Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

country, the limitations of ecclesiastical jurisdiction are not territorial but racial and ritual. Roman bishops, despite the papal claim to universal jurisdiction, are here compelled to allow to the bishops of other Churches the freedom that they themselves have to govern and minister to people who are willing to accept their ministrations. The Orthodox Eastern Church, according to its own theory, is the only true Church in the world; but here it cannot exclude the bishops of any other religious body from the exercise of jurisdiction over their own people in the territory in which the Orthodox Eastern bishops have established themselves. So far as territory is concerned, there is but one restraint and that is common to all bishops, viz: that those who are of the same rite may not lawfully exercise jurisdiction beyond their own diocesan limits. Greek, Syrian, Latin, and Anglican bishops may, and sometimes do, here occupy the same territory, not necessarily as rivals but independently of each other, each looking after his own flock and not interfering with his episcopal brethren of other rites.

Neither priority of settlement, nor the language that is most commonly in use here, nor the distinctively English character of the laws of the land, nor any claim of purity in doctrine here suffices to make good any claim of exclusive ecclesiastical jurisdiction." Can any one say," asks Dr. Figgis," that the old territorial doctrine of the Church holds in the United States of America; and that an Italian, an Englishman, a Greek, and an Armenian Christian, who arrived with their families in New York, are bound as a matter of course to join the American Episcopal Church, and to bring up their children therein?" Whatever may still be the case elsewhere, in this country, anyhow, it is no longer the geographical area in which people dwell that determines their ecclesiastical obedience, but their racial and ritual associations and their own personal convictions.

To some extent similar conditions exist in various quarters in Europe and Asia where Christian people of different nations and diverse rites are congregating in ever increasing numbers.

The bare statement of such a state of affairs seems to point to confusion, disorder, and utter loss of ecclesiastical unity; yet such need not be the consequences. Our ideas of unity and order are more or less colored and shaped by the usual and normal conditions of ecclesiastical organization in past ages. Those conditions may seem to us to be ideal but we cannot reproduce them. Amendments and improvements in jurisdictional methods are possible, but the changes must look forward and not backward; essentials must be retained, but non-essentials however much they may be revered by reason of age-long or immemorial use may be cast aside.

In the ages when as yet there was no breach of fellowship between the several and various Churches of Catholic Christendom, bishops exercising jurisdiction were, as a rule, separated locally. Now, more and more frequently, they are found dwelling together, yet, alas, not as brethren. Nevertheless, may not this dwelling together be God's own providential means of bringing about a mutual recognition, on the part of the said bishops, of their brotherhood in Christ? May it not be that, more than anything else, more than all "Conferences on Faith and Order," conditions such as exist in this country and the congregating of people of many nations in great numbers here and there upon the face of the earth, will prove to be instrumental in bringing about intercommunion and practical fellowship among all who accept the fundamental principles of the Christian religion, and in breaking down efforts to lord it over God's heritage, and in fostering the unity and the peace which are according to God's will?

C. P. A. Burnett.

Let us serve God in the sunshine, while He makes the sun shine. We shall then serve Him all the better in the dark, when He sends the darkness. It is sure to come. Only let our light be God's light, and our darkness God's darkness, and we shall be safe at home when the great nightfall comes.

The Use and Abuse of Church History

I

IV. CONSTRUCTIVE HISTORY

'N his work on The Mystical Element in Religion Von Huegel says, in effect, that Christianity may be summed up as consisting of three factors:-(1) the institutional, or Church side of things; (2) the historical, or intellectual sphere; (3) the mystical sphere, in which the souls of men have direct access to the life and love of God.

If the study of the history of the Church in its manifold bearing upon religion, personal and corporate, be omitted from the study of Christianity, the institutional and historical factors cannot be adequately grasped. If only the mystical sphere is investigated, the result is liable to be in effect a vague, subjective religion, where the individual experience alone is emphasized and the life of Jesus Christ as extended and worked out in His mystical Body, the Church, is placed in a subordinate position or ignored altogether. There is great significance in the wording of the clause about the Church in one of the early baptismal creeds" Dost thou believe in salvation through the Holy Catholic Church?" And then by no means the majority of people have the mystical temper. Mystics, like poets, are born, not made. Mysticism is very much to the fore at the present time. Its three dangers have been stated as emotionalism, eclecticism and Christlessness. These can be counterbalanced and safeguarded by the study of the Church in its historical and developing life. The great mystics have been those who founded their union and life with God upon union and life within the Church, under the authority of Divine Revelation and in association with the Sacraments wherein He comes to men and abides with them.

The critical and controversial aspects of Christianity and its theology also absorb attention at the present moment, the former of scholars, the latter of the interested but unlearned. As has been emphasized in an earlier consideration of controversial history no positive good is likely to result.

The stress always needs to be laid on the constructive history and periods of the Christian Church. The edifice has been in process of erection according to a Divine plan for a good many centuries. It is easy enough to discover places where the workmanship is poor because the workmen have not followed the Architect's plan. That indicates incompetency on the part of those who have been given responsibility for performing or overseeing the work. It is not difficult to expose poor and unworthy material which tends to weaken the structure. Relative advantages in parts of the economic structure may be fair subjects for discussion possibly. But what of the building as a whole? Does it stand firmly? Has it endured the shocks and attacks of time and enemies? Is it still a shelter, a refuge, a stronghold? Has there ever been anything better? Has there ever been anything half so good?

Some interesting attempts have been made from time to time to deal with the history of the Church by beginning with the present and working back stage by stage to the Day of Pentecost. It is a fascinating experiment to make but really involves practical difficulties and a series of assumptions which are liable to obviate the very ends desired. In the first place the Church is a present fact and an institution that in essence and life is exactly the same as on the first day of its history. The analogy with a human body holds good here. The Church was complete on the Day of Pentecost, with all organs, powers, possessions and ideals that it now claims. Growth, extension, increased development of powers, fuller realization of adaptability to the needs of men are to be traced, as in the case of the human body. Certain abnormal conditions of the Christian world at the moment do not necessarily constitute valid premises for reasoning backward to the age before. In order to do that it is imperative to assume certain points which are not easy to establish without bringing in earlier history. For example, if one begins with the divided condition of Christendom at the present time, it is difficult to show that this condition must be wrong because the Church was intended to be One, without falling back upon earlier periods and the

documents of the New Testament that witness to the principle of unity and the evil of schism.

The Church, again, is a building and that building was complete eighteen centuries ago. The history of the Church is meant to show its capacity for being the Ark of salvation throughout the ages. Its history is not a narrative of continual human tinkering, of changing plans and architect and of tearing down the old from time to time in order to make way for the new. All men do not enter the building, all may not avail themselves of every privilege that the building provides, some individuals may leave the shelter of the edifice and set out to erect something better in their estimation. Some rooms in the structure may apparently be closed and disused. But the New Jerusalem came down from heaven as a bride adorned for her husband, perfect, beautiful, complete. The witness of history is the witness to that truth but it is exceedingly doubtful if the proof can be given by reading the narrative in the reverse direction, without some assumption of that which it is desired to establish.

What really can be done with considerable value by those who have traced the history of the Church in the world is to present something like a cross-section of the building where at a glance the various stages may be seen and the use or abuse of this or that portion of the structure at different periods of its existence, or to show how the building has been able to withstand attack. This is exceedingly valuable and not open to the same criticism as the proposal to write history backward.

**

Constructive history of the Church will begin properly with the place and time where and when "they were all with one accord in one place and suddenly there came a sound from heaven and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost." It might be better to say the constructive history of the course of the Church in human history. There are preludes to this narrative, there was a period of preparation, there was a merging of certain elements of the old dispensation in the new. These are all important, but to the same extent as all transition periods are important. We are

« AnteriorContinuar »