Imatges de pÓgina
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the same breath, invite them to look forward hopefully, and contemplate with serenity, and even cheerfulness, much that is now disquieting us,' is nothing better than a mockery.

It is due to the bishop to say that his article exhibits all that 'gentleness, sobriety, and moderation' on which he insists in the conduct of all controversy. If there is anything which is at all likely to wound opponents, it is clear that it was not intended, and is due rather to the influence of his surroundings than to any lack of real charity. To this cause must be ascribed a statement, conceived in a spirit only too common among bishops, that with the manifestations of fresh life and energy in the Church of England which every year's experience brings before us, no religious person of competent judgment could possibly be led to conceive any other future than one of increased efficiency. This indirect mode of censuring men who do not hold our own view reminds me of an acquaintance I met in a Highland coffee-room, who closed a conversation by saying: 'I see you are a shrewd man, sir. You hold exactly my views.' It is a kind of test which we are too apt to employ, and yet it must have required a little daring for the bishop to apply it so decidedly here. To adopt so confident a tone in relation to the future of the Establishment, just at the present crisis, argues some boldness, but it is going much further to assert that no religious person of competent judgment could possibly be led to conceive anything else. It is perfectly certain that there are numbers of people who pass as sincere Christians, and are supposed to be capable of forming a rational and intelligent opinion on public questions, who entertain quite an opposite belief. What would the bishop say of such misguided individuals? Is it their piety or their sanity which his lordship would impeach? To them it cannot be pleasant to be condemned on either ground, but they may, at all events, console themselves with the reflection that no error into which they may be betrayed can equal that of the dreamer who can anticipate some other modification in the relations of Church and State than that which is here pronounced to be absolutely inconceivable. The only hope for the Establishment is in the maintenance of the status. quo. Any attempt at the readjustment of its constitution must infallibly end in its destruction. A system which has thus outlived the possibility of reform is undoubtedly in perilous condition, but he must be blind to all the signs of the times who fails to see that it is the actual position of the Anglican Church. Even Dr. Ellicott, despite his strong optimist tendencies, does not give any confident assurance of the reform of the evils whose existence he is forced to acknowledge, and not a few of his readers may reasonably doubt whether it is a sign either of weak intellect or imperfect faith to doubt as to the future of an institution so rife with anomalies and abuses.

Time only can decide as to the correctness of the bishop's fore

castings, but at all events the reasons on which they rest are singularly weak. The bishop alleges that there is new life in the Church, new energy and fuller earnestness,' that this new life has made new channels for itself, and has in fact modified the rigidity of our system and its formularies' (which is really a very pleasant euphemistic mode of saying that the law has been successfully defied), and that, combined with this stronger vitality within, there has been an increased toleration to those who are without. Granted, and what follows? That the righteousness and wisdom of the Establishment are thereby manifest, or that its lengthened tenure of life is thereby assured? Certainly not. It would indeed be very easy to take these premisses and use them to support the very opposite conclusion to that which the bishop has reached. The struggles of the new life to emancipate itself from the restraints by which its energy is confined, might fairly be adduced as evidences, on the one hand, of the injurious effects of the Establishment, while, on the other, they might with equal reason be regarded as premonitory of a danger by which it must ultimately be overthrown. In the many silent concessions that are regularly made to the spiritual necessities of local missions'-the departures, that is, from the requirements of the Act of Uniformity which it is impossible to repress, but which are not the less objectionable and perilous as precedents of lawlessness-may be found only signs that the bed is narrower than a man can stretch himself withal, and reasons to justify the demand for a radical change. Even the toleration shown to Dissenters has two sides, for while it serves to produce a more kindly feeling it makes the retention of any exclusive privileges the more utterly indefensible. So long as a State assumes the responsibility of deciding what the truth is, and of providing for its defence and propagation, there is a definite ground for the distinction which separates Conformists and Nonconformists, assigning the one to honour and the other to dishonour. The assumption is sufficiently monstrous and offensive, but if it be granted it forms the basis for an argument which may be made to look very plausible. But it is practically abandoned when Dissenting Churches are treated as kindred communions, with whom friendly relations ought to be cultivated.

The liberality with which the bishop writes on this point is very admirable, and will be heartily reciprocated by all classes of Dissenters -the political Dissenter quite as much as any others; but it is not easy to reconcile with the defence of the Establishment. "That sober and charitable consideration for the opinions of others, even for those who may very widely differ from us, which shows itself in seeking common ground on which the servants of the same Lord may honestly co-operate, and, without sacrificing or even minimising a principle, may yet unitedly labour in the furtherance of his kingdom,' on which the bishop insists, is not compatible with the maintenance

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of a system in which the opinions for which this consideration is professed doom a man to exile from a great national institution. The exercise of this large-hearted tolerance is, we are told, not only a popular virtue of our day, but is becoming by degrees a sort of test of the real public worth and, so to say, workable character of a community.' The bishop does not see that this must mean the ultimate overthrow of all distinctions established by the State on the basis of differences in religious opinion.

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The relations which the bishop apparently desires to establish between the Church and Dissent could hardly continue for any great length of time. They look very amiable at first, but under them one class of Christians virtually says to others: Though it may be impossible or undesirable for us to form a visible and corporate union, yet we are brethren, and there is much truth common to us all, and much work which we may do in concert.' Let us dwell together as brethren, practising that great lesson of Christian toleration which we have all learned, and by which you will show a sober and charitable consideration' for the opinions which have given us a position of ascendency, while we on our side will manifest a similar respect for those which have deprived you of the privileges we enjoy.' This may seem a very desirable state of things to those for whom all the prizes are reserved; but it is at least doubtful whether it is likely to commend itself to the approval of those who have not only to be content with blanks, but are themselves mulcted of their own just rights in order that these prizes may be provided for others. It is a remarkable conception of Christian brotherhood, an application of the law of entail and primogeniture in a sphere for which it seems to be hardly suited. That such a state of things can be perpetuated is impossible. In truth, the complicated questions which the redistribution of the national estate at present held by the Church would involve, alone stand in the way of disestablishment. The nation does not want to maintain a privileged Church, though it is not yet prepared to face the difficulties connected with disendowment. It has never been the habit of the English people to follow a principle out to its logical issue, or the Toleration Act would ere this have issued in the establishment of religious equality. But the more that equality is practically recognised—that is, the more the spirit which the bishop commends and illustrates by his own example is manifest— the more hopeless will be the task of maintaining the inequality at present sanctioned by law.

The evident gratification with which he enumerates the various evidences of the growth of a better feeling between the broad central body of the Church and the chief Nonconformist communities' is eminently creditable to his heart; and if he does not see that the very movement in which he rejoices is silently cutting away the ground from under the feet of the defenders of the Establishment, it

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would be unfair to charge him with any special defect of vision. He has simply fallen into an error to which we are all liable, or, to put it more correctly, has failed to accomplish the very difficult task, in which so few succeed, of placing himself in the position of an opponent, so as to see the institution which he regards with such sincere veneration in the aspect in which it presents itself to those in whose eyes it is an injustice and an offence. He fancies that the toleration of Dissenters-understanding 'toleration' in the broad sense in which he uses it-will save what he calls the Church of England. Just, then, in proportion as we find it in the Church of England, will that Church be likely to remain the Church of the kingdom and the people.' But if the name which he claims for his Church be anything more than a name, it is evident that, just as this 'toleration' spreads, that Church loses that which she now assumes to possess, and, instead of being the Church of England, becomes one among other Churches whose Christian status she recognises, and with whose ministers and people she is on terms of friendly co-operation. It is quite possible that by accepting this position she would become more than ever the Church of the kingdom and the people, but she would be so in virtue of the voluntary adherence of converts, and not through any legislative or other action of the State.

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The bishop himself thinks that toleration, as it developes still further within the Church of England, will greatly modify the future of that Church in its relations to the Church at large.' His lordship is fond of this word 'modifications.' There is in it a pleasant vagueness and uncertainty which makes it eminently acceptable to the episcopal mind. It has an aroma of modern progress which recommends it to those who are desirous to be abreast of the times, and yet there is also a moderation about it which adapts it to those who are afraid of committing themselves to any extreme or even very pronounced change. It may mean a great deal or nothing at all. In the present instance it is extremely hard to say what it can mean or what purpose it serves, except to throw a general haze of uncertainty around the bishop's anticipations of the future of his Church. He is sanguine as to her prospects, but, lest it should be supposed that he is insensible to the perils which are awaiting her, he gives us to understand that he is quite prepared for modifications.'

His policy is manifestly that which finds so much favour on the episcopal bench-that of government by the centres. It is the highest conception of statesmanship which the ecclesiastics of our day seem capable of attaining. The Primate has acted upon it in his dealings with Ritualism; and though it can scarcely be said to have proved eminently successful in relation to the internal difficulties of the Establishment, the Bishop of Gloucester is inclined to trust in it to bring about a good understanding with Dissenters, which may insure the

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safety of the Establishment. The great central body of the Church and the leading Nonconformist communities' are to form an alliance by means of which the desperate attempts of extreme men on both sides are to be frustrated. It is so purely a dream that the confidence which the bishop reposes in it is as affecting as it is amazing. Seldom has faith built so large a superstructure upon so slender a foundation. Some Churchmen and Nonconformists have united not only in public work, but even in private intercourse. Divines of both parties are taking part in the work of Biblical revision. Bishops and Dissenting ministers have united for the defence of the common faith. They have not only stood on the same platform, but they have actually allowed their separate contributions to Christian evidence to appear within the boards of the same volume, so that a reader, who has been perusing the impressive arguments of a bishop, may, on turning over a few pages, find that he is studying the appeals of a Nonconformist minister, and may possibly not be conscious of any deterioration either in matter or style. What is more, the venerable staircase of Lambeth Palace has been trodden by Dissenting feet, and a bright summer afternoon spent by bishops and eminent Nonconformists in talk about the best modes of meeting the infidelity which is the common foe of all. After this, who can doubt that we are living in those happy days of toleration for which good men have sighed so long, and that an Establishment whose rulers show such understanding of the signs of the times, and are ready to deal thus graciously with Nonconformists, is destined to live for ever?

Perhaps the bishop will be surprised to hear that there are Nonconformists, and possibly some even of those who were invited to Lambeth Palace, who will see in the tone which he adopts in relation to these fraternisations of Churchmen and Dissenters only a new illustration of the injurious influence exercised by the Establishment. Why should it be thought so strange as to be almost incredible that Christian ministers of different churches should meet on terms of kindly intercourse, such as politicians of opposite parties continually maintain to each other? It may be said that religious differences are always more intense and separating in their character, and to some extent that is true, though it needs to be qualified by the reminder that much of their keenness is due not to their intrinsic character, but to the attempt to set up an orthodox creed, and to punish heretics by exclusion from Church privileges, and, where the orthodox Church had the power, by a forfeiture of civic rights also. Under any circumstances diversities of opinion in relation to a subject on which men feel so earnestly as that of religion are likely to produce stronger feeling than any political antagonisms. But if the law were to deal with politics as it has done with religion, if there were an Act of Uniformity prescribing the political dogmas which a man must believe, or to which at least he must subscribe, if

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