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THE SETTLED DOCTRINE OF OUR
“ Prove all things ; hold fast that which is good.”
Two centuries have now elapsed since the words forming the title of this book were penned by Bishop Beveridge, and more than a century previously had taken place the final disruption of the Anglican Communion with that of Rome, which overthrew and expelled from our Church the errors and superstitions that had gradually grown up in her as the result of her connection with the Papacy.
Now Protestantism is in itself essentially negative, being a mere protest against certain existing errors, and does not necessarily, as such, involve any “ settled doctrine or code of faith. The Church of England is professedly Protestant; has she, as this expression of Bishop Beveridge would seem to imply, any positive ground or foundation on which her superstructure is built, and which will serve as
a legal, authorised test of church-membership; or does she, contented with mere protestations against the errors of the Papacy, suffer her ministers to teach, and her members to accept, any doctrines which seem right in their own eyes, so long as a certain ritual is adhered to ?
In these days of theological controversy, when doctrines are being propounded and diversity of opinion is rife on every side, it may seem at first sight as if the Church of England, embracing within her pale theologians of every shade of opinion from the various schools of thought, has no "settled doctrine" at all. But a closer investigation will show that the very fact of her existence for more than three centuries in her present form, a great corporate organisation, and standing firmly, thank God, as yet, amid the changes and chances of the ages, proves that she must be based, and that surely, upon more than mere negative principles.
As human nature and society are constituted, it is an absolute necessity for the existence and maintenance of any institution of importance that it possess its code of rules and terms of membership, plainly expressed and defined, else the whole will sooner or later fall into confusion. The Established Church is no exception to this rule; she has to-day her Confession of Faith and test of membership as legally authorised by the law of the land, and as fully binding on all her members, both clerical and lay, as when it was “agreed upon by the Arch