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selves to God in the sacrament of the Eucharist: lest, says he, if we pretermitted this, we might seem to be dishonestly tampering, in some particular, with our narrative; όπως μή, τούτο παραλίποντες, δοξωμεν Tovnpcctv Tì v Tm cfnmoet. (Just. Apol. i. Oper. p. 73.)
Agreeably to the profession of studied accuracy in detail (the specific point of detail being expressed by the word ri, in some respect or in some particular), he gives a minute account of the then existent mode of celebrating the Eucharist: an account truly, if we examine it, so studiously precise, that he even thrice mentions the well known primitive custom of mixing water with the sacramental wine. The custom was built upon the supposition, whether correct or incorrect, that, agreeably to the Jewish manner of celebrating the Passover, the wine, at the last supper, was so mixed by our Saviour himself : and yet, though Justin, even exclusively of his use of the word Kpoua, thrice mentions this small circumstance, and thus exemplifies his professed and studied and practised accuracy, he is TOTALLY SILENT respecting any Prayers for the Dead being then liturgically offered up. That he is speaking of the Eucharist, as celebrated according to a well known liturgical form, is quite clear; because he descriptively refers to that long and copious prayer put up by the presiling Bishop or Presbyter, (αίνον και δόξαν αναπέμπει, και ευχαριστίαν 'επί πολύ ποιειται. p. 76.), which s0 eminently characterises the Clementine Liturgy, and which generally occurs also in the other Liturgies : but still he says not A SYLLABLE, nor even gives the slightest Hint, respecting the introduction and use of Prayers for the Dead. Now, to such ominous SILENCE, he could have had no temptation, on the score that the practice, supposing it to have then liturgically existed, might give offence to a pagan Emperor, and thus endanger the success of the Apology: for, in truth, it would have too nearly resembled the Parentalia of the Romans themselves to occasion any special ill-will if adopted by Christians. Hence, we may be morally sure: that, in the Eucharistic Liturgies, as used in the time of Justin, there were no PRAYERS FOR THE
From the evidential establishment, therefore, of this important FACT, the necessary result is : that Prayers for the Dead were, at a subsequent period, gradually foisted into the long orally transmitted Liturgies ; and, consequently, that those Liturgies, as they now appear in the writing of only the fourth and fifth centuries, afford no valid evidence for the aboriginal antiquity of the practice.
Therefore the asserted aboriginal and catholic existence of the practice is totally unsupported by a shadow of Historical testimony: and, what is still more formidable, the same Historical testimony compels our reasonable conviction of its absolute non-existence in the first and best ages of the Church.
II. Now, were the practice enjoined in Scripture, the conclusion, to which we have been brought by the force of evidence, would plainly involve a most astounding paradox : for, if the practice were enjoined in Scripture, it could not but have liturgically subsisted from the beginning. The very circumstance, therefore, of its not
having thus subsisted, amounts to a presumption, even before any actual examination, that it cannot have been enjoined in Scripture. Yet, singular as it may appear, the authority of Scripture has really been adduced, as making the practice absolutely imperative upon us ; insomuch that we disobey a commandment of Scripture, unless we adopt the practice.
It will naturally be thought, that I refer to the well known passage in the apocryphal History of the Maccabees, adduced by Romanists (ever since their Tridentine Doctors, in defiance both of antiquity and of internal evidence afforded by itself, daringly pronounced it to be canonical) as their Scriptural warrant for offering up Prayers for the Dead. (See 2 Macc. xii. 43-45. ; xv. 37-39.) This, however, is not the case. I speak of veritable canonical Scripture : and I refer not to Romanists, but to persons who claim
excellence to be dutiful sons of the Reformed Church of England.
The first, so far as I know, who with a grave face impressed the Bible into the service, was the non-juring divine Dr. Thomas Brett : and he has in no wise wanted equally grave followers ; one of whom urged to myself the precise text, for which, as I afterward found, he had been indebted to that theologian.
St. Paul, say Dr. Brett and his disciples, charges us to make supplication for All saints. Ephes. vi. 18. But, unless we pray for deoul saints as well as for living saints, we do not obey his charge of UNIVERSAL supplication. Therefore, it is not merely a pious thought (as the author of the Maccabean history modestly expresses it), but our absolute Scriptural duty, to pray for the dead. (See Brett's Dissert. concerning the Ancient Liturgies. § 19. p. 274. edit. 1838.)
This whimsical interpretation of Scripture, which no plain reader of the Bible (I will venture to say) could ever have anticipated, rests SOLELY, I believe, upon the PRIVATE JUDGMENT of Dr. Brett: and thus affords a pregnant specimen of the due carrying out of a principle, which is the recognised delicio of modern ultra-Protestantism no less than of modern Socinianism.
Most evidently, neither the strictly Primitive Church, nor the comparatively Early Church, knew any thing of it: because, if they severally had, the former, as acknowledging its familiar correctness, must, in consequence, have liturgically used Prayers for the Dead, which yet, as is plain from the minute testimony of Justin Martyr, she did not ; and the latter, secure in its known universal reception from the beginning, would, we may be quite sure, have adduced it in defence of the practice, as soon as ever the practice itself was liturgically adopted.
But, that the Early Church ever did this, or that the Primitive Church ever delivered down such an interpretation as the received sense of St. Paul's phraseology, no proof is alleged by Dr. Brett: and the language employed by Cyril of Jerusalemn irresistibly shews, that he at least had never heard of the interpretation before us.
In the fourth century, when the practice of Praying for the Dead was struggling into the Church, it was, as Cyril fairly confesses, objected to by MANY. Οίδα γάρ ΠΟΛΛΟΥΣ τούτο λέγοντας, says
he, speaking from his own extensive ministerial experience. (Cyril. Hieros. Catech. Mystag. v. p. 241.).
How, then, does the good Catechist meet the confessed widely prevailing objection? Does he at once silence the MANY, and put their unreasonable dissatisfaction to open shame; first, by alleging the indisputable practice of the Catholic Church from the very beginning; and, next, by adducing, as its Scriptural authority, the familiar and universal and aboriginal interpretation of a text, which, if we may believe Dr. Brett and his modern followers, makes Prayer for the Dead even an imperative revealed duty ?
Truly, nothing of the sort. Instead of adducing Dr. Brett's interpretation, as the perfectly acknowledged catholic sense of the text, and as the Ever declared ecclesiastical basis of the practice ; which, on the sure ground of Aboriginal Testimony to a fact, would, no doubt, have been a fully conclusive answer: he is totally silent touching any authority of Scripture for the practice, while he is equally silent touching its now pretended Aboriginal Antiquity. For he actually contents himself with meeting the objection by nothing more respectable, than a rambling attempt at illustration from a supposed case of intercession made to a king on behalf of those whom he has driven into exile : which mere illustration, evidently concocted on the fruitful principle of private judgment, affords, of course, not a shadow of EVIDENCE.
Cyril well kner, that he could not establish the practice from Canonical Scripture ; and the Apocrypha he had already charged his Catechumens to reject, as not possessing any doctrinal authority. (Catech. iv. p. 36, 37.) Nothing, therefore, was left for him save the quicksand of Gratuitous Illustration : and, of what value that is, he had abundantly signified to his pupils, by exhorting them, to receive nothing through the medium of mere plausible ratiocination, and to repose not the slightest confidence in the assertions of their Catechist unless from the HOLY SCRIPTURES they should have full demonstration of the matters propounded. (Catech. iv. p. 30.)
How far Cyril was consistent in advocating Prayers for the Dead, which he could not establish from SCRIPTURE, and which he laboured to establish through the medium of what he himself stigmatises as mere plausible ratiocination (πιθανότητα και λόγων κατασκευαΐς), is nothing to our present purpose. If, through the infelicity of a superstitious age, he submitted to be the huckster of unscriptural and unwholesome trash, he at least had honestly propounded, as a guard or an antidote, the Autocracy of Scripture.
In this, much to their credit, he is supported by Irenèus, and Tertullian, and Clement of Alexandria, and Hippolytus, and Cyprian, and Origen, and Athanasius, and Jerome, and Basil, and Augustine, who all, like the Church of England in her sixth Article, charge us to receive nothing save what can be proved by most certain warrant of Holy Writ. I have given their declarations at large in my recently published work on Christ's Discourse at Capernaum. Introduct. 5 vii. 2. (1.)-(11.) p. lxxviii-xcii. According to the judgment, therefore, of these venerable theologians, who, by the very fact of their unanimity, shew, that they are ATTESTING the well-known sense of the apostolically taught Primitive Church, we cannot justifiably use Prayers for the Dead, unless we can produce the warrant of Scripture for the practice. If, then, we can allege nothing better than Dr. Brett's gratuitous interpretation of Ephes. vi. 18: the whole mighty superstructure, so far as the Bible is concerned, rests only upon the private judgment of Dr. Brett.
III. We now come to the judgment of the Anglo-Catholic Church: a matter by no means to be despised, inasmuch as we Anglo-Catholics, at least, profess, that the Church, as a witness and keeper of Holy Writ, hath authority in controversies of Faith. (Art. xx.)
In the exercise of this authority, she has rejected the practice of Praying for the Dead : and her rejection of it is singularly instructive.
1. In the earlier stage of her reformation, while, by the aid of Scripture as understood by the Primitive Church Catholic, she was groping her way from the murky recesses of Popery, she had incautiously retained it. Hence, being evidently borrowed from the interpolated older Liturgies, it appears in the Eucharistic Liturgy of King Edward VI.
We commend unto thy mercy, O Lord, all other thy servants, who are departed hence from us with the sign of faith, and now do rest in the sleep of peace. Grant unto them, we beseech thee, thy mercy and ererlasting peace, and that, at the day of the general resurrection, we, and all they rehich be of the mystical body of thy Son, may altogether be set on his right hand.
But, at a later period, when better instructed from Holy Scripture, she expunged the once admitted Prayer for the Dead : and thus shewed her disapprobation far more strongly and far more pointedly, than if from the first she had never admitted it.
2. It has been alleged by certain moderns; not very creditably, I should think, to the Reformers of our Church : that the Prayer for the Dead was expunged from King Edward's Liturgy, purely to please Bucer and other foreign divines ; that our own divines, all the wbile, approved of the Prayer ; that, consequently, they rejected it against the monition of their own conscience; and that their real opinion was distinctly shewn by their original retaining of it in the office for the Eucharist.
Some men, we may well say, will advance any crudity, to promote their own un-anglican speculations. Very possibly Bucer (for any thing that we know to the contrary) may have pointed out to our Reformers the glaring inconsistency, into which the liturgical Prayer for the Dead had betrayed them: and, very possibly, as any sensible man would do, they may, agreeably to his admonition, have rejected the unscriptural Prayer, and thus have avoided the inconsistency. But, when we consider that our Reformers were men with intellects most abundantly exercised and sharpened, and furthermore when we consider that the inconsistency in question is so glaring as to make their own detection of it well nigh absolutely certain : I cannot but think it far more probable, that they themselves should have noted it without any superfluous prompting by a foreigner. The inconsistency is this : In the sixth Article, it is declared ; that whatsoerer is not read in Holy Scripture, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of Faith.
But a Prayer for the Dead, when introduced into an authorized Liturgy, imposes, both upon the clergy who recite it and upon the laity who (as a term of communion) are required to join in it, an article of Faith, which is neither read in Scripture, nor can be prored thereby. For, by a plain necessity (unless, indeed, it would leave them to practice an impious mockery of unbelief in the very presence of God), it involves a requirement to believe, that the souls of the dead are benefited by the prayers of the living : which tenet is incapable of proof from Scripture ; and which, nevertheless, in palpable contradiction to the sixth Article, is required, by the very circumstance of the liturgical imposition of a Prayer for the Dead, to be believed both by clergy and laity.
Now this contradiction is so gross and so glaring, that, without any aid from Bucer and his friends, it was well nigh impossible for it to escape the notice of at least some one of our clear-sighted and strong-headed Reformers. When once it was perceived, whoever might first point it out, the result was inevitable. Either the Sixth Article, or the Prayer for the Dead, must needs be expunged: for, without making the Anglican Church the laughing-stock of Christendoin (Dr. Brett's felicitous interpretation of Ephes. vi. 18, not having then been excogitated), the two, it was quite clear, could not be retained together. In this dilemma, our Reformers, very wisely, expunged the Unscriptural Prayer, and retained the Scriptural Ariicle: without which process, I apprehend, no conscientious man could have remained a member of the Church of England. Before the inconsistency was perceived and pointed out, I deny not, that a person, who had long been unquestioningly familiarised to the then ordinary practice of Praying for the Dead, might conscientiously be a member: but, after it had been perceived and pointed out, no man could conscientiously conform, until it had been removed. Our excellent Reformers, not having the popish millstone of infallibility attached to their necks, readily corrected the inconsistency which they easily perceived. Prayers for the Dead had no sanction from Scripture. Therefore, since Scripture was determined to be our sole Rule of Faith, the unscriptural use of the liturgical Prayer for the Dead ceased to be imposed as a most unwarrantable snare for the conscience.
3. But it has been argued, that, although the Church of England has ceased to impose the practice, she has expressed no disapprobation of it. Whence, every individual, so far as any disapprobation of the Church is concerned, may freely and consistently use Prayers for the Dead himself, provided he does not impose the use of them
No doubt, the sixth Article, as it must needs do, especially regards the point of imposing Unscripturalities : but as for no disapprobation of Prayers for the Dead having been expressed by the Church