Introduction: The Church of the Far West
The Right Rev. H. H. Montgomery, D.D, sometime Bishop of Tasmania
Chapter I. The Race
Object of the writers--Body of Christ incomplete--Search for its completion--Merits and demerits of our own race--Duality of character--Imaginative, unimaginative--Shyness--Lack of vision--Manners--Order of virtues and vices.
The Seven Bishops responsible for this book may by some be styled "the Seven Dreamers." Be it so: there is a place for dreams in the life of the Church which fixes its eyes on a horizon as yet hidden. The writers have contributed their quota in order to press, especially upon Churchmen, the needs and limitations of their race, and to prove to those who need such proof that they are part only of the Body of Christ, indicating at the same time the sources from which we may receive the limbs which will one day complete that Body. We may hope ere long, as the deeper view grows, to find the cause of world-wide mission work characterized as a peculiarly concentrated form of spiritual selfishness, an attempt, that is, to obtain for ourselves what we possess now in scanty measure. The criticism would, at least, be a welcome change from the more usual attitude which represents our race as a Lord Bountiful sparing something of his superfluity for the needy at the gate. The view indeed which we thankfully recognize is steadily [xi/xii] gaining ground does not tend to self-satisfaction. We find the Church of God to-day strongly established in temperate regions, but weak, or almost non-existent, in many parts of the tropics. Consequently it is more a torso than a body with limbs. Some of us therefore are prepared to believe that the achievements of the Faith at present are as the crawling of a body lacking hands or feet or arms, compared with the leaping and running and working in days to come.
The lame man at the Temple-gate asking alms is humanity imploring the Apostles of the Lord for a boon. The Church to-day does not offer civilization, good as that may be, but a place in the Body of Christ, and with it a new motive and force.
To change the figure; we stand to-day perplexed and anxious before a door, behind which are hoarded treasures more beautiful and costly than any we have yet beheld. A key is in our hands: it turns in the lock, but without result. The reason is simple, the wards of the key are not all fashioned yet: they are the races of the world, and until they are in place the key is useless.
It will be seen, then, that we are repeating the truth that God having scattered over the world the gifts and graces of humanity, the Church is engaged in gathering them up into one organism: each race is called to bring its own contribution and occupy the place reserved from the beginning for it which no one else can fill.
It is no easy subject which we have determined to discuss, for it is as hard to gauge accurately the merits and demerits of one's own race as it is to judge fairly of the qualities of other nations, yet we must do both. We hope we have made it plain at all events that all the world over our leaders in the Church are respectful to other races and religions, desiring to destroy nothing but what is false, eager to recognize what is true, ready to [xii/xiii] learn, generous with praise, and prepared to welcome as brethren all nations of men. The day of contempt, indeed, for races and religions has passed, and we have come to see that a Christian must first of all be a courteous gentleman if he is to exhibit the Spirit of the Shepherd whose epithet is o kaloV. In building the Highway of God through every land it is first necessary to cut down the Bush; but the "felling gang" of the Lord makes full use of the trees so cut down to make the "conduroy track" to be pressed by those Blessed Feet. It is a parable.
I must now attempt to sketch in outline the merits and demerits of our own race.
In temperate-clime races there is, I think, a more marked duality of character than in those which live nearer the equator.
Dr. Inge in his "Bampton Lectures" waxes indignant over the figure of John Bull as an unworthy and misleading caricature of an Englishman, pointing out that no race has produced more beautiful types of the mystical order. The criticism is valuable because it calls attention to a dual character. I note the same fact in the case of a race even stiffer in its characteristics than our own--the Dutch. After a week among the masterpieces of Dutch painters one longs for a little Italian art: yet the Dutch have given us the greatest of all mystical writers in the continent of Europe, and the appearance of Thomas a Kempis in Holland reminds us of the riddle, "Out of the strong came forth sweetness." At the same time "John Bull" is no mere caricature. Seen at his very best, and yet from the point of view of the caricaturist, we get Dr. Johnson.
This idealized figure in the abstract could only be the creature of a cold climate, unthinkable along the equator, full of rough force, recognized by all races as possessed [xiii/xiv] of unique will power, so much so that he does not in the least object to stand alone in his opinions.
It is almost possible to prophesy that if you told him he was by himself in holding a certain view of things he would answer that this fact was an overpowering argument in his favour. He exalts common sense and practical sagacity above all other virtues, with an honest contempt for idealists, theorists, and dreamers; waxing impatient if you expect from him any detailed and far-reaching scheme providing for the possibilities of a long roll of years. He hardly comprehends your motive for asking him for any such thing, since in his opinion nothing is needful, except to do the work of each day just as it comes, and with the eyes in his head, without any desire for the use of a telescope or a microscope. He is a devout man of the unimaginative type and a family man, with a suspicion of ascetics and celibates. He believes naturally in the Ten Commandments, but has serious difficulty with the Beatitudes, and, indeed, some of them puzzle him. Very independent, he makes a first-rate pioneer, and being unromantic he can take root anywhere, making a new home in any land. In regard to his desire for corporate action the dual character peeps out at once. Prom one point of view he seems to look at life as though all he met were as travellers in a railway carriage, kind and helpful whilst in company and all bound the same way, but not anxious to inquire for each other's names, and in due time separating without a pang. But again I remember the saying that if three Englishmen were to meet upon a desert island two of them would propose and second that the third do take the chair.
Poetry does not appeal to him, except in the form of simple hymns. Jokes he delights in, and is not perturbed by personalities or sarcastic allusions or criticisms. On [xiv/xv] the other hand I do not think there can be a doubt that meditation is an uncongenial occupation for him, and he would rather fill his days with what he calls practical work, hardly believing that he can have done his duty to God unless he has been in a hurry all day long and desperately tired at night. "Time is money."
But note again that he is one of the shyest of men in regard to his deepest sentiments, and would go to the verge of deceit in order to hide his real feelings, being always in dread of being accused of hypocrisy. Hardly anything would induce him to pray in a public place except at the regular stated times with others in a church. His behaviour when he is angry is strange; he becomes rather white in the face and very quiet, and few races are wise enough to read such symptoms aright until it is too late.
But our tenderest sympathy for him must be felt in regard to his lack of vision. I do not believe he sees God easily. Partly it must be the effect of climate, for there really seems to be truth in the statement that the nearer you live to the equator the easier it is to see God, and the further you live away from it the harder it becomes. So he, in common with other cold-climate races, though he has a strong sense of duty, has little vision of God. His Creator knows that it is hard for him not to be an agnostic.
Dr. Salmon in one of his published sermons tells how Professor Huxley once asked a scientific friend--for whose ability he had a profound respect, and who was at the same time a most devout Christian--how he could so earnestly believe in what seemed to him incredible. His friend answered that if he might give his real opinion without offence, it was that the Professor was colour-blind. Huxley was much struck by the remark. Certainly the Englishman has great difficulty in seeing certain colours. [xv/xvi] But his defect has compensating advantages, inasmuch aa when, by a kind of divine surgical operation, he gains his spiritual vision, no man is more fervent in his desire to bring his conduct into close line with his beliefs. There is an intimate and a necessary connection for him between faith and works.
I fear he has been accused of bad manners. I believe it is really due to his lack of vision. When he enters a crowded public room, for example, he sees no one; being shy, reserved, and not very alert, he is misunderstood, for be it remembered there is no one who, while valuing his own freedom, is so bent upon encouraging all others to follow their own bent, even those whom he has been called to rule.
I can imagine a member of an equatorial race reading with amazement such a characterization of an Englishman. Surely to him it might be the description of an inhabitant of the planet Mars with whom be certainly does not desire to cultivate a closer intimacy. He would be still more amazed wore ho informed that this race had produced the greatest of all poets, the most famous mathematician, the greatest man of science, probably the most noted philosopher of modern times, and the noblest painter of nature in its deepest and most subtle aspects. And if he began to study the poet he would acknowledge that he could only be an Englishman, combining in one mind, to his renewed astonishment, the rule, of Sophocles and Aristophanes with equal facility. He would find our mystics entirely to his most fastidious taste, and he would feel in thinkers such as Bishop Westcott and in Dean Church the note in theology which would be wholly satisfying.
Even this brief survey of the qualities of our race makes it possible to say that the world must not expect to acquire much alluvial gold from the English mine. [xvi/xvii] It is a reef deep down below the surface and covered over with a very hard cap of rock which requires the drill and much dynamite; but the gold reef when reached is rich and lives down. The removal of the hard cap is the miracle that the Gospel has effected, till at length the man who was colour-blind, who used to hold in dim fashion that our Blessed Lord must have been born in London for the express benefit of his own race alone, has become one of the greatest of missionaries. The day was when he declared that it was almost ludicrous to suppose you could convert a Chinese or an Indian, and when in consequence, with kindly eyes, we had to say to him, "If God Almighty has converted you, do you really suppose there can be real difficulty with any other race?" To-day he is earnest in impressing upon all men the Faith of the Gospel, and it is not easy to speak too highly of the beauty of character of the English gentleman and the English lady. It is indeed one of the marvels of history that our race has become an apostle and herald of the Faith. "We do not lack fibre, but more than any other, we need a broken heart, and that fracture was effected by the power of the Gospel. Just so far as it has been broken and thus has entered into the meaning of the first Beatitude (did our Lord turn westward when He uttered it?) it has its own message to give other nations regarding miracles of grace and the virtues which are specially entrusted to it to put forward as of first importance for man.
And here I touch upon a most engrossing subject. The virtues to be upheld, the vices to be reprobated, are placed in different order for the different races of mankind. No one order can stand without being supplemented by other lists. No one can doubt, I think, that the order is different for men and for women. Some sins are worse in men, others in women. Some graces we expect to be [xvii/xviii] prominently set forth by men, others by women, and he who has not mastered this can hardly be a wise councillor in the deep things of life. Every profession, again, has its own list of virtues to be extolled and sins to be banned and in its own order. Whoever in his own profession offends against the virtue that holds first place for him, knows that he will suffer sentence of banishment. An equally great profession but of a different type and with a different first purpose in life, may have placed a different sin in the one unpardonable place. The same train of thought will carry us through the races of the world. Some sins are worse in an Englishman than they are in a native of India or Africa. History, climate, essential characteristics, make the difference. In one case the sin is at the top of the list, in the other it is not. And this it is which gives each race its own message to its neighbours. Some day in the perfected Church the virtues will be ordered in an equal line, and the vices will be equally reprobated; but since that day has not yet dawned, we pass from land to land watching with discriminating and kindly eyes, first, the lesson to be learnt by ourselves, and then offering respectfully our own strength where they ethically are weak.
Pages, of course, could be filled with examples of the differences between race and race. A few such must suffice, but it is to be hoped that ere long our keenest minds will draw up a catalogue of actions natural to our race, but offensive to peoples quite differently constituted, in order that race prejudices may be composed.
Side by side with the shyness of the Englishman place the natural openness of the Oriental in all things pertaining to his deeper feelings. The former views with wonder and admiration the Mohammedan in India who prays by the roadside, or on the front part of his shop, oblivious of passers-by. To him it is a miracle of grace: in reality it [xviii/xix] is nothing but a racial difference. It is incredible to the Oriental that any one can have a belief unless he openly exhibits it by such actions, and the white man who veils his feelings possesses in his eyes in consequence no faith whatever in God. To the reticent Englishman it would be hypocrisy to behave as another does for whom reticence in such matters is no virtue.
Again, an uninstructed member of our race is soon angry at the lapses from truthfulness common among some tropical races. Experience will teach him that veracity does not hold the place there that it does in our own catalogue, more especially among a people that may for centuries have been a subject-race. Another characteristic cause for wrath in us is the apparent indifference to the value of time with the Oriental. Punctuality holds a high place on our list: it does not appear at all in the catalogue of desirable things among many nations for whom time has no value at all, who are never hurried, and who hold with charming completeness of conviction that if time is money so much the worse for money.
On the other hand all the delicate perceptions and intentions which result in good manners hold first place for the Oriental. Probably every one of the three hundred million people of India has perfect manners, and could preside at a Court function with all the grace that comes in our race only with generations of refinement. To such people the lack of perception of the delicacies of behaviour are little short of maddening. In time they on their side realize that in the home of Boreas races have other very pressing matters to attend to before manners.
But it is in regard to vision that races, tropical and of temperate climes, differ most completely. Near the equator One only is visible--God: that is, the unseen; [xix/xx] and its effect upon life is so direct as to make this conviction the only reality. "We can imagine a conversation couched in some terms as these between representatives of the opposing temperaments. "There is no miracle: There is naught but miracle." "There is no God: God alone is." "I cannot see Him: I can see no other." "The real is what I see with bodily eyes and touch with these hands: The real is what is hidden from these eyes, and out of reach of these hands." Equally strange it is to the practical Englishman to discover in such regions the existence of an attitude of mind to him impossible if not unthinkable, namely, that they, for whom belief in the unseen is intuitive, do not see any necessary connection between such belief and their own conduct. Faith can exist quite happily, with no twinge of conscience, without works. Bishop Mylne in his article explains the paradox. Here, at least, the Englishman, not necessarily Christian, believes that he has a contribution to offer to what we may term tropical ethics. The Christian Englishman is glad to remember that though Luther, who clearly had no acquaintance with the East, applied to the Epistle of St. James a disrespectful epithet, he himself knows that it is exactly the message most needed in many regions of the earth. The members of the Church of the Far West have their limitations, but they have their own message to impart, and their special place in the Church Catholic. This particular Church has its roots already in every part of the world; and if the English language is to become one of the most widely diffused of all tongues the Church's responsibility is great indeed. A common language must knit nations together, and make their influence upon each other more marked. It is necessary, therefore, to examine the characteristics of the Church of this race.