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This idea (that which every man means, when he speaks of a church, or, indeed, of any body politic) consists in its positive tendencies, and is recognised in its actual results. Confessions, articles, catechisms, liturgies, ritual observances, sacred functions, theological writings, schools and universities, all assist in revealing that Living Power of which they are the visible products; and to these must be added the character of the nation at large, its history and present condition, its institutions and laws, in so far as these have been modified by the faith and worship of the people. And the same reasoning holds good of particular religious bodies. Now, of the idea, thus seen in its manifest operations, we can pronounce positively whether it be scriptural or unscriptural,—a church of Christ or of Antichrist. It is defined by its organical exponents, and we may know whether it is fraught with life or death.-P. 356.
This is intelligible enough. Doubtless, when men talk of their admiration and reverence for the British constitution, it is not to be imagined that they are enamoured of all the jobs, and abuses, and corruptions, which, from time to time, are evolved from the miscellaneous masses on whom the principles of the Constitution are, more or less imperfectly, doing their work. No: they think only of the Constitution as it would exist if it were administered by unfailing wisdom, benevolence, and virtue. When they talk of the excellence of Parliament, we must not suppose that they are enchanted with the faction, and intrigue, and reptile self-interest, and malignant passion, which are shrewdly suspected of appearing, occasionally, in stately and imposing masquerade, within the sacred walls of the two Houses; or with the coarse and brutal violence of the hustings; or with the villainous bribery, and rank debauchery, which disgrace the borough, or the county town. admit incidental phenomena, such as these, into our estimate of the value of Parliaments, would be to do them wrong. In order to form a correct and equitable judgment, we must contemplate the institution in its inherent tendency to produce effective and wise deliberation, and to bring all the resources of knowledge, sagacity, and patriotism, to bear upon the public interest. And so, in speaking of this church,—we must not fix our thoughts on this or that arrogant and lordly prelate, or on this or that lazy and rapacious pluralist; no, nor on the various deviations from the simplicity of primitive days. Phenomena like these are but the anomalous effect of manifold influences external to the church herself. We must look into her monuments, and her articles, and her services, into all those things which Mr. C. has enumerated, for the bright idea of her perfection. And, if we find that this same idea is actually enshrined in the sanctuary of Scripture, what remains for us but to bow down before it, and to labour, with all our faculties, to bring the existing and visible representation of it to a closer conformity with the heaven-born original? The only thing that still does somewhat puzzle and confound us, is, what Mr. C. calls the "living power" of the Archetype itself; as if the Archetype, like that imagined by Plato, had a sort of personal and conscious existence. The "living power" we have hitherto been in the habit of regarding as an emanation from the Deity himself, the Author, and Founder, and Finisher, of the Church. And this, probably, may turn out, after all, to be the meaning of Mr. C. himself; although that meaning may be somewhat disguised by the peculiar phraseology of his school. But, be this as it may, the thought here rushes in,-how dreadful must be the perverseness which, if we
may so express it, has embarrassed, and counter-wrought, the operations of this "living power," and has hindered the expansion of the spiritual reality into an external form of perfect symmetry and beauty!
And, at this point, there arises the solemn and much agitated question, If the system be fraught with life, or death, what must be the doom of them who embrace it, and live under it? This question has been treated by Mr. Coleridge,-as by all the soundest Anglican divines, from the days of Hooker to the present hour,-in a spirit at once uncompromising and charitable.
How far [he observes] a given individual is involved in these consequences, either for good or for evil, can in no case be more than probably guessed. It depends on the degree in which he has really identified himself with the principles which he professes. We must know what counteracting influences, if any, are at work within him or upon him; and, above all, what allowance will be made by the All-merciful, not merely for inevitable obstacles, but for peculiar difficulties and temptations, with the defects and errors to which they give rise. Thus, though we can readily point out, on scriptural grounds, the proper effect of any given exhibition of christian belief upon the souls of men, to judge of any man's individual salvation, otherwise than hypothetically, is equally unreasonable, presumptuous, and uncharitable.
Take, for instance, the church of Rome,-the church which forged the adamantine fetters of the Tridentine Decrees. To pronounce, with Mr.C., that she has altogether "ceased to hold the head," is, in our humble opinion, rather too bold a sentence; for, if she has really lost all communion whatever with the head, she can scarcely be more or less than one vast synagogue of Antichrist; and, in that case, how could the Anglican church be warranted to recognize the validity of her orders? But it is not too much to say that there is a twofold agency within her; one agency, by virtue of which she has preserved to us a large and vital portion of the faith once delivered to the saints; another agency, which has encrusted her with foul superstitions, and has, moreover, enveloped and encumbered her with the purple of secular dominion. And there is too much reason for believing that the resultant of these two forces is, and long has been, in opposition to the dominion of Christ; that the influences of that compound triple phenomenon,-the Church of Rome, and the See of Rome, and the Court of Rome,-are, on the whole, formidably anti-christian. But, to admit this, is very different from the assertion that the spirit of antichrist pervades the whole Romish communion, and holds undivided empire within it. The opposite elements, as Mr. C. observes, cannot but tend to neutralize each other in degrees varying in every particular instance, according as each has been received. I am not [he continues] alluding to a Berengarius, or a Huss, or a Grosteste, or a Wickliff,-men enabled, by the particular leading of Providence, (manifested in the circumstances of their intellectual conformation, education, and social position,) to think out and to express the suggestions of an enlightened spirit; but humble men, not fitted or intended to occupy so high or conspicuous a pre-eminence; simple-minded men, acquiescent in the teaching under which they were placed, but yet divinely enabled (not intellectually, but by a moral instinct) to separate the honey from the gall, and assimilate the nourishing portion of the food with which they were provided; yes, eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Christ indeed, and celebrating a spiritual eucharist in a day of lies and a land of idols.-P.359.
On the other hand, what is to be said of the self-constituted associations by which the ministry of the word and sacraments is assumed ?— associations destitute of any external sanction, or any internal principle of permanence.
Supposing the bodies in question not to be true churches, what is the condition of their members?... If [says Mr Coleridge] we contemplate the several religious connexions here spoken of, each in itself, that is, in the idea which it embodies, they must be regarded as partaking, more or less, of an heretical or schismatical character, though in various degrees.
Most undoubtedly; unless it can be shown that, since the Reformation, heresy and schism are sins which it is no longer possible for men to be guilty of; mere poppoλúkɛia, which the brightness of an age of light has chased into the hiding-places of the moles and the bats. But then comes the tragical remonstrance,
How can we bear to unchurch so many millions of our fellow-creatures, many of them persons of earnest piety and virtuous life; men who love Christ in sincerity, however erroneous their creed, or unfortunate their ecclesiastical position?
And, if, to unchurch a whole community of professing Christians, were no less than to consign each individual member of it to perdition, doubtless the remonstrance would be irresistible. But it so happens that no sound member of the Anglican church ever dreams of so tremendous an anathema. He believes that the idea of the Church Catholic is an emanation from the Eternal Mind; that the ordinances, and the rule, and the discipline of that church are in close conformity with the Divine will; and he is, accordingly, persuaded that he cannot cease to contend for the embodying and realization of that Idea, without an abandonment of his allegiance to the invisible Head of the Church. But there he stops. He does not presume to rush, if we so may speak, into the council-chamber of Omnipotence. He abstains. from the surmise that the right arm of the Almighty is tied and bound by the chain even of his own ordinances and appointments. He is persuaded that divine love may overflow the channels which divine wisdom has hewn out for itself. He dares not, indeed, to point out any road to salvation but that which passes through the regions of the primitive and apostolic institution; and this, simply, because, in so doing, he would be conscious of taking upon himself to exercise a most presumptuous and unwarranted discretion. He feels that every society of separatists, as a society, is labouring under spiritual disadvantages of the most awful description; but to what extent those disadvantages may affect this or that member of the society, is a question which he is content to leave to Him who alone can search the heart, and righteously estimate the influence of circumstances. With respect to each particular case, he will be disposed to hope every thing charitably, and to pronounce nothing dogmatically. Or, to adopt the language of Mr. Coleridge,
When we speak of individuals, we cannot doubt that, though, as members of a sectarian community, they are all, in this respect, more or less unfavourably situated, yet that this goes, perhaps, but a little way towards determining their actual or eventual state. This depends, after all, on considerations of a personal nature, known to God alone.
These views and principles, we are aware, are "fallen on evil days and evil tongues." They must have "to make their way through more impediment" than can be thought of without feelings of terror, and dejection, and almost of despair. The difficulties which oppose themselves are vast and complicated. Our condition is such, that we can neither bear our ills, nor the remedy of our ills. We have before our eyes a huge and motley multitude of religionists living in hereditary separation, and bristling with high disdain at all exclusive pretension. Schism, instead of being reckoned among the works of the carnal mind, has really come to be numbered among the Rights of Man. Interminable subdivision, and unlimited independence, are now regarded as the natural and healthy state of Christendom. To revive the rightful claims of the one catholic and apostolic church appears to be about as hopeful as to recall the abuses of commercial monopoly. And, then, how overpowering is the reflection, that if all the popery, all the dissent, all the outcast ignorance and godlessness in the realm, were, at this moment, to remember themselves, and turn unto the church, the church would be miserably straitened to receive them! Some centuries ago, her external and instrumental resources were adequate-perhaps, more than adequate to the wants of her children. But the national prosperity waxed great, and with it the multitudes of the people; all this time, however, the means and resources of the church have remained precisely as the plundering hand of the Reformation had left them. Some mighty and convulsive efforts are, at this time, put forth to repair the mischiefs bequeathed us by our forefathers. But the task, to all human appearance, is well nigh desperate. Churches, it is true, are rising, sufficient, it may be, for the accommodation of some additional thousands, each year; but the population of the British islands is accumulating, the while, at the rate of one thousand souls per day! Many a stout and trusty hand is at the pumps; but still the water is rising fearfully in the hold and it is difficult to see by what agency less than miraculous the vessel can be preserved from submersion.
In the midst of all this perplexity and failing of heart, however, there are some promising and cheerful signs to be discerned; and among them is this work of Mr. Coleridge. If ever the Catholic idea is to be embodied among us, upon a large and truly national scale, the idea itself must be presented to us in "all its original brightness." The hearts of men must be won to it, before their hands will work for it, or their substance be liberally dedicated to its honour. We have, therefore, much cause for gratitude towards them, who, like the present writer, will consecrate their faculties to that holy purpose.
It is utterly impossible for us to follow Mr. C. throughout the whole range and compass of his discussions. We must be content with little more than a cordial recommendation of his work; to those readers, more especially, who may chance to be halting between two opinions. They will find in it, perhaps, some statements which may admit of serious question, and others which require more full and perspicuous development; but, at all events, they will soon feel that it has one high merit -it is an eminently suggestive work. If it does not always constrain a reader of this class to think with the author, it will, at least, power
fully invite, and almost compel him, to think, patiently and attentively, for himself. The sermons on the sacraments, more especially, will demand a very close application of mind, and, we must add, a very reverential watchfulness over the propensity to search into the deep and hidden things of God. The note on tradition and episcopal succession, likewise, deserves to be carefully and laboriously examined. The following extract from it will, we think, supply the reader with a fair specimen of the author's style of writing and turn of thought. The passage is somewhat long; but retrenchment would be unjust.
Now I by no means affirm that "the form of doctrine," once delivered to the saints," is absolutely unable to propagate itself by simple tradition; reason and conscience continually re-asserting the truth in the minds of men, and thus tending to preserve its outward and embodied representations; especially when it has wrought out for itself a channel with fixed banks, in which to take its historical course; and when to that inherent potency, by which its visible character is determined, the pressure of outward circumstances is added, and the gentle compulsion of habit: nay, I will never deny nor doubt that the power of divine truth having been once experienced, whether in the mind of an iudividual or in that of a nation, (which by the interlinking of its generations, if in no other way, preserves both a moral and intellectual personality,) tends to heal its own wounds, and repair its own losses; for to this, the native elasticity of the truth, we must attribute the first effort of the Reformation: and who shall presume to say how far, under the influence of the Spirit, this re-enlightenment might be carried? But, alas! how many counter-influences are constantly at work! how fatally the world and the flesh cooperate with the mysterious power of the evil one, first, to chill the love, and then to dim the vision of God's pure and spiritual word; and then, though the truth itself be immutable, its outward symbol, the Church, loses a portion of its vitality, which is immediately supplied by the ever active spirit of falsehood. Gradually, but quickly, "the form of its countenance is changed." The halo which marked its heavenly origin fades from its brow, and a coronet of earthly splendour takes its place. And if we take the course of time into the account, to recur to the metaphor employed above, the banks which confined the stream within its proper bed imperceptibly give way, its course is altered, yet wears the appearance of an undeviating sameness; and then the same influences which once gave fixedness to the truth, are no less effectual to give permanence to error.
Thus have I shown that, notwithstanding the natural tendency of revealed truth to assert its own outward existence, this is liable to be overborne by the opposing forces of the world, and actually does give way almost immediately, whenever it is left to itself. Let us now inquire what correctives have been provided by God's providence to remedy an evil, by which, if unresisted, His merciful purposes would be not simply thwarted, but insuperably barred. First in time is that catholic comparison of which I have spoken above. Each particular church compared its own napádorov with the traditions of other churches. Now, if the golden rule had been literally applied,-if nothing had been retained but that which was held everywhere, always, and by all,-it is quite clear that the substance of the faith must have been given up, article by article, till the whole was annihilated; for every Gospel truth was confronted at its first appearance by a particular heresy, and to except the heretics is to beg the question. The object was to ascertain who these were. Yet the presence of one common type was to be detected in each, to which they are all more or less conformed, and from which they all more or less varied; for we are not to suppose that the seal of God's truth left a perfect impression anywhere. This common type is the Kaboλukov, rightly deemed the original, and those copies the most authentic which most nearly correspond to it. Thus we see that this famous maxim, like all others of any value, is to be taken as the symbol of an