« AnteriorContinuar »
REVIEW OF NEW PUBLICATIONS.
ART. I.-The Religious Necessity of the Reformation asserted, and the Extent to which it was carried in the Church of England vindicated, in Eight Sermons, preached before the University of Oxford, in the year 1828, at the Lecture founded by the late Rev. JOHN BAMPTON, M. A. Canon of Salisbury. By THOMAS HORNE, B. D. Rector of St. Katharine Coleman, and formerly Student of Christ Church. Oxford, Parker; and London, Rivingtons. 1828. pp. xvi. 310. 8vo. Price 8s.
THERE can be no greater evil, abstractedly considered, nor a greater stigma, than that of heresy. Yet by heresies, that have called forth all the armoury of Christian defence, and put into play the opposing weight of refutation, religion has been proved secure, and firmly founded. The fiery trials which it has gone through would have consumed a baser fabric; but they have only satisfied us, that it is imperishable, and that it sprang from God, whose ways "are not as our ways, but are past finding out." Doubtless a time of peace is the fitting season for the growth of Christian graces: but that time has never yet come, in the full acceptation of the word. The Church is still a " Church militant." Never has it been free from enemies; very early did they assail it; and even in the days of the Apostles did they bring in "damnable heresies:" and afterwards their stratagems were still more diligently employed in fabricating errors, of which history retains little more than their names. Judaizing teachers and unlearned Gentiles; the victims of enthusiasm; and the worshippers of worldly notoriety, alternately attacked the growing greatness of the infant Church; affording to believers warnings for example, and trials of their constancy. Nor is it likely they will ever cease to distract or to annoy: for "offences must come," whilst the state of probation shall endure. But if Christianity be corrupted; if its fountain be tainted, and its "salt have lost its savour," then will its object be in danger of a failure, and its benefit be destroyed, unless some counteracting influence operate to re-instate it in its purity and power. When, therefore, true piety had well nigh departed, and heathenish super
stitions had taken the place of holiness; when bodily austerities usurped the dominion of spiritual influence; and when the word of God had given place to legends of human fabrication; "it is evident that a crisis had arrived, which required the exertion of an extraordinary force to burst the spell of delusion, and to renovate the faith, that it might not become utterly extinct, and the gates of hell finally prevail against the Church."
Such was the state of things under the power of the Roman pontiffs. A few good men, doubtless, there were; but what could they do in the darkness and confusion of such a moral and religious degradation? Yet they kindled the spark which after-ages fanned into a purifying and devouring flame-a flame which yet burns brightly, and which will not be finally extinct, till it has wrought its destiny. Such was the reformation of the western Churches, the benefits of which are rarely known, and seldom comprehended. Errors certainly there were in its founders and defenders, (for who is faultless?) and differences they had, which have remained as barriers of separation to those who otherwise agree and are united in one bond of union and fraternity. Still, in defending their common abjuration of absurdity, they are continually required to combat for the truth, and to refute the stigma with which papal wrath would brand them. Such is the position of our own established Church, which has asserted independence without compromise; neither retaining error, rejecting reasonable dogmas, nor embracing temporary novelties. Now it is of lasting importance to us to be persuaded of these things; to know whether we have been guilty of schism in departing from the errors, or are partakers of the corruptions in retaining the primitive discipline of the Romish Church. It is of consequence to know, that we did not separate from Rome, till religion was in jeopardy through her delusions; and that we possess none of her corruptions, in retaining the usages which she received before her fall from purity. To show this, and to prove that the Reformation was both necessary and imperative; and that it was conducted on sound principles; and that it ceased at a point, to which our disunited Protestant brethren will one day return, was the object of Mr. Horne in entering on the subjects discussed in the volume before us.
It has ever been the policy of Rome to keep the main question in obscurity; whether arising from want of honesty or from bigotry, the blame is equally deserved. The candid inquirer, however, only wishes to know which is the true Church? To blink this question, the Romanists accuse the Reformers of being men of fallible judgments and bad passions. Such has ever been one of the scandals and sufferings of the cross-this did their enemies to Christ and his apostles. But God's grace has been sufficient for all, notwithstanding human defects,
and human failings. That alone sustained them in the fiery triumphs of persecution. If they did occasionally betray the weakness of their nature, what then?-the blame for such weakness only recoils on the heads of the accusers. Had God not been with the Reformers, could their doctrines have stood the test? would their names and their works have remained in spite of it? But personal iniquity is no argument against divine truth. Who were more sinful than the powers of Rome in the days of Luther? Who was less religious, for "a defender of the faith," than our own reforming Henry VIII? That argument avails neither party and it would never be employed, if the Papists would keep silence on it-for it injures them, at any rate, more than ourselves. The separation from Rome rests not its defence there. If she had maintained God's word in its purity; if she had kept and preached the doctrines of Christ, unmixed with the traditions of men, we ought not to have dissented:-if, on the other hand, she had corrupted the truth of Scripture, it was sinful, knowingly to continue enlisted in her cause, and to fight under her banner. This is the whole strength, the whole scope of the inquiry.
What, if the Reformers were not free from infirmity? Their religion was not a new one: it required no miracles to support it, no divine agency beyond the usual help of grace-the usual blessings shed on zeal, sincerity, and firmness. Their Church was not a new one-it was the pristine Church purified from human defilement: and the proof of their qualifications is the result of their labours. We build not our faith on them, but on CHRIST: their motives make nothing for, or against it. They did their work like men, and died the deaths of martyrs. Rather let us bless God that he enabled them so to do, and so to die, than insult their memories by a doubt of their sincerity! Thus we dispose of one argument against the Reformation. Another remains the discrepancies between the local branches of the reformed Church.
They tell us that Protestants never agree; that Romanists never differ. What a weak objection! Let them have their unity!—it is their reproach, not their praise: for their unity is a uniformity of ignorance, a universal prostration of reason, not to the will of God, but to the will or wickedness or weakness of a self-elected" Lord over God's heritage"-a fallible infallibility-claiming Pope. Protestants may, perhaps, have abused the right of free judgment: but what man has not abused some one of God's gifts? Yet His purposes are not to be defeated by human perverseness; and for the abuse, as well as use, of all mercies men must give account. perfect wisdom. Such errors are not ficial. Ignorant were Papists before they still; ignorant ever will they be
Not yet are we in a state of dangerous: rather say, benethe Reformation; ignorant are their light is darkness; their
sun is constantly eclipsed; their heavens eternally veiled by a thunder cloud. Papists must believe in the Pope, or deny their Redeemer: there is no alternative. Wherefore the Reformation must have been useful: and is not our own Church a proof? The Romanists have not come against her openly: they know her security, and fear. It is true that they have brought many charges against her. It is true that they have raked up all the abuses they can find; have directed against us weapons borrowed from the inconsistencies of Arians, Socinians, and Unitarians;—have actually dared to brand us with the stamp of Manichæan heresy. This is but a mist thrown about us to shut us from the light, in order to make us yield to their abominable anathema. Yet damning us as they do, they are forced to acknowledge that we do not return evil for evil, and that we do not exercise that want of charity in reply, which their condemnation of us proves. Never let us follow such an example!
There is, however, another objection raised, which, if valid, would effectually destroy the practicability of any reform whatever. The Gospel teaches us to forsake all earthly benefits for the sake of truth; and that we cannot love Christ, if we do not. The Jews were blinded by secular prejudices; and so may we be: but neither worldly benefit, nor enthusiastic presumption, must sway us; human passions must not operate in spiritual things. To effect his object, Christ must lead, not follow. Party views are not a proper ground for quitting a communion necessity and principle ought to be the only authorities for such a step. If these did not sway us, then we have been guilty of heresy in leaving the Romish church. How stands the case then? The Papists themselves allow that abuses had crept in amongst them, and that Luther, though branded with obloquy, was so far justified. Even popes and councils allowed this at the time; and Paul III. called the Council of Trent, in order to reform abuses. But that council not only did not reform abuses, but actually prevented that reform, and strengthened the hands of the Pope. Yet do his adherents accuse the Reformers of ambition and disobedience, and diabolical agency. To refuse allegiance to the tiara they conceive the most heinous possible crime. No claim is proved: still they assume their church right-all who differ, wrong: and this is the true spirit of Romanism. We have the Scriptures, thank God! and can refute it. To shield themselves the Papists talk of their good men, St. Bernard, St. Francis, and the rest of the saints. Now where are the proofs of their reforming care?-In the foundation of new monastic orders, the revival of old ones, and the establishment of laws which cannot be obeyed without denying the authority of God and his Gospel. Moreover, they were the most strenuous advocates of papal supremacy. They could not thus reform the Church, even if they would. The
Jansenists have shown, that there can be no reform whilst Papacy remains its advocates know this, and avoid the conclusion by subtlety and quibbling.. There are, and have been, many learned men in her communion; but who of them ever allowed that the Church of Rome could possibly be in error? They must have renounced their religion, if they did, whilst obeying the Pope. It is heresy to suppose the Church wrong: so that superstition and indifference are the chief bulwarks of Popery. It says" believe in me, or be damned!" He who believes not in God's Vicar on earth, the Bishop of Rome, must be excommunicated on earth, and sink into perdition hereafter! The Reformers could not allow this, therefore they separated themselves. Rome might have conciliated, and would not: she rather loved persecution, and cast off her opponents for ever. Thus she was the cause of the Reformation. Let him who doubts compare papal profession and papal practice with Scripture; and then let him turn to the Reformers, and hear what they were made to endure. Rome never was very wise in political matters; therefore there must have been another cause besides jealousy; and fearing total ruin, she weakly disclaimed conceding a portion of her errors. It is well known how the ambassadors of Charles V. were treated at Trent: and how other atrocities were committed of equal arrogancy. We, therefore, conclude, from these and other reasons, that the REFORMATION WAS
The defenders of Rome state, as a bribe, that we do agree in many things, and therefore they would kindly receive us again if we would confess our errors! Does not this prove that we are NOT HERETICS? We do not charge them with falsifying, but with adding to, God's word superstitions, and absurdities, and blasphemies. In fact, Romanists have two laws-Scripture and TRADITION, the latter supreme: Protestants profess one only, the former. Where Rome agrees with Scripture, we agree with her; where she builds on tradition, we dissent, because she herself differs therein from Christ. We find our charges against her in her own theologians; and if we had not them to back us, we have her own iniquitous addition to the Apostles' Creed, which is alone sufficient to separate us for ever. If the Church of Rome had silently reformed her errors, men might have, justly, doubted our reasons: but, convicted by her own mouth, she is condemned, and we are acquitted.
"The authority of tradition," is the great barrier between us and the Romanists, as it was between the Jews and our Saviour: the object and the effects were the same then as now,—the weakening the force of Scripture, the perversion of the laws of the Almighty. When religion ventures beyond its proper limits, it becomes superstition; and, judged by this rule (and it is an appropriate one), the Church of