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POPISH, SEBASTIAN, AND PRESBYTERIAN.
WILLIAM CUNNINGHAM, D.D.,
PRINCIPAL AND PROFESSOR OF CHURCH HISTORY, NEW COLLEGE, EDINBURGH.
EDITED BY HIS LITERARY EXECUTORS.
LONDON: HAMILTON, ADAMS, & CO. DUBLIN: JOHN ROBERTSON i CO.
The materials of this volume, selected partly from the published and partly from the unpublished writings of Dr Cunningham,—although prepared at different times and with different objects in view,—have little in them of the character of a miscellaneous collection. To no small extent they embody a connected view and thorough discussion of some of the leading peculiarities that mark the three great theories into which opinions, as to Church principles, both in former and recent times, fall to be classified. The general subject considered is the Church, not so much in its doctrinal aspects and creeds as in the character of a spiritual society, holding by necessity certain relations of one kind or other to the State,—professing to exercise separate and inherent powers,—and claiming peculiar rights and liberties for its members; and the discussion of this subject on the grounds of Scripture and reason, involves an examination of the chief features that distinguish the Popish, the Erastian, and the Presbyterian systems. Such principles are not the growth of circumstances and controversy in any one age, but are the standing divisions of opinion which are seen to exist, more or less, at all times; and although several
of the most important of the "discussions " contained in this volume, were contributions to the great ecclesiastical conflicts that have distinguished our day, and left such deep and extensive traces on the Church of Christ, yet there is little in them that belongs only to passing events and interests, and very much that must be regarded as of permanent value. Both the nature of the topics discussed, and the manner in which Dr Cunningham was accustomed to look at the general principles rather than particular circumstances involved in the discussion, have left little for his Editors to do in the way of omitting what was only of local and ephemeral importance.
The first five chapters, selected from articles contributed by Dr Cunningham to the North British Review, are mainly occupied with a consideration of some of the leading principles in the Church system of Romanism, beginning with the foundation which these principles find in fallen human nature, and the support which they have sought in the. modern doctrine of development; proceeding to examine their progress and full embodiment in the place and influence acquired by the Popes as temporal princes during the Middle Ages, and more especially in the supreme and universal jurisdiction in temporal or civil matters claimed by them as the result of their spiritual authority; and finally discussing the opposition that has been raised, more or less, within the Church of Rome itself to this latter claim, by the assertors of what have been called the Liberties of the Gallican Church.
The next three chapters open up the question of the true character of the Church, and its proper relations to the State, more especially in reference to the opposite extreme to the Romanist principles,—or the Church system of Erastians. In the sixth chapter, taken from an article by Dr Cunningham in the North British Review, there is an examination of the modified Erastianism, witnessed, to some extent, in the Royal supremacy recognised in the Church of England; in the seventh chapter, selected from the manuscript Lectures of the Author, he gives a full statement of the Scriptural view of the relations of the Church and State; while in the eighth chapter, now republished from a valuable pamphlet issued by Dr Cunningham in 1843, but long since out of print, he discusses the doctrine of the Westminster Confession of Faith in reference to the same subject, with a view to vindicate it, more especially, from the charge of Erastianism.
The remainder of the volume is devoted to a consideration and defence of some of the great Church principles held by Presbyterians against both High Churchmen on the one hand, and Erastians on the other. The ninth chapter, drawn from Dr Cunningham's manuscript Lectures, embodies a discussion of the Scriptural views of the nature and limits of the power possessed and exercised by a Church of Christ. In the tenth Chapter, from the North British Review, there is an earnest vindication of the claim of a Church to exercise this power in connection with its proper spiritual work as a Church, independent of civil interference or control,—directed more especially to the circumstances of the Free Church