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THE ERRORS OF THE TIME.
CHURCH OF ENGLAND.
AFTER having directed our thoughts to the nature of ECCLESIASTICAL ESTABLISHMENTS in general, and of those TESTS by which they are guarded, our attention is called in regular order to the consideration of that portion of the Christian church, which is established in this and in our sister kingdom.
The Church of England has no ordinary claims upon the affections of every native Englishman, not less from the nationality of its origin, and the antiquity of its existence, than from its intimate and indissoluble connection, in all its ramifications, with that constitution, which is the wonder of each surrounding nation, and the pride and glory of his own. But these are considerations which weigh but as dust in the balance, upon the mind of a Christian, when
placed in comparison with those higher and more exalted principles, upon which the Church of England rests her claims to our veneration and regard. It is not as she is an integral part of our political constitution, that we strengthen her fabric, and support her power, but as she is the faithful representative of Christ upon earth, as she is a pure and spotless portion of that universal church, which, though now militant here on earth, shall hereafter reign triumphant in Heaven. It is upon these grounds alone that, as Christians, we submit to the authority, obey the ordinances, and recognize the pre-eminence of this our English church.
Of all ecclesiastical establishments, and of all the various forms of Christian government, known under the name of national churches, we may without fear assert that the Church of England is among the purest, the holiest, and most perfect. And this we believe, not from any inherent claims in herself to a higher share of Christian perfection, nor in detriment to the excellence of established churches in any other nation, but from her strict conformity with the commands of her great Master, and her close resemblance, both in constitution and in form, to the primitive and apostolical churches. Though "her foundations are upon the
holy hills," she vindicates to herself no share of innate authority, or necessary infallibility. All the power which is assumed by her, over the wills and the affections of her children, is derived from a higher source. Every article in the faith, every
law in the constitution, every ordinance in the diseipline of the Church of England, is binding only upon the consciences of her sons as it is immediately derived from the authority of Scripture. Scripture is the test by which the validity of her claims are to be tried, and is the only criterion by which she can be judged. But here a material point arises; it is not upon Scripture, as interpreted by herself, that she relies, but upon Scripture as interpreted by the laws of sound reason and of common sense. There are parts of the Church of Christ which rest their claims nominally upon Scripture, but then it is upon Scripture interpreted by themselves. They acknowledge, indeed, the existence of the law by which they are to be judged, as did the Scribes and Pharisees of old, but at the same time they reserve to themselves the sole and paramount authority of their own interpretation; thus reasoning, if reason it can be called, as it were in a circle, first taking for granted their authority in the interpretation of Scripture, and then proving it from itself. The Church of England, on the contrary, when she submits herself to this test, resigns every inherent claim of interpretation, and calls in sound and unprejudiced reason as the judge, either to confirm or to reject her claims. Whatever cannot be drawn by the deduction of clear and unsophisticated argumentation, from the pure fountain of the Holy Scriptures, forms no article, either of her constitution or of her creed. "Holy Scripture containeth "all things necessary to salvation: so that, what
soever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that "it should be believed as an article of the faith,
or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation." Article vi.
At the same time, in all things not repugnant to Scripture, we acknowledge her rights as a par"ticular or national church," to ordain those rites and ceremonies, so necessary to the decent performance of Christian worship, and to establish that discipline, which is so essential to the existence of any ecclesiastical polity here upon earth. And surely, in the view of enemies no less than friends, never was a ceremonial more simple and affecting, a liturgy more solemn and sublime, a constitution more scriptural, or more consonant to the "perfect law of liberty," than those which the CHURCH OF ENGLAND has established and ordained.
These are the high grounds upon which our affection, and regard to our national church, which we bear to her as Christians, rest. As lovers of that order and uniformity, which is so essential to the preservation of every constitution, no less ecclesiastical than civil, we acknowledge the necessity of an established church; as persuaded that, upon the authority of Scripture as by the most reasonable deductions it may be proved, the Church of England rests her claims, we become the faithful children of her institution, and the zealous supporters of her holy fabric.
After these more exalted motives of attachment
and regard, it might appear unnecessary to descend to any lower or less important considerations. We might otherwise be induced to point out, in conformity with that Christian moderation which characterizes all its ecclesiastical proceedings, its peculiar agreement with the form and the spirit of our civil constitution. Never were Church and State in any country more closely connected, not merely by external provisions and laws, but by the similarity of their views and the resemblance of their polity. The Church of England is most congenial to the temper, to the manners, and to the opinions of the English nation, considered as a political body. It is a church which, though a warm supporter of a monarchical government, never can become the creature and the minister of arbitrary power. Much less will it encourage, on the other hand, the levelling principle of democratic virulence, or the still more intolerable tyranny of the low, the ignorant, and the infatuated. Popery and arbitrary power mutually strengthen and support each other, while the extremes of atheism and fanaticism are the surest abettors of popular violence. The Church of England is peculiarly adapted, both by its discipline and its temper, to that limited power, and that chastened freedom, which are the pride and glory of our civil constitution.
Under these impressions, we offer to our readers upon this important head a celebrated tract of Archbishop Synge, entitled "A True Churchman set in "a just and true Light," which, though occasionally