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CHURCH OF ENGLAND.
calls the “ rudiments of the world"_" the commandments and doctrines of men"-things having “a shew of wisdom in will-worship and humility, and neglecting of the body.” “ Now," I continued, “
passages like these have, in my opinion, been most triumphantly urged i by you and others against the Church of Rome.
Allow me to ask why they do not apply with equal force to these · ordinances' of the Church of England ?”
To these remarks the Vicar replied in nearly the following terms :-“ Certainly," said he, “the passages you quote do apply to the observances pointed out in the Book of Common Prayer; and if these observances were enforced by the church, we could not find fault with the Roman Church without condemning ourselves. But these ordinances, if such they may be called, are, in fact, a dead letter. We do not regard them. They were admitted into the Prayerbook under peculiar circumstances. At the time of the Reformation, certain of the ceremonial observances of Romanism were still popular with a large portion of the people, who, nevertheless, received the leading doctrines of Protestantism, and joined in repudiating the usurped authority of the Pope. It was deemed desirable to meet their prejudices, and conciliate their weak minds
CHURCH OF ENGLAND.
as far as possible. Therefore, the compilers of the Liturgy, avoiding the extremes of Popery on the one hand, and Puritanism on the other, steered a middle course, which was wisely adapted to the circumstances of the times. But as the people became more enlightened, holidays and fasting days were gradually neglected; and we have followed the Bible rather than the Prayer-book as our guide in the performance of religious duties.”
« If so," I observed, “why did you not ex.punge from the Prayer-book whatever could not be fairly established from Scripture. Do not these admitted discrepancies between the Common Prayer and the Bible place you in an awkward position, when you attack the unscriptural tenets of the Papal system? The causes that checked the progress of reformation have, of course, long ago ceased to operate. Why, then, did the authorities not make the necessary
“ Because," replied the Vicar, “the spirit of innovation had carried some of the other churches of the Reformation into excesses that were very injurious to the cause of truth; and as the human mind is prone to be dissatisfied with present good, and to seek in repeated changes advantages that can never be realized, and which are
CHURCH OF ENGLAND.
pursued at the risk of unsettling all things; it was thonght better to suffer a few blemishes on the fair form of the church, than to remove them by measures that might organically affect her constitution, and perhaps terminate ultimately in her total dissolution."
I believe these statements satisfied me at the time. I do not recollect whether I objected then to the form of absolution in the service for the sick. To this, however, the same remarks will in some measure apply. In the morning service the words are merely declarative; announcing pardon and remission of sins to God's people, being penitent; but referring the authoritative act to Him alone as his exclusive prerogative. But it must be confessed that the form of expression in the service for the sick is far more objectionable, being essentially the same as that employed by the Priest in the confessional. In addition to what has been already advanced in apology for these remnants of Romanism, I need only remark, that this also is generally regarded as a dead letter; and that the pious clergy very seldom make use of the Prayer-book in their visitation of the sick.*
* Note A.
MY DEAR FRIEND, You will perceive that I began now to feel very favourably disposed towards the Church of Eng. land, the only form of Protestantism with which I had then any knowledge. I cordially approved of her doctrines, I saw little to find fault with in her ceremonies, and her ministers were, with a few exceptions with which I was acquainted, men whose characters I could not but highly esteem and love; but her establishment occasioned in my mind difficulties which, for a time, seemed almost insuperable. I have often heard you state your conviction that the Church of England could not stand but for her connexion with the State, and the wealth and honour with which she is thereby enabled to secure the attachment of her interested adherents. This I know is the general opinion of the members of your church; and at the time to which I am now referring, the converts from Romanism, announced in great numbers in the newspapers, were loudly. charged by the liberal journals with acting from interested motives with being bribed into con
THE BIBLE INTRUDER.
“ I hope you
to please him. But were it otherwise,” said I,
may I ask, why I am not at liberty to read what book I please ?"
“Oh, of course,” said he drily; “but in taking that book from such a man, you countenance the calumny that Catholics have no Bibles themselves."
“ That is a fact, and not a calumny, so far as we and our neighbours are concerned; for I do not know a single person that has one, with the exception of Mr. P, who seems to keep his two folio volumes, with their notes and comments, more for ornament than use."
« Use!” said he, with a sneer, are not among the number of those who deem the Bible a useful book. I hope there are few in the nineteenth century that entertain such an obsolete notion, at least, beyond those little coteries that fatten on the property of the public."
“ Still, my dear Friend, it seems not quite just to pass such a sweeping censure on the Bible without examining it. It might turn out after all not so worthless or so pernicious a book as we are willing to think. We are condemning it, you know, unheard ; and that is unjust as regards the Bible, and foolish as regards ourselves. What if this book should be found to