Saturday, June 4, 2011

Laudian Theology

LAUDIAN THEOLOGY. The theology of the historical High Church school in the Church of England.

Laud is generally regarded as the head and chief of English High Churchmen. Having been Archbishop of Canterbury, he is naturally selected from among the Caroline divines as their representative, and it was the Caroline divines of the seventeenth century who carried High Churchmanship as far as is admissible in the Church of England. The object of the present article is to show that Laudian theology, be it right or wrong, does not justify the modern Ritualist school.

The first characteristic of the Ritualist school is a depreciation of the Reformation. Laud, on the contrary, describes it as a “reformation of an old corrupted Church,” “their part remaining in corruption and our part under reformation; the same Naaman, and he a Syrian still, but leprous with them, and cleansed with us” (Epist. Dedic. to Conference with Fisher). Would a Ritualist regard the Roman Church as leprous and the Anglican Church as cleansed from leprosy by the Reformation?

Ritualists are also in the custom of condemning, or sneering at the way in which the Reformation was conducted. Neither in this are they the disciples of Laud. Laud says, “The Church of England cast off the Pope’s usurpation, and as much as in her lay, restored the king to his right. That appears by a book subscribed by the bishops in Henry VIII.’s time, and by the records in the Archbishop’s office, orderly kept, and to be seen. In the Reformation which came after, our princes had their part, and the clergy theirs, and to these two principally the power and direction for reformation belonged. That our princes had their part is manifest by their calling together of the bishops and other of the clergy to consider of that which might seem wanting of reformation. And the clergy did their part, for being thus called together by regal power, they met in the National Synod of 1562, and the Articles, there agreed on, were afterwards confirmed by Act of State and the royal assent. In this Synod the positive truths which are delivered are more than the polemics, so that a mere calumny it is, that we profess only a negative religion. True it is, and we must thank Rome for it, our Confession must needs contain some negatives, for we cannot but deny that images are to be adored, nor can we admit maimed sacraments,nor grant prayers in an unknown tongue; and in a corrupt time or place, it is as necessary for a religion to deny falsehood as to assert and vindicate truth. Indeed this latter can hardly be well and sufficiently done but by the former, an affirmative verity being ever included in the negative to a falsehood” (Conference, § 24).

Ritualists charge Reformers, whether of the sixteenth century in England or of the nineteenth century on the Continent, with schism. Laud repels the charge, and throws it back on Rome. “The cause of the schism is yours; for you thrust us from you, because we called for truth and redress of abuses. For a schism must be theirs whose the cause of it is” (Conference, § 21).

While depreciating the Reformation and its methods, and charging it with schism, Ritualists make light of the corrupt doctrines of the Church of Rome. But this is what Laud says about them: “There is peril, great peril, of damnable both schism and heresy and other sins, by living and dying in the Roman faith, tainted with so many superstitions, as at this day it is, and their tyranny to boot.” He allows “the possibility of salvation” to Romanists, not as Romanists, but as Christians, “though they hazard themselves extremely by keeping so close to that which is superstition, and in the case of images, comes too near idolatry” (ibid. § 35). “In some instances they have erred in the foundation or very near it” (ibid. § 38). “That there are errors in doctrine, and some of them such as must manifestly endanger salvation, in the Church of Rome, is evident to those that will not shut their eyes (ibid. § 24). “I pray whose device was transubstantiation, and whose, communion under one kind, and whose, deposition and unthroning, nay killing, of princes, and the like, if they were not yours? . . . Is there no superstition in adoration of images? None in invocation of saints? None in the adoration of the sacrament? Is there no error in breaking Christ’s own institution of the sacrament by giving it but in one kind? None about Purgatory? About common prayer in an unknown tongue, none? These and many more are in the Roman religion; and it is no hard work to prove every one of them to be error or superstition or both” (ibid. § 39). “A man may believe the whole and entire Catholic Faith, even as St. Athanasius requires, and yet justly refuse for dross a great part of that which is now the Roman Faith” (ibid. § 38). Laud proceeds to condemn invocation of saints, adoration of images, Purgatory and other definite Romish doctrines, and scoffs at the idea of Trent having been an Oecumenical Council.

The dogma which makes Ritualism to be what it is, is the objective presence of Christ in the elements, for from it follow the doctrines of the mass and all the practices and ceremonies appropriate to the mass. The objective presence in the elements is merely an unscientific form of transubstantiation (or possibly consubstantiation). Condemning transubstantiation and the mass, the Caroline divines condemned the objective presence in the elements, and that condemnation was firm and unhesitating. “It cannot be proved by Scripture, and taken properly, cannot stand with the grounds of the Christian religion,” says Laud of transubstantiation (Conference, § 33). “It is safest to leave the Church of Rome, in this particular, to her superstitions, that I may say no more,” he writes about the mass (ibid. § 35). Andrewes says that “Zion would shudder at, and utterly repudiate the idea of worshipping the Deity hiding there under the species and formed in a flour-mill” (Sermon before Frederick Count Palatine). Cosin says that it was to exclude this notion that “the words fiat nobis corpus et sanguis Domini were altered into what they now are” (Notes on the Prayer Book). Taylor says, “He is not there according to His human nature” (Letter). Bull declares the tenet “bids defiance to all the reason and sense of mankind” (Corruptions of the Church of Rome). Beveridge says that from the truth that worthy receivers of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper partake of the body and blood of Christ, “the devil took occasion to draw men into the opinion that the bread which is used in that sacrament is the very body that was crucified upon the cross, and the wine, after consecration, the very blood that gushed out of His pierced side” (Discourse upon the XXXIX. Articles, p. 470). The tenet was first introduced into the Church of England by Robert Isaac Wilberforce shortly before he joined the Church of Rome about fifty years ago. No previous authority can be found for it, though Dr. Pusey s teaching, a little earlier, had pointed in that direction.

In short, no justification of Ritualism, its special doctrines, practices, and ceremonies, can be derived from the old historical High Church party, represented by Laud and the divines of the seventeenth century. It is a product of the last half of the nineteenth century, an exotic without ancestry in the Church of England.

Rev. Frederick Meyrick,M. A., late Fellow and Tutor of Trinity College, Oxford, Rector of Blickling, Norwich, and Non-Resident Canon of Lincoln. Author of The Doctrine of the Church of England in the Holy Communion re-stated; Scriptural and Catholic Faith and Worship; Old Anglicanism; Sunday Observance, &c.

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