« ÎnapoiContinuă »
but still proceeding at every step upon a plan of instructing his hearers on every branch of evangelical truth. Such a preacher will rarely be at a loss for either subjects or texts.
Catholic Unity. By Henry M. Mason, D. D. 1841. pp. 26.
Philadelphia: J. Dobson.
"Our own church," says Dr. Mason, that is, the Protestant Episcopal Church, in the United States, "with that of England, and the numerous churches in the East, including the Russian, are not in a state of heresy, because fully recognising the catholic creed; and not in a state of schism, because besides being under the sacerdotal institution of our Lord, they have not formally and officially refused each other's communion though they have made additional municipal articles of faith of their own. The Bishop of Rome with his adherents are not heretical, for the same reason, nor fundamentally schismatical, because possessed of the same sacerdotal institution; but are yet schismatical in the sense of refusing communion with other churches possessed of the elements of truth and order. Of the promiscuous mass of Christians called Protestants, some are heretical and some are not so, according as they do or do not embrace the Catholic creed; but all are fundamentally schismatical when defective in that order of the gospel established by our Lord as the foundation of his church's unity. Whether the Church of Rome proper and its dependencies, have for ever barred the way to reducing the dogmas of the particular council of Trent, to the rank of municipal laws, or whether those dogmas be susceptible of a less obnoxious and culpable interpretation than is found in practice, I will not undertake to determine. If the answer to these inquiries be unfavourable, then are the hopes of re-union among Christian churches, as remote from fulfilment, as they were three hundred years ago. To a consummation so devoutly to be wished as that union, let me be allowed to say that I consider the jealousy of power on the part of the Bishop of Rome, in other words the papal supremacy, as the chief, if not the only obstacle."
We should think this point might easily be accommodated. The papal supremacy is now a very different thing from what it was a few centuries ago. It is even now one thing in Italy, another in France, another in the Catholic States of Prussia, still another in England, where the Oxford Tractarians are willing to allow a primacy, a supremacy in honour, a visible headship, to the Pope. If this is all that prevents union with Rome, we think Dr. Mason's aspirations may casily and speedily be gratified. If the denial of the doctrine of justification as held by the Church of England, the invocation of saints, the worship of relics, the doctrine of transubstantiation, the adoration of the host, the worship of images; if the sacrifice of the mass, indulgences, &c. &c. form no barrier to this union, surely the primacy of the Pope cannot long prevent it. When this event happens, we hope there may be an expurgated edition of the Homilies.
There is, says Dr. Mason, a unity of order and a unity of truth.
unity is a visible quality. The necessity of spiritual union with Christ, by the implantation of the life of God in the soul, rendering its subject a member of the communion of saints, is indeed a truth, which he, among us that doth not recognise, hath denied the faith and is worse than an infidel. But the divinely constituted body, which is compared to a field where mingle the tares and the wheat, &c. . . . must be of an outward aud visible character, and defined by marks which are cognizable by human beings." Thus far we agree; but the writer goes on to say, that "The unity of the church, thus catholic, thus universal is identified with its government." The proof of this is the assertion, "The Christian church is a society, and therefore to its very being is required a government. To be united to the society, is to be united to the government." But where does Dr. Mason learn that precisely the same form of government is essential to the very being of a church? He denies that Presbyterians are any part of the Catholic church, that they are in covenant with God, that they can be saved, unless their reasons for rejecting prelacy, be such as excuse sin. He admits that we have the unity of truth; but because we have a different form of government, we are in the dreadful state above described. Yet he allows the Romish and the numerous Eastern churches to be members of the church catholic. To any candid man, however, we think we could demonstrate that the Episcopal church in this country differs more in matters of government even from the Church of England, to say nothing of that of Rome, than it does from the Presbyterian church. There the church is a great corporation of which the Queen is the head with paramount authority in causes civil and ecclesiastical, with archbishops, and bishops, deans, chapters, archdeacons, commissaries, ecclesiastical courts in which laymen administer justice according to the canon law. What have the Episcopalians of this country to correspond to all this array? or what have they to answer to the Pope, cardinals, and endless gradations of the Roman hierarchy? How are are they united in government with those churches, any more than they are with us? Will it be said that in the midst of this diversity, there is still an adherence to the three orders bishops, presbyters, and deacons? Well, have not we those orders? Are there not in every presbyterian church, a bishop, presbyters, and deacons ? They allow their deacons indeed, to preach, by special license, but not to administer the Lord's supper. We, adhering to the Apostolic model, restrict them to serving tables. They allow presbyters to preach and administer the sacraments, but not to ordain and govern. We restrict them from administering the sacraments, but allow them to give religious instruction, by catechising, exhorting, &c. and to take part in the government of the church. They recognise in the bishop the right to preach, to ordain, to administer the sacraments, and to govern; so do Where then is the difference, as to this point, which is the main one? Why with us, a diocese is small, while with them it is large. They admit that in the apostolic age, each city had its bishop: and nothing is plainer than that for the first two or three centuries, the bishops were, in the grea
majority of cases, pastors of single congregations: how else could there be three or four hundred bishops in a single province of Africa? It seems then that we are pronounced "fundamentally schismatical," cast out of the covenant of God, cut off from all but the bare possibility of salvation, merely because our dioceses, though generally larger than they were in the apostolic age, are not so large as those of some modern bishops.
Dr. Mason says his tract contains "the condensed results of the study of many years, and no little reflection upon that course of study," and that he holds the principles therein set forth, "to be unassailably true." His principles as to prelatical authority and power may be inferred from the following extract: "Our Lord selects a chosen few. He breathes upon them. His language designates what gift of the Holy Spirit that sign was meant to impart. The sacerdotal power is conferred. It is conferred on the eleven in all its plenitude. All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. As my Father hath sent me even so send I you. What Christ was in his own house, such now are they. The authority which he possessed in his human nature he transfers to them. Was then, this power to terminate with the lives of those who received it? Not surely, if the church, as a society, was to continue, if government be necessary to that continuance, and governors be necessary to government. And as if to fortify this dictate of reason, Lo, saith he, I am with you always even to the end of the world. These men then, and these men only, were to have successors in all the plenitude of power given them, even to the end of the world." If any Romanist ever set forth a higher claim to priestly power, we are ignorant of the fact. All the power possessed by Christ, in his human nature, (what that means we confess we do not understand,) in the church, has been transferred to the apostles and their successors! And on what is this stupendous claim founded? Why Christ had all power in heaven and upon earth committed to him, and he commissioned his apostles to preach the gospel and make disciples among all nations. But where is the evidence that he transferred to them the plenitude of his power? No such evidence appears. The claim is a gratuitous assumption; and if gratuitous, how awful!
The power actually possessed by the apostles, was certain, not so much from their commission, as from the record of what they claimed and exercised. We find that they claimed to be the infallible teachers of religious truth; to have authority to remit sins; to communicate the Holy Spirit; to work miracles; to ordain ministers; to administer the sacraments, and to govern the church. All this plenitude of power, according to Dr. Mason, (and how much more he supposes to be included in their being "what Christ was," we cannot tell,) belongs to their successors to the end of the world. But where is the evidence? Are bishops infallible teachers of religious truth? If so, it must be in their individual, not in their collective capacity; for the apostles were severally and individually, and not merely collectively, inspired. Where is the evidence of the inspiration of modern bishops? Again, have modern
bishops authority to forgive sins? This is claimed; upon what warrant, it becomes those who make the claim, and those who recognise it, to be prepared to answer, when they shall stand at the judgment seat of Christ. Can bishops work miracles? This is not asserted. But why not? This how. ever was included in the plenitude of power possessed by Christ, and transferred to the apostles; if bishops have what is here claimed for them, they cannot be without the gift of miracles. We know no reason why this item is set aside, than that the claim can be put to a test which at once refutes it. When a man says he has authority to forgive sin, you may deny it; and even show from scripture that the claim is without foundation, but you cannot put him at once to the test. But when he claims the power of miracles, all we have to do, is to call for the exercise of the power.
Again, have bishops power to give the Holy Spirit? This too, dreadful as it is, is asserted. But where is the evidence? The only sense in which the apostles either claimed or exercised this power, was in conferring the extraordinary or miraculous gifts of the Spirit. Can bishops do this? confessedly not. In what sense then do they possess the power in question? If they have it not in the only sense in which the apostles had it, whence did they get, and where is the evidence of the possession? According to the scriptures, the only way in which the presence of the Spirit is manifested, is by his graces, or by his miraculous powers. Where neither of these effects is, there He is not. Does then the imposition of the bishop's hands comunicate holi. ness? Is this confirmed by the experience of Romish, Grecian, Eastern, English, or American bishops? Is not all experience, all evidence of fact against this dreadful claim? Yet it is still made, because it serves to exalt the priesthood, and because it is covered with the veil of secresy.
That the other powers of the apostles, viz. those of preaching the gospel, administering the sacraments, of ordaining ministers, and of governing the church, were transmitted to their successors, we admit. And the evidence is, that these powers were of perpetual necessity in the church, and that in point of fact the officers appointed by the apostles, did, as we learn from the New Testament, exercise these powers. We find the record of their investiture with these prerogatives and the history of the exercise of them in the sacred writings. Now are we to be unchurched, cut off from the covenant of God, and from the promise of salvation, while we hold, as we are admitted to hold, the unity of truth, and while we hold the unity of order too, in having succes sors of the apostles in all those prerogatives of their office, which were in point of fact transmitted? And is there no sin in this?
Dr. Mason says in his Preface, "I would deprecate the suspicion of a want of Christian charity from any thing that may appear on the following pages. If heresy and schism are sins, it is necessary to speak of them as sins, and meritorious of the displeasure of God." That is true; but to denounce as heresy or schism, that which, in the sight of God, is neither the one nor the other, is surely a very grave offence. The Romanist denounces as a heretic
every man who does not admit the mass to be a sacrifice efficacious for the living and the dead; he pronounces all schismatics who do not acknowledge the supremacy of the Pope. Is not this sinful? The religious character of a man is indicated by nothing more certainly, than by the nature of the things which he regards as of vital importance. If on the one hand, his views and feelings are so far conformed to the Bible, that he not only receives as true, but regards as of primary value, what in the Bible is exhibited as such, then is his religious character right; there is a harmony between him and the blessed Spirit that speaks in the word of God. But if, on the other hand, he undervalues what the Bible makes of primary importance, and lays great stress on what is either not taught at all, or represented as of secondary importance, then is his spirit opposed to that of the Bible.
History of the Great Reformation of the Sixteenth Century in Germany, Switzerland, &c. By J. H. Merle D'Aubigné, President of the Theological School of Geneva. Vol. III. First American, from the fifth London Edition. New York: Robert Carter, 58 Canal Street. 1842.
The character of this work is so established and so generally known, as to render commendation from us, or from any other source, unnecessary. The present volume will be found to possess peculiar interest, from the additional light which it throws upon the Reformation in France. The German ground had been wrought almost to exhaustion, before our author entered the field; but in France he has found a soil much less tilled. By consulting the MSS of the Royal Library at Paris, and other depositories in various places, M. Merle D'Aubigné has been enabled to present the early periods of the French Reformation, in a new light.
Treatises upon the Life, Walk, and Triumph of Faith. By the Rev. W. Romaine, A. M. New York: Robert Carter. 1842.
We read these Treatises early in life, and the savour of them still rests upon our mind. We therefore rejoice to see their republication, believing them peculiarly adapted to promote the influence of genuine religion.
An Essay on Feast Days and Fast Days in the Christian Church, containing a Review of Bishop Doane's Pamphlet. By a Presbyterian. Burlington: 1842. pp. 32.
This is an effectual exposure of the unauthorized character and evil tendency of the multitude of feasts and fasts with which the calendar of many churches has been filled. The multiplication of days regarded as sacred by human appointment, is clearly shown to tend to the disregard of that one day which God has commanded his people to keep holy.
The Great Awakening. A History of the Revival of Religion in the time of Edwards and Whitefield. By Joseph Trocy. Boston: Tappan & Dennet. New York Dayton & Newman. Philadelphia: Henry Perkins. 1842. pp. 433.
There is no period in the history of the American churches, so full of inte