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The New Zealand Evangelist

Tractarian Bishops And Judges

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Tractarian Bishops And Judges.

The middle of the nineteenth century of the Christian era, has witnessed the rise of the most monstrous heresy in the Protestant Church, that has showed itself in Britain since the Reformation. Had this originated in a few weak-minded, but perhaps amiable individuals, zealous for the honour of God, and the maintenance of His doctrine, as declared in Scripture, it would have terminated in a little chapel, and a small congregation. Or had it sprung from irreligious Freethinkers, who, after the Primitive example of having “all things in common,” sought to bring “the masses” to Socialism and Communism, the scheme would at once have been blasted by the common sense of the nation. But the heresy we are alluding to is of a far more imposing and insidious character. It has sprung up in what has hitherto been the very citadel of Protestant Orthodoxy—the University of Oxford itself! a University which, until of late years, had always arrogated to itself, and perhaps with some page 326 shew of justice, a superiority over that of Cambridge. We need hardly add, that we allude to the sect of the Tractarians, better known, perhaps, by that of Puseyites. In these “uttermost parts of the earth,” and among those classes to whom our little monthly numbers are chiefly addressed, the peculiar characteristics of this sect are, no doubt, but vaguely and imperfectly known. It will be as well therefore, in the first instance, to state, in simple language, the leading doctrines they chiefly inculcate. These consist in preserving, “in Apostolic purity,” a strict observance of all the “fasts and festivals,” together with very many of the outward ceremonies of the “Antient” Churches in the early stages of Popery. They “hold the traditions of the Elders,” that is, of the Antient Fathers, of equal authority with the Scriptures: and contend that their interpretation of the divine oracles is that, and that only, which the people are to believe. They deny, in short, the right of private judgment on all spiritual matters; and by giving to the Sacraments, as administered by them, an undue efficacy, they constitute themselves the mediators and pardoners of sin. They teach, in fact, that they are the only true church, having inherited, by Apostolic succession, the power to bind and unloose. These doctrines of their faith, though not put forth in such plain terms as ours, are abundantly obvious in their “Tracts for the Times,” a series of pamphlets, from whence they have derived the name of Tractarians; while the revival of Romish forms and ceremonies in divine worship are manifested in the use of altar candlesticks, burning in broad day,—preaching in the white surplice,—and sundry others, which are scarcely worth noticing in this place. Nevertheless, that we may not be accused of making false statements in this matter, the following extract from a religious periodical, printed at Rome,* will best shew the light in which the

* Avvenimenti Edificanti maxime Recenti Roma 1839. i.e. The most recent instructive notices. Sce Ancient Christianity, p. 107.

page 327 Oxford papists are viewed by their brethren in the “Eternal City.”

“The attention of all good Catholics cannot be enough excited by the present state of religion in England, in consequence of the new (?) doctrine propagated with so much ability and success by Messrs. Newman, Pusey, and Keble, with arguments drawn from the holy fathers, of which they have just undertaken a new edition in England. These gentlemen labour to restore the antient catholic liturgy—the breviary (which many of them, to the knowledge of the writer, recite daily) fastings, the monastic life, and many other religious practices. Moreover they teach the insufficiency of the Bible, as a rule of faith—the necessity of tradition, and of ecclesiastical authority—the real presence—prayer for the dead—the use of images, the priest's power of absolution—the sacrifice of the mass—the devotion of the virgin, and many other catholic doctrines, in such sort, as to leave but little difference between their opinions and the true faith.”

It was quite obvious to every sober minded Christian that this was, in reality, but Popery in the disguise of Protestantism. And so it ultimately proved. The two principal leaders of this schism, were Dr. Pusey and Mr. Newman; the latter, with a number of his thoughtless disciples, soon apostatized from the Protestant Church, and openly professed their conversion to Popery. Very many of the ministers of the Established Church followed these pitiable examples; and so widely was this stream of priestly pride, and perverted christianity, spreading over the land, that it almost threatened to bring back upon England the horrors of the days of the martyrs.

But the pureness and simplicity of the Gospel were not to be so easily subverted. In the full career of this desolating tide of false principles and false doctrine, an antagonist power was raised up in three, or four champions for the truth, “as it is in Jesus,” which stemmed the tide, and turned it on the adversary. The masterly opposition of the late page 328 Dr. Arnold, who laid bare the secret springs of the whole movement, and analysed its real tendencies, gave the first effectual check to the Tractarian heresy; while the profound erudition, the consummate learning, and the “right judgment” of the author of “Antient Christianity,” turned the writings of “the Fathers” with admirable skill, to the discomfiture of the very party who were endeavouring to justify their proceedings under the shelter of antiquity. The most learned men of Oxford found themselves suddenly encountered by a nameless individual, and him a layman, with an equal, if not a superior knowledge of the voluminous writings of the “Antient Fathers” which, with irresistable force, he brought to discomfit the Oxonians. They quailed beneath the attack: and after a few faint efforts, the discontinuance of their pernicious “Tracts” marked their signal defeat.

So far the heads of the Hydra were crushed: but its poisonous blood still pollutes the ground, and runs into every chink and crevice that can receive it. Such has been the rise, and we may almost say the fall, of Puseyism. At least, so far as its leaders are concerned. But the effects of its baneful influence has imperceptibly spread beyond the limits of the church, and has mingled in subjects altogether distinct from theological questions. In the North British Review is an admirable article on Tractarian Poetry, as exhibited in the writings of three converts to the Oxford heresy, who, with more zeal than judgment, and with talent still less, have endeavoured to fan the expiring flame of Puseyism, by trying to embalm, in wretched poetry, the still more wretched errors of their sect.

Thus far, by way of introduction. We have now to shew the effect of these pernicious doctrines under a new form—that of a judgment, pronounced in the Arches Court, in the case of the Rev. Mr. Gorham against the Tractarian Bishop of Exeter, for refusing to induct the plaintiff to a certain living. In regard to the particulars of these extraordinary page 329 proceedings, it is only necessary to state in this place the simple question at issue, which is thus expressed by the Judge, “The question to be decided was, what was the teaching of the Church of England? It was not what the Scriptures taught: nor what were the private opinions of the Reformers—but the doctrine of the Church of England!”

Here, then, we have a principle laid down, by a Judge of the highest Ecclesiastical Court in this Protestant empire, precisely the same as that which would be pronounced in Rome, by the Pope himself. The Divine truths are not to be learned from the Scriptures, but from the interpretations of “the elders.” The Priest is to supersede the Saviour. The doctrines of “the Church” (whether Anglican or Roman) are infallible, however they may be opposed to the Bible. The teaching of “the Church” is to supersede the teaching of the Holy Spirit. And the words of the Father, “This is my beloved Son, Hear ye Him,” are to be exchanged for the Popish blasphemy of “This is my anointed Priest, Hear ye him.“We have long known this to be the doctrine of the Romanists, but now we are authoritively told, by a mitred Bishop and an ermined Judge, that this also is to be the principle of a Church, which is called—Protestant!

This is the solution of the principles laid down by Sir Herbert Jenners Fust, a principle which every one must see is as repugnant to the word of God, and the spirit of the Reformation, as it is in accordance with the despotism of the Romish Church. We shall now glance at its application to the case before us. We will grant that Sir Herbert Jenners Fust is bound to look to the question at issue, not as an Ecclesiastical Judge, whose authority was to be solely the word of God, but as a civil lawyer, who was only to be guided by the precedence of practice, or the opinions of his predecessors. He argued correctly, no doubt, that as Mr. Gorham had subscribed to the thirty-nine Articles of the Established page 330 Church, he was bound to adhere to those Articles, or to quit the fellowship of the church which imposed them. So far all is well; for the inference is legitimate. Now one of these Articles relates to Baptismal regeneration, upon which the Tractarian Bishop puts the interpretation of the Romish Church, the Oxford heretics, and some of the high church party. Mr. Gorham, on the other hand, contends for that view of the subject which has been adopted by equally high authorities of the Anglican Church, and by nearly every denomination of Dissenters out of that Church. As many Dignitaries, Archbishops, and Bishops of the establishment are arranged on the one side, as on the other; while beyond the narrow limits of the Episcopalian Church, Mr. Gorham has the whole body of Dissenters of every denomination in his favour. Who then is to decide a question of such difficulty and delicacy? a question upon which the most learned theologians, the most pious divines, and the most profound ecclesiastics have differed? Is it seemly, is it consistent, that such a momentous question should be left to the decision of a layman? whose casting vote, as it were, is to affix the stigma of heresy and schism upon more than one half of the English Hierarchy, and all the Churches of Christ who will not subscribe to his—Sir Herbert Jenners Fust's—ideas upon Baptismal Regeneration? Does not this functionary know the difficulties that have surrounded this question from the earliest ages of the Church? and is it seemly that he, a layman. should hold the scales between the two parties, and decide, by a few oracular words, which should preponderate?

To our apprehension the decision is as monstrous, and as despotic, as the principle upon which it has been founded is insulting to the Deity, and revolting to the Christian.

Here, then, is one of the many bitter “fruits of Sodom,” which have sprung from the Oxford Heresy. But for that, we question whether any nominal Christian, still less “one in authority,” would have page 331 publicly stated that the fitness of a Priest for instructing the people, depended—not on his expounding the words of Scripture—but the words of a sect whose “Articles” he was to consider as paramount to the word of God. What is this but a denial of private judgment, a violation of conscience, a revival of the spiritual despotism of Rome, and of that pharasaical perversion of scripture which of old called forth the indignation of The Judge of all? To such are addressed the words of our Saviour—“In vain do ye worship me, teaching for [my] doctrines the commandments of men.”*

But, it may be argued, A Judge is bound to pronounce sentence on the dictates of his own conscience. True. But this does not compel him to cast an indirect slur upon the Scriptures; it does not compel him to deliver his judgment in such language, and on such a subject, as if he were gifted with the Apostolic spirit—and, least of all, does it compel him to visit what in calmer moments he might consider an error of judgment, with such a punishment as will in all probability ruin Mr. Gorham. To deprive that minister of his living, was surely enough, without laying the additional burden of all the costs of the suit.

“——We do pray for mercy,
And that same prayer does teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy.——”

Merchant of Venice.

Among the many blessings we enjoy in these remote islands, it is not among the least that we have neither a tractarian Bishop, nor an Arches Court with its appendages, Courts of which we

* Matt. xv. 9.

I find, from a British Almanack, that these are the Prerogative and Consistory Courts, & c., all presided over by Laymen! What would be thought, if the Officers of the Civil Courts of Justice were all (by this violation of fitness, and of common sense) selected only from among the Ecclesiastical ranks?

page 332 know nothing more, than that their proceedings in matters of Divorce (as occasionally exhibited in the public papers) are at all times revolting to decent and well regulated minds, and are often so disgusting as to be unfit for publication. Yet these are the Courts in which the question of Spiritual Regeneration has been gravely argued, and dogmaticaily decided!—by a Layman.

Persecution, even to the death, is the cement which more forcibly than any other binds the foundations of the Universal Church of Christ. Tractarian Bishops, Poets, Moralists,* and Judges, while they strive to turn us back to the Catholic Faith of Rome, and the corruptions of the Fifth Century, are not only binding the members of Christ's Church more firmly to each other, but are unconsciouly thinning their own ranks, by at length disgusting those who have hitherto, for the sake of peace, remained passive, but grieved spectators. There is no question that these, and certain other proceedings of the Tractarian and ultra High Church Party, have done more to damage the Establishment, than all the assaults it may have openly received from the daily increasing body of dissenters.

* Christain Morals—by the Revd. William Sewell, Professor of Moral Philosophy in the University of Oxford. “If illustration were argument, and assertion—proof, this would be the most satisfactory ethical treatise extant. As it is, to the rising generation, it is the most dangerous.”