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operations are directed to our Colonial possessions, and, indeed, to every quarter of the globe. It is not our intention, nor indeed have we space, to specify the various societies supported by members of our Church, nor to discuss their merits: we merely allude to the question for the purpose of informing our readers, that the proceedings of the past year afford ample evidence of the zeal, activity, and piety of churchmen.
Socialism has received a check, from which, we trust, it will never recover; and this check is owing to the well-directed efforts of the Bishop of Exeter. In consequence of his exertions, the Marquis of Normanby issued his circular, which has most assuredly been of the utmost service in putting down an evil daily becoming more and more portentous. The leaders and agents of the body are now under the necessity of carrying on their operations with great secrecy. In many districts the magistrates are extremely active in enforcing the laws; so that it is to be expected, that many of those who had imbibed the wicked and degrading principles of the party, will be delivered from the danger with which they were threatened.
SUBSCRIPTION TO THE THIRTY-NINE ARTICLES, AND PROPOSALS FOR ALTERING THE LITURGY.
"There is no new thing," says the wisest of men, "under the sun." Now the proposal to alter the Liturgy, and to give up Subscription to Articles of Faith is not a new thing, and before we conclude our remarks, we shall submit a few historical notices to our readers on this particular point. But though there have ever been clergymen in the Church of England who have complained of the Liturgy, and censured the Thirty-nine Articles, yet they have always been a very small party: and we are happy to find that the party is not increased in number. There are radicals in Church matters as well as in politics. It would be strange indeed if the Church of England had no unworthy sons. Most of her clergy are consistent and obedient children: and, if the reins of discipline were drawn somewhat tighter, a most salutary effect would be produced, even on those who are inclined to be refractory.
It is truly surprising that such a question should be revived, by men calling themselves churchmen, and eating the bread of the Church, as that expressed in the petition presented on the 26th of May to the House of Lords by the Archbishop of Dublin. It appears that it was signed by sixty persons, of whom thirty were laymen. Now, as the laity are not concerned
in the matter of subscription at all, and in the Liturgy no further than in hearing it read, we cannot conceive what reason they have to interfere in the business. If it be said that they are offended with expressions or sentiments in the latter, we reply, that they could not attend any dissenting meeting-house without hearing something to offend them in the extempore prayer of the minister. If, moreover, these thirty laymen were permitted to make alterations to suit their own taste, the very changes might be offensive to others among the laity, to say nothing whatever of the clergy.
The petitioners pray to be relieved in the matter of subscription, and they ask for certain alterations in the Liturgy. The Archbishop of Dublin told the petitioners that he had one strong objection to their course, namely, that Parliament could not interfere in such matters, but only with the temporal affairs of the Church. It was also admitted by the Most Reverend Prelate, that it was a very anomalous state of things for the Church to be without a legislative government. Such, however, is the case. She has an executive government in her Bishops and her Ecclesiastical Courts: but, since the Convocation ceased to act above a century ago, she has not had a legislative government.
It was asserted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and by the Bishops of London and Lincoln, that any proposal to alter the Liturgy or relinquish the subscription to the Articles, would be deprecated by the great body of the clergy. We can testify that all our own clerical friends concur in that sentiment. The Bishop of Lincoln admitted, that when any considerable body of the clergy united to demand alterations, the Convocation, in his opinion, should be assembled for the purpose of duly considering the subject, since to that body all such matters must be submitted. In the petition there was a request that the Lords would make the letter of the Prayer Book and Subscription to the Articles more consistent with the practice of the clergy, and the acknowledged meaning of the Church. This would be most assuredly an inversion of the natural order of things; and, therefore, the Archbishop of Canterbury most pertinently remarked, that it was an imputation on the clergy, and that if it were a bill instead of a petition, he would move an amendment, praying their Lordships to make the practice of the clergy more consistent with the Prayer Book and the Thirty-nine Articles.
On the presentation of the petition, on the 26th of May, a most extraordinary course was pursued by one member of the Episcopal Bench. We allude to the Bishop of Norwich, who
broached sentiments in unison with those of the petitioners. But it is consolatory to know, that few, if any, of his Episcopal brethren concur with his Lordship in the opinion which he thus expressed. We cannot refrain from quoting the closing portion of the well-merited castigation inflicted on his Lordship by the Bishop of London:
"If the Articles were not scriptural, if they were calculated to do more mischief than good, let them be abandoned: but do not interfere with the terms of subscription: do not, for the sake of the tender consciences and nice scruples of some, adopt a mode of subscription which would leave the door open to the most unscrupulous. He confessed he did not see anything of the hardship that was complained of in this matter. Prior to ordination, was not every man so conversant with what he was required to do, that when he came to it, he ought to do so with a clear conscience or not do it at ali? That he thought was a complete answer to the application for an expansion of the terms of subscription. As he had already stated, he believed that the great body of the Church was indisposed to any alteration of the formularies of the Church. If an alteration were to be made for one tender conscience, an alteration ought to be made for another tender conscience. Where, then, was the system of perpetual change to be stayed? If their Lordships were to set out upon the principle of satisfying all, they would soon have no peculiarity of doctrine, no Articles, no Liturgy, but would reduce the Church to a mere caput mortuum, neither satisfying the consciences of men here, nor offering a sound foundation on which to base their hopes of hereafter. Therefore he strongly deprecated their Lordships' tampering in any degree with matters of this kind. At the same time he was fully prepared to admit, that it was extremely desirable that there should be some deliberative, if not legislative assembly in the Church, by whom such questions as the present might be determined."
Our readers are aware that similar attempts have been made on previous occasions. In the year 1750 was published a work bearing the following title: "Free and Candid Disquisitions relating to the Church;" in which every part of the Liturgy is canvassed. Certain changes are proposed; which, had they been adopted, would have opened the door to any Arian or Socinian in the world. At that time, as at present, the cavillers and objectors were few in number, and the matter fell to the ground. The subject was afterwards revived by Archdeacon Blackburne, a man who, though he partook of the bread of the Church, spent his life in endeavouring to undermine her foundation. The "Confessional" is a well-known work. Blackburne was its author, as is known to all those who are conversant with the subject. The Archdeacon tells us, that the question of a Review of the Liturgy was discussed, not only in pamphlets, but in private parties, "when cards were not in the way." In
one of those parties the author of the "Confessional" introduced the subject of Subscription to the Articles. One of the party expressed a wish to see the case stated upon paper. The result was the publication of that work. It appears that an Association was formed, called "The Feathers' Tavern Association," for the purpose of obtaining relief from Subscription to the Thirty-nine Articles. In 1772 a petition was presented to Parliament in favour of the object; but it was rejected by a large majority. Every attempt hitherto made has been a signal failure; and we are convinced that, at the present moment, the feeling among the clergy against any alteration in the Liturgy, or any relaxation of the terms of subscription, is stronger than at any previous period of our history.
The petitioners must have an extraordinary notion of Church matters in general. Neither the House of Lords nor the House of Commons, nor both conjointly, could effect any alteration in the Liturgy. It is not their province. The Convocation is the only assembly in which such things can be discussed. If it were decided that the Liturgy should be revised, the regular course would be the appointment of a Commission by the Crown to deliberate on the changes proposed to be effected. The proceedings of the Commission would then be submitted to the Convocation, where each point would be discussed with the greatest attention. Should any changes be made by that assembly, the Crown would add its sanction, and then the alteration would be binding on the Church.
With regard to the Articles, it is said by latitudinarian churchmen, why should subscription be imposed? Why should it not be sufficient to declare a belief in the sacred volume? This objection is grounded on the fact, that men differ in opinion on certain doctrines stated in the Thirty-nine Articles. It may, however, be observed, in reply to this objection, that the same argument, if argument it may be called, would apply with equal force to the Bible itself: for men differ respecting that sacred book. Nay, all parties, diametrically opposed as they may be to one another, profess to derive their doctrines from the Bible; so that the argument respecting differences of opinion will apply to the Word of God as well as to the Thirtynine Articles. The consequence is obvious, namely, that on such a principle the Bible itself must be disallowed, and all men must be left at liberty to follow their own inclinations.
It seems that certain Dissenting journals have taken up the late petition. The writers in those journals exult in the superiority of the Dissenting system over that of the Anglican Church. They assert that there is no subscription among
Dissenters. Now we ask, in the first place, what, in the name of common-sense, have Dissenters to do with the question? Would they, if subscription were abolished, and the Liturgy were altered, join the communion of the Anglican Church? Are they so dissatisfied with their own system as to wish, when an opportunity offers, to relinquish it for another? They are left in the enjoyment of their own liberty. It is secured to them by the Act of Toleration; nor does any one wish to deprive them of it. We entertain no hostile feeling towards them and why should they not suffer us to be at peace without any interference on their part? They are not called upon to subscribe; nor are they compelled to come to our churches. They may erect as many meeting-houses as they please, and preach or believe what doctrines they like. As far as regards the interference of churchmen, every Dissenter may do what is right in his own eyes. They have, therefore, no concern in the matter at all. But when they boast of being freed from subscription, they boast of liberty which they do not enjoy. It is true they are not compelled, by the laws of the land, to subscribe to any Confession of Faith; but is it not a fact that they impose a subscription on themselves? In the Church of England the clergy alone are concerned in the matter of subscription, the laity being freed from anything of the kind; but all who wish to become members of Dissenting bodies are obliged to subscribe to certain doctrines or be refused admission. Every one must state his opinions, and those opinions must be exactly in accordance with the views of the body, or he is rejected. This is subscription with a vengeance. It is a much greater infringement on Christian liberty than subscription to articles. When, therefore, Dissenters boast of their freedom, the boast is vain; for they are in trammels to a system, in comparison of which the Church of England is perfect liberty. Many, indeed, who write as Dissenters, belong to no body of professing Christians; and being satisfied with dissenting from the Established Church, have yet their religion to choose. The Infidel, for instance, is a Dissenter, and such Dissenters may boast of their freedom; but the members of regular dissenting bodies are tied and bound with chains much heavier than any which the Church of England imposes upon her clergy.
We may remark, however, that the Dissenters have suffered materially from the want of a written Confession of Faith, which should continue the same at all times. Their mode is exceedingly rigid, for no one is received into any dissenting party, unless he believes with the party; but having no written Confession, it is always in the power of the majority to adopt new