Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER V.

THE CHURCH, AS ESTABLISHED IN ENGLAND.

“ The Church is compass'd round
As much for safety as for ornament.

'Tis an enclosure, and no common ground.
'Tis God's freehold, and not our tenement;
Tenants at will, and yet intail, we be:
Our children have the same right to it as we.”

HERBERT

RIDLEY. Ir appears, then, that the visible Church of Christ is not a purely spiritual body, but a religious community, instituted by Christ and his Apostles, governed by its own laws, and therefore independent of any human power or government.

HERBERT.

Such it has been, and such it may again be; though at present, by the providence of God,

it exists in a different, and, as I conceive, a more perfect state. From the time of the Apostles to that of Constantine, the Christian Church maintained an independent existence; and worked its way, not only without the aid of human governments, but in opposition to them. When it consisted of twelve poor fishermen, its ministers, and a few hundreds of disciples, the power of the Jewish Sanhedrim, and subsequently of the Roman Emperor, was in vain exerted to put it down; and if the aid of human government were again withdrawn, or the power of the state set in opposition to it, the Church would still continue by virtue of God's decree. It would still exercise the same authority over all those who sought for salvation as members of Christ's body; and would as much claim our adherence, as if it were supported by all the pomp and power of human government.

RIDLEY. I have often thought with awe and astonishment on the progress of the Church of Christthe “ stone cut out without hands!,” which brake in pieces the kingdoms of the earth. 'Tis wonderful indeed to mark its rise and progress--to

i Daniel ii. 34.

see it, at first, a feeble fraternity in a despised province, advancing firmly onwards, and casting down the ancient superstition; until it acquired the sovereignty of imperial Rome, and disposed of thrones and empires.

HERBERT. These extremes of lowliness and sovereign power, though well calculated to illustrate the providence of God, yet are, neither of them, the just position of the Church. She is best circumstanced when simply in alliance with the state, or under its protection. “ Kings should be her nursing fathers, and queens her nursing mothers ?,” yielding her that sort of reverential patronage, which a foster-mother bestows on her high-born nursling. The theory of the alliance between Church and state in this country is the nearest approach to what should be their respective positions. Would that that theory were better carried out into practice !

RIDLEY.

I have heard very sincere Churchmen, who are offended at the influence which the state exerts, and consider that, in this respect, the Church established is less independent than the sectarian communities; especially since the admission of dissenters and Romanists to the legislature.

1 Isaiah xlix. 23.

HERBERT. There is some reason in this objection, though I do not at all agree in the inference which they would draw from it-namely, that a separation is desirable. The Church consists of laity as well as clergy; and, in its arrangements, lay-influence is perfectly legitimate. In a dissenting community, though the state does not interfere, yet the society is liable to the caprices of its component members—subscribers, perhaps, of a guinea to its funds; and the dissenting minister is far more dependant on his flock than the clergyman of the Church. In the national establishment, the state represents the lay influence; and as such has a right to give or refuse its consent in those points which are not regulated by divine institution. It cannot annul the order of bishops, because God has ordained it; but it may have a legitimate voice in those diocesan arrangements which are of a temporal nature. If the enemies of the Church obtain a permanent majority in parliament, then a separation between Church and state seems inevitable. But, as things are at present, Churchmen

ought to strain every nerve to re-assert their superiority, and then a hostile and watchful minority would perhaps be rather beneficial than otherwise. The benefits resulting from an alliance between Church and state appear to me so eminently great, that to consent to a separation, while it is possible to maintain the union on right principles, would be a betrayal of a sacred trust, and a squandering of our children's inheritance. Certainly, even now, there are some perplexing anomalies ; as, for instance, the law of præmunire, which subjects the chapters to fine and imprisonment, if they refuse to elect the bishop nominated by the crown. Still I think that public opinion, rightly informed, is sufficient to correct these anomalies. It can scarcely be the interest of any set of statesmen to come to an open rupture with the Church. They will generally be disposed to yield what is reasonable, as in the case of the bishopric of Man; especially when it is clear that a separation must ensue if they do not. But I do not like to contemplate the idea of the state being permanently hostile or faithless—endeavouring to force upon us heretical bishops, contaminating the fountains of our learning, and, under the plea of reform, crippling those energies she is bound to promote.

« ZurückWeiter »