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and we deliberately repeat, that this volume is the best volume of historical collections which any society among us as yet has published. It has but one rival ; we mean the second volume of the publications of the American Antiquarian Society, and on that occasion New York has claims to acknowledgments. Of the publishing committee Mr. Folsom was an active member, and the jewel in the collection is the elaborate essay of Albert Gallatin.
ART. V. - A Treatise on the Church of Christ. By the Rev.
WILLIAM PALMER, M. A., of Worcester College, Oxford, with a Preface and Notes by the Right Reverend W. R. WHITTINGHAM, D.D., Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Maryland. New York: D. Appleton and Co. Vol. I. and II.
Vol. I. and II. 8vo. pp. 529-557. What constitutes the “Church,” is in theory a deep question, and in practice (as the Christian world now stands) a thorny one ; and yet, however deep or thorny, it is one to which the thoughtful individual Christian cannot give the “go-by” – rightly or wrongly he must settle it for himselfand can find spiritual peace, not to say eternal safety, only in the conviction of having not neglected to settle it aright. He, therefore, who undertakes in the present day to give to the Christian world a “ Treatise on the Church," undertakes a task, we must say, as perilous as it is needful - magnum et periculosum opus; not only does he, in his theory of this matter, grapple necessarily and at once with all the most vexed questions in theology, ecclesiastical history, and spiritual philosophy, but moreover he awakens questions that come nearer home to men's bosoms - questions in which pride, prejudice, nay, even the best feelings of our nature, are the false pleaders. The first class of questioners it is hard to satisfy; the latter, humanly speaking, it is impossible. Neither learning nor logic, however deep or sound, nor array of Christian testimony, however ample, can or will be listened to when directed against religious teaching that has been sucked in with a mother's milk, and sanctified by a mother's prayers, consecrated, too, perhaps by a father's dying blessing. We may not wonder at, then, and we cer
101 tainly cannot condemn, the adult Christian, who is slow to admit that to be heresy or schism which was taught to him from his earliest youth as God's truth by those who were to him in the place of God — his parents, or his spiritual teachers. Nor is it only from those beyond the writer's pale that the outery will arise of error or bigotry in such teacher ; his bitterest oppugners he will probably find from within ; for it is an old charge, and one not wholly destitute of truth, that doctrinal differences, like family feuds, are the least placable in proportion as they are nearest allied — a position pretty plainly exhibited, we may say, at the present time in the Church both of England and America — where Oxford theology, with its floating straws of error, is decried with a vehemence of condemnation justifiable only in the case of damnable heresies, and such as obviously unfits its heated critics from perceiving and appreciating the deep and needful truths which that school of divinity more especially inculcates. Now, if such diversity of judgment arise among brethren, and that on minor points of theology, how can we hope for harmony when the fundamental question that touches the rights of all comes up for decision, namely – What constitutes “the Church of Christ ?" and consequently, who lie within — who lie without the pale ?
Under such fearful auspices, therefore, is it, huinanly speaking, that our author, or indeed any author, enters upon this high problem of laying out the scriptural “ metes and bounds” of the Church of Christ, and giving the “notes" by which the “true" may in every place be distinguished from the “ spurious" claimant; and that in this evil augury we are not willing prophets, we must add as an illustration actually before us, that the learned and pious editor of these volumes, though of the same Church and same school of divinity with their equally learned and pious author, and though editing the work from his general approval of the same, still finds it needful to guard his readers, both by a general disclaimer in his preface, and more pointedly by notes in loco, against more than one of his author's decisions as to portions of the Christian Church. Such, then, is the “ hedge of thorns” that stands around this subject of “ the Church," treat it who will. But why, then, it may be asked, treat it at all? Why divide professing Christians by drawing between them hostile lines of demarcation ? and what is worse, such as poison the very fountains of Christian charity by making Chrisjạn faith that divider? We ask these questions, noi- as concurring in them, but because we know many
of our readers will ask them ; but their answer is conclusive. In the first place, on such reasoners' own principle, we are bound to go further, and ask of all Christian teachers, :why draw the Christian line? why speak up dogmatically for the Bible ? or conclude, to the prejudice of the infidel, religion to be better than atheism ? for all these are dividing lines, and that too of " faith.” Nor only so; as already said, the question of the Church is a práctical one, and must, in practice at least, be settled. The private Christian cannot, if he would, leave it untouched, for he must choose; and the Christian teacher should not, if he could, for he must teach it. It is his duty to point out the Faith and the Church, even as it is the necessity of all to choose their faith and their church; so that the only alternative that remains in this matter, is whether that choice shall be made by the Christian blindly, in ignorance, and by chance, or clearly and scripturally, with his eyes open, and his heart awakened to the vast, nay, infinite importance of deciding right. Now, as to which of these courses is the rational, scriptural, and right one, there can be but one judgment. The Christian is called by scripture to a reasonable service ; he must choose with reason, and not against reason, and scripture and reason alike teach him that he can be spiritually safe only within that Church which Christ founded, and to which he hath given his blessing for
We thus, then, pierce through this outer barrier of thorns, which, to the unreflecting and worldly mind, appears so formidable as, on the score of charity, to forbid all access. We are bound to pierce through it. It is the price at which the Christian is now called, as from the first he was, to buy the truth, and charity must heal the wounds which charity makes. Silence and indifference touching it cannot even buy peace to the thoughtful mind, much less the truth that alone makes free.
Under these convictions, therefore, instead of lamenting we hail with pleasure the recent more frequent and thorough discussion of the subject of the Church that has taken place in our country especially, and the Christian world generally; and hold itone of the best signs of the unspiritual times in which we live, that Christians begin to feel earnest enough in their faith to look into the foundations of it. We are well satisfied that the question of the Church is the question that lies at the
103 foundation of all minor questions among professing but divided Christians, and that its scriptural and charitable solution is that which will go foremost, and pave the way most solidly to re-union among them.
With this justifying preamble of our subject, we now proceed to consider its treatment in the work before us. volumes come forth from Oxford — from the pen of one whose name ranks higher in reputation than in academic honors, having not yet taken his doctor's degree in divinity. The tiine has been in the history of the Church when such defect would have proved fatal to its influence. The doctorate (as its name imports) alone gave authority to teach. It being one of the academic vows, taken when entering upon it, to defend the truth, if need were, unto death ; and it is among the most innocent of the pious frauds practised in the Church of Rome, that of substituting, on such occasions as the present, the name of a D.D. in place of an A.M. The celebrated treatise of Nicole de la perpétuité de la foi touchant L'Eucharisti was thus transferred, it is said, from Nicole to Arnauld, whose name it has ever since borne. But whatever be the weight of such title, its deficiency in the present case is made up by the higher academic honors of its learned editor, the Right Rev. W. R. Whittingham, D.D. The work harmonizes in general principles with Newman, Pusey, Keble, and the other writers of the Oxford Tracts; and is yet sufficiently distinguished from them in many points, to be entitled to stand on independent ground, and, without prejudice, to be tested on its own merits. It is a work designed professedly not so much for the general reader as for the professional student, and as such, is accommodated to their use, both by a more formal analysis of its subject and a more antagonistic tone of reasoning than suits popular teaching. This diminishes somewhat, no doubt, its general interest, but adds greatly, on the other hand, to its exactness and fulness, and consequent adaptation to its especial object as a work of ample reference and thorough examination -- an object, we would add, still further reached by the additional notes of its learned and right reverend editor, the bishop of the diocese of Maryland. But, still, neither is the instruction of the private Christian forgotten in it; besides, the deep under-current of practical teaching that pervades the whole, the Christian reader will be often met by passages of great hortatory power, arousing him to feel the deep responsibility incumbent on
every individual Christian to seek for the Divine favor, and that not in broken cisterns of human device, but in that way wherein alone Divine grace is promised, and which, amid the infirmities, the errors, and the faults inseparable from human agency, conducts to eternal life. The work, too, may be regarded, though such is but its incidental subject, as a broad, manly, liberal defence of the Church of England on the principles of the Church Catholic, set forth on scriptural ground, maintained in a Christian spirit, and justified against all gainsayers by an array of learning, and still more, by a candor of argument such as we have seldom seen equalled in the controversial theologian ; the result being to demonstrate that members of that Church are enabled, through its peculiarly Catholic principles, to oppose error of doctrine or discipline, both on the right and on the left, without shifting in the slightest degree their position as churchmen; taking not the attitude of Dissenters in their argument with the Papists, nor that of Papists in their argument with Dissenters, but resting every where, and at all times, on the unquestioned ground of Scripture, primitive usage, and Catholic interpretation the via media of the Anglican Church—the reconciling line, in short, between authority on the one hand, and private judgment on the other. The compass of the work of Mr. Palmer is, however, far wider than this which we hold to be but one of its special deductions. It embraces all general questions on the distinctive notes of the Church, as well as the special cases of its various branches, or pseudo branches, in all portions of Christendom. These thorny points are taken up by our author with a firmness, yet gentleness, that indicates the Christian hand. He fears them not-he blinks therefore no question however invidious — leaps over no obstacles however embarrassing - examines carefully, learnedly, and charitably, every mooted point; but, having done so, decides upon each frankly, clearly and fearlessly — under tests, previously established from Scripture, and concurrent Catholic agreement. Whatever exception may be taken, therefore, to any
of his practical conclusions, there can be none, we think, to the principles on which he goes in their solution, and still less, if possible, to the Christian spirit in which he decides upon them. Such assent, however, we must premise, will not, and cannot be universal. Against three classes of reasoners on the subject of the Church, our author stands necessarily, and at all times, in a hostile attitude. Into what these are, as