Page:Tracts for the Times Vol 1.djvu/20

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ment of certain Bishops over certain Clergy, and of certain Clergy under certain Bishops, without the Church being consulted in the matter. I do not say whether or not harm will follow from this particular act with reference to Ireland; but consider whether it be not in itself an interference with things spiritual.

Are we content to be accounted the mere creation of the State, as schoolmasters and teachers may be, or soldiers, or magistrates, or other public officers? Did the State make us? can it unmake us? can it send out missionaries? can it arrange dioceses? Surely all these are spiritual functions; and Laymen may as well set about preaching, and consecrating the Bread and Wine, as assume these. I do not say the guilt is equal; but that, if the latter is guilt, the former is. Would St. Paul, with his good will, have suffered the Roman power to appoint Timothy, Bishop of Miletus as well as Ephesus? Would Timothy at such a bidding have undertaken the charge? Is not the notion of such an order, such an obedience, absurd? Yet has it not been realized in what has lately happened? For in what is the English State at present different from the Roman formerly? Neither can be accounted members of the Church of Christ. No one can say the British Legislature is in our communion, or is even Christian. What pretence then has it for, not merely advising, but superseding the Ecclesiastical Power?

Bear with me, while I express my fear that we do not, as much as we ought, consider the force of that article of our Belief, "The one Catholic and Apostolic Church." This is a tenet so important as to have been in the Creed from the beginning. It is mentioned there as a fact, and a fact to be believed, and therefore practical. Now what do we conceive is meant by it? As people vaguely take it in the present day, it seems only an assertion that there is a number of sincere Christians scattered through the world. But is not this a truism? who doubt it? who can deny that there are people in various places who are sincere believers? what comes of this? how is it important? why should it be placed as an article of faith, after the belief in the Holy Ghost? Doubtless the only true and satisfactory meaning is that which our Divines have ever taken, that there is on earth an existing Society, Apostolic as founded by the Apostles, Catholic because it spreads its branches in every place; i. e. the Church visible with its Bishops, Priests, and Deacons. And this surely is a most important doctrine; for what can be better news to the bulk of mankind than to be told that Christ, when He ascended, did not leave us orphans but appointed representatives of Himself to the end of time?