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HERESY AND SCHISM.
The foregoing complaints of the primitive Fathers, shew how soon these tares" sprung up in the Church of CHRIST; at
Charta, Gon did so far deny him His restraining grace, that he fell into greater sins than I am willing to mention.
Madam, RELIGION is the foundation and cement of human societies, and when they that serve at GOD's altar shall be exposed to poverty, then RELIGION itself will be exposed to scorn, and become contemptible; as you may already observe in too many poor vicarages in this nation. And therefore, as you are by a late act, or acts [of Parliament,] entrusted with a great power to preserve, or [to] waste the Churches lands, yet dispose of them, for JESUS's sake, as the donors intended. Let neither falsehood nor flattery beguile you to do otherwise, and put a stop, I beseech you, to the approaching ruin of God's Church, as you expect comfort at the last great day; for Kings must be judged.
"Pardon this affectionate plainness, my most dear Sovereign, and let me beg to be still continued in your favour, and THE LORD continue you in His."
This animated speech, (impossible to be abridged,) to which the Queen listened patiently, produced its full effect; and her future care to preserve the Church's rights, which till then had been neglected, proved that it sunk deep into her heart. Notwithstanding all the flowings and ebbings of her favour towards his opposers, (and the latter especially, to the Earl of Leicester,) he still maintained a uniform ascendancy in her esteem, for his piety, and in her councils for his wisdom, during twenty years, in those dangerous and unsettled times, in which he had to cope with the most powerful and active enemies of the Church, both open and concealed, the Nonconformists and the Courtiers. And he made good his motto,
Vincit qui patitur.
See Walton's Life of Hooker, p. 9, 10. Whitgift died A.D. 1604, two years after his royal mistress.
4. To these curious, valuable, and interesting testimonies of the eye-witnesses, we cannot refrain from adding the awakening testimony of the pious and sagacious, but cautious Mede, who died in A.D. 1638, ten years before his royal master, Charles I.
Alluding to the foregoing spoliation of Church property, he says, "Moreover there is a sin of which the whole body of the reformation is notoriously guilty, which nevertheless is accounted no sin; and yet such an one, as I know not whether GOD ever passed by, without some visible and remarkable judgment. This seems to call for a scourge before Antichrist shall go down, and that may be, as far as I know, this feared clades testium, ["slaughter of the witnesses," foretold Rev. xi. 7,] I will not name it, because it is invidious; and I am not willing to say so much for the probability thereof, in this case, as perhaps I could," p. 760.
But he speaks of it elsewhere thus more unreservedly, in his Latin writings, "Who knows whether the reformed Church may not suffer for the insult offered to CHRIST in this respect, by the temporary suppression of the witnesses: because they held them not in due honour, as His ambassadors, while they enjoyed the benefit of their testimony? It is too notorious, how much the reformed Churches have offended in this way: for while CHRIST's Prophets strenuously applied themselves to purge the temple of God, others, meantime, the robbers, by plundering its treasures, and alienating its oblations, fixed an indelible stain upon that most holy work, to the great disgrace of true religion;
tributing such, as we have seen, to the instigation of the Devil, working upon the overweening pride, ambition, and worldliness of the inferior ecclesiastics, aspiring to make themselves a name, and to set themselves above their betters.
But their seeds were sown in human nature itself, and not easily eradicated, even in the regenerate. Witness the contentions among OUR LORD'S favourite Apostles, who should be greatest in his kingdom. And St. Paul, writing to the Church of Corinth, the metropolis of Achaia, that great commercial city, corrupted by wealth, and the influx of strangers, and spoiled by luxury and licentiousness, their usual concomitants, seems to consider heresies and schisms as matters of course :
"I hear, that when ye assemble together in the Church, there are schisms among you, and I believe it, in part; for there must needs be even heresies among you; to the end that the approved among you may become manifest," [by rejecting and avoiding such,] 1 Cor. xi. 18, 19.
The Apostle does not here mean, that schisms and heresies are essential to the Church; for he ranks such among "the works of the flesh," Gal. v. 20, but only, that GOD permits Satan to sow those tares; both that ungodly and pestilent disciples might shew forth the innate pride and naughtiness of
in some places, not leaving even adequate supplies for the decent support of his Ministers, according to the dignity of their order; much less a redundancy for the promotion of the Reformation, the necessities of the sacred warfare, the relief of the distressed brethren, and other pious uses.———— -But I will not fret this sore," p. 487.
"I conceive not this clades to be such as should extinguish the persons, or whole materials, (as I may so speak,) of the reformed Churches; but the public fabric of the Reformation," p. 761, namely, "an extermination of the reformed Pastors out of their places and Churches; and not a general extermination of the body of the reformed people, which are too many to be dealt with according to former violence; and shall remain to terrify the beast, and revenge the clades of their Prophets, before almost they shall have done rejoicing over them," (Rev. xi. 10,) p. 766.
"Either I am mistaken, or the Apocalypse too plainly intimates, that a little before the destruction of the Beast, (Rev. xix. 20,) the whole reformed world shall be oppressed, (though but for a very short time,) and I shudder to say, entirely subverted! (Rev. xi. 11.) Whether those miserable clades of the reformed Churches and unsettlements, may prepare the way for this last catastrophe, I cannot say, GOD only knoweth, in whose hand are the times and seasons. But this I will not hesitate to say, that if any one shall attentively consider the present aspect of affairs, there will occur to him no slight causes of dread." p. ult.
Such faithful witnesses as Jewel, Hooker, Whitgift, and Mede, are not to be despised by those that have ears to hear, at the present crisis of the Established Church, and of the BRITISH EMPIRE. (1811.)
their hearts, by countenancing and propagating such; and the faithful on the other hand, prore the purity of their doctrine, and stedfastness of their discipline, by opposing and exposing innovations and irregularities. Bishop Pearce has judiciously remarked," It is observable of the earlier and purer ages of the Church, that when Heretics arose, and carried some doctrines to an extreme, it commonly was, when the Church seemed inclinable to lean too much toward the other extreme. Thus Heresies then, under the guidance of PROVIDENCE, caused a revulsion of humours in the ecclesiastical body: it brought men back again into the right channel, and made them stick more closely to THE TRUTH, than they would probably have done if no opposition had been made. So that disputes about THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION seem to have contributed as much to the preserving it pure, as the constant motion of the waters does to the keeping them sweet: and if so, that can be no argument against believing CHRISTIANITY, which has been one great cause of continuing it a thing worthy to be believed." Pearce's Sermons, Vol. I. p. 387. And this exactly corresponds with the same Apostle's advice," Prove all things: hold fast what is right," 1 Thess. v. 21.
The foregoing observations may lead us to the true Scriptural meaning of heresy and schism; which it is of so much religious and civil importance clearly to ascertain and define.
The word aiotic, is used both in a good and a bad sense in Scripture, and by Paul himself. He styled himself of the strictest Sect of the Pharisees, (aipeσw,) Acts xxvi. 5. Here it evidently signifies a sect or party; but, " In the way that they call heresy, so serve I THE PATRIARCHAL GOD," (aipeowTη πATOWY OεQ,) xxiv. 14. Here it is evidently used as a term of reproach.
Heresy, therefore, is ambiguous, and may subsist in a true Church as well as in a false. The followers of it in the former, are usually termed Sectaries. Thus, the disciples in the Church of Corinth, of whom "one said, I am of Paul, another, I am of Apollos, another, I am of Cephas or Peter;" (under which names, the Apostle adumbrated the leaders of those Sects), 1 Cor. i. 12, 13, iii. 5, iv. 6, are censured by him for not sufficiently" maintaining the head CHRIST;" for paying too much deference to the peculiar opinions of their teachers; although those teachers, perhaps, might not differ from each other, nor
from the Gospel in fundamentals, but only in external ordinances, &c. And may not this censure equally involve Lutherans, Calvinists, Arminians, Wesleians, Whitfieldites *, &c. at the present day?
But heresy is by St. Paul decidedly reprobated, where it signifies, repodidαokaλia," Heterodox Doctrine," repugnant to ἑτεροδιδασκαλία, THE GOSPEL, as taught by CHRIST and his Apostles, and plainly and critically expounded, in conformity with the whole tenor of Scripture, 1 Tim. i. 3, vi. 3, &c.
Hence it follows, that every erroneous opinion is not heresy,
The following admirable reflexion on the propensity of mankind to erect their favourite teachers into Apostles, we owe to Hooker; addressing himself thus to the Sectaries of his day, p. 41.
"Loth ye are to think that they whom ye judge to have attained as sound knowledge in all points of doctrine as any since the Apostles time, [such as Calvin, in his admired Institutes and Expositions of Holy Scripture] should mistake in discipline. Such is naturally our affection [or disposition] that whom, in great things, we mightily admire; in them, we are not persuaded willingly, that any thing should be amiss. The reason whereof is, that' as dead flies putrify the ointment of the apothecary, so, a little folly, him that is in estimation for wisdom,' (Eccl. x. 1.) This, in every profession, hath too much authorized the judgment of a few [leaders]: this, with Germans, hath caused Luther, and with many other Churches, Calvin, to prevail in all things. Yet, we are not able to define [or determine] whether THE WISDOM of that GOD (who setteth before us in Holy Scripture so many admirable patterns of virtue, and no one of them without something noted wherein they were culpable; to the end that to HIM ALONE it might always be acknowledged,' THOU only art HOLY, THOU only art JUST,') might not permit these worthy vessels of his glory to be in some things blemished with the stain of human frailty; even for this cause: lest we should esteem any man above that which behoveth."
It were much to be wished, that the invaluable Preface to Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity, in which this fine observation is found, with many others, was reprinted separately, and disseminated widely. It contains, in the moderate compass of 18 pages folio, the substance, and unfolds the design, and application of the whole eight books of that prolix work. And it is written with the most affectionate earnestness, the soundest and most impressive reasoning, religious and political, the soberest, yet the most pointed wit and humour, and the greatest fairness and candour to his opponents; commending most chearfully Calvin's great piety and learning, though disapproving his New Ecclesiastical Discipline, as receding from the usage of the primitive Church, and little inferior in Spiritual tyranny to that of Rome herself; and contrasting the original professions with the subsequent practices of the would be Reformists of the ecclesiastical regimen of the Church of England; wishing to new model it upon the plan of the Churches of Geneva and Scotland, by abolishing the episcopal order, and imparting a share of its government to Lay-presbyters, vested with power of ordination, excommunication, &c. It is, indeed, a finished model of religious and political controversy without acrimony. "There will come a time," says he, "when three words uttered with charity and meekness, shall receive a far more blessed reward than three thousand volumes written with disdainful sharpness of wit." P. 36.
according to Augustine's * judicious distinction, Errare possum, Hæreticus esse nolo. 66 I may err, but I will not be a Heretic," intimating that he would not knowingly or wilfully embrace an error, though he might involuntarily fall into such, on account of the difficulty of finding out the true meaning of Scripture. Such error is surely venial, or pardonable. Thus, GOD pardoned the friends of Job, though they did not speak rightly of HIM, because they were good and pious men, and spoke according to the best of their skill and knowledge, in sincerity, though but in error. And the Apostle Paul evidently included wilful rejection of Gospel truth in his notion of heresy, or Heterodoxy; as may appear from the following texts:
"A Heretical person, after one or two admonitions, avoid † ;
* Augustine thus explains his sentiments, in his controversy with the Manichæans. "Those persons who maintain an opinion, though false and perverse, without pertinacious animosity, and who seek THE TRUTH with cautious solicitude, when they have found it, ready to be corrected, are by no means to be classed among Heretics,” xxiv. 9-3.
Hales of Eton, calls "heresy an act of the will, and not of reason; a lye, and not a mistake."
Bishop Taylor, says, "If a man's error be not voluntary, and part of an ill life, then, because he leads a good life, he is a good man, and therefore no Heretic."——“ A bad life is the worst heresy," said one of the Fathers.
"It it be an error," says Hooker, "to think, that GOD may be merciful to save men even when they err; my greatest comfort is my error. Were it not for the love I bear to this error, I would never wish to speak or to live." And he strenuously maintained the possibility of salvation in the Romish Church against the Presbyterian and Puritanical factions; resembling the Church of Rome herself in their uncharitableness.
From that Church, the following definition of heresy was copied in the Reformatio Legum, carried on under Henry VIII. and Edward VI. pursuant to act of parliament : "Hæresis errore falsas opiniones suscipit, et inscienter."
"Heresy takes up false opinions, through error, even unwittingly.”
Under the dreadful latitude of this definition, several wretched enthusiasts were condemned to the flames in the reigns of the Reformists, Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Queen Elizabeth, as we have seen; before the Church of England was sufficiently purged from the persecuting leaven of popery.
The Greek, aipɛtɩkov avƐρwπоν яараιтоν, is rendered by the Vulgate, Hæreticum hominem devita, which gave rise to the following mistake. An old and rigid Theologian having been once asked in council, whether there was any canonical authority for the capital punishments of Heretics, immediately cited this passage in support of it; de vitá! said he, de vitâ!-ignorantly splitting the Latin verb, devita, “ avoid," into two, de vitá, "out of life." This anecdote Erasmus reports, on the authority of John Colet, a man of approved integrity, who acted as president of that council, Jortin's Erasmus, Vol. II. p. 225.
Here, ignorance was the parent of persecution !—Many such "methodisms of error," are to be found in the persecuting annals of the Church. The council here alluded to