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modation farther than their general principles, can fairly justify, and certainly farther than they would have approved, if they had lived at the close of the eighteenth instead of the first half of the sixteenth century.
When, therefore, after the Revolutionary war was ended, our American Church, in the order of divine Providence, obtained the Episcopal succession from our venerated Mother of England, and it became necessary to revise the Liturgy and offices of the PrayerBook, why should not our excellent predecessors have availed themselves of the opportunity to set aside this only relio of Romanism, and to recur at once to the unadulterated simplicity of the primitive and apostolic system? True, it has been said that we received the succession on the express assurance that “no essential departure was designed from the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the English Church.” And the fact is unquestionable. But can any one seriously imagine that the private absolution which our venerable Mother had thus permitted to remain was regarded, either by her bishops or by ours, as an essential matter? Certain it is that our bishops did not so consider it, as their action proves. And it is equally certain that the English bishops agreed with them, because none of the ritualists of our Mother Church have ever ascribed to their private form any greater efficacy than belongs to the general and public absolution of the Liturgy; and Wheatley, one of the most approved among them, even attributes less; considering the words “ I absolve thee” as conveying nothing beyond an absolution from Church censures, which may have been merited, although they had not been actually imposed. I grant, indeed, that the Rev. Mr. Maskell, in his late book upon the subject, labors very learnedly to prove that this peculiar prerogativé of the priest to receive private confession and convey to each individual the direct remission of sin, is essential to every true Church, and, therefore, that the custom of using it ought to be restored universally. But he is obliged to acknowledge that he differs in this opinion from all the standard authors of English theology, and that the practical appliance of the
power is not necessary to any man's salvation.
It has been argued, nevertheless, that notwithstanding our American Church has thus used her undoubt. ed right to cast aside this only trace of Roman innovation, yet, inasmuch as it was retained by the Church of England, it should still be considered as virtually belonging to our system ! But this, I must frankly say, is a most unwarrantable conclusion.
For surely, if such an assumption were allowed, it would prove that our revision of the Prayer-Book was no revision at all; that our legislation in adopting it had no binding force; that we stand, to all intents and purposes, precisely where we stood before the Revolution; that our General Convention, our Constitution, our Canons, our Liturgy, and our Offices are all without authority, whenever any of our clergy may think fit to suppose that they vary, in some essential matter, from the formularies of our venerable and venerated Mother Church of England! Truly this idea seems to my mind so perfectly extravagant, that I am at a loss for proper terms to express my sense of its disorganizing character. Perhaps, however, it may be well to remind those who have become unsettled by it, that it is directly opposed to three plain provisions in our system. For,
1. In the first place, it is required by the seventh Article of our General Constitution, that no person shall be ordained until he has subscribed the following declaration :
- I do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation : and I do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrines and worship of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States."
2. Secondly, in the Ordination Service for the Priesthood, one of the interrogatories is as follows:
“Will you give your faithful diligence, always so to minister the Doctrine and Sacraments, and the discipline of Christ, as the Lord hath commanded, and as this Church hath received the same, according to the commandments of God; so that you may teach the people committed to your cure and charge, with all diligence to keep and observe the same ?” To which the candidate replies, “I will so do, by the help of the Lord.”
3. And thirdly, in the consecration of bishops, the limitation appears again, in these words :
“Will you maintain and set forward, as much as shall lie in you, quietness, love, and peace among all men; and diligently exercise such discipline, as by the authority of God's Word, and by the order of this Church, is committed to you?
66 Answer. I will so do, by the help of God.”
Here are the distinct boundaries of the official powers with which the candidates for the priestly and episcopal functions are clothed in Ordination. And therefore, as the right to go beyond them has NEVER BEEN CONFERRED by the Church, it is manifest that it can NEVER BE LAWFULLY EXERCISED BY HER AUTHORITY,
In justice to our venerable Mother Church, however, it ought to be added, that the form which we have laid aside is practically regarded as little more than a dead letter among the great mass of our English brethren. The notion of the Rev. Mr. Maskell was rejected by his own diocesan, the eminent Bishop of Exeter, and called forth, at the time of its announcement, a strong remonstrance from the body of the clergy. The good old forms of declaratory and precatory absolution, which were established in the primitive days of martyrdom, are the only forins in general use. And I venture to predict that the modern Roman innovation of “ I absolve thee,” retained at first as a mere matter of accommodation, under peculiar circumstances which have long since passed away, will be expunged from the Prayer-Book of our Mother Church, if she should ever be enabled to undertake the work of revising her Liturgy.
I mean not, indeed, to say that there are none among the mighty host of the English clergy who hold a different opinion. It is notorious, on the contrary, that a small party of her divines, distinguished for their learning and ability, and yet more for their indefatigable zeal, have displayed, of late years, a strange yearning toward the doctrine and customs of the Roman Church, and a consequent determination to improve, as far as possible, the means which they suppose to exist for introducing the Confessional. To such as these the form which we have set aside affords, of course, a convenient instrument, and they would doubtless lament its loss as a grievous calamity. There are a few most estimable men within our own immediate pale who sympathize with this class, and I am far from intending to impeach the sincerity and good intentions which urge them to inculcate their peculiar sentiments. But the vast majority of the Church in England and the United States are inflexibly opposed to this perilous innovation. They regard the hope of improving the piety of the people by such means as perfectly delusive. And therefore, standing on the firm ground of scriptural truth and apostolic example, sustained by the testimony of history, and supported by the established opinions and habits of the laity, they can not view the romantic enterprise of these innovators with any alarm for the Church, however they may lament the unhappy instability of their misguided brethren.
PRESENT STATE OF THE ROMAN CONFESSIONAL.
It is my duty, before I close my humble volume, to present the form in which the Confessional appears, according to its most favorable aspect, in the language of the Romanists themselves. And this I shall do from the pages of the Ursuline Manual, which is probably the most skillfully prepared work of its kind in general use, and calculated to make the most favorable impression on an incautious or ill-informed Protestant reader. I quote from the New York edition of 1844.
Although it sets forth and recommends, at great length, the advantages of contrition, as a preparative for confession, yet the Council of Trent obliges its authors to allow the sufficiency of attrition, in the following words:
66 The second kind of sorrow for sin is called attrition, and is much inferior to contrition, both in its