THE title of this little book is fairly open to the objection that it raises expectations which the contents must fail to satisfy.
Under ordinary circumstances there would have been no reason for publishing the four Sermons which are here presented to the reader. Their main purpose is simply to illustrate some aspects of the Church's teaching, during the season of the year in which they were preached. In the case of two of them, the text is taken from the services for the day. [Sermons II., IV.] The substance of the other two is, it is hoped, not out of keeping with the solemn associations of Advent. The lessons which they inculcate can lay no claim to novelty; since, as each year comes round, these lessons are set forth from thousands of pulpits throughout Christendom, and, it need not be added, often in a much more effective manner.
That, as a rule, matters of contemporary [vii/viii] controversy are better excluded from the Christian pulpit, is the writer's serious conviction. It is not that such matters are by any means necessarily inappropriate; but that, in his experience, there is little or 'no room for them. The scanty opportunities at a preacher's disposal will only enable him to traverse a very small part of the ground which the momentous issues of life and death, and the overwhelming doctrines of Grace and Redemption must inevitably suggest. It is not without a feeling of misgiving that this, the true province of the Ambassadors of Christ in the exercise of their sacred ministry, can be even momentarily abandoned; but every rule has its rightful or its necessary exceptions. During the eleven years which have passed, since it became the writer's duty to preach in St. Paul's Cathedral, he has heretofore departed from his general practice at the bidding of two important occasions, on which, as he believed, religious and moral interests were deeply involved. Of these the first was when in 1874 the Public Worship Regulation Bill was being passed through Parliament, at the dictates of an unreasoning panic, and with much apparent disregard of the historical structure, and spiritual independence of the Church of England. The other was when, after the [viii/ix] Bulgarian Massacres, it seemed possible that this country might be committed to a war in defence of the Mahomedan Power, which for centuries has been the persecutor of the worshippers of Christ in the East of Europe.
Recent events in the Church of England have appeared to the writer to justify another infraction of what has been his general rule. Accordingly these Sermons contain two or three explicit statements of opinion which have attracted a certain amount of public notice. Moreover when treating of topics immediately suggested by the Church service for the day, their language is at times shaped or coloured by occurrences and reflections which no man, to whom the interests of Christ's Kingdom in this country are dear, could, at least in his more serious moments, hope just now to forget. For in truth Holy Scripture keeps its eye upon human transactions, not less in this modern world of ours than in bygone days; and the preachers of the Gospel would be more ingenious than they generally are, if they did not, at least in stirring times, betray their sense of its penetrating gaze. But, when challenged to do so, a clergyman is especially bound to accept the full responsibility which may attach to his public utterances; and this reason may sufficiently account alike for [ix/x] the publication and for the title of the present work.
That the imprisonment of the Rev. T. P. Dale and the Rev. R. W. Enraght marks an important crisis in the history of the Church of England, will scarcely be questioned by any careful observer of what is passing. For it has had the effect of directing general attention to questions, which in quiet times are apt to be dismissed as of only theoretical or abstract importance, or as interesting only to clergymen. The first and superficial view of the occurrence is that two incumbents of parishes have been imprisoned for a "silly and obstinate adherence to an illegal ceremonial." The more accurate, and indeed the legal account of their offence is that they have been guilty of contempt of Court. Yet it must at once. and of course occur to everybody that, beyond any other class of her Majesty's subjects, clergymen would naturally desire to show all possible respect to any Court administering justice in the name and by the authority of the Queen; nor has any reason been produced to show why the learned Judge, whose painful task it has been to inflict the penalty in question, is not personally entitled to all the courtesy and respect which his rank and profession of themselves deserve. If, then, his inhibitions [x/xi] have been disregarded, not once or twice only, but again and again, by clergymen of high character, who foresee the personal and social inconveniences, and, what is of more importance, who appreciate the grave moral import attaching to what they do, surely there is occasion for grave and anxious inquiry. There is occasion for considering whether some error in legislation may not, for the time being, have made obedience to the law of the land inconsistent with some higher sense of duty in the case of unquestionably good men, who are also not demonstrably unreasonable.
Such an error, as the writer ventures to believe, will be found in the measures, by which the Legislature first transferred the Final Appeal in ecclesiastical causes from the old Court of Delegates to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, and then more recently, substituted the Judge created by the Public Worship Regulation Act, for the old Official Principals of the Provincial Courts of Canterbury and York.
In the memorable preamble of the Statute [24 Henry VIII. c. 19.] which marks the epoch of the rupture with the See of Rome, the relations of the Church and State of England are described as follows:--
[xii] "Where by divers sundry old authentick histories and chronicles, it is manifestly declared and expressed, that this realm of England is an empire, and so hath been accepted in the world, governed by one supreme head and king, having the dignity and royal estate of the imperial crown of the same; unto whom a body politick, compact of all sorts and degrees of people, divided in terms, and by names of spirituality and temporality, been bounden and owen to bear next to God, a natural and humble obedience; he being also institute and furnished, by the goodness and sufferance of Almighty God, with plenary, whole and entire power, pre-eminence, authority, prerogative, and jurisdiction, to render and yield justice, and final determination to all manner of folk, resiants, or subjects within this his realm, in all causes, matters, debates, and contentions, happening to occur, insurge, or begin within the limits thereof, without restraint or provocation to any foreign princes or potentates of the world; the body spiritual whereof having power, when any cause of the law divine happened to come in question, or of spiritual learning, then it was declared, interpreted, and showed by that part of the said body politick, called the spirituality, now being usually called the English Church, which always bath been reputed, and also found of that sort that both for knowledge, integrity and sufficiency of number, it hath been always thought, and is also at this hour, sufficient and meet of itself, without the intermeddling of any exterior person or persons, to declare and determine all such doubts, and to administer all such offices and duties, as to their room spiritual doth appertain, for the due administration whereof, and to keep them from all corruption and sinister affection, the king's most noble progenitors, and the antecessors of the [xii/xiii] nobles of this realm, have sufficiently endowed the said Church, both with honour and possessions; and the laws temporal, for the trial of property of lands and goods, and for the conservation of the people of this realm in unity and peace, without rapine or spoil, was and yet is administered, adjudged, and [xii/xiii] executed by sundry judges, and ministers of the other part of the said body politick called the temporalty; and both their authorities and jurisdictions do conjoin together in the due administration of justice the one to help the other."
Among the inferences which Bishop Gibson draws from this important document are these: that Ecclesiastical Courts should interpret all statutes relating to spiritual questions; that when ecclesiastical causes came before the Court of Delegates, that Court should be composed only of ecclesiastics and ecclesiastical lawyers; and that in matters of policy relating to religion, the Crown should have spiritual persons as advisers. [Gibson, Codex, Int.; cf. Judgments of the Judicial Committee by Brodrick and Fremantle, Int. xxxi. Note 2.] It may be true enough, that in the high-handed proceedings which characterized the after-years of Henry VIII. the principle of this preamble was treated with scant respect. [The temper of these proceedings is best illustrated by the King's commission to Bonner, which intimates, that since Thomas Cromwell was too much occupied to hold ordinations, the duty of holding them was entrusted to the Bishop of London. "Quia tamen ipso Thomas Cromwell negotiis adeo praepeditus existit, quod ad omnem jurisdictionem Nobis uti Supremo Capiti hujusmodi competentem in suâ personâ expediendam non sufficiat, vices tibi nostras committendas fore, teque licentiandum esse decernimus ad ordinandum quoscunque idoneos invenies, ad omnes etiam sacros et presbyteratus ordines promovendum." It is difficult to think that the power of ordination was included under "ea quae tibi ex sacris literis divinitus commissa esse dignoscuntur" in the saving clause of this document. See Dixon's History of the Church of England, ii. 168, note. Such profane assumptions as are made in this commission would hardly be defended by the wildest of our modern Erastians.] But it is still part of the law of [xiii/xiv] England; and unless it was justifiable to induce the clergy to consent to a great change in their circumstances, by a profession of respect for their spiritual rights and character which was never meant to be acted on, they may appeal to it at this hour, and may expect that their appeal will not be wholly disregarded.
Now the lately imprisoned clergy could not recognize the authority of Lord Penzance as an ecclesiastical judge, and they went to prison rather than commit themselves to any action which would imply such recognition. They contend that, instead of representing, as did the late Dean of the Arches, those judicial powers which reside in the see of Canterbury, Lord Penzance is really a civil judge, invested with no more spiritual authority than an Act of Parliament can confer. The doubts which had been entertained as to the soundness of this opinion might have appeared to be removed by recent proceedings in the Court of Queen's Bench. On Lord Penzance's behalf, the Attorney-General is reported to have urged that "Lord Penzance had, by force of the (Public Worship) Act, become Dean of the Arches," and that "he now holds the office by virtue of the Act of Parliament." From this the Attorney-General argued that the Canons of the Church, which [xiv/xv] oblige an ecclesiastical judge to make certain oaths and declarations "do not apply" to Lord Penzance; since "he is a layman, and is a lay judge of a King's Court, and is not himself bound by these canons which do not bind the laity." [Cf. Guardian, Dec. 16, 1880.] These arguments were apparently endorsed by the judgment of the Court. The case has been more recently heard by the Lords of Appeal: and the imprisoned clergy have been released on the ground that the writ of imprisonment had not been opened in the presence of the Judges of the Queen's Bench. But it is right to add that while giving this decision the Lords of Appeal ruled that Lord Penzance is not and was not when first appointed, a new Judge with a new jurisdiction, but first of all a divisional and then the sole and actual Judge of the Old Court of Arches and of the Provincial Court of York. [See Report, Times, Jan. 17, 1881.] Difficult as it is for laymen to reconcile this opinion with that of such an authority as the late Sir Alexander Cockburn, they must probably accept it as finally closing the long and significant hesitations of the law. The Church's sense of wrong is however wholly untouched by it. Legally speaking, Lord Penzance may be henceforth the undisputed Judge [xv/xvi] of the Provincial Court of Canterbury: but it is certain, that, speaking ecclesiastically and morally, he represents a very different kind of authority from that of the judges who have heretofore filled that venerable chair.
The 127th Canon runs as follows:--
The Quality and Oath of Judges.
No man shall hereafter be admitted a Chancellor, Commissary, or Official, to exercise any ecclesiastical jurisdiction, except he be of the full age of six-and-twenty years at the least, and one that is learned in the Civil and Ecclesiastical Laws, and is at the least a Master of Arts, or Bachelor of Law, and is reasonably well practised in the course thereof, as likewise well affected, and zealously bent to religion, touching whose life and manners no evil example is had; and except, before he enter into or execute any such office, he shall take the oath of the King's supremacy in the presence of the Bishop, or in the open court, and shall subscribe to the Articles of Religion agreed upon in the convocation, in the year one thousand five hundred sixty and two, and shall also swear that he will, to the uttermost of his understanding, deal uprightly and justly in his office, without respect or favour or reward; the said oaths and subscription to be recorded by a Registrar then present. And likewise all Chancellors, Commissaries, Officials, Registrars, and all others that do now possess or execute any places of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, or service, shall before Christmas next, in the presence of the Archbishop or Bishop, or in open court, under whom or where they exercise their offices, take the same oaths, and subscribe, as before is said; or, upon refusal so to do, shall be suspended from the execution of their offices, until they shall take the said oaths, and subscribe as aforesaid."
[xvii] The provisions of this Canon were complied with in the case of the last Deans of the Arches, Sir S. Lushington and Sir R. J. Phillimore. They have not been complied with by Lord Penzance. It is understood that his non-compliance was deliberate, not accidental; he could not defer to the provisions of the Canon without implying that the Statute was of itself insufficient to make him what he claims to be. Yet the Canons, however overriden by Acts of Parliament, are unrepealed laws of the Church of England; and they are moreover laws which it is the business of the Archbishop's Official Principal to enforce upon the clergy. For alleged disobedience to these Canons, which he himself disobeys, Lord Penzance has quite recently proceeded to deprive a clergyman of all his preferments. It is therefore no longer possible to contend that Lord Penzance is a judge standing in the same relation to the confidence and conscience of the Church as the distinguished judges whose successor he claims to be. For he himself insists that whatever his right may be to rule her clergy, his obligation to obey her laws is of a totally different character from theirs; that, in fact, no such obligation exists.
It is sometimes said that a distinction of this kind is merely "technical," and would not be [xvii/xviii] likely to have any weight except in the morbid conscience of a clergyman. But phrases like this are apt to be misleading; and it cannot be easily allowed that, whatever the legal worth of the 127th Canon may be, its religious value is other than important. If the chief pastors of the Church are permitted by her to delegate to men not in holy orders, but "learned in the civil and ecclesiastical laws," not the least solemn portion of their vast responsibilities, she has a right to insist that this delegation shall only be made under adequate safeguards and guarantees. These guarantees and safeguards are provided by the Canon. If the Canons of the Church do not bind Lord Penzance because he is a "layman," they do bind the Archbishops, who are not laymen, and who therefore, it is respectfully submitted, cannot delegate the exercise of the judicial functions which appertain to their Sees except under the conditions which the Church has prescribed. Certainly Lord Penzance, in compliance with the provisions of the Act of Parliament, has signed a declaration to the effect that he is "a member of the Church of England." That declaration may mean no more than that he has not formally associated himself with some other religious body. It does not necessarily mean, in its [xviii/xix] modern acceptation, that he is a communicant, or even that he believes the Nicene Creed; it is a declaration which is in practice consistent with repudiation of almost everything that "a Christian ought to know and believe to his soul's health." Lord Penzance may well be an earnestly believing and even devout Churchman, but the Church has no public assurance that this is the case. He is the Archbishop's deputy, in the sense that the Archbishop nominated him to a position, which would in due time lead on to the official Principalship of the Court of Arches; but unless the Archbishop can entrust the judicial functions of his great office to a layman of whom the Church knows nothing, except that he refuses obedience to those Canons which regulate the very office that he claims to hold, Lord Penzance is not, at least in the old sense of the term, Official Principal of the Court of Canterbury. So long as the 127th Canon is unrepealed by the Church, Lord Penzance is a standing violation of her laws; and there is surely something to be said for the conscientious difficulties of clergymen respecting any act which would involve the acknowledgment of his ecclesiastical authority.
After all, it will be said, Parliament can do what it likes in these matters; and that which [xix/xx] Parliament enacts is legal, whatever ecclesiastics may have to say about it. So. far as Parliament can make Lord Penzance Dean of the Arches, he is undoubtedly the legal Dean of the Arches. But how far is this doctrine to be carried? If Parliament were to enact that some distinguished agnostic should become forthwith, without any profession of faith, or ordination, or consecration, Archbishop of Canterbury; he would be the legal Archbishop of Canterbury. But would his ministerial acts be worth anything in the judgment of a believing Christian? Would he confer valid ordination, or administer a real Eucharist, or address the flock of Christ with any semblance of spiritual authority? Would Christian ministers claim on behalf of his rule that cruelly misused precept of the great Apostle's, "Let every soul be subject to the higher powers"? If they did, would a believing laity take their advice? Certainly this is an extreme supposition; but a supposition of this kind enables us to place a much less flagrant violation of the rights and conscience of the Christian Church in its true light. During the first French Revolution some very bold, but strictly legal experiments were made in this direction: but it has not generally been thought that they were successful. An English Parliament [xx/xxi] is not likely to imitate the pedantic follies of the French Convention; but it may, as did the Convention, give a new impetus to Ultramontanism, by legislation which attributes to Statute Law a power to confer spiritual authority; it may thus range the claims of law, and the claims of an enlightened. Christian conscience in a disastrous opposition to each other.
Opinions will differ as to the course which has been taken by Mr. Dale and Mr. Enraght, in order to express their inability to recognize the jurisdiction of Lord Penzance as a spiritual judge. It is asked why they could not have submitted to his decision under protest. But if they had done so, what would have been the result? The world would have taken note of their submission, and have paid scant attention to their protest. There was once a great Englishman who broke the law, but who yet, says Hume, "has merited great renown with posterity, for the bold stand which he made in defence of the laws and liberties of his country. After the imposing of ship-money, Charles, in order to discourage all opposition, had proposed this question to the judges, 'whether in a case of necessity, for the defence of the kingdom, he might not impose the taxation, and whether he were not sole judge of the [xxi/xxii] necessity?' These guardians of law and liberty replied with great complaisance, 'That in a case, of necessity he might impose that taxation, and that he was sole judge of the necessity.' Hampden had been rated at twenty shillings, for an estate which he possessed in the County of Buckingham; yet, notwithstanding this declared opinion of the judges, notwithstanding the great power and sometimes rigorous maxims of the Crown, notwithstanding the small prospect of relief from Parliament; he resolved, rather than tamely submit to so illegal an imposition, to stand a legal prosecution, and expose himself to all the indignation of the Court. The case was argued, during twelve days, in the Exchequer Chamber, before all the judges of England; and the nation regarded with the utmost anxiety every circumstance of this celebrated trial. The event was easily foreseen: but the principles and reasonings and behaviour of the parties engaged in the trial were much canvassed, and inquired into: and nothing could equal the favour paid to one side, except the hatred which attended the other." [Hist. of England (Ed.1822), vol. vii. p. 221, ch. lii.] Hume concludes his narrative by saying that "The prejudiced judges, four excepted, gave sentence in favour of the Crown. [xxii/xxiii] Hampden, however, obtained by the trial the end for which he had so generously sacrificed his safety and his quiet: the people were roused from their lethargy, and became sensible of the danger to which their liberties were exposed. These national questions were canvassed in every company; and the more they were examined, the more evident did it appear to many, that liberty was totally subverted, and an unusual and arbitrary authority exercised over the Kingdom." [Ibid., c. lii. p. 224.]
Is it altogether impossible that in days to come some historian of the Church of England will frame a paragraph, to describe what is passing before our eyes, on the model of Hume's eulogy of Hampden?
The immediate cause of the imprisonment of Mr. Dale and Mr. Enraght is their refusal to acknowledge Lord Penzance's authority as a spiritual judge; but if his spiritual jurisdiction was as indisputable as was that of Sir R. J. Phillimore, there would still be a grave difficulty behind, of older standing, and in some respects of more formidable aspect.
This difficulty is presented by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, as the modern Final Court of Appeal in ecclesiastical causes.
[xxiv] It must be admitted that the old Court of Delegates was not the best possible expression of the principle of the preamble of 24 Henry VIII., that spiritual causes should be judged by the spirituality. But so long as that court existed, the Crown was always at liberty to keep faith with the Church by acting on the rule in question. For the purpose of hearing ecclesiastical causes, the Court of Delegates might always be composed of ecclesiastics. True, it also might not. Still, when rejecting the usurped jurisdiction of Rome, the Church of England had trusted herself to the faith and piety of English Sovereigns; and whatever from time to time may have happened in practice, there was nothing to prevent a loyal recognition of the principle affirmed in the Reformation Settlement until the year 1832.
In that year it was provided by 2 and 3 William IV. c. 92, that the hearing of appeals in ecclesiastical cases, which had been hitherto carried before the Court of Delegates, should be transferred to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council; and in 1833 by 3 and 4 William IV. c. 41, the Archbishops and Bishops who were Privy Councillors were placed on the Committee when hearing ecclesiastical appeals; it being provided [xxiv/xxv] that no such appeal was to be heard without the presence of one Archbishop or Bishop. But, this provision notwithstanding, the real effect of the measure was to transfer the effective government of the Church to lawyers, who might or might not be Churchmen, or even Christians, and to deprive the Crown of the power of insisting on the observance of the principle set forth in the preamble of 24 Henry VIII. Under the new arrangement, the attendant Bishops only decorated by their presence a tribunal which was essentially civil and lay; they lent to its decisions a semblance of ecclesiastical authority which it could not in fact possess, and which was only calculated to embarrass tender consciences. It was the Gorham case which first revealed the unfitness of such a Court to deal with questions concerning the great truths of the Christian Revelation; and Bishop Blomfield endeavoured, although in vain, to remedy what he felt to be a serious danger to the Church. In the debate on the Bishop's Bill, [Friday, May 31, 1850.] Lord Brougham, the real author of the new Court--
"Quite concurred with his noble friend that the Judicial Committee was framed without any expectations whatever that cases of this kind [i. e. such as the Gorham case] would come before [xxv/xxvi] it; it was framed with a view to a totally different class of cases. Had it been otherwise, in all probability some different arrangements would have been introduced."
And yet this Court, which, by its author's confession, is thus unfit to deal with questions of Christian doctrine, has for thirty years since the debate referred to been actively engaged in dealing with doctrines of the gravest import. These thirty years have been years of incessant controversy, and vital truths of the Christian Revelation have been again and again matters of litigation. The nature of Justification, the condition of the lost in the life to come, the worth and inspiration of Holy Scripture, the Presence of Christ our Lord in the Holy Communion, the terms under which admission to Communion is permissible, are among the subjects on which this Court has undertaken to pronounce. It professes, indeed, to be merely ascertaining the legal sense of the formularies of the Church of England. But the principles on which it interprets these formularies are often not the principles by which the true sense of a theological document is really ascertained; and, after all, the formularies of the Church are something more than clauses in an Act of Parliament. In themselves indeed the decisions of such a Court on matters of Ritual are of far less importance [xxvi/xxvii] than its decisions on Christian doctrine; but they have led to as much or more controversy. The slight legislative changes made in this Court in 1873-5, whereby the Bishops have become assessors, instead of members of the Court, disappointed the hopes which had at first been raised, and have resulted in no real improvement. Of this Court the wise and gentle author of the Christian Year used to say that he "could not anyhow get it under the head of the Fifth Commandment;" and that he longed for a time when he might show, by some overt act, that he rejected its claim to govern his conscience as a priest of the Church of England. The decisions of such a tribunal must always be respectfully considered as the work of trained minds of the highest ability; but in matters touching the faith and discipline of the Church of God, they could not, from the nature of the case, command the submission which is due from a Christian conscience to those who have been empowered to rule His Church by our Lord Jesus Christ.
Those who criticize existing institutions are bound to say what they desire in the way of improvement; to find fault with things as they are, and to shrink from offering a substantive proposal, which may in its turn be criticized, is at [xxvii/xxviii] once cowardly and mischievous. Moreover, a state of things in which clerical obedience is difficult, if not impossible, is highly detrimental to the Christian character, not to speak of its effects upon the well-being and progress of the Church. The writer, therefore, ventures to repeat what he has said elsewhere as to the remedies which appear to be required by our present difficulties.
The immediate need of the Church of England is the application of the principles of natural justice to the work of Church administration. If the Rubrical Law of the Church, or some recent interpretation of it, is to be enforced rigidly on one section of the clergy, it surely should be enforced on all. If creeds may be omitted, and the plainest Rubrical directions deliberately set at nought without any rebuke on the part of authority, it cannot be right to visit certain ceremonial excesses, if they be excesses, with imprisonment and deprivation. This would seem to be too obvious to need or to bear stating, and yet experience shows that to state it is not unnecessary.
And here the writer cannot but hope for eventual sympathy from the higher and more Christian temper of the party, which, so far as it may justly be identified with the Church Association, is [xxviii/xxix] responsible for the results of the recent prosecutions. The writer does not dwell upon the obvious consideration that the law courts are open to good Churchmen as well as to members of the Church Association; and that when slovenliness and irreverence are deemed to be marks of spirituality, they will often issue in acts and language which are as certainly illegal as they are distressing to the faith and piety of instructed Christians. For assuredly nothing would be more regrettable than a retaliatory suit, however much there may have been to provoke it, or whatever be the warranted probabilities of its success; since such success would be dearly paid for by disregard of those precepts of our Saviour which alone have hitherto availed to prevent some effort of the kind. But the party which is more or less responsible for the recent imprisonments might surely consider what is likely to be the effect of its policy upon interests which many of its members have very sincerely at heart. They believe themselves to possess the Gospel in its purity and simplicity; and they are anxious that others who, as they think, have encumbered Scriptural Christianity with traditions of human origin, should be brought to the knowledge of what they them-selves conceive to be the Truth. Can they [xxix/xxx] suppose that this object will be advanced by proceedings such as those of the Church Association; by acts and language which recall the unconverted Saul of Tarsus "breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord," much more than the devoted missionary of later years whose "heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel was that they might be saved." If it were certain that the theological teaching of any body of men was simply that of the New Testament, would not the moral temper, implied by these proceedings, appear to be something widely different? And if it should be thought that the well-being of a party, with which he has himself never had any relations, although he has known and loved many of its members, does not concern the writer of these lines, he may at least be pardoned for referring to the effect of recent prosecutions upon that common cause of Christ Our Lord as against indifference and unbelief, which is the concern of all of us. The prominence which has been lately given to grave differences within the Church has resulted, as the writer has reason to know, in serious additions to the ranks of infidelity; and the gravity of such occurrences is not diminished because Christians may agree to think that, logically speaking, inconsistencies or [xxx/xxxi] faults in their own conduct and temper ought not to prejudice the claims of Christianity.
When the writer was a young man at college some thirty years or more ago, he knew an elderly clergyman who was an earnest adherent of what are called, with whatever accuracy, Evangelical opinions. Certainly this good man's preaching did not impress either his parishioners or the writer very fruitfully: His favourite topics were the erroneousness of "popery," and the "danger of thinking to be saved by works;" but there was no Roman Catholic resident in the parish, and the "works" to which a large proportion of the parishioners were somewhat conspicuously addicted were not of a character to suggest the question of being saved at all. Yet whatever was the value of this clergyman's ministrations in the pulpit, there could be no question as to the warmth of his heart when he was out of it; and the writer recalls, with gratitude and affection, many of his incidental expressions of opinion. But among other matters, he would often contrast "Evangelical religion" with "popery," by saying that the latter relied on force and violence for the propagation of its tenets, while the former trusted entirely to the converting in [xxxi/xxxii] misuse of the Apocalypse, the Church of Rome was "the harlot, drunk with the blood of the saints;" while "Evangelical" Christians, as he conceived of them, only repeated to others the Apostolic entreaty, "As though Go d did beseech you by us, we pray you, in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God." This contrast would doubtless have been imperilled by a study either of the life of Calvin, or of the proceedings of the Puritans in the seventeenth century; but the revered friend who is referred to, held it in perfect good faith. His generalization was the fruit not of any acquaintance with history, but of the kindliness of his own Christian heart; and he would have fully shared the distress to which such touching and generous expression has been given by the Rev. S. Garratt, of Ipswich, could he have supposed that a day would come when the names of Horsemonger, Holloway, and Warwick gaols would be associated, as they now are, with the controversial enterprises of the party to which he used fondly and always to give the tender and sacred name of Evangelical. The writer cannot doubt that there must be many who like Mr. Garratt share the opinions of this excellent man, and who feel it a duty to discourage proceedings and a temper which are [xxxii/xxxiii] ruinous to whatever is best in Evangelicalism itself.
But if anything more than a breathing-time from persecution on one side and resistance on the other is to result from our present difficulties, the Courts which determine ecclesiastical causes should be placed upon a footing in harmony with the Divinely-appointed constitution of the Church, and with the great Statute of the Reformation, to which reference has already been so often made. With this object, the Repeal of the Public Worship Regulation Act would first of all engage the attention of Churchmen; difficult of attainment, as, under any circumstances, such an object would be. This would probably be followed by legislation, with a view to cheapen and simplify legal procedures in the Provincial and Diocesan Courts, which would thus in their integrity reenter on their old historical relation to the Church and the Episcopate. Finally, and above all, the Supreme Court of Appeal should be reconstituted, so as to consist of Bishops, elected by the Episcopate, advised by lawyers, and, if necessary, by divines, with an appeal from its decisions, at least in matters of faith, to the whole body of English Bishops. The writer does not understand how any question could be raised by a conscientious [xxxiii/xxxiv] and instructed Churchman as to the authority of such a Court. If its decisions did not plainly contradict the moral law or the truths of Divine Revelation, there could surely be no doubt about the duty of obeying them.
Whether this or some other particular proposal be finally adopted matters but little, if only a great principle can be respected. This principle is that the Church should be really ruled by those chief pastors to whom Christ Our Lord has given a commission to rule it, and that it should not be ruled by lawyers, who, however able and accomplished, may yet be advisedly of opinion that the Christian revelation is an exploded fable. The justice of this plea must surely be acknowledged by some at least of those who see in the Christian clergy only the least desirable of the learned professions. What would be said by the members of Lincoln's Inn, or of the Temple, if the affairs of those great societies, instead of being regulated by their own benchers, were under the control of a committee of eminent clergymen, or if there were an appeal respecting the meaning of Statute Law from the decisions of the Judges to the bench of Bishops? If in these days men fear not to put forth unconsecrated hands to touch the Ark of God, they may nevertheless admit the solid common sense of the [xxxiv/xxxv] old saw, which forbids the cobbler to go beyond his last. Ecclesiastics have long ceased to attempt the redo of a Wolsey or a Richelieu; Talleyrand was an apostate before he became a statesman. Is the day very far distant when a due sense of the fitness of things will make it impossible for a great civilian to pronounce upon such questions as were raised in the case of "Essays and Reviews"?
This principle has recently been branded as "extreme;" but thirty years ago it was held by authorities, to which no such exception could be taken. When, on Tuesday, February 5,1850, the Bishop of London (Blomfield) had moved the first reading of the "Proceedings against Clergy Bill," in the House of Lords, the Archbishop of Canterbury (Sumner) expressed his concurrence with the object of the Bill, and then said that
"The present state of the law on the doctrine and discipline of the Church was acknowledged to be excessively defective; and he must say that it was chiefly owing to the defective constitution of the Court of Appeal that the Chare h now stood in a position of some difficulty. It could never be satisfactory that questions relating to the doctrine and discipline of the Church should be submitted to a tribunal of laymen. They ought to le submitted to a tribunal of ecclesiastics, and such would be the constitution of the tribunal proposed by the present bill." [Hansard. Vol. cviii., page 834, 3rd series.]
[xxxvi] On Monday, June 3, 1850, Bishop Blomfield, who moved the second reading, said,
"This brings me to a consideration of the principle which is embodied in the Bill now under your Lordships' consideration; that the decision of purely spiritual questions should be left to spiritual judges--not merely ecclesiastical but spiritual judges. I venture to call this a constitutional principle--one which has been recognized in the constitution of this Christian country from the earliest period of its history."
After adverting to some other topics, the Bishop continued,
"But, my Lords, I would not be understood to rest my case entirely upon the probabilities of superior fitness in point of theological learning. I rest it, also, and in the first place, on the inherent and indefeasible right of the Church to teach and maintain the truth by means of her spiritual pastors and rulers; a right inherent in her original constitution, and expressly granted to her by her Divine Head, in the terms of the Apostolical commission. On this point I will say no more; it will probably be dwelt upon by some of those who will follow me in the debate, but I cannot conclude without protesting against an inference which may possibly be drawn from the fact of my having laid so much stress upon Acts of Parliament, and ancient practice, and upon the question of comparative competency, and fitness of Judges, that I think lightly of what is in truth the fundamental and vital principle involved in this subject, namely, the inherent and inalienable right of the Bishops of the Church of England, to be the Judges of questions of its doctrine duly submitted to them." [Hansard. Vol, cxi., page 598, 3rd series.]
[xxxvii] It is somewhat invidiously suggested that if the Church were to be ruled by Spiritual Courts the supremacy of the Crown would be done away with. [See Quarterly Review, Jan., 1881, p. 232.] How can this be when Spiritual Courts are implicitly guaranteed to the Church by the very Act which cut off appeals to Rome, with a view to securing the Royal Supremacy? The Royal Supremacy is not necessarily identical with the Supremacy of the great lawyers. The real and beneficent purpose of the Royal Supremacy is that in the last resort the Queen should see that equal justice is done to all her subjects. This object would be secured, if, on appeal in Ecclesiastical causes, the Queen were to be advised by Bishops who took counsel with lawyers on points of law, instead of being advised by lawyers, who have in at least one grave case differed from the attendant Bishops in questions of theology. The Church of England treats it as a slander to suppose that, in admitting the Queen's "chief government," we thereby "give to our Princes the ministering either of God's Word or of the sacraments," [Art. 37.] yet the judge who decides what doctrine may or may not be taught by a clergyman, "ministers God's Word," or something else, with much greater authority and effect [xxxvii/xxxviii] than does the preacher, whose utterances he thus regulates; and if this judge is a layman deriving his authority not from the Church, but from the Queen, it is difficult to reconcile the practice of the Realm with the language of the Article. On the other hand, an Episcopal Final Court of Appeal would altogether harmonize with that only prerogative which we see to have been given always to all godly Princes in Holy Scriptures by God Himself; that is, that they should rule all states and degrees committed to their charge by God, whether they be ecclesiastical or temporal, and restrain with the civil sword the stubborn and evil doers." [Art. 37.] For if the members of such a court were elected by the Episcopate, they would all have been nominated to their Sees by the Crown, and no effect could be given to their decisions on any question of property unless the Crown lent the aid of its coercive jurisdiction.
It is urged by the opponents of the Church's spiritual freedom that Ecclesiastics have often shown themselves unfit to be entrusted with power; and a catena of occasions is easily made out, on which they are said to have notoriously abused it. That these charges are often exaggerated through ignorance or prejudice might easily [xxxviii/xxxix] be shown to be the case, but whatever weight we may attach to them, does it follow that the natural use and employment of a great organization is forfeited because it has been more or less frequently perverted? [Mr. Dixon has done good service by illustrating this position from the records of the Reformation. Hist. of Ch. of Eng., ii. 137, 266.6, &c.] Unless the wise maxim be admitted, that "usum non tollit abusus," there is no institution in the country which does not merit condemnation; and the equity of a great people will surely admit that if an order like the Episcopate be retained at all in a place of trust and honour, it should exercise the functions which, historically speaking, are its immemorial attributes.
It is natural that those who on general grounds of policy object altogether to the present relations of Church and State in England, should be anxious to perpetuate a condition of things which, at the least, presses hard upon the consciences of a large and influential section of the clergy. It is natural, although perhaps not quite generous, to insist that the advantages which the Church derives from her historical position in the country, shall only be retained if she is willing permanently to submit to an anomalous judicature of modern origin, which threatens her with something akin [xxxix/xl] to suffocation. There is indeed, abstractedly, no necessary connexion between establishment and spiritual asphyxia. But it is less singular that such a connexion should be assumed to exist by those who avowedly desire to see the Church deprived of her existing resources, than that this assumption. should be made in practice if not in terms by others, who attribute to the temporal accidents of spiritual life even an exaggerated degree of importance. Certain it is that the existing condition of things constitutes an element of danger, which, in times like the present, may easily become formidable. Unless we can be assured that no more persecutions will be permitted, the grave principles for which good men have recently been content to suffer reproach and imprisonment will again challenge vindication, and with the same or more serious results. Can it be necessary to invite this contingency? Few, if any, Churchmen desire to see the Church disestablished and disendowed; but if it be a question whether it is better to be turned out of house and home, without any clothes, and even on a winter's night, or to be strangled by a silken cord in a well-furnished drawing-room, what man, or Church, will have any difficulty in arriving at a decision?
[xli] That such legislative measures as have been suggested could under any circumstances be easily carried no reasonable person will suppose; the obstacles which would present themselves to the prelate or statesman who might essay to relieve the Church of her existing embarrassments are indeed enormous. In Church legislation, as in morals, the descent of Avernus is easy enough; the difficulties begin when we endeavour to return. But the recent utterances of the Archbishop of Canterbury and of the Bishops of Ely, Salisbury, and Lichfield, may well encourage Churchmen to hope that this grave crisis in our religious history will not be without results which may more than atone for disasters, serious in themselves, and very threatening as regards the future. It is one of the special notes of Christ's Kingdom among men, that it wins its way by apparent failure, that--
"Per damna, per caedes, ab ipso
Ducit opes animumque ferro."
May God grant it to be thus here and now, so that the painful occurrences of the last two months shall hereafter be only and gratefully remembered as the harbingers of a new era of harmony and progress in the religious life of the English Church and people.
3, AMEN COURT, ST. PAUL'S, January 27th, 1881.