opinions so that they have no security against change. The chapels built by the old Non-conformists are, in consequence of the absence of a written Confession, all gone over to Socinianism, the congregations having, in process of time, entirely changed their views on the essential doctrines of the Gospel. And in the congregations now in existence a change is continually going on. To day a particular congregation may be Baptists--to morrow, Independents; and, in a short space, Socinians. This evil is inherent in the very system; it is one against which they have no means of guarding, except by the adoption of a written Confession, or, in other words, Articles of Faith, which they profess to reprobate. One exception must be made with regard to the sect called "Lady Huntingdon's Connexion," who have fifteen doctrinal articles drawn up by that lady, and which all the ministers of that body have to sign.

In proof of our position we appeal to the history of Dissenters, and to the history of the Churches of England and Scotland. Let almost any one of the older chapels of the Dissenters be selected, and its history will be a mere detail of changes of views-one preacher proclaiming one thing, and another the opposite; the congregation at one period professing to adopt opinions which were repudiated, within a short space, by their successors in the same edifice. Nor can it be otherwise with Dissent, since it is based on a principle which must issue in constant change. But, on the other hand, let us turn to the Church and the Kirk. The former has Articles of Faith and a prescribed Liturgy; the latter, though her Liturgy is no longer in use, has a Confession of Faith, to which every minister must subscribe. And what is the consequence? We find that the faith of both is just what it was at the Reformation all the great doctrines are retained in their purity. We cannot conceive that any argument can be adduced more conclusive.

During the reigns of Charles II. and James II., the Nonconformists generally retained the doctrines which they held at the period of the Restoration. In the next reign the Act of Toleration was passed, by which the Dissenters were enabled to worship after their own system; but it was provided, that all their ministers should subscribe to the doctrinal Articles of the Anglican Church. At that time the ministers willingly submitted to this test. They believed the doctrines of the Articles, and had no scruples relative to subscription for their objections had existed only against those articles which related to Church discipline, rites, and ceremonies. As long as that race of ministers survived, no complaints were uttered on the

hardship of subscription. At length, however, other men arose, who were not content to walk in the steps of their predecessors. They began to clamour against the subscription; it was a yoke to which they could not submit; it was an infringement of Christian liberty. Such were the clamours which were constantly raised by numbers of the dissenting body. After some years, therefore, the subscription was relinquished. Now, let the consequences be particularly marked: from that time many of the ministers went over to Socinianism. The check was removed, and Socinianism entered in: so that orthodox Dissent received its greatest blow, in the rejection of the subscription to the doctrinal Articles of the Anglican Church.

One most prominent objection to the Liturgy is the insertion of the Athanasian Creed. How, say the objectors, can we assent to the damnatory clauses? We again appeal to the Bible. We reply that, on this ground, the Bible itself must be rejected; since the clauses alluded to are nothing more than certain passages of Holy Writ inserted in the Creed, and repeated by the minister and congregation. According to the line of argument adopted by such objectors, no man could subscribe to our Lord's words, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be damned." Is there a doctrine in the Creed which is not in the Bible? It is to the doctrines that the subscription relates: and when it said, that "whosoever will be saved must thus think of the Trinity"-it is the great doctrine itself, and not any particular expression in the Creed, which is intended. Of course a man who denies the Trinity cannot subscribe to the clauses in question, since by so doing he would pass a sentence of condemnation on himself; but, as all persons who belong to the Anglican Church must of necessity receive that doctrine, we cannot conceive how any such objection can be raised. Socinians and Arians are not called upon to subscribe, and therefore have no reason to complain of the retention of the Creed in our Service. We do not interfere with them in the rejection of the doctrine, nor can they justly complain of us in holding it. All such persons are excluded even from giving an opinion on the subject, because they are not in any way concerned. Who then are the parties aggrieved? They are certain members of our own Church; but, if those persons believe the doctrines of the Thirty-nine Articles, if they receive the Liturgy, they must also believe the doctrine of the Trinity; and, believing that doctrine, they cannot, with reason, complain of the Athanasian Creed, which merely asserts the doctrine in the language of sacred Scripture.


It is with feelings of disappointment that we find Mr. M'Neile unintentionally, as we believe, giving his support to the position that some changes are necessary in our Liturgy. He would not relinquish the subscription to the Thirty-nine Articles: nor would he make any material alterations in the Services. His suggestions merely go to the extent of leaving the use of certain clauses and expressions to the option of the officiating minister. We fear, however, that such a measure would be followed with the most dangerous results. In the first place, has he considered the insuperable difficulties which stand in the way? Such matters, as we have already stated, could only be settled in Convocation. Now, is it reasonable to suppose that the Convocation would be agreed respecting the passages to be enclosed within brackets? Would not one man propose one clause, and another another clause? Such must be the case as long as the minds of men differ. We would remind Mr. M'Neile, that the passages which he would select, would not be selected by others: while those which he would by no means place in brackets, would, by others, be selected for that purpose. Hence, it would not be possible to decide on the clauses and expressions to be bracketed: or, if the plan were acted on at all, it must be pursued to such an extent, that every passage in the Liturgy would be placed within the proposed marks. The plan would be, most impolitic, since it would open the door to continual changes; but it is altogether impracticable, for no two individuals would be found to agree respecting the clauses and expressions to be placed within the brackets.

But we object on another ground: it would be destructive of that uniformity which has ever prevailed in the Church. We should find the bracketed passages omitted in one Church, and read in another; or perhaps read by one man in the morning, and omitted by another man in the evening in the same Church. Is such a state of things desirable? We have gone on for centuries on our present plan, and why should we now be called upon to submit to such changes?

Other very serious objections may be urged against such a proposal. Let the case of a rector and a curate be supposed-a case which Mr. M'Neile must admit would often occur, if such a measure as he proposes were carried. The rector wishes to omit the bracketed passages; the curate cannot conscientiously do so. Who does not see that endless disputes would be the consequence? As the matter now stands, such disputes are out of the question; since all the clergy in reading the Services are bound by the rubrics. The clergy would also be subjected to inconveniences of another kind, and even to insults. Some

parishioner would be anxious to induce his minister to omit certain passages from the daily service; while others would recommend the omission of other parts. How could the clergyman act in such cases? To say that the clergy would enjoy more liberty than they now possess is absurd, for they would then be subject to the interference and remonstrances of every parishioner, who might think himself wiser than his neighbours. Every reflecting person, we are convinced, would prefer the present system to such a state of things as would necessarily result from the adoption of Mr. M'Neile's suggestions.

Our Articles and Liturgy are so many fences against the introduction of unsound doctrines, and the adoption of irregular and unseemly practices according to the caprices of men. Every judicious man feels thankful that, in conducting the services of our Church, he is not left to his own discretion, or to the dictation of the people.

In some churches and chapels it is customary to observe the festivals appointed by the Church. We hope that the practice will soon be universal. On some of these occasions the expedient of a sermon is resorted to for the purpose, as is alleged, of inducing the people to attend the service. Now, we would not utter a word against preaching—we know, indeed, that it is the grand instrument in the conversion of sinners from the error of their ways-but we are convinced that, in the present day, the sermon is deemed the main thing for which the people assemble in God's house. On saints' days, therefore, it appears to us to be very desirable that no sermon should be preached. The people should be exhorted to come to church for the purpose of worship, to pray and to offer up their praises to Almighty God. Were there no sermon it would be seen that the congregation assembled for the sake of the service; and any clergyman who has gained the affections of his people would easily succeed in convincing them that it was just as much their duty to come to church to join in the Liturgy as to hear a sermon; we say this advisedly, and without regarding the charge of popery. Were festival days observed, together with the prayers on Wednesdays and Fridays, the people would have opportunities of evincing their attachment to our admirable Liturgy.


A most important Bill has been laid on the table of the House of Lords by the Archbishop of Canterbury, which, if carried into a law, will remove those impediments by which clergymen from the Episcopal Churches of Scotland and

America are prevented from entering our pulpits. The state of the question is not generally understood; we shall, therefore, explain it to our readers.

In order to officiate in our churches, a clergyman must not only be Episcopally ordained, but he must be ordained by a Bishop of the Church of England. As the law at present stands, merely canonical orders are not sufficient to qualify an individual for performing Divine Service in our Church. The Church regards as canonical all ordinations performed by Canonical Bishops. The Bishops of the Episcopal Church in Scotland, and those of the Episcopal Church in the United States, are true Canonical Bishops; and the ordinations performed by them are also canonical, for they derived their orders from our own Church. But, yet, neither the Bishops, nor the clergy ordained by them, can perform any spiritual act in England in consequence of certain Acts of Parliament, which restrain the exercise of the Episcopal and clerical office to those who are consecrated and ordained by our own Prelates.

From the foregoing remarks, it will be seen that the exclusion of the Scottish and American Episcopal Clergy is not the act of the Church of England, but of the State of England. The Church recognizes all who are canonically ordained, and in that light she views the ministers alluded to: but the State interposes, and requires, in order to the exercise of the ministry in England, that they should be legally ordained—that is, ordained by the English Bishops in this country or the British Colonies. By the canons of the Church, therefore, the clergy in question might officiate in England: but by the laws of the land they are restrained.

This is a very anomalous state of things; and the Bill of the Archbishop is intended to remedy the evil. It will merely require proof of their canonical ordinations, and certain testimonials as to character; and our own Bishops will be authorized to admit them to perform Divine Service in our churches.

It is singular that the evil should not have been rectified long since. No reason, whatever, existed for continuing the restrictions. In future, therefore, whenever a distinguished American clergyman visits this country, the Bishop of London will be able to permit him to preach in our Metropolitan Churches, as a canonically ordained minister: and other Bishops will be at liberty to pursue the same course in their respective dioceses. We, therefore, concur most cordially in the measure proposed by the Archbishop; and we rejoice in the prospect of seeing this singular anomaly removed. Bishop Chase, Bishop Hobart, and several other American Bishops have been in England;

« VorigeDoorgaan »