Project Canterbury

S. Augustine's, Canterbury: Its Rise, Ruin, and Restoration.

By G. F. Maclear.

London: Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., 1888.



Awake and give the blind their sight, teach praises to the dumb,
O Mother Church! arise and shine, for lo thy Light is come!
Till all the faithful through the world, God's one-elected host,
Shall welcome the outpouring of a brighter Pentecost:
And there shall be, and thou shalt see, throughout this earthly ball,
One Church, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Lord of all.'
Neale's The Vigil of S. Peter.

IT was a truly representative gathering which met that day in the newly restored chapel. No wonder that in spirited lines John Mason Neale was prompted to describe the scene from the bustle of the first arrivals to the conclusion of the sacred rite. The scene was a striking illustration of the change that was coming over the minds of men.

If fifty years ago any one had said that from a state of comparative lethargy and torpor the English Church would have been raised to her present position, that her Cathedrals would be restored, her ancient Churches in towns and villages reappear in something of their former beauty, her National and Sunday [53/54] Schools be extended to every hamlet, her Guilds, and Sisterhoods be multiplied, her numerous agencies for relieving the sick and the distressed be seen receiving additions from year to year, and her intensive work at home carried on as it never was before; if he had added to this, that the same enlargement would characterise her work abroad, who would have credited his prediction? Men of faith alone dared to look forward and make ventures, and such men were the restorers of the old house of S. Peter, S. Paul, and S. Augustine. They were true sons of the Church of England. [(1) 'A Church which holds entire and uncorrupt the inspired word of God; retains and uses the three Creeds which she has inherited from the earliest times; has in the works of her own famous teachers a rich store of accurate and philosophical divinity; has ever been among the foremost in her witness to the cardinal truths of the Incarnation and Sacrifice of the Son of God.'--Letter of the Bishops of India assembled in Conference at Calcutta, January 1883.]

They believed that as a branch of the Church Catholic she was right when, in the sixteenth century, she chose to retain a form of Church government which had been handed down in unbroken continuity from Apostolic times; that she was right when she asserted her liberty to cast off the accretions of centuries, which had gathered around the Apostolic doctrine and practice, and returned to Primitive and [54/55] Catholic usage; that she was right in deeming herself bound to use, for the benefit of her children, all that art, and music, and painting, and chastened symbolism, could effect, and in treating her sacred edifices 'not as halls for sermons, but as temples for the worship in its various forms of the Almighty;' [(1) See next paragraph] that she was right in proclaiming, on the one hand, her continuity and her connexion with the past, and on the other, her conviction that she had a great mission before her in the years to come, and that the peculiarity of her [55/56] position reserved for her a unique destiny in the future of Christendom. Such ideas were not common when S. Augustine's was restored to be once more a centre of missionary training, and thus to do its first works.

[Footnote (1) above: See Worship in the Church of England, by Mr. Beresford Hope, p. 12. 'The religious revival,' it is remarked in The Guardian, 'had stirred Cambridge, but it touched different points from Oxford, and worked in a different way. There is no trace at Cambridge, as far as we know, of the perilous speculations, and the fierce repression, which went on at Oxford. Mr. Hope was one of a set of men who welcomed with interest and sympathy the new religious movement, but who accepted it among themselves on its practical side. The question which sent the Oxford men to Rome certainly did not disturb University life at Cambridge. The Cambridge men, accepting the great idea of the Catholic Church, set themselves to work out how the outward aspect of English public worship might be made most reasonably and intelligently to correspond to the ideals and the best traditions of the ancient and historic Church. They founded the Camden Society, and the Ecclesiologist, to carry on this study with characteristic breadth and thoroughness. And they took a great and eventful step; for it was the condition, the indispensable condition, of bringing the ideas which had been worked out at Oxford into touch with the popular mind. The work begun by those Cambridge men has changed the whole face of public worship in England; and in this work Mr. Hope, from the first, took a leading part. And he contributed his full share to save it from the dangers which obviously beset it.']

Have these principles been proved wrong? Have these anticipations been unfulfilled? The records of the Church Congress at Wolverhampton--the first of the long series at which Mr. Beresford Hope was not present--in one sense supply the answer. In his Congress sermon the Bishop of Durham gave expression, as it seldom has been given, to the idea of the great destiny which lies before the English Church if she is true to herself, and of the members of the Congress the vast majority showed that they understood and valued the continuity of the English Church in its whole and in its parts, that they were not afraid of retrospective Christianity, and recognised that in the past we are to read the lessons of the present.

(i.) S. Augustine's College is an illustration of these principles. Its early years were a struggling period, trying to the faith and patience of all who loved the College and its objects. But in joy or sorrow, success or disappointment, Edward Coleridge and Beresford Hope were throughout its steadfast and unwavering friends, and would come year after year, often at great sacrifice and inconvenience, to its annual [56/57] commemorations. And they lived to see the College proving its vitality by quickening other and similar institutions for the training of living agents who shall be at once faithful representatives of the English Church and well-instructed 'Ministers of Christ's Word and Sacraments' in far-off lands. When it was restored in 1848, there was in England only one other Missionary Training College in connexion with the Church; that at Islington. It is true that Bishop Middleton had founded Bishop's College in Calcutta for the foundation of a Native ministry as early as 1821. But in England itself the Church Missionary College at Islington was the sole representative of such a place of training, [(1) The Rev. Thomas Scott, Vicar of Aston, was the first who engaged in the work of preparing young men in this country. After that, in 1816, the Rev. Edward Bickersteth had the care of training the students in the present house in Salisbury Square.] the first stone having been laid by Lord Gambier on July 1st, 1826, and the College completed the following year. But since 1848 there have risen the Mission House of S. Boniface, Warminster; of S. Paul, Burgh-le-Marsh; of S. Peter and S. Paul at Dorchester; of S. Stephen at Oxford; and on much the same model have been founded training-places for missionary candidates in India and Africa, in Canada and Newfoundland, in Australia and New Zealand, in Japan and Melanesia.

[58] (ii.) From the walls of S. Augustine's have gone forth something like four hundred men to various parts of the mission field. Of these, Dr. Strachan has been raised to the bishopric of Rangoon; Dr. Bransby Key to that of S. John's, Kaffraria; Dr. Pinkham to that of Saskatchewan and Calgary. Of many others, like Phelps and Taylor in Newfoundland; Lightfoot and Gething at Capetown; Coe, Taylor, Margoschis, and Endle, in India; Mesney and Crossland in Borneo; Partridge in Fredericton; Heard and Josa in Guiana; the Colbecks in Burmah; Bice in Melanesia; it may be said humbly, yet thankfully, that they have proved themselves capable of strenuous, continued, and self-sacrificing labours, as devoted pioneers of the Church of Christ.

(iii.) The intellectual standard attained by the students, as attested by the positions to which many of them have attained abroad, and by the results of the Universities' preliminary examination for holy orders, [(1) Of 100 students who have presented themselves at this examination since 1878, 38 have been placed in the first class, 44 in the second, and 18 in the third.] has at least kept pace with that of other theological colleges. This examination, it is to be remembered, important as it undoubtedly is in supplying an external test of proficiency, takes no account of what the [58/59] candidate has acquired in medicine, music, or the mechanical arts. [(1) The course of study embraces the Holy Scriptures in the original languages, the Septuagint, the evidences of the Christian religion, the standard Divines of the Church of England (Pearson, Butler, &c.), the Prayer Book and Thirty-nine Articles, church and missionary history, elementary Hebrew, the composition of sermons, mathematics, and a medical course of eighteen months at the county hospital. Besides this, there is the study of Oriental languages, to some extent, for such as are intended for the East; while Sunday school teaching, district-visiting, and practical instruction in various branches of manual labour and mechanical arts, form a part of the regular course. There is also a college printing-press, worked by students.]

(iv.) In one important respect the hopes of the founders have not been disappointed. The educating value of the genius loci at S. Augustine's has been strongly felt. The historic associations of the ancient Monastery, the visible evidence of the continuity of the Church of England through thirteen centuries, have told upon those who have gone forth into lands where so much is fresh and new. Once an Abbey, now a College, it is still essentially the same domus, like the Cathedrals of the 'new' foundation. The maintenance of several striking Collegiate customs, inaugurated so happily by Dr. Bailey, the Matriculation service on the eve of Advent Sunday and of Easter Day, the solemnities of Holy Week, the early Easter morning assemblage of the students to sing the [59/60] Easter hymns from the Gateway Tower, the College festivals on S. Augustine's and S. Peter's Days, the solemn Benediction services for outgoing students, the commemoration of deceased students on All Saints' Day, [(1) See next paragraph] have each and all been recalled to mind in distant lands; and the imitation of them has proved that if 'Custom,' to use the words of Lord Bacon, 'is the principal magistrate of man's life,' and 'if the force of Custom, simple and separate be great, the force of [60/61] Custom, copulate and conjoined and collegiate, is far greater.' In this respect the seed which Edward Coleridge and Beresford-Hope helped to sow has not been sown in vain.

[Footnote (1) above: Sometimes at the beautiful altar in the under chapel, dedicated on S. Peter's Day, 1883, as a memorial of Lady Mildred Beresford Hope, and in memory of the first saints and fosterers of the English Church, once buried in S. Augustine's Abbey Church--S. Augustine, S. Ethelbert, S. Bertha, and S. Mildred. The painted windows in the same chapel commemorate the successors of S. Augustine--Laurentius, Mellitus, Justus, Honorius, Deusdedit, Theodore. The new altar is made of oak, and its framing is inlaid with various designs in coloured woods with the following words over the four panels below, EXULTABUNT SANCTI IN GLORIA LAETABUNTUR IN CUBILIBUS SUIS. The panels have in them figures of S. Mildred, S. Æthelbert, S. Augustine, and Queen Bertha, designed by Clayton, and executed in aluminium repoussé on red and green enamel grounds, diapered with gold, and set in niches of yellow bronze. The mensa is of dark fossil Derbyshire marble, and the footpace of Shap granite. The super-altar is of dark Derbyshire marble, and on it stand the altar cross, vases, and candlesticks. The design of the first is partly based on a small cross of ancient workmanship in Mr. Beresford Hope's possession. The new cross is made of bronze and copper gilt, with enamel pictures of the evangelistic symbols at its terminations, and contains a smaller cross of green rock emerald. The cross is supported by a shaft of Derbyshire spar, and by a circular base of bronze. The candlesticks and vases are of a corresponding design and material.]

(v.) But there is another specially encouraging feature connected with the College. Its restoration is a testimony to the fact, which cannot be said of many churches, that God in His Providence at two most diverse epochs has called the sons of the English Church with a distinctness they cannot doubt to the work of missionary enterprise. In the seventh and two following centuries the people of these Isles were called to evangelise not only their own land but the then heathen regions of Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, and Denmark. [(1) See Appendix i.] If anywhere it was proved that those, who owed everything themselves to the preachers of the Cross, recognised the duty of evangelising others, it was amongst our Celtic and Teutonic forefathers. The former were the pioneers. They seemed with a sudden burst of ardour to take the world by storm. They flung themselves on the domain of the barbarous Picts, on the Hebrides and the Orkney Isles; they made their way in their frail boats to the western shores of France; they penetrated the solitude of the Burgundian forests; they traversed the shores of the [61/62] lakes of Switzerland; they braved the dangers of stormy seas in bearing the message of the Gospel to the Faroe Isles, and even to distant and ungenial Iceland. Not less enthusiastic but more practical were the English Missionaries. Wilfrid and Egbert, Willibrord and Winfrid, and many whose names 'live only in the titles of our churches,' went forth and carried out some of the most heroic spiritual ventures, covering central and western Germany with churches and schools, and giving up their lives in many instances to the cause of Continental Missions.

And thus the first call was obeyed. Who would have said, a hundred years ago, that when the call sounded for the second time, and an entirely fresh and untried sphere of labour was opened up to the nations of Europe, men would have been raised up to do the work? The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel had indeed been founded, but on what a slender scale was its work being carried on! How great were the discouragements! How many the disappointments! The important paper which the great Bishop Butler had drawn up some years before on the subject of planting Bishops in America had only just begun to bear fruit, and the year 1784 had witnessed the consecration of the first American Bishop. Since then how much has taken place! [62/63] Bishop Seabury has had sixty-eight successors in the American Episcopate, [(1) See Appendix ii., iii.] and the first Bishop of Nova Scotia, consecrated three years later in 1787, is the first in a long line of seventy-five Bishops in British North America, Australia, New Zealand, India, Africa, the West Indies, and the islands of the Southern Seas. [(2) See Appendix iv.]

(iv.) Since the restoration of the house of S. Augustine to its original purpose, have not names of missionary heroes become heirlooms in the annals of our Church? What similar period can tell of a Robert Gray, the dauntless Bishop of Capetown; of the brave and patient Feild, the Apostle of Newfoundland; of Jacob George Mountain leaving Eton to join the same distant Mission, and dying of fever caught in his ministrations to the sick in their fishermen's huts; of Charles Frederick Mackenzie, the enthusiastic pioneer of the Central African Mission; of Patteson, surrendered by his father willingly to the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, and yielding up his life a true martyr in behalf of the islanders of the Pacific; of Bishop Steere converting the slave-market of Zanzibar into a Christian Church; of Hannington following 'the beckoning Hand' from his Devonshire home to become Bishop of Eastern Equatorial Africa, and to die at Usoga [63/64] at the command of a barbarous chief; of more than thirty young native Christians in that land suffering themselves to be hacked to pieces and roasted over a slow fire rather than apostatise from Christ, while three of them sang as they were slowly tortured:

'Daily, daily, sing the praises
Of the city God hath made?'

Do not these lives, these deaths--and they are but a hundredth part of what might be mentioned--speak to us eloquently from distant lands? Do they not exert a reflex action on work at home, firing it with fresh enthusiasm, inspiring it with more ardent zeal? Men who work like this, and die like this, show forth clearly and vividly the reality of their faith. They prove that it has its roots in something deeper than a mere 'picturesque sensibility;' they teach us to look for the solution of some of our difficulties at home in the hard experience of the Mission Field abroad; they shame us out of our too great readiness to take up with and acquiesce in an average standard of work and mere professional routine.

(vii.) And if the restoration of S. Augustine's thus testifies to the increased interest which has come over our branch of the Church Catholic in respect to its Mission work abroad, does not its early history as the [64/65] most ancient Missionary School in England, remind us that we as little know the full purport of its restoration as its earliest occupants did of the great future which lay before those amongst whom they laboured? What conception, we have already asked, could Augustine and his little band have formed of the results which were to flow from the great venture of faith suggested to him by Gregory the Great, when he bade him go forth and evangelise our island, hidden away in the northern seas? What idea could he and his companions have conceived of the work reserved for the Teutonic races? And similarly, what notion can we form of the future which God is holding in store for the English-speaking peoples?

(viii.) What are two of the most marvellous features of the present age in which we live? Is not one the contraction of the world through the influence of steam and electricity? Is not another the enormous development of the races which speak our language?

(a) 'Science,' it is said, 'has given to the political organism a, new circulation, which is steam, and a new nervous system, which is electricity.' We seem to have reached one of those determining epochs in the history of the world upon which great results depend. What were the fall of the Roman Empire, the establishment of the new races on its ruins, the discovery [65/66] of the art of printing, the resurrection of Greece from her grave on the capture of Constantinople, 'with the New Testament in her hand,' to the ancient, the mediæval, the modern world, that now to us in the present day are the agencies, which have brought and are bringing the nations into closer and still closer relationships with each other. 'What is the meaning,' asks a German writer, 'of the rustling of the wind through the great Æolian harp-strings of the telegraph as it echoes through the earth and under the depths of the ocean? What is the meaning of the moaning and the roaring of the sea as it is lashed by unnumbered paddle-wheels and screws as if it were some beast of burden? What mean those boisterous engines which rush hither and thither not only through Europe, but through the lands of the Pyramids, through various provinces of India, through parts of Southern Africa, and even some portions of Japan? What is all this for? What is its design? Is it to teach us nothing more than that we are hurrying through the world that we may render possible that sudden access of wealth, that enjoyment of life, that swiftness in transit from place to place; in short, the accomplishment of those selfish and earthly desires which past generations cherished in their dreams?' [(1) See Plath on Missions, pp. 95-99.]

[67] Is this all it is intended for? Who are these beings whom the great mixing wheels of commerce and the various methods of modern locomotion are so closely associating? Are they not human beings gifted with immortal souls, on whose spiritual progress depends the hastening or retarding of Christian civilisation? May we not say, that what the roads, the bridges, the aqueducts, the military colonies of the Roman Empire were to the promulgation of the first message of the Gospel, these agencies are intended to be to its promulgation now? May we not trace with even greater clearness in their development in this our day the signs of a determining epoch?

(b) And if one of the most marvellous features of the present age is the contraction of the world through the influence of steam and electricity, and of those

'Thunderless lightnings smiting under seas,'

which can summon back or send forth the herald of the Cross to the remotest regions of the earth, is not another the enormous development of the English-speaking races? The question which must be uppermost in the minds of those who take any interest in Missions is this, Will the evangelization of the world ever be accomplished? Though any reply to this question must be made with great diffidence, yet there [67/68] are some considerations which deserve attention in reference to the subject flowing from this enormous development.

After all the problem which confronts us is the same as that which confronted the members of the early Church. Few then thought it possible that the Roman Empire could be converted, and its consummation was long delayed. [(1) The Bishop of Durham computes that at the time of the conversion of Constantine the proportion of Christians to the whole human race was not more than one hundred and fiftieth of the whole.] But the diffusion of the English-speaking peoples suggests possibilities of great changes. It is computed that the present population of the globe is about 1,400,000,000, of whom 1,000,000,000 are heathens, and 400,000,000 are nominally Christians. 'Yet Mr. Giffen, in the Jubilee volume of the Statistical Society, looks forward to a time, not very remote, when these numbers will be reversed, when at the present rate of progression the Christian populations will be 1,000,000,000, and the heathen will be in a constantly decreasing minority.' [(2) See the National Review for June 1887.] The author again of the History of the English People has remarked, that 'as 200,000,000 of Englishmen fill the valley of the Mississippi, and as 50,000,000 assert their lordship over Australasia,' this diffusion must inevitably [68/69] tell far and wide, and the issues of so vast a development of one race may produce results 'such as not the wildest day-dreamer will dare to dream.'

(ix.) Do not these facts suggest thoughts of singular solemnity? The future of the world depends not on some unknown nations awaiting a second Columbus to discover them, but on ourselves, on the Christian nations of the present day, and especially on the English-speaking peoples so rapidly developing on every side. We know, as men never knew before, that we are 'the reserve of the world,' [(1) Dr. Arnold's Lectures on Modern History.] and that everything, humanly speaking, depends on our fidelity to our trust. 'Ring a bell in England,' said a black lad a short time ago, to his teacher by the Lake Nyanza, in Central Africa; 'ring a bell, and tell the great men of the Universities to send us white teachers, for there are many who have never seen a white man, or heard of God. Tell them not to lose a minute.'

'Tell them not to lose a minute!'

Meanwhile what are we doing? Much, as we have seen, has been done. Much which proves that the extensive and intensive work of the Church ever go hand in hand.

But what is this compared with what remains to be accomplished? On the evangelisation of [69/70] 874,000,000 of heathen and 173,000,000 of Mahomedans the Churches of Europe and America spend but 2,450,000l. a-year, and of this sum who are the real givers? Not the wealthy and the noble, but the middle classes and the poor. A comparative few give to what multitudes of pulpits and parishes entirely ignore, if they do not repudiate. When shall we really awake to a just sense of our opportunities and of our responsibilities?

We know that, in spite of the insignificance of our efforts, God is so merciful that He has granted them more success than we had any right to anticipate--a success to which independent testimony has been borne by men like Lord Lawrence and Sir Bartle Frere, by Sir Richard Temple and Chunder Sen, by Sir Monier Williams and Charles Darwin. Truly has it been said, that if all Churches had been as devoted and as enterprising during the last century and a half as the single community of Christians known as the Moravians, or Unitas Fratrum, who, though numbering little more than 10,000, have sent out upwards of 262 missionaries and won over 57,000 converts, the work would be far more advanced than it is. [(1) See the National Review for June, 1887, p. 552.]

'It is sometimes pleaded,' remarks Canon Liddon, 'that England best does her duty to heathen lands by [70/71] conferring on them the blessings of civilisation, good laws, equal justice, social order, and all those material improvements in human life which European science and industry have so largely multiplied during the present century. Certainly it is not my duty or inclination to depreciate these great advantages, but, unhappily, our civilisation is accompanied by an alloy of evil which we cannot ignore. We cannot forget what has been often the moral meaning of the sale of some British drug among a pagan population, or of the arrival of a British ship's company at a pagan port, or of the enrichment of a British capitalist or company in a pagan district. There is no need for me to lift the veil. All who have looked into the matter must know and must own that England owes to more pagan lands than one not merely that glorious Gospel which is already the birthright of the world, but also some sort of moral reparation for evil which those, who bear her name and who are protected by her flag, have too often carried with them into pagan lands and homes. And how can this debt of justice be better discharged than by teaching our poor creditors to know and love the Son of Righteousness, by assuring them that it was not in obedience to His rule and law, but in despite and defiance of it, that the wrong was done of which they rightly complain, and that He now offers to them [71/72] the truth which has conferred on Western civilisation, which they at once admire and fear, whatever of real strength and excellence there is in it.' [(1) Sermon at S. Paul's Cathedral, Dec. 11, 1887.]

Unless this world is really all, and the world beyond is but a creation of the fancy, we owe it as our duty to Him, who has promised to be with His Church 'all the days,' even to the end of the world, to proclaim His Gospel and spread His Church. He, through the wondrous development of English enterprise and English commerce, is mixing and shaking the mass of human society as it never was mixed and shaken before. He has permitted Australian cities [(2) See next paragraph] to spring up like gourds from the ground, has removed [72/73] the barriers which long sealed up China and Japan, and has disclosed to our view the lakes of Central Africa with the peoples on their shores. He, amidst the ever-recurring changes and chances of this mortal life, assigns the limits to periods of advance and retrogression, to times of stationariness and progress. He raises up and changes His instruments with startling suddenness, and causes hopes to be realised in forms far out of all possible calculation. He, we may say with all reverence, put it into the hearts of two eminent English Churchmen to restore the venerable Abbey of S. Augustine from a state of ruinous desolation, to do its first works as a Missionary College. Edward Coleridge and Beresford Hope sleep, the one in the beautiful churchyard of Mapledurham, the other in his equally picturesque resting-place at Kilndown. But the restoration they effected is a landmark in the history of the Church's progress, a cause of thankfulness as regards the past and of hopefulness as regards the future; so that, in spite of our many shortcomings, we may well 'look up and take courage.' Missions in modern times, as in the mediæval days through which S. Augustine's has passed, have mainly been the work of the Anglo-Saxon race; and, 'speaking as an Englishman,' says Sir William Hunter, 'I declare my conviction that English missionary enterprise is the highest modern [73/74] expansion of the world-wide national life of our race. I regard it as the spiritual complement of England's instinct for Colonial expansion and Imperial rule. And I believe that any falling-off in England's missionary efforts will be a sure sign of swiftly coming national decay.' [(1) Lecture at the Society of Arts, Feb. 24, 1888.]

[Footnote (1) on page 72 above: When that devoted man of God, the Rev. R. Johnson, landed, in 1798, with 800 convicts from our shores and a military guard, and for six years laboured absolutely alone through evil report and good report, till at length he was joined, in 1794, by the Rev. Samuel Marsden, the first pioneer of the Christian Church in New Zealand, could he have foreseen the harvest of which he was sowing the seed? Could he, or Marsden, or Archdeacon Broughton, when he arrived in 1829 and held his first service in a rude hut on the banks of the Yarra Yarra, ever have believed that in less than fifty years from the consecration of the first Bishop of Australia a single diocese would have become thirteen, and that instead of a solitary priest, who volunteered for the thankless duty of caring for the first settlers, and persevered in spite of their contempt for his ministrations, there would be upwards of 575 clergy, while the thickly wooded plain, on which, when he landed, kangaroos were running in vast numbers, there should stand the handsome city of Sydney, with its world-famed harbour and its population of 240,000 souls?]

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