I will, then, say at once :
1. That I rejoice with all my heart in all the workings of the Holy Ghost in the Church of England.
2. That I lament whensoever what remains of truth in it gives way before unbelief.
3. That I rejoice whensoever what is imperfect in it is unfolded into a more perfect truth.
4. But that I cannot regard the Church of England as the 'great bulwark against infidelity in this land,' for reasons which I will give in their place.
1. First, then, I will say what I believe of the Church of England, and why I rejoice in every working of the Holy Spirit in it. And I do this the more gladly because I have been sometimes grieved at hearing, and once at even seeing in a handwriting which I reverence with affection, the statement that Catholics or at least the worst of Catholics called Converts, deny the validity of Anglican Baptism, regard our own past spiritual life as a mockery, look upon our departed parents as heathen, and deny the operations of the Holy Spirit in those who are out of the Church. I do not believe that those who say such things have ever read the Condemned Propositions, or are aware that a Catholic who so spoke would come under the weight of at least two Pontifical censures, and the decrees of at least two General Councils. I need not, however, do more than remind you that, according to the faith and theology of the Catholic Church, the operations of the Holy Spirit of God have been from the beginning of the world co-extensive with the whole human race. Believing, then, in the operations of the Holy Spirit, even among the nations of the world who have neither the revelation of the Faith nor the Sacraments, how much more must we believe His presence and grace in those who are regenerate by water and the Holy Ghost? It would be impertinent for me to say to you whose name first became celebrated for a tract on Baptism, which, notwithstanding certain imperfections inseparable from a work written when and where you wrote it, is in substance deep, true, and elevating that Baptism, if rightly administered with the due form and matter, is always valid by whatsoever hand it may be given ...
Let me, then, say at once 1. That in denying the Church of England to be the Catholic Church, or any part of it, or in any divine and true sense a church at all, and in denying the validity of its absolutions and its orders, no Catholic ever denies the workings of the Spirit of God or the operations of grace in it. 2. That in affirming the workings of grace in the Church of England no Catholic ever thereby affirms that it possesses the character of a Church. ...
With truth, then, I can say that I rejoice in all the operations of the Holy Spirit out of the Catholic Church, whether in the Anglican or other Protestant bodies; not that those communions are thereby invested with any supernatural character, but because more souls, I trust, are saved. If I have a greater joy over these workings of grace in the Church of England, it is only because more that are dear to me are in it, for whom every day I never fail to pray. These graces to individuals were given before the Church was founded, and are given still out of its unity. They are no more tokens of an ecclesiastical character, or a sacramental power in the Church of England, than in the Kirk of Scotland, or in the Wesleyan connexion ; they prove only the manifold grace of God, which, after all the sins of men, and in the midst of all the ruins they have made, still works in the souls for whom Christ died. Such, then, is our estimate of the Church of England in regard to the grace that works not by it, nor through it, but in it and among those who, without faults of their own, are detained by it from the true Church of their baptism.
And here it is necessary to guard against a possible misuse of what I have said. Let no one imagine that he may still continue in the Church of England because God has hitherto mercifully bestowed His grace upon him. As I have shown, this is no evidence that salvation is to be had by the Church of England. It is an axiom that to those who do all they can God never refuses His grace. He bestows it that He may lead them on from grace to grace, and from truth to truth, until they enter the full and perfect light of faith in His only true Fold. The grace they have received, therefore, was given, not to detain them in the Church of England, but to call them out of it. The grace of their past life lays on them the obligation of seeking and submitting to the perfect Truth. God would have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.' But His Church is an eminent doctrine, and member of that truth ; and all grace given out of the Church is given in order to bring men into the Church, wheresoever the Church is present to them. If they refuse to submit to the Church they resist the Divine intention of the graces they have hitherto received, and are thereby in grave danger of losing them, as we see too often in men who once were on the threshold of the Church, and now are in rationalism, or in states of which I desire to say no more.