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"Just think: we say, we believe' in the Catholic Church: now, what sort of things do people believe in? things that they see, or things that they do not see?"
"I don't quite understand you."
"Should you say, I believe this is a window through which we are looking, and this is day-light which we see through it?' or, should you say rather, I know those things to be so?""
"Of course, I should say, 'I know them;' because I see them with my very own eyes: to say, 'I believe them' would be little better than nonsense."
Very true. Since then we say in the Creed, 'I believe in the Holy Catholic Church,' it is plain that the word Church means something which is more or less out of sight; just as all the things mentioned in the Creed are matters of faith and not of sight."
"That is very plain."
"But this our parish Church is a thing which we can see; it needs no faith for you or me to be quite sure that there is such a building."
"Well; and what of that?"
"Why, you may understand, if you will put things together, that the Church which the Creed speaks of, is not our Parish Church, but something else, more or less out of sight, which is called by the same name, 'Church.'
"I have always understood that the Church' means the House of God: does the Church which the Creed speaks of mean any place where God is ?"
"It means the whole company of Christian people, living or departed; in which company, and in each one of those who belong to it, God has promised to dwell by His Holy Spirit: for that company is called in Scripture the Body of Christ, and each one of us is a member of Christ."
"May I understand that the Church means 'all who profess and call themselves Christians"?"
"Not exactly that, because some might call themselves Christians untruly, by mistake or by guile: but it means all who have been made Christians in the way appointed by Jesus Christ, and have not been cut off from Him for their sins."
"If it means all Christians, how can it be invisible, and a matter of faith? since all men openly and plainly see, who are Christians, and who Jews or Heathens."
"The Church is in some respects visible, and in some invi
sible. As it is a company of living men, bound together by a certain profession, it is visible to the world; but it is invisible, and known only by faith, so far as it consists of persons who are gone out of this world, and also in respect of that which makes it one body, that is, the Presence of Christ in it.",
"Then the Church is so far like each particular person, in that it has, as it were, both a body and a soul: its body being the living persons who are outwardly joined to it; its soul the Holy Spirit of Christ, dwelling in each one of them, and binding them all together; and as I know a man's presence by seeing his body, though I cannot see the better part of him, his soul, so I know the Church to be, where I see Christians joined together in a certain outward way, though I cannot see the Good Spirit, Who is the Life and Being of it all."
"I suppose that is pretty near to the truth; but as Holy Scripture calls the Church a body,—that is, the body of Christ, so it calls the same Church also a kingdom,—that is, the kingdom of Christ; and as every kingdom has a history of its own, so there is such a thing as Church History,—that is, the history of Christ's visible kingdom on earth.
"I understand; you mean to say, that as the French or English, or any other nation, had a certain beginning so many years ago and went through such and such changes, and had certain things happen to it, and when those changes or events are written down or told in order, that makes English or French history, so it is with the kingdom of Christ upon earth."
"Just so we may note when, where, and how the Church began, how it went on, and prospered, or fell back, till it came to the condition in which it now is. And as an Englishman will know his duty to his country better from having learned something of its history in former times, so a well-disposed churchman may, by God's grace, see his way in church matters the more clearly, if he has been helped to a little sound knowledge of Church History."
"Well, now I know what you mean by the Church, I think, I can tell, at least, where such a history would begin. it not be about the 4th chapter of St. Matthew, where our Saviour, after His baptism and temptation, begins to be known and to call disciples to Him?"
"That is a very likely place for a person to think of; but if you read carefully, you will find that our Lord, so much as He taught about the kingdom of heaven, always spoke of it as of
something not yet come, but which should come before long. It was preached, and men were pressing to get into it, but the door of it was not yet open. The reason is, that the kingdom or Church of Christ was to be His Body, and no man could be a member of His Body, but by the special gift of the Holy Ghost, which is called regeneration, and the Holy Ghost was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified.'
Because He was not yet glorified;' then, when He was glorified, and the Holy Ghost came down in His place, that must have been the beginning of His kingdom."
"Yes: that is accounted by divines the beginning of His kingdom on earth, as His Ascension into heaven and sitting at the right hand of the Father was the beginning of His kingdom in heaven."
"Well, then at any rate we have a clear point of time and place for the commencement of our Church History: we know exactly when it began, and where it began."
"When, and where, should you say
"For the time, I should say it was on the first Whitsunday, that is on the Sunday in the Feast of Pentecost, in the year of our Lord's Death and Resurrection: and exactly seven weeks, to a day, after He rose again."
"You might be even more particular than that: for the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles mentions the very hour of the day when the Holy Comforter descended. It was not quite nine in the morning: for we read, 'It is not yet the third hour of the day,' and the day was reckoned to begin at six."
"Indeed, that is worth remembering; just as one is glad to know that our Lord was lifted up on the Cross about twelve, and gave up the ghost at three in the afternoon:-one is glad to know it, and feels that one ought to recollect it at those times oftener than one does :-so it seems a good thing to know about the very hour of the beginning of Christ's kingdom, in which we have our salvation."
"Yes: and when the clock strikes nine, there is no harm, if you have leisure, in saying a short prayer, and thanking God for the gift of the Holy Ghost, whereby He made you a Christian. But now, about the place where the Church began: you said that we know that also: could you name it?"
"I should say it was in the city of Jerusalem."
"Jerusalem was a large place-the Scripture helps us to be more particular, and to point out almost the very room.”
"As how ?"
Why you know it is said, that after our Lord's Ascension the disciples returned from Mount Olivet to Jerusalem, and went into the upper room where they abode; that is, I suppose, where they met regularly for their devotions: and one may well believe it to have been the same upper room, in which our Lord, just before His death, instituted the Sacrament of Holy Communion. And even now in the modern city of Jerusalem a place is pointed out, on Mount Sion, where it is said the house stood, of which that upper room was a part. And therefore Sion is used in the Old Testament, especially in the Psalms and Prophets, as a name for God's Church and Kingdom, hereafter to be set up. The Law,' it is said, 'shall go forth of Zion.' In the very same place where our Lord prayed that His disciples might be ali one, and where He gave them His Body and Blood as the pledge and means of that Unity, there He gave them outwardly and visibly His Holy Spirit, to continue for ever with them, and with those who by their Ministry should be united to Him. He breathed His Holy Spirit, as it were a Soul, into His Apostles and the others, who were with them, (His blessed Mother being one,) to the number of one hundred and twenty: and these made up, at its first beginning, the Body or Kingdom of Christ, which is the Church."
"I understand: and the latter part of the chapter tells how the Body began to grow, or the Kingdom to have fresh subjects: and I see the word Church used in the last verse, The Lord kept adding to the Church daily them that were saved.'
"Yes: that one chapter, rightly understood, tells us all that is most important for us to learn of the form and constitution of Christ's kingdom. But we will talk of it another time, if you care to know now I must go to Evening School."
The above is given as the substance of a conversation which took place on a summer evening, in the Village of Meriden, (no matter in what county) between the schoolmaster Joseph Butler and his neighbour the saddler, Edward Hyde. They met again more than once, and had a good deal more to say to each other: which the reader, if he likes, may see another time.
"THE QUEEN IS THE HEAD OF THE CHURCH, ISN'T SHE?" So we often hear it said; such, indeed, is the common expression used by most people when they speak upon the subject. A very awful subject it is, no pious man will deny; and that upon an awful subject our ideas should be clear, and our language, too, no thinking man will gainsay.
The use of incorrect words is dangerous to the truth; because in course of time, the use of an inaccurate expression affects the mind, and makes an untrue idea to spring up in it. That this expression," the Queen is the Head of the Church," is inaccurate, it requires but little thought to discover. Our Blessed Lord who planted the Church, is, of course, the Head of it. He, and He alone, in the true and proper meaning of the word, can be the Head of the Church Universal, of which our Church of England is a true and living branch. But just in the same manner as some people sometimes say, they "hate Catholics," "they dislike the Catholic Church; " forgetting that the meaning of the word Catholic is the same as Universal, forgetting how often they have said in the presence of their God,—“I believe in the Holy Catholic Church," not distinguishing between Catholics, which all members of our Church are, and those who admit the claims of the Pope, sometimes called Roman Catholics. In the same careless language do they speak of the Queen as Head of the Church, that is, without having considered that the language in its true and proper meaning, implies a title and honour due to God only.
It is true, that the title, "Supreme Head of the Church," is given to the Crown by some early statutes passed at the time of the Reformation, when the country was, in truth, governed almost entirely, by the arbitrary will of the monarch on the throne, and when there were very slight traces existing of the free constitution which we now enjoy. It is true, also, that, for some time after the Reformation, the Princes of the nation affected to believe, and were sometimes taught by flatterers to believe, that they possessed all the power which the Pope claimed to exercise here as Universal Bishop! that is, not only authority over all that relates to temporal matters, whether the clergy or the laity be concerned, but that they had power to deal with spiritual matters, -such as the doctrine of the Church. The words which we are about to cite are from a well-known legal work on Ecclesiastical