The Church Question
Brownson's Quarterly Review, January, 1844
Art. III. - Tracts for the Times. By Members of the University of Oxford. New York : Charles Henry. 1839. Second Edition. 3 vols. 8vo.
We have not introduced these Tracts, which have created so much excitement, and concerning which so much has been said and written during the last few years, for the purpose of going into a critical examination of their literary, or their theological, merits ; nor, indeed, for the purpose of entering far into the question of the claims of the Anglican Church to Catholicity, which they open up ; but because they happen to furnish us with a convenient text for some rather desultory remarks, on the very important religious movement, of which they are one of the pregnant signs.
So far as they broach the claims of the Church of England to be the catholic, or a catholic, church, we, probably, should not altogether agree with their learned and pious authors. Regarded as a question of outward organization and canonical communion, the claims of the Church of England to catholicity, on her own admitted principles, do not appear to us to stand on any better footing than those of the other Protestant communions. She holds, and rightfully, that the Holy Catholic Apostolic Church is supreme, under God, in all matters of faith and discipline. It is true, she adds, it is not lawful for the church to ordain any thing contrary to, or besides, God's word written, to be believed for necessity of salvation ; but this does in no wise impair her authority ; because she is the keeper and interpreter of the word written, as well as of the word spoken ; because it is she herself, by virtue of her authoritative interpretations of the word, that prescribes, and interprets, the limitations and extent of her own powers ; and because she alone has the right to judge of their infraction, and also of the mode and measure of redress. She cannot suffer the individual member, or any number of individual members, as such, to judge her acts, or to plead the Sacred Text against her decisions; for this would be to authorize Dissent, and Individualism, against which she protests.
Now it is undeniable, that from the sixth to the sixteenth century, to say the least, the Church of England had no separate, independent existence. It was an integral portion, canonically considered, of the catholic church, the acknowledged head, and centre of which were at Rome. This catholic church, one and indivisible, including all national or local churches in communion with it, was, during the period we have named, supreme, and therefore competent to legislate on all matters of faith, discipline, and church organization, for all its members. Whatever modifications in regard to faith or discipline, or to the constitution and administration, the distribution or concentration of power, she chose to introduce, she was competent to introduce ; and they must override all ancient usages inconsistent with them, and be as obligatory upon all the members as if they had existed from the beginning. Grant, if you will, that in some cases the modifications, or by whatever name you choose to call them, which Avere actually introduced, were injudicious, contrary to the principles of the gospel, oppressive even, - although this is hardly admissible by a good churchman,-'redress could rightfully be sought only in and through the orderly and official action of the church herself, that is, in and through the body; not in and through the members, acting on their own responsibility.
We must not forget the unity of the church. There is no reserve to be made in favor of national churches, as if the church existing in a given nation were an independent church, subsisting by itself, and holding communion with the church existing in other nations, not as the necessary condition of its own vitality, but as a mere act of Christian and ministerial courtesy ; for this would be to deny both the unity and the catholicity of the church. It were a real rending of Christ's seamless garment. The church of Christ knows no geographical boundaries, no national limitations, no national distinctions. The member of Christ's church here in Boston is a member of it in every part of the world, and in communion with the whole body, wherever it is. If not, it is idle to talk of unity and catholicity. Assuming these principles, which the Church of England does, and must, assume, as the foundation of her own claims to catholicity, we confess that we see not how she can justify herself in separating, as she did, in the sixteenth century, and setting up a particular communion, without going the whole length of Dissent, and abandoning entirely her own principles. On tho ground, then, that it is necessary to have maintained, from the first, the unity of the Lord's Body unbroken, we think she not only fails to prove herself to be the catholic church, but to be, in the catholic sense, even a church at all.
But we do not wish to pursue the discussion. The question in this form is, to us, one of only secondary importance. We own that the Church of England has never been able to convince us, on the ground she assumes, of the validity of her claims ; but shall we, therefore, seek to unchurch her ? God forbid ! There is, and can be, but one catholic church. If she is that church, all not in communion with her are unchurched ; and all, who are not members of her communion, are out of the pale of the church ; therefore out of Christ; therefore, again, out of the way of salvation. Shall we say all this ? Shall we say, that all the members of the Roman Catholic Church, of the Greek Church, the Ar-minian Church, the Lutheran, the Presbyterian, the Congregational, the Methodist, the Baptist, are out of the way of salvation, and can be saved only by becoming members of the Church of England ? It were a terrible responsibility to say so, and we are not aware that our Anglican brethren do say so. On the other hand, shall we say, that all, who have lived and died in the Church of England, since the time of Henry and Cran-mer, have lived and died out of Christ ? We dare not say so.
The fact is, those of us who believe in, and seek, the unity of the Lord's Body, must be careful how we begin by laying down principles which unchurch all but our own particular communion, or which would exclude from the church of Christ, in the sense necessary for salvation, and which is a higher sense, too, than that of mere outward communion, any particular body of professing Christians, which maintains the Christian principles and spirit in the lives of its members. The great question of the Church should be looked at from a higher and a broader point of view than that of particular communions. The outward form of our Lord's Body has been broken into fragments ; but it was an immortal body, and each particular fragment, however small, or however far the adversary may have cast it abroad in the earth, is still quick with its original life, and cannot die. Instead, then, of contending, that this or that particular fragment is the whole body, and contains all the life, the real friends of the unity and catholicity of the church, imitating, as Milton says, the careful search of [sis after the scattered fragments of the torn body of the good Osiris, should seek them in every place of opportunity, and bring them all together, to be moulded anew into one homogeneous and lovely form of perfection.
Entertaining these views, we confess that we read with pain that portion of these Tracts which is directed against the Church of Rome, and also that portion which attacks Dissenters. What we have just said of the claims of the Church of England, though we have a very great respect for that communion, may well show, in the unpleasant feelings it may awaken in the breasts of its members, how very impolitic it would be, to say nothing more, for any particular communion to set up to be the church catholic, and, therefore, to unchurch all the rest. Each communion unchurched is provoked to bring forward its own claims; and, instead of peace and unity, we have strife and division ; each crying out, " Ye are heretics and schismatics; the Temple of the Lord is with us ; we arc the church ; and only they who worship with us can be saved." We are all called, whatever the name avc may bear, whatever our rank or influence in the Christian world, to a higher and a more Christian work. We are all called to labor for reunion, for the restoration of the unity of the church : unity of polity, of faith, and of discipline. But we must, if we will labor with success, take our stand on an eminence which overlooks all these sectarian divisions and causes of strife and bitterness, and seek to unite men in the very unity of the Christian Life, the deep, the eternal, the creative principle of Christian unity, which is Christ himself. In other words, we must rise to a full comprehension of that higher unity, which is the principle and cause of the unity of polity, of faith, and of discipline ; and, whilst we are engaged in doing this, our first and most pressing work, all these secondary and minor questions, touching the claims of particular communions, should be laid on the table. Perhaps they will never need to be called up.
The truth is, the church - we speak generally - has lost the clear sense of the profound significance of her own organization, doctrines, sacraments, and symbols. In the present state of things, unity of polity becomes a mere forced unity, the unity of aggregation, not of a living body. The effort, therefore, at this moment, should not be to effect outward unity and canonical communion, but to recover the significance of the church itself. Christianity, as a divine scheme of mediatorial grace, has become to the great majority of the Christian world an enigma, of which few, if any, retain the key. The great mass of church-goers, nay, of church-teachers, have no conception of the profound significance of the church. They, therefore, lose all respect for it as a divine institution, and come to regard it mainly in the light of an auxiliary to the police, as a useful institution for keeping the lower classes in order, and for preventing men from cutting one another's throats. What is the church ? What mean her dogmas, her sacraments, her symbols ? Who among us is able to answer ? or who among us, attempting to answer, but babbles some profane nonsense, or repeats words whose sense escapes him ? Here, it strikes us, is a great and primary question to be answered, the question of the chukch itself ; and just in proportion as we succeed in answering this, we may be assured that the true centre of church unity will disclose itself, and the principle, which is to reunite, even outwardly, the torn body of our Lord, will begin to operate.
And here we find the redeeming principle, and the great and exceeding value, of these Oxford Tracts. From below the horizon, if we have eyes, we may see, like the sun emerging from the ocean, rising into full view, the great and permanent question of the church itself, of the real catholic church. These Oxford Divines have felt the workings of the great and universal problem itself; they have begun to feel, that the church, as manifest to the world, nay, as existing in the minds of the great mass of churchmen, priests as well as laity, is not precisely the church, - is, in fact, far, very far below the true church of God ; they have begun to catch some glorious glimpses of unity and catholicity, and to feel somewhat of the divine life these impart and must impart; and they have come forward, as the humble, but earnest, advocates of unity and catholicity, - to recall the church to a sense of her rights, her prerogatives, as the church of God, as the necessary condition of fully discharging her high mission in the salvation of the world, here and hereafter. What if they have seen and done all this with the eyes and the hearts of Church-of-England men, and have sought to narrow the question down, as far as possible, to the alleged " insular prejudices" of their own nation? Let us leave all this, - which is lamentable enough, to all not of their communion, and which proves them to be but men, - let us leave all this by the way, and not suffer it to disturb our prejudices, or to bias our judgments. There is good enough in these Oxford Divines, and the sort of good, too, not over-abundant in modem times, to entitle them to our gratitude and respect, and to make us thank God for their labors, were their Church-of-Eng-landism a thousand-fold more prominent and offensive than it really is.
We do not look upon the movements of these Oxford divines as indicative, on their part, of a wish to return to Rome, as their enemies allege ; they are far enough from being Romanists ; they are, undeniably, genuine Church-of-England men ; but they are possessed by a sentiment which will bo found too big and too expansive for the Church of England, and which will absorb it, in the long run, in the true catholic church. Their movements indicate to us a presentiment of something superior to what the church, in point of fact, in their days, really is ; and a growing desire, an intense longing, to see the catholic church, restored to her unity, her freedom, and her authority, prepared to resume and carry on the great work in which she was engaged in the Middle Ages, and which was, to a considerable extent, interrupted by the rise of Protestantism. In this point of view, these Tractarians broach a higher than a Roman or an Anglican question, a question which concerns all Christendom, in fact, all humanity ; and in the discussion of which all Christendom must take part. It is a great question ; an agitating question ; a powerful question; a terrible question ; which will not pass over the world without changing its face. Let no one be deceived. This question is no ephemeral question, to be put at rest by a newspaper paragraph, or even by an elaborate article in our more aristocratic Reviews. It has its roots deep in the very heart of our age ; and is nourished by all our wants, hopes, aspirations, and tendencies. We repeat, that it is not a question which concerns merely this or that particular communion ; it concerns not merely Oxford divines and Church-of-England men ; it concerns not merely the Protestant Episcopal Church of this country, in which it has broken out; it reaches the whole Christian world, and all communions, Papal, Patriarchal, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Congregational, Trinitarian, Unitarian, Arminian, Calvinistic, all alike are concerned in it; for it is the great question of the Christian church itself, in that high and profound sense, in which it transcends, and embraces, all particular communions. It asks the significance of this great moral Fact, before which we stand, and before which the more advanced nations of the earth have stood, or have bowed down with awe and submission, for eighteen hundred years. What means this Fact ? Is it a phantom, an illusion ? or is it a reality ? Has it a being ? If so, what is it ? What is it here for ? What are its rights, prerogatives, duties, means ?
Now, we say, here is the question of questions for our age. We have, for the last three hundred years, been losing sight of the main question ; we have been concerning ourselves with collateral points, with mere details, proposing petty amendment to amendment, till the original question has been buried under the mass, and left out of the debate. These Oxford Divines, without precisely understanding the original question, without having exactly made up their minds how to vote on it, yet firmly persuaded of the fact of such original question, have come forward and moved it; not with a view of stifling the debate, but to recall it to the main question. The main question is now coming fairly up before the great Christian parliament; and, if the speakers will only keep to the point, the debate will not only be full of interest, but of instruction, and tend to the profit of the whole Christian world.
These Oxford Divines represent a great movement, already commenced throughout Christendom, towards unity and catholicity. But have they seized, and have they presented, the true ground of unity and catholicity ? Do they give us evidence, that they have gone to the bottom of the question, and seized the elemental principle of Christian unity and universality ? We think not. They do not seem to us to have detached the question from its accidents, and to have considered it in itself, independently of its special applications to this or that communion. They do not seem to us to have grasped the key to this great moral Fact, and to have become able to see, independently of the mere authority of tradition, its profound, universal, and eternal necessity. They have bowed to the Tradition ; but the reason of the Tradition ? but the reason of the historical phenomenon ? This ijeerns still concealed from their view, and almost unsuspected. They have, then, themselves, seen the main question only by faith. It lies further back than they have gone, deeper than their plummets «eem to have sounded. We take up Dr. Pusey's Sermon on the Eucharist; we find him recognizing a fact there, and laboring to prove, that, in the best days of even the Church of England, it was very generally believed, that there was a fact there ; but what this fact is, his sermon does not tell us. He calls it the Real Presence, that is to say, a fact, and not the symbol of a fact; but this does not tell me what the fact is. We take up the Dissertation on Baptism, in the volumes before us ; we find here, again, that Baptism is very properly declared to be a fact, not the mere symbol of a fact, or rather, as with the majority of modern Protestants, of a No-fact; but what is this fact ? No answer. We are left in the dark. So of all the other matters touched upon. We find, and are most happy to find, that everywhere it is affirmed that there is fact, reality; but what the fact, what the reality is, we are nowhere told. These divines, therefore, are chiefly commendable for calling our attention to the fact, that the church really means something, rather than for having told us what it means.
The method of these divines is also defective. It is the historical method. They seek to instruct us, as to the significance of the fact in question, by piling quotation upon quotation. But, Reverend Doctors, this will not answer; for the sense of these quotations has escaped us. We know all very well what are the words the Fathers have used, but what have the Fathers meant by their words ? We gain nothing by being told what they have said, for the question is not as to what the Fathers have said, but what the Fathers have meant. We all know the canons, the rubrics, the creeds, and the catechisms, in which the church has embodied her sense of her own significance ; but what do these mean ? what has the church meant by them ? Why do you light tapers upon the altar ? Why do you turn to the east in prayer ? Why do you kneel when you come to the word Jesus ? We know the church commands us to believe in the Trinity ; but what is the profound significance of this doctrine ? What is the fact which lies under it ? The church gives herself out as the medium of our union with Christ, through whom we have access to the Father. But what does this mean ? The church insists on apostolic succession, and canonical appointment. Go to the bottom of this and tell us what it means ? The age, Oxford Divines, has grown weary of idolatry ; it is weary of mere images, symbols, representations; and demands to be made acquainted with the true God, the Infinite I-am, not with the I-afpear. As yet, ye have done nothing but to erect an altar to the unknown God. But this ye have done, God be thanked! ye have declared your firm faith, that God isy and that in all holy things there is a reality, the numen as well as the shrine.
The great evil is, that we have, as before said, lost the profound sense of the Christian mysteries, of the church and its dogmas, sacraments, and discipline. Quotations, then, from the accredited fathers of the church, cannot avail us ; because these quotations are, as it were, part and parcel of the church, and their sense escapes us, as does hers. It is necessary, then, to go farther, to look deeper, and, by profound meditations on the very nature of things, and of God's providential dealings with humanity, to find the lost key to the mysteries of Christianity. We are now as the Jews, who had lost the true pronunciation of the sacred Te-tragram; and prophecy, and inspiration, and the power to work miracles abandon us, and leave us to our merely human resources. We must find again the sacred name, and its right pronunciation ; and then, but not till then, shall we be able to know Him whom we now ignorantly worship. In other words, it is in the study of the philosophy of the church, and not in its mere outward history, that we are to find the key to its mysteries, and to become acquainted with their significance, with the facts they cover, that is to say, with the Christian ontology itself. Our Oxford divines seem to us to have neglected the philosophy of the church, and therefore to have failed to show us the real principle of unity and catholicity. We find them reproducing the phenomena of the church, but not its ontology ; and yet it is its ontology, that is the principle of its phenomena.
We find no fault with the Oxford divines for reviving obsolete customs, and for studying to restore the liturgy of the church to its former completeness ; although, were we of the Church of England, acknowledging episcopal authority, we should hold it to be as improper for a private presbyter to revive an obsolete custom, on his private authority, as it would be for him to introduce a new one, the rubric to the contrary notwithstanding. What has fallen, by general consent, into desuetude, though still standing in the rubrics and canons, is virtually repealed, and can properly be revived only by the supreme legislative authority. But this is no affair of ours. We make no doubt that many things have been cast off, that it will be well to resume. But do our Oxford divines ask, if these practices, which they are seeking to revive, have, or can have, the same significance for worshippers to-day, that they had formerly, when they were faithfully observed, and evidently attended with the best results ? To revive, or to create, as it were, " with malice aforethought," can it ever do good ? Bring us back the sense of these old practices ; that we need ; but that sense may, perhaps, now and hereafter, be better expressed in other, and even very different, forms. The great question, the main question, is not the restoration of the ancient forms of church discipline, but the restoration of the original sense of the church, and of the church herself to her true place in the economy of Providence, as the condition of more effectually discharging her high functions. This is the question, the real question for the age ; and, after all, it is the real question with these Oxford divines, and they should, therefore, have proposed it clearly, distinctly, unencumbered by any minor questions about details, however important these minor questions may become, when the main question itself is disposed of.
We repeat, the church question is not a question of details, of particular communions, of dogmas, nor of constitutions. It is not, whether we shall adopt this or that symbol of faith; whether we shall accept, and observe, this or that form of social or private worship ; whether we shall contend for the Papal, the Episcopal, the Presbyterian, or the Congregational method of constituting the church ; it is not, where the authority of the church shall be lodged, nor how its administration shall be provided for ; all of which may become questions, and grave questions too; but, What is the church itself ? what its office ? and what its authority, however constituted, or however named ? This, we believe, is the first and main question to be disposed of by our own age.
Touching the constitution and discipline of the church, we say, in passing, the church is herself supreme. No precise model of the one, or minute details of the other, are given in the New Testament. It was, evidently, the design of the Founder of the church, to leave the constitution and discipline of the church to be shaped according to the exigencies of time and place ; and the sac redness of this or that form of the one or the other must be supported, not by texts of Scripture, but by the inherent authority of the church herself to adopt such forms, from time to time, as in her unsdom she judges proper. If we deny to the church this authority, we make her an empty name, an institution without reality, a mere appearance, an optic illusion, about which no wise or sober man will concern himself for a moment. The question, then, comes up, Has the church this authority ? If so, whence does she derive it ? And this leads us back to what we have called the church question itself, and requires us to comprehend the whole scheme of God's Mediatorial Grace.
It is by no means our intention, in the present article, to try our hand at answering this question of the church. That we have some thoughts on the subject, we should be sorry to be compelled to deny ; nay, that we have attained to some proximate solution of the problem, caught, at least, a transient glimpse of the profound significance of the Mighty Moral Fact before which we and all Christendom stand in awe, we firmly believe ; but our present purpose has been merely to state the question, and to offer some few practical observations on the movements commenced, and commencing, by our age, which indicate a desire to return to unity and catholicity, that is to say, to the church of God.
How the fact, that the sense of the church, of its dogmas and ritual, has been lost, can be reconciled with this other fact, for which Ave strenuously contend, namely, that the Spirit of Truth, which leadeth into all truth, is ever present in the church, its organic principle, its vital force, we shall attempt on another occasion to explain. It suffices us, for the present, to assume the broad, obvious, undeniable fact, that this sense has been lost. We may find evidence of this anywhere throughout all Christendom, at any time since the disappearance of the great names of the Middle Ages. Perhaps no single cause has contributed more to this result, than the philosophical movement commenced, in the twelfth century, by the layman, Abelard, - the real father of what we call, by courtesy, Modern Philosophy. Abelard was the first to work that mighty change in philosophy, by which it leaves the ontological question, that is to say, theology, the eternal verities of things, and comes to concern itself solely with phenomena. He has placed in the Christian world the system of philosophy known as Conceptu-alism. Anselm and others had asserted the reality of ideas, making them, as we have elsewhere explained, the essential forms, or the essences of things. William de Champeaux, folloAving, did the same, only taking care to distinguish between ideas, or genera, properly so called, and mere mental abstractions, and thus gave to Realism a systematic form. Roscelin, founder of the Nominalist school, denied all reality to ideas, to genera and species, to the essential forms of things, and called them empty words, as Hobbes, Locke, and Berkeley have since done. Between these two schools appears Peter Abelard, a brilliant genius, rendered famous by the love of the noble Eloisa, but of whom, morally considered, the only good thing we have to say is, that this noble and true-hearted woman loved him, and never ceased to love him, - between these two schools, came, we say, Peter Abelard, and denied the reality of ideas, against the Realists ; and that ideas are mere empty words, against the Nominalists; by asserting them to be conceptions of the mind. Here was philosophy, at once, placed on the point of leaving the study of the deep significance of things, to take up the study of our own mental phenomena, and, therefore, of having for its subject henceforth, not ontology, but psychology, and for its problem, not, What is ? but, What do we conceive, or think, we know ? This philosophy of Abelard, this Conceptualism, nobly withstood by William de Champeaux, St. Bernard, and the orthodox clergy of the time, nevertheless virtually prevailed, and it has penetrated to the foundation in the system of St. Thomas, which is even yet the approved philosophy of the church. Now, the least reflection will suffice to show, that Conceptualism leads directly to the study of the phenomena of our own souls, our internal affections, and therefore to the neglect of the objective and eternal verities of things. The neglect of these objective and eternal verities, in which lies the profound significance of the church, its dogmas, and ritual, could not fail to obscure, and finally to obliterate from the minds of even the best instructed, that sense itself. After the prevalence of this philosophy, this Conceptualism, the last word of which we have seen in the Critic der reinen Vernunft, no great theologian appeared. Theology, in fact, ceased to be studied; attention was soon almost wholly engrossed with ancient heathen literature, and philosophy, properly ,so called, was pretty much forgotten. The theological works, which appeared, were mere excerpts from older works, or attempts to dilute and adapt the older and pro-founder works to the modern delicate tastes and weak stomachs.
The church, regarded as an institution, a visible organization, taken generally, became, in consequence of this and other causes coinciding and cooperating, a mere rind, or external husk or shell, from which the inner substance, the meat, was lost, or, at least, in which no substance, or meat, was seen, or suspected to exist. This is strikingly true, when we come down to the last century. We take the Church of England ; it has become a mere auxiliary of the police, or a provision for gentlemen's younger sons. The qualification for a bishopric was, proverbially, to have edited a Greek play. Its doctrines, practically considered, dwindled down to a meagre rationalism, and an eminent. prelate was able to declare Christianity to be only " a republi-cation of the law of nature." The sacraments no longer signify any thing, and the whole ritual has become an empty form, which the fox-hunting parson thinks quite too long. The morals, the devotion, the inner spiritual state of the communicants, we have described in the foregoing article, when speaking of the moral and religious tendency of the school of Locke. In the German Church, matters are no better. There is more learning, more mental activity, more diligent study ; but no profounder thoughts, no nearer approach to the original sense of Christianity. The tendency to rationalism is still stronger ; rationalism is systematized and avowed; Christianity is stripped of all its mysteries ; all that cannot find entrance through the narrow aperture of a rationalist's mind, whether in history, in doctrine, or in discipline, is pared off, and this is called rendering Christianity intelligible, comprehending Christianity !
In Catholic countries, things go no better, if so well. His Holiness is a respectable old gentleman who resides at Home; mild and amiable in his manners ; learned, polite ; corresponds with the philosophers; writes a very agreeable letter to Voltaire, and can find it in his heart to reprove the arch-infidel for nothing but the false quantity of one of his verses. The more active of the educated classes are, openly or secretly, hostile to the church, and its dignitaries smile upon, and even fraternize with, the philosophes. Bergier and others, who defend it, do so in an apologetic tone, and on infidel principles. Theology becomes a branch of physics, and God is demonstrated by the telescope and scalpel, at least, till a Laland exclaims, " Je n'ai jamais vu Dieu au bout des nics lunettes." Then a portion gave up God, and the remainder held their peace. In our own country, the outward form varies, but the spirit is the same. No theology, no profound philosophy, at best only passable psychology with a Jonathan Edwards ; the church is not recognized, hardly even in name ; to speak of its unity and catholicity is a scandal, and to intimate that Baptism and the Eucharist mean somewhat, are not signs without significance, is to confess one's intimate relations with the Scarlet Lady of Babylon. So completely has all sense of the profound things of the church escaped us, that we define it, " a voluntary association of believers for religious purposes " ; look upon the Eucharist as merely commemorative of departed worth ; and perceive no shocking absurdity in hearing it asserted by the most numerous denomination amongst us, that the only proper subjects of Baptism are they who have already been regenerated! No wonder, then, that the great mass marvel why the church is here ; are puzzled to make out what business it has to be here at all; look upon it as an old and useless ruin, respectable, perhaps, in the eyes of a few antiquaries, but serving only to harbour bats, owls, ravens, and other birds of ill omen; and to encumber the site which could be advantageously occupied by a cotton-mill, or a neat two-story dwelling-house, painted white, and ornamented with green Venetian blinds, or at best by a lyceum, a school-house, an anatomical or a chimical laboratory. Now against this state of things, throughout all Christendom, a reaction has commenced. The adversary, who, if possible, would deceive the very elect, has gone the length of his chain, and can no further; Michael descends again to chain the old serpent, the Dragon, that drew after him a third part of the stars of heaven ; the man of sin is arrested ; the sacred central fire, which was smothered, and which seemed for a time to the superficial to be extinguished, but which never ceased for a moment to burn in the heart of the church, is growing in tenser, and begins to1 expand, and send its vital warmth towards the extremities, which for so long a time have been so cold and lifeless ; churchmen begin to feel that they have wasted their substance in riotous living, that they have been feeding on husks, and are well-nigh starved ; and, blessed be God ! the memory of the long forgotten home returns, and they remember that in their Father's House there is bread enough and to spare, and they say to themselves, " We will arise and return to our Father's house." They remember that they have a Father, which for a long time they had forgotten. They feel that they need not be the lone, starving wanderers in a far country, fatherless, and desolate, which they have been. There is yet a home for them. The tendency is now everywhere to return, and find again this long deserted home. This is a glorious tendency, full of significance, and of hope. It is this tendency, which is represented by the Oxford divines ; this is the significance of Puseyism. This is the significance of what a shallow Radicalism calls retrograde movements, now to be seen throughout the Christian world, in every communion, from the Roman down to our own Unitarian ; and this is wherefore we hail these movements with hope, with joy, and with thanksgiving.
But it is precisely here, that we begin to feel a serious embarrassment. We would return home ; where is this home ? Of these numerous buildings I see, which is my Father's dwelling ? The tendency, we have said, is to unity and catholicity, and that, not merely in a refined metaphysical sense, but in the sense of outward form and institution, as well as of inward spirit and feeling. The tendency is no longer to Quakerism, the only respectable tendency the religious mind has felt since the disruption of the church in the sixteenth century. Men cannot feed on air, or live in utter nakedness. They demand unity and catholicity of faith, polity, and discipline. Then, amid all these rival institutions, these fragmentary churches so-called, into which the body of our Lord has been broken, which is the true Catholic Apostolic Church ? This is the question, and it is one, disguise it as we will, which cannot but embarrass, for a time, the sincere and earnest inquirer. Here I am, I have run through nearly the whole circle of the sects, in pursuit of a home, seeking rest and finding none. The tendency of the age, the Christian Welt-geist, has, at length, taken fast hold of me ; I have come to believe in the one Holy Catholic Apostolic Church, and to see and feel the need of a one temple, and a single altar, to which all the tribes of Israel may repair. But where shall 1 go ? With which of the numerous communions shall I seek fellowship, as the condition of being in the true church, and, therefore, in the way of salvation ? The Roman communion ? and, by so doing, declare it to be my solemn belief, that salvation is absolutely unattainable in the Greek Church, the Arminian Church, the Anglican Church, the Lutheran Church, the Presbyterian Church, the Congregational Church, the Baptist Church, the Methodist Church ? No. I cannot do this. Say, then, the Anglican, or any one of the others, and the same question follows. If I can be saved without joining one of these communions, then no good reason can be assigned, why I should seek to join any one of them ; if I can be saved in any one of them, then is there no just ground for preferring one to another. But, in joining any one, I do say, if I know what I do, that I not only prefer one to all the rest, but that I hold that it, of all, is the only one in which salvation is possible, and that out of that there is no salvation for me. I cannot, therefore, seek fellowship with one, as a serious, honest, and intelligent man, without, in my own belief, unchurching all the rest. This I shrink, as it seems to me, every intelligent and fair-minded man must shrink, from doing. Where, then, can I go ? Literally, I can go nowhere.
Now, here is, if we mistake not, a very serious and embarrassing question, a preliminary question, which must be met and disposed of, before we can proceed a single step. We have, since we came to believe in the unity and catholicity of the church, thought much ahid anxiously on this question ; and, without wishing in the least to disguise its difficulty from ourselves or from others, we will, with all modesty, deference, and humility, give, briefly, the best answer we have been able to obtain.
We begin by assuming, that no solution of the problem, which really unchurches any existing communion, will answer the purpose. The moment such a solution is proffered, each communion which is unchurched is provoked, as we have said, to bring forward its rival pretensions ; and each claiming to be a church, and, therefore, to be independent in respect to all others, there is no common umpire to whom the dispute may be referred, and whose decision will be recognized by all as binding upon all. The Bible is not this umpire, because the Bible is all in the meaning which the living interpreter gives it, and each communion interprets it differently from the others. The Episcopalian, the Presbyterian, the Con-gregationalist, each appeals alike to the Bible ; but has the Bible as yet settled their rival pretensions ? Individual reason, or private judgment, will not answer ; because each man's private judgment is in no small degree the product of the peculiar traditions of his own special communion ; and because it is never the same in the case of any two individuals. The whole history of Christendom, since the time of Luther, demonstrates the utter impracticability of attaining to unanimity by means of individual reason. Moreover, the individual reason is authoritative only for the individual. To make it the umpire, would be to set up the reason of one as the standard, and to require all the rest to conform to it, which would be the grossest tyranny-conceivable. My individual judgment is the equivalent of my neighbour's ; to require me to submit mine to his, or him to submit his to mine, would be an outrage, which every true man, at all conscious of his rights, dignity, and duty, would, if need should be, resist even unto death. There is, then, as we have said, no common umpire, to whose decision, recognized by all as binding, the rival claims of these conflicting communions can be brought and settled. We are forced, then, by the very necessity of the case, by the actual condition of Christendom, to begin by so far recognizing the claims of all, as to bring the special claims of no one into discussion,-unless some one, indeed, insists on unchurching all but itself; and even then we must suffer ourselves to do it, only so far as is necessary to rebuke it for its arrogance and exclusive spirit.
Perhaps our meaning would be best expressed by saying, that we should begin by waiving all discussion of the claims of rival comimtnions. This discussion is really unnecessary, and cannot fail to be mischievous. Let us begin, then, by assuming, that the Lord's body has been broken into fragments, but that each of these fragments is, in a degree, a living fragment, and capable of imparting more or less of Christian life. No one of these fragments must assume to be the whole unbroken body of the Lord. This premised, let there be no discussion as to who broke the body, or as to which fragment, upon the whole, retains the most of the original body, or to which we should do best to assimilate ; but, let the question be, How shall all these fragments be brought together, and reunited in one unbroken body, so that the whole Christian world may be really one ?
Here, then, is our answer: Do you ask, tohich is the true church ? that is, which is the Lord's body ? We answer, No one ; that is, no one is it, all and entire. Do you then retort, and say, that the church has failed, and that we assume the true church to be no longer extant, save in a refined and metaphysical sense, thereby falsifying the promise of our Saviour, that he would build his church upon a rock, and the gates of hell should not prevail against it ? We deny your charge. We say, the true church, the Holy Catholic Apostolic Church, does still exist, and has never for one moment ceased to exist, but exists at the present moment in a fragmentary state. This existence, in a fragmentary or broken state, is very different from not existing at all. It is tthe church still, but the church no longer in its full glory and power, which in fact is implied in our very inquiry ; for, if it were, it would at once be recognized. We prefer representing the church as a body broken, rather than as a vine, and the several communions as branches; for these branches must all through the main trunk intercommune, and receive their nourishment from the root; or else they would be dead branches, abiding not in the vine. If these separate churches are branches, we ask, where is the trunk ? that is to say, where is the central church, which receives the sap from Christ, the Root, and circulates it through the branches, thus giving life and growth to the whole plant? We do not understand this notion of branch churches, without a main trunk. To us the church is the body of our Lord, bearing to him a relation analogous to that borne by our bodies to the vital force, or organic principle, which creates and preserves them living organisms. Now we can easily conceive of the body being broken, and yet Avithout the parts being torn so far asunder as to have absolutely no intercommunion ; and this is to us an exact representation of the present condition of the church. It is the torn and bleeding, but not yet dead, body of our Lord.
So much for the church as it is. Now, the real problem is not, to which of these parts I must assimilate; therefore, the preliminary question, With which communion shall I seek fellowship ? disposes, as it were, of itself, and ceases to be a question at all. It is only by taking a false view of the Christian world as it is, that it ever comes up to trouble us. The question disturbs us, because we begin by assuming, that some one of these communions must be the true Catholic Apostolic Communion, and that the rest are no Christian communions at all ; instead of assuming, in the outset, as we should, that all are but so many fragments of one and the same Catholic Apostolic Communion. In any one of these communions, you are in the church, and, therefore, have no occasion to ask, Where shall I go ? Stay WHERE YOU AKE.
The true question for the inquirer, is not, Which is the true church ? but, What can be done to bring all the fragments together, heal the broken body of Christ, and clothe it again with his seamless robe ? And, after all, this question is not so difficult as some might suppose. Assuming, that all the professedly Christian communions extant, save one, must be unchurched, the matter is indeed difficult; for then you can reach unity only through proselyting, only by converting all the members of these unchurched communions to your own ; which, beginning as you do by setting up your own as the church, the only church, and the whole church, is utterly impracticable, as the experiment of the last three centuries abundantly demonstrates. But, on the ground we assume, it becomes comparatively easy. We have but to observe the process of nature in healing a wounded body, in order to ascertain, at once, the law which is to govern our efforts. Nature carries on her curative process by throwing off the bruised flesh, and forming new flesh, simultaneously, and by one and the same operation, by virtue of the vital principle, which is in the broken body, and equally, though it may be in unequal degrees, in the several parts. The restoration of unity, and the absorption of all particular communions, must go on simultaneously, and be effected by virtue of the living principle still in the broken body of our Lord, and in all the fragments into which it has been broken.
Now, is there in all these fragments this one vital force, this organic principle, by virtue of which the whole body may be healed, unity recovered, and division absorbed ? We contend, that there is, and that just in proportion as we address ourselves to this vital force, we shall be successful in healing all these divisions, which we now deplore in the church. Beneath all this diversity, which strikes us, on the surface, there is, though but partially operative, the fundamental principle of unity. It is to this principle, that we must look; for unity can be effected only by appealing to a principle common to all. Unity by conversion of one communion to another, much more of all communions to one, is out of the question. The union must come, if it come at all, by means of efforts possible to each communion, while continuing to be a particular communion. That is, the work to be done for the recovery of the unity and catholicity of the church, as a body as well as a spirit, must be a work, possible to the Roman Catholic, without his becoming a Protestant; to the Protestant, without his becoming a Roman Catholic ; to the Anglican, without his becoming a Presbyterian, or a Congregationalist; and to the Presbyterian, or the Congregationalist, without his becoming an Anglican.
Now, what is this principle ? It is, answers one, the spirit of Christ, that is to say, Love. Love is the grand principle of union, and, just so far as all possess it, they do really become one, one with one another, one with Christ, and, through him, one with the Father. Nothing more true ; but this overlooks a very important fact, and assumes the presence of love as the principle of the unity of the church ; whereas it is the unity and catholicity of the church, which we need, as the condition of producing love in the hearts of its members. This answer makes the unity and catholicity of the church the end ; whereas love is the end, and unity and catholicity are the means. With this multiplicity of jarring and hostile communions, whence the love necessary to unite them ? If, with these jarring and hostile communions, you can obtain the love, what do you want the unity and catholicity for ? Here is the fallacy of most of the grounds of Christian union, proposed, in our day, by our church reformers. These all forget the mediatorial character of the church, and fall into the superstition of regarding it as an end; they all forget, moreover, the helplessness into which the sinner falls through sin, the destruction of his moral power, which is the inevitable consequence of sin, and, therefore, that he cannot, of himself, without divine assistance, rise to the possession of the Christian spirit, or to the practice of the Christian virtues ; and, furthermore, that it is only as the medium of this divine assistance, that the church question assumes the least gravity.
What, then, is this principle common to all, and to which we may appeal ? It is not a special dogma, a special form of church government; but the real belief, still retained by all, though in a sense more or less feeble, of the unity and catholicity of the church. Now, we say, that, however much these particular communions may differ in all else, every one does, in reality, though it be unconsciously, hold, that the vital principle of the church must needs be one ; that the church is really the living body of our Lord, the depositary, and authoritative interpreter, of his word, whether the written word or the spoken word. Here, then, is the foundation on which we must build ; here, in this common belief, as to what the church really is, what are its rights, prerogatives, and duties, is the principle, through the workings of which we must recover unity and catholicity. Here our readers may see why we have dwelt so emphatically on the importance of moving the main question of the church itself. It is simply and solely because this question will disclose both the necessity, and the ground, of unity and catholicity. This question can be moved in the bosom of any one of the communions extant, freely discussed, and the true answer proclaimed, without the least infraction of its order, or subjecting ourselves to its discipline ; and moved, too, and the true answer insisted upon, without, as would be the case with any other question, bringing one communion into conflict with another.
The matter now grows plain. We are to seek unity and catholicity, by moving what we have called the church question. We are to grasp the true theory of the church, which, at bottom, is asserted, as we have said, by every communion, and to hold it up, in the bosom of the very communion in which we are, as the Oxford divines have done, and are doing, in the bosom of the Anglican communion ; and this will prove effectual. It may be done in every communion, because every communion, without knowing it, does liQld it as one of its elements. It may, then, be brought into operation in every communion in an orderly manner ; not, we own, without ultimately destroying that communion as a particular and independent communion ; but this is the very end we seek ; for what do we seek, in seeking unity and catholicity, but the absorption of all particular communions in the one Catholic Communion ? There are, moreover, in all communions, at this very moment, individuals who are oppressed with a sense of the present torn and bleeding state of the Lord's body, and who sigh and yearn to heal its bruises, and restore it to its pristine health and vigor. Let these, then, where they are, turn their attention to the paramount question of the, church, revive the true theory of the church, and preach it. We say, the true theory of the church, not the method of outward organization, where authority shall be vested, or how its administration shall be provided for; but the true theory of what the church is, what are its powers, its rights, and its duties. Settle this, and it is already pretty well settled, thus far, in their minds, and then preach it. Let every one who has come to believe in, and to long for, the great principles of unity and catholicity, preach them from his own stand-point; the Congregationalist from his congregational pulpit, the Presbyterian from his presbyterian pulpit, the Anglican from his episcopal chair, the Roman Catholic from his old cathedral; and let it be done here in Boston, in New-York, in Baltimore, in Oxford, at Berlin, at Paris, and at Rome ; and instantly it will be seen, that throughout all Christendom, in the bosom of the most exclusive and hostile communions, there is a real unity of faith as to what the church, as a body, really is, and as to what are its mission and its authority.
When so much shall be done, all is done ; for this very theory of the church, then becoming predominant, recognizes, in the church herself, the inherent right, by virtue of the indwelling Christ, to settle, authoritatively, all the other questions which may or can come up. All that would then be requisite would be to call, as would then be practicable, a new council, to adjust the bases of renewed communion, outward polity, and discipline. Let this new council, which would be a sort of ecclesiastical Congress, be composed 'of delegates from all Christian communities extant, which believe in the Holy Catholic Apostolic Church, and are willing to submit to its authority, and abide its decisions, fairly and formally promulgated. We see no serious difficulties in the way of doing this. We are much mistaken, if the movement, that must lead to it, is not already commenced. The few, who would not submit to the canons promulgated by this new oecumenical council, would be rightfully regarded as heretics and schismatics, for they would have no excuse for not hearing the voice of the church. Moreover, they would be morally powerless against the church, healed of its divisions, and reinvigorated, and they would soon be absorbed.
This result obtained, the church no longer obliged, as in the first three centuries, and in these last three, to struggle for her very existence, would resume her work of social amelioration, - interrupted by the rise of Protestantism, and delayed by the obstacles thrown in its way by infidelity and the supremacy of the temporal authority, - and devote new and unsuspected energies to the moral, intellectual, and physical elevation of the poorer and more numerous classes. Then the kingdom of God will come, and really, and confessedly, dwell with men ; then will be in very deed fulfilled this Scripture, " The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor, he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, the recovering of sight to the blind, and to set at liberty them that are bound."
Is this an idle dream ? O, no ! God has promised it, and. all Christendom is crying out for it. The angel, with his roll, flies through the midst of the heavens, preaching the everlasting gospel, and men are everywhere falling into their ranks. The great question comes up, Catholicism or Individualism ; which becomes, again, Church or No-Church; which, in the last analysis, is, Religion or Infidelity. Disguise the matter as we will, we must all rally, at the one or the other of these battle-cries. Can there be a question, to which the great mass of the Christian world will respond ? Protestantism, in all it has peculiar to itself, in all that distinguishes it from genuine Catholicism, no longer responds to the religious, or even the social, wants of the soul. It is weighed in the balance, and found wanting. Through all our souls, have we, who have been educated under its influence, felt its utter insufficiency. We have sought to supply its defects in Mysticism with the Quaker, in Rationalism with the modern Lutheran, in Naturalism with the old English and French Deists, in Pantheism with modern philosophers, in Socialism with Owen and Fourier; but all in vain. Let loose, like Noah's dove from the ark, ere the waters had abated, we have found no resting-place for the soles of our feet; and, weary with our endless flight over the wild and weltering chaos, produced by the deluge of rationalism and infidelity, we return, and beat against the windows of the ark, impatient till the patriarch reaches forth his hand and takes us in. Struck with the perpetual miracle of the church, some among us bow down and worship; others find their way back through history and tradition ; others, again, like ourselves, find, when least expecting it, their philosophy reproducing, and the wants of the soul, suffering from the ravages of sin, redemanding, unity and catholicity. In one way, or another, thank God, we shall all finally get back, and the new will become old, and the old will become new. There will be one fold and one shepherd ; one faith, one baptism, one heart, and one mind ; and it will be as the second coming of the Lord, to reign with men, and to make the salvation of God appear vmto the ends of the earth, when all flesh shall behold his glory, and rejoice together. Even so, Lord Jesus, come quickly, and let the whole earth say, Amen.