« PreviousContinue »
On Submission to the Church (Ferne)
The Notes of the Church (Field).
PART XIV.PREFACE. The Era of the Church immediately after the Apostles (Parker)
138 The Exclusive Right of Bishops to Ordain (Hughes)
158 The Right of the Church to Excommunicate (Hughes) 172
The Office of a Minister (Lucy)
201 Lay Eldership proved to be Contrary to Scripture and Antiquity (Hall)
212 Lay Baptism (Waterland)
229 Baptism by Women (Hooker)
234 On Sponsors and Confirmation (Nichols)
Salvation only in the Visible Church (Dodwell)
The Regale and Pontificale (Beveridge).
329 335 349 359
The attention which has lately been paid to Church Discipline is one of the most encouraging signs of the times, as regards our religious prosperity. Its origin may be briefly traced as follows:- The Reformers of the Anglican communion proceeded, as has been well observed, on a refined and catholic principle of ecclecticism, not taking what seemed best to their own private judgment, and most expedient for the circumstances of the times, but what was most in accordance with the teaching and usages of the primitive Church. This principle they exhibited in all the authorized and corporate acts of that branch of the Church Catholic over which they were called to preside. But the great work of the Reformation required and found instruments of all kinds. The poor labourer was to be awakened from the delusive lethargy in which the combined doctrines of purgatory and Roman absolution had plunged him; the mendicant friar and the itinerant preacher were to be combated with popular weapons; the learned Papist was to be met with the volumes of the Fathers and the early records of the Church ; and the bold but untrue statements of Papal champions were to be refuted by an appeal to the facts of history. But the frailty of human nature will rarely allow the man successful in one department to abstain from meddling with others with which he is less acquainted: the qualifications which carried him triumphantly through one dispute, or one course of exhortation, will, he hopes, stand him in stead in another; and the motto “ Non omnia possumus omnes” is practically forgotten. Hence we find that among those whose names we reverence for their faith and zeal, are many whose writings are little in unison with the accredited doctrines and discipline of our Church. Holding to the one true and great foundation, they not only built, in some instances, an incorrect superstructure thereon; but, venturing on subjects unconnected with doctrine, they promulgated grievous errors: the consequence is, that there is scarcely a sect (save those enthusiastic ones which find favour chiefly, if not wholly, with the vulgar, and save also the various grades of Unitarians) who cannot find ancestors in heterodoxy among the promoters of the English Reformation.
The judgment, then, of the Reformers is only so far valuable as it is the judgment of the Anglican Church, and expressed in her authoritative declarations. Now if it was the case in matters of doctrine, which all allowed to be important, much more was it likely to be so with regard to discipline, on which there were three opinions--one, that forms of Church government were matters of very secondary importance; another, that the greater difference from those of Rome, the better; and lastly, that the primitive Church was the only lawful model. All, however, held to what was and is called the apostolical succession—the one party, however, maintaining that an episcopal succession was essential; the other, that a presbyterian succession is sufficient.
It may be worth while to enquire under what circumstances this latter opinion prevailed; for it is quite certain that in the days of Ignatius no such idea existed, and it is equally certain that it did not prevail immediately prior to the Reformation. It is evident that an episcopal succession was maintained among the Albigenses and Valdenses, or was supposed to be maintained; for the true cause of the fierce war which has been from time to time carried on among reformed divines concerning these Churches, has been the opinion, on the one side, that the succession was valid, and on the other, that it was not.
Had there been no question among our own clergy on this point, we should never have heard one word about the heresy of the Albigenses, or the modernness of the Valdenses; but the truth was, that each party saw, or thought they saw, that a great principle was at stake-the one imagined that if the Piedmontese religionists were allowed to be true Churches, the episcopal succession must be given up; and consequently every argument and every testimony that could be pressed into the service, principally those of Bossuet, were adduced to prove that the Albigenses were Manichæans, and the Valdenses a mere modern séct; and therefore the perpetuity of the Church must be sought in the Roman communion : the other party, believing that the corruptions, as well in doctrine as in discipline, of the Roman