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This conclusion we do not understand Bishop Hopkins to controvert, so far as concerns the German and Swiss Reformers, (pp. 26, 27,) but only in the case of the British Reform
The British Reformers were not schismatics, because they did not proceed on their own individual authority, but on the authority of a national Church. His argument is, they who separate from the Catholic body by authority of the national Church, of which they are members, are not schismatics; but the British Reformers separated by authority of the national Church ; therefore, they were not schismatics.
To this we reply, 1. That the British Reformation, in point of fact, was not effected by the authority of the British Church as such, but by authority of the king and parliament, as is notorious, - an authority which the British Church herself declares incompetent to do any thing of the sort ; for she declares that “ the civil magistrate hath no authority in things purely spiritual.” Art. XXXVIII.
We reply, 2. That, even if the Reformers had proceeded by authority of the national Church, they would have been none the less schismatics; because no national Church is a complete church polity in itself, but merely a part, and therefore subordinated to the whole. The Church of Christ is catholic, and knows no geographical limits, or national distinctions. It is one, and, as we have seen, one in its authority as well as in its faith. The authority of the national Church could be sufficient for the Reformers only on condition of its being a complete polity in itself, and, as to authority, independent of all other ecclesiastical bodies. But to assert this completeness and independency of the national Church would be to deny the unity of the Catholic body, and to assert as many distinct, separate, and independent Churches as there are nations in which there are Churches. To call these several distinct, separate, and independent Churches all one Church would be as false and as absurd as to call all the nations of Europe and America one and the same nation.
Again, the Bishop's argument presupposes the right of each national Church to expound the law in its own sense, and to differ as it judges necessary from all others. Consequently, he denies the obligation of the national Church to maintain the unity and integrity of the Catholic faith. For there may be rightfully as many different interpretations of the law, and therefore as many different faiths, as national Churches. He goes further ; he even lays down the doctrine, that “the Church,” meaning the national Church, “hath authority in con
troversies of faith.” If the Church hath authority in controversies of faith, the faithful must be bound to submit to it ; for the right to command involves always the obligation to obey. The faithful, then, in each nation are bound to receive the interpretations of the national Church. The authority of the Church is divine, and the Church therefore commands in the name of God. The faithful are commanded, then, in the name of God; in each nation, to believe what the national Church teaches. Consequently, the faithful may be commanded in the name of God to believe one doctrine as orthodox in one country, and another doctrine in another. So that the Bishop's doctrine of the independence of national Churches not only breaks the unity of the ecclesiastical authority, but even the unity of faith. But we have already established both unity of faith and of authority to be essential to the unity of the Church. Therefore this doctrine of independent national Churches is inadmissible ; therefore the authority of the national Church could not justify the Reformers in seceding from the Catholic body. Therefore, their secession was, as we have said, schism.
Moreover, if we should admit this doctrine of the absolute independence of national Churches, we should be obliged to deny the possibility of a national Church ever becoming heretical or schismatic. It cannot become schismatic ; for it can become so only on condition of wilfully separating from its own authority, which is absurd. It cannot be heretical; because it is itself the supreme judge of the law and propounder of the faith. Orthodoxy is what it declares to be orthodoxy. It is impossible for it, then, to be heterodox; for heterodoxy is the doctrine repugnant to what it declares to be orthodox. It can be heterodox only on condition of denying what it declares, and even in declaring it. But a national Church may be both schismatic and heretical; for the Church of England herself declares, that, "as the Church of Hierusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch have erred, so also the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of ceremonies, but also in matters of faith." Art. XIX.
But the Bishop also seeks to justify the Reformers by asserting the right of private judgment. His doctrine is, that the Church is indeed authoritative, that the authority of the smallest sect is superior to that of the individual, that the authority of the national Church is still greater, and that of the universal Church is the greatest of all. Where the universal Church is unanimous, its authority is complete ; but where it is not agreed, but divided, individual reason, private judgment, must decide for each one as well as it can. We shall not smile at the Bishop's simplicity, in supposing that this reservation in favor of private judgment amounts to any thing. All Catholics allow full scope to private judgment, reverently exercised, on all matters not decided by the Church; and this is all the Bishop himself asserts or implies. He admits the authority of the Church, and of course must deny the authority of private judgment in all matters coming within the jurisdiction of that authority ; for it is absurd to contend for the right of private judgment in regard to those matters covered by the ecclesiastical authority. The two authorities may, indeed, coexist, but not in regard to the same matters ; for one is the negation of the other. But the Church, it is conceded, hath authority in controversies of faith. Art. XX. Consequently, in matters of faith private judgment has not authority. Whatever authority, then, it may have, it can have none to justify the Reformers in those matters they stand accused of, for those are really, directly or indirectly, matters of faith ; since the authority of the Church itself, which they resisted, is an article of faith, professed in the creed, “I believe the Holy Catholic Church,”- not, I believe in it, that is, that there is a Holy Catholic Church, but that I believe it, what it teaches, and observe what it commands.
But the Bishop says, where the Church is unanimous, its authority is complete and final; where it is divided, it is not authoritative, and private judgment is. Is it possible for the Church to be divided? The Church is an authoritative body, as already proved, and as the Bishop contends earnestly (pp. 26, 27). But can authority be divided against itself? The Church either decides or it does not. In
any matter decided, it cannot be said to be divided ; for the decision itself is proof to the contrary. Matters not decided are not decided, and are not articles of faith. The Church cannot be said to be divided about these, for she has taken no action on them. Individuals may be divided about them, but not the Church. Moreover, if the Church could be divided on any matter, it would be a kingdom divided against itself, and therefore must fall; but we have the promise of Him who cannot lie, that it shall not fall, for it is built on a rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Furthermore, when the Church has decided, those, be they few or be they many, who refuse to submit, are ipso facto schismatics, out of the communion of the Church, and no part
VOL. II. NO. 1.
of it. The dissent of these, therefore, makes nothing against the unanimity of the Church. Here, we apprehend, is the great difficulty of our Protestant Bishop. When he talks of divisions in the Church, we suspect he has reference to divisions, not in the Church, but out of it. Bishop as he is, he does not appear to have any clear notions of ecclesiastical authority. He admits the authority of the Church in one breath, and denies it in the next, and then apparently both admits and denies it in the same breath. We, however, hold him to the Thirty-nine Articles, which declare, “ The Church hath authority in controversies of faith.” Then he must admit that there is somewhere in the Church an authority competent to decide such controversies. Then he must also admit, that, when that authority has decided, they who refuse to submit to the decision are rebels, and by their rebellion placed out of the Church. In demanding unanimity as essential to complete the authority of the Church, does he demand the unanimous assent of all, both the Church condemning and the adherents of the doctrine condemned? The Council of Nice condemned the Arians, but certainly not with the consent of the Arians. Was it after that condemnation lawful for a member of the Church to question its justice, and to attempt to decide for himself, by his private judgment, the subject-matter of the original controversy, on the ground, that the whole body of professed Christians, or of professed Christian pastors, had not been unanimous in condemning Arianism? If so, where was the authority of the Church in controversies of faith? The adherents of the heretical doctrine, of course, cannot be unanimous in condemning it; and if their assent to its condemnation must be obtained, before the condemnation can be pronounced by a competent authority, we should like to be informed how any doctrine can ever be condemned as heretical !
The Church either has authority to condemn doctrines as heretical, or it has not. If not, then it is idle to talk of her authority in controversies of faith. She has no authority, and the whole question is left to private judgment; and each individual, from the best evidences in the case, is free to form his own opinions, and to abide by them, whether agreeing with the great body of believers or not. The fathers, and decisions of councils, &c., may have great weight with him, and be, in fact, the data from which he reasons, but they cannot bind him. He is free to read the Bible for himself, and form his own creed. Is the Bishop prepared to admit this conclusion? Of course not, for he contends that the Church has authority in controversies of faith, holds dissent to be a sin, and censures severely the German and Swiss Reformers for asserting the dangerous principle which leads to it. Speaking of these last, he says:
“Provoked and excited by the usurpations of the Roman priesthood, they did not pause to separate the use from the abuse, — the usurpation, from the real judicial authority committed to the pastors of the Church by Christ himself. Hence, they overthrew the whole system of ecclesiastical government; assumed the dangerous principle, that the great Head of the Church had not appointed any specific kind of government for it, and that any form at all was equally acceptable in his sight, so that the Scriptures held their proper rank as the rule of faith for his people. The sad result of this error, my beloved brethren, is the wretched state of strife and dissension to which we have already alluded. Heresy in its deadliest form has swept through the Lutheran Churches and the universities of Germany. The very pulpit of Calvin, at Geneva, has been long occupied by men who preach the doctrine for which Calvin condemned Servetus to the stake; and still the same disorganizing principle runs throughout the land, that the government of Christ's Church is a thing of indifference, but that, as a matter of high expediency, if there be any government at all, the more modern, the better.” — pp. 26, 27.
This proves plainly that the Bishop cannot adopt the conclusion, that every man is free to form his own creed, irrespectively of the decision of the Church ; for it plainly asserts that Christ committed judicial authority, in matters of faith, to the pastors of the Church, and established a government for the Church, and even a specific kind of government. Of course, then, he must hold that all are bound, on pain of schism, to subunit to that government.
If we take the other alternative, and say that the Church hath authority to condemn doctrines as heretical, then the question is not, whether all who profess to belong to the Church consent to the condemnation, but whether the condemnation has been really pronounced by the government of the Church. If the government has pronounced the condemnation, it is unquestionably authoritative, and all who refuse to consent are by that fact rebels, and to be condemned as schismatics. In determining, then, on what matters the Church is agreed, we have not to inquire on what matters all who bear the Christian name are agreed; but simply, what matters the Church has decided. The decision is, ipso facto, proof of unanimity; for whoso refuses to submit to it is, ipso facto, a schismatic, and out of the Church, as says our blessed Saviour: “If he refuse to hear the Church, let him be to you as a heathen or as a