Slike strani
PDF
ePub

II.

THE “CHURCH REVIEW" SYMPOSIUM ON CHRIS

TIAN REUNION.

BY REV. WILLIAM FREDERICK FABER.

The basis for Christian Reunion, proposed by the Lambeth Conference of 1888 is as follows:

“I. The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as 'containing all things necessary to salvation,' and as being the rule and ultimate standard of Faith.

“II. The Apostles' Creed, as the Baptismal Symbol; and the Nicene Creed, as the sufficient statement of the Christian Faith.

“III. The two Sacraments ordained by Christ llimself,—Baptism and the Supper of the Lord,-ministered with unfailing use of Christ's words of institution, and of the elements ordained by Him.

" IV. The historic Episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the unity of His Church.”

When this Basis—substantially the same as declared by the American House of Bishops in 1886—was published, it at once received widespread attention, and since then much has been said and written on the subject. But up to the present there has been no more important discussion of it in this country than that in the pages of the Church Review, which in April of last year published articles and communications from twenty representative men of non-Episcopal churches, and in October concluded the Symposium with twelve papers by leading Epis. copalians, among them four of the American Bishops. Bearing in mind that the Church Review, while it stands at the head of the many publications of the Protestant Episcopal Church, is an accredited organ of High Church views, we shall be gratified to see such a symposium in its pages at all, and not disappointed if from the second part of the debate we miss such names as those of Phillips Brooks, Heber Newton and Dr. Rainsford. In the symposium itself there is much to gratify us. On the non-Episcopal side there is, with but one exception, the best of temper; learning and piety are coupled with that courtesy which does not so uniformly grace their possessors. However little hope is left that the terms of the Anglican Church will be accepted by the other Protestant Churches, there is no mistaking the fact that these representative men on the non-Episcopal side are looking at the question in a vastly different way from their fathers, and however slight the prospect may be that the Church Review writers will consent to regard as non-essential their jure divino theory of the origin of the Episcopate, with them, too, there is no mistaking the fact that history and the Spirit of Christ have compelled a considerable change of attitude from that of by-gone days.

Upon the first proposition there is little discussion. Its statement is strong and positive, while at the same time it leaves open the minor questions which concern the theories of Inspiration. Those questions, which in our day afford occasion for so much heated controversy, are after all secondary to the great fact which is not in question, and which transcends the debatable ground of theories; the fact, to wit, that the “Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments contain all things necessary to salvation, and are the rule and ultimate standard of Faith.” We cannot but admire the wisdoin of the Lambeth Conference in framing this first proposition just as they did. The Baptist Dr. McArthur, indeed, would like to recast it. It should not be simply "the rule and ultimate standard of Faith." It should be the Word of Gol," " the only rule of Faith and Practice." What with such a principle would become of the Baptist Church,—to say nothing now of any of our other

a

Churches, Dr. McArthur has evidently not stopped to reflect. It is well to honor the Scripture; but it is well, also, to respect the Scripture enough to ascertain its own claims on its behalf, and not to put it into a place its writers, and the Spirit who moved them, never meant it to occupy. We cannot forget that in the Gospel according to St. John, it is written how Christ answered the Jews, “ Ye search the Scriptures, because ye think that in them ye have eternal life; and these are they which bear witness of Me; and ye will not come to Me, that ye may have life." In a word, it may easily happen that an exaggerated view of Scripture will shut out the Supreme Object of Christian faith. More than that, Protestantism should remember that it has bappened.

While the first proposition meets, on the whole, sufficient approval, the second is subjected to criticism, particularly as regards the claim that "the Nicene Creed is the sufficient statement of the Christian Faith."

That we may the better understand the matter, let us bring before the reader the full text of that symbol in the form in which the Anglican Bishops hold it.

“I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

“And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, Begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of very God, Begotten, not made, Being of one substance with the Father, By whom all things were made: Who for us men, and for our salvation came down from heaven, And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, And was made man, And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried, and the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures. And ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of the Father, And He shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead : Whose kingdom shall have no end.

“And I believe in the Holy Ghost, The Lord and Giver of life, Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, Who spake by the Prophets. And I believe one Catholic and Apostolic Church. I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins, and I look for the Resurrection of the dead, And the life of the world to come.

Amen." To this Creed the objection is made by one of the writers, that "it enters into philosophical speculation, when it should have been content with the Scripture statement that the Word is God;" by others, that as it now appears, the Nicene Creed contains clauses not originally in it, hence not deserving of the reverence which we should bestow on primitive purity of teaching; and there is instanced the famous filioque, “the procession of the Spirit from the Father and the Son," an addition made at a late date by the West, and to this day protested against by the East; but above and beyond all these and similar objections, it is held by a number of the writers that the Nicene Creed in any form cannot be a sufficient statement of the Christian Faith. It is maintained with great plausibility that to leave the Church with this for a sufficient doctrinal standard, would be to give up Christendom to a new Babel of tongues, so that the ensuing confusion of teaching would be worse than the present sectarianism. It is asserted that to remand to the region of non-essentials our great confessional symbols of later times would be disloyalty to our history, to truth, to God.

Now it is indeed true that the developments, the acquisitions, the achievements of successive centuries of Christian history are not to be counted as vain and nothing worth, or to be, so far as possible, undone. Such an attempt would be both impious and futile. But, as we take it, to posit Christianity as attainable by agreement on the Nicene Creed, contemplates no abolishing of Augsburg, Heidelberg or Westminster beliefs. For Augsburg, Heidelberg and Westminster became possible only because there was, long centuries before, a Nicea. In other words, the later theological thought accredits itself as legitimate Christian thought only by reconfessing at the outset the primitive Christian Faith, and by acknowledging that all

which it is now doing is simply in explication and application of that Faith. If different types of thought lay undeveloped in the infant Church, and in no wise hindered Catholic Unity then, and if for doctrinal standard the simple form of sound words in which all could agree then, sufficed, what is there in any system legitimately growing out of primitive Faith and thought to hinder fellowship with any brother Christian now ? and why is a form of sound words which embodies the root of the whole matter, not a sufficient statement of the Christian Faith now ?

The fact is, our anomalous sectarian position prevents our seeing some things because of their very simplicity. In the first place, there is the great subscription bug-bear. Having 80 long been accustomed to think that compelling a man to subscribe a Confession will make him believe it and stick to that belief, we are afraid that by relinquishing this form of obligation, the Confession will no longer be believed. The truth is, the Confession will compel belief according to the degree in which it commends itself to the Christian reason as in harmony with the central Revelation in the Christ and the testimony of Apostles and Prophets ; in other words, so far as it is profoundly true, and truly Christian. Subscription compels no more. Let me be persuaded that the true spiritual successors of St. Peter, St. Paul and St. John are the Puritan leaders and the Westminster divines, and no subscription bond can strengthen my adherence to the Presbyterian system of thought. On the other hand, weaken my conviction that only these men and this school are par excellence the successors, the inheritors of the Saints to whom once for all the Faith was delivered, and, while you will not make me disloyal to the Lord's work in a Presbyterian field, you do make me care less for every form of Presbyterian-ism as such, and relatively more for the common Faith and the Catholic Churchmanship which I here may share with you yonder.

The Faith stands behind the confessional standards : the Faith once for all delivered to the Saints. The Faith is one : the confessions divergent. The Faith is primary, absolutely

« PrejšnjaNaprej »