Слике страница
PDF
ePub

became dominant in the State under the Protector Somerset, and which formed the nucleus of the Puritan school on the return of the Marian exiles, was Zuinglo-Calvinist, and not Lutheran. The broadest and simplest proof of this historical fact lies in the important collection of documents published by the Parker Society, under the title of the Zürich Letters. That Zürich was the centre of Zuinglian teaching, as Geneva of Calvinist, and Wittenberg of Lutheran theology, is familiar to all; and that Zürich, then at open war with Wittenberg, should have been a sort of Mecca to the Edwardine and Marian Reformers, establishes at once their lack of sympathy with Lutheranism. Under Elizabeth, the influence of the Scottish Reformers and various other causes induced a development of the Calvinist element, and by the accession of James I. it had contrived to obtain the practical control of the Church of England, albeit it had not even then succeeded in its desired revision of her formularies. The letters of Bullinger, Traheron, and that of Edward VI. himself (doubtless composed for him by Cranmer), on Oct. 20, 1549, of Lady Jane Seymour, his cousin, and others in the Zürich Collection, make the consensus between the Reformers in England and in Zürich, by 1550 at any rate, unquestionable ; and it is needless to do more than name Archbishops Whitgift, Grindal, Abbot, and Sandys, Bishops Bullingham, Aylmer, Parkhurst, Horne, and Pilkington, in proof of the influence of Calvinism in high places under Elizabeth and her successor. But one practical conclusion from these facts is, that as the foreign Zuinglians and Calvinists were not usually styled Protestants, and were even at war with the real Protestants of Germany, this title could not have been consistently adopted, and as a fact, was not adopted, by the Church of England at that time. One brief citation from Luther himself will set in a clearer light than any long digression his opinion of Zuinglianism : Blessed is the man that hath not stood in the council of the Sacramentarians, and hath not walked in the ways of the Zuinglians, nor sat in the seat of them at Zürich. There is thus an historical dilemma of this kind before us: If the Church of England was a Protestant Church under the Tudors, it must then, ex vi termini, have rejected Calvinism and Zuinglianism; and as it has never, since the accession of the Stuarts, altered its formularies in favour of those opinions, it must be held to reject them still; and thus the Reviewer's argument, so far as it covers those forms of religious belief, falls to the ground. If, contrariwise, the indisputable fact be maintained that Zuinglianism and

Calvinism were powerful factors in the English Church of the sixteenth century, then it had no right to the title Protestant, which at that time excluded those factors, and it has not acquired any subsequent right to assume it in virtue of nearer relations with Lutheranism.

“But,' an irate disputant may remark, “this is all mere cobweb-spinning, and quibbling about a word, when there is. no doubt at all about the thing signified. By “Protestant” is meant all that body of Christian opinion which rejects the authority of the Papal Church, and refuses to accept Roman accretions on the purity of the Gospel ; and no intelligent and honest man can deny that such is the avowed attitude of the Church of England. Very good : we have no objection to argue out the matter on that footing. But a few preliminary questions need to be put to our challenger :- 1. Where is the authority for such a definition of Protestantism, and what evidence can you adduce for its authenticity and exactness ? 2. How are you justified in extending it so as to take in those whom its original owners, the signataries of the Confession of Augsburg, deliberately excluded ? 3. How are you justified, contrariwise, in narrowing it so as to exclude those non-Christians in Germany, Holland, England, and America, who claim it as their title? 4. What do you make of the fact that, if your definition be accepted, it actually covers the whole Greek Church, which has repudiated the Papal claims for a thousand years, which rejects several Roman doctrines, such as those on Purgatory, Indulgences, image-worship, the Immaculate Conception, &c. as corruptions of the Gospel, but which, nevertheless, maintains every one of the specific tenets and practices which the Puritan school desires to make untenable within the Church of England ? • For ourselves, we have no theoretical difficulty in accepting

out of deference to common parlance—the word 'Protestant' when narrowed to the one meaning of non-Papal, though we must, in limine, say that with the world of designations to choose from, this particular one is not very happily chosen for the expression of the idea : especially when we consider that popular use employs it with equal inappropriateness to signify the negations of Agnosticism, and the system of the Swedish Christian, with Episcopacy for his platform, vestments and mass' for his worship, and Consubstantiation for his doctrine. But the practical difficulty about accepting it as an epithet of the Church of England is that those who so apply it mean very often to cover surreptitiously a great deal more ground than the one historical fact of our continuous ‘protest " against Roman error involves; and even when no such secret design exists, the very indefiniteness of the word, and the exceedingly bad company it has been keeping for a couple of centuries, make its adoption highly inexpedient, to say the very least ; because not only would it be possible to introduce any amount of Rationalism into the Church of England under its shelter, but, as a practical fact, the attempt has been made to do so, and on precisely this very plea, several times within the last twenty years, as any one who pleases may ascertain by examining the documents connected with the Colenso, Essays and Reviews, and Voysey cases, while a more insidious effort has been made in the same direction by the abortive Occasional Sermons Bill, introduced with the view of throwing open Anglican pulpits to Nonconformists, free from the restraints of the ecclesiastical laws, and thus able to contradict and deprave with absolute impunity every formulary of the Church of England within her own congregation.

Hence, too, it is that men of keen intellect and robust faith are chary of committing themselves to so elastic and slippery a term. And it may be well to cite in illustration the words of one of the ablest and most philosophical thinkers of whom English literature can boast, and who, both as a layman and as one whose career was ended long before the outbreak of recent controversies, is free from the suspicion of modern theological partisanship :

Our predecessors in legislation were not so irrational (not to say impious) as to form an operose ecclesiastical establishment, and even to render the State in some degree subservient to it, when their religion (if such it inight be called) was nothing but a inere negation of some other, without any positive idea either of doctrine, discipline, "worship or morals, in the scheme which they professed themselves, and which they imposed upon others, even under penalties and incapacities. ... So little idea had they at the Revolution of establishing Protestantism indefinitely, that they did not indefinitely tolerate it under that name. If mere dissent from the Church of Rome be a merit, he that dissents the most perfectly is the most meritorious, for many points we hold strongly with that Church. He that dissents throughout with that Church will dissent from the Church of England, and then it will be a part of his merit that he dissents with ourselves ; a whimsical piece of merit for any set of men to establish. . . . A man is certainly the most perfect Protestant who protests against the whole Christian religion. Whether a person's having no Christian religion be a title to favour, in exclusion to the largest description of Christians who hold all the doctrines of Christianity, though holding along with them some errors and some superfluities, is rather more than any man, who has not become recreant and apostate from his baptism, will, I believe, choose to affirm. The countenance given from a spirit of controversy to that negative religion may, by degrees, encourage light and unthinking people to a total indifference to everything positive in matters of doctrine ; and in the end, of practice too. If continued, it would play the game of that sort of active, proselytising, and persecuting atheism, which is the disgrace and calamity of our time.' . These weighty sentences, applicable word for word in the present day, are part of a letter written from Beaconsfield, on January 3, 1792, to Sir Hercules Langrishe, by Edmund Burke.

Another shrewd thinker of a much more recent date—and he one whose reputation partly depends on his political and literary opposition to Romanism—has delivered himself as follows :

“It is not with anything like a wish to carp at words that I avow my ignorance of what is meant by the phrase “ the Protestant Faith.” “ Protestant” and “Faith” are terms which do not seem to me to accord together; the object of "Faith" is Divine Truth; the object of “Protestant” is human error. How, therefore, can one be an attribute of the other?

So wrote a divine who was at one time in honour with the Quarterly Review—Henry Phillpotts, Bishop of Exeter, in his Pastoral Letter of 1851, p. 65.

We need not pursue this branch of the subject any further at present, but will approach the consideration of the evidence tendered in proof of the Reviewer's thesis. We will not follow the same order, because our object is to remove misapprehensions, whereas his course has been to create or revive prejudice and alarm, and the curiously involved order of his various pleas has the effect of confusing untrained readers.

First, then, let us take the foreign policy of Elizabeth and her Ministers, acquiesced in more or less by all her successors, with the single exception of James II., down to the present day ; according to which the weight of English influence has been consistently thrown into the Protestant scale in all those European international disputes which had religious controversy as their avowed or secret origin. The fact is so, in the main, but it has absolutely no bearing on the question in hand, which concerns the Church and ecclesiastical polity of England, not the State with its civil and military policy. What is wanted is some proof that formal intercommunion, as distinguished from informal tokens of good will, existed between the Anglican Church and the various Reformed

bodies on the Continent; what is actually tendered is proof of the military support given by Elizabeth, on political grounds, to the insurgents against England's then most formidable enemy, the King of Spain. It was clearly her interest to give him so much to do in his own dominions as would weaken his power for aggression here; and, indeed, the Reviewer's reference to the Armąda is a little unhappy, because it reminds all students of history that the Lord High Admiral who commanded the victorious English fleet was Charles Lord Howard of Effingham, a Roman Catholic peer, who, like his co-religionists then in this country, had no mind to accept a foreign despot as his master on any ground of similarity of creed. We have a modern illustration at hand which serves to expose the hollowness of such an argument. Russia has occupied for some thirty years past, in the minds of a powerful section of English publicists and writers, the same position as Spain did three centuries ago, and it has been thought necessary to cripple her power of menacing either the Mediterranean or the Indian interests of England. This feeling led to our offensive and defensive alliance with Turkey five-and-twenty years ago, and has seemed likely to bring on another at any moment for a twelvemonth past. In the Crimean war, England posed as the helper of a Mohammedan Power against a Christian one, and with the undoubted effect of keeping various other Christian populations, eager for liberty, under the Mohammedan yoke. At that date, too, a leading Evangelical nobleman, speaking for his party, lauded the Sultan as a truer friend to the Gospel than the Czar, and gave the impression, by his language, that Islam was, in his mind, superior as a religion to Oriental Christianity. Within the last few months, one of the arguments adduced by the war-zealots in this country, and notably by the Pall Mall Gazette, as a reason for siding against Russia, was that if Turkey should be crushed in the struggle, then the toleration accorded (for the purpose of sowing division) by the Porte to the Protestant missionaries who proselytise from native Christianity, but scarcely even pretend to meddle with the Mohammedans, might in all probability be withdrawn by Russia, which would give a monopoly to the Church of Constantinople ; and that on this ground no effort should be spared to keep Islam in the ascendent. What is more, no reasonable doubt exists that a large measure of the exagge. rated sympathy expressed for Turkey by certain journals was and is due to the fact that she is an anti-Christian Power, and that Russia, whatever the quality of her religion may be,

« ПретходнаНастави »