Occasional Papers eBook

Richard William Church
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 447 pages of information about Occasional Papers.
and impatience.  There is nothing peculiar to the English Church in the assumption, either that outsiders should not meddle with and govern what she professes to believe and teach, or that the proper and natural persons to deal with theological questions are the class set apart to teach and maintain her characteristic belief.  Whatever may ultimately become of these assumptions, they unquestionably represent the ideas which have been derived from the earliest and the uniform practice of the Christian Church, and are held by most even of the sects which have separated from it.  To any one who does not look upon the English Church as simply a legally constituted department of the State, like the army or navy or the department of revenue, and believes it to have a basis and authority of its own, antecedent to its rights by statute, there cannot but be a great anomaly in an arrangement which, when doctrinal questions are pushed to their final issues, seems to deprive her of any voice or control in the matters in which she is most interested, and commits them to the decision, not merely of a lay, but of a secular and not necessarily even Christian court, where the feeling about them is not unlikely to be that represented by the story, told by Mr. Joyce, of the eminent lawyer who said of some theological debate that he could only decide it “by tossing up a coin of the realm.”  The anomaly of such a court can hardly be denied, both as a matter of theory and—­supposing it to matter at all what Church doctrine really is—­as illustrated in some late results of its action.  It is still more provoking to observe, as Mr. Joyce brings out in his historical sketch, that simple carelessness and blundering have conspired with the evident tendency of things to cripple and narrow the jurisdiction of the Church in what seems to be her proper sphere.  The ecclesiastical appeals, before the Reformation, were to the ecclesiastical jurisdiction alone.  They were given to the civil power by the Tudor legislation, but to the civil power acting, if not by the obligation of law, yet by usage and in fact, through ecclesiastical organs and judges.  Lastly, by a recent change, of which its authors have admitted that they did not contemplate the effect, these appeals are now to the civil jurisdiction acting through purely civil courts.  It is an aggravation of this, when the change which seems so formidable has become firmly established, to be told that it was, after all, the result of accident and inadvertence, and a “careless use of terms in drafting an Act of Parliament”; and that difficult and perilous theological questions have come, by “a haphazard chance,” before a court which was never meant to decide them.  It cannot be doubted that those who are most interested in the Church of England feel deeply and strongly about keeping up what they believe to be the soundness and purity of her professed doctrine; and they think that, under fair conditions, they have clear and firm ground for
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Occasional Papers from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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