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Dr. Morell on Church Authority. spot apparently where a boat can land O happy people! happy in your with safety, and perhaps not more sequestered state! May no civilized than one where it can laud at all; an barbarian lay waste your peaceful everlasting swell of the ocean rolls in abodes; no hoary proficient in swion every side, and breaks into foam nish sensuality rob you of that innoagainst its rocky and iron bound cence and simplicity which it is pecushores.
liarly your present lot to enjoy!
Dr. Morell on Church Authority. that the cause lies deeper, and that
Kent Koad, Nov. 30th, 1815. the ambition of the pastor of the
church at Rome would have done as T is impossible that a thinking little harm to the great body of Chrisread the history of the Christian obscure enthusiast, had he attempted Church without melancholy and dis- spiritual conquest, armed only with gust; for in almost every page he is spiritual authority. Whether his succompelled to remark how ill it has cession to the Apostle Peter were real, hitherto performed the promise of its or pretended, he could never have commencement. The religion of persuaded the Christian world to Christ rose upon the world with an bend beneath his supremacy, had he illumination, that proclaimed its au not found more efficient support in thor to be the fountain of light. Be. temporal authorities, than in his fore it pagan superstition melted away; boasted apostolic succession. It was and the grosser vices that had grown the coalition of civil, and ecclesiasrank in that foul atmosphere began to tical powers that first broke down the shrink and wither in the light of hea- freedom of the Christian Church, and
Those“ gay religions full of made it pass under the yoke,—that pomp and gold," though in full al. most degrading yoke, which bows liance with the temporal authorities, down the soul itself in voluntary slawere unable to maintain their ground very. It is lawful, and may not be against the force of truth. The arm useless to imagine what might have of power was raised in vain on the been the history of Christianity, had side of the priests of idolatry: they its ministers never been admitted into and their gods were deserted by the civil alliance. Intolerant spirits would people, who acknowledged in the have existed, for positive and severe simplicity of Christian faith and wor men will be bigots; but wanting the ship, a deep and moral interest, which instrumentality of the secular arm, the pageantry of pagan temples could their intolerance would only have not inspire. This was the proper wasted the heart that cherished it. triumph of Christianity ; from such a Errors would have sprung up; but rising, what divine splendors were as they could not have twined their not to be expected in the perfect day? parisitical fibres round the pillars of But it was decreed by God, and fore- the state, they would not long have told in his revelation, that this day, sustained themselves where the growth so glorious in promise, should soon of truth was unchecked by power. be overcast. The prediction was, Sophistry would have been combated however, accomplished by natural by argument, assertion by fact, ignomeans, and by human agency; and rance by knowledge, and error by it concerns every Christian to trace truth ; and he must think meanly of the process and detect the principles the power of truth, who can doubt of the degeneracy of the Church. what would be the issue of an open Most Protestants agree in ascribing conflict in a duration of many centuit to the inordinate ambition of the ries. If uniformity of opinion had Bishop of Rome, and this is as far as not been produced, it is probable it is generally safe, for them to push that discussion unbiassed and unawed the inquiry ; but it is easy to sce, would have gained a much nearer
Dr. Morell on Church Authority. approach to it, than authority has of this world. The hand of blood been able to compel. At all events, was laid upon the sacred ark: its puthat sickening uniformity of darkness, rity was fled, and a dark and debaswhich was extended like a pall over ing superstition succeeded to the pure, the middle ages, could never have and undefiled religion of Christ. The covered the people, to whom the Gothic tribes that broke into the scriptures gave their light. The cur- south of Europe, brought with them few of prelatical tyranny could never better morals than they found. Rude have rung out the signal that was they were, and fierce, rapacious often to shut them in a long night of igno- and cruel ; but the vices in the train rance and terror. The sword of the of luxury had not wasted the powers magistrate, placed out of the grasp of of the soul, and destroyed the elethe ecclesiastic, might have protected ments of future good. the rights of Christians, and of men, Intrepid, and clear-sighted, and refrom the violation of misguided zeal mote from the country of Odin, they and church-policy; and law, regard- were not fitted to move long in the ing as it ought with indifference all fetters of the northern superstition. opinions, that neither weaken the ob- Had this race of men fallen among ligation nor impede the practice of Christians, such as Christians were justice, would have interfered between in the first ages of the church, and contending sects for no other purpose such as might have succeeded to but to chain down violence and keep them but for the pollution of secular the peace. Hence if the cry of here- connexion and worldly ambition, to sy were raised,—the magistrate not accomplish their conversion to genubeing coupled with the priest,—for ine Christianity had required no rethe sake of good order the chase must finements of policy, no exertion of have been made a bloodless one. Had force. The sword of Charlemagne the Church never been incorporated could only compel a feigned assent, with the State, her sentences of ex- where a band of zealous, faithful and communication would not have be- truly evangelical missionaries would come as destructive to the estates and have planted Christianity in the mind, bodies of men, as they were terrible and in the heart. In those countries to their imagination and fears : but of Germany which were first roused that association being once established from their long stupor by the voice the civil power was soon brought to of the Reformer, what noble matethink, that he who was rejected by rials existed for carrying up the Christhe Church had forfeited the protec- tian edifice! At the time when the tion, and even incurred the heaviest rude but manly inhabitants were vanpenalties of the State.
quished into a spurious religion, and The Christian bas often triumph- driven at the point of the spear to the antly contrasted the early propaga- baptismal fonts of the Roman Church! tion of his religion with the ferocious And had England been brought into conquests of Mahomet and his suc- culture by such men as first preached cessors; and he has reason in his the gospel in Britain, and happily estriumph. The gospel made its way caped the pestilential blight from the unaided by arts or arms : it had es- Tyber, what a vineyard bad she stood, tablished itself in the conviction and thus planted and trained by labourhearts of men long before the strata- ers, who resembled the lord of the gems and weapons of this world were vineyard I employed in the service of the cross ; It may be said, that although, had and none more than the enlightened the Church never been incorporated Christian condemns, and deplores the with civil governments its history officious and fatal interference of civil would no doubt be different from policy and power, after the time of what it is; yet it does not follow that Constantine, in the conversion of pa- it would be better. On the contrary gan nations to Christianity. The sol- the abandonment of the religion of dier usurped the office of the mis- Christ to the guardianship of the peosionary ; the diplomatist became evan- ple would have issued in greater evils, gelist; and the kingdom of Christ than any that have resulted from was forced into an alliance and abused placing it under the patronage and into a resemblance to the kingdoms advancing it into a participation of
Dr. Morell on Church-Authority.
g secular authority :-Heresies innu- state. Man is prone to superstition, merable would have choaked the or but he is rarely, and with difficulty thodox faith ; absurd opinions, which perverted into scepticism. If the so easily establish themselves in the state could render any service to reliordinary and uneducated mind, would gion by taking her miuisters, as such have ejected Christian doctrine : some into a communion of power, the most base plebeian superstition would have likely service appears to be, that of triumphed over Christian worship ; restraining both priest and people in or that most overwhelming curse that that descent to superstition, or those can fall upon the earth, universal starts into fanaticism, which seem to scepticism would have quenched the be so easy to them. But the fact is, light of truth, and involved the world that princes and men in power have in worse than Stygian darkness. But been for the most part either as unwho that has looked at all into Church enlightened as the mass of society in history does not know, that the he. matters of religion ; or anxious only resy of ove century or climate has to perpetuate the dominion of truth been the orthodox faith of another, or error, superstition or religion, inand that the Christian world has con- differently, from the dread of innotinually divided and subdivided on vation. It is not difficult to find in every article of popular belief? And their codes of law penal statutes, conas to absurd tenets, could the dullness demning to fines, confiscation, imof vulgar and unlettered men have fa- prisonment and death, men, who bricated any of grosser quality than could not believe without evidence, have been spun by subtile schoolmen, and would not subscribe what they woven into ereeds by learned digni- did not believe, who refused to wor. taries, and stamped with the great ship they knew not what, in ways seal of Church-authority in ecclesias- more Pagan than Christian : And it tical councils, though held by princes were easy to shew that articles of and composed of prelates ? They cou faith too absurd to be believed, and sulted their Urim and Thummim, and rites of superstition, too childish to be gave out oracles that confound the performed honestly by any but the reason of the believer, or baffle the most uninformed members of the state, ingenuity of the interpreter to the have continued to be the law of the present day: . To suppose that the land for a considerable time after they faith of Christians would have been have been abandoned by the body of wrecked and lost, had not political the people. When the multitude of men kindled the beacons that warn Christians have suffered themselves them from infidelity, carries in it an to be surprised or seduced into spiimplication, not the most respectful ritual chains, the civil power has not to the evidences of the Christian re. refused to rivet them on; but the velation. Besides, scepticism is not force which has burst the bonds asunnatural to man. Few and cold are der has procecded from thenisclves. the hearts to which it can be dear. A The reformation of opinion has, as being who is conscious of powers was to be expected, dictated the rewhich assure him of an invisible pow. formation of law; and governments er, who feels that he has but a depen- have rarely become tolerant, till the dent existence, and whose regrets, spirit of the times has ceased to be while they surround the tomb of af- intolerant. At this moment the lily, fection, throw their shadows across which has been so often steeped in the way that leads to their own, such the blood of the reformed, though it a creature is not naturally irreligious. has been long preserved on a ProtesThe sentiment of piety is latent in all tant soil, and lately re-planted by the social feelings of his heart, and Protestant hands, is become the inthe affinity is too strong to be gene- auspicious signal for a religious perrally destroyed even in the dissolu- secution in the south of France. tion of civil society. This law of God It may be said that the association written in the heart does not require of civil and ecclesiastical powers sets to be registered by human jurispru. a limit to spiritual authority; and that dence in her courts of record. To in fact the first step to the reformapreserve this sacred fire from extinc- tion from popery in this country was, tion there needs no college of priests, the union of these powers in the soveno order of vigilants, no decree of the reign. when Henry VIIIth. caused
Dr. Morell on Church-Authority.
himself to be constituted head of the As to the first, it would be difficult church. If Christianity cannot flou- to produce the passages, or passage, rish without a hierarchy it is no doubt in the New Testament, in which the necessary both to civil and religious authority of the rulers of the Church, liberty, that it be allowed to exercise whether bishops, or councils, or prese no authority independently of the will byteries, is defined either expressly of the State; still the association is or by implication. Let the instruc. not without danger. To what cause tions and credentials be fairly made was it owing, that, before the refor- out and established, and the authority mation all Christendom was trodden shall be ackuowledged; till then it is under foot by ecclesiastics ? And right to question it. Suppose it, howhow did they contrive to raise them- ever, established; what means have selves above the civil jurisdiction, till the successors to the episcopal authothey were able to set prince and peo- rity of the apostles (for more than that ple at defiance? The priest was first is not pretended out of the Church of placed on the same bench with the Rome) to make their government ef. temporal judge: thence he soon found ficient ? Inspiration has ceased; mimeans to step over the head of his racles are no more; and though perlay-colleague, and the magistrate, who sonal qualities may be respected, yet, planted him at his side, had his own for enforcing obedience in large comfolly to blame for the consequence. munities, the homage which is paid Thus the fable of the horse and his to them can never supply the place rider was naturally enough exempli. of that submission which is at once fied in his experience ; he meant to enforced by power and won by rank be the ruler, but his more dextrous and splendour. Divested of powers, coadjutor made him the slave. One authority is but a name; it must have step more will take us to the grand them either absolute or dependent. source of the usurpation, intolerance The Catholic Church had them at and corruption, that darken the re first in dependence on the magistrospect of the Christian church. The trate; but it soon found means to opinion to which I allude is well ex. convert them into a freehold ; and pressed in the following extract from that, into an impious tyranny. To a Consecration Sermon, preached by restore the dependence was the laDr. Graves, in St. Patrick's Cathe- bour of the reformation ; and in Prodral, Dublin, July, 1806. sup testant countries this was at lepgth pose,” says he, " that when the apos. happily effected. If church-authority tles were removed from their minis- must exist, the safety of the world retry, all authority to govern and direct quires that it be ingrafted upon a cithe church of Christ was to expire vil stock, which may mitigate its along with them, and that the regu- sourness, and impart to it the flavour lation of that society so extended, so of humanity. The compound of the important, so sacred, was to be aban- churchman and the man of the world doned to the caprice of individuals, is less dangerous, both to the civil the unruliness of multitudes, the mere and religious interests of mankind, casual exertions of transitory feelings, than the mere ecclesiastic; for the and undirected efforts, as contrary participation of secular distinctions, to the dictates of reason, the analogy and civil powers may introduce prinof uature, and the general economy ciples of liberality into church-governof Providence, as to the direct decla- ment, which are not indigenous in rations of scripture, aud the clearest any hierarchy: hence, less spiritual records of ecclesiastical history." If oppression is to be apprehended from the Church has governors, who de an Episcopal or Presbyterian church, rive their authority either by succes- incorporated with the State, than sion or ordination from the apostles, from either of them, invested with two things are necessary ; first, that independent powers. The radical the authority shall have been well mistake in all these matters appears defined by the apostles themselves, to be, the assumption of a churchfor the apostolic authority could not authority, which is divine, of a legisurvive the office and the men : 2dly, timate Christian hierarchy, which is That the governors of the church pos. founded upon the Christian code. sess together with the authority the Grant that such a right of rule exists, means to make it respected and obeyed. and it cannot be denied, that there
Dr. Morell on Church-Anthority.
much good sense and knowledge of where, before the conversion of the mankind in such remarks as the fol- Emperor Constantine. During that lowing: they occur in a Consecration period, indeed, the Church was freSermon, which was preached in the quently exposed to secular persecuChapel of Lambeth, 1807, by the tion, from which, blessed be God, Rev. Charles Barker, and published we, enjoying as we do, a free and by command of his Grace the Arch- perfect toleration from the state, are bishop of Canterbury. “They who mercifully exempted. But, as far as talk of apostolical simplicity and low can be intended by the comparison liness, and contend that even now our case is the same with that of our the same simplicity would best be- forefathers in the Christian faith, in come the ministers of Christianisty, ages which we are accustomed to conforget, or conceal from view, the real sider with peculiar veneration. At state of the apostolical character. They that time the Church, unconnected conceal from view the high and un- with the State, subsisted by her own attainable superiority over other men internal and inherent powers. Irewith which at all times, and in all næus, Cyprian, Cornelius, and indeed places the apostle was personally all who held the office of a Bishop gifted ; bis inspiration, his power of for the three first centuries, were posworking miracles, and the immediate sessed of no other authority, and proand irresistible operation of such en- bably encompassed with no more outdowments whether for the formation ward dignity than he who now adof a Christian church, or for its rule dresses you; and this authority was and governance when formed. In their preserved by the filial affection of day and for their purpose these were the clergy, over whom they respecno defects ; or if they were (while the tively presided. God forbid that I choice of such men for such an office should ever have the presumption to was designedly made to confound the compare my own talents, or my own pride of human wisdom) they were zeal, to the talents or the zeal of those amply compensated by the constant burning and shining lights, to which and demonstrable interposition of God every succeeding age of the Church himself. With whatever rank and in- has looked back with reverence, influence the incorporation of religion ferior only to that which is due to the with the State, and with the order of immediate apostles of our Lord. I society, has since invested the minis- mention them only because their histers of the gospel, the greatest and tory furnishes an incontrovertible wealthiest, nay the best and wisest proof that episcopacy can subsist, and of those ministers ' possesses no sub- bishops who are deserving of respect stitution for the decisive and com be highly respected, though destitute manding authority of the humble of the splendid but adventitious pafisherman who could heal the sick and noply of a legal establishment." raise the dead."
It appears from this passage, that I shall add one more extract, the Bishop derived great pleasure from which is in strong contrast with the contemplating the episcopal commuspirit and doctrine of the last ; but nion over which he presided, as unwhich, while it breathes more of the connected with the state; though he spirit of primitive simplicity, betrays might not, perhaps, think secular a want of that practical knowledge, connexion a sufficient ground of diswhich is not so well acquired within sent from an Episcopal Church. Inthe inclosure of a sect: it is taken deed with the Protestant Dissenters from a charge delivered to the cler- of England the incorporation of the gy of the Episcopal Communion of Church with the State is neither the Ediuburgh, 1807, by the Right Re- sole nor the ultimate ground of disverend Daniel Sandford, D.Ď. their sent. I suppose the greater part of bishop; and consequently a Dissen- them consider church-authority unter on that side of the Tweed. der every form as a usurpation : many
“ It has often afforded me," says of them are persuaded that it is the he, “ great satisfaction to contem- only enemy from which Christianity plate the resemblance, that the Chris- over had or ever will have any thing tian society of which we are members to fear; that it has acted like a poison, bears, in its external condition, to the and not a very slow poison, wasting church of Christ, as it existed every and corrupting, as it has circulated