled by its own Angel, and formed outwardly a separate and distinct branch of the Church, and as to each was encouragement or correction sent from their one Great Head, even Jesus Christ himself, by His servant John, according to their particular shortcomings and errors, without mention of, or direction for, any close uniformity of practice in all customs among themselves, or any allusion to one Church as a pattern, or Superior, to which they were to submit;—they afford a strong argument in favour of the possibility, at least, of the separate branches of the Catholic Church being at this time independent, each performing its own work, and having (in spite of failings, errors, and shortcomings) its own place and membership in the One Universal Church of Christ.

In conclusion, our readers will see, even from the imperfect account we have been able to give of this remarkable work, that its author has done great and probably lasting service to the Church at large. If, indeed, the time and labour which he has spent in Russia and Constantinople lead to no other result than that of bringing the Greeks and Russians into uniformity of practice with regard to the reception of converts—a result which really appears likely, at no distant day, to be realized—his labour will by no means have been thrown away. We cannot, however, dismiss the subject without expressing something of wonder as to what our Author's real position can be in his own mind; he appears to be a realization—if there ever were such—of a spectator ab e-xlra. He is far too keen-sighted to adopt and live in a fallacy, and far too honest to acquiesce, for a moment, for any earthly inducement whatever, in what he felt to be a false position. Yet, more keenly alive than most men to the necessity of occupying some definite position, and apprehending, with singular force and clearness, the great truth of the Church being a visible Body with visible membership, he appears to us, from his own principles, to be, in fact, isolated from all communions, and to stand quite alone. He treats the Church as if she consisted solely and exclusively of the Roman Catholics and the Orthodox Easterns, yet he himself belongs to neither of those branches. He scarcely touches on any point at issue between the Churches of Rome and England, without giving his readers to see that his own convictions or sympathies are not with the latter. In like manner, whilst urging that there may be an outward separation between two Churches without the destruction of their real and vital inward unity, he offers no reason why the same admission may not be also extended to a third; nor does he prove that, if there may be two component parts of one body, there may not also be more; or tell us what the Church of England, as such and by her own voice, as opposed to that of particular rulers or teachers nominally within her pale, has done to forfeit her right to consecrate and administer the Sacraments, and so to deprive herself of her claim to be considered a real, integral, and living part of the mystical Body of Christ.

Our readers, too, we apprehend, will mostly agree with us that, after all, when an individual, with whatever personal qualifications or attainments, takes upon himself to exercise the office, now of dictator, and now of judge of the doctrines and customs of Churches—as Mr. Palmer certainly does, at times, in the work before us—there is at least a possibility that whatever error really does exist, may be found, at last, to lie at the door of the individual critic; for it is, in truth, more likely that Churches, such as those of the East or Rome, should have

NO. LXXXI. N.S, II

« PreviousContinue »