Project Canterbury

Dean Church
by D. C. Lathbury

The English Churchman's Library
London: A. R. Mowbray & Co., 1905

Transcribed by Dr Elizabeth G. Melillo
AD 2003

Chapter VIII
The Return to Controversy
Church's position at S. Paul's brought him once more into contact with ecclesiastical controversies. For a quarter of a century, he had remained outside them, and, as we have seen, to be away from the strife of tongues was one of the things he most valued in his life at Whatley. At S. Paul's, on the other hand, to take some part in them--to have definite opinions about them to help to guide others in the search for a policy which Churchmen could make their own when driven to defend themselves against wanton attack--became a duty, and as such at once found a place in his life.

But a quarter of a century had greatly changed the Church of England. In 1845, and again in 1851, the Oxford Movement had sustained two tremendous shocks. In some respects, the second shock was even greater than the first. There was no personal loss indeed comparable to the loss of Newman, but the cause which had led to the second group of secessions affected the position and claims of the Church of England more deeply, and more directly. Newman's secession had been an individual act founded on reasons which were unintelligible to the mass of High Churchmen. They were not troubled about the position of the Roman See in the fourth or fifth century. They knew, in a general way, that the Early Church had condemned certain heresies, but what precise share the popes of that day had in their condemnation was not a matter that concerned them. They had fallen back, as we have seen in Church's own case, on the Prayer Book. It had been Newman's own position down to 1839, and for a time it seemed impregnable. Men brought up in a bad tradition might seek to divest plain words of their plain meaning, but in the end that meaning must prevail. In its first states, the Gorham case had given them no uneasiness. The judgement of the Court of Arches had been what they desired and expected, and they did not allow themselves to doubt that it would be confirmed by the Court of Appeal. In that case, they might hope to go on to establish "the complete doctrine of Sacramental Grace

(1)." But, when the judgement of the Court of Appeal came, it destroyed a position which Churchmen had imagined to be beyond the power of man to disturb. If the Prayer Book did not teach that every baptised child is regenerate, what did it teach? Where was the use of defending doubtful statements in the Articles by arguments drawn from Tract 90, if language so plain as that of the Baptismal Service was to count for nothing in the highest ecclesiastical court? It seemed for a moment that the Oxford Movement was really at an end, that all that was left for the Church of England was to settle down once more into the theological stagnation from which Newman had roused her eighteen years before, and that those of her children who had hitherto believed in her divine mission must seek their true home elsewhere.

It is remarkable that no letters of Church's on this subject seem to have been preserved, though we can hardly suppose that none were written. But he made one important contribution to the controversy in the article already mentioned in the Christian Remembrance on "Church and State." What was most wanted was that men should take time to look at the question closely, and to look at it from all sides. The most important fact - at all events, the fact which soon came to be regarded as the most important - was not that the highest ecclesiastical court had given a wrong decision; for that, a remedy might be devised. It was that the Church of England had been found to have accepted, at the Reformation, a position only to be defended on purely Erastian lines. The Reformation Statutes were taken down from the shelves on which they had so long slumbered, and all their uncompromising assertions of the Royal Prerogative were set out, in order to show that the Church had sold her birthright for the sake of retaining some fragments of the temporal dignities she had once enjoyed. In dealing with this contention, Church did not seek to justify or to make little of what had been done under the Tudor kings. He only pleaded that the Church of England was not the only Church that had submitted to similar pretensions, and that a bondage from which others had escaped without permanent injury could not of itself be fatal to her claim to be part of the Catholic body.

The agitation caused by the Gorham Judgement was violent for a time, but it left no permanent mark beyond the secession of a few distinguished Churchmen. After that, there was an interval during which nothing seemed to happen. The High Church party was silently reconstructing itself, and, though it was long before the results of the process were clearly seen, its origin may be traced back to this time. Church, in his seclusion at Whatley, had no opportunity of observing the change in its early stages. The first reference to it occurs in a letter describing Keble's funeral in 1866. "It was a strange gathering. There was a meeting of old currents and new. Besides the people I used to think of with Keble, there was a crowd of younger men who, no doubt, have as much right in him as we have in their way - Mackonochie, Lowder, and that sort. Excellent good fellows, but who, one could not help being conscious, looked upon us as rather dark people who don't grow beards

(2) and do other proper things."

The change thus noted had two leading features. The most conspicuous, thought not the most important, was the new place assigned to ceremonial. The Oxford Movement had been too busy with the weightier matters of the law to have any time to spare for ritual. There had been none at Saint Mary's under Newman. To Pusey, the "North End" was as familiar as the "Eastward Position." And Church, speaking of vestments in 1874, says, "For myself, I should feel very uncomfortable if I had to wear them; and indeed I have never seen a specimen, except the cope which our bishop wears once a year at the ordination on Trinity Sunday." But the new men took what turned out to be a wiser and more practical view of the function of ritual in religion. There are many minds which are more effectually approached through the eye than through the ear. This is the whole philosophy of painting as compared with other arts. The picture makes its way where speech stands without and knocks vainly for admittance. The final cause of the Oxford Movement had all along been the production of a moral change, but in the first instance its appeal had been addressed to the intellect alone. Newman's sermons and Ward's dialectic had forced their disciples to think. But the ability to think - at least, to think to much purpose--is not found in every one, and, even where it exists, it sometimes needs to be set in action by the eye. This, at all events, was the conviction of the early "Ritualists," and, acting on it, they devoted much of their energies to the extension of ceremonial. Men, they argued, have to be brought to believe in the Sacrifice of the Eucharist, to believe that Christ is really present in the elements, and really offered on our altars. This can best be done by accustoming them to pay to the Blessed Sacrament all the marks of reverence which they would pay to an earthly sovereign if they were introduced into his immediate presence. There was very little in the ritual of the altar, as it then survived in the Church of England, to make this kind of impression; yet without it there was little chance of bringing men to accept the Eucharistic doctrine which the Oxford Movement had tried to present to them.

There was another consideration which led them to give ritual this new place in their plans. The Movement had all along been sacerdotal in its aims. The first number of the Tracts for the Times had urged the clergy to make much of the gift they had received at their ordination, to keep it before their minds as an honourable badge far higher than secular respectability, or cultivation, or polish, or learning, or rank. How were they to carry out this injunction? How were they to present themselves to their flocks in their true character? The answer was that, while the Roman Catholic and the Tractarian rested the clerical claim on the same grounds, there had been a marked difference in their presentation of it. Clothes are nothing in themselves. A judgement of the Court of King's Bench would be equally valid if it was delivered by a judge in his robes, or by a judge in a shooting coat. But supposing that the claim of a particular body of judges to the powers and rights of their position were denied or ignored, it might be good policy for them to invest the exercise of their office with all the pomp that the judicial ermine could confer. This, at all events, was the reasoning of many in the second generation of Tractarians. They maintained that they were as certainly priests as though they had been ordained by the Pope in person, and, as this fact had been too long lost sight of, it was expedient to recall it to men's minds by every external circumstance. The vestments and gestures of a Roman priest, the aspect and decoration of a Roman altar, had for centuries told their own story. If Anglicans had the same story to tell, they could not do better than to tell it in the same language.

It is needless to recall the ridicule and misunderstanding which this new departure provoked. Beginners in ceremonial naturally attach exaggerated importance to trifles; they confound principles and applications. It was only to be expected, therefore, that the weaker heads among the ritualists should come to take a not very wise pleasure in magnifying, not so much their office, as its trappings. Some, perhaps, never outgrew this phase, but for the most part the love of embroidered stoles and ostentatious gestures passed away with youth, and the solid substance that underlay such extravagance was evidenced by much hard and thankless work done among the poor of the great towns. It is here, indeed, that the strength of the Movement in its more recent developments has chiefly lain. Mackonochie, Lowder, and Dolling, have been to the second state of the Movement what Newman, Pusey, and Keble were to the first


The second of the changes I am describing related to the position of High Churchmen in the Church of England, and the position of the Church of England in Christendom. In the first instance, the fact that the Church of England is established by law had been regarded simply as a hindrance to the proper assertion of her spiritual claims. Were she free from this bondage, she would either show herself at once in her true Catholic character, or by failing to do this forfeit her title to be part of the Catholic Church. But, as time went on, it became clear that the Establishment was not the mere hindrance which High Churchmen had been accustomed to think it. On the contrary, it had, in some ways, been friendly, though only by accident, to the growth of the Movement. In a voluntary Church, the appearance of Tract 90 would almost certainly have called forth an authoritative interpretation of the Articles which would have excluded the sense which Newman had affixed to them. The Tractarians were saved by the practical importance of the Prayer Book, and the immutability of the Prayer Book was secured by the connection with the State. To put an end to this connection seemed impossible, and though, so long as it seemed impossible, much must of necessity remain unsettled, there was comfort in the thought that the Church was, at all events, protected against changes in the wrong direction. As I have said elsewhere, all this lightened the burden of individual responsibility. A man in chains cannot move as easily as one who has the free use of his limbs. As time went on, and the Movement started into new and vigorous life, the temptation to despair of the Church of England grew weaker, and men came to think that those who had gone might have stayed where they were had they waited to see the fruit of the seed they had themselves sown. Reformations are not made in a day, sometimes not in a generation.

By the side of this change in mental attitude came another, which had its origin in the increase of communication with the near East. Englishmen became aware of the existence, and, in some small degree, of the history, of the Orthodox Churches of the East. In the early days of the Movement--I am again quoting myself - the thoughts of men did not wander so far afield as Constantinople, or Jerusalem, or Moscow. They reasoned and spoke as though Rome and Canterbury divided Christendom between them. As their ecclesiastical horizon widened, they found a third communion as ancient as Rome, as Protestant, in the strict sense of the term, as Canterbury. Thenceforward to become a Roman Catholic was not only to condemn a Church which in some of her aspects seemed to have hardly a link with Catholic antiquity left; it was to put out of the ecclesiastical pale the most conservative of Christian Churches--the one which carries back her tradition to the furthest point and with the most unbroken continuity, and yet knows nothing of the Pope.

This wider outlook naturally involved a change in the reading of their duty by High Churchmen. The seceders of 1845 and 1851 seemed to themselves to have but one thing to do. The Roman Church was the pattern for English as well as for Roman Churchmen. Did the English Church conform to that pattern? If not, could she be brought to conform to it? Newman and Ward answered that question on different grounds, but with the same result. What divergence of doctrine had done for them, the Royal Supremacy, presented in visible shape by the action of the Judicial Committee in the Gorham case, did for Manning and James Hope.

The younger generation of High Churchmen approached these great questions in a different spirit. They were satisfied that the Church of England retained, though as by a miracle, the essential notes of Catholicity. The Prayer Book, though it might be but a pale and mutilated copy of the older liturgies, had all that was necessary to make it a liturgy. The Anglican ministry traced its descent to the pre-Reformation hierarchy. The Eucharistic Sacrifice was still offered in Anglican churches, though the character of the rite had been obscured by wanton omissions. The Power of the Keys was still claimed and wielded in behalf of Anglican penitents. The Church of England had not been fairly judged by those who had demanded of her a degree of perfection which no Church on earth possesses. They had not read her history in the right spirit. They had not made the proper allowances for the conflict which the Catholics who all along clung to her had sustained, with varying fortunes, for three centuries. Again and again, their defeat had seemed final; again and again the ruin had been averted, and the Catholic party had breathed again.

The disasters which had befallen the Oxford Movement had their counterparts in the past; but what Puritanism had failed to accomplish in the 16

th and 17thcenturies, what religious indifference had failed to accomplish in the 18th century, Erastianism, if High Churchmen could help it, should not be suffered to do in the 19th century. The ritualists might have every failing that their enemies laid at their doors. They might be ignorant, wrong-headed, given to exaggerate the importance of trifles, impatient of authority, convinced of their own superiority to wiser and better men. But, when all that could fairly be urged against them, and a great deal more, had been said, they could at least make good their claim to two virtues which make up for many faults. They could fight, and they could stand defeat with no thought of giving in. This was the character of the ritualists for nearly half a century, and to their possession of this character the later successes of the High Church party are largely due. It is no new event in ecclesiastical history. Saint Paul looked back to something of the same kind when he wrote that "God hath chosen the foolish things of the world, to confound the wise; and the weak things of the world, to confound the things which are mighty, and base things of the world, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are."

It was not possible but that Church should regard the men of the new school with very mixed feelings. While he was at Whatley, he had been, as he himself said, "an outsider." Into that peaceful parish only distant echoes of the strife going on in London had found their way. He had never been intimate with Pusey, and he does not seem to have kept up any regular intercourse with Keble. "Of the younger men into whose hands the later development of the Movement had fallen, " says his daughter, "he knew but little ƒ. It was not until he came to Saint Paul's that he was in any way brought into personal relationship with the ritualist party, and then his appreciation of their work could not hinder a sense of much that was provoking and extravagant in their teaching." It would have been strange if it had hindered it. Rather it might be expected to stimulate it.

The faults of friends, and the disasters to which they sometimes lead, are hard to bear; and if Church could have infused his own temper into the ritualists they would have avoided many mistakes. Moreover, these mistakes were of a kind specially calculated to irritate him. The ritualists were often self-willed; they formed their conclusions from a very imperfect knowledge of history; they made their devotion to the ancient Church a reason for adopting as an integral part of Catholic tradition practices which, however edifying they may be in themselves, had no higher title to acceptance than a Roman custom some two centuries old; they set small store by the distinctive characteristic of the Church of England--her reluctance to close questions so long as they can fairly be left open. This last was probably the feature in the new school which the Dean found hardest to bear. Confident speech about things, as to which the knowledge that alone can justify speech has not been vouchsafed, always came as a shock to his balanced and reverent mind. His attitude on this point is well expressed in a letter of 1889: "Without being a sceptic or an agnostic, one may feel that there are questions in the world which never will be answered on this side the grave, perhaps not on the other. It was the saying of an old Greek, in the very dawn of thought, that men would meet with many surprises when they were dead. Perhaps one will be the recollection that, when we were here, we thought the ways of Almighty God so easy to argue about."

"Perhaps not on the other"--there could be no truer expression of Church's profound sense of the gulf between the Creator and the creature, between Omniscience and human faculties even at the highest conceivable point of their development. But it would have been equally unlike the Dean if he had allowed this sense of what was "provoking and extravagant" in the ritualists to blind him to what was good in them. This double feeling is exactly expressed in a letter to Pusey, written in 1873: "I feel that some of these younger men, whom I cannot go along with, are so very much my superiors, and beyond my criticism in their devotion and earnestness. But I dread to think what the end may be from self-will and nbriV when otherwise, in spite of everything, there seems more hope that I can see anywhere else."

1. Maskell, Second Letter on the Present Position of the High Church Party in the Church of England, 1850.

2.  The beard was then looked upon as a ritualistic badge. But neither Mr Mackonochie nor Mr Lowder wore one.

3.  There is a passage in an article by Dr Holland in the Contemporary Review for October, 1890, which puts the difference between the two generations of High Churchmen and the use made of it by opponents with admirable force and accuracy: "Diffusion carried the Movement far afield; it had to make adventurous experiments, often in young hands, under rough and irregular conditions. And then, of course, the children of those who had stoned Tractarians were now ready to glorify their old foe at the expense of their new and swarming enemy. They spoke of the academic dignity, of the illustrious learning, of the lofty intellectual calibre, of the great leaders of Tractarianism. They scornfully contrasted with these great names the unknown crowd of clergy, fervent but ignorant, who were spreading the new Movement in lanes and slums. They were rash; they were reckless; they were silly. The Movement, once so dignified, was vulgarised." And then he points out how the Movement, in its new surroundings, "might have got out of hand" had it not been saved by the support of Liddon and, as we may now add, of Church."

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