Page images

Pope, though often betrayed by arbitrary or superstitious princes. What the Reformation did was to put it out of the king's power to deny it."

The third paragraph singles out the Pope from the other foreign princes, persons, and potentates, whose supremacy has before been collectively denied, for further and individual repudiation by this realm of himself and his jurisdiction. The Pope is in reality but Bishop of Rome, possessing no authority or power beyond his See.

Observe, he is here spoken of as mere Bishop of a city, not recognised as Head of his Church; possessing no more jurisdiction outside the limits of his diocese than an English Bishop may claim out of his; nor any beyond his communion at large, than the Primate of England can possess.

The fourth paragraph upholds the practice of capital punishment judicially inflicted, in cases of “heinous and grievous offences,” and which is never now imposed except for the crimes of murder or high treason. It is obvious that the State, for the protection and safety of its loyal and peaceful subjects, is bound to rid the country of dangerous and evil-disposed persons. It is a divinely instituted law, one which we nowhere, even in the New Testament, find repealed; “Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed.” And in the New Testament itself, “ rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. .... But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid ; for he beareth not

[ocr errors]

the sword in vain : for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.”

The fifth and last paragraph sanctions Christians and members of the Church, to belong to the Army at the call of State, and if need be, go forth to fight in defence of Sovereign and country. There is nothing incompatible between this and the service of Him who is the Prince of Peace. It is untrue what some—as the Society called Quakers-assert, that it is contrary to Gospel teaching to fight against our fellow-creatures in battle. Where do we find this taught in the Bible? In the Old Testament war of the most relentless kind was repeatedly commanded of the Lord, who is Himself the God of Battles.

When the soldiers came to John the Baptist asking what they must do to be saved, did he tell them to leave the Army? "He said unto them; “Do violence to no man,” that is, avoid the needless cruelties and atrocities practised in heathen warfare (for these were Roman soldiers belonging to the army of occupation in Judea),“ neither accuse any falsely, and be content with your wages.” This is a virtual permission to them to remain in the service. If, as some think, by the command to do no violence, they were ordered to leave this their occupation, St. John would not have added, “be content with your wages.

And if they might fight for a heathen master, how much more may the members of a Christian Church and country take up arms in defence of their Sovereign and religion, when any danger is threatening this our twofold constitution ?

ARTICLE XXXVIII.—Of Christian Men's Goods,

which are not common.

The Church may not intrude upon the rights of the State. She cannot demand from her members that which as citizens is their lawful property, nor does she attempt to do this.

We certainly read that in the first days of the existence of the Christian Church, “the multitude of them that believed were of one heart, and of one soul; neither said any of them that aught of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had all things common.” But we farther on see why. “Neither was there any among them that lacked; for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the Apostles' feet; and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need."

In those early days of the Church's life, when she was unrecognised and oppressed by the State, no endowments or emoluments existed for the poor fishermen who had left their earthly trade for the sake of proclaiming Christ's kingdom. While“ mak

ing many rich," they themselves were poor." Having nothing to depend upon, it was needful then -as indeed it is still—that "they who preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel.” But there were no “livings" for them.

Their converts also were taken from all classes, chiefly the poorer, and the whole community lived together as one family or society, separate and distinct from the outside world. It was necessary for all to live, therefore it is we read “all that believed were together, and had all things common," and those who possessed worldly riches, “sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need ;" every man of their own company, that is.

But as time went on, and the Christian religion spread, and Churches were established in many places, this was no longer advisable, or indeed possible. It had merely been an expedient to meet certain wants existing within a certain Society, and was never intended to overthrow or interfere with the rights of property in general, which in all ages, and by every nation owning any degree of civilisation, have always been acknowledged and respected.

We find St. Paul writing to the Church at Ephesus, “Let him that stole, steal no more,” which injunction would have been unnecessary if Christianity had abolished the law of meum et tuum. Again, he says to Timothy; “Charge them that are rich in this

[ocr errors]

world . .... that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate.” That is, not that they renounce all their possessions, and become poor, and a burden upon others, but, that as they have freely received, so they should freely give.

As our Church recognises the sacred rights of personal property, so she faithfully admonishes us on the responsibility which such possessions bring, charging them who are rich in this world, “that they be ready to give, and glad to distribute."

It is no longer the ministers of the Gospel who solely or even principally need our alms; the State has amply provided for them as a body: but, “ye have the poor always with you, and whensoever ye will, ye may do them good," is as true now as it was eighteen centuries ago. “ Whoso hath this world's goods, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” “He that hath pity upon the poor, lendeth unto the Lord; and look, what he layeth out, it shall be paid him again.”

The investment is a safe one. Here rust and moth corrupt, and thieves break through and steal, but who pays into that heavenly bank is secured from any loss, for there neither rust nor moth can corrupt, nor thieves break through nor steal. He will have the interest every step of his earthly way, and full repayment hereafter.

[ocr errors]
« EelmineJätka »