Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

According to this candid bishop, agreeably to the established po. lity of the Church of England, there were cases in which both the laity and presbyters exercised episcopal jurisdiction, independent on their bishops, by virtue of an act of parliament which confirmed this, though it was a papal invasion. Let this be distinctly remembered, as its application will be presently seen. It is useless to enlarge on the want of gospel discipline in the English Church, since it is acknowledged by their own divines and bishops.

VIII. Good qualities of the Anglican Church.

Notwithstanding the various defects of the English established church, enumerated as above, and they are such as are inconsistent with their claims to exclusive apostolicity, there are, nevertheless, many excellent traits to be found in her, of great utility to mankind, and of acknowledged Christian character. And though we have freely, and without ill-will or malice, but with sentiments of respect, pointed out her defects, it is with the greatest cheerfulness that we acknowledge her good qualities, and are willing and desirous to point them out.

1. Her firm opposition to papal tyranny calls for the praise of the world, and all Protestants in particular. The power of the pope had risen to the greatest pitch at the Reformation. The secession and opposition of Luther and the continental reformers gave a mortal wound to papacy. This wound was likely to be healed, had it not been for the timely and firm resistance to popery from the English nation. In almost every age since, and in every great exigency, England has stood as the great bulwark of the Protestant world ; and she, and perhaps she alone, could cope with papal tyranny so as to preserve, or rather bring about, that liberty of conscience which now is gaining so much ground in the world. Indeed, the whole Protestant world are, under God, indebted to Britain, and Protestant Britain, for the freedom from papal usurpations which they now possess. It is, however, to be noted, that the dissenting Protestant portion of England have been, and are yet, on the lowest scale of calculation, nothing behind the portion that are attached to the establishment. Be this as it may, Protestant Britain is the palladium of liberty to Protestantism ; in a great degree also to Roman Catholicism in time of need; for, when her persecuted clergy fled for protection, they found in England both protection and assistance. And what is the liberty of the United States but British freedom stripped of its encumbrancés, and called forth into unrestrained practice in the free institutions of our government!

2. The English Church, to a very considerable extent, has fostered and promoted learning of every kind. Her learned divines and gifted laity have blessed the world with many of the best productions on the subject of divinity and Biblical criticism, as well as on every branch of science and literature. Her early progress, and her continued advancement in promoting knowledge of almost every kind, has produced, and continues to produce, a benefit to the world that future ages will be thankful for and acknowledge, when those party divisions that now refuse to confess it will have no existence in the world. The names of Newton, Tillotson, Watson, Walton, and a host of others, will ever be held in veneration and esteem.

3. Notwithstanding her defects, there have been, and there still are, many pious people and ministers in her communion; and though the great bulk of her members are very little acquainted with experimental religion, there are sti}l many that love and serve God. And we have reason to believe that the number of pious ministers and people is on the increase; and that she can number many more of this class now than she could sixty or a hundred years ago.

4. Add to this, that in her bosom a great and extensive revival of religion has taken place within these last hundred years. Some of her ministers, with the Rev.John Wesley at their head, prophesied. On many others, also, the Spirit rested. By the labors of both, great has been the work in her midst. And it is a matter of surprise, as well as of thankfulness to God, that the opposition to this blessed renovation from her lukewarm clergy has been so little, rather than that it was such as did really exist.

5. Besides, her moderation and tolerance, especially in latter times, call for admiration. It is true, the puritans, and various branches of dissenters, have suffered much, and still labor under privations. Yet no other church in her circumstances would, perhaps, be equally indulgent to those who differed from them. Her example in this is acknowledged to be salutary, and, no doubt, will have an extensively beneficial effect on the Christian world. It may be said that the tolerance and moderation of the English nation and church are to be traced to the principles and influence of the puritans, and dissenters, and Methodists. Be this as it may, this effect was accomplished where the English Church had supreme rule; and if we proceed to the immediate instruments, they were those who received their first lessons, at least, in the very cradle of the Church of England.

6. Her vast efforts in the Bible cause ought not to be passed by. Her kings, her lords and commons, her high church dignitaries, her clergy and her people, have conspired together, by a superhuman effort, to cause that the Bible will speak to every people under heaven in their own native dialect. She has been singularly foremost and active in bringing about a new pentecost, as to tongues and spiritual influence, that shall continue and extend till the kingdoms of this world shall become the inheritance of Christ. Her liberality and giant efforts, in these respects, must not be envied and overlooked by those who are either unable or unwilling to do as she has done or is now doing.

With the greatest cordiality we acknowledge the excellencies of the English Church, though we deem it our privilege to point out her errors, that we may give reasons to others why the Methodist Episcopal Church feels herself justified in doing as she has done in forming a separate organization in America; and why Wesleyan Methodism in Europe has taken the course which it has done, in so far as it has separated from the English establishment? As to any plea which the Protestant Episcopal Church can make against the Methodist Episcopal Church for separating from her, nothing is more foolish than its bare mention. She had no being when the Methodist Episcopal Church was formed; and for her to talk about schism or separation in such a case is the height of presumption, if not of dementation.

7. A few reflections, however, will be necessary on the character of King Henry, and on some circumstances connected with it. This is the more proper because some Protestants, and almost all Roman Catholics, have transferred to the English Church all the sins of this extraordinary man.

(1.) King Henry certainly possessed a considerable portion of knowledge and learning, especially in divinity; and excelled most princes of that, or any age, in intellectual endowments and attainments. Hence, he wrote a book against Luther; but it is doubtful whether this was his own production. This gave occasion to those excessive flatteries from the pope and his party, which, while it obtained for him the title of Defender of the Faith, in a great measure corrupted his temper and disfigured his whole government. When he threw off the pope's yoke, the Reformers, in their turn, offered him all the flatteries they could decently give. This, too, had an injurious effect on this monarch. (See Burnet, vol. iii, p. 206.)

(2.) King Henry was not a little pleased with his title of Supreme Head of the Church of England, which, by act of parliament, was joined to the other titles of his crown. He thought that infallibility was to accompany supremacy; and as this, in the popish system, belonged to the pope, he must also have infallibility attached to the crown. Those, therefore, who formerly yielded to the one, he thought ought now to submit to the other. He also turned against the Reformers when he saw their complaisance did not go so far as to acknowledge his infallibility, and for some time seemed fast going over to popery again, so that he was all the time fluctuating in both his opinions and practices; sometimes progressing in reformation, and at other times returning back to his old opinions. (Idem, vol. iii, pp. 126, 209.)

(3.) As it regards his divorce, whether he was sincere in pretending to have conscientious scruples with regard to his first marriage, is known to God alone; but whatever his secret motives were,

he had the constant tradition of the Roman Church on his side, of which he was a member. This was carefully searched and proved; and no author older than Cajetan could be found in opposition to the current of tradition. And in the disputes of that age with those called heretics, the Romanists always made their appeals to tradition, as the only infallible expounder of Scripture. King Henry, therefore, had the acknowledged standard of the times on his side. (Idem, vol. iii, p. 438. Col., No. ii.)

(4.) Bishop Burnet holds the following language, in reference to Henry's breach with the pope :-" There appears to have been a signal train of providence in the whole progress of this matter, that thus ended in a total rupture. The court of Rome, being overawed by the emperor, engaged itself for it at first; but when the pope and the king of France were so entirely united as they knew they were, it seems they were under an infatuation from God to carry their authority so far, at a time in which they saw the king of England had a parliament to support him in his breach with Rome. It was but too visible that the king would have given all up, if the pope would have done him common justice; but when the matter was brought so near a total union, an entire breach followed, in the very time in which it was thought all was made up. Those who favored the reformation saw all their hopes, as it seemed, blasted; but of a sudden all was revived again. This was an amazing transaction ; and how little honor soever this full discovery of all the steps made in it does to King Henry, who retained his inclinations to a great deal of popery to the end of his life, yet it is much to the glory of God's providence that made the persons most concerned to prevent and hinder the breach, to be the very persons that brought it on, . and, in a manner, forced it.” (Idem, vol. iii, p. 112.)

(5.) The same excellent writer makes the following observations on the conduct of Henry, in the part he took in the Reformation:“But whatever he was, and how great soever his pride, and vanity, and his other faults were, he was a great instrument in the hand of Providence for many good ends. He first opened the door to let light in upon the nation ; he delivered it from the yoke of blind and implicit obedience; he put the Scriptures in the hands of the people, and took away the terror they were formerly under by the cruelty of the ecclesiastical courts ; he declared this church to be an entire and perfect body within itself, with full authority to decree and regulate all things, without any dependance on any foreign power; and he did so unite the supreme headship over this church to the imperial crown of this realm, that it seemed a just consequence that was made by some in a popish reign, that he who would not aver that this supremacy was in him, did, by that, renounce the crown, of which that title was made so essential a part that they could no more be separated.

"By attacking popery in its strong holds--the monasteries—he destroyed them all, and thus he opened the way to all that came after, even down to our days; so that, while we see the folly and weakness of man in all his personal failings, which were very many and very enormous, we, at the same time, see both the justice and the goodness of God in making him, who was once the pride and glory of popery, become its scourge and destruction; and in directing his pride and passion so as to bring about, under the dread of his unrelenting temper, a change that a milder reign could not have compassed without great convulsions and much confusion. Above all the rest, we ought to adore the goodness of God in rescuing us, by his means, from idolatry and superstition; from the vain and pompous shows in which the worship of God was dressed up so as to vie with heathenism itself, into a simplicity of believing and a purity of worship, conformed to the nature and attributes of God, and the doctrine and example of the Son of God.” (Idem, vol. iii, p. 210.) The foregoing sentiments are those of sobriety, and in them every sound Protestant will acquiesce, and Romanists cannot give them a confutation.

But it would be altogether improper to disparage the Reformation of the Church of England on account of King Henry's faults. As far as it is agreeable to the word of God it is right, whatever part this monarch may have taken in establishing it; and so far as it is not agreeable to Scripture, or is inconsistent with it, so far it is wrong, whoever may have been actors in it. The unsteady favor which the Church of England received from Henry can no more blemish it, than the vices of those princes that first promoted Christianity can blemish the Christian religion. If the crimes of Clovis, as related

by Gregory of Tours, be compared with the worst crimes of King Henry, we will find more falsehood, more cruelty, in the French than in the English monarch. Nor can we find any hints of Clovis's repentance, nor any restitution of his ill-gotten possessions. And this was the first Christian king of the Franks. While Henry is condemned to inevitable perdition by Romanists, they extol Clovis, .a worse man, as a good Catholic and a good Christian. It is true, we can find many things in Henry VIII. worthy of severe reprehension; but, on comparison, we shall find him nothing worse than Pope Paul III., the French king, or German emperor; all three of whom gave as many proofs of their insincerity and want of principle as he manifested. This is necessary to be said of King Henry, that however we may reprehend many parts of his conduct, we ought not to overlook the bad examples he had in the pope himself in intrigue and falsehood; as well as the wrong opinions he had, in early life, imbibed from the Roman doctrines.

(6.) Upon the whole, in the reformation from popery, we may see the watchful care of Providence. When the light seemed almost extinguished in one place, it broke out in another; and when aid and protection seemed shut up in one source, God afforded help from another. In the beginning, of King Henry's reign, by the breaking up of the Smacaldic league, by the capture of the Landgrave of Hesse and the Elector of Saxony, and by the Interim, the Reformation appeared almost extinguished in Germany. At this time it was advancing in England, which proved a refuge for the persecuted in Germany. And in the year previous to the death of Edward VI., there was a lasting settlement provided for the Reformation in Germany; so that those who fled from England in the reign of Mary found an asylum among the German Protestants. Thus God has provided for his truth in a manner, and by such means, as the wisdom of man could never devise. (Idem, vol. iii, p. 264.)

For the Methodist Magazine and Quarterly Review.

Art. II.-HISTORICAL VIEW OF UNIVERSALISM IN THE

UNITED STATES.

BY THE REV. F. P. TRACY, OF THE NEW-ENGLAND CONFERENCE.

The doctrine of the ultimate holiness and happiness of the whole human family has been held and taught at different times, and by various individuals, since the days of Origen. It has formed a component part of several systems, and has had some few able defenders, but no considerable portion of the nominal Christian Church has, at any time, avowed faith in it; and among those who have believed it, there has been more difference of opinion as to the means by which the event is to be brought about the true principles on which the doctrine should be founded, and the time when all men shall partake of the benefit, than has existed on any other point of theology whatever.

But notwithstanding these differences, it has still, through a thousand metamorphoses, retained its being. Rising, like the phenix,

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »