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TRACTS FOR THE TIMES.

No. 71.

(Ad Clerum.)

ON THE CONTROVERSY WITH THE ROMANISTS. (Against Romanism.-No. 1.)

THE Controversy with the Romanists has overtaken us "like a summer's cloud." We find ourselves in various parts of the country preparing for it, yet, when we look back, we cannot trace the steps by which we arrived at our present position. We do not recollect what our feelings were this time last year on the subject, what was the state of our apprehensions and anticipations. All we know is, that here we are, from long security ignorant why we are not Roman Catholics, and they on the other hand are said to be spreading and strengthening on all sides of us, vaunting of their success, real or apparent, and taunting us with our inability to argue with them.

The Gospel of Christ is not a matter of mere argument; it does not follow that we are wrong, and they are right, because we cannot defend ourselves. But we cannot claim to direct the faith of others, we cannot check the progress of what we account error, we cannot be secure (humanly speaking) against the weakness of our own hearts some future day, unless we have learned to analyse and to state formally our own reasons for believing what we do believe, and thus have fixed our creed in our memories and our judgments. This is the especial duty of Christian Ministers, who, as St. Paul in the Acts of the Apostles, must be ready to dispute, whether with Jews or Greeks. That we are at present very ill practised in this branch of our duty, (a point it is scarcely necessary to prove) is owing in a very great measure to the protection and favour which have long been extended to the English clergy by the State. Statesmen have felt that it was their interest to maintain a Church, which, absorbing into itself a great portion of the religious feeling of the country, sobers and chastens what it has so attracted, and suppresses by its weight the intractable elements which it cannot persuade; and, while preventing the political mischiefs resulting whether from fanaticism or selfwill, is altogether free from those formidable qualities which distinguish the ecclesiastical genius of Rome. Thus the

clergy have been in that peaceful condition in which the civil magistrate supersedes the necessity of struggling for life and ascendency; and amid their privileges it is not wonderful that they should have grown secure, and have neglected to inform themselves on subjects on which they were not called to dispute. It must be added, too, that a feeling of the untenable nature of the Roman doctrines, a contempt for their arguments, and a notion that they could never prevail in an educated country, have not a little contributed to expose us to our present surprise.

In saying all this, it is not forgotten that there is still scattered about the Church much learning upon the subject of Romanism, and much intelligent opposition to it; nor, on the other hand, does the present series of Tracts pretend to be more than an attempt towards a suitable consideration of it on the part of persons who feel in themselves, and see in others, a deficiency of information.

It will be the object, then, of these Tracts, should it be allowed the editor to fulfil his present intention, to consider variously, the one question, with which we are likely to be attacked, why, in matter of fact, we remain separate from Rome. Some general remarks on the line of argument hence resulting, will be the subject of this paper.

Our position is this. We are seated at our own posts, engaged in our own work, secular or religious, interfering with no one, and anticipating no harm, when we hear of the encroachments of Romanism around us. We can but honour all good Romanists for such aggression; it marks their earnestness, their confidence in their own cause, and their charity towards those whom they consider in error. We need not be bitter against them; moderation, and candour, are virtues under all circumstances. Yet for all that, we may resist them manfully, when they assail us. This then, I say, is our position, a defensive one; we are assailed, and we defend ourselves and our flocks. There is no plea for calling on us in England to do more than this, to defend ourselves. We are under no constraint to go out of our way spontaneously to prove charges against the Romanists; but when asked about our faith, we give a reason why we are this way of thinking, and not that. This makes our task in the controversy incomparably easier, than if we were forced to exhibit an offensive front, or volunteer articles of impeachment against the rival communion. “Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called," is St. Paul's direction. We find ourselves under the Anglican regimen; let every one of us, cleric and layman, remain in it, till our opponents have shown cause why we should change, till we have reason to suspect we are wrong. The onus probandi plainly lies with them. This, I say, simplifies our argument, as

allowing us to content ourselves with less of controversy than otherwise would be incumbent on us. We have the strength of possession and prescription. We are not obliged to prove them incurably corrupt and heretical; no, nor our own system unexceptionable. It is in our power, if we will, to take very low ground; it is quite enough to ascertain that reasons cannot be brought why we should go over from our side to theirs.

But besides this, there are the Apostle's injunctions against disorder. Did we go over to the Roman Catholics, we should be fomenting divisions among ourselves, which would be a prima facie case against us. Of course there are cases where division is justifiable. Did we believe, for instance, the English Church to be absolutely heretical, and Romanism to be pure and Catholic, it would be a duty, as the lesser evil, to take part in a division which truth demanded. Else it would be a sin. Those dissenters who consider union with the state to be apostacy, or the doctrine of baptismal regeneration a heresy, are wrong, not in that they separate from us, but in that they so think.

And further, a debt of gratitude to that particular branch of the Church Catholic through which God made us Christians, through which we were new born, instructed, and (if so be) ordained to the ministerial office; a debt of reverence and affection towards the saints of that Church; the tie of that invisible communion with the dead as well as the living, into which the Sacraments introduce us; the memory of our great teachers, champions and confessors, now in Paradise, especially of those of the seventeenth century,-Hammond's name alone, were there no other, or Hooker's, or Ken's,-bind us to the English Church, by cords of love, except something very serious can be proved against it. But this surely is impossible. The only conceivable causes for leaving its communion are, I suppose, the two following: first, that it is involved in some damnable heresy, or secondly, that it is not in possession of the sacraments: and so far we join issue with the Romanist, for these are among the chief points which he attempts to prove against us.

However plain and satisfactory as is this account of our position, it is not sufficient, for various reasons, to meet the need of the multitude of men. The really pious and sober among our flocks will be contented with it. They will naturally express their suspicion and dislike of any doctrine new to them, and it will require some considerable body of proof to convince them that they ought even to open their ears to it. But it must be recollected, that there is a mass of persons, easily caught by novelty, who will be too impetuous to be restrained by such advice as has been suggested. Curiosity and feverishness of mind do not wait to decide on which side of a dispute the onus probandi lies. The same feelings which carry men now to dissent, will

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