The Author desires to express his sense of the great obligation under which he lies to the REV. T. OUTRAM MARSHALL, Organizing Secretary of the E. C. U., who, amidst much pressure of work, most kindly read through the proof sheets, and offered criticisms and suggestions which have been invaluable in the production of what is believed to be an accurate, if somewhat condensed, History of the E. C. U., and of the chief ecclesiastical events of the last thirty-five years. A debt of gratitude is also due to MR. GEO. W. SAULL, Librarian of the E. C. U., for researches, involving much labour and time, and without which, in particular, it would have been impossible to compile the interesting statistics which are contained in the body of the History, and in the Appendices.
THE following pages are an attempt to give a connected account of the history of the English Church Union, its objects, and its work, since the year 1860, when the Society assumed its existing shape, down to the present date. The utility and interest of such a narrative is obvious. It puts in an available compass information which, apart from such a compilation, it would be difficult and troublesome to obtain, and thus, while it supplies the Members of the Society with a record they will be glad to possess, it enables all who are interested in the history of the great religious revival, which occupies so remarkable a place in the annals of our time, to trace that movement as it has been illustrated by the proceedings of a Society, the object of which has been to perpetuate and develop the principles so eloquently and forcibly put forward by the "Tracts for the Times."
The thanks of Churchmen are due to Mr. Bayfield Roberts for having undertaken such a task, and for having undertaken it at the present moment.
Time and distance are necessary to appreciate the real importance and bearing of events, but time and distance also obliterate the memory of persons and things. No history is apt to be so generally ignored as that of the times immediately preceding our own.
It is the object of the present volume not only to assist in preserving the memory of events which form some of the connecting links between the earlier history of the Oxford Movement and the present time, but also, by providing the materials for a comparison of that past with the actual present, to promote a just estimate of the progress that has been made, and some adequate conception of how much has been accomplished, since Mr. Keble preached his famous Assize sermon from which Cardinal Newman always dated the beginning of the Oxford Movement.
If I am not mistaken, both in regard to the restoration of those externals of worship which are so intimately connected with the Church's doctrinal teaching, and to the vindication of the Church's inherent spiritual rights, which have both been such marked features in the history of these later years, the success that has been allowed to attend the efforts of those who have been engaged in the struggle has far surpassed the most sanguine anticipations which could have been formed by those who took part in its commencement.
At the present day, in regard to one of the issues which more perhaps than any other has given its character to that struggle, it is difficult to recall the time when it was a matter of serious discussion, among educated Churchmen, whether it was not a duty to obey the decisions of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in such spiritual matters as those which touched the doctrine and ritual of the Church. It is indeed difficult to revert to the state of mind when a decision of the Privy Council, in such a matter as the Gorham case, seemed in the eyes of a man like Cardinal Manning to compromise the spiritual character of the Church of England. If ever events have justified the resistance, the account of which occupies so large a place in these pages, it is in the success which has attended the repudiation of the authority of the Privy Council in spiritual matters, and in the opposition to the Public Worship Regulation Act, passed for the purpose of enforcing that authority.
Nor is it only in these two main directions that the efforts of the Union on behalf of the rights of the Church of England have met with so large a measure of success.
The vindication of the rights of the Colonial Episcopate, the restoration of the Church's Synodical action, the revival and recognition of the religious life, the appreciation of all that is involved in the proper use of the order of Divine Service prescribed by the Book of Common Prayer, the restoration of the daily Eucharist, the growth in the practice of Confession, the whole tone and atmosphere informing the devotional life of members of the Church--all this and much more beside indicate the width and depth of the religious revival which is transforming the Church of England; while they justify, in a manner none can dispute, the original impulse given by the Movement, which hails as its three most conspicuous leaders the names of Mr. Keble, Cardinal Newman, and Dr. Pusey.
No one, I think, can contemplate what has been accomplished without feeling how entirely the progress of the whole revival has been due to the overruling of God's good providence, Who has blessed such small beginnings with such mighty results, or without entertaining the hope, as he contemplates the past, that He Who has begun the work will continue, if only those are faithful to whom it has been entrusted, to prosper it to the end. May it please Him to accomplish that end in His own good time, and out of this great revival of Church life to develop such a yearning for the salvation of souls, such a zeal for religion, such a love of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, on all sides, the divisions which keep Christians apart from one another may seem so great a scandal, so unbearable an outrage to that charity which should bind all the members of Christ's Body in one, that in some way known to God, under the inspiration of His Holy Spirit, the barriers which keep men apart may melt away, and there may be once more one fold and one Shepherd.
The reunion of the whole of Christendom is the crown and completion of all true Church principles. May He Who keeps the good wine to the last pour out, upon all those whom He died to save, this His chiefest and best of gifts, the gift of peace, in the acknowledgment of, and submission to, the faith of the One Holy Undivided Church, which He has set up as a standard for the nations, and for the perpetuation of His abiding presence amongst the children of men.