Project Canterbury Edward King
by H.F.B. Mackay
The Archdeacon of Rochester rang the bell. Working in his study after breakfast he had been stung by the splendour of a sudden thought. He told the servant who came to send in Master Edward. In due course Master Edward appeared, and stood looking at his father with a pair of straight, unswerving, very blue eyes, a slim, graceful, rather delicate boy with a luminous look. Scott Holland said that Edward King had just the sort of face you felt a human being ought to have.
"Edward," said the Archdeacon, "I suppose you know your catechism?"
"Oh, yes, father."
"Oh yes, quite well, father."
"I supposed so. Well, my boy, I want you to take out your pony this afternoon, and ride over to Foots Cray. The Archbishop is holding a confirmation there, and we had better take this opportunity of getting you confirmed; you can put up your pony at the rectory, and you will take a card from me to the Rector."
"Oh, all right, father, thank you."
The Archdeacon was a most excellent man, his children were devoted to him, and they all adored their admirable mother; none of the children at Stone Park would have thought of questioning a parental decision. So after luncheon Edward saddled his pony. He was a capital horseman; one of the people in whom the spirit of a horse enters when he gets on his back; to the day of his death he had that instinctive knowledge of a horse which only a few possess. He might have been a great Newmarket trainer.
Behold Edward, therefore, trotting cheerfully through the country lanes towards Foots Cray to be confirmed by Archbishop Howley, who was approaching it more ponderously from Lambeth in his coach and his wig.
The Kings were all going to a dance that evening, but struck, perhaps, by a look in the boy's face at tea-time, his mother said to him, "Edward, would you rather stay at home to-night?" and Edward said, "Yes, please, mother." So they all went off to the ball, and Edward said his prayers and went to bed in the stillness of the empty house.
Look at Edward at he lies asleep. He is destined to stand before the English Church as the typical embodiment of the Good Shepherd.
Lowder showed us that a true Anglo-Catholic movement must have a thirst for souls, and Dolling added that this must bring it into conflict with all the forces which make for oppression and wrong-doing.
Now we come to consider the spirit of this fighting force, and at once we see that if it is to fight the Lord Jesus Christ's battle in the Lord Jesus Christ's way, it must see and love the best in all men.
In this chapter I begin with my moral and illustrate my moral from my tale.
What is the Anglo-Catholic movement out for? If we asked Bishop King he would answer that it is out to preach the Gospel of the Grace of God manifested in the Incarnation of His Son, and coming with the fulness of the blessing of Christ in His Holy Church; or to use Bishop King's simple phrase, "To bring the people of England the blessings of the Church."
Now Cardinal Manning used to say a thing about this work which has always stuck in my mind. He said that all teaching, and therefore this work of ours, is like a game of dominoes; you do it by trying to meet the number the man opposite to you puts down with the same number.
You see, in teaching a man you want to give him something better than his best. You can only do that by starting with him on the basis of his best, you always have to begin by meeting him on common ground and then taking him up a step higher. To do this you must know where to meet him, you must grasp what aspect of goodness is at present appealing to him, and this can only be done by sympathy, by loving what the man loves, and loving him for loving it.
Does that sound complicated? It is the simplest thing in the world. You want to be the Lord Christ's messenger to your neighbour? Very well, to be that, your love must instinctively seize on and love what is lovable in your neighbour.
A truism, you say. If so, the most neglected of all truisms, because, as a matter of fact, the possession of a religious and ethical standard strongly tempts us to think that criticism and not love is our first duty towards those who differ from us.
Incomparably the most grievous sin of Christian is criticism and detraction of others. There is nothing at all which retards the spread of the knowledge and spirit of Christ as that does.
If the natural desire of the minds of Anglo-Catholics was to find beautiful points of agreement with their friends, if they naturally shrank from dwelling on points of difference, if love to their neighbour was natural to them and disagreement with the neighbours, when a moral necessity, a matter which needed the help of supernatural grace, then the whole Anglo-Catholic Movement would be transformed because it would have put on Christ.
Think of our Lord. It was natural to Him to love all men and all things. Form, atmosphere, colour, scent, flowers and children, birds and beasts and fishes, He loved them all and saw in their beauty symbols of all the spiritual beauty which He still discerned in those whom sin and disorder of mind and body had partially wrecked
Such was our Lord's nature, and the same nature inspired his controversy and His condemnations. They were always His defence of love against that which would injure or destroy it.
Now, if the Anglo-Catholic Movement is a true movement of the spirit of Christ, this will be its spirit, it will be eagerly sympathetic and loving towards those to whom it goes.
In the main our English people are believers in God the Father and in our Lord; they are baptized, they hold to the Bible, and they pray. "In all this," said Edward King once, "there is matter for great thankfulness and hope."
Here is our common ground; we must always begin by joyfully uniting ourselves with our neighbours in holding these precious truths. That is what is meant by "Anglo" in the double word Anglo-Catholic. "Anglo" stands for a recognition and love of what is truly Christian in our English religious tradition, that which makes the basis of an appeal for a wider and deeper Catholicism.
Of the six men I am speaking about, three, Lowder, King and Benson, were disciples of Keble and Pusey, and were devout lovers of the English religious tradition. The other three, Dolling, Stanton and Weston, were disciples in some respects of Frederick Robertson, in others of Hurrell Froude, and were painfully sensitive to the defects in the English religious tradition. But they were all six the passionate lovers of Him who has continued to maintain life in the English tradition, our Lord Jesus Christ, and of the sacred Scriptures which point to Him.
We want both these strains in the Anglo-Catholic Movement. At the source they are one, and both are needed for the proclamation of the full truth.
Now let us look at this figure which shows us the love that draws men to Christ: Edward King.
The Oxford verdict of his undergraduate days was "King is a royal fellow." And that is the key-word to such as King. This thing we are looking at now is Royalty in Human Nature. His link with his contemporaries was his love of country pursuits. He was an expert about horses, a good shot and a very keen fisherman, with a great love of natural scenery, animals and flowers. In after life, the interest of the supernatural world so absorbed him that only love of scenery and flowers competed with them. But Lord Yarborough said that when the old Bishop was staying in a country house, as soon as he got into the stables a look of awed veneration crept over the faces of of the hunting men. "Uncommon knowin' old bird, the Bishop, jolly good eye for a gee."
I must in honesty set against these charms the fact that he never missed College Chapel. This resulted in the dear old chestnut about Hawkins. Dr. Hawkins, the terrifying Provost of Oriel, found it is pleasure and duty to snub all undergraduates at collections. Edward King in his turn appeared before the semi-circle of Dons in the senior common room, and the Dean in clear, metallic tones made his report.
"Mr. King has attended every chapel throughout the term, Mr. Provost."
"Remember, Mr. King, that even a too regular attendance at College chapel may degenerate into formalism. Good morning."
King was ordained curate of Wheatley, seven miles from Oxford, wand here the royalty in him which Oxford had recognized shone out at once. Equally at home with nobles and ploughboys, he began with ploughboys. We all love Great Danes and bull terriers, why should we not love ploughboys? King did, and they loved him. He was very delicate in those days, and suffered from his heart a great deal, and the ploughboys used to pull him up the long hill to Cuddesdon.
"The simple carter lads," he wrote, "require to be surrounded with constant flame of love, to save them from the hardness which their life with the animals and the rough men brings on them. Our dear country poor-I feel more suited to them than to others-require to be helped one by one; they are very ignorant, have very little time; work very hard and often with poor food; they require a great deal of loving, watchful sympathy."
People say to me, "The religious condition of the country villages is simple appalling." No it is what Edward King here says it is, and he points us to the remedy. "I never could write to you as if you were a gentleman," one of the Wheatley lads once wrote to King, and that means that he had found the secret of access to their souls. It was love. And what else? Well, near his big chair in the big window of the palace at Lincoln in which the old Bishop used to sit and look down across the terraces of his garden, there always stood two objects: one was an ostrich egg, the great treasure of the blacksmith at Wheatley, which he had given to King as a parting present, the other was a box, a perfectly square, plain, wooden box, the parting present of the carpenter. When King had expressed his pleasure the carpenter beamed with satisfaction. "I knew you would like it," he said, " because it is the same on every side."
I remember that of the Heavenly city it is said that the breadth and the length and the height of it are equal, and I imagine that the carpenter had seen in the character of King a quality to which he had assigned a similar symbol.
After five years at Wheatley, King climbed the long Cuddesdon hill, up which his beloved plough boys had dragged him, and became the first Chaplain and then Principal of the College. Here he did, I suppose, his greatest work of all. he poured his spirit into the future priests of the Movement, for by this time King had gently blossomed into an Anglo-Catholic, making his first confession in time to be able to help others to make theirs. The result was that the young graduates who came with a good deal of misgivings-"They did not unpack for a fortnight," King used to say-found themselves entering, as they afterwards admitted, upon the most delightful life they had ever experienced.
"The penetration of King's love," says one of them, "went home in each case with such direct personal application that the only course was to submit our lives and difficulties, our temptations and sins, our hopes and fears, to one who seemed to know all about them without needing to be told, and so benefit by the guidance for the future of one who had shown himself clairvoyant of the past."
King kept up with people all his life. Just before he died he wrote to one of the little village boys at Wheatley, now seventy-four years of age, "God bless you, dear Charlie, and guide you on to the end which is really the great beginning. Remember me in your prayers as I do you every day. God bless you and all like you."
And two years before this he had written to an old Cuddesdon student, "Thank you so much for your loving words. 'He loved them to the end.' This is our standard. I was seventy-eight two Sundays ago, so you must keep up your love a little longer, and then in Paradise it will, God willing, be like Cuddesdon again."
There are certain things which must be said about King at this point if you are to get a properly proportioned picture of the man who stands as the typical Good Shepherd of the Anglo-Catholic revival.
You always felt that he was a man who was very sever with himself. Behind the love and gaiety there was a touch of austerity, and he could be severe with others if need be. "Those kindly eyes," says Holland, "could shine with a glint of steel, and the level brows, with their bushy eyebrows, could wear a look of sternness."
He was strict with himself, strong with others, and exceedingly intelligent. Dr. Brightman says, "Those who knew him will perhaps think that he was one of the most intellectual persons they had ever known, only as was perhaps the case with St. Anselm, to whom he has been compared, his intelligence was so much a part of his character, so wholly himself, that it might easily escape notice in the simplicity and charm of his personality."
King always lived in beautiful places, Cuddesdon, Oxford, Lincoln, and with delightful people for his intimate circle, but when a hardship came he always accepted it simply as the next thing to be encountered. He had had a presentiment for years that he would die at forty-two. On his forty-second birthday a tramp was seized with smallpox at Cuddesdon, and died quickly. No man would go near the man or the body. King tended him, lifted the poor, terrible body in his arms, laid it in the coffin, and fastened the coffin down and buried it, feeling that perhaps it was to this that the presentiment had pointed; but he was quite untroubled and he took no harm.
Soon after he became Bishop of Lincoln, a young man lay under sentence of death in the prison, and the chaplain broke down. The Bishop took his place, and visited the man daily. He found he knew nothing of religion. He taught him the Faith, confirmed him, and on the morning of the execution gave him his first and last communion. Afterwards the poor lad came and knelt down by the Bishop, who spoke strong words to him and gave him his blessing. Then he went with him to the scaffold and stood by his side when he died.
Some years afterward he had to perform the same office for another poor man. King shared all the reticence of English thought about the Saints and their present relation to us, and in a touchingly humble sentence he writes to a friend that he could not help asking for the prayers of Richard, the first criminal he had helped at his end, to help him with this case, and that he felt it to be God's will that he should.
Between Cuddesdon and Lincoln there was the wonderful stretch of years at Oxford when, as Regius Professor of Pastoral Theology, the undergraduates crowded round him in hundreds. I see him now as he sat in the window of his Christ Church study in his cassock, with the light of an October evening falling on him, talking to me about Oxford life in my freshman term.
"There is, of course," he said, "a godless, disorderly strain up here among the men. You will find them in your college and, if they are the leading set there, it is a serious matter, but remember there is a great deal of good among them. It is all there, dear fellow, it is all there, closed up like a tight bud in early spring, only wanting some sunshine and some rain to unfold into the flower." He was, as Holland says, an undying optimist about all men and all things, and that is why an Oxford man could say, "Whenever I saw him in the pulpit I wanted to be good, and I knew I could be."
But the charm of pure goodness is its lightness and gaiety. King won the wayward by the lightness of his touch and captured hearts by his natural fun. A rather tiresome student who was over-fasting in Holy Week got a little note from the Principal. Dearest man, do eat some breakfast, and some down to the level of your affectionate E. K."
When the present Archbishop of York, Dr. Cosmo Gordon Lang, then the Presbyterian Fellow of All Souls, who we all designated for the woolsack, decided to take orders in the Church of England, he was sent up to Lincoln to be helped and taught by the Bishop. Mr. Lang arrived at the palace in the middle of dinner, during a Retreat before ordination. He was shown in silence to a seat on the Bishop's right, and joined the solemn and silent dinner listening to a holy book read by a chaplain, the Letters, let us say, of St. Theodore of the Studium. Mr. Lang's heart, he tells us, sank. This, he thought, is the atmosphere into which I am plunging. Presently the Bishop caught his eye, and leaning over, said behind his hand, "we ain't so good as we looks." The neophyte's apprehensions vanished.
There came a day when, arraigned by the Church Association, he stood at the bar before the Archbishop of Canterbury on the charge of breaking the law of this Church and realm. His friends noticed afterwards that this had aged him, but his serenity of mind and heart seemed untroubled through all the strain. The practices with which he was charged are now the ordinary practice of what are called Moderate Churchmen.
And yet it may be thought that a life lived in such beautiful places which diffused such love and was surrounded by such love, must have been less deeply marked with the cross than the lives of Lowder and Dolling. That was not the case. King's love for all men and all things did not conceal him from the sins and sorrows of the world; it gave him the most subtle, deep-reaching perception of them.
It was not when He was face to face with Caiaphas or Pilate or the angry mob that our Lord endured the bloody sweat, it was in the moonlit silence of the garden which He loved.
And as we see our dear Bishop of Lincoln, towards the end, sitting in his purple cassock (an old clergyman from the fens had remarked how friendly it had been of his Lordship to receive him in his dressing gown!), when we see him sitting in the evening light in his purple cassock in the big bow window of his study in the old palace, his eyes now resting on the flowers, now following the birds, now gazing wistfully across the smoke-wreathed depths in which his city lay to the hills beyond, we realize that the less tangible a spiritual burden is the more oppressive it can be, and that if one loves this world as King loved it one must always share something of Gethsemane, because it was love grappling in thought with sin which drew the bloody sweat.
No! such as King always live here in via, not yet in patria; that is still to come.
"This world is the place to make friendships," says the Bishop; "it is in the next that we shall really enjoy them"; and with these words he waves to us now one of his radiant good-byes.