OF THE EASTERN CHURCH ASSOCIATION
PRIMUS OF SCOTLAND,
LOWER HOUSE OF THE CONVOCATION OF CANTERBURY
I SHALL be glad if the circulation which may be given to this Letter, through the medium of the Eastern Church Association, may serve to create a wider interest in the work which that Association has undertaken. It is only through such an organization as this that the difficulty can be overcome which meets us on the very threshold of any attempt to revive Intercommunion between the Anglican and Russo-Greek Churches, viz. the cost of translating the authorized standards of the Churches, and the works of those Theologians which would serve to exhibit the primitive and Catholic character of those standards. Not a single step in advance can be expected to be made until we have accomplished this. In a question of this kind the private opinions of individuals will have little or no weight. What we require to know is, not what individuals think, but what the Church authoritatively teaches, prescribes, and sanctions. It is only when we are in possession of this knowledge that we shall be able to form a just estimate of what is really held and taught by each of the Churches. The Eastern Church Association is willing to undertake the work necessary to accomplish this object; and if adequately supported, which I trust it may be, to encourage and sustain permanently the interest which has been recently revived on the subject of Intercommunion with the Russo-Greek Church.
BISHOP OF MORAY &c., PRIMUS.
DEAR CHANCELLOR MASSINGBERD,
As the object which I have in view in this communication, is to convey to the Committee of Convocation on Intercommunion with the Russo-Greek Church, information which may bear upon the special subject on which they are engaged, I will not trouble you with any matters which occupied me in my visit to Russia, which have no particular reference to the questions in which you are interested. My journey in May of last year was undertaken, as you are aware, for the purpose of holding Confirmations in some of the principle cities in the north of Russia, on behalf, and at the request, of the Bishop of London. As so fair an opportunity presented itself, I resolved to make use of it, if I could, for ascertaining what might be the feelings of the members of the orthodox Church in Russia towards the Anglican Church, and in what light they viewed the movement, now making in England and America, towards a revival of our long lost Intercommunion. If opportunity were offered for friendly intercourse with any leading members of the Russian Church, I felt that I might obtain some useful information, which would serve the cause which you and so many others have at heart. Such opportunity was afforded me through the great kindness of the Rev. Eugene Popoff, Chaplain to the Imperial Russian Embassy in London. He was good enough to provide me with letters of introduction to Count Poutiatine, the late Minister of Public Instruction, and to his Excellency Count Tolstoy, the present Minister, and who also holds the important office of Ober Procureur of the Most Holy Russian Synod. To these introductions I am indebted, not only for the most unbounded kindness from many individuals, but for much valuable information on several very interesting subjects; as also for opportunities which were afforded me of some interesting with which I was honoured, by His Imperial Highness the Grand Duke Constantine, the Venerable Philaret, the revered and honoured Metropolitan of Moscow, and other distinguished Prelates and laymen of the Russian Church.
Two days after my arrival in St. Petersburg, I was taken by Count Poutiatine to the Alexander-Nevsky Spiritual Academy, the Theological Training College for Priests in the Diocese of St. Petersburg, and was introduced by him to the Suffragan Bishop, Ivan, the Rector of the Academy. His first question to Count Poutiatine after our introduction was, "Is the Bishop favourable to the Union of the Churches?" His Eminence invited me into his house, from the garden in which we found him walking, and at once commenced a very interesting conversation upon this subject. In alluding first, to the Thirty-nine Articles, he expressed his opinion that some of them would require explanation, which I of course most readily admitted; reminding his Eminence that the Articles had been framed for special objects, and under peculiar circumstances; that they had been framed for the purposes of avoiding diversities of opinion amongst the Clergy of the Church of England, and of establishing concord touching true religion, and that they were only to be regarded as standards in connexion with the other authorized formularies and standards of the Church. He then spoke upon the subject of the Episcopal succession in the Church of England, remarking that up to a certain period there was no question as to the validity of the succession. On asking him to what period he alluded, he replied, the Reformation; and then mentioned the doubts about Archbishop Parker's Consecration, where, he said, there seems to be a flaw. Upon my assuring him that we possessed the most satisfactory evidence of the canonical validity of the Archbishop's Consecration, entirely refuting the false imputations which had been cast upon it, he said that if the difficulties connected with that Consecration were removed, there could be no question as to the validity of the English succession.
Upon this I remarked that it was of the greatest importance, towards any satisfactory consideration of the important subject to which he had drawn my attention, that we should each become better acquainted with the history, doctrine, discipline and worship of our respective Churches; and that information upon these subjects should be gathered from our own authoritative teaching and authorized standards, with which I feared that at present we were mutually too little acquainted. To this his Eminence assented; and then, with the view of illustrating some of the difficulties which stand at present in the way of Union, he instanced the doctrine of the Eucharist, implying that the belief of a change in the elements as is expressed by the term 'Transubstantiation' would be essential; and saying, that neither in the English nor Scotch Offices (a copy of the latter, in Greek, I had placed in his hands) was the language of the Consecration Prayer sufficiently clear, as it did not positively declare that the chance was such as is implied in the metaballwn of their Liturgy, a copy of which he produced. Feeling that we were entering upon a subject too important to be discussed at such an interview, while admitting that the 'lex credendi' was the 'lex orandi,' but not admitting that the expression in their own Liturgy implied of necessity such a change in the Elements as is expressed by the term 'Transubstantiation,' I contented myself with saying that the teaching of our Church would be gathered not only from the language of our Liturgy, but from our Catechism, and that it was our Church's special care to restrict her language on this mysterious subject as much as possible to that of Scripture, and to avoid every attempt to define so great a Mystery.
On our conversation on this subject coming to a close, the Bishop kindly offered to conduct me over the Academy. He showed me over the library, which is a very handsome one, and pointed out to me the portion which contains a fair amount, and of considerable variety, of English Divinity. He took me through the dormitories of the students, who number about one hundred, and at the Bishop's request I heard one of the young men read English, which, though a little nervous, he did very fairly. He then led me into their dining-hall, where the students were at dinner, and I was kindly invited to partake of their soup and fish, which I did with considerable satisfaction. It was then, for the first time, that I had an opportunity of hearing the wonderful richness of the Russian bass voices, as his Eminence requested the young men to chaunt the Lord's Prayer. It was chaunted in a slow, solemn recitative, very beautiful and very devotional.
Before leaving the Academy I was both surprised and pleased to learn that the young students were taking a great interest in the subject of the Union of the Churches, and which I afterwards learnt to be the case with those in the Spiritual Academy at the Troitza (in the Diocese of Moscow), which is under the government of the Suffragan Bishop Anthony. It would be a hopeful and gratifying sign of the times to find a similar interest taken in this subject by the students at our own Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and in the Universities of Scotland. Once again before leaving Russia, I had an opportunity of meeting at Count Tolstoy's the kind and learned Bishop Ivan, with whom I had passed so pleasant an hour or more. Gladly would I renew my acquaintance with so clever and courteous a brother. Since we met, his Eminence has been removed to Smolensk, in the far south, and has found leisure to write a pamphlet on the Union Question, a copy of which he has been good enough to send me. He does not take a sanguine view of 'Union' prospects, but as any thing which proceeds from such a divine upon such a subject merits attention, it is to be hoped that his Eminence's pamphlet may soon find an English translator.
It will be observed from the account which I have given of my conversation with Bishop Ivan, that the subject was introduced by his Eminence; and in all the conversations which I subsequently held with those to whom I was introduced, the subject was also invariably initiated by them, and they spoke upon it with a feeling and interest which proved that it had already engaged much of their thought and attention. And although, as it also would seem from my interview with Bishop Ivan, the points on which the Churches differed were alluded to, rather that those on which they might agree, yet, not only was this not invariably the case, but in every instance the prevailing desire seemed to be that, by means of friendly intercourse, we might eventually acquire a truer knowledge of what we severally believed and taught, in order to a closer union with each other.
On leaving the Alexander-Nevsky Academy, I was introduced to his Excellency Count Tolstoy. In conversing with him upon the subject of Reunion, in which he evidently takes a most lively interest, he expressed his hope that steps would be taken, by means of proper translations, for making the members of the Anglican and Russo-Greek Churches acquainted with the authorized teaching of their respective communions, and he presented me with a small volume, written by the Abbé Guettée, being an exposition of the doctrine of the Russo-Greek Church, which he thought offered a very fair explanation of its teaching, in a popular form, and which might prove useful if translated into English. [Exposition de la Doctrine de l'Église Catholique Orthodoxe, par W. Guettée, Prêtre et Docteur en théologie de l'Église orthodoxe de Russie. Paris, 1866. London, Barthés and Lowell, 14. Great Marlborough Street.] While expressing his conviction that much might be gained by friendly intercourse towards our understanding each other, his Excellency expressed himself very strongly against any overt act by individuals of either Church to force on Communion prematurely, such acts being in his opinion calculated to retard rather than to hasten so desirable an object. And he particularly alluded to a case of this kind which had recently occurred, and with which the Committee is no doubt acquainted. I expressed my entire concurrence in all that his Excellency said upon this subject, and assured him that I would endeavour to promote his views in procuring the translation of such works as would make known the authoritative teaching of the Anglican Church. It will be gratifying and encouraging to the Committee to know that so eminent a man as Count Tolstoy, holding as he does such important offices in the State, should take an interest in the cause of Intercommunion. A few days after I had the honour of meeting a distinguished company at his Excellency's table, amongst whom were his Imperial Majesty's Confessor, and four Bishops, who had been invited to meet me.
On the 29th of May I went to Moscow, and on the following day I received an intimation from Count Poutiatine, that the Metropolitan of Moscow, the Venerable Philaret, would be glad to receive me in the evening. Accompanied by the Count, who on all occasions most kindly acted as my interpreter, I went to the Palace at six o'clock, and was met by his Eminence on my way through the suite of apartments which led to the room where he was sitting, and into which he conducted me. Having acquainted him with the object which had brought me to Moscow, he requested me to explain to him the mode of Confirmation in the Anglican Church. Having done so, he asked why, as we believed that inward Grace accompanied the Laying on of hands with Prayer, we did not regard it as a Sacrament. I explained to him that although we regarded the Laying on of hands as a Sacramental Rite, from its possessing the two characteristics of a Sacrament, viz. the outward sign and the inward grace, we yet held those two Rites only to be Sacraments, which had been instituted by Christ Himself, and which we believed to be generally necessary to salvation. The conversation then turned generally on the subject of Reunion, at the close of which his Eminence made the following remark; that, in his opinion, the Bishops and learned men on either side may be able to reconcile the differences between the Eastern and the Anglican Churches, but that the difficulty will be with the people. On my replying that I thought the difficulty on our side would arise from the same quarter, for that, from ignorance as to the doctrine and discipline of the Eastern Church, an opinion very generally prevailed amongst the people in England that the Eastern Church was much the same as the Roman, and that the people of England generally had a very strong feeling against the Roman Church, his Eminence replied, "If the people of England think that the Eastern Church is like the Roman, I am not surprised that they should entertain a strong feeling against it." In the course of our interview, which lasted nearly an hour and a half, I had expressed my fear lest I was wearying his Eminence. On Count Poutiatine interpreting my fear to him, the good old man looked at me with a kind expression, and begged me to remain, saying, "We shall never meet again, let us be together as long as we can." There is not, I believe, in the whole Russian Empire a man more venerated or more justly and universally beloved than the venerable Philaret. Gentle, humble, and pious, simple in his mode of life, he gives away in charity almost the whole of his large income. The schools which he has instituted at the Troitza Monastery for the elementary education of the poor, for their instruction in many useful trades and other occupations, as well as for the promotion of the higher arts, will constitute an imperishable memorial of the wisdom, the charity, and the large-heartedness of this noble Metropolitan. It is much to know that the heart of this good Prelate, now in the eighty-sixth year of his age, and in the fiftieth of his Episcopate, yearns towards the Unity of Christendom.
On the following evening I had the pleasure of an interview with Bishop Leonidas, one of the Suffragans of Moscow. Originally an officer in the Russian navy, he had seen much of the world, and had been several times in England. He was kind enough to converse with me in my own language, with which he was very fairly conversant. He had invited a charming person to meet me, Count Alexis Bobrinsky, who spike English as well and fluently as any Englishman. Bishop Leonidas seemed to take the same interest in the subject of Reunion as those whom I had already met, but the chief point of interest to him was the history and condition of our Scottish Church. This subject occupied us nearly the whole evening. on learning that we were not supported, but only tolerated by the State, he was anxious to know how our Bishops were appointed and supported, and he made the most minute inquiries as to the constitution and working of our Diocesan, Episcopal, and General Synods. He afterwards showed me his very pretty private Chapel, which he had caused to be lighted up for me, and, having previously learnt from me that we had no official residences in Scotland, in bidding me farewell he expressed his hope, that "ere long every Scottish Bishop would have his official residence, and in every official residence his own private chapel." We parted with the kiss of peace. I have seldom passed a pleasanter evening in my life, than that which I spent with Bishop Leonidas.
I had passed the greater part of this day at the Troitza Monastery, having left by the seven o'clock train, accompanied by my most kind friend and valuable interpreter, the Count Poutiatine, who, I am satisfied, went from St. Petersburg to Moscow (a distance of 400 miles), for no other purpose than that of enabling me to see to the best advantage every thing most worthy of attention at Moscow, and to introduce me to the eminent Prelates whom I had the pleasure of visiting. We arrived at the Monastery in time for the Service. The Church was full to overflowing. Having been admitted behind the screen, I had the opportunity of witnessing the interesting ceremonies connected with the Consecration of the Holy Eucharist. At the close I was presented with the little consecrated loaf. [This little loaf is an interesting feature in the Eucharistic service of the Russian Church. It is not a portion of the Consecrated Elements of the Eucharist. Just before the commencement of the Service I had observed many person presenting little loaves t o the Deacons. On receiving each loaf, together with the name of the person desiring the Prayers of the Church, the Deacon, with a small sharp instrument, cut a very small triangular portion out of each; and the loaf was then returned to the offerer. During the Prayer for the whole state of Christ's Church, the names of those persons, for whom the Prayers of the Church are thus desired, are mentioned. At the close of the Service, the small particles cut out of the loaves are mixed with what remains of the Consecrated wine, and are consumed by the Deacons. Some kind friend had evidently obtained for me the Prayers of the Church at that time, for one of the Deacons came and presented this little loaf to me, as I stood behind the Screen.] I then visited the Suffragan Bishop Anthony. He was engaged with other visitors, which prevented my having much conversation with him. He however kindly gave instructions for my being shown over the Monastery and the Spiritual Academy, and, on our parting, have me the kiss of peace, and presented me with a small picture, exquisitely carved in wood by one of the monks, representing a portion of the Monastery. The Rector, who conducted me over the Academy, was a singularly pleasing, intelligent, gentlemanly man. In this Academy there are a large number of students preparing for the ministry, and I was informed that these young men were as much interested as those in the Spiritual Academy at St. Petersburg in the question of the Reunion of the Churches.
Almost the last opportunity which I had for conversing upon this subject, was afforded me on my return from Moscow to St. Petersburg. On reaching St. Petersburg I received a communication from Count Tolstoy, that his Imperial Highness the Grand Duke Constantine would be glad to receive me at his palace, about twenty miles from St. Petersburg. I proceeded thither accordingly on the day appointed, and was most kindly and courteously received by his Highness. We had not been long together, when he too, to my surprise, commenced a conversation upon the same interesting subject; and it was most refreshing and cheering to find how thoroughly conversant his Imperial Highness was with every thing which bore upon the question, and what an intimate knowledge he possessed of much of the religious condition of England. We had no need of an interpreter, for his Highness spoke English with as much ease, fluency, and with as little accent, as myself. In reply to a remark which I had made, he expressed his earnest hope, that this question of Union should never be suffered to be mixed up with politics, that it should be treated only as a religious question, and be kept free from the entanglements of any mere worldly policy. He assured me that it was a subject on which he had long and often thought, and in which he took a lively interest, adding, with much feeling and earnestness, that he considered it to be one in which all Christians ought to feel an interest, for he was sure, he said, that it must be pleasing to our Lord Jesus Christ, to see any attempt being made towards accomplishing the subject of His last prayer, "that we all may be One."
When views and opinion such as these are entertained by one so eminent and so influential, and unless I am greatly misinformed, entertained in a quarter even higher than this, I think the Committee of Convocation may well be encouraged to go forward in their work--not rashly nor hastily, or too confidently, but with patience, prudence, and forbearance, in the hope that they too may be permitted to be instrumental towards the accomplishment, in God's good time, of the object of the Redeemer's last prayers, "that we all may be One."
Had I in my visit to Russia endeavoured to elicit some expression of opinion from learned and distinguished persons on the question of a revival of Intercommunion between the Churches, I should not have had so strong a conviction that it is one in which members of the Russo-Greek Church do feel an interest, as I have derived from the fact, that on every occasion the subject was introduced by them, and not by myself. There appeared to be a wish on their part to ascertain how far I was myself interested in the subject, and, when assured of this, there was a readiness and a desire to converse upon it. Nor was it by Churchmen only that this interest was felt and expressed. I found the laity, and ladies no less than gentlemen, quite as warmly interested in the question. As an illustration of this I may mention the following circumstance. As I was returning from my interview with the Grand Duke Constantine, I met in the train a Russian lady, who, having ascertained who I was, assured me of the interest which had been felt in St. Petersburg at the visit of an Anglican Bishop, an interest which she said she herself shared with many others, from the desire to see some steps taken towards Reunion. She conversed on this subject during the whole of our journey to St. Petersburg, in a manner which showed how much it had already engaged her attention. Nor did the fact of my being a member of a church not now in communion with her own, prevent her from showing her Christian kindness towards me in a very pleasing manner. In the course of our conversation she had learnt that I should leave St. Petersburg on the following day, on my return to England, and also the hour at which I should leave. Shortly before the train started she came to the station, and there presented me with the well known little consecrated loaf, as an evidence that she had sought and obtained for me that morning the prayers of the Church, "for my safety," as she told me, "during my long journey back to England." As a further mark of her good will towards an Anglican Bishop, and as a memorial of his visit to Russia, she made me a present, amongst other things, of a copy of the Russian Liturgy in Slavonic, and one also of the Four Gospels, both of them most beautifully illuminated. I have no doubt that the meeting which took place in London some time ago, at which Prince Orloff was present, had a considerable tendency in drawing attention in Russia to the subject of Union, for I was frequently asked if I had been present at that meeting. While then I have reason to believe that a very friendly disposition prevails in Russia towards promoting Intercommunion, I am nevertheless satisfied that the time is not yet come for any thing like formal discussion between representatives of the two Churches. We know much too little of each other at present. Strong prejudices on either side have to be removed; the difference between Intercommunion and Incorporation has to be thoroughly understood; as also the practical belief that the holding one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, does not imply identity of worship or of forms and ceremonies. By more frequent friendly intercourse with each other, by the circulation of works by which we may be mutually instructed as to the nature of the doctrine, discipline and worship of the respective Churches, by mutual respect, and by acts of Christian kindness, the way may be paved for the removal of those difficulties on the part of "the people," to which the Venerable Philaret referred, and for the opening of a more formal discussion between the Bishops and learned men on either side, which, with God's blessing, may issue in the reconciliation of those differences which at present exist between the Eastern and Anglican Churches. May the action of the Committee of Convocation be mercifully blessed in bringing about so glorious a result!