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no surrender of individual freedom of thought or conscience. We touched only so far upon the nature of the Church as was necessary to render this proposition intelligible.
In the Article on the Church Question, we raised the question of the Nature and Office of the Church, stated it to be the great and paramount question of the day; but we did not undertake to answer it, for we had, at that time, another object in view. Our real purpose was to show, 1. That, throughout Christendom, there is a strong tendency to return to the unity and catholicity of the Church ; 2. That, to effect this return, it is necessary to take up the great question of the Church itself ; 3. That this question may be taken up and discussed in the freest and fullest manner, in any and all of our professedly Christian communions ; 4. That the answer, the germs of which each sect may find in its present faith, so far as it believes in the Church at all, once obtained, all particular communions will be destroyed, by being absorbed in the Catholic Communion.
Now, with what thought could we have written this? On what does our argument rest for its validity ? And on what conditions could the means we suggested be adequate to the end we proposed ? Supposing we understood ourselves, and were not merely sporting with our readers, we must have implied, what indeed we stated; 1. That men have broken away from the Church because they have lost the sense of its profound significance ; and, 2. That the recovery of this sense, that is, a full understanding of the true nature and office of the Church, will bring them back to the one Catholic Communion, becanse, the moment they come to perceive the true nature and office of the Church, they must perceive that a Church not one and Catholic, can be no Church at all ? Does this imply ignorance of the nature and office of the Church on our part?
We assure our friend that, if he supposed we were suggesting a plan for making up, creating, or reconstructing a catholic Church, he did us great injustice. Our inquiry was not, How may the Church recover its unity and catholicy ? but, How may professedly Christian communions find their way back to the one Catholic Church? The Church has never lost its unity and catholicity, for it cannot lose them without ceasing to be the Church of God. The Church never stands in need of reform. The censures we bestowed, in our remarks, were not bestowed on the Church as an organization, but on the Church, in the modern Protestant sense, as an-assemblage of individuals ; that is, upon Churchmen.
The Church was
as pure in the days of Luther and Calvin, as it was in the days of the Apostles, though, doubtless, many of its members, and some of its dignitaries, even, were corrupt, and abused their powers and privileges. The reform we demand is never of the institution, but of the individuals. We believe in no Church that can ever need reforming.
We do not overlook the Church as an organization, for the Church, in any other sense, is to us no Church at all. The Church is an organic body, existing in time and space, under one visible as well as invisible Head, with one common centre of life, out from which, through communion, flows the life to all its members. We may, indeed, recognize a holy brotherhood, the spiritual priesthood, the invisible Church, as some call it, composed of all holy persons, whether in this world or the other, — the grand communion of the Saints; but this is not what we mean by the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church is the divinely instituted body to prepare us for admission into this glorious company of the saints. Like that Gospel net, it gathers all, both good and bad; for we come into it, not because we are sanctified, but that, through its ministries, we may be sanctified. Through its ministries, Christ, who is its head, its life, and its efficacy, works for our redemption from sin, and reconciliation with the Father, and our practical holiness.
We do not set aside, nor count of little consequence, the historical view of the Church. If our correspondent had read what we said, with a little more attention, he would not have suspected us of doing so. The Christian world is broken up into particular communions. Whence the cause ? In the fact that Churchmen have lost the profound significance of the Church. What is the remedy. To take up the question of the Church itself, and ascertain what it is, what its nature, rights, duties, means. Now, this question, we said, and we say still, cannot be answered by the historical method of the Oxford divines ; for the very simple reason that it is not a question which relates to the history of the Church, but to its philosophy. The historical method is the proper method, when the question is, which is the Church ? but not when the question is, what is the Church? And it was only in relation to this last question, that we asserted its insufficiency.
We do not agree with our correspondent as to the order in which the several problems, relating to the Church, should be taken up. He wishes us to go, in the first place, into history, and ascertain which is the Catholic Church; and afterwards come to the question, what is the Church. But, if we know not what the Church is, before we go into history, how shall we know what to look for ? Or how shall we know when we have, or have not, found the Catholic Church? The great evil under which we suffer is not so much wrong-churchism, as it is no-churchism. The great mass of the people have no real, serious, earnest belief, in the Church at all. They see no necessity for it, nor why they cannot just as well commune with Christ without, as with, union with his Body. Nay; they look upon the Church as something interposed between them and Christ, and as separating them from him who is the life of the soul, instead of uniting them to him. It is, in fact, to the great mass, either a stumblingblock, or foolishness. They have lost the sense of the profound mystery of the Incarnation, and will own no Church but what they term holy principle, by virtue of which, every man is, or may be, his own priest, and his own Church. A reaction has, doubtless, commenced against this no-churchism ; but the great mass are still unbelievers in the necessity of the Church as the instrument, in the hands of God, of bringing us to Christ. Here is the fact our correspondent overlooks. He supposes the age already ripe for the question, Which is the Church ? But the age demands first, to be shown that any Church at all is necessary. Before you appeal to history to determine what body God hath commissioned to baptize, you must prove that baptism itself is necessary, and that an outward divine commission to baptize is essential. Before all, then, we repeat it, the great question is, the question of the CHURCH ITSELF. What is the Church here for ? What is its nature ? What is its mission ? What are its rights? What is its authority? What the ground of its anthority? What the principle of its operation, and efficiency? These are the questions which are to be answered, and these are not to be answered by appeals to history, but by profound meditation on the philosophy of the Church, and on the nature and constitution of things in general. These are great questions, and not to be answered by a few quotations from the Fathers.
Nor is this all. Broach the question of which is the Church, before men are well grounded in what the Church is, and you only provoke the wrath of rival communions, aggravate the evils of sectarianism, already so intolerable, and put still further off the day of union and catholicity. There are some questions, which the wise man, however firmly persuaded in his own mind, will adjourn till they can be profitably discussed.
We accept what the writer of the letter says of the reproductive powers of the Church, and should regard ourselves as having made but little proficiency in our knowledge of the mystery whereby children are begotten unto the Lord, if we had yet to learn the Church as the Mystic Bride of the Lamb, or to be told that without a spiritual mother there can be no spiritual births. The toatov yeudov, of which he speaks, is the very mother falsehood into which we did not fall, and the very last we could possibly be guilty of, with our general doctrine concerning the genesis and transmission of life. It is not safe always to infer one's ignorance from one's silence.
We did not represent sects, which are so far removed as to have absolutely no intercommunion, and absolutely no access to the common centre of life, as living fragments of Christ's body. We stated, that the Church, understood as the great body of professed believers in Christ, exists, at present, in a broken and fragmentary state ; and we contended that each fragment has some portion of Christian life. Can this be denied ? Will any man with his eyes open, at least, with his heart open, contend that any one Christian communion extant contains, within its own pale, all the Christian life now circulating in Christendom? Will Protestants deny that there is Christian life within the pale of the Catholic communion ? Not unless they are mad. Will Catholics say there is nothing of Christian life in any of our Protestant communions? They may say our life is feeble, and that the fruit we bear is rich neither in abundance nor in flavor; but they will not say that we have no Christian life at all, that we are absolutely cut off from all communion with Christ.
We contended, and we still contend, and pray God that we ever may contend, if it be necessary, that all sects, not as sects, but as professing Christians, however they got it, or get it, do exhibit somewhat of the Christian spirit, have, in some degree, partaken of the Divine Life which God in Christ has communicated to the world. Then, all these communions are, in some way, connected with Christ, and to be reckoned in our account of his body.
Yet, it does not follow from this, that we deny the Church to be a single organic body, or that we reject apostolic succession and canonical appointment. By contending that there is Christian life in each sect, we do not, necessarily, contend that each sect has a valid and sufficient ministry. All we have contended is, that the ministry of each sect is sufficiently valid to authorVOL. I. NO. II.