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but our own particular communion, or which would exclude from the church of Christ, in the sense necessary for salvation, and which is a higher sense, too, than that of mere outward communion, any particular body of professing Christians, which maintains the Christian principles and spirit in the lives of its members. The great question of the Church should be looked at from a higher and a broader point of view than that of particular communions. The outward form of our Lord's Body has been broken into fragments; but it was an IMMORTAL body, and each particular fragment, however small, or however far the adversary may have cast it abroad in the earth, is still quick with its original life, and cannot die. Instead, then, of contending, that this or that particular fragment is the whole body, and contains all the life, the real friends of the unity and catholicity of the church, imitating, as Milton says, the careful search of Isis after the scattered fragments of the torn body of the good Osiris, should seek them in every place of opportunity, and bring them all together, to be moulded anew into one homogeneous and lovely form of perfection.
Entertaining these views, we confess that we read with pain that portion of these Tracts which is directed against the Church of Rome, and also that portion which attacks Dissenters. What we have just said of the claims of the Church of England, though we have a very great respect for that communion, may well show, in the unpleasant feelings it may awaken in the breasts of its members, how very impolitic it would be, to say nothing more, for any particular communion to set up to be the church catholic, and, therefore, to unchurch all the rest. Each communion unchurched is provoked to bring forward its own claims; and, instead of peace and unity, we have strife and division ; each crying out, “Ye are heretics and schismatics; the Temple of the Lord is with us; we are the church ; and only they who worship with us can be saved.” We are all called, whatever the name we may bear, whatever our rank or influence in the Christian world, to a higher
and a more Christian work. We are all called to labor for REUNION, for the restoration of the unity of the church : unity of polity, of faith, and of discipline. But we must, if we will labor with success, take our stand on an eminence which overlooks all these sectarian divisions and causes of strife and bitterness, and seek to unite men in the very unity of the Christian Life, the deep, the eternal, the creative principle of Christian unity, which is Christ himself. In other words, we must rise to a full comprehension of that HIGHER UNITY, which is the principle and cause of the unity of polity, of faith, and of discipline; and, whilst we are engaged in doing this, our first and most pressing work, all these secondary and minor questions, touching the claims of particular communions, should be laid on the table. Perhaps they will never need to be called up.
The truth is, the church - we speak generally has lost the clear sense of the profound significance of her own organization, doctrines, sacraments, and symbols. In the present state of things, unity of polity becomes a mere forced unity, the unity of aggregation, not of a living body. The effort, therefore, at this moment, should not be to effect outward unity and canonical communion, but to recover the significance of the church itself. Christianity, as a divine scheme of mediatorial grace, has become to the great majority of the Christian world an enigma, of which few, if any, retain the key.
The great mass of church-goers, nay, of church-teachers, have no conception of the profound significance of the church. They, therefore, lose all respect for it as a divine institution, and come to regard it mainly in the light of an auxiliary to the police, as a useful institution for keeping the lower classes in order,
and for preventing men from cutting one another's L throats. What is the church? What mean her dogmas,
her sacraments, her symbols ? Who among us is able to answer? or who among us, attempting to answer, but babbles some profane nonsense, or repeats words whose sense escapes him ? Here, it strikes us, is a great
and primary question to be answered, THE QUESTION OF THE CHURCH ITSELF; and just in proportion as we succeed in answering this, we may be assured that the true centre of church unity will disclose itself, and the principle, which is to reunite, even outwardly, the torn body of our Lord, will begin to operate.
And here we find the redeeming principle, and the great and exceeding value, of these Oxford Tracts. From below the horizon, if we have eyes, we may see, like the sun emerging from the ocean, rising into full view, the great and permanent question of the church itself, of the real catholic church. These Oxford Divines have felt the workings of the great and universal problem itself; they have begun to feel, that the church, as manifest to the world, nay, as existing in the minds of the great mass of churchmen, priests as well as laity, is not precisely the church, - is, in fact, far, very far below the true church of God; they have begun to catch some glorious glimpses of unity and CATHOLICITY, and to feel somewhat of the divine life these impart and must impart; and they have come forward, as the hum'ble, but earnest, advocates of unity and catholicity, to recall the church to a sense of her rights, her prerogatives, as the church of God, as the necessary condition of fully discharging her high mission in the salvation of the world, here and hereafter. What if they have seen and done all this with the eyes and the hearts of Church-of-England men, and have sought to narrow the question down, as far as possible, to the alleged "insular prejudices" of their own nation? Let us leave all this, — which is lamentable enough, to all not of their communion, and which proves them to be but men, — let us leave all this by the way, and not suffer it to disturb our prejudices, or to bias our judgments. There is good enough in these Oxford Divines, and the sort of good, too, not over-abundant in modern times, to entitle them to our gratitude and respect, and to make us thank God for their labors, were their Church-of-Englandism a thousand-fold more prominent and offensive than it really is.
We do not look upon the movements of these Oxford divines as indicative, on their part, of a wish to return to Rome, as their enemies allege; they are far enough from being Romanists; they are, undeniably, genuine Church-of-England men ; but they are possessed by a sentiment which will be found too big and too expansive for the Church of England, and which will absorb it, in the long run, in the true catholic church. Their movements indicate to us a presentiment of something superior to what the church, in point of fact, in their days, really is; and a growing desire, an intense longing, to see the catholic church, restored to her unity, her freedom, and her authority, prepared to resume and carry on the great work in which she was engaged in the Middle Ages, and which was, to a considerable extent, interrupted by the rise of Protestantism. In this point of view, these Tractarians broach a higher than a Roman or an Anglican question, a question which concerns all Christendom, in fact, all humanity; and in the discussion of which all Christendom must take part. It is a great question ; an agitating question ; a powerful question; a terrible question; which will not pass over the world without changing its face. Let no one be deceived. This question is no ephemeral question, to be put at rest by a newspaper paragraph, or even by an elaborate article in our more aristocratic Reviews. It has its roots deep in the very heart of our age; and is nourished by all our wants, hopes, aspirations, and tendencies. that it is not a question which concerns merely this or that particular communion ; it concerns not merely Oxford divines and Church-of-England men ; it concerns not merely the Protestant Episcopal Church of this country, in which it has broken out; it reaches the whole Christian world, and all communions, Papal, Patriarchal, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Congregational, Trinitarian, Unitarian, Arminian, Calvinistic, all alike are concerned in it; for it is the great question of the Christian church itself, in that high and profound sense, in which it transcends, and embraces, all particular
The Church Question.
communions, It asks the significance of this great moral Fact, before which we stand, and before which the more advanced nations of the earth have stood, or have bowed down with awe and submission, for eighteen hundred years. What means this Fact? Is it a phantom, an illusion ? or is it a reality ? Has it a being? If so, what is it? What is it here for? What are its rights, prerogatives, duties, means ?
Now, we say, here is the question of questions for our age.
We have, for the last three hundred years, been losing sight of the main question; we have been concerning ourselves with collateral points, with mere details, proposing petty amendment to amendment, till the original question has been buried under the mass, and left out of the debate. These Oxford Divines, without precisely understanding the original question, without having exactly made up their minds how to vote on it, yet firmly persuaded of the fact of such original question, have come forward and moved it; not with a view of stifling the debate, but to recall it to the main question. The main question is now coming fairly up before the great Christian parliament; and, if the speakers will only keep to the point, the debate will not only be full of interest, but of instruction, and tend to the profit of the whole Christian world.
These Oxford Divines represent a great movement, already commenced throughout Christendom, towards unity and catholicity. But have they seized, and have they presented, the true ground of unity and catholicity? Do they give us evidence, that they have gone to the bottom of the question, and seized the elemental principle of Christian unity and universality ? We think not. They do not seem to us to have detached the question from its accidents, and to have considered it in itself, independently of its special applications to this or that communion. They do not seem to us to have grasped the key to this great moral Fact, and to have become able to see, independently of the mere authority of tradition, its profound, universal, and eternal necessity. They have bowed to the Tradition ; but the