« PreviousContinue »
A MAGAZINE IN SUPPORT OF THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND,
(NEW AND ENLARGED SERIES.]
UNPROTESTANTISING OF THE PROTESTANT CHURCH,
To the Editor of the Churchman. SIR,—As, in the 20th of my Provincial Letters, I have, like many other persons, quoted the famous passage in the British Critic, wherein the object of Tractarianism is distinctly avowed to be the Unprotestantising of the National Church and the Recession more and more from the Principles of the English Reformation : it is only just, that I should notice the Reviewer's Defence of his language, as exhibited in an Article of the British Critic for July 1842, headed, What is meant by Unprotestantising ?
Perhaps I ought to apologise for my not having done this sooner: but the simple truth is, that, not taking in the British Critic myself, and thence only seeing it occasionally as a friend may put it into my hand, I have only just been made aware of the cxistence of the Article in question.
I. The writer professes, that, by the word Unprotestantising, he did not mean the Effecting of a radical change in either the external constitution or the essential doctrines of the Anglican Church, but only the Effecting of a change in her tone or general disposition : and the proposed change he describes, as consisting in the Rectification of her present faulty tone, as it has been adopted from the faulty principles of the English Reformation, by the infusion into her system of a new spirit. p. 212. Protestantism being thus, in the writer's meaning, a Certain Tone of Mind or General Disposition : by Unprotestantising, he, of course, only means the Infusion of some other Tone and some other General Disposition, preferred by him to that which has characterised her since the time of the English Roformation. p. 213, 215.
Such being the ground of the Reviewer's self-justification, we naturally and reasonably expect a clear account both of the Tone to be repudiated and of the Tone to be adopted in its stead: an account, the shorter the better, and for the convenience of intelligibility assuming the form of definitions.
Here, however, if the writer gave us anything like tangible precision, he would forfeit his charter of being a Tractarian intus et in
cute. The School has a mortal antipathy to definition. We may guess, as best we can, at the meaning of the Reviewer, through a cloud of words which characteristically serve only to darken knowledge: but, if we expect any thing like clear and tangible definition, we shall find ourselves sorely disappointed. It was said of the Protector in the days of the Commonwealth, that he would make his faithful Commons a speech of three hours long : and, at the end of it, they might suspect his meaning, but they should not be able to lay a finger upon a single definite expression. Truly, the Tractarians seem to have graduated in this dexterous School of diplomacy. For once, we seemed to have something tangible, when the Reviewer proposed the Unprotestantising of the National Church and the Receding more and more from the principles of the English Reformation : but, forthwith, a sort of disclaiming and yet not disclaiming vindication is promulged in the old approved style of oracular ambiguity.
As far, however, as I can guess at his meaning, when aided by another equally characteristic Article in the same Number; the Review, to wit, of Mr. Goode's Book: I conclude it to be something like the following.
1. When Doctrines are proposed to a person, animated by the Protestant Tone or general Disposition; if he be a man of education and therefore equal to such inquiries, he will not receive those Doctrines as indeed the Doctrines revealed by God, unless he has some intelligible evidence that they are really contained in what he knows and believes to be God's own Book : and, for the purpose of ascertaining whether they be or be not there contained, he will not foolishly rely upon the mereness of his own rapid insulated private judgment; but, in the spirit of devotional prayer, and under the supposed good authority of the apostolic canon Prove all things, hold fast that which is good, he will use all the aids in his power,
such as a comparison of Scripture with Scripture, sound criticism, a steady adherence to what he has reason to deem the Analogy of Faith, and the historical testimony to the sense of the New Testament afforded by consentient Antiquity from the beginning.
This I have always understood to be the Tone of the Protestant Anglican : and, though individuals may doubtless depart from it (and these I freely resign to the lash of the Reviewer), yet, most indisputably, in the way of a dry fact, it is, and has been, the Tone of the Church to which he belongs from the very day of the English Reformation.
From such a Tone, then, or General Disposition, it is, that our writer would reform or (as he calls it unprotestantise, not mere thoughtless individuals (of whom, I allow, that we have but too many), but the National Church itself. And, here at least, we can have no doubt of his meaning: that is to say, we are, from his own words, consistently explained by his censure of Bishop Jewel and our other Reformers as lacking true Catholic Principles because they did not feel it necessary to disown the Protestant Churches of the Continent; we are, I say, from his own words, quite certain, that he is quarrelling with the Principles, not simply of any foreign
Reformation, but totidem verbis of the English Reformation. For it is abundantly clear, I do suppose, that he cannot reform or unprotestantise the National Church from Principles which she does not hold : and these, as given above, are, unless I am wholly mistaken, the Principles which she does hold.
2. What, then, is that better Tone, which it is the object of our Tractarian Reviewer and his Party to substitute for this highly oblemeable Tone of Anglican Protestantism : for I would strictly keep our friend to the point by again observing, that, in terminis, we are nakedly concerned with the Protestantism of the English Reformation ALONE; that is to say, with the Protestantism of the National Church, and with NO OTHER form of what is generically termed Protestantism?
We have here, again, that same want of tangible definiteness and precision, which so specially characterises the Productions of the Tractarian School. From the Article before us associated with the Review of Mr. Goode's Work in the same Number of the British Critic, I collect, so far as I can elicit the meaning of these systematically mystifying writers : that the better Tone, to which they would bring our National Church through the process of unprotestantising it, is; An implicit uninquiring Reception of whatever Doctrines and Practices of the Clergy, for the time being, may deliver to us, under the aspect of their being
the Dogmata or Authoritatively Traditive Decisions of the Catholic Church.
Unless we adopt this essentially and therefore laudably Unprotestant Tone and General Disposition : we are pronounced (somewhat rapidly, it must be confessed) to have no real Faith ; inasmuch as, since we do not look out of ourselves to the Clergy as delivering the asserted Behests of the Church Catholic, we really do not look out of ourselves to God. p. 216. On the contrary, would we exhibit true Faith (or, at least, what the Reviewer deems true Faith), we must unhesitatingly believe, whatever, in verbo sacerdotis, is told us by the Clergy: nay more, though the “ evidence” of their truthfulness be “insufficient" to satisfy carnal reason, still we must not the less believe, on the good old principle (I suppose) that Whatever the Church believes we believe; for ss unhesitating belief on insufficient evidence" is the very best mode of acquiring the truth. p. 46. We must, in short, with dutiful acquiescence and with a full sense of our immeasureable inferiority to the Clergy, admit all that our Clergy deliver as the sense of the Church : just as children (such is the felicitous and strictly appropriate illustration !) receive, without inquiry or hesitation, the totality of the instruction of their parents. p. 39. For the Protestant Principle, as received by the National Church, is essentially ruinous to all belief and all religion: inasmuch as an external guide, claiming “implicit belief” in the first instance, is absolutely
necessary in order to see into the real contents of Scripture. p. 86. Such being the case, Protestantism, even as received by the English Reformation, is, in one word, a “ Prevailing Absence of Christian Faith :" being, in short, all that " rationalism and morbid sentimentalism and essential scepticism and vitiated feeling and low morality, which undoubtedly prevail among us. p. 224, 44.
If I have misapprehended the writer's meaning, either in regard to the Protestant Tone which he reprobates, or in regard to the so called Catholic Tone which he advocates, I really must lay the blame upon his own want of precise definition. However, I have duly given references to the several places in the two allied Articles, on which my estimate has been formed : and, if your patient readers will peruse the enormous volume of words, which occupy the last July Number of the British Critic (p. 34-106, 211-244.), amounting in the whole to 105 closely printed pages, when 105 lines of definition would have been infinitely more to the purpose, they may judge for themselves, whether any other estimate can be formed from the general spirit of the two Articles.
II. Now, if this estimate be correct, the process of “ Unprotestantizing the National Church by receding more and more from the Principles of the English Reformation," is, assuredly, the process of bringing back the National Church, in Tone and General Disposition, to the well known Tone and General Disposition of the Church of Rome: for what the gentleman, plainly as the mouthpiece of his school, recommends to our Protestant National Church, is precisely that, which is diligently recommended and enforced by the similarly feeling Romish Priesthood.
According to these latter, whatever the Church teaches must, on pain of incurring the charge of damnable heresy, be received, without question or research or hesitation : and, whatever the Clergy deliver to their obsequious subjects (the approved style of speaking, I believe, and doubtless the most correct style) as the dogmata of the Church, must forthwith be implicitly received as such.
What difference there is, between the Tone and Disposition of Romanism, and the Tone and Disposition which our Reviewer recommends in place of the Principles of the English Reformation vituperatively stated to be those of the National Church, I have not skill sufficient to discern ; though I can easily comprehend, how the inculcation of such miserable Priestcraft, which would elevate us Anglican Clerics into a sort of little demigods, may advance the interests of rank Infidelity. So far as I can perceive, the Reviewer, by his own explanation of what he means by Unprotestantising, has only inade bad worse : for, if any definite sense can be elicited from his verbiage, he has only added another proof to those which I have adduced in my Provincial Letters, that Tractarianism is but a sort of thinly disguised Popery.
III. But the plan of unprotestantising the National Church in her Tone and General Disposition is alleged to be a bringing her back to the better Tone and Disposition of the Early Church: and the very mode, in which this allegation is made, may serve to show, that, although the Reviewer has studiously eschewed all tangible definitions, I cannot have very greatly mistaken his meaning.
“ We cannot stand where we are,” says he : “ we must go backwards or forwards; and it will surely be the latter, And an advance, in the truest sense of the word, it will be, when the Church shall come to robe herself in her ANCIENT garments of beauty, and be recognised as the guide of our devotions, no less than the arbiter of our faith.” p. 236.
To the same effect speaks the kindred spirit in the review of Mr. Goode's Work.
“ For our own parts, we have no hesitation in speaking of the existing necessities of resorting to Church History in the manner we do, as the mere result of our present degraded condition. In the time of St. Augustine or St. Thomas Aquinas, it would be as little a matter of conscious inquiry, with Christians, whether they should follire the Church's instructions ; as it is, in our days, with infants, whether they shall believe what their parents teach them. The Church bore on her surface the plain and certain marks of her divine commission : and was listened to, as a matter of course. This is the condition, to which every true Catholic amongst us burns, so far as it may be granted, to restore the English Church." p. 97.
A prudent person, in the present stage of the discussion, will not quite implicitly depend upon tractarian correctness of appeal to Ecclesiastical Antiquity: and we shall not be greatly surprized, if the school, which has interpreted the conventional patristic names given to the Gospels and the Epistles, the names, I mean, of The Evangelical Traditions and The Apostolical Traditions, as importing Certain Ecclesiastical Traditions distinct from and independent of Scripture ; we shall not, I say, be greatly surprized, if such an hermeneutic school has claimed the Early Church, as its ally in unprotestantising us, more confidently than correctly.
In the Introduction to my Treatise on Christ's Discourse at Capernaum, I have given various quotations, with the original Greek or Latin carefully appended in the margin, which do not seem very cogently to verify the present tractarian claim of the Early Church as symbolising in Tone with the plan of infusing a better Disposition into our sorely uncatholic National Church. I shall here, with your permission, give a few of them, as bearing immediately upon the present question.
1. “ As for Hermogenes, let his shop produce the Written Word. If he be unable to produce the Written Word in substantiation of his tenets, let him fear that Woe which is destined to those who either add to it or detract from it.” Turtull. adv. Hermog. $12. Oper. p. 346.
Tertullian, about the end of the second century, does not silence Hermogenes by a summary appeal to the dogmatical teaching of the Clergy: but, very much as a not yet unprotestantised Anglican would do, puts him down by a reference to the Written Word.
2. “Let us not simply attend to men propounding any matter, against whom we have an equal right to propound the contrary : but, if it be insufficient merely to express an opinion, and if we would enforce the necessity of believing what we say, let us not abide by the testiinony of men, but let us entrust the question to the voice of the Lord; for this is the surest of all demonstrations,