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it is a commission to guard the purity of religion, the morality of its pastors, and the integrity of its discipline. “ The visible head is for the preservation of a visible unity,”—to continue and connect the chain of faith, for the discovery and condemnation of heresy, and for the due observance of canonical discipline. This, and this alone, is the spiritual supremacy by divine institution, and that only to be exercised in the manner prescribed by the acts of general councils and the canons of the church.a) To the bishop of Rome we owe a spiritual obedience as to the successor of St. Peter,
(d) On this head of the primacy of the Roman bishop, the Council of Trent issued no decree; but because in the general Council of Florence, convened in 1439, in order to unite the Greek and Latin churches, the point was fully decided, I shall here insert the decree.
“ Moreover we define, that the holy apostolic see, and the Roman bishop, has the primacy over all the earth ; and that he is the successor of the blessed Peter, the prince of the apostles, the true vicar of Christ, the head of the whole church, and the father and teacher of all Christians; and that to him, in the person of the blessed Peter, was committed by our Lord Jesus Christ, the full power of feeding, directing, and governing the universal church, in such manner as it is contained in the acts of general councils, and in the holy canons."* Definitio S. Ecumen. Synod. Florent. Conc. Gen. T. xiii. p. 515.
* Καθ' όν τροπον και εν τοις πρακτικούς των δικομενικων συνοδων, και εν τοις ιεροις κανοσι διαλαμβανεται.
not an allegiance as to a temporal sovereign ; and that spiritual obedience is limited to the points just mentioned. Our temporal obedience to magistrates and rulers is commanded and regulated by the same authority which imposes a spiritual obedience to spiritual superiors ; to both we owe a like submission, but both are separate and independent of each other.(). As the church was built to endure for ever, even to the consummation of the world,() so, unquestionably, the government which Christ appointed for it, was to be co-existent with it. A supreme head, a centre of unity, is indeed much more necessary now to preserve one faith and one baptism," in the midst of heresy and
(0) “Let every soul be subject to higher powers, for there is no power but from God :....and they that resist, purchase to themselves damnation." Rom. xiii. 1, 2. Be
subject to every human creature for God's sake; whether it be to the king as excelling, or to governors as sent by him.” i Peter ii. 13, 14. “Render to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's, and to God the things that are God's." St. Matt. xxii. 21.
So strongly is the duty of civil obedience enjoined by the law of God, and by the same law which commands our spiritual obedience to the church : “ He that will not hear the church, let him be to thee as a heathen and a publican.” St. Matt. xviii. 17.
(1) See Appendix, No. II. for some excellent observations on the Spiritual Supremacy.
(9) St. Matt. xxviii. 20. (h) Ephes, iv. 5.
schism, than when the world was filled with inspired teachers in the persons of the apostles. It is the exercise of this supreme spiritual authority, which has handed down to us both the faith and morality of these disciples of our Saviour, pure and untainted through a course of more than 1,800 years; and it is the want of this power, lawfully obtained and authoritatively administered, that has produced all those mad and foolish heresies, the prolific growth of protestantism, which, like so many poisonous plants, have banished almost every wholesome fruit from those portions of the garden of christianity in which they have established themselves. There is no blasphemy however wicked, no immorality however monstrous, but, at some period or in some country, has formed part of the faith and practice of sectarianism. Into such absurd impieties has the reasoning pride of man beguiled him !
But to confine our remarks to the Church of England.—So necessary did her founders and her patrons consider a spiritual supremacy in their church “ to support the unity of faith and the integrity of christian discipline,”(i) that they established it in the person of the sovereign. But so strange an anomaly as spiritual jurisdiction in a layman, a child, or a woman, and that too usurped
(6) Preamble of several Acts of Parliament. See “Sermons after Pentecost," with illustrations, Vol. i. pp. 140.8c.
from those to whom it had been formally entrusted by the divine authority, could never answer the purpose of repressing error and reforming abuses. Unlawful authority seldom enforces submission. From the moment that the monarch forcibly wrested this power from the successor of St. Peter, and placed it in his own rapacious hands; from that moment all unity disappeared. The chiefs of the state, entangled as they generally are, with the cares, the riches, and the pleasures of this life,'") had the weakness to acquiesce in so glaring and monstrous an usurpation, and the whole nation became, like the great multitude mentioned in the Scriptures, as sheep not having a shepherd. Each individual ranged at large in the fields of speculative beliefhe spurned at the ridiculous assumption of spiritual pre-eminence by a civil magistrate, and instead of obeying his mandates, each one, in imitation of the monarch, took the same authority upon himself, and thereafter placed the foundations of his faith upon the tottering basis of private interpretation. The evils which followed have been thus forcibly described by a learned and eloquent pastor of the Catholic Church :
“ Spite of royal mandates, of royal canons, and royal censures, error in every varied, versatile, and frightful form, continued to erect new temples; and
(k) St. Luke, viii. 14.
() St. Mark, vi. 34.
the nation presented to the astonished world a scene of folly, bigotry, and superstition, striking and preposterous, as any that curiosity can trace in the lengthened annals of fanaticism. Such were the consequences of pretending to enforce unity of belief by means which Revelation has not sanctioned.” (Sermons after Pentecost, p. 142.)
Such were the miserable effects of the usurpation of unlawful power, and of rebellion to just authority. The almost universal conflict of religious opinions, and the swarm of meeting-houses of every description which still continue to spring up around us, will enable us to judge whether time has diminished the fruits of such a system.
But, fully satisfied of my utter inability to offer any thing in illustration of this doctrine of the spiritual supremacy,-a doctrine so important in itself, and against which the Test is so pointedly directed,--at all equal to the following eloquent and spirited argument of the titular Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin : I will insert the observations of that talented and learned Prelate, without further comment.
“But where,” says he, “there is question of the promise of the keys to Peter, and of the command given to him to feed the lambs, the sheep, the whole flock of God, then antiquity, like a torrent, sweeps away all opposition, every obstacle which a perverse sophistry would at any period, oppose to