CERTAINLY King loved Wheatley; often and often in later life his thoughts went back to his early ministerial days spent there; and he would have been content to stay and work there for the rest of his life. But it was not so ordered.
After four years at Wheatley, in 1858, at the express wish of Bishop Wilberforce, he went as chaplain to Cuddesdon. He was very unwilling to leave Wheatley; in later life he told an intimate friend that he could remember the exact spot on the road between that village and Cuddesdon where, after talking the matter over with the bishop and after he had rather begged (it would appear) to be allowed to stay on in his parish, Wilberforce at last "kicked his horse and rode off, saying, 'Well, I think you ought to go.'"
There had been troubles and anxieties at Cuddesdon. The college had been founded four years before by Bishop Wilberforce at the beginning of his episcopate. The Rev. Alfred Pott (afterwards Archdeacon of Berkshire) was the first Principal, and he was shortly followed by the Rev. H. H. Swinney. The Rev. Henry Parry Liddon was Vice-Principal, and the Rev. Albert Barff (who later on became head of the choir school, St. Paul's Cathedral) was Chaplain. [He died in 1913, Vicar of St. Giles's, Cripplegate, and Prebendary of St. Paul's.]
Soon after the college had been established it became the object of a controversial attack on its teaching and methods. Considerable excitement was aroused throughout the diocese, and the bishop had felt himself obliged to appoint a commission of inquiry, consisting of the three archdeacons. The report of this commission was on the whole favourable to the work and influence of the college; but the archdeacons suggested some small modification of existing arrangements in the interests of peace, .and in order to reassure any who might be anxious in regard to the tone and teaching of the college.
Bishop Wilberforce never wholly trusted Liddon's methods or point of view, and it was thought that King's influence would have a moderating effect. King therefore became chaplain in place of Barff. Within a year, however, Liddon left Cuddesdon to become Vice-Principal of St. Edmund Hall, Oxford, and the Rev. W. H. Davey [Afterwards Dean of Llandaff] took his place at Cuddesdon. In 1863 Swinney died, and Edward King from being chaplain (having stoutly declined to occupy Liddon's place as Vice-Principal in 1859) was made Principal.
These fourteen or fifteen years at Cuddesdon were extraordinarily eventful in regard to King's character and influence. Of a naturally retiring and unassuming disposition, there were those who said of him, "He will never be able to do it." He rose in a wonderful way to the position which he had been called to occupy. He exercised an altogether unique influence over the students; while at the same time, as Vicar of the Parish of Cuddesdon, he won the hearts of the village people.
But the main significance of King's work at Cuddesdon is that he almost entirely revolutionized the methods current in the middle of the last century in regard to the training of the clergy. It is not too much to say that in the 'fifties and 'sixties there was no method in the training of the clergy--because there was no training at all for the great majority of ordinands. They went, for the most part, without any special preparation, from "the cricket-fields and the river to the altars of the Church of God."
Certainly there had been a beginning of better things. Colleges at Wells and Chichester had been founded a few years before, and had done excellent work. The name of Pindar, Principal of Wells, will always be had in grateful remembrance; but neither at Wells nor Chichester was there any collegiate life; the students lived in lodgings, and met only for lectures and chapel. It was at Cuddesdon that an altogether fresh beginning was made. The men were gathered there under one roof, and the idea of a common life was developed. The students were all graduates, and went there for a year or two of special training for the work of the ministry. Now it seems the most natural thing in the world. But in 1854, and for a long time afterwards, it was not so. Theological colleges were objects of suspicion; they were too obviously the outcome of the Trac-tarian Movement. The universities looked askance at them, and exhibited "a one-sided and jealous academical spirit which would make the Faculty of Theology responsible for the education of the clergy." But it is no disparagement to the universities to say that, "apart from some special additional training, they are not entirely suitable places for testing and developing a vocation for the priesthood."
Into what other professions can men enter without some special training? If a man wishes to become efficient in his profession he has to go through the discipline of learning all he can about the work to which he wishes to devote his life. It is, therefore, strange that the ministry could ever have been thought of as the one exception to this rule. You might specialize in all other professions, but somehow or other no special technical knowledge and no special discipline of character was needed for the priesthood. Men were afraid of "narrowing" tendencies. Theological colleges were called "hot-houses," and bishops looked askance at them.
Now what King did more than any one man was, in a very large measure at all events, to show that these prejudices were not really justified. Where so well as in a theological college can a man acquire a knowledge of, and a love for, his sacred profession? A high enthusiasm for the work which lies before him is aroused or stimulated, and he leaves the college after a year or two of special training "determined by God's help to give himself wholly to this one thing," and mentally and morally equipped to begin the work of the ministry.
It is not merely, or chiefly, the intellectual training which has to be thought of, but the moral and spiritual testing and training of character. It is this which is the paramount concern in theological colleges; their work is to deepen and strengthen character, as well as to teach revealed truth. It is to get men "to lay deep and strong in penitence the foundation of their character. It is a place of retirement, where they can fit themselves by discipline and training for the difficult and responsible work of teaching and feeding souls."
It was at Cuddesdon under Edward King that successive generations of men had their character thus deepened and strengthened; they were inspired by high ideals, they learnt to understand and realize the joy of a life really given to God; they found there a veritable home--a home of training and discipline, fitting them for their future work. In the unshackled intercourse of such a life they learnt the meaning of brotherly love. They had their wills braced, their affections purified, their intellects quickened, as in the stillness of the little chapel they pondered again and again the great mysteries of the Catholic Faith. There at Cuddesdon they came to apprehend the "gladness and buoyancy" which ought to characterize the Christian life, as in the freedom of social intercourse with friends and teachers "they that feared the LORD spake often one to another."
For King had the extraordinary gift of personal influence which few, if any, could resist. He knew instinctively how to deal with men. His study-door at the vicarage close by was always open, so that the men might go and see him whenever they liked. "There were no rules in my time," he would say in after years; "these came later, and were an improvement." But the truth is there was no need of rules with King--his rule was a rule of love. He used to have very poor health at this time, and was often compelled to rest a good deal when he was not feeling well. When the men saw he was unfit for work they used to devise means of dissuading him from lecturing--"I'm afraid, dear Principal, you will not be able to lecture to-day because all the men have gone into Oxford."
But no words can describe the affection which was felt for him by those who came under his spell. He had an abundance of sanctified common sense and a great gift of "wisdom." Many young men came to Cuddesdon with a good deal of shrinking and misgiving. "They didn't unpack for a fortnight," King would say in later life. One who became well known in after life, the Rev. C. N. Gray, [Vicar of Helmsley] son of the great Bishop of Capetown, came to Cuddesdon not at all pleased with the Principal for not allowing him to bring a horse I He came up, consequently, not in the best possible mood, and somewhat firmly resolved not to do what Mr. King told him. Soon after his arrival on Saturday night he heard a knock at the door of his little room, and the Principal came in. "O, Mr. Gray," he said--"I came to tell you that there is service in the church at eight o'clock to-morrow morning; but, very likely, you will be tired with your journey--so mind you don't get up till after breakfast; it is better not to do so if you are tired."
Mr. Gray was a young man of iron constitution, and resented the idea of being tired; so he immediately expressed his intention of being in church at eight next morning. In a very short time "Charlie Gray" and the Principal became fast friends and remained so all through their lives.
The life and work of Cuddesdon is well described in the following letter from one who was a student there in Dr. King's time:--r
"Cuddesdon life was felt to be the most delightful life which we had ever experienced. Our numbers were not too large for a sense of family affection and closeness of intercourse. There was a tinge of cloistered retirement, of common spiritual interest, which made it possible, without any sense of presumption or sacrilege, to speak of the longings and aspirations closest to our hearts, and for those to whom spiritual life was a comparatively new thing to be aided by the longer experience of more proficient friends. Example also was most
[Rev. J. E. Swallow, Chaplain to the House of Mercy, Horbury.]
effective. It was impossible to see the effect of careful thanksgiving after Communion, and of regular meditation in chapel, upon the lives, and even the faces, of the devout students, and not be drawn to strive after some share in it.
"But above all these was the influence and the life and instruction of Dr. King. We had never known such sermons, such meditations: it was a new experience to find a good man full of such affectionate interest in our individual spiritual welfare. His lectures on systematic Christian doctrine were a veritable théologie affective, in which the dry bones of dogma were clothed with the sensitive flesh of living, loving devotion, and lit up with the glow of poetic contemplation, often under the guidance of Dante. We were first awed by the consideration of the responsibilities of the preacher, and later inspired with the longing to put in practice the directions which made it seem possible for us to speak for God to souls.
"The student-preacher of a written sermon, twice a week, after Evensong before the college, had the right to dine at the vicarage and receive a detailed criticism after dinner. The extempore preacher, once a week, had a short stroll in the garden, or an interview in the study after Matins. Practical hints on the Visitation of the Sick were enlivened by details of personal experience; and we learnt the possibility of training a devout chronic sufferer to appreciate the ancient offices of the Church. Hooker was illustrated by references to questions of the day, Butler by the application of his principles to what had just happened in the village or the college. The dominant note of all was intelligent sympathy. There was a genuine ring in the 'Dear People' from the pulpit. . . . We felt it most for ourselves; we were most tenderly, yet most unflinchingly, compelled to face our lives before God. Until now we had never understood ourselves. At last the tangle was unravelled by one as familiar, it seemed, with its every twist and turn as if he had himself lived it out along with us. Doctrine, sermon, meditation--each went home with direct personal application until it was plain that our only course was to submit our lives and difficulties, our temptations and sins, our hopes and fears, to one who seemed to know them all without needing to be told, and so benefit by the guidance for the future of one who had shown himself clairvoyant of the past. Qui non ardet, non incendit--we struck out the negatives as we looked up to him; we found them for ourselves. Mundamini qui fertis vasa Domini--we dared not stretch out our hands for consecration, uncleansed with the purification of the sanctuary. The result was that men felt they owed their souls to him."
Cuddesdon brought out all King's gaiety and playfulness. He was absolutely at home with the young men, and they with him. He loved the work and the life, and used to look back upon it with the utmost gratitude and affection.
In January, 1908, the bishop wrote to an old 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 (D.V.) be like Cuddesdon again."
"He had a strong sense of humour," writes Canon Brooke, "which he often employed with very good effect. Many a rebuke (where such was needed) or a piece of unwelcome advice, was given in a way that could not possibly cause pain to the most sensitive nature.
"One Good Friday, I remember, it was reported to the principal that a certain student had taken hardly any nourishment during the previous week. In a few minutes the aforesaid student received the following note: 'Dearest man, eat breakfast, and come down to the lower level of yours, E.K.'
"At another time a student, who was a great sportsman, announced to the Principal his intention of going out to Africa as a missionary, and the answer was--'Wouldn't you like it! You are to go and work in the slums of Bristol.'" [The Treasury, for April, 1910.]
Another old student [Rev. D. Elsdale, Rector of Little Gransden, who was a student at Cuddesdon in 1861, and chaplain from 1861 till 1866] writes:--
"The admiration which the Principal used to express for the spiritual guides of an earlier generation was a lesson to us in 'hero-worship.' Canon Carter, of Clewer, and Mr. Milman of Marlow (afterwards Bishop of Calcutta), were among our devotional lecturers at Ember seasons, for as yet in the sixties Retreats for ordinands were scarcely organized. Another of our spiritual instructors was Father Benson, who was already living a community life in Iffley Road with Father Grafton and Father O'Neill. Of Father Benson, King used to say that it was only his sense of humour which kept him alive! Many of his sayings abide in one's memory, as when on one occasion, after the country labourer had been given the franchise, King said,' We must now learn to work with our people rather than for them.' To me the Parochialia Lectures were the most fruitful of all his utterances, whereas Canon Keymer tells me that he cherishes, above all other influences, the addresses in chapel; and he recalls an address on The Priesthood, after which he said, 'Please lend me your notes;' whereupon the Principal smiled, and handed to him a scrap of paper on which was inscribed the one word, 'IerueV.' [Rev. Nathaniel Keymer, Rector of Headon, 1879-1917; Proctor in Convocation for the Diocese of Southwell, 1904-1916.]
"Canon Keymer adds that one of the most instructive of his actions was the tenderness with which he used to conduct his mother to Church for the daily evensong.
"All who were present on the occasion of the memorable farewell to Cuddesdon in the Palace Gardens on Trinity Tuesday, 1873, will remember the presentation by Vice-Principal Willis of the Principal's portrait to Mrs. King as part of the Cuddesdon farewell gift. It seemed to many of us who were there a most touching comment on his constant teaching of the claims of filial love and devotion when King, after thanking the subscribers on his mother's behalf, left them for a time to go straight home with her as she was beginning to get very tired.
"I applied to a former office-bearer of the college to give me some impressions of his influence, and he sagaciously wrote these three causes:--
"'He was himself an absolutely saintly character.
"'He was, and always acted as, an English gentleman.
"'He sought to be, and generally succeeded in being, fair in judgement.'
"If I may venture to add one feature to this threefold estimate I will specify the reality of his love for all with whom he was brought into regular or casual contact, in spite of incongruities which, we could see, jarred on his sensitive nature, while the ardency of his affections was poured out upon some to whom he was drawn by a divine instinct. This theological virtue of love reminds me of a note in his precious Parochialia Lectures:--
"'The requirements of a good sermon are--Church doctrine, Catholic phraseology, Study of Scripture, and the whole tied together by Love.'
"The deliberate and the unconscious influence of such a person in such a college had manifold results mostly unknown to us till the great day of account. Yet we have known men converted by the HOLY SPIRIT of GOD working through him; we have known his influence lead to the sanctification of many beautiful characters, and we know that it was the revelation to hundreds of us of the incomparable glory of the ministerial life."
This period of King's life was coincident with a development of his own Church standpoint. He had been brought up in good Church principles, as these were commonly understood sixty or seventy years ago; but from Charles Marriott and others in Oxford his convictions became more and more clearly defined, and at Cuddesdon they developed still more.
In the matter of Confession, for example. Liddon had made a great point of it with the students, but when King became principal he had not himself been to Confession; and on one of the men asking him to hear his confession, his reply was, "Wait a little, I must make my own first." And he soon afterwards rode into Oxford and made his first confession to Dr. Pusey. Long years afterwards he told a friend that the doctor (as he called Pusey) had given him the 103rd Psalm for a penance.
Somewhat later, especially at Oxford, he was greatly sought after as a confessor and spiritual adviser. A very large number of undergraduates must have made their first confessions to him between 1873 and 1885.
As a spiritual guide he was extraordinarily gentle and hopeful. His way was always to encourage people as much as possible. He would often say, "You must not let temptation take the heart out of you. You must go bravely and quietly on." After absolution had been given he would always offer up extemporary prayer with wonderful insight and directness of application to the wants of the particular penitent, and then he would give his blessing, ending up with the words of St. Paul in the Epistle to the Romans, praying that God would guide you and strengthen you and uphold you and "give you all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost."
He himself used Confession up to the last; he did not go often, but it was his habit to go at all events two or three times in the year; and his feeling about this matter in later life was, that it would not be amiss if some of the people who use Confession very frequently would go less often; while he wished that many who never go to Confession would do so now and then. His words to one who had known him for many years were: "Don't you think, dear friend, that it would be a good thing if some people did not go quite so often as they do, and if some who do not go at all would go sometimes?"
It was at Cuddesdon that King had a very strong presentiment that he would not live to be older than forty-two, and it so happened that on his forty-second birthday he was called to visit a man stricken down with small-pox, a disease of which there had been some other cases in the village. The man eventually died, and so great was the fear of infection that no one could be found to put him in his coffin. King went, made the necessary arrangements, placed the body in the coffin, and, as he said, "screwed him down," and then went back to the vicarage, feeling sure that his presentiment would come true. Mercifully it was not so; he did not, in fact, catch the disease at all. In after years he was heard sometimes to speak of this occurrence, and to use it as a warning to the young not to be led away, or hampered, or terrified by such presentiments, which are often altogether misleading.
So the fourteen years of his life passed swiftly and happily away in work which was thoroughly congenial to King. As vicar of the parish he was kept in touch with the simple and poor people whom he loved with all his heart and soul; while as Principal of the college he was, as we have seen, consciously or otherwise, transforming current ideas as to the training of the clergy. He went abroad, and visited the more important seminaries in France, and picked up what hints he could. He was English and an English Churchman to the core, so there was never the least danger of his trying to turn Englishmen into foreigners or implanting French ideas on to English minds. What he did was to grasp the fundamental fact that to bring men to Christ you must yourself be living as close to Him as possible; and, therefore, that the training of the clergy meant primarily, as we have seen, the sanctification of the character; and he bent all his efforts towards making a Christ-like clergy. With this end in view he was, as he might have said, audacious in his exercise of personal influence.
The students were taught to aim at sanctifying themselves for the sake of those to whom they hoped one day to minister. They felt that the father of the family at Cuddesdon bore them in his heart, and was giving his best in order to help them to get further away from sin and nearer to God; that he was entirely himself in all this, incapable of pose or unreality or artificiality of any sort; but a man endued with singular gifts of the Holy Ghost--extraordinarily attractive and sympathetic and winning; extraordinarily gentle, and yet amazingly strong and brave.
Six years after he had left the college, King had an opportunity of telling the world what he thought about Cuddesdon and his life there.
A pamphlet had been published in 1879 by the Rev. C. J. Elliott, attacking a book called The Communicant's Manual, to which King had written a preface.
The point of Mr. Elliott's charge was that the book was written for the use of the students at Cuddesdon; and that it was calculated to teach them false opinions about the Real Presence, the Eucharistic Sacrifice, and Confession. In replying, King, while rebutting the charge of heterodoxy, wrote the following beautiful apologia for Cuddesdon:--
"The book which you have made the medium of your attack was never written for Cuddesdon, nor in any sense enjoined for the use of the students; nor can I remember recommending it for their use; but I am grateful for this opportunity of publicly uniting myself once more with a place in which I spent fourteen of the happiest years of my life, receiving kindnesses and blessings which I can never repay; and yet, after all, it was not the place, but the teaching and the life, which made Cuddesdon so dear to us. There we lived in the daily enjoyment of the friendship of English hearts, strengthened, softened, perfected by the full power of the whole Catholic Faith.
"There is no need for me to speak of the Cuddesdon students past or present (in spirit they are all one)--they would not wish it; but, for the sake of the poor, to whom they devote their fortunes and their lives, I cannot keep silence.
"Their lives have been to me, and to many others, an evidence of the truth of Christianity, and of the living power of the English Church--in other words, Cuddesdon has been, and is, one of our best defences against infidelity and Rome. Her students have not sought money or patronage from the world; one thing have they desired--liberty to tell the poor 'the whole counsel of God!'"
Perhaps nothing expresses better what Cuddesdon meant to King than some words he spoke to the old Cuddesdon students who gathered round him some years later in the chapter house of St. Paul's, just after his consecration as Bishop of Lincoln:--
"At Cuddesdon, you know, we never thought of being bishops--we didn't care for rank or position.
"Two things we did care for--
"The possession of the whole counsel of God, and liberty to teach it in every way. We wished to offer up our life and be happy, blessed in ourselves, and with the privilege of giving that blessedness to others.
"This was what made Cuddesdon to be Cuddesdon, and drew us nearer to God and to one another; giving us the peculiar freedom and elasticity which made us so loose and free (though not wild) in head and heart. For our heads rested, bowed down before the full Catholic Faith; and our hearts were surrendered to be disentangled and disciplined, to find their rest when given up to God. ('For our heart is restless till it finds its rest in Thee.') We were brought to love God, and one another in God, in a real and special way, not understood by people unless they themselves knew what it is to be thus free. . . . All grows really clear by taking God for our rest and end, with a sense of the reality of love and need of discipline. It gives a wonderful power of expansion as the love of God and man is proved as a rule of life."