HIGH STREET, | TRINITY STREET,
Oxford | Cambridge
THE design of placing Cuddesdon Theological College, if possible, upon a more permanent footing, and of relieving its Principal of some portion of the serious pecuniary responsibilities of his position, by raising an Endowment Fund, has been entertained, more or less vaguely, for some years. An effort is at length being made on behalf of this desirable object; and it yields an opportunity of offering to the Lord Bishop of Oxford a token of that sincere respect and gratitude which his unwearied devotion to the best interests of religion must command at the hands of English Churchmen.
With this view, the Lord Richard Cavendish, Henry Barnett, Esq., M.P., and the Rev. A. Pott, late Principal of Cuddesdon College, Vicar of Abingdon, and Rural Dean, have consented to act as Honorary Treasurers of the subscriptions which are invited. Payments may be made to the account of "The Wilberforce Endowment Fund for Cuddesdon College," at Messrs. Herries & Co., St. James's Street, London or at Messrs. Parsons & Co., Old Bank, Oxford or to the Rev. Edward Sturges, Great Milton Vicarage, near Tetsworth.
June 18, 1868.
"The Lord God hath given Me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: He wakeneth morning by morning, He wakeneth Mine ear to hear as the learned."
IT would not be difficult to predict the differences which are to be found among commentators, as to the original application of passages like this. A dry criticism, such as that of Grotius, can never hear in these words aught save the Prophet's voice, describing his mission and daily inspirations from heaven. But great Teachers of the Ancient Church, followed herein by thoughtful moderns and by our own translators, refuse to recognize in so sublime an inspiration any thing else or less than the very words of Christ. And that construction of this, and of other passages in the later portion of Isaiah, is, even on principles of criticism which are very far from Patristic, the most natural one. Here, as elsewhere, the personality of the Prophet himself, if it has ever [3/4] mingled in his thought with that of the Speaker in the text, has certainly melted away before that higher Personality, and has thus been practically superseded. Here is an illustrious Teacher of the future Israel, to Whose school the Isles and the people from afar are summoned as listeners. His mouth is like a sharp sword; the Spirit of the Lord rests upon Him, that He may preach good tidings to the meek and bind up the broken-hearted, and give to them that mourn in Zion beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. This Elect Teacher, in Whom the soul of the Lord delighteth, will not fail or be discouraged till He have set judgment in the Earth All this, and much else to the like purpose, points to an Ideal higher than any which could be realized by the greatest prophets of the old Theocracy. The relation of each of these prophets, of Isaiah himself, to the Ideal Teacher, was only that of typical and partial anticipation. They had a limited, He an unlimited inspiration: they had a restricted sphere of action, He was to act throughout all races and all time: they were the instructors of the ancient people of God, He was to be the Doctor of doctors, the Teacher of Humanity. If it was true, in a sense, of Isaiah, that the Lord God had given him the tongue of the learned, that is, the power of instruction, that he should speak, across the intervening centuries, a word of seasonable com fort to the captives in Babylon; if, morning by morning, the Prophet's ear was wakened from on high to receive some new disclosure of the mind and [4/5] heart of God, yearning with a love and Mercy which Justice had not eclipsed over the actual and the predestined sufferings of His Israel; this is but a foreshadowing in earlier time of the Ministry of the Prophet of Prophets; in Whom dwelt all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; Whom to have seen was to have seen, in His perfect Counterpart, the Everlasting Father; Who could open wide His Arms to the whole human Family, and bid men come unto Him, weary and heavy laden as they were, since He would give them rest.
It is indeed pre-eminently true of the ministry of our Lord, that while His Human Ear was ever wakened to hear as the learned, His instructions were generally directed, not to stimulate the intellect, but to solace the woes of man. His teaching indeed contained within its compass the final and authoritative solution of the chief problems that can engage and embarrass human thought. But the form of His Teaching was popular as distinct from scientific, concrete rather than abstract, religious and not philosophical. It was addressed to the wounded heart rather than to the anxious intelligence of man. Sin, actual and inherited, had made man weary of a burden which he could not bear, and in view of which life and death were alike unwelcome. And Christ, our Lord, throughout His ministerial Life, was the speaker of a word in season, whereby He not only gave light to them that sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, but actually guided the feet of humanity into the true way of peace.
Like His Regal and Priestly Offices, our Lord's [5/6] Prophetical Office is in a measure delegated to His Ministers. Since the day of Pentecost, it has been permanently put into commission. As the celebration of the Eucharist is only and really an act of Christ's Priesthood, and the administration of discipline in the Church, only and really an act of Christ's Royal Authority, so is the perpetual communication of Christian doctrine a continued exercise of His prophetical power. But herein He is Himself His own Doctrine and His own Message; and the word in season which the weary need is what He is, and what He has done and suffered, no less than what He has said. We, His Ministers, do not merely echo and expand the Sermon on the Mount; we preach the Person and the work of the Preacher. For Christ our Lord is the Object as well as the Author of Christian Doctrine; and His best word of consolation to human hearts is the announcement of Himself.
The prophetical office then lives on, although its message is stereotyped for all time since the appearance of the Redeemer. This is the real gift of the tongue of the learned. It is given from on high. It is given, les with a view to intellectual gain, than with a view to spiritual relief. This is ever the double character of Christian, as distinguished from secular or pagan learning; it is acknowledged to have been given from above, and it is cultivated, not chiefly for the sake of doing so, not even chiefly for the personal advancement of the student, but for the relief of the ignorant, the erring, the suffering, the poor. The heavenly origin of the message and the disinterested philanthropy of its promulgation mark off the prophetic office of the Church from [6/7] all human teacherships. And as the tongue of the learned is given still from heaven, and the word in season is still spoken to the weary; so still, as of old, morning by morning, in the Church of God, the ears of Christ's ambassadors are wakened to listen, if perchance they may hear it, to new applications of His one, once-for-all given message of mercy, or of new and, by them, unsuspected treasures contained within the vast storehouse of His healing Truth.
And if on such a matter an opinion may be ventured, it might seem that Holy Scripture contains few passages which furnish so appropriate a motto to be graven over the gate-way of a Theological College as is the text before us. For in preparing for orders, it is the prophetical, rather than the other aspects of the ministry, to which, of necessity, most attention is directed. A theological college endeavours, so far as human agency can do this, to give the tongue of the learned, the power of spiritual instruction, to the future ambassadors of Christ. It proffers this gift, not for the self-satisfaction of the students, but in the interests of souls. It aims not merely at the intellectual bettering of the clergy, but at the spiritual solace and strength of their future flocks. It would fain teach them to listen, morning by morning, for the Divine Voice, explaining, deepening, fertilizing within them the truth which is thus committed to their guardianship.
I. The first function of a Theological College is obviously to teach Theology. Of late years the paradox has been advanced that, properly speaking, there is no such thing as Christian theology to [7/8] teach. Christ, our Lord, it is broadly asserted, was a teacher, not in any sense of theology, but only of religion. Theology is described as an after-growth; it is said to be the product of an age of reflection, or of an age of controversy, when philosophy had really taken possession of the rudder of the Church's life, and was shaping the fresh utterances of living Christian feeling into truant compliances with its own rigid intellectual forms.
This theory is so entirely at issue with fact, that it would be undeserving of notice if it were not very acceptable, or indeed little less than intellectually necessary to a powerful school of thought, partly within and partly without the Church at the present day. For what can be less true than this assertion in its relation to our Lord's Teaching? I say nothing for the moment as to that of His Apostles, St. Paul or St. John. Where, in the whole of Holy Scripture, is the doctrine of the Divine Providence affirmed with greater explicitness and detail than in the Sermon on the Mount What other portion of the New Testament enables us to say, with such certainty as does our Lord's last discourse, that the Holy Spirit is not only Divine, but a distinct Subsistence or Person in the Godhead Who does not see that our Lord's whole teaching is saturated with theology? that His Parables (it may suffice to mention the Prodigal Son) are peculiarly theological, as revealing new features of the Divine Character, new truths about the range, of the Divine attributes? that if we follow His popular conversations, such as that with the woman of Samaria, we find ourselves listening to theological statements touching, for [8/9] example, His own omniscience , or the immateriality of the Divine Essence; that appeals to the heart and conscience of man so simple as, "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest," can only become practical forces acting upon and changing deep currents of human life, when grave questions like, "Who dares to invite us thus?" and "How will He give us rest in our life-long weariness?" have been asked and answered; and that the only satisfactory answer to these questions must be purely and profoundly theological?
The truth is that Religion and Theology are in separable. We are bound to God in the secret recesses of our spiritual being, by the truths about God, of which we are certain. If no such truths exist, then there is no possible basis for any such thing as religion at all. If such truths do exist, then it is of vital importance to the strength and earnestness of religion, that they should be exactly ascertained and stated. Therefore, proportioned to the strength of the religious tie must be the intellectual anxiety respecting the facts which warrant it. What are these facts? upon what do they rest? where is their real frontier? what do they exclude and contradict? what do they imply, and sanction, and necessitate? These questions are not the cumbrous weapons of a stupid scholasticism, which would fain imprison a heavenly poetry within the bars and bands of its graceless syllogisms: they are the irrepressible voice of the human spirit, face to face with the awful, the absorbing problem of its destiny, and refusing to be [9/10] satisfied with sentiments when it craves for truths. The conception of an untheological religion is one of those desperate shifts to which men are driven when they have lost all vital, intellectual hold upon the bone and substance of the Faith, while yet they shrink, for a variety of reasons which I forbear to analyze, from breaking with the many associations which have still more or less power over their imaginations and their hearts. It is contrary to experience to suppose that human beings will knowingly either live in the contemplation of, or die out of devotion to any shadows, however beautiful; and if the truths which are the life of religious feeling and action are to stand the wear and tear, the perpetual cross-questioning, the play of hostility, of curiosity, of apprehension, of hope, necessarily and incessantly directed upon them, some science of theology is, from the nature of the case, not other than inevitable.
Enough however respecting a paradox, which will only be referred to in another generation as a quaint curiosity of our own. It may indeed be truly said that the most accurate theology without vital religion is of little worth; and this position is one of which, as will presently be shown, a theological college cannot afford to be unmindful. But at least the proper business of an institution such as this is not based upon a gigantic misconception. A theology is the correlative of a real revelation. There is such a science as Christian theology. And it is the task of a theological college to teach it.
And, doubtless, such a college should teach theology in that narrower but profound sense which the word bore in the ancient world, and which it is always healthful and stimulating to recall. The [10/11] Pagan Greeks reserved the august title of "Theologian" for those devout bards of a remote antiquity who, as Orpheus, Hesiod, Homer, had not conceived of the genesis of the universe without reference to that of the gods, and who thus were distinguished from the physiologists, such as Thales and Anaximander and others, since these were occupied with theories respecting the organization and combination of matter, without any reference to the Divinity. With Aristotle, theological philosophy means what we should, now-a-days, call the science of the absolute, or that department of metaphysics which deals with the primal and most abstract principles; and here we see the word already well-nigh prepared for its future Christian use. Some of the early Christian writers indeed, such as St. Justin and Tatian, termed the science of Christian Faith simply philosophy. They meant that the Christian Faith was the truest wisdom for man; they hinted, more over, indirectly that the Christian teachers could take rank side by side with the greatest sages of the ancient world. But the word philosophy was not really fitted to do this work. It was too inextricably intertwined in that age with Pagan associations; and it further suggested a process of perpetual inquiry, as distinct from the study and exhibition of a fixed, ascertained, absolute truth. Accordingly, in other writers of the second and early part of the third century, we find the "God-taught wisdom" (sofia qeodidaktoV) frequently contrasted with the philosophy of paganism; and this expression almost leads us up to the briefer word theology. As the employment of the word by Aristotle had suggested, theology meant in the first days of its Christian use only that [11/12] part of the Christian doctrine which treats of the Being and Attributes of God. In such writers as St. Athanasius or St. Gregory of Nazianzum, theology "stands for an explanation of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity; their common expressions, theologizing the Son, theologizing the Holy Spirit, are condensed terms for stating that each of these Divine Persons is truly God. Thus St. John the Evangelist was commonly termed the Theologian, because he so emphatically asserts the Divinity of our Lord: and the "theology" was in this sense opposed to the "economy," that is to say, to the gracious Dispensation whereby God took His place as never before among the things of time and sense through the Incarnation of the Eternal Son, and to the various results of that stupendous mystery, as seen in the powers and organization of the Church or in Christian history. In St. Augustine we find the word "theology" used in the wider modern signification , as practically inclusive of all Christian doctrine; although he, too, sometimes restricts it to that portion of Revelation which directly concerns the Essence of God. [De Trin. xiv. 1. De Civ. Dei viii. 1.] In the middle ages, the sense which it bears among ourselves had already become general. [Cf. Wetzer u. Welte, Dict. Encycl. art. 'Theologie,' by Mattes.]
This is not a mere point in the history of language, or a matter only of antiquarian learning. It may serve to remind us that an institution like Cuddesdon College is by the very name which it bears especially devoted to teaching theology in the sense of the science of the Supreme Being. To amass, to examine, to analyze, to exhibit in its collective force [12/13] and in detail, that body of truth respecting the Being of beings, of which, through the Christian Revelation, superadded to the activities of conscience and. natural observation, mankind is in possession;--this unrivalled, this sublime occupation is the proper central intellectual work of a Theological College. To that work all else is subordinate, all else is accessory, all else ministers. Dogma, history, evidences, morals, language criticism, fathers, councils, commentators, liturgiology are but varied means of approaching 0 (dare I say it?) investigating God: all lead up to Him, or lead down front Him, or circle round Him, or at any rate base their sole claim to interest on the reality of His life. In all department of theology, God is the real object of study. His truth, His guidance of His people, the proof that He has really spoken, the moral law of His Being, His written word, whether expounded by the masters of Christian doctrine, whose words are heard with respect and deference in all the Catholic Churches now as in days when all were visibly one, or as explained by an accurate analysis of language, the traditional laws and language of the service which expresses Christian devotion to Him--all this centres in or radiates from Him; from His Life and Presence, from His awfulness and His love, all draws the secret of its undying interest. But what He Himself is in the inner law of His ever lasting Being, what He is in His general relation to His creatures, so far as He has made these things known, is properly the subject of theology.
Inextricably bound up with the study of this Theology proper, is the study of what the ancients call the Economy. There are familiar words in our [13/14] Communion Service, to which in past days the author of the Christian Year used to point as summarizing our Christian faith on this head with an exhaustive clearness. "Above all things ye must give most humble and hearty thanks to God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, for the Redemption of the world by the death and passion of our Saviour Christ, both God and man, Who did humble Himself even to the death upon the cross for us miserable sinners, who lay in darkness and in the shadow of death, that He might make us the children of God and exalt us to everlasting life." The Holy Trinity, the terms of the Incarnation, the Redemptive object of the Passion, man's condition after the fall, the filial dignity of his regenerate life, the exaltation of his life in glory here after;--it is a summary of God's love in the gift of His Blessed Son. It suggests that the Christian teacher of the Science of God must add to it the science of Man, as Man actually is. If the word in season is to be spoken with effect to him that is weary, it is necessary to discover and to state the deep secret of this permanent weariness. The loss of the supernatural robe of grace in Eden, the resulting dimness of man's intelligence and the weakness of his will; the inheritance of guilt attaching, in the eyes of Divine Justice, to humanity considered as an organic whole; the pervading taint and the wrongful acts which disfigure man's personal and social life; in short, modern human nature must be studied, ere we can appreciate and duly set forth the Divine Medicine which is to heal its wounds. "With the Bible and Shakespeare," it has been said, "a man may [14/15] consider that he has all that is necessary for an effective ministry." This is a rude and inaccurate statement of a substantial truth, of the truth that God and man are the two terms of any practical theology. Human character in its broad, common features, and in its individual peculiarities, is well worth the closest, the severest observation; and to stimulate this observation, to train the eye in taking note of all that reveals the soul within, is an indispensable part of an adequate clerical training. Much, doubt less, can only be learnt by actual intercourse with other men. Much, too, may certainly be leant from books and from the experience of those who have lived longer than we, and who hand on to us some thing of the accumulated wisdom of the centuries behind them. But however we may study him, man, on his ethical as well as on his mental side; man, in his strength as well as in his weakness; man, in his phases of bitterest hostility to God, as well as in his saintliest moods of conformity to God's word and will; man, at the dull, stupid level of his average action, as well as in his most exceptional and heroic efforts, is a study only less important for our purpose than is God Himself. For it is when human nature is seen in its manysidedness, in its greatness, in its littleness, that the word in season, God's Revelation of Himself in the Life and Death of His Blessed Son, can be spoken to some serious purpose. Our ministry is not the random proclamation of a scientific discovery, involving nothing but an intellectual interest; but the careful adaptation of a Divine Remedy to the wants of a patient, whose case and symptoms we have accurately considered. To show that in Jesus [15/16] Christ, Incarnate, Crucified, Interceding, given to us in Sacraments, presented by us again and again to the Father, there is grace which can more than cure all human woes;--this is the proper business of men who have, in the Evangelical sense, to speak a word in season to wearied humanity. [Rom. v.20. Col. iii. 11. 1 Cor. 1. 30.]
II. But if a man is to set about this work with any prospect of success, he must be something more than a teacher of theology and a lecturer on human nature. The most accurate knowledge will be powerless unless the speaker be himself of a certain spiritual type which, in the instinctive judgment of those whom he addresses, gives him a moral, as well as an official right to speak. Hence, the work of a Theological College is to mould character as well as to teach truth; nor is this formative duty by any means the least important sphere of its activity.
(a) First of all, such a college as this has to set many of those who come to it seriously thinking on the great primary questions of life and death. Many a man enters here, with good dispositions, with a purpose to serve God in the Sacred Ministry, entertained, it may be, since childhood, yet with all that light-heartedness of temper and that hazy perception of the stern lines of truth which are natural at twenty-two. [St. John xxi. 18.] He is in the position of the sons of Zebedee; he wishes to sit on the right hand or on the left; he knows not what he asks. [St. Mark x. 37.] It is then the duty of a college like this to unveil to him the cup of which Christ once drank, and the baptism with which Christ was baptized, gently, considerately, yet sincerely. This, I say, is the part of a young man's true and best friend, who looks far ahead, even beyond the horizon of time. When a candidate for orders enters these walls, Christ our Lord seems, if I dare so speak, to overtake him as He once joined the disciples on the Emmaus road, and to get him to think steadily on truths which as yet he only holds in solution. What does he mean by taking orders? Why does he choose this rather than any other walk in life? Has he any real purpose deeper and stronger than his ordinary resolves? Is he in tending to follow a respectable profession, or has he, in his secret soul, given himself to God? Unless and until such an act of sincere self-dedication is made, the whole teaching and life of this place ought to seem to him an unintelligible riddle. For it pre supposes nothing less than this hearty devotion in those who come here. When this self-dedication has once been made, all falls into its place. God is seen to be the one Being for Whom life is really worth living, and a life which consistently points to God is simply the common-sense of the situation.
(b) And when this first indispensable and radical revolution has triumphed within the soul, it will be naturally followed up by an endeavour to cultivate all those great features of moral character which legitimately result from it. It is a noteworthy feature of our day that minds which are fanatically hostile to the claims of dogmatic truth, and to the orderly beauty and majesty of sacramental worship, are often keenly alive to the strong attractions of a lofty morality. What, for instance, has been the secret of the great popularity of such a book as "Ecce Homo"? Not the critical acumen of the writer: he would seem to think cheaply of criticism; he [17/18] certainly pays little deference to it. Nor yet any great biographical power: he does not even attempt to present the events of our Lord's Life in an orderly sequence. Still less depth or accuracy of doctrinal statement; he discards doctrine upon principle, and he sins most grievously against some of its elementary requirements. Nor does his work appeal particularly to the devotional or spiritual instincts of the soul; his concern is with social and political truth, rather than with such truth as belongs to the personal life of individual men. Wherein, then, is the source of his power? It lies, I believe, in the writer's evident and enthusiastic devotion to a certain section of moral truth. Not of all moral truth: little or nothing is said by him about our duties towards God. But of that portion of morality which applies to the relations between man and man, as it is presented to us in the Gospels, the writer has, if a somewhat imperfect and distorted conception, yet, beyond doubt, a most enthusiastic admiration. And this admiration, based though it be upon a very limited apprehension of what Our Lord's moral teaching really was, has yet enabled him to produce a work which certainly has riveted the admiration of some minds of the very highest order, and of large masses among our most thoughtful countrymen.
Have we not in this fact material at once for warning and for guidance? It may be, it is true, that the clergy of the Church of England, during the last century, at times taught little else but a dry morality. But the reaction against that disastrous state of things, inaugurated by the Evangelical, and completed by the later Catholic movement, has [18/19] not altogether escaped the danger of forgetting the sacred claims of an accurate morality. In its eagerness to re-assert the great truths of the Atonement and Justification through Christ, the Evangelical movement did not, at least in its better phases, depreciate morality; but it made no real provision for its practical culture. In its vindication of the real efficacy which belongs to Our Lord's Spiritual presence in the Church and to His action through the Sacraments, the Catholic movement was most powerfully aiding morality, by pointing to the real creative sources of high moral effort in the soul of man. But we have been perhaps in some cases, too intent upon proving the reality of the assistance which is given us in these great means of grace, to do full justice to the purposes for which they have been given. At any rate, it is ever well to be reminded, however awkwardly or one-sidedly, of a forgotten or depreciated element of truth; and it is plain that the English people, just now, believe that enough attention has not been bestowed by their teachers on what are called, in the Collect, "the fruits of good living." But this attention must begin with practical self-discipline on the part of the clergy, if it is to be effectual. It is some thing to learn the full glory and the exigency even of the natural virtues, of justice, of courage, of temperance, of truthfulness, as occasions arise for putting them in practice. Yet more needful is it to take lessons (if I may so speak) in the virtues which do not belong to nature because they transcend it, in self-forgetting love, and in uniform brightness and joy of heart and soul, and in true inward peace amid troubles and distractions, [19/20] and in longsuffering when there is much to provoke. [Gal. v. 22.] And surely this is a very proper part of the business of a theological college. Unless all are bent upon self-improvement in the highest sense, nothing of course can be done on a considerable scale; but this generous love of moral truth in action is not more than might reasonably be expected in each of those who are looking forward to the highest service of the Perfect Moral Being, while it should pervade the very atmosphere of the home in which they are preparing for their future work.
There are, indeed, two forms of moral excellence which seem to be especially necessary to a clerical order. It has been said by one of the opponents of Christianity, that a clergy, left to itself, is sure to ruin itself in time, partly through its general lust of promotion, and partly through its self-indulgence. This prediction may warn us especially to cultivate self-denying activity and disinterestedness. [2 Tim. ii. 3. Phil. ii. 20, 21.] Such things do not come at once, as a matter of course, or in virtue of a general disposition to do right. But self-denying activity can be cultivated up to a point, at which to be occupied in something that shall help the cause of truth and goodness becomes a second nature; and disinterestedness may be trained into an instinct, which shrinks with unfeigned distress from the shame and degradation of conscious self-seeking in holy things. And who does not see that these virtues, even, if per impossibile, they could be isolated in the character, are the elements and instruments of nothing less than a great moral power, on account of the contrast which they present to the ordinary [20/21] tenour of men's lives? Who does not see that these are the virtues of the Christian clergy of which, with pathetic sincerity, Gibbon complains, in a well-known passage, as having secured the success of the Gospel? Who does not perceive that men, who are thus engaged in the serious personal culture of moral truth, are alone able to understand it sufficiently to teach it in its fulness to their fellow-men, and moreover that in the long run they will alone be allowed to do so?
(G) But there is a deeper work even than this which a theological college must attempt. I mean the systematic cultivation of piety, the strenuous devotion of the soul's purest and strongest affections to God. This work, if less obviously on the surface of such an institution than theological and pastoral instruction, is really much more vital. It pre supposes of course in every student, a simple and strong desire to live for God. This unfortunately, cannot always be taken for granted, but it must always be laboured and prayed for with incessant energy. Where nothing of the kind exists, all prayer will appear to be more or less unreal and distasteful. But a theological college cannot afford to regulate its standard by the needs of those who are wanting in its fundamental requirements. And that devotion should be taught and recommended upon system in such a college, is a point which needs insisting on. Partly from our habitual national reserve, and partly from our dread of all unreality and cant in religious matters, it is usual even for religious Englishmen to avoid any reference whatever to their private spiritual life. The feeling is, that you would just as soon refer to a man's income, or to [21/22] the character of his near relations, as to his daily prayers; it is, as we say, a strictly personal matter between each man and God; and any attempt to mould or guide it--I had almost said, any allusion to its existence--is held to be of the nature of a social impertinence.
It is impossible not to sympathize with the sincerity which seeks to protect itself against exaggeration and imposture; and yet the general result, in the case before us, must be admitted to be nothing less than disastrous. What can be less Eke the spirit of the early Churches which met in the upper chambers of Jerusalem or in the catacombs of Rome, than this frigid isolation of modern souls, who yet have been redeemed by Christ's Blood, and illuminated and warmed by His Spirit? What can be more in contradiction with the rule of pious Israelites in the days of the prophets, when they who "feared the Lord spake often one to another What can be more obviously at issue with the natural and direct instincts of Christians really possessed with the love of God? Too often, indeed, this reserve is but a screen which is thrown up to hide from a brother's eye what is really a spiritual ruin; but in any case, at a theological college, it ought, if possible, to be breached. If men who are preparing to lead their brother-men to an eternity of communion with God cannot venture to discuss and to study the practical aspects of rudimentary devotion here, it is difficult to see how they are, twelve months hence, to recommend devotion to their flocks, with any such accent of [22/23] authority as that which is based on a true personal experience.
Is it too much to say, that, upon entering a theological college, a man would naturally set about the gradual reconstruction of his whole life of prayer? Probably his spiritual life at school and college has by no means kept pace with his intellectual life. The circle of secular interests, the horizon of secular thought, has gone on steadily widening, while the spiritual range of action is as contracted as it was eight or ten years ago. Now a theological college affords opportunities for recovering this lost ground. The old morning and evening prayers, used in private since childhood, will be best retained. But they will be enlarged, supplemented, paraphrased, overlaid. Like the old Norman columns in the nave of Winchester Cathedral, encrusted by the genius of a Wickham, the prayers of boyhood will be preserved hut overbuilt with much which the soul has found appropriate and needful since those few simple words were first breathed heavenward. Moreover, new habits and times of prayer will be carefully, thoughtfully, deliberately adopted. Especially at a theological college will a man make preparation for two in dispensable features of every real ministerial life, first, some kind of systematic meditation upon Christian truth and, secondly, that daily use of the Morning and Evening Service, whether in private or in public, to which the conscience of the clergy is bound by the plain law of the Church of England. [And all Priests and Deacons are to say daily the Morning and Evening Prayer either privately, or openly, not being let by sickness, or some other urgent cause."--Concerning the Service of the Church.] [23/24] To this must be added that solemn department of Christian devotion which Centres in the celebration and reception of the Holy Communion. Some attempt too, will be made to discharge, however imperfectly, the complex duty of intercession for others, according to their several wants and claims, which forms so large a feature in the life of those who have the cure of souls. In fine, it will be seen that devotion is a vast subject, with experiences, difficulties, hopes, enthusiasms, failures, triumphs, all its own; and that nothing can be more in keeping with the objects of a college such as this, than an attempt to deal with it systematically. For, of a truth, both the moral rectification of the soul, and its devotional culture, are essential to that wakening of the ear of which the prophet speaks, morning by morning, with an ever-increasing sensitiveness to the majesty and to the claims of truth. And for such work as this, diocesan colleges present advantages which cannot be rivalled elsewhere.
III. To suppose that the true work of such a college as Cuddesdon, can be effectively discharged by the Universities, is either to idealize the University-system as we of this generation have known it when taken at its best, or it is to underrate the essential conditions of any serious preparation for Holy Orders. Certainly, in respect of the mere apparatus of intellectual work, the Universities must be held to distance the efforts of any diocesan or provincial institutions. Libraries which have been [24/25] accumulated during centuries, and professors, who are, presumably in all cases, and actually in most, representatives of the highest theological know ledge in the country, must of necessity prod lectures with which no private enterprise can presume to enter into direct competition. But, how ever this may be, it is certain that the University training for Orders addresses itself simply, and in the most business-like way, to the intellect. It does not touch the soul. It does not attempt to make provision for the development either of great moral features in the character, or of devotional tenderness and force in the affections and the will. The consequence is, that, even as to theology, it can only secure a speculative interest, that is to say, an interest, feebler and distinct in kind from that which is felt by men who have really devoted their whole mental and moral substance to the service of God. More over, the temper of our Universities is, as a rule, some what jealous of private personal influence; and no machinery of chapel services and of social discipline can of itself do the work of living hearts and wills, fired and braced by the love of God. When then, by its various devotional resources, by the familiar and open intercourse which subsists between its teachers and its pupils, and by the sincere effort, more or less general, of all who belong to it, to compass moral and spiritual improvement, a theological college endeavours to brace the will and to spiritualize the affections as well as to inform the understanding, it is occupying ground all its own, and ground from which, except by its own remissness or fainthearted ness, it cannot be dislodged.
Nor can. it he other than obvious to those who [25/26] have the interests of the Church at heart, that in all probability Theological Colleges are destined, at no distant period, to act upon her mind much more powerfully than has hitherto been the case. Ten or fifteen years ago it might have been supposed that a recent University Commission, whatever else it might or might not have done, had, at least for the next two or three generations, secured the administration and government of our ancient seats of learning to members, although not to the clergy, of the English Church. But within the last two years it has become painfully evident that the most powerful party in the State is, as a whole, bent on utterly destroying the Church's position at Oxford and Cambridge. Unless matters take a turn, upon which it would be over-sanguine to reckon with any thing like confidence, we may shortly expect to see the greater part both of Professorships and of the lay fellowships in our two Universities placed at the disposal of persons who professedly reject the claims of Christianity to be a revelation from God. It is indeed probable that for some time to come, men in communion with the Church will actually occupy the larger number of important academical posts. But they will have no right in virtue of their position to assume or teach the Church's creed, as a thing of course, when dealing with their pupils; while it will be perfectly open to any public instructors, who think fit to do so, to discuss either history or moral philosophy on an avowedly atheistic basis. In such a state of things, the only escape from bitter controversy among senior residents will lie in the direction of an organized indifference to religious truth. It is not difficult to predict that the present [26/27] agitation, if successful, must logically be followed by another, having for its object the general suppression of clerical fellowships and of chapel services, as the last relics of what is strangely termed Church ascendancy. This done, that entire severance between the University and religion which, as has lately been proclaimed, is the aim of the most advanced section of anti-religious opinion, will have been completed; and Oxford will have ceased, both as a corporation, and as represented by the several societies which find shelter within it, to yield any public homage or honour to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
But before this point has been reached, will the University be any longer fitted even for that general preparatory training which should precede the serious study of theology in candidates for Holy Orders? Surely this may well be questioned. For in the coming time we may expect to see more frequently that saddest of sights to a Christian heart, now, alas! not altogether uncommon, when a lad who at his mother's knee has learnt to worship Christ our Lord, and who, after having been sent to a Christian school, has at length come up to the University, purposing to devote himself to the ministry of the Church, finds that the very studies which are necessary to secure his intellectual Success, have, in proportion to his sympathy with them, as they are at present too often taught, sapped altogether his faith in a living and governing God, and have left him crowned indeed with his honours, but, instead of a postulant on the threshold of the sanctuary, a wanderer in the desert, a disheartened, despairing infidel. Nothing is more mournful than [27/28] this waste of vocations, than this loss of noble hearts and well-stored minds, to the cause and work of Christ our Lord; yet nothing is more certain than that the University of the future, if the secularizing influences have their way, and the denominational system is not adopted with a view to saving the Christian character of the Colleges, will be still more likely to enfeeble and kill down all religious aspirations than could possibly be the case in the University of the present.
And, if this be so, it is, I would submit to our Fathers in Christ Who are present among us to-day, a matter for serious consideration, whether the Church in this land should not endeavour to provide, on a totally different scale from any thing which has hitherto been attempted, an education at once efficient and religious, for her future pastors. Theological colleges will have, it may he, in future years to teach a great deal besides theology. A college, requiring a five years' period of residence, of which the three first are devoted to the humanities and to philosophy, treated from a Christian point of view, and the two last to theology, may produce a clergy which will not be inferior in point of culture and refinement to their predecessors or to their contemporaries at the University, while they will probably be greatly superior in sacred learning. Doubtless it is piteous even to think of turning our backs upon institutions, which have been our home for some ten centuries, and to which a thousand ties bind us individually in reverence and love. Doubtless there is social and moral value in that mixture of clergy and laity, during the earlier stage of final education, which would be forfeited in the case I am contemplating. But sentiments cannot be seriously balanced against loyalty to Truth; nor can great social and educational advantages be preferred, at least by Christians, to the duty of maintaining in its integrity the faith of Christ. Most earnestly is it to be hoped, that, when the choice is once nakedly presented to the Rulers of our Church by our legislators, between a secularized University and Christian education else where, no associations with the past, no sense of pre sent injustice, no theories of national comprehension, will lead to hesitation between frank acceptance of what must be the path of serious sacrifice, and its plain alternative, the gradual but utter spiritual ruin of that class from which her ministerial strength is mainly drawn by the Church of England.
The future however, with all its lowering anxieties is in the hands of God. But at least it is plain that theological colleges must be more and more important to the well-being of the Church of England, as the Universities are gradually felt to yield less and less support to the cause of religious Truth. May these colleges, may those who guide their destinies, be increasingly alive to the greatness of their work! They cannot indeed hope to escape from criticism. They must ever be attempting what is in many ways a thankless task. To the Church's enemies they will of course be the honoured objects of a particular dislike, and it is scarcely to be expected that her sons will always be sufficiently wise and generous to do them justice. Even a clerical order will not uniformly welcome influences which avowedly desire to promote its efficiency by raising its standard both of knowledge and of moral life; and on the other hand the best intentions cannot invariably protect [29/30] the directors of these, or of any institutions, against errors of judgment which may reasonably be deprecated. Still on the whole, the criticisms to which theological colleges are exposed, do not always assail the mistakes which may or may not be rightly laid to their charge. Something will always be objected to them, do what they will. If they turn out a learned clergy, they will be told that after all the important thing is not learning but vital godliness. If they send into your parishes pious and earnest lovers of souls, it will be observed drily that in these days, when every thing is questioned, men are wanted who can meet infidelity with its own weapons. If an impression is produced within their walls upon the mind and character of the students, it will be urged that these students only reproduce the phrases and mannerisms of this or that teacher, and that such influence is fatal to the healthy natural play of feeling and character. If no such impression is produced, then the question will be asked, somewhat triumphantly, whether it would not have been just as well if the persons who throng them had remained at the Universities for the purpose of reading theology. If such colleges elaborate and enforce some thing like system, they are certain to be warned against the danger of hypocrisy which will underlie any enforced or desired conformity to the rules which they prescribe; if they do nothing of the sort, they will be asked to produce a raison d'être,--to make some reasonable apology for presuming to exist at all. In short, the world dislikes them for the reason which makes it dislike all that really aids the cause of religion. They cannot be welcome to the general public until the general public is [30/31] sincerely Christian. If you pipe in the market place, the world will not forthwith dance; if you mourn to it, it will not lament. If a clergy is self-denying, after the manner of the Baptist, men hint now, as of old, that it is a dark power of mischief, in fact, that it has a devil. If it comes eating and drinking, like the Son of Man, the objectors to asceticism themselves declaim with virtuous warmth against such unprofessional self-indulgence, "Behold a man gluttonous and a wine bibber, the friend of publicans and sinners!" [St. Matt. xi. 17-19.]
In point of fact, religion, whether it be the vital principle of an institution or of a single soul, cannot afford to lend an ear to criticisms, which, after all, left to themselves, are mutually self-destructive. If wisdom is justified of her children, it is all that can fairly be expected. A single eye to God's glory and to the claims of truth will indeed, in its majestic strength, act and speak with consideration for the prejudices and weaknesses around it; and it may be trusted to discern, with a tolerably unerring instinct, the point at which charity shades off into disloyalty to that which cannot be surrendered. And am I not right in saying that this college, under the guidance of the able and holy men who have ruled it, during the last nine years, has already outlived the stormy experiences, the failures, the disappointments, of its earlier history, and has fairly established its claim to the gratitude and confidence of all that is at once intelligent and believing in the Church of England? God has indeed given it the tongue of the learned, not that it may add one more to the centres of theological disputation, not that it may be a Christian Porch or a Christian Academy, but that, [31/32] aiming higher, as a true Home at once of Knowledge and of Mercy, it may speak a word in season, through its ever-increasing band of students, to thousands of wearied souls. And this day's assembly shows that the warm brotherly feeling which of old united its members in the strong bonds of a free devotion to a common work and a common Master, and which was referred to in those its younger days, as a token of God's grace and light resting upon its walls, has not, to say the least, been lessened in more recent years and under other auspices. How can those who knew and loved it well in its earlier and humbler phase fail to bless God for the wide prospects of work and of triumph which apparently He is now opening before it? As they take note gladly and admiringly of its progressive victories, for what can they offer a more heartfelt prayer than that it may, in the years to come, be ever guided to combine the largest consideration for the difficulties of minds and classes in our difficult times, with a sincere loyalty to the uncorrupted, unmutilated Creed of the ancient undivided Catholic Church of Christ? And how can all of us, who are here gathered this day, better express our gratitude for God's mercies to this institution in the past, or our hopes for its greater usefulness hereafter, than by giving generously of our substance to its extension and support, in the confidence that its work is very dear to our Divine Redeemer, and of a value to souls for which He died, which the last day only will make known?