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But our fathers' failures, as they are no excuse for our inaction and despair, furnish no argument against our better success. We shall, doubtless, leave behind us abundant materials for the criticism of our posterity, who in their turn must not look in this respect to be more fortunate than ourselves. But we may hope—at any rate we must try-to turn to full account what is for the better in our training, what is more complete in our knowledge and experience. We should be miserable as men and faithless as Christians, unworthy of the place and time and country in which God's providence has called us to work, if we could not look forward, in cases of difficulty, to acting a part fully proportionable to our age of the world—of availing ourselves to the full of everything, in which we see that society has really made improvement; of whatever good thing is rendered more easy, more natural, more influential among our cotemporaries. That we possess, as we trust, the faith of the fourth or the fourteenth centuries, is no reason why we should make no use of our education of the nineteenth,—why we should import into it without discrimination their ideas and methods, and limit ourselves to their precedents.
We trust that these remarks will not be thought unmeaning, because necessarily general. Something like them must, we think, have come more or less strongly across the mind of any one, who in our day, and with our ordinary habits of judging, rises from the study of any of the controversies or conflicts which have tried the Church, and looks forward to the approach of a similar struggle. We doubt whether the highest admiration and heartiest sympathy have not been somewhat abated or tempered by regrets; and whether with the full recognition of earnestness to be copied, there went not along also a sense, perhaps unacknowledged or repressed, of mistakes to be avoided. And in the hasty remarks which we are about to make on one special point bearing on our presentand our impending difficulties, we hope that we shall not be taken to doubt of the rights of the English Church, or to despair of her cause or that of the Church universal, if we attempt to look fairly in the face what appears to be the state of the facts which relate to the subject. That point is, the position of the Crown and the civil power towards the ecclesiastical power, viewed as a matter of history and practice.
We are not thinking at this moment of any complete or systematic account of the question, historically or theoretically. We write in haste, under the pressure of an emergency which we feel to be serious, and with a present and temporary object in view. A great question has been opened, and has to be settled ; we shall all of us contribute more or less to settle it. It is of the highest importance that in taking their ground, Churchmen
should, as accurately and comprehensively as they can, take in and review, not merely their own principles, but along with them, the real state of things with which these principles have been connected and have worked, whether in conflict or harmony. It is also of high importance that they should not act under any untrue or unfair impression as to the actual realizing of Church independence, in our own, as compared with other Christian nations. To master fully the nature of the ground open to them, to choose their position carefully, and make it as unexceptionable as possible, is the first business now of Churchmen; and, if even they have to narrow it, they need not be afraid of weakening it. And then, since danger undoubtedly exists, let them see to it that their sense of the danger be such as becomes men; without blindness to it, and without exaggeration. With these points in view, we shall proceed to suggest a few considerations
The English Church in the middle of the nineteenth century, suddenly, and certainly to her own surprise, finds herself caught as it were, and brought to a stand still
, by an effect—the unintended, apparently, and unexpected effect-of what is called the royal supremacy. It can hardly be called a stretch of that supremacy, for the act in question is a perfectly legal, and, as far as the officials and ministers concerned in it, involuntary result and exercise of it; but in Parliament and the Council itself, it was felt to be an unnatural and undesirable, indeed, a hazardous, exercise. And it raises the question, What is the nature of that power, which has led, in such a perfectly legal way, to results so anomalous and perplexing; and how ought Churchmen to view it?
How is this question to be met and answered fairly and truly ? Easy ways of answering it there are many. It may be answered by theory, or by law-texts, or by historical argument or induction. The supremacy is absolute and right; it is abso• lute and wrong:-it has practically no limits; it is practically as well as theoretically limited by Church law and Church power: -historically, the Church has been subservient to the Crown; historically, the Church has kept her own line and had her own way very much :-good, sufficient at least to reconcile us to such an arrangement has resulted from it; evil has followed from it, and worse is at hand.' And none of these contradictory answers are made without strong grounds of one sort or another; if we will but choose on what grounds to put the question, we shall have no difficulty in getting an answer.
We cannot, however, but hope, for our own part, that Churchmen will prefer feeling and facing the difficulty of giving an answer, to giving it, on arbitrary and limited grounds. It may be very troublesome to collect and take in the aggregate of conNO. LXVIII.-N. S.
siderations bearing on it-legal, historical, constitutional, moral, social, theological---to balance and compare them with one another. But the difficulties, great as they may be, are not out of proportion with the greatness of the question, the variety and complication of the interests it involves, the length of time it has agitated men's minds. Fifteen hundred years have not been enough to settle it, in the Church universal. And those who have been trained in the school of Bishop Butler, and who have seen how his method is but the reflection and application of what is the natural procedure of thoughtful men in the matters of ordinary life, will not be surprised to be told that, on a matter of ecclesiastical polity, their convictions ought to be the result of that same sort of combination of various evidences, and of that careful, and, it may be, laborious bringing in of many distinct particulars, which they have been taught to be the legitimate way of bringing home to sound and practical reason the verity of the faith itself.
And this is the more necessary, if the system of things under which we live is not simple, but complicated; governed not by one, but a great variety of distinct powers: and has further, while going through great alterations, tenaciously kept, as much as possible, to unchanged forms. And such is the case with us in England. Our whole social frame is kept in work by a number of powers, of which it is much more easy to say what limits them, than on what they depend, and from whence they derive their rights. That favourite foreign idea of one central and final power, from which all others hold in delegation, and which animates and controls them all as its organs, though not unknown to our legal language, is not in practice and reality an English one. We say, generally, a foreign one, for it is not confined to one class of writers; the necessity of one, sole, all-powerful authority, is as much a postulate of Louis Blanc as of De Maistre or Bellarmine, for the solution of all problems, and as the only real condition of the effective working of a society. But in England, it has been practically contradicted. Men have learned to live together, held in one by many powers, none of which are really supreme, though they are of various degrees, and though one or other of them may be for the moment final. But it is only for the moment. There may be no legal mode of appeal, and the power may continue ; but the tendency to resist the absorption of one power by another is irresistible. And the way in which this tendency has usually acted, has been not by dethroning or destroying the dangerous power, but by strengthening, or adding on another. Nor do powers cease to be really effective ones, because not only under the necessity of working with others, but liable to be interfered with and controlled, not less by the higher authority, than by the mere concurrent action of others. Whether theoretically right or wrong, it is on this law that English society has gone on, not in modern days only, but, as all historical inquiries show, more and more clearly, even in what appear, at first sight, the despotic days of the Tudors and Plantagenets ;-a law of composition of forces, partly independent in origin, and all separate in function, and with no supremacy among them but in their result and direction.
In judging, therefore, of the present or past supremacy of the Crown, it will be well to keep in mind, that in reality no power is supreme in England; and also, in laying down a line of action for the future, that nothing which is a real power in England can expect to be uncontrolled. The more considerable it is—the more it makes itself felt,—the more does it naturally, in the progress of things, find itself obliged to admit restrictions and limits. It will be well to keep this principle in view, when examining and comparing, whether to reconcile them, or to make one refute the other, the very conflicting documents and precedents of our history on one side a set of statutes, on
the other a set of articles and canons ; the statutes, without noticing the articles, setting forth without qualification the king's power—the articles, themselves of equal authority, without noticing the statutes, limiting it; disclaimers contradicted by acts, pretensions given up in effect; a long series of connected proceedings, intelligible only on the theory of the absolute domination of the crown, confronted and accompanied by another, equally long and equally connected, involving necessarily the distinct existence and independent powers of the Church; and along with each of these, a corresponding line of traditions, ideas, maxims, customs, doctrines, a school, and a party. With such authorities, so heedless of uniformity, there is always the temptation to construct a case. The text of Acts of Parliament, illustrated by admissions and concessions of Church authorities, would supply ample materials for a clear and consistent proof of the unlimited plenitude of royal power in the Church. But it is obvious to remark, that it would not be more difficult to produce authentic and irrefragable evidence from the language of law and the usages of parliament, in behalf of a theory which should represent the various powers of the English constitution as expressly recognising in the crown of Queen Victoria, a prerogative not less ample and magnificent than that claimed by the Stuarts and exercised by the Tudors; and as acknowledging no origin and no right to continue but her good pleasure. But without professing to answer fully or finally the question,
What is the nature of the Royal Supremacy? we shall venture to offer a few remarks on it to our readers. The primary idea of the power of the Crown in the Church-the idea which first
— came in, and is clearly discernible, though not the only one, in the acts of the Reformation—seems to be what may be called a visitatorial power. It was a power which presupposed other powers, and laws to which they were bound-powers derived from a divine source, and laws having a divine sanction; and its peculiar function was to keep those powers to their duty according to their own laws. It was a power of supervising and inspecting; not of creating, but of keeping up. It did not profess to supersede other powers by its own, but it watched that those powers were duly and lawfully used. Its interference might be very wide and very strict, but, in form at least, it regulated itself by already existing laws-laws, whose independent origin and sanction it respectfully owned, while conferring on them its own sanction besides. But this visitatorial power was itself also claimed by divine right, and as of divine origin ; not as a delegated but an independent authority, inherent in the royal function and office.
The real extent of such a power, in terms so undefined and unlimited, must necessarily vary indefinitely. A college visitor and the Court of Queen's Bench, are, in idea, the same sort of powers, though the one is the most dormant, and the other the most sleepless authority in England; and unquestionably this visitatorial power of kings has been very various in extent, and very variously used. But to the admission of the power itself, and the admission of it in exceedingly large and unstinted measure, the Church has committed herself over and over again; not in England alone, but elsewhere, from Constantine's appointment by God to be Bishop (éir LOKOTOS, overseer) over the external things of the Church, to the appels comme d'abus, and the corresponding maxims and usages of the Church of Louis XIV, by which lawyers in France assert that the modern French Church is still bound, in spite of the protests of her Bishops.
We are speaking at present simply of the general and leading idea on which, as it seems to us, all exercise of regal power in the Church, however usurping and extravagant in its actual claims and interference, has ever gone: the right claimed by the Crown as a divine power, to see that the Church, also a divine power and institution, does the work appointed her by God; and to interfere if she does not. Of course it is clear that this idea is perfectly compatible with the separate origin of Church powers, and may be compatible with their real freedom. It is also equally clear, what inordinate pretensions may be founded on it,