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spot apparently where a boat can land with safety, and perhaps not more than one where it can land at all; an everlasting swell of the ocean rolls in on every side, and breaks into foam against its rocky and iron bound shores.
O happy people! happy in your sequestered state! May no civilized barbarian lay waste your peaceful abodes; no hoary proficient in swinish sensuality rob you of that innocence and simplicity which it is peculiarly your present lot to enjoy!
that the cause lies deeper, and that the ambition of the pastor of the church at Rome would have done as little harm to the great body of Chris
Dr. Morell on Church Authority.
T is impossible that a thinking class,
read the history of the Christian Church without melancholy and disgust; for in almost every page he is compelled to remark how ill it has hitherto performed the promise of its commencement. The religion of Christ rose upon the world with an illumination, that proclaimed its author to be the fountain of light. Before it pagan superstition melted away; and the grosser vices that had grown rank in that foul atmosphere began to shrink and wither in the light of heaven. Those "gay religions full of pomp and gold," though in full alliance with the temporal authorities, were unable to maintain their ground against the force of truth. The arm of power was raised in vain on the side of the priests of idolatry: they and their gods were deserted by the people, who acknowledged in the simplicity of Christian faith and worship, a deep and moral interest, which the pageantry of pagan temples could not inspire. This was the proper triumph of Christianity; from such a rising, what divine splendors were not to be expected in the perfect day? But it was decreed by God, and foretold in his revelation, that this day, so glorious in promise, should soon be overcast. The prediction was, however, accomplished by natural means, and by human agency; and it concerns every Christian to trace the process and detect the principles of the degeneracy of the Church. Most Protestants agree in ascribing it to the inordinate ambition of the Bishop of Rome, and this is as far as it is generally safe, for them to push the inquiry; but it is easy to see,
obscure enthusiast, had he attempted spiritual conquest, armed only with spiritual authority. Whether his succession to the Apostle Peter were real, or pretended, he could never have persuaded the Christian world to bend beneath his supremacy, had he not found more efficient support in temporal authorities, than in his boasted apostolic succession. It was the coalition of civil, and ecclesiastical powers that first broke down the freedom of the Christian Church, and made it pass under the yoke,—that most degrading yoke, which bows down the soul itself in voluntary slavery. It is lawful, and may not be useless to imagine what might have been the history of Christianity, had its ministers never been admitted into civil alliance. Intolerant spirits would have existed, for positive and severe men will be bigots; but wanting the instrumentality of the secular arm, their intolerance would only have wasted the heart that cherished it. Errors would have sprung up; but as they could not have twined their parisitical fibres round the pillars of the state, they would not long have sustained themselves where the growth of truth was unchecked by power. Sophistry would have been combated by argument, assertion by fact, ignorance by knowledge, and error by truth; and he must think meanly of the power of truth, who can doubt what would be the issue of an open conflict in a duration of many centuries. If uniformity of opinion had. not been produced, it is probable that discussion unbiassed and unawed would have gained a much nearer
approach to it, than authority has of this world. The hand of blood been able to compel. At all events, was laid upon the sacred ark: its puthat sickening uniformity of darkness, rity was fled, and a dark and debas. which was extended like a pall over ing superstition succeeded to the pure, the middle ages, could never have and undefiled religion of Christ. The covered the people, to whom the Gothic tribes that broke into the scriptures gave their light. The cur- south of Europe, brought with them few of prelatical tyranny could never better morals than they found. Rude have rung out he signal that was they were, and fierce, rapacious often to shut them in a long night of igno- and cruel ; but the vices in the train rance and terror. The sword of the of luxury had not wasted the powers magistrate, placed out of the grasp of of the soul, and destroyed the elethe ecclesiastic, might have protected ments of future good. the rights of Christians, and of men, Intrepid, and clear-sighted, and refrom the violation of misguided zeal mote from the country of Odin, they and church-policy; and law, regard- were not fitted to move long in the ing as it ought with indifference all fetters of the northern superstition. opinions, that neither weaken the ob- Had this race of men fallen among ligation nor impede the practice of Christians, such as Christians were justice, would have interfered between in the first ages of the church, and contending sects for no other purpose such as might have succeeded to but to chain down violence and keep them but for the pollution of secular the peace. Hence if the cry of here- connexion and worldly ambition, to sy were raised,--the magistrate not accomplish their conversion to genubeing coupled with the priest,-for ine Christianity had required no rethe sake of good order the chase must finements of policy, no exertion of have been made a bloodless one. Had force. The sword of Charlemagne the Church never been incorporated could only compel a feigned assent, with the State, her sentences of ex- where a band of zealous, faithful and communication would not have be- truly evangelical missionaries would come as destructive to the estates and have planted Christianity in the mind, bodies of men, as they were terrible and in the heart. In those countries to their imagination and fears : but of Germany which were first roused that association being once established from their long stupor by the voice the civil power was soon brought to of the Reformer, what noble matethink, that he who was rejected by rials existed for carrying up the Christhe Church had forfeited the protec- tian edifice! At the time when the tion, and even incurred the heaviest rude but manly inhabitants were vanpenalties of the State,
quished into a spurious religion, and The Christian has often triumph- driven at the point of the spear to the antly contrasted the early propaga- baptismal fonts of the Roman Church! tion of his religion with the ferocious And had England been brought into conquests of Mahomet and his suc- culture by such men as first preached cessors ; and he has reason in his the gospel in Britain, and happily estriumph. The gospel made its way caped the pestilential blight from the unaided by arts or arms : it had es- Tyber, what a vineyard bad she stood, tablished itself in the conviction and thus planted and trained by labourhearts of men long before the strata. ers, who resembled the lord of the gems and weapons of this world were vineyard ! employed in the service of the cross ; It may be said, that although, had and none more than the enlightened the Church never been incorporated Christian condemns, and deplores the with civil governments its history officious and fatal interference of civil would no doubt be different from policy and power, after the time of what it is; yet it does not follow that Constantine, in the conversion of pa- it would be better. On the contrary gan nations to Christianity. The sol- the abandonment of the religion of dier usurped the office of the mis- Christ to the guardianship of the peosionary ; the diplomatist became evan- ple would have issued in greater evils, gelist; and the kingdom of Christ than any that have resulted from was forced into an alliance and abused placing it under the patronage and into a resemblance to the kingdoms advancing it into a participation of
sécular authority :-Heresies innumerable would have choaked the orthodox faith; absurd opinions, which so easily establish themselves in the ordinary and uneducated mind, would have ejected Christian doctrine: some base plebeian superstition would have triumphed over Christian worship; or that most overwhelming curse that can fall upon the earth, universal scepticism would have quenched the light of truth, and involved the world in worse than Stygian darkness. But who that has looked at all into Church history does not know, that the heresy of one century or climate has been the orthodox faith of another, and that the Christian world has continually divided and subdivided on every article of popular belief? And as to absurd tenets, could the dullness of vulgar and unlettered men have fabricated any of grosser quality than have been spun by subtile schoolmen, woven into creeds by learned dignitaries, and stamped with the great seal of Church-authority in ecclesiastical councils, though held by princes and composed of prelates? They cousulted their Urim and Thummim, and gave out oracles that confound the reason of the believer, or baffle the ingenuity of the interpreter to the present day. To suppose that the faith of Christians would have been wrecked and lost, had not political men kindled the beacons that warn them from infidelity, carries in it an implication, not the most respectful to the evidences of the Christian revelation. Besides, scepticism is not natural to man. Few and cold are the hearts to which it can be dear. A being who is conscious of powers which assure him of an invisible power, who feels that he has but a dependent existence, and whose regrets, while they surround the tomb of affection, throw their shadows across the way that leads to their own, such a creature is not naturally irreligious. The sentiment of piety is latent in all the social feelings of his heart, and the affinity is too strong to be generally destroyed even in the dissolution of civil society. This law of God written in the heart does not require to be registered by human jurisprudence in her courts of record. To preserve this sacred fire from extinction there needs no college of priests, no order of vigilants, no decree of the
state. Man is prone to superstition, but he is rarely, and with difficulty perverted into scepticism. If the state could render any service to religion by taking her ministers, as such into a communion of power, the most likely service appears to be, that of restraining both priest and people in that descent to superstition, or those starts into fanaticism, which seem to be so easy to them. But the fact is, that princes and men in power have been for the most part either as unenlightened as the mass of society in matters of religion; or anxious only to perpetuate the dominion of truth or error, superstition or religion, indifferently, from the dread of innovation. It is not difficult to find in their codes of law penal statutes, condemning to fines, confiscation, imprisonment and death, men, who could not believe without evidence, and would not subscribe what they did not believe, who refused to worship they knew not what, in ways more Pagan than Christian: And it were easy to shew that articles of faith too absurd to be believed, and rites of superstition, too childish to be performed honestly by any but the most uninformed members of the state, have continued to be the law of the land for a considerable time after they have been abandoned by the body of the people. When the multitude of Christians have suffered themselves to be surprised or seduced into spiritual chains, the civil power has not refused to rivet them on; but the force which has burst the bonds asunder has proceeded from themselves. The reformation of opinion has, as was to be expected, dictated the reformation of law; and governments bave rarely become tolerant, till the spirit of the times has ceased to be intolerant. At this moment the lily, which has been so often steeped in the blood of the reformed, though it has been long preserved on a Protestant soil, aud lately re-planted by Protestant hands, is become the inauspicious signal for a religious persecution in the south of France.
It may be said that the association of civil and ecclesiastical powers sets a limit to spiritual authority; and that in fact the first step to the reformation from popery in this country was, the union of these powers in the sovereign when Henry VIIIth. caused
himself to be constituted head of the As to the first, it would be difficult church. If Christianity cannot flou- to produce the passages, or passage, rish without hierarchy it is no doubt in the New Testament, in which the necessary both to civil and religious authority of the rulers of the Church, liberty, that it be allowed to exercise whether bishops, or councils, or pres. no authority independently of the will byteries, is defined either expressly of the State; still the association is or by implication. Let the instruc. not without danger. To what cause tions and credentials be fairly made was it owing, that, before the refor- out aud established, and the authority mation all Christendom was trodden shall be acknowledged; till then it is under foot by ecclesiastics ? And right to question it. Suppose it, howhow did they contrive to raise them- ever, established; what means have selves above the civil jurisdiction, till the successors to the episcopal authothey were able to set prince and peo- rity of the apostles (for more than that ple at defiance? The priest was first is not pretended out of the Church of placed on the same bench with the Rome) to make their government eftemporal judge: thence he soon found ficient? Inspiration has ceased; mimeans to step over the head of his racles are no more; and though perlay-colleague, and the magistrate, who sonal qualities may be respected, yet, planted him at his side, had his own for enforcing obedience in large comfolly to blame for the consequence. munities, the homage which is paid. Thus the fable of the horse and his to them can never supply the place rider was naturally enough exempli- of that submission which is at once fied in his experience ; he meant to enforced by power and won by rank be the ruler, but his more dextrous and splendour. Divested of powers, coadjutor made him the slave, One authority is but a name; it must have step more will take us to the grand them either absolute or dependent. source of the usurpation, intolerance The Catholic Church had them at and corruption, that darken the re- first in dependence on the magistrospect of the Christian church. The trate; but it soon found means to opinion to which I allude is well ex- convert them into a freehold ; and pressed in the following extract from that, into an impious tyranny. To a Consecration Sermon, preached by restore the dependence was the laDr. Graves, in St. Patrick's Cathe- bour of the reformation ; and in Prodral, Dublin, July, 1806. “To sup- testant countries this was at length pose," says he, " that when the apos. happily effected. If church-authority tles were removed from their minis- must exist, the safety of the world retry, all authority to govern and direct quires that it be ingrafted upon a cithe church of Christ was to expire vil stock, which may mitigate its along with them, and that the regu- sourness, and impart to it the favour lation of that society so extended, so of humanity. The compound of the important, so sacred, was to be aban- churchman and the mau of the world doned to the caprice of individuals, is less dangerous, both to the civil the unruliness of multitudes, the mere and religious interests of mankind, casual exertions of transitory feelings, than the mere ecclesiastic; for the and undirected efforts, is as contrary participation of secular distinctions, to the dictates of reason, the analogy and civil powers may introduce prinof nature, and the general economy ciples of liberality into church-governof Providence, as to the direct decla- ment, which are not indigenous in rations of scripture, and the clearest any hierarchy: hence, less spiritual records of ecclesiastical history;" If oppression is to be apprehended from the Church has governors, who de- an Episcopal or Presbyterian church, rive their authority either by succes- incorporated with the State, than sion or ordination from the apostles, from either of them, invested with two things are necessary ; first, that independent powers. The radical the authority shall have been well mistake in all these matters appears defined by the apostles themselves, to be, the assumption of a churchfor the apostolic authority could not authority, which is divine, of a legisurvive the office and the men : 2dly, timate Christian hierarchy, which is That the governors of the church pos. founded upon the Christian code. sess together with the authority the Grant that such a right of rule exists, means to make it respectedand obeyed. and it cannot be denied, that there
s much good sense and knowledge of mankind in such remarks as the following: they occur in a Consecration Sermon, which was preached in the Chapel of Lambeth, 1807, by the Rev. Charles Barker, and published by command of his Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury. "They who talk of apostolical simplicity and low liness, and contend that even now the same simplicity would best become the ministers of Christianisty, forget, or conceal from view, the real state of the apostolical character. They conceal from view the high and unattainable superiority over other men with which at all times, and in all places the apostle was personally gifted; his inspiration, his power of working miracles, and the immediate and irresistible operation of such endowments whether for the formation of a Christian church, or for its rule and governance when formed. In their day and for their purpose these were no defects; or if they were (while the choice of such men for such an office was designedly made to confound the pride of human wisdom) they were amply compensated by the constant and demonstrable interposition of God himself. With whatever rank and influence the incorporation of religion with the State, and with the order of society, has since invested the ministers of the gospel, the greatest and wealthiest, nay the best and wisest of those ministers possesses no substitution for the decisive and commanding authority of the humble fisherman who could heal the sick and raise the dead."
I shall add one more extract, which is in strong contrast with the spirit and doctrine of the last; but which, while it breathes more of the spirit of primitive simplicity, betrays a want of that practical knowledge, which is not so well acquired within the inclosure of a sect: it is taken from a charge delivered to the clergy of the Episcopal Communion of Edinburgh, 1807, by the Right Reverend Daniel Sandford, D.D. their bishop; and consequently a Dissenter on that side of the Tweed.
"It has often afforded me," says he, “great satisfaction to contemplate the resemblance, that the Christian society of which we are members bears, in its external condition, to the church of Christ, as it existed every
where, before the conversion of the Emperor Constantine. During that period, indeed, the Church was frequently exposed to secular persecution, from which, blessed be God, we, enjoying as we do, a free and perfect toleration from the state, are mercifully exempted. But, as far as can be intended by the comparison our case is the same with that of our forefathers in the Christian faith, in ages which we are accustomed to consider with peculiar veneration. At that time the Church, unconnected with the State, subsisted by her own internal and inherent powers. Irenæus, Cyprian, Cornelius, and indeed all who held the office of a Bishop for the three first centuries, were possessed of no other authority, and probably encompassed with no more outward dignity than he who now addresses you; and this authority was preserved by the filial affection of the clergy, over whom they respectively presided. God forbid that I should ever have the presumption to compare my own talents, or my own zeal, to the talents or the zeal of those burning and shining lights, to which every succeeding age of the Church has looked back with reverence, inferior only to that which is due to the immediate apostles of our Lord. I mention them only because their history furnishes an incontrovertible proof that episcopacy can subsist, and bishops who are deserving of respect be highly respected, though destitute of the splendid but adventitious panoply of a legal establishment."
It appears from this passage, that the Bishop derived great pleasure from contemplating the episcopal communion over which he presided, as unconnected with the state; though he might not, perhaps, think secular connexion a sufficient ground of dissent from an Episcopal Church. Indeed with the Protestant Dissenters of England the incorporation of the Church with the State is neither the sole nor the ultimate ground of dissent. I suppose the greater part of them consider church-authority under every form as a usurpation: many of them are persuaded that it is the only enemy from which Christianity ever had or ever will have any thing to fear; that it has acted like a poison, and not a very slow poison, wasting and corrupting, as it has circulated