Thursday, October 21, 2010

From the pen of J. C. Ryle: Unity Among Churchmen

I shall not waste the time of my readers with trite commonplaces about the priceless value of unity in a visible Church. We are all agreed, I presume, that in every Christian communion Unity is one grand secret of strength, usefulness, and comfortable working. We are equally agreed, I am afraid, that there is a sad want of practical Unity in the Church of England just now. Our parishes are often like islands in some parts of the Pacific Ocean, almost within sight of one another, but inhabited by distinct tribes, variously coloured and dressed, ruled by ever-quarrelling chiefs, and with a deep sea rolling between. The result of this state of things is not merely a degree of weakness in the Church, wholly disproportioned to our numbers, but something far more serious. The Holy Spirit is grieved, and the blessing of God is withheld!

I give notice at the outset that I shall spend no words on the idea of unity between loyal Churchmen and those within our pale who are striving to bring back Romish doctrines, practices, and ceremonial amongst us, and openly avow their dislike to the principles of the Reformation. Unity built on an amalgamation of Lambeth and the Vatican, so long as Rome is what she is, is the “baseless fabric of a dream.” Protestantism is the backbone of the Church of England; and any attempt to procure unity by removing or weakening Protestantism endangers the life of the Church. Peace between the Anglican and Roman Churches, unless Rome first makes peace with Christ and the Bible, I hold, with Bishops Jewell and Hall, to be objectionable and impossible. The parties were rightly divorced three centuries ago, and cannot be reunited. I, for one, shall never cease to forbid the banns.

Nor yet shall I waste words on the wild theories of those who wish to do away with all Articles and written terms of communion, and to make a vague “earnestness” a substitute for faith and sound doctrine. A house must have a foundation, and a Church must have a Creed. Unity purchased at the expense of distinctive truth, and built on the ruins of creeds and doctrines, is a miserable, cold, worthless unity. I, for one, want none of it.

The unity whose possibilities I desire to consider in this Paper is unity among “loyal Churchmen”—Churchmen who, while they occupy different standpoints, are honestly agreed on certain common fundamental principles. They love the Church of England; they love her Articles; they love her Prayer-book. They do not want her to be un-Protestantised, or to give up her Confession of faith. On these points they are at one. There are hundreds of such men, I am persuaded, at this moment, in each of the great schools of thought—men who have a common belief in the Trinity, the Atonement, and the Inspiration of Scripture; men reading the same Bible and using the same Liturgy—and yet men sadly estranged and separated from one another. And the one subject to which I propose to confine myself is this: “Can a greater degree of unity be obtained among these Churchmen?” I shall simply offer a few practical suggestions.

To read the entire Churchman article, click here.

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