« AnteriorContinuar »
lytus is, as unequivocally, the writer who attests it. They might, possibly, in the absence of any intimation to the contrary, surmise further that there was no conflicting evidence as to the use of Incense in the early ages of Christianity.
When, however, they are reminded of Dr. Littledale's announcement that, as a counsel retained for the defence of a particular cause, he is “in no way responsible for stating the case against himself,” they will be the less surprised by the discovery of the following “facts," which somewhat detract from the value of the alleged testimony of Hippolytus; viz., (1) that the passage in question, when taken in connexion with the context, suggests the idea that Hippolytus is therein adopting the language of the Old Testament, by way of accommodation, and describing, metaphorically, those signs of general apostasy which shall characterise the last times; (2) that the passage, which occurs in cap. 34 of the De Consummatione Mundi, is itself of doubtful authority; and (3) that
Tertullian, and other early Christian writers, expressly deny the use of incense in their services in toto.
We have no intention of following Dr. Littledale through his defence of the twelve “Innovations” which he has selected for discussion, of which many are, in our judgment, in their own nature indifferent, and contested only by reason of their real or imaginary connection with Roman corruptions; whilst with regard to the defence of certain customs which, in the English Church, are identified exclusively with one extreme section of it, we venture to express our conviction that Dr. Littledale's friends have no great cause to congratulate themselves on the success of their champion. Lest, however, we should be deemed (not altogether, it may be, without reason) as other than impartial judges, it is but fair to Dr. Littledale, that we should give our readers some idea of the nature of the apology which he offers for “Innovations” which fall under the latter of these two categories. We observe, then, that our lecturer defends the use of lighted candles during the administration of the Holy Communion, on the ground that the Roman Catacombs being dark, the worshippers in them " must have had lights on the Altar at Mass, or they could not have seen” (p. 14); whilst “ the Elevation of the Host” is, with equal confidence, ascribed to the earliest ages of Christianity, on the incontrovertible ground, that the learned lecturer “believes” that he has already proved that ceremony to be “the antitype of the Jewish heave-offering.” (p. 11.)
We refrain from further wearying our readers with this silly trifling with solemn things, the only excuse for which, on the part of the lecturer, must be sought in the manifest sincerity of his belief in the soundness of the advice which is contained in the following words : “Always win fools first. They talk much; and what they have once uttered, they will stick to."*
Lest, however, we should appear to evade the force of any argument in support of that class of “Innovations" which we have last noticed, for which a semblance of plausibility may be alleged, we will, at the risk of becoming tedious, say a few words in reply to Dr. Littledale's defence of “Prayers for the Dead.” We do so the rather, inasmuch as this practice has found, as is well known, abler defenders than Dr. Littledale; and the argument which he has urged in his Lecture, grounded upon the alleged use of such prayers in the ancient services of the Jews, has been urged much more forcibly by Mr. Plumptre, in Smith's Dictionary of the Bible, in an article which will be found under the head Synagogue.
Our limits will not admit of our entering upon the distinction between the belief and practice of the early Christian Church, with regard to the nature and extent of the communion which exists between the Church militant, and the Church triumphant, and the belief and practice of the Tridentine and post-Tridentine Church of Rome. “Prayer for the Dead," as Archbishop Usher well observes, in his " Answer to a Jesuit's Challenge," "as it is used in the Church of Rome, doth necessarily suppose Purgatory ;” and we believe that we do Dr. Littledale no wrong when we infer, from his (almost blasphemous) assertion, that "it was kinder and more consistent to preach annihilation than to deny purgatory” (p. 35), that the « Prayer for the Dead ” which he undertakes to defend is of the same description as that to which Usher alludes. Commending, then, to the perusal of those who wish to understand the difference in this respect between the creed of the early Christian Church and that of the modern Church of Rome, the chapters of Archbishop Usher's “Answer to a Jesuit," which treat respectively on "Purgatory” and “Prayer for the Dead," we proceed to observe that Dr. Littledale's argument, derived from the practice of ancient and modern Judaism, rests, as our readers will already have anticipated, on a total misconception of facts. Having first referred to 2 Maccabees xii., as a proof that prayers for the dead were used by the Jews 150 years B.c.,t his argument is as follows: – On the opening of a Jewish Catacomb at Rome, a few years ago, inscriptions of an extremely early period, apostolic or sub-apostolic, werediscovered, which consisted of prayers for the dead. “Similar prayers,” the lecturer continues, " are used in the Jewish services of the present day.” “So," he proceeds to argue, “our Lord and the Apostles must have joined over and over again in prayer for the dead, for they could not go into a synagogue where it was not practised.” (p. 9.)
* Short Essays, in Good Words for September, 1869, p. 635.
† Dr. Littledale ought to have been aware that the second book of Macca
bees has not been proved to have been written before 70 A.C. We willingly concede, however, the probability that it was written between 100--50 B.C.
Our reply to Dr. Littledale's argument, of which we do not pause to expose the logical inconsequence, consists in the simple denial, so far as we have been able to ascertain them, of the facts alleged. Had Dr. Littledale examined the inscriptions to which he refers, he would, we believe, have perceived that they are not prayers for the dead in any such sense of the words as would avail his purpose; in other words, that they consist simply of the Shalom, which is equivalent to Peace; or, at the utmost, of a formula such as the following (which has reference to 1 Sam xxv. 29): “ May his soul be bound up in the bundle (or tie) of the living."*
Nor is Dr. Littledale more accurate in his assertion that “ prayers for the dead are used in the Jewish services of the present day," inasmuch as the Kaddish of later Judaism, to which we presume that he alludes, and which is recited by males for the space of eleven months after the death of a father or mother, has no reference whatever to the deceased relative, but consists of a number of benedictory formulas, together with supplications bearing some resemblance to those of the Lord's Prayer. Inasmuch, then, as Dr. Littledale has adduced no proof whatsoever of the use of “prayer for the dead” in the ancient or modern synagogue worship of the Jews, we think we may safely regard his assertion that “our Lord and the Apostles must have joined over and over again in it,” as resting on no more substantial a foundation than the other dogmatic assertions with which the Lecture abounds.
But the most serious misrepresentations contained in this mischievous Lecture remain to be exposed. The attempt to represent the great Reformation of the English Church in the light of an “Innovation,” which must stand or fall together with those which Dr. Littledale has attempted to defend, is too puerile to justify more than a passing notice. It would be vain to expect that arguments, however conclusive, would avail for the conviction of those who can discern no distinction between a struggle to bring to light obscured and forgotten truths, and a similar effort to revive corruptions of doctrine and of practice, in behalf of which all that can be alleged is their comparative antiquity,-an argument which, as we have so frequently had
* Mr. Burgon, in his Letters from Rome (Murray, 1862), gives several of these inscriptions. One is, “Here Lieth . . . . Her sleep is in peace.” Beneath another inscription is the word Shalom, ie., Peace. In another it is recorded concerning a chief elder of the Syna
gogue, “ His sleep is in peace.” See Letter xv. We have not had an opportunity of consulting the book to which Dr. Littledale refers, but we feel little doubt that the inscriptions contained in it are of the same character as those which Mr. Burgon describes.
occasion to observe, presents no difficulty to those who, believing in the prescience of their Divine Master, are prepared to find the tares mingled with the wheat, even from the beginning.
Our main ground of accusation against Dr. Littledale is that, in direct opposition not only to the highest historical authorities, but to those authorities which he himself cites, and on which he professes to rely, he has endorsed, as a minister of the English Church, a series of slanderous and calumnious charges against those who took the chief part in the work of her Reformation, to which it would be hard, perhaps impossible, to find a counterpart in the pages of her most bitter and unscrupulous opponents. It is quite possible that Dr. Littledale may regard it as a duty of imperative obligation-or, at the least, as a proof of exemption from vulgar and narrow-minded prejudice—to detect with microscopic eye the errors and inconsistencies of men who were themselves in the very act of emerging out of a long night of ignorance and superstition, of licentiousness and cruelty; and then to proclaim upon the house-top, not the results of an impartial investigation of their characters and conduct, but only their frailties and imperfections, unattoned by their virtues, their services, and their sufferings.
Be this as it may, what we have a right to demand of every man who retains the name of an English clergyman, and who presumes upon the credit which is commonly given to the statements which he advances in that capacity, is that the facts of history shall not be falsified; and that the characters of those men to whose labours and sufferings we owe, under God, what, as Christians and as Churchmen, we have been taught most to prize—a free Bible and a Reformed Church-shall not be unfavourably contrasted, in defiance of evidence, to which a nominal appeal is made, with men whose very names are the disgrace of humanity, and whose memory is for ever associated with unutterable horror and detestation,* .
We might say much on the sketch, with which Dr. Littledale has favoured his readers, of the nature and design of the “Innovations of the pious Reformers." We might, e.g., inquire how he reconciles his assertion, that these “pious Reformers shut up the churches save on one day in each week,” and "stopped the Daily Service of prayer and praise,” with the existence of that Order for Daily Morning and Evening Service which we find in every Reformed Book of Common Prayer, beginning with that of 1549 A.D. down to that of 1662 A.D., and with a direction concerning the use of this order, implied or expressed in all, which Dr. Littledale, in almost the same breath
* It would be easy to show that Dr. Littledale's description of Danton and Robespierre is about as correct as is that of Cranmer and Latimer.
with the words last quoted, pronounces universally and unex. ceptionably binding. Or again, we might ask why the arbitrary and mercenary acts of Henry VIII., as regards the destruction and spoliation of the monasteries and the appropri. ation of their revenues, should be ascribed rather to the “pious Reformers” who acted with Cranmer than to those divines who acted with Wolsey and Gardiner ; of the former of whom Hallam (one of Dr. Littledale's authorities) tells us that he was “ the first who set an example of reforming monastic foundations in the most efficacious manner, by converting their revenues to different purposes ;" * and of the latter of whom Bishop Burnet tell us that he “was as busy as any in declaiming against the religious houses, and took occasion in many of his sermons to commend the king for suppressing them.”+
We are charitable enough to ascribe Dr. Littledale's assertion, that the Reformers “made plurality and non-residence the rule throughout England instead of the exception,” to the same profound ignorance of the state of the pre-Reformation Church which he betrays with regard to every other portion of English Church history; I whilst we can well afford to dismiss with a smile, and a recommendation to the favourable notice of the next collector of undesigned coincidences, the assertion made (so far as can be gathered from the context), with all the guideless simplicity and sincerity which so strikingly distinguish the lecturer, that “the Evangelicals did nothing, during their supremacy, to abate” these evils, and that "it was not till the Tractarian revival was in full swing that measures were taken to remedy the matter.” (p. 23.)
But we have already bestowed more notice than it merits upon Dr. Littledale's miserable attempt to turn the tables upon his opponents; and we dismiss this portion of his Lecture with a word of advice, which he will do well to ponder ere he again comes forward as an assailant of the Reformation, or as an advocate of some of the worst corruptions of Romanism,--to rely more exclusively upon his memory for those sallies of wit which form so large a portion of the staple of his Lecture, and to draw less largely upon his imagination for the facts with which he finds it necessary to embellish his arguments.
We proceed to notice, with mingled feelings of sorrow and of shame, some of the many perversions of historical facts which Dr. Littledale (whether through wilful ignorance or
* Constitutional History of England (8vo, 1829), vol. i. p. 95.
† History of Reformation (fol. 1681), vol. i. p. 251.
I When we find that Wolsey held at the same time three bishoprics and an
archbishopric, as well as the Abbey of St. Albans (see Froude, vol. ii. p. 209), we may form some idea of the extent to which pluralities prevailed at the time of the Reformation.