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cession, they are infinitely against it, so as to amount almost to an impossibility. The Apostolical succession is not a single chain, whereof if one link be broken the chain is destroyed; but it consists of a multiplicity of chains, so entertwined and reticulated one with another, that a single broken link would scarcely be perceptible.
Another objection has been raised by certain Protestant sectarians—namely, that the succession of the English Church has been derived through Romanist Bishops, who, being themselves unsound in doctrine, could not transmit the succession. To this it may be answered, first, that they never were so unsound as not to be Christian Bishops ; secondly, that the transmission of Episcopal power does not depend on the soundness of doctrine, but on the validity of the commission. It is a parallel case in this respect with that of any set of trustees. Suppose an existing generation of trustees found out that their predecessors had greatly abused their trust, or even perverted it to improper uses, this circumstance does not invalidate the fact of their having transmitted their trust to those who now possess it. All that the
All that the present
possessors have to do is to take heed that they perform their trust better than those who have gone before them. The transmission of the trust is unimpaired.
So whatever may be our opinion of the condition of the Church in the middle ages, still there can be no doubt that its identity is preserved and transmitted. Just as a river remains the same from age to age, though at one while turbid and swollen, and at another attenuated into a mere rivulet.
Having thus shewn the identity and continuity of the English Church, as a visible body, from its first foundation to the present time, the next thing to be proved is, that it maintains the essentials of the Christian faith, and is in a condition to afford the means of grace and salvation to its children.
First, then, it is obvious, that we possess the Bible in unrestricted use; we acknowledge those Holy Scriptures which have been received in the Church from the beginning; and these are freely opened to the people: on this point the Romish Church differs from ours; — first, in withholding the Scriptures from the people, except under certain circumstances ; and, secondly, in accounting the Apocrypha as inspired, which we do not. With regard to the rejection of the Apocrypha, the Anglican Church agrees with the primitive Christian Church as well as with the Jewish.
Secondly, we retain the Creeds which have always been received in the Church from the beginning, as the authorised summary of the Christian faith. The value of the Creeds is very great. It might, perhaps, be thought that, having the Bible, it mattered little whether we have the Creeds or not, since they contain but a series of facts or propositions gathered from Holy Writ. But this is not the true
The Creeds, though agreeing with the Bible, and capable of being “proved by most certain warrants of Holy Scripture," constitute in themselves an independent testimony to the truth.
The several articles of the Apostles' Creed were held before the New Testament was written, and, therefore, obviously could not have been gathered from it.
The Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian, contain the testimony of the Church as to the reception of the principal doctrines of revelation. Some persons
may suppose that they could of themselves have gathered from the Bible the great doctrines of the Scripture, such as that of the Trinity, and of the Holy Catholic Church. It is very well to feel so certain of the truth of our doctrine, as not to conceive the possibility of others gathering from Scripture anything contrary to it. Still the fact that even learned men have interpreted Scripture differently is undeniable; and, if so, much more would the unlearned be liable to fall into the same error.
Most thankful, therefore, ought we to be that the Creeds have been prepared and handed down to us by the Church. They are, in truth, of inestimable value;—for while the Bible contains all necessary truths, the Creeds so methodize, and set forth, and illustrate the principal articles of faith, as to preserve the Church in essential unity of doctrine. We have in the Creeds an invaluable treasure provided for us, as our safeguard against heresy and false doctrine, in essential points, and never to be laid aside without the greatest danger, or rather a virtual departure from the doctrine of the Church of Christ.
On the subject of the doctrine of the Anglican Church, I will add the statement of