Scene I. The Jerusalem Chamber.
DR. EASY rose to propose the question of which he had given notice at the previous sitting of Convocation:--"Would it be considered heresy in the Church of England to deny the existence of God?" It had occurred to him that he should perhaps adopt a form more convenient for the present debate, if he put the question thus:--"Would a clergyman, openly teaching that there was no God, be liable to suspension? "
ARCHDEACON JOLLY thought not. What the Church of England especially prided herself upon was the breadth of her views. No view could be broader than the one just stated, and therefore none more likely to meek with the sanction of the Privy Council, which, he apprehended, was the real point to be kept in view in the discussion of this interesting question. (Hear, hear.)
DEAN BLUNT concurred in the opinion that Breadth and the Privy Council were kindred ideas. Still, it might be asked, could even the doctrinal elasticity of that tribunal become sufficiently expansive to embrace the enormous hypothesis of his learned friend? He ventured to think that it could. Let it be supposed that some clergyman of the Church of England--say the Archbishop of Canterbury--should publicly teach that there was no [9/10] God. The case being brought before the Privy Council, it might be reasonably assumed that that supreme Arbiter of Anglican doctrine would deliver some such judgment as the following:--
"We find that the Church of England is not opposed to the existence of a God. At the same time, we cannot overlook the fact that the nineteenth Article, in affirming that all churches, even the Apostolic, have erred in matters of faith, obviously implies that the Church of England may err also in the same way. Therefore the Church of England may err in teaching that there is a God. We conclude, that whilst, on the one hand, the Archbishop has taken an extreme or one-sided view of the teaching of the Church; on the other, for the reason assigned, it is undoubtedly open to every clergyman either to believe in or to deny the existence of a God."
ARCHDEACON THEORY would be disposed cordially to approve the judgment which the learned Dean anticipated. He had always maintained that it was the duty of every Anglican to doubt the existence of God. (Uproar.) Let him not be misunderstood. Speaking for himself, he had a moral and intellectual conviction that there was a God. He was not disputing the objective truth of the existence of a God: about that he could not suppose that a single member of Convocation could entertain the most transitory doubt. He was speaking only of their duty as members of the Church of England, and not at all of their obligation as Christians; two things which might happen in a particular case to be as wide apart as the poles, and to involve distinct and opposite responsibilities. Now, as members of the Church of England, he believed it was their duty to doubt, not only the existence of God, but also every separate article which the Church of England now taught, or might teach hereafter; and the more emphatically the Church of England appeared to teach, the more imperative was their duty to doubt. For, referring to the ingenious argument which Dean Blunt had put into the mouth of their national oracle, it was clear that the Church of England, in denying her own infallibility, laid all her members under the religious obligation of doubting everything she taught. Fallibility, properly defined, was not simply liability to err, it was the state of error. As infallibility is a state of certainty, [10/11] which does not admit of error; so fallibility is a state of doubt, which does not admit of conviction. Now, the Church of England, in proclaiming her own fallibility, did so with a peremptoriness, which elevated this part of her teaching, and this alone, to the dignity of dogma. For whereas in propounding other Anglican tenets, she so adjusted her definitions of doctrine as to leave the choice of possible and opposite interpretations to the discretion of her members; when speaking of this, the fundamental axiom of her whole theological system, she rose for the moment to the authority of a Teacher, and consented to put on the robe of infallibility, in order to promulgate with greater force the dogma of her own liability to error.
He would solicit attention to the logical results of this axiom of the Anglican creed. Where there is no infallibility, there can be nothing certain, as the Church of England wisely intimates, except, of course, the obligation of doubting. Consequently, it is one and the same thing to say that we ought to deny the Church's infallibility, and that we ought to doubt what the Church teaches. Now, the Church of England teaches that there is a God. Therefore it is the duty of every Anglican to doubt the existence of a God. And what is true of this article of belief is true of every other. Thus, if the Church of England appear to teach the necessity of Baptism, at the same time that she loudly declares her own fallibility in judging of that necessity, it was their duty and privilege, (as the Privy Council had recently ruled,) to doubt the necessity of Baptism. And if the Church of England appear to teach that she herself is a true Church, at the same time that she pro: claims her own fallibility in judging whether she be a true Church or no, and even adds that the truest Churches have at all times grossly erred, it was their duty to doubt that she was a true Church. They had no choice about the matter. It was their duty to doubt; and no one who did not doubt every doctrine of his Church could be said to comprehend her nature or to be animated by her spirit. This, then, was his answer to the question before the House: "Would it be heresy in an Anglican to deny the existence of God?" He replied that it might be heresy to deny the fact, but that it was the plainest of all duties to doubt it.
And here he would hazard one other observation on what he had ventured to call the cardinal doctrine of the Church's fallibility. [11/12] It was not uncommon in these days for Anglicans to become Roman Catholics. Did he blame them? As a Protestant he must answer, Yes; as an Anglican, No. He was willing to believe that they were guided in that act mainly by their unconscious respect for the teaching of the English Church. For it was obvious that all who are docile to the teaching of that Church must be supremely devoted to her dogma, of fallibility, since that dogma is evidently the most fruitful in its consequences, as well as the most clearly defined, in the whole range of her theology. But it was equally clear that as long as an Anglican remained in the Church of England, he could give no adequate proof of his belief in this essential dogma of her fallibility. He might believe it, or he might not. But once let him leave the Church, and by that act he manifested to the world his firm conviction that the Church of England was fallible. Consequently, the highest tribute an Anglican could pay to his own Church was to go out of her, and the best proof he could give of belief in her teaching was to connect himself without loss of time with some other communion.
DR. VIEWY here rose, and said that he had listened with deep interest to the ingenious observations of his learned friend. They were, perhaps, too rigidly scientific, and possibly distasteful to some of their colleagues, but he accepted them as a valuable protest against that narrow and Romanistic theology, which Archdeacon Chasuble, and a few others among his reverend friends, were anxious to introduce into the Church of England. For his own part, he hailed the accession of every new view to religion as evidence both of the legitimate fecundity of their National Church, and of the peculiar privileges of her members. It was her glory to have produced during three successive centuries teachers of every shade and variety of Christian doctrine, and to have survived, by a miracle of vitality, their ceaseless battles and disputes, which would have destroyed a less vigorous community, but which she had always serenely contemplated with maternal pride. No other religious society which had hitherto appeared in the world could make the same proud boast. It was, therefore, with satisfaction that he was about to communicate to the House a view of his own perfectly in harmony with the whole history of the Anglican Church, though differing in some points from the one so ably advocated by [12/13] Archdeacon Theory. It would be found, however, to provide a still more effective clue out of the labyrinth of Anglican difficulties, a valuable guide, if he might be allowed to say so, to his younger brethren, and a complete answer to the question in debate: "World it be heresy in the Church of England to deny the existence of God?" (Marks of lively attention.)
As an Anglican clergyman, he had always felt bound to teach whatever the Church of England might be supposed to teach. (Applause.) But as that Church, whether interpreted by her clergy or her formularies, was taunted by her enemies with teaching everything and denying everything at the same time, (or at least with permitting every imaginable creed from transcendental Popery down to the baldest Calvinism,) it became necessary for a young clergyman, who would shelter himself from the possibility of heresy, to centre the whole of his obedience in that one bishop or rector, under whom for the time being he might find himself placed. In other words, since to obey any two ecclesiastical authorities at the same moment involved the risk of being pronounced a heretic by either one or the other--because no two clergymen are exactly of the same belief--the only effective safeguard against the possibility of heresy was personal obedience to one clergyman at a time. Let the House observe how admirably the principle he was about to develope conciliated rival claims, while it obviated every difficulty arising from variety of doctrine. He argued, then, that personal obedience, the prime duty of every clergyman, was also the remedy for every evil; and he believed that he had carried out that principle in his own career, in a manner which Convocation would approve.
When first ordained to the office of the Diaconate, from which he had been subsequently elevated to unmerited dignities, he found himself in the diocese of a Low-Church bishop, he might say a very Low-Church bishop,--so low that any further descent into the regions of a purely negative theology would have left no doctrinal residuum whatever. He at once decided, in virtue of his principle of obedience to authority, to teach his flock the religion of his bishop; which, by careful analysis, he resolved into two articles of belief--the denial of dogma, and the assertion of self. (Dean Pompous audibly whispered "highly unbecoming.") But here he had met with a difficulty at starting for it happened that his [13/14] rector was a Puseyite; and that, consequently, in the main, whatever the bishop taught to be true, the rector taught to be false, and whatever the bishop taught to be false, the rector taught to be true. The case, as Convocation knew, was so common in this country, as to form perhaps the rule in a majority of parochial cures. His principle, however, suggested an easy escape from the embarrassing position. He applied it thus: Manifestly more obedience was due to a bishop than to a rector; yet a certain quantum of obedience was due to a rector, if only because a bishop had appointed him. It became, so to speak, a question of proportion, rather than of theology, and was soluble, not by the Thirty-Nine Articles, but by the rule of three; and after working it out with religious care, the following commended itself to him as the solution of the problem. He would preach Low-Church doctrines on the Sundays, denying the sacramental view and all its consequences, as the homage of clerical obedience due to the bishop; but he would teach High-Church doctrines during the week, without abating a single tenet, in discharge of the proportionate measure of obedience due to the rector. This practice gave rise, he was bound to admit, to some excitement in the parish, and led to the popular conviction that however excellent his teaching might be in detail, there was a want of unity about it when looked at as a whole. Yet when he explained to his parishioners the purity of the motive which induced the apparent contradictions, and proved to them that his duplex system was designed only to reflect justly and proportionately the two aspects of Christianity exhibited by their bishop and their rector, the whole parish at once applauded the delicacy of his conscience, while it ceased not to question the value of his teaching. And so things went on with tolerable harmony for the space of a year; when, unhappily, both the bishop and the rector died about the same time; the former being quickly replaced by a High-Church bishop, appointed by a friend in the Cabinet, and the latter by a Low-Church rector, nominated by Mr. Simeon's trustees. It now became his duty, in consistency with his principle of obedience to personal authority, to invert the order and proportion of his teaching. He would continue to give the Sundays to the bishop, and the week-days to the rector; but on Sundays he must now be a Puseyite, and on week-days an Evangelical; and this simple inversion, so equitable in itself, and inspired solely by [14/15] the desire of submitting himself to his superiors, created such discord in the parish, that finally he was entreated, as the only means of restoring peace, to resign his cure of souls. At first he ventured to suggest that either the bishop or the rector should resign instead of himself, since their dissensions, not his disobedience, were the source of all this confusion. But this proposal did not meet with that cordial acquiescence which he had a right to expect from either of the parties concerned. Next, he proposed to submit to the arbitration of competent divines, some such problem as the following: "Given the value of certain Puseyite doctrines, with their Evangelical contraries, to find a mean Christianity;" and he bound himself to accept the resultant as his future standard of orthodoxy. But the arbitrators, after sitting for several days, (during which they were principally occupied in unavailing attempts to convert one another,) abandoned the task in despair; alleging that there was nothing sufficiently definite in either value to admit of their finding a mean.
Hard pressed in this emergency, but more than ever solicitous to sustain the great principle of his ecclesiastical life, he had recourse to a totally new idea. It so happened that the bishop who had ordained him by Letters Dismissory from his own diocesan was neither High-Church nor Low, but of the Moderate or Broad-Church school, and chiefly remarkable for the zeal with which he warned his candidates for orders against "extremes." None of these amiable young Levites could call to mind that his lordship, who was of noble birth, had ever addressed to them any injunction more apostolic than this: "avoid extremes." He therefore begged that he might be permitted to transfer his obedience to that bishop from whom he had originally received what a modern writer had playfully called the "divine commission not to teach." This would enable him, while faithful to the obligation of clerical obedience, to take up an independent position in his own parish; and so to preach henceforth, in a quiet and gentlemanly way, against both his bishop and his rector, thus avoiding all invidious distinctions. Unhappily, each fresh attempt at conciliation was less successful than the last; and he was just on the point of resigning his curacy in despair, when a valued counsellor, their distinguished friend and colleague, Dr. Easy, conveyed to him an opportune suggestion. That popular divine, who had risen pari passu with himself to the [15/16] highest summits of their Zion, advised him to promise both bishop and rector, as a final effort to preserve obedience unimpaired, that he would in future abstain from preaching any particular kind of Christianity, or from approaching any doctrine to which anybody could object on any ground whatever--a method, Dr. Easy assured him, which was adopted by a large number of amiable and well-bred clergymen in the Church of England. Not averse himself to any arrangement which might meet with the approval of authorities, he embodied this idea in a fourth proposal to both bishop and rector, who were pleased to accept it with decent cordiality, though without any show of enthusiasm. And from that day forward, triumphing in his sovereign principle of obedience to personal authority, he flattered himself, that not the faintest trace of any positive doctrine could be found in any part of his teaching.
Now, applying this history of an incident in his own career to the general question before the House: "Would it be heresy in the Church of England to deny the existence of God?" he thought he had sufficiently proved that it need not necessarily be so. For if heresy, as the etymology of the word implies, consist in the choice of one's own creed, as opposed to the submission of the will to authority, it becomes evident that they who always obey can never be guilty of heresy. Assuming that any particular bishop or rector should deny the existence of God, and that the Privy Council should justify him in so doing; granting, further, that obedience to his own bishop or rector is the first duty of a curate, because in the Church of England there is not, as in the Church of Rome, any supreme or universal authority to obey, it follows that a curate can only be guilty of heresy when he is guilty of disobedience. Otherwise a curate might set himself up as judge of heresy over his own bishop,--a spectacle they not unfrequently witnessed,--thus making it the bishop's duty to be taught by the curate, instead of the curate's duty to obey the bishop. The mind recoiled from so disastrous a preversion. Such, then, was his own view of the question before the House; and he should, therefore, give his vote in favor of the opinion, that, in the Church of England, it might be conditionally, but could not be necessarily, heresy to deny the existence of God.
DEAN PLIABLE concurred in the main with the principle [16/17] of the learned divine who had just resumed his seat, that obedience to authority was the first duty of a clergyman; but he utterly differed from him in his application of the principle, which appeared to him to be equally servile and injudicious. That principle he conceived to be most effectually carried out, not by abject submission to this bishop or that, this rector or that,--which might be both possible and convenient if in the Church of England, as in the Church of Rome, every bishop and every rector taught the same Christianity, but in the larger and nobler aim of faithfully representing at one and the same time all the Christianities taught by all the bishops and all the rectors of the Church of England. In other words, since every one confessed that it was impossible to teach a uniform theology in the Church of England, whose highest tribunal had ruled that her clergy might teach either of two opposite doctrines--and therefore both alternately--he was brought to the conviction that the only course open to Anglicans solicitous about theoretical unity was to profess at the same moment every doctrine held within their communion, and all their contradictories. (Great uproar: a well-known preacher was heard to exclaim--"He would convert us into ecclesiastical acrobats.") Dean Pliable, however, continued He was not to be diverted by unseemly interruptions, and should calmly pursue the tenor of his argument. There might, indeed, be clergymen, timid lovers of compromise, who quailed before what he was willing to call the painful necessity of their position, and shrank from that large and bold, but only practical view of Anglican unity of which he was the advocate. His own mind was of a less effeminate type. He would add, that, throughout his long ministerial career, which had not been wholly unfruitful,--(partial cheers)--he had not ceased to maintain this view, which he would take leave to call the only honest, logical, and consistent view in the present condition of their great national community. When inducted to his first curacy, under circumstances identical with those described by Dr. Viewy, he resolved to expound the principle in question in all its integrity. Mounting the pulpit on that interesting occasion of a first discourse,--a moment which he doubted not was present to the memory of most of his colleagues,--and taking for his text the sublime words of St. Paul, "one Lord, One Faith, One Baptism," he delivered to an agricultural [17/18] but anxious and attentive congregation, the following summa of that Anglican theology which it would be hence-forth his duty to unfold to them. He had reason to know that his sermon had been warmly approved by many of the more eminent clergy on both sides of the Atlantic, and that at least one Anglican bishop was accustomed to propose it to candidates for orders as a model which they would do well to imitate.
"ONE LORD, ONE FAITH, ONE BAPTISM."
"These words, my brethren, on a first impression, may seem to you to imply an undue restriction on the liberties of the Protestant mind. Listen, however, while I explain to you the Anglican Theology as taught by your bishop, your rector, and myself; and you will confess that whatever St. Paul may have designed by Christian unity, the Church of England has put an interpretation on his words which relieves them of all suspicion of intolerance.
I. In regard of baptism, which the great Apostle calls one of the "foundations" of Christianity, you may believe with your rector, who, as you are aware, was appointed over you by your bishop, that without baptism it is impossible to enter the kingdom of heaven, and that it is always accompanied by the new birth.
(2.) At the same time, you are evidently at liberty to consider it with your bishop, to whom both your rector and myself have promised a faithful obedience, to be a mere form or ceremony, having no connexion whatever with the new birth, and therefore wholly unnecessary to salvation.
(3.) Finally, you may agree with me, your approved and licensed curate, as regards Christian doctrine in general and baptism in particular, that extremes are always to be avoided, and that on the whole it is better to accept baptism as a customary and not disedifying ceremony, extremely well-adapted to little children, but without entertaining any morbid prejudice as to its possible effects on the soul.
II. With respect to the Lord's Supper, you can hold with your rector that the effect of consecration in the element is to produce [18/19] some kind of real presence, which, however, does not admit of any attempt at definition, and which is commonly expounded with the greatest vagueness by those who profess to hold it with the greatest precision. You may also believe with your rector--if you are capable of the effort which such an opinion implies--that what you perceive in the chancel is not a table but an altar, and that when you come to church your real object is to assist at "the celebration of the adorable mysteries."
(2.) Should these views commend themselves to your attention, they will doubtless be rendered all the more attractive by the fact that they are sternly prohibited by your own bishop; who requires you, as you would be saved, to maintain that in the Church of England there is no such thing as an altar; that the above doctrine is mere Popery; that the sacrifice of the Mass is a blasphemous fable and a dangerous deceit, plainly repugnant, as the Articles affirm, to the Word of God; that consecration produces no change whatever on the elements; that the object of covering the elements with the hands, as the rubric commands, is to prevent any change being wrought upon them; that the doctrine of the real presence is a gross superstition, to protest against which the Church of England was expressly created in the sixteenth, century: in short, that the High-Church doctrine, as your bishop justly remarks, is "rank Popery," while the Low-Church doctrine, as your rector judiciously observes, is "filthy Calvinism."
(3.) There yet remains, however, another view of the subject, which approves itself to many of the clergy, and which may be warmly recommended as being most in harmony with the formularies and the practice of our Church: that the change in the elements, if any, and whatever it be, is solely due to the recipient himself, who, of his own free will and power, consecrates, or declines to consecrate, just as he pleases; the faith of the communicant, and not the act of the minister, determining the character of the elements; or, to put this view more simply, say that the Lord's Supper is a monthly or quarterly devotion, in which serious persons receive a little bread and wine, neither with nor without any particular real presence.
 III. As to the doctrine of the Visible Church, what it is, and who belongs to it, you are again provided with three distinct and perfectly opposite views upon the point; while in regard of this, as every other doctrine, the Church of England carries delicate forbearance so far as to refrain from intruding upon you any assistance in making your choice between them. Have you Catholic tendencies? Then you may insist with your rector that without the Apostolic succession there can be no true priesthood; and that outside the three branches of the Catholic Church, the Roman, the Greek, and the Anglican, there can be no true sacraments, no valid ministry, and only a perilously vague and cloudy chance of salvation.
(2.) But you may also enjoy the privilege of believing with your bishop, that in the pure reformed Christianity there is no such thing as a priesthood, which is a Popish figment to be utterly reprobated of all faithful people; and that to belong to the Church means simply to reject dogma, abhor Popery, and have an inward assurance that you are one of the elect.
(3.) But if neither of these views should happen to coincide exactly with your own impressions on the subject, you may consider--and this perhaps is a more rational belief than either of the other two--that the Church is what each person thinks it to be, and that, therefore, everybody belongs to it who says he does; whilst with regard to ordination, as retained in our reformed communion, it is probably more scriptural, and certainly more gentlemanly, than the not being ordained, giving to our admirable clergy a certain caste and position in society, which, as everybody perceives, is totally wanting to dissenting ministers.
IV. And now I approach the painful question of the Roman Church. With your rector you may tenderly breathe forth the prayer, "Would to God we were one with our sweet sister Rome, through whom we derive our orders, our creeds, and all our Catholicity." You may even assert with him, and a good many other clergymen of his particular school, that they alone are faithful members of the English Church, who claim to hold all Roman doctrine, and openly advocate union both with Rome and Moscow, [20/21] though, probably, with as much expectation of obtaining the one as the other.
(2.) If, however, you should find yourselves unable to take up this position, which must certainly be rather a constrained and trying attitude for Protestants, you may, with your bishop, fervently exclaim: "Away with the Church of Rome from the face of the earth; for she is the Beast of the Apocalypse, the great Babylon, several Antichrists, the pit of damnable idolatry, and generally the implacable foe of truth, progress, liberty, morality, virtue, decency, and enlightenment."
(3.) But, my brethren, how far more edifying will be your moderation and charity, if, in this particular, as in every other, you observe the golden rule, which is, "to approve every form of belief except a definite one;" remembering that it is open to you, as it is to your clergy, to believe what you like about the Roman Church, as about the Church of England; and that it is therefore scarcely prudent to censure the belief of Roman Catholics, which you may one day use your undoubted right to exchange for your own.
V. Next, as to Confession and Absolution. Though probably most of you have never heard of either, and cannot therefore be expected to take a deep interest in the subject, still it is my duty as your spiritual guide to explain to you the relations in which you stand toward them. First, then, you may hold with your rector that confession to God's priest is a most blessed and tender provision for afflicted and penitent souls, a divinely-appointed remedy for spiritual wounds, which the Saviour of the world bequeathed to sinners from His cross.
(2.) If, however, you should adopt this view, you will perhaps be disposed to wonder that your Church allowed so wholesome a practice to fall into abeyance for three hundred years, and you may use the liberty your Church permits you, to adopt the more consistent opinion of your excellent bishop: that confession is a disgusting and immoral practice, a vile and insidious cheat of priestcraft, by which people sin more easily, and priests get souls into their power, but which, happily, fell into merited disuse in our own reformed land, because Englishmen are much too pure, great, and good to retain so detestable an usage.
 (3.) But truer still, and far more worthy of your common sense, will be the deep conviction, that Confession is not popular in this country, chiefly on two accounts; first, because even the highest churchmen have a lurking suspicion that their priests are wanting in the requisite powers to absolve, having neither faculties to hear confessions, nor training for so difficult and delicate an office; and, secondly, because it may be that Englishmen detect a certain incongruity in confessing their sins to a reverend gentleman who is on nuptial terms with the wife of his bosom, and has several daughters to marry."
He, Dean Pliable, had advanced thus far in his discourse, purposing to complete in the same manner the whole cycle of Anglican theology, when the clerk coming up the pulpit stairs put a slip of paper into his hand from the rector, on which were written the two words, "Pray desist." In compliance with this request, he hurriedly finished his discourse; and, on the following Monday morning, his rector, calling him into his library, counselled him in the kindest manner to seek another curacy. It was in consequence of this event, destined to have results not contemplated by the rector, that he was shortly after named incumbent of a well-known proprietary chapel in the western regions of the metropolis, to which he was followed by a deputation from his rector's flock; bearing in their hands a costly testimonial, in the form of an appropriate piece of plate.
And now, it only remained for him to explain, in conclusion, why he had entered into these details, and what was their bearing upon the solemn question before the House: "Would it be considered heresy in the Church of England to deny the existence of God?" What he had already said would enable Convocation to anticipate his reply. The meditations of a long life, directed especially towards the character, the principles, and the practice of the English Church, obliged him to say candidly, that if an Anglican bishop, backed by the Privy Council, should reply to the question in the negative, and instruct his clergy that, at least as a matter of discipline, it would not be heresy, such a decision could only be regarded as the honest and logical completion of a system of theology, which having already determined in manifold ways that there is no such thing as positive Christian truth, must consistently [22/23] admit that there need not be necessarily a personal Christian God.
A few minutes of painful silence here ensued, when--
DEAN CRITICAL inquired, with a touch of irony in his voice and manner--"Could any of his reverend friends undertake to inform him what was the authority of the Church of England?" Hitherto the debate had gone only to show what it was not. Dr. Theory had maintained that there was no such thing. Dr: Viewy and Dean Pliable had each of them proved that it did not reside in the bishops and clergy, unless indeed it might be supposed to exist in equal measure in every one of them; but as they were unhappily in direct opposition to one another on many fundamental doctrines, this was equivalent to saying that no authority to decide Christian doctrine existed in the Church of England. If there really were any such authority, Convocation could hardly be more usefully employed than in defining its 'nature and fixing its limits.
ARCHDEACON JOLLY observed, without rising from his seat--"What say you to the Archbishop of Canterbury?" (Some laughter, which was immediately suppressed.)
DEAN CRITICAL reminded the venerable archdeacon that the Archbishop of Canterbury was not alluded to in their formularies in any such character, and feared it must be said, without disrespect, that he had no more power to determine a disputed point of doctrine than his amiable lady, whose hospitality many of them had enjoyed. It was a lamentable fact that his Grace had no more authority over the people of England, nor over a single individual out of his own household, than . . . . (a voice exclaimed, "the King of the Sandwich Islands," a suggestion which was greeted with mingled applause and disapprobation.)
ARCHDEACON JOLLY: Well, then, Her Majesty the Queen, whom the Church admits to be "supreme" in all causes, spiritual as well as temporal?
DEAN CRITICAL could not forget that Her Majesty, in whom they recognized a model of every Christian virtue, frequented indifferently Presbyterian meeting-houses and the churches of their [23/24] own communion. If, therefore, as the law appeared to admit, the authority of the Anglican Church resided in her royal person, it followed that the Westminster Confession and the Thirty-Nine Articles were equally true, and that every Anglican was also a Presbyterian.
ARCHDEACON JOLLY: "How about the Privy Council? If it be the ultimate judge of doctrine, must it not be the authority for which you are seeking?"
DEAN CRITICAL thought not, because in fact the sum of its decisions amounted to this--that the Church of England taught nothing, and denied nothing, which was equivalent to saying that she believed nothing. A tribunal which decided in every case of disputed doctrine, as the Privy Council invariably did, that both the plaintiff and defendant were right, was a judicial curiosity that could hardly be said to afford the litigant parties much assistance in bringing their cause to an issue. The Privy Council might be an authority over the Church of England, whose decisions the latter was obliged to receive; but no one could seriously maintain that it was an authority to which any Anglican, of whatever party in the Church, professed to submit his conscience in matters of faith.
ARCHDEACON JOLLY: "Will you accept Convocation as your authority?" (Laud laughter, with cries of "Shame" from Dean Pompous.)
DEAN CRITICAL regretted that he could not accept Convocation in the character of an Anglican Holy See; because, to say nothing of the general feeling of the country, and the malicious comments of the public press, which appeared to treat them with derision, and talked of their "dancing round a May-pole," his own observation of the proceedings of that Assembly dissuaded him from any such view. Much experience had brought him to the sorrowful conviction that Convocation was only a clerical debating club, of which every member took himself for the Pope, and the Church for his pupil.
ARCHDEACON JOLLY: "Might it be permitted to suggest the formularies?"
DEAN CRITICAL: So supple and elastic in their nature as to [24/25] be sworn to with equal facility both by those who claim to "hold all Roman doctrine" and those who protest against it.
ARCHDEACON JOLLY: "Well, there are still the Thirty-Nine Articles."
DEAN CRITICAL: Thirty-Nine opinions, one of which declares of all the others, that they are human and fallible.
ARCHDEACON JOLLY did not know that he could offer any further suggestion, but, at least, one of the Articles declared, "the Church hath authority in matters of faith."
DEAN CRITICAL was not unmindful of the fact, which had always appeared to him to be a device of the framers to express this idea: "We admit that the Church we are forming has no authority, but we recognise that if it were a Church, it would have authority." For it should be observed that while they said, "the Church hath authority," they at the same time enjoined the clergy not to believe a single word she taught them, unless they found their own interpretation of the Scriptures to agree with hers! Thus, they made the Church of England say to all her members: "If you should accidentally be right in your interpretation of the Bible, put that down to me, for I am the Church which teaches you; but if, which is far more probable, you should be wrong, put that down to yourself, for I have warned you to believe in nothing which you cannot prove for yourself out of the Bible." ("Bear, hear," from the Rev. Lavender Kidds.)
DEAN CRITICAL--(after contemplating Mr. Kidds through his eye-glass)--continued: He would gladly and thankfully find in the Articles, if it were possible to do so, both an authority and a summary of positive doctrine. But how stood the case? The very Articles which affirm that the Church hath authority were expressly written to prove that it hath not. Even the preface to the Articles was a manifest attempt at throwing dust in the eyes of the public, and making them believe the exact contrary of what the writers knew to be true. Thus it stated that the Articles were composed to "avoid diversities of opinion," whereas it was notorious to the whole world that they were so framed as to include diversities of opinion. It said further, that "His Majesty would not endure any varying [25/26] or departing from them," which did not seem to imply much confidence in their power to keep their own ground, and made his Majesty the real but somewhat inefficient guardian of their contradictory propositions. It said again that "no man should put his own sense or comment upon their meaning." Really the drollest requirement! For, as it had been proved from the beginning, and more than ever in their own times, that they were capable of many and opposite interpretations, whose sense should a man put upon them unless he put his own?
THE PROFESSOR OF HISTORY: Dean Critical was no doubt aware, that, according to Dr. Pusey, the true light by which to interpret the Articles was to be borrowed from the canons of the Council of Trent.
DEAN CRITICAL did not see why, if every man might choose his own sense, Dr. Pusey might not choose his own interpreter, though he could have wished he had made a better choice. But he was surprised that Dr. Pusey did not detect the inconsistency of making the Roman Church the interpreter of Articles which were not only directed against herself, but which formed the very charter of a rival community, whose creation they expressly justified by setting forth the errors and even the blasphemies of Roman theology. It was really too much to make the Roman Church at once the interpreter of charges brought against her, and the judge of the parties who brought them.
THE PROFESSOR OF HISTORY: It was not the less true that they must find a judge somewhere, otherwise the Articles were so much waste paper. Could they not be made to interpret themselves?
DEAN CRITICAL thought that their friend Dr. Theory had sufficiently demonstrated--first, that there was really nothing to interpret; and, secondly, that even if there were, there was nobody authorised to interpret it. He had been painfully struck by the observation of his learned friend, that a Church proclaiming its own fallibility could neither teach any definite doctrine, nor enforce it on the conscience of its members. The Articles were his best witness to the truth of the assertion. Thus, one of them decreed that the Church hath authority, whilst it not only enjoined all Anglicans [26/27] not to obey it, but even instructed them how to evade obedience by pleading their own interpretation of the Bible. Another of them announced that even General Councils were incurably addicted to "erring," as though the erring propensities of Councils were to be taken for proof that the Church hath authority, instead of for proof that it could not possibly have any. Yet General Councils were certainly regarded by the authors of the Prayer-Book as the highest authority after the Bible. How, then, was it possible to extract any plea for authority of any kind from the Articles? "I am sorry for you, General Councils, but you err," is the remarkable form of obedience to authority suggested by the Anglican Church to her clergy! He must repeat, that there was something at once trivial and impertinent in a Church declaring that it hath authority, whilst in the same breath it commanded its disciples not to obey that authority. The authors of the Articles seem themselves to have felt the absurdity; for in the nineteenth Article they made the Church of England say virtually, "I cannot teach you, nevertheless obey;" whilst in the twentieth Article, they made her declare, "I can teach you, nevertheless do not obey." It repented him (Dean Critical), and it was a relief both to his conscience and to his intellect to make the avowal, that he had thrice sworn to the Thirty-Nine; though perhaps, as an undergraduate, the act was partly excused by the fact of his never having read them, and, as a beneficed clergyman, by the circumstance that the law was too strong for him. He appealed to all who respected truth and integrity, and did not consider themselves mere ecclesiastical machines to be wound up and set in motion by an Act of Parliament, whether it was possible to imagine a more grotesque form of impiety and dishonesty than the swearing to the divine truth of what one swears at the same time to be human? He would remind the House of the caustic and ingenious rebuke of the Count de Maistre, than which nothing, he conceived, was ever more conspicuously merited: "In the very same moment, with the very same pen, with the same ink, and upon the same paper, the Church of England declares a dogma, and declares that she has no right to declare it. I hope," added the Count, "that in the endless catalogue of human inconsistencies, this will always hold one of the first places." And he (Dean Critical) must venture to add his own hope to that of the Count, that the swearing, no matter how often, [27/28] to the divine truth of what one swears to be human, must be far too puerile an act to be reckoned a sin.
DR. EASY here rose to express his regret that, up to the present time, no progress whatever had been made towards that important discovery which was the object of their present discussion.
(He was proceeding to confess his cordial agreement with Dean Critical, as a clergyman and a gentleman, that subscription to the Articles was something very like an insult to a liberal and cultivated mind, when he was suddenly interrupted by the Rev. Lavender Kidds, who appeared not to notice that any one was occupying the House.)
The REV. LAVENDER KIDDS, (who seemed much excited, and rose amidst cries of "Order, order," and considerable laughter), observed that he now assisted for the first time at the Assembly of Convocation, and had been deeply shocked by the unscriptural tone of the discussion. (Suppressed merriment.) For his part, he gloried in the Thirty-Nine articles of their pure and reformed Church, and especially in their noble testimony to the grand truth that the religion of Protestants was the "Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible." This was the true "Authority" of vital Christians, and he cared for no other. This was the simple and grand lesson of those venerable formularies which had been that day so grievously undervalued and calumniated. Really, it seemed to him to be preposterous in any Protestant assembly to talk so much of "Church-authority." Authority, indeed! Who wanted it? And if they had it, who would obey it? Certainly no member of that douse with whom he had the happiness of being acquainted,--(laughter and ironical cheers,)--least of all the High-Church party, who had recently been forming a society to protect themselves against their bishops. (Renewed disapprobation.) He contended that their forefathers had done without authority, and had wisely regarded it as a mark of the Beast. He was for the Bible and the Bible only. Perish the Articles, and the Church itself--no, his zeal was perhaps carrying him too far. What he meant to say was--in fact, he wished to observe--as long as they had the Word they wanted nothing else. He knew, indeed, that Dean Primitive and Archdeacon Chasuble preferred [28/29] Authority to Scripture--as long, that was, as they could keep the former entirely in their own hands; but he had invariably remarked that they refused to their bishops and superiors the obedience they required from their curates and parishioners. But Englishmen, he felt convinced, were not to be cajoled by a spurious Popery; and if they must renounce their liberty, it would not be to those who used that liberty themselves to resist the very Church they copied in everything but their obedience. (General cries of "enough, enough," amid which Mr. Kidds resumed his seat, with the air of one who had delivered a solemn and suitable protest.)
DEAN BLUNT regretted that Mr. Kidds had so abruptly terminated his discourse. He respected every conscientious opinion, but feared that Mr. Kidds had failed to grasp the real point under discussion. The reverend gentleman need only reflect that the interpretation of Scripture texts was even still more various and incongruous than that of the Articles, in order to convince himself that if authority were wanted to determine the one, it was at least as essential to expound the other.
It was curious that Mr. Kidds did not perceive that everybody had the Bible as well as himself, but that everybody drew a different Christianity out of it. From the Socinian, who denies the divinity of the Lord who bought him, up to the Puseyite, who believes in everything Catholic except in the Catholic Church--all were Bible Christians. But this was only another way of saying that Bible Christianity is, of all fallacies, the most transparent; the fallacy consisting in this, that no professedly Bible Christian ever really takes the Bible for his authority; what he always takes is his own interpretation of the Bible, that is, himself. So that, "the Bible, and the Bible only," meant really "my interpretation of the Bible, and not yours." Hence, the Bible and self were synonymous terms in the mouth of the Bible Christian. For example (continued Dean Blunt, with a candour which appeared to startle Convocation), if Mr. Kidds take a text of the Bible as meaning one thing, and I take the same text as meaning exactly the contrary, it is obvious that neither Mr. Kidds nor myself takes the Bible for our authority: what we take is ourselves: but as nobody has sufficient sincerity to say openly, "my only authority is myself," [29/30] therefore, Mr. Kidds calls his opinions "the Bible," and I call Mr. Kidds' opinions "unscriptural."
He (Dean Blunt) would only detain the House to suggest to Mr. Kidds the answer he must give to the question proposed by Dr. Easy. Assuming Mr. Kidds' theory--that a man's conviction of the truth is the same with truth itself; in other words, that heresy becomes the truth to every one who thinks he finds it in the Bible--the real solution of Dr. Easy's question was as follows
"Let a man be sure that the Bible teaches that there is a God, and then he is a heretic if he deny it; but let him have the smallest doubt upon the point, and then he is a heretic if he assert it."
DEAN PRIMITIVE was unwilling that the observations of Mr. Kidds should pass without any other reply than Dean Blunt had thought fit to give them. He had spent thirty years of his life in combating the errors of that party in the Church to which Mr. Kidds belonged, and he hoped to continue the same holy warfare to the end. He was aware that the so-called Evangelicals insisted upon the plainness of Scripture, and were accustomed to assume, with strange disregard of notorious facts, that nobody need find any difficulty in deciding the true meaning of any text whatever. With the permission of the House, he would give a few illustrations of the Evangelical method of dealing with the inspired book; from which it would very clearly appear, that when they boasted of appealing to the Bible, they only appealed to their own version of it, that is, to themselves; and that their favourite shibboleth, "the Bible, and the Bible only," meant simply, as Dean Blunt had well observed, "my interpretation of the Bible, and not yours."
Thus, when our Lord said to His priests: "I give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven," it is plain, according to the Evangelicals, that He meant: "I give to no man the keys of the kingdom of heaven."
When He declared: "Whosesoever sins you remit, they are remitted;" beyond doubt He wished them to understand: "I particularly withhold from you the power to remit sin."
When He gave the promise to his Church: "I am with you always, even to the end of the world;" manifestly He designed to [30/31] say: "I am with you only to the end of the third or fourth century, after which I shall desert you until the sixteenth."
When He announced: "I will send the Holy Ghost, and He shall guide you into all truth;" it is clearer than the day that He wished to tell them: "The Holy Ghost will teach you just so much of truth as each individual can gather for himself from the private study of the Scriptures."
When He made the wonderful statement: "The gates of hell shall never prevail against the Church;" even children can see that He meant: "Hell shall triumph over the Church for eight hundred years and more."
Finally, when he exclaimed: "He that will not hear the Church, let him be to thee as the heathen and the publican;" how obvious the interpretation: "He that will not hear the Church, let him be to thee as a brother; provided only he read the Bible, and call himself an Evangelical."
As the Evangelicals dealt in this manner with the words of the Master, it was not surprising that they should treat His apostles with the same derision. A few examples would suffice:--
If St. Paul said: "A man that is a heretic reject;" everybody perceives that he meant: "Particularly court the company of heretics, and gladly join in prayer with them."
If he exhorted: "Let there be no divisions," what is more evident than this truth: "Without divisions the human mind will be enslaved by priestcraft."
If he taught that there should be "no schisms in the body," surely it was equivalent to saying: "Let the body be made up of schisms."
If he affirmed: "The works of the flesh are manifest, which are sects," it was precisely as if he had said: "Now, sects are the first-fruits of the Spirit."
If, alluding to holy marriage, he observed: "It is good for a man not to touch a woman," how manifest the meaning: "Everybody should marry, and particularly priests."
If, again, he said: "He that is married is divided," how transparent the scriptural lesson: "All men ought to marry, in order that they may be divided."
If, once more, he admonished Christians: "He that is not [31/32] married careth for the Lord," how patent the Apostolic counsel: "Make haste to marry, especially the bishops and clergy, that you may cease to care for the Lord."
He would now proceed to give illustrations of a different kind, and from a different source. He was anxious to show, as a mere matter of fairness to Mr. Kidds, that his method and that of his party in the Church was not inconsistent with the language of the Articles, which would supply remarkable specimens of the same kind. For this reason he felt at liberty to remain in communion with men whose views of Christianity were diametrically opposed to his own. Both could plead the approval, silent or spoken, of their common mother. The maxim, "Quieta non movere"--which in their communion might be interpreted, "Peace at any price"--was not to be lightly esteemed; and, perhaps, in the event of any future revision of the Thirty-Nine Articles, the sense of that salutary maxim might be embodied in theological terms, so as to constitute the fortieth of their number.
The examples he proposed to add were as follows; each was unique of its kind:--There was the example dogmatic; the example critical; and the example evasive. And, first, for the example dogmatic.
The Twenty-eighth Article pronounced that the Catholic doctrine of the Sacrament of the Altar is "repugnant to the plain words of Scripture." Now the plain words were: "This is my body." Consequently, when our Lord said: "This is my body," the plain meaning of His words was: "This is not my body." By parity of reasoning, had our Lord said: "This is not my body," the plain meaning of his words would have been--Transubstantiation! On the same principle, when there came a voice from Heaven: "This is my beloved Son," it is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture to suppose that the Eternal Father revealed the Hypostatic Union. But had the Eternal Father affirmed: "This is not my beloved Son," the plain meaning would have been, what, in short, every good Christian erroneously believes to be true. He (Dean Primitive) had always regarded this statement of the Articles as an intentional and ingenious irony, of which the Bible theory was the object; and it was with this reservation that he swore to it at his ordination. For if the statement were seriously made, it would be perhaps the [32/33] most eccentric defiance of common sense, and common honesty, with which the literature of the world had hitherto furnished them.
Next for the example critical.
He (Dean Primitive) had found himself some years since attending a parish meeting in the north of England, presided over by a clergyman of great repute. The question under discussion was the best mode of treating controversial subjects in their divided Church. One clergyman strongly objected to all controversy, on the ground that it quenched charity, and led to no practical result. Immediately arose another, who declared in a loud voice, and with great energy of manner, that he had the authority of "Paul himself" for the condemnation of so wretched and unscriptural an opinion. For did not Paul say, that "without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness," and could he more clearly imply that with controversy all the mystery vanishes? (Great laughter, during which Mr. Kidds rose, as if to leave the room, but appeared to change his mind.)
Thirdly, there was the example evasive.
At an Archidiaconal meeting in a small town in Wiltshire, the discussion at dinner turned upon fasting. It was a Friday, and he must confess that the dinner provided by the landlord of the inn, who was probably not a theologian, was both ample and succulent, including a haunch of venison, to which all had done justice. Several of the younger clergy maintained, whether from a tardy sentiment of remorse he could not say, the scriptural duty of fasting. This was indignantly denied by an incumbent of the school of Mr. Kidds. Hard pressed by various texts, and especially by the express words of St. Paul, from which there was no escape, he exclaimed, after a few moments of painful deliberation: "Paul was a young man when he enjoined fasting, and probably became more scriptural afterwards."
Before resuming his seat, he would beg to offer his humble contribution toward the solution of the question proposed by Dr. Easy. It would certainly be sin and madness to deny the existence of God, but it would, he thought, be wrong to consider it heresy--at least in an Evangelical. He very much feared that in that [33/34] particular section of their Church heresy was impossible: because heresy was only the "choice" of one's own religion, and the Low-Church theory required every Protestant to make that choice deliberately for himself. Given the right which modern "liberty" conferred on every Protestant of gathering his own religion from the Bible, it would be unreasonable to call any man a sinner, and absurd to call him a heretic. A Christian, on the Low-Church theory, could only be a heretic when he differed from himself, and persisted in wilful disobedience to his own opinions. Heresy, therefore, as far as they were concerned, was a word that had lost all sense and meaning. A man might be a criminal in denying the existence of God, but he could not by any possibility be a heretic. The Low-Church party had conferred this boon on Christian England, that it had rendered heresy, which used to be the greatest of crimes, an absolute impossibility for anybody to commit.
But if he must speak for himself on the question proposed by Dr. Easy, he had only to reply that the Fathers and the first four General Councils believed there was a God, and that they were the safest guides on every point of Catholic belief.
DR. CANDOUR demanded: How should the poor know anything about the Fathers or the General Councils?
DEAN PRIMITIVE: Their clergy would instruct them. DR. CANDOUR: But if their clergy differed?
DEAN PRIMITIVE: The Councils did not differ, nor the fathers.
DR. CANDOUR: That might be true: but certainly the clergy differed quite as much about the Councils and the Fathers as they did about the Bible. So that, after all, it came to this, that the Puseyites' private reading of the records of the early Church was the same in principle with Mr. Kidds' private reading of the Bible; with this advantage to the latter, that every one can read the Bible who can read at all, but not one person in a million can read the Councils or the Fathers. Now "salvation by scholarship alone" was a theory that had its disadvantages on the score of its [34/35] exclusiveness. Besides, it was a fact that many Anglicans, like Dr. Ives, an American Bishop, were converted to the Roman Church, chiefly by the study of the Fathers and the Councils. These converts argued that the ancient writers required a living interpreter equally with Holy writ; whereas the Puseyites affirmed that every man was born a Sovereign Pontiff to sit in judgment on the early Church! Deans Blunt and Primitive had been severe on Mr. Kidds, he thought unjustly, on the ground that Bible Christianity was a cloak for private fancies and conceits; but he would like to be informed--since the Roman Church, the Greek Church, and every other church, claimed to be the true and sole successors of the early Church--where was the difference between the private reading of the Bible and the private reading of antiquity?
(Dean Primitive declining to continue the discussion, Convocation broke up into various groups, and the sitting was temporarily suspended. Several reverend gentlemen produced sandwiches, or other temperate food, the consumption of which tended to allay excitement by impeding conversation. Dean Pompous alone left the Hall, as if disdaining equally the food and the discourse but as he was observed, on returning a few minutes later, to replace a gold tooth-pick in his waistcoat pocket, it was inferred that he had chosen to take his refreshment apart. When order and silence had at length been restored, the debate was resumed, without any signs of diminished interest.)
THE PROFESSOR OF THEOLOGY, responding to a general call of the House, now manifested his intention to address the assembly.
It was no doubt true, he observed, that the appreciation of the Evangelical party, with which Dean Primitive had favoured them, was substantially exact. Their somewhat exaggerated Protestantism had been playfully rebuked; and he was free to admit that it was the product of ideas and sentiments which did not find their source in common sense nor in rational religion. But he was no less convinced, and he thought the moment had arrived to make this observation, if only as a matter of justice to the High-Church party, and to protect them from a purely invidious calumny, that, in point of essential unmitigated Protestantism, the Puseyites surpassed their [35/36] Low-Church rivals as much as they did in ability and learning. It had been observed by Dean Blunt that "self" was the alpha and omega of the Low-Church party. But if self was the Bible at Exeter Hall, it was also the supreme Pontiff at Oxford. "The Bible interpreted by the Church," meant "both interpreted by myself;" and "the Fathers interpreted by the Church," meant "my opinion of the fathers interpreted by my opinion of the Church." Add to these the ultra-Protestant formula, "the Bible, and the Bible only,"--which meant simply "my own interpretation of that book, not yours;"--and it was plain to common sense that all three formulas were absolutely one in principle. The only real difference between them would be found in their accidental developments. One illustration of this fact was as good as a thousand. Some years ago, as his reverend colleagues might remember, the late Rev. John Keble preached a remarkable sermon, of which the Rev. A. T. Russell, though a clergyman of the same communion; publicly declared that it was "inconsistent with the profession of Christianity"--meaning, of course, Mr. Russell's Christianity. In this case the private interpretation of the Bible was arrayed against the private interpretation of the Fathers; and the result of the conflict was that each advocate indulged in a perfectly harmless damnation of the other, both remaining authorised ministers of the same wisely liberal and tolerant Church.
The truth was, that Puseyism--to use once more a convenient term which usage had consecrated--was simply ultra-Protestantism, plus twice its pretensions, and minus half its cant. Self, he repeated, was the sole pontiff on both sides, but self assumed far more gigantic dimensions in the High than in the Low-Church school. To sit in judgment on the Fathers and the Councils as well as on the Bible; to instruct the doctors where they were right, and admonish the saints where they were wrong; to tell the Church what it was her duty to teach, and obey her only so long as she consented to obey themselves;--this was evidently a more courageous self-worship than to be content with the humbler privilege of manipulating texts. For this reason, he had always said, and would now repeat, that, in point of essential and uncompromising Protestantism, High-Churchmen had no rivals, whether in the Church of England or in any other community. They alone, who were sometimes charged with unfaithfulness to the Reformation, used all the [36/37] daily repudiating it in practice; to claim to be "Catholic," while cheerfully remaining out of communion with any church, school, or party in the whole Christian world; this was the special glory of gentlemen who had always far surpassed the modest and timid warfare of their neighbours, and contrived to enjoy the luxury of protesting at the same moment against the Roman Church, their own church, and every other church. It was true, indeed, that in order not to be quite alone in the world, they affected to transfer their homage to a purely imaginary primitive Church, which existed only in their own brain, and their pretended obedience to which relieved them from the irksome duty of yielding the slightest obedience to any other. This submission to a Church, which had ceased to exist for many centuries, if it had ever existed at all, was, in his opinion, the most ingenious of all Protestant contrivances for submitting to nothing and nobody.
(Dean Primitive and Archdeacon Chasuble here rose together in much excitement, but the latter being called upon by the House, said): He apologised for interrupting the learned Professor, but his feelings overpowered him, and he could not remain silent. He had always regarded Anglicanism, for he declined to repeat the opprobrious nickname employed by the Professor, as the only combination hitherto attempted of authority with private judgment.
THE PROFESSOR: That might have been, and probably was, the original programme of the party, but private judgment had soon strangled authority, as might have been safely predicted, and no sect of Christians of that or any other age were so contemptuous of all authority, whether enthroned at Lambeth or in the Vatican, as those who were commonly called Puseyites. A Papist said, and was at least consistent with his profession; "My church is my teacher; therefore I obey her." A Puseyite said, not in word, but in act; "My church is my pupil, therefore I instruct her." The difference was admirably stated by a Frenchman, when he ingeniously observed: "The Puseyite says, 'L' Eglise, c'est moi;' the Catholic says, 'L'Eglise, c'est nous.' "
There was not, he conceived, in the annals of human religions--of which the number was now almost beyond arithmetical calculation [37/38]--so singular a paradox as that which was displayed in Puseyite theology. The claims of a Leo the Great, or a Gregory the Seventh, which at least, whatever Protestants might think of them, were cordially admitted both in their own generation and in those which followed it, were only the utterances of timid self-abasement, compared with the super-oecumenical dogmatism of their High-Church friends. "Obey me," said these gentlemen to their disciples, "for obedience is the prerogative of the laity; but I obey nobody except my own interpretation of the Fathers, or of such of them as I approve, because my church is not yet sufficiently Catholic to deserve my obedience. At present I am obliged to create a church for you, because nothing worthy of the name is found just now on earth. The day will come when she will have been sufficiently taught by me, will cease to be Protestant without becoming Roman, and then I shall be able to obey the Church, because, having learned from me the exact form of primitive Christianity, which exists nowhere at present but in my own ideal conception, the Church will have come again into corporate existence, and will be worthy of your dutiful regard. It will then no longer be necessary for me, as it is unfortunately at present, to cumulate in my own person the functions of the Pope, the Saints, the Fathers, the General Councils, and Almighty God."
(Considerable agitation followed this speech, during which the sitting was suspended for some minutes.)
The REV. LAVENDER KIDDS observed, as soon as the composure of the Assembly was restored, that, however forcible the remarks of the learned Professor might be as applied to Puseyism, he had shown that he was unwilling to grapple with the grand principle of Bible Christianity, of which he was the humble advocate.
THE PROFESSOR intended no disrespect to Mr. Kidds and his party. Bible Christianity, since he must speak of it, (though he thought that former speakers had sufficiently disposed of the subject,) was only less preposterous than the rival theory which he had just ventured to describe. It required personal infallibility in all who professed it. It simply transferred to the individual [38/39] the supernatural prerogative which the Romanist attributed to his Church. It was obvious to common sense that if Mr. Kidds could interpret a particular translation of the Scriptures, so as to know infallibly both how much was necessary to salvation, and exactly what was necessary to be believed about it, he must himself be personally infallible.
MR. KIDDS would confidently insist that the cases were not identical, because the interpretation of the Bible did not require the monstrous faculty assumed by that apostate Church, the Holy Book being plain on all points which were "necessary to salvation."
THE PROFESSOR, being anxious to satisfy Mr. Kidds, would reply that the plainness of the Bible was not a point to be discussed until it could first be proved that the Bible was their sole authority in matters of faith. But was this assumption consistent with historical facts? Before the invention of printing in the fifteenth century, not one man in a million could possess a copy of the Scriptures. He might add that not one man in ten thousand could have read the Bible, even if he had possessed it. Printing, therefore, on Mr. Kidds' theory, was that Second Dispensation, which was intended by Almighty God to supplant the authority of a Living Church. And, moreover, whatever Mr. Kidds' private views on printing, at least he must confess that, but for the assiduous care with which, through more than a thousand years, the Roman Church preserved and multiplied the manuscripts of Holy Writ, neither he nor any other Protestant could have known that there had ever been a Bible at all.
MR. KIDDS exclaimed with enemy: The Roman Church forbids the Bible to the people!
THE PROFESSOR: The Roman Church does just the contrary. She compels the people to hear the Gospels and epistles read from the pulpit every Sunday morning; reading, moreover, the same epistles and Gospels--selected with a wisdom which seemed more than human, and revealed a truly marvellous comprehension of their divine meaning--which the Church of England had appropriated from her Missal. What the Church of Rome [39/40] does not permit is, that every one should interpret for himself the most difficult book that ever was written; that every ignorant fanatic or conceited curate should mount a pulpit and expound a private gospel of his own; and if the Roman Church required justification in that prudent course, she had only to point to the chaos of ideas engendered by English Protestantism to prove that of all the wild delusions that had ever possessed the human mind, the Printing theory was the most absurd.
MR. KIDDS was not to be shaken from his first position: that upon all the points which are necessary to salvation the Bible is plain.
THE PROFESSOR, turning to Mr. Kidds with a smile, replied: Every doctrine was plain to those who chose to believe it, and clothed in densest obscurity to those who did not. Baptism, the Apostolic Succession, Sacramental Confession, the Real Presence, were plainly necessary to salvation to all who liked them, and as plainly unnecessary to all who disliked them. The Bible plain! Why, the awful doctrines of the Holy Trinity, the Divinity of Christ, and the Atonement, had all been vehemently denied on the authority of the Bible! Was Mr. Kidds ignorant that Roman Catholics confidently quoted the Bible, from Genesis to Revelations, against Protestant doctrines? Did he know that Cardinal Bellarmine quoted more than fifty texts in proof of Purgatory, and that others quoted more than a hundred in defence of their confidence in the Blessed Virgin? (Mr. Kidds groaned aloud.) Was anything more plain to the Papist than the declaration to Peter: "Upon this rock I will build my church?" Was anything less ambiguous to him than the words: "This is my body?" Anything more decisive than the announcement: "It is a wholesome and holy thought to pray for the dead?" [ARCHDEACON JOLLY here observed to a neighbour, that the Church of England, as a quiet way of getting rid of this "unscriptural" text, ordered it to be left out, when it occurred in the Lesson for the day!] All Scripture doctrines, he repeated, were plain to those who liked them, and forced or perverted to those who did not. What was "pure gospel" to Mr. Brown was "deadly error" to Mr. Green, and the "fundamental verities" of Mr. Thompson were the "satanical delusions" of Mr. [40/41] Johnson. One half the clergy of the Church of England believed that the religion of the other half was odious in the sight of God, and yet they all read the Bible! The Bible plain! Why there was less dispute among men as to the interpretation of the Vedas, of Chinese chronology, or of Egyptian 1rchaeology, than of this plain and intelligible book, which, to the eternal dishonor of Protestant commentators, had now almost ceased to have any definite meaning whatever, because every imaginable meaning had been defended by some, and denied by others. Plain! when such a man as St. Augustine--who was a professor of rhetoric before he became a Christian, and a man of gigantic intellect--frankly avowed that "the Bible contained more things which he could not, than which he could understand." Plain! when the two most cherished dogmas of Protestantism--the observance of the Sunday, and the reading of the New Testament--are nowhere commanded by our Lord, the Evangelists, or the Apostles. Plain when Bishop Colenso, in writing to the Times, could quote eleven texts of Scripture to prove that prayer ought not to be offered to our Blessed Lord. Plain! when their own Church flatly denied it, and admitted that she could not infallibly know the truth, by honestly confessing that she could not infallibly teach it. Plain! when every bishop and every clergyman, in every charge and every sermon, proved that it was not. Every shuffling decision of the Privy Council proved that it was not. Every gossiping conclave at Exeter Hall proved that it was not. Every conflicting debate of Convocation proved that it was not. The very heathen proved that it was not; for they jeeringly replied to Protestant missionaries, "Since you all read the Book, why don't you all agree about it?" Finally, a hundred sects outside the Church, and five hundred within her, proved that it was not, and that its boasted plainness came at last to this, that the only common truth which all men agreed to derive from it was the historical doctrine of an historical Saviour.
MR. KIDDS would add, with devout gratitude, "and the cordial abhorrence of Popery."
THE PROFESSOR would ask permission to waive, at least for the moment, that profoundly philosophical dogma, observing only [41/42] that at least Roman Catholics did not gather that doctrine from the Bible, and that they were the largest body of Christians in the world. Meanwhile, he would request Mr. Kidds to observe that Bible Christianity had this inconvenience, that it degraded all Truth to Opinion; and whilst it ridiculed infallibility as diffused throughout the Roman Church, it made itself far more ridiculous by claiming for every individual what it denied to the largest and most ancient of communions. The truth was, that Protestantism, on the Bible-theory, was, in principle, "Popery," multiplied by as many individuals as there were Protestants in the world. Instead of one infallible Pope,--who at least was never known to reverse the dogmatical decisions of those who had gone before him,--they had now got several millions of infallible individuals, who were incessantly occupied in contradicting one another. He did not know that they had gained much by the change. If the aggregate infallibility of the Roman Church was hard to stomach, the personal infallibility of every one of your neighbours was simply intolerable. But what he desired most to recommend to the notice of Mr. Kidds and his party was this, that none went so far as they to discredit infallibility, by the manner in which they claimed it for themselves; and none went so far to prove it, by the manner in which they denied it to the Catholic Church. To quote the words of a modern Roman Catholic: "Protestants, by denying the Catholic theory, have proved the impossibility of knowing what is necessary to salvation; and by asserting the Protestant theory, they have presented to the world the prodigious spectacle of every man differing at every point of his own (hypothetical) infallibility."
DEAN PRIMITIVE would venture to ask the Professor, who seemed to display equal contempt for both parties in his own Church, while he manifested at least an intellectual sympathy with Roman claims, how he could reconcile it to his conscience to retain his Professorial Chair?
THE PROFESSOR replied: It made one smile to be asked in those days, whether any particular opinion, or set of opinions, involved disloyalty to the Established Church. What opinion was not held within its communion? Were not Dr. Wilberforce and Dr. Colenso, Dr. Hamilton and Dr. Baring, equally bishops of the [42/43] Church of England? Were not Dr. Pusey and Mr. Jowett at the same moment her Professors; Brother Ignatius and Mr. Bellew her ministers; Archdeacon Denison and Dr. M'Neile her distinguished ornaments and preachers? Yet their religions differed almost as widely as Buddhism from Calvinism, or the philosophy of Aristotle from that of Mr. Martin Tupper. A good many things were dead amongst them besides the Test Act. He doubted if even Hoadley would be prosecuted now, and was quite sure he would not be prosecuted with success. Dr. Hampden had been called in an Anglican paper "as well-known a heretic as Arius was," and yet was as truly an Anglican bishop as Ken or Jeremy Taylor. The "Essays and Reviews" were condemned only the other day by a majority of Convocation; yet one of their ablest contributors continued to be chaplain to the Queen, who was the head of their Church. Dr. Stanley had been excommunicated by Dr. Wordsworth, yet this only confirmed his appointment as Dean of Westminster, and might even materially assist him in becoming Archbishop of Canterbury. Resign his office for conscience sake! continued the Professor: he was really incapable of an act at once so presumptuous and so unnecessary. Who was he that he should teach a communion so reluctant to enforce them the forgotten claims of conscience? He would advise his friend Dean Primitive to be very cautious in recommending "resignation" to those from whom he differed. If an Anglican minister must resign because his opinions were at variance with those of some other Anglican minister, every soul among them would have to retire--from the Archbishop of Canterbury down to the last licentiate from Durham or St. Bees. (Great laughter.) Resignation would be a clumsy remedy for the evils which they all confessed; it would cure the disease, but it would kill the patient. Other members of his party were more worldly-wise than Dean Primitive. Mr. Bennett had lately addressed a letter to Dr. Pusey, in which, while declaring that their controversy with the Low-Church clergy was a matter of "life and death," he argued that the latter ought to be allowed to "remain in their communion." If he approved the s plea, as consistent with the spirit and the history of the Anglican Church, whose motto was, "Live and let live," and which had always been more solicitous to keep men of different religions within her pale than to force them to go out, he would not conceal that, from [43/44] another point of view, the language of Mr. Bennett filled him with disgust and contempt. It was a fresh proof how little men of his school really cared for the mysterious doctrines about which they talked so glibly, since they were quite willing to "remain in communion" with men who flatly denied them, and even publicly insisted that the latter had as good a right as themselves to be teachers in the Anglican Church! What could such men care about what they impudently called "the Truth?" (Sensation.)
But he would ask Dean Primitive, who was probably more sincere than others of his party, why any man should "resign," whatever his opinions might be, when the Privy Council had decided that it was lawful to hold either of two opposite doctrines? If there was only one dogma in the Church of England, why did she tolerate within her pale two discordant dogmas upon almost every fact and tenet of Christianity? Why did she treat every article of the faith as the false mother was willing to treat the child not her own, and consent to kill by cutting it in two? Why did Privy Council permit no definite doctrine; and Convocation agree upon none? Why was Archdeacon Denison tried for preaching the Real Presence, and let off because it was proved that he did so; while Dr. Forbes was convicted of holding Transubstantiation, and excused because he engaged not to teach it? Why did Dr. Sumner appoint Mr. Gorham to a benefice because he denied Regeneration in Baptism, and the Sovereign make Dr. Philpotts a bishop because he believed it? Why did the Bishop of Salisbury deliver a charge in which he informed his diocese that more than half the English clergy were heretics, while the Bishop of Durham deposed a Rural Dean for teaching the very doctrines which the Bishop of Salisbury declared to be divine? Why did the Queen make Dr. Colenso her bishop at Natal, though her own Courts declared that she had no power to do so, yet suffer her Bishop at Cape Town to try to remove him by an authority as visionary as her own? Why did Dr. Pusey advocate the union of the English Church with those of Rome and Moscow, excluding the Scandinavian and other Protestant bodies; while Dr. Tait, rejoicing in the ministry of Mr. Spurgeon, proposed to exclude both Rome and Moscow, and to unite the Anglican See of London with the Tabernacle of a Baptist preacher? But it was idle to ask the "why" of all the monstrous phenomena, which were constantly passing [44/45] before their eyes, and which were now too much a matter of course to excite even the passing curiosity of the public. They proved--and this was his answer to Dean Primitive--that the only real disqualification for remaining in the Church of England was, not the holding opinions contradicted by those around you, but the holding any definite opinion whatever. That alone, he was prepared to maintain, was the sole unpardonable inconsistency with the principles of the Anglican Church.
DR. THEORY hoped that the Professor would not resume his seat, without favoring the House with his opinion on Dr. Easy's hypothesis.
THE PROFESSOR must decline to give his own opinion, though of course he had one, on the question proposed by Dr. Easy; but he had no objection to state how he conceived it ought to be answered by the so-called Bible-Christian. That answer might be as follows
The existence of a Church assumes the existence of a God; therefore, the denial of a God would be the same with a denial of a Church. But the Church of England is a fact. Her teaching may be doubtful or contradictory, but her existence as a politico ecclesiastical institution, professing belief in a God, is beyond dispute. It would, therefore, be heresy in the Bible-Christian to deny the existence of a God, but it was quite open to him to believe in any kind of divinity he might prefer, and to clothe Him with whatever attributes the Privy Council had permitted Him to retain. For example: the Justice of God was evidently an open question, because the Privy Council had decided that punishment was not necessarily eternal. The Truthfulness of God was very doubtful, because the Privy Council had decreed that God's revelation to man was, perhaps, not plenarily inspired. The Faithfulness of God was more than obscure, because the Privy Council had ruled that Baptism was not necessarily the Sacrament of Regeneration. Finally, the Unity of God was impossible, because the Privy Council had repeatedly affirmed that truth was not one but manifold. The Bible-Christian might, therefore, argue that it would be heresy to deny the existence of a God, because, as he had [45/46] said, the existence of the Church implied the existence of some kind of divinity; but that it would not be heresy to deny any one of His attributes, because, if the supreme Anglican tribunal spoke truly, it was hardly possible that God should have any.
DR. EASY was grateful to the learned Professor for the light which he had thrown upon the question which he had ventured to submit to their examination. The debate had elicited precisely the conclusion at which he desired to arrive. It was,. however, to be regretted that the Privy Council, whose chief aim was to decide nothing, had really decided, by implication, that the existence of God was an open question. Such a decision might be fruitful of evil. Every one was privately aware that, in the Church of England, nothing was necessarily anything. Still, it was a pity to burden the consciences of good men by obliging them to think that they must necessarily take the unnecessary view of Christianity. It had really come to this, thanks to the bungling caution of the Privy Council, that the only dogma now left to them, besides the fallibility of their Church, might be thus expressed
"The necessity of taking the non-necessary view of everything;" or perhaps, as a substitute for Creed, Catechism, and Articles, they might enunciate the whole scope of Anglican theology in this one proposition: "Unbelief, considered as generally necessary to salvation."
On the other hand, he would be the last to deny their obligations to the Privy Council, which was the mildest and best-bred of human tribunals. What could surpass the considerateness with which it said to every defendant summoned to its bar: "Pray, do not let me hamper your Christian freedom, nor interfere with your disbelieving half or the whole of Christianity. You object to Baptism? Well, well, the Church will not be severe upon you for that. You doubt Plenary Inspiration? Then pray, my dear sir, don't believe it. You detest the notion of a Sacrifice? We have already decided that there is no such thing as an altar in the Church of England. You are shocked at the idea of the eternity of punishment? We will meet your views, and invent a new kind of Anglican Purgatory for you instead." Considering that every possible variety of belief and unbelief existed in their Church, and had existed from the beginning, was it a light advantage to possess [46/47] an authority so mild and gentle, whose decisions were so admirably adapted to the circumstances of the times? "Come to me," it seemed to say, "whenever you feel the burden of any doctrine or tenet, and I will do my best to arrange it comfortably for you. Place the fullest confidence in me. I know the history and the character of the Church whose voice I am; and, as I have never yet obliged you to believe anything to which you object, you may repose in the tranquil assurance that I never will."
ARCHDEACON JOLLY was so much impressed by the observations of the preceding speaker, that he thought they should not separate without expressing, in a more formal way, their gratitude to the Privy Council. He was inclined to propose something more practical than a barren vote of thanks. Let the now unmeaning words of their Prayer-Book be altered so as to be in harmony with facts and with the new decisions. It would be something to make a beginning, which their critics scoffingly affirmed Convocation was quite unable to do. He would move the following vote: "That that portion of the Catechism be recast which teaches that there are 'two sacraments, as generally necessary to salvation;' and that, in answer to the question, 'How many sacraments are there?' the clause should stand thus: 'Two only, as formerly necessary to salvation, but one of them not so necessary now as it used to be."'
DEAN BLUNT feared the new formula would hardly satisfy the requirements of the age. He thought that if they took the sense of the country, it would be more truthful to render the clause thus: "Two only, as equally unnecessary to salvation, but baptism to be viewed as rather an impediment to salvation than otherwise."
ARCHDEACON JOLLY would consider the amendment during the recess.
THE REV. LAVENDER KIDDS here rose in much excitement. He would boldly declare his opinion that the debate of that day was a disgrace to a Protestant House of Convocation. He trusted that Convocation would deem it a solemn duty not to separate without, at least, renewing its protest against the [47/58] iniquitous Church of Rome. He would presume to add that, by that step alone, it could repair much that was unscriptural and unsound in the discussion of that day. "He was prepared, if necessary, to make a formal motion to the effect that "Convocation continues to regard with horror the corruption and superstitions of Popery." This was the first and holiest duty of every vital Christian.
ARCHDEACON JOLLY doubted whether the universal Nego of Mr. Kidds and his friends could combat successfully the eternal Credo of two hundred millions of Catholics. However, he was quite willing to consider Mr. Kidds' proposition; but he must be excused if he did so from his own point of view.
There was a large class of persons in this country, continued the Archdeacon, who, having no definite religion of their own, and being slenderly endowed with common sense, were indebted to the Roman Catholic Church both for employment and maintenance. Let Mr. Kidds restrain his excitement; he would explain his meaning. He did not, of course, include Mr. Kidds among the class in question, though he believed that gentleman would willingly accept the statement of Sterne, who candidly confessed, that "when he had little to say, or little to give his people, he had recourse to the abuse of Popery. Hence he called it his 'Cheshire Cheese.' It had a twofold advantage; it cost him very little, and he found by experience that nothing satisfied so well the hungry appetite of his congregation. They always devoured it greedily."
Perhaps Mr. Kidds was not aware that in his zeal to hasten the downfall of Popery, which, even according to modern prophets, had still a few years to last, and which, judging by a recent tour he had made on the Continent, presented anything but a moribund aspect, he was in violent opposition with many active and devoted Protestants. The persons to whom he alluded were, at this moment, full of anxiety, lest Popery should perish too soon! They could not afford to say farewell to their old friend at present, and desired only to keep him on his legs a little longer. Mr. Kidds was probably ignorant that a society had recently been formed in London, in connection, he believed, with the Protestant Reformation Society, to which it was designed to act as a timely and important auxiliary. The title of this new association was: "Society for considering the [48/49] best means of keeping alive the corruptions of Popery in the interests of Gospel truth." It was, of course, a strictly secret organization, but he had been favoured, he knew not why, with a copy of the prospectus, and as he had no intention of becoming a member, he would communicate it to the House. It appeared from this document, and could be confirmed from other sources, that a deputation was sent last year to Rome, to obtain a private interview with the Pope, in order to entreat His Holiness not to reform a single Popish corruption. He was assured that they had reason to believe, he did not know on what grounds, that the Pope was about to introduce extensive reforms, beginning with the substitution of the Thirty-Nine Articles for the creed of Pope Pius, and a permanent Anglican Convocation in lieu of an occasional oecumenical Council. A handsome present was entrusted to the deputation, and a liberal contribution to the Peter's Pence Fund. The motives set forth in the preamble of the address presented to His Holiness were, in substance, of the following nature:--They urged that a very large body of most respectable clergymen, who had no personal ill-will towards the present occupant of the Holy See, had maintained themselves and their families in comfort for many years exclusively by the abuse of Popery; and if Popery were taken away, they could not but contemplate the probable results with uneasiness and alarm. Moreover, many eminent members of the profession had gained a reputation for Evangelical wit, learning, and piety, as well as high dignities in the Church of England, by setting forth in their sermons and at public meetings, with all their harrowing details, the astounding abominations of the Church of Rome. The petitioners implored His Holiness not to be indifferent to the position of these gentlemen. Many of their number had privately requested the deputation to plead their cause with the amiable and benevolent Pius IX. Thus the great and good Dr. M'Nickel represented respectfully that he had filled his church, and let all his pews, during three-and-twenty years, by elegantly slandering priests and nuns, and powerfully illustrating Romish superstitions. A clergyman of noble birth had attained to the honors of the episcopate by handling alternately the same subjects, and a particularly pleasing doctrine of the Millennium, and had thus been enabled to confer a valuable living on his daughter's husband, who otherwise could not have hoped to obtain Que. An eminent canon of an old Roman Catholic abbey owed his [49/50] distinguished position, which he hoped to be allowed to retain, to the fact of his having proved so clearly that the Pope was Antichrist; and earnestly entreated His Holiness to do nothing to forfeit that character. A well-known doctor of Anglican divinity was on the point of quitting the country in despair of gaining a livelihood, when the idea of preaching against Popery was suggested to him, and ho had now reason to rejoice that he had abandoned the foolish scheme of emigration. Even a High-Church bishop had been so hampered by suspicions of Romanistic tendencies, which were perfectly unfounded, that he had only saved himself from general discredit by incessant abuse of Popery, though he was able to say, in self-defence, that he did not believe a word of his own invectives. Finally, a young clergyman, who had not hitherto much distinguished himself, having often but vainly solicited a member of his congregation to favor his evangelical attachment, at length hit upon a new expedient, and preached so ravishing a discourse on the matrimonial prohibitions of the Romish Church, and drew so appalling a picture of the domestic infelicities of the Romish priesthood, that on the following Monday morning the young lady made him an offer of her hand and fortune. It was hoped that His Holiness would give due consideration to interests so grave and manifold, and not peril them by hasty reforms, which nobody desired, and which nobody would receive with satisfaction.
Another class of clergymen appealed still more urgently to the forbearance of the Pope. They represented that they were in the habit of realising large sums by the publication of prophetical works, of which the whole interest turned upon the approximate destruction of "the Beast," and that, while they indicated, by the help of the Apocalypse, the precise hour of his fall, they yet managed to put off the final catastrophe from year to year, and could hardly supply the successive editions which the curiosity of the public demanded. They hoped that His Holiness would do nothing rash and imprudent which might compromise their particular industry. One of these gentlemen ingenuously confessed that without Antichrist, who was his best friend, and the invaluable book of Revelations, which was his chief source of income, he saw nothing before him but the workhouse. He begged to forward to the Pope a copy of each of his works, including the following:--"Horns of the Beast," neatly bound, with gilt edges; "Antichrist," [50/51] handsomely got up, "positively his last appearance in 1864, in consequence of other engagements," with new editions in 1865, 1866, and 1867; also, "Answer to an insolent pamphlet, entitled 'The Number and Street of the Beast proved to be that of the Rev. Dr. Comeagain."'
Lastly, even members of Parliament to whom nature had not been prodigal in intellectual endowments, urged with great force that they were able to get on their legs, and to stay there, detailing the prodigious incidents of conventual turpitude; making the blood to curdle, and the hair to stand on end, by thrilling narratives of nuns immured, and clanking chains, and bereaved mothers, invoking in agonised chorus, "Liberty and Mr. Newdegate." They hoped the Pope would see in this fact the necessity of caution, lest he should unwittingly put to silence more than one independent member of Parliament, deprive an illustrious assembly of its chief amusement, and rashly change the composition of the British House of Commons.
DEAN POMPOUS inquired (with a somewhat thick utterance but with great dignity of manner) whether he understood the Archdeacon to say that he had actually seen this document?
ARCHDEACON JOLLY: He had certainly said so; it had been shown to him in Rome by Cardinal Antonelli.
DEAN POMPOUS might perhaps hazard a suspicion as to its authenticity?
ARCHDEACON JOLLY: Had such a document been found in London or Edinburgh, the suspicion might be reasonable, but, having been seen in Rome, the evidence for its authenticity must be accepted in the inverse ratio of its credibility. This principle would be easily admitted by Protestants of the school of Mr. Kidds. They had only to turn for proof to the treatise on Moral Evidence lately put forth by the "Anglo-Metropolitan and General Superstition Repelling Association." At page 127 of that work they would find the following postulate
"Let it be granted that, in all which relates to Rome, the Babylon of the Apocalypse, a thing is more or [51/52] less true in proportion to its improbability; and that those things alone are absolutely certain of which it can be demonstrated that they never could by any possibility have happened."
(At this point, as nobody rose to continue the discussion, it seemed likely to close abruptly. Several reverend divines took their hats, and appeared about to retire, when it was whispered that Archdeacon Chasuble had intimated his desire to address the House on the twofold question of Authority in the English, and Infallibility in the Catholic Church. Lively attention appeared to be excited by this announcement, and the retiring members eagerly resumed their seats.)
ARCHDEACON CHASUBLE would begin by assuring his colleagues that they would be disappointed if they thought he was going to claim infallibility for the Church of England. (Some laughter, which was immediately suppressed by loud cries of "Order.") He had deep convictions, but he trusted that he was neither a dreamer nor an enthusiast. He would not claim for his Church a gift which she had always repudiated. He began therefore by admitting that infallibility could not reside in a Church which, in the first hour of her existence, had proclaimed to the world that the whole of Christendom, including all the Apostolic Churches, had fallen into error. The original message of the Church of England to all Christian nations was in substance as follows: "The fact that I am required in the sixteenth century to teach the Catholic Church proves that the Catholic Church has become incompetent to teach. But, in recording this universal defection, I am obliged to admit that I also am liable to error. I cannot deny what is clearly involved in the fundamental axiom with which I commence my career."
But though the Anglican Church was thus confessedly fallible or human, did it follow that she was no true Church, and that her members were all out of the pale of Catholicity? God forbid. No one maintained that the Church of England was the Catholic Church. Her most attached members freely admitted that she was but one of several branches of that Church. Now, it was of the Catholic Church, of which he claimed to be a member, and not of [52/53] the Church of England, that he ventured to assert, She cannot err. He would ask permission to prove that proposition.
If the Catholic Church were not infallible at one period of her existence, for example, when she decreed the Canon of Holy Scripture,--what assurance had they, or could they have, that they possessed the true Bible? Saints had differed widely about it, so widely as to reject books now admitted to be canonical, while they admitted others now rejected as spurious. In the fourth century it was still an open question, till, at length, it was finally decided by the authority of the Church. If the Church were not infallible, what was the decision worth?
Again. If the Catholic Church were not infallible while she was building up her creeds and constructing her liturgies, both were a mere bundle of human opinions, which might be partly true and partly false, but could never be imposed on the conscience of mankind. What had been framed by one human authority might evidently be modified by another. It was therefore conceivable, on the hypothesis of the fallibility of the Church, that Christians had always had a false Bible, false creeds, and false liturgies. Nay, it was not only conceivable, but eminently probable; for how could the human beget the divine, or the certain be born of the fallible?
He had not completed his argument, but would pause to anticipate an objection. He might be fairly asked, "if the Church were infallible when she defined the Canon of Scripture, by what special act, or at what particular period, did she lose this gift of infallibility?" He replied without hesitation, she had never lost it. The gift was suspended for a time, by reason of the loss of unity with which it was indissolubly associated, but it might be recovered at any moment. Let the Russian, the Roman, the Greek, the Anglican, and the Oriental branches once more unite, and on the morrow of their reconciliation the dormant gift of infallibility would again revive.
THE PROFESSOR OF THEOLOGY would venture to ask the Archdeacon how half-a-dozen hostile churches, without infallibility to guide them, could possibly arrive at a common conception of the doctrines on which they had differed for ages? If the Church had not escaped falling into error, according to the Anglican hypothesis, while she still, according to the Archdeacon, possessed both unity [53/54] and infallibility, how could she ever recover her position now that, as he confessed, she possessed neither the one nor the other?
ARCHDEACON CHASUBLE admitted, with deep sorrow, the force of the objection. If infallibility waited on the re-union of the warring churches,--well, it was a sad truth that there was no early prospect of its recovery. He confessed that he did not see his way to answer the objection. Still, whatever the difficulty might be, he would not the less earnestly protest against the monstrous notion, that the Catholic Church could ever abdicate the functions which she derived from her Founder, or lose the power to "teach all nations," the very object for which He expressly created her. It was an intolerable assumption that the Catholic Church, when she infallibly defined the Canon of Scripture, decreed that from that moment she was herself no longer infallible, or that she transferred the infallibility by which she decreed the Canon to the Canon whose infallibility she decreed.
No doubt they were surrounded by difficulties, and he had too much respect for truth and honesty to deny their existence. If, therefore, he were asked, why a Church which could teach with divine authority in the third or fourth centuries could no longer do so in the tenth or fourteenth, he admitted that he did not know what answer to give; because if the schisms and heresies which existed even in the apostolic age did not impair her prerogative of infallibility then, it was reasonable to argue that they could not produce such a consequence now. Evidently the Church did not become human and fallible simply because her enemies were called Luther or Cranmer instead of Cerinthus or Marcion, or because the names of Calvin or Burnet were substituted for those of Eutyches or Nestorius. If the earlier heretics could not rob the Church of the gift which God had imparted to her, certainly it was hard to see why later adversaries should be able to do so. If the Councils of Nice or Ephesus, as even the Reformers allowed, were the voice of the Holy Ghost, it was not clear why those of Florence or Trent had less claim to their obedience. But it was their sorrowful lot as Anglicans to be born to difficulties. This was their portion. Alas! they could but dimly perceive the principles of truth; their effectual application was to them impossible.
Still there were certain verities which even they could firmly grasp, [54/55] and it was their duty to proclaim them aloud, whatever fatal contradictions they might seem to involve. He would declare, therefore, his own conviction that the doctrine of the fallibility of the Catholic Church was simply blasphemy, because it made God unfaithful to his promises; and palpable nonsense, because it implied that he had founded a Teaching Church without giving it the power to teach! When the Anglican homily gravely asserted that the whole Church of God,--the home of the saints and martyrs--had been "sunk in the pit of damnable idolatry by the space of nine hundred years and odd," it made the heart sick to think that they were themselves the heirs of the very men who had uttered such stupid profanity. But the founders of Anglicanism had to account for and excuse their own position in the world, and this was their way of doing it. They declared, without hesitation, that God had abandoned his own Church to what had been truly called a Diabolical Millenium. It almost seemed as if they were willing to pass for madmen, provided only they might be allowed to say of the Church which they had just quitted, that she was as mad as themselves.
DEAN CRITICAL had listened, thus far, with deep attention to his venerable friend, and would continue to do so to the end of his discourse; but would he permit him to interrupt him for a moment, in order to ask a question which was neither captious nor insidious? The Archdeacon evidently did not believe that the Catholic Church was infallible now, whatever she might have been formerly, or of course he would instantly submit to her authority; yet he distinctly affirmed that, by the first law of her nature, she must be so! Might they then claim him, in spite of his transcendental theories, as an advocate, after all, of the simple Protestant doctrine, that there was really no such thing as a Teaching Church in the world? He should be glad to think so. Would he also tell them, since the real subject of the discussion in which they were engaged was the presence or absence of authority in the English Church, whether he frankly admitted that that Church, having no infallibility, and therefore no divine authority, could teach no certain truth, exact no religious obedience, and anathematize no doctrinal error?
ARCHDEACON CHASUBLE was far from professing to be able to answer all the questions which might be addressed to him. [55/56] He would content himself with saying, that if there were no other ecclesiastical authority in the world than such as resided in the Church of England, it was too evident that men could possess no certainty in their religious convictions,--that they could obey no authority but what they chose for themselves,--and that heresy could not be condemned, not only because there was no authority to condemn it, but because in such a state of the Christian world it could not even exist. But to say that there could be no such thing as heresy, was evidently the same thing with saying that there could be no such thing as truth, of which heresy was simply the denial. Yet heresy was not only a crime, as they learned from St. Paul, but the greatest of all crimes, and might be called the high treason of Christians. Every other sin which man could commit was only against the laws of God, but this was against His Person and Essence. God is truth, and heresy is the worship of a lie, which is God's greatest contrary. Satan, they were told by our Lord, was "the father of lies." Heretics were therefore the dear children of Satan, who fed them with lies.
For this reason, it would seem,--because heresy was nothing but a part of Satan's warfare against God, and the greatest sin which men or devils could commit, the Bible spoke of it only in tones of appalling menace and anathema. The Son of God had words of compassion for the adulteress, and the stern St. Paul commanded that the man guilty of incest should be admitted to pardon. Not so with heresy. There was apparently no mercy for that. St. Paul had forbidden a Christian so much as to "eat with" a heretic. And yet, at least in one of its aspects, heresy was nothing else than disobedience to the divine authority of the Church! Perhaps it was on this account that St. Augustine had intimated his opinion that wilful disobedience to the Church might probably be the sin against the Holy Ghost.
What, then, must they think of a Church in which heresy had always been impossible? Every argument in the discussion of that day had combined to prove that the Church of England not only permitted her members to be heretics, but actually made it their duty and privilege to be so. The obligation of "choosing" their religion for themselves, that is, of being heretics,--and whether they happened to choose Roman or Lutheran tenets made no kind of difference in the sin, so long as they chose for themselves,--was [56/57] notoriously one of the least ambiguous injunctions of the Thirty-Nine Articles! The Church of England did not warn her members against heresy, because she did not admit its existence, and because she was conscious that she had no power to tell them with certainty what was truth.
DEAN BLUNT was unwilling to interrupt the speaker, but he felt constrained to observe that the Archdeacon seemed to revel in pointing out difficulties, of which he admitted the solution to be impossible, and which were enough to drive every member of his communion into frantic unbelief. Would he tell them plainly, Was there any living authority, old' or young, in this nineteenth century, in any part of the world, which was charged by God to teach His creatures--what is truth?
ARCHDEACON CHASUBLE shook his head, but made no reply.
DEAN BLUNT continued: It had come then to this, that the only teacher the High-Church party would permit them, was one which had been dead and buried for about fourteen hundred years. Happy Christians! whose only chance of learning the truth, unless they took it from an authority which confessed it could not teach it, was to sift the Fathers, analyse the ecclesiastical historians, and laboriously collate the records of antiquity, written in languages which few could comprehend, all referring to a higher witness external to themselves, and equally claimed by Roman, Greek, and Anglican theologians, in confirmation of their discordant religious tenets! Certainly the archdeacon had not afforded them much assistance in their search after Anglican "Authority." Perhaps) however, he would at least be good enough to inform them, since heresy in the Church of England was impossible, would it be heresy in an Anglican to deny the existence of God?
ARCHDEACON CHASUBLE, who rose with an air of weariness and languor, would certainly venture to say that if the Church had never been infallible, there was no difficulty in replying to the question proposed by Dr. Easy. If there were no infallible judge to appeal to, there could be no infallible truth and if there were no [57/58] infallible truth, it was hard to see how there could be a God, or at least such a God as the Christian religion supposed, who was solicitous about the children of men, and graciously yearned to reveal Himself to them. How, he would ask, could there be a God,--or, to put it more reverently, how could there be a revelation from God to man, finless there existed a living authority upon earth to teach man infallibly what that revelation was? If men might believe, or were so unfavourably constituted that they must believe, many different things about God, or about His truth; either such errors were of no importance, and a matter of perfect indifference to the Most High, or else they were forced to admit that there might be many truths, that is, many Gods. For this reason, he had always maintained that Protestantism could only be true on one of three hypotheses: either that there was no God, and therefore no truth; or, secondly, many Gods, and therefore many truths; or, lastly, one God, who either cared nothing about His creatures, or was incapable of securing the execution of His own promises to them, or was of such inconstant variety of purpose that He was continually changing His own views about truth, and never remained in the same mind for twenty years together.
He concluded, therefore, that to deny the existence of an infallible Church, and to deny the existence of the God of Christians, were virtually equivalent propositions. The notion of a fallible church, founded by an infallible God, was an absurdity and a contradiction; such a notion reduced Christianity below the level of the Indian or Chinese systems of religious philosophy, and made it a dispensation of anarchy and chaos. Truth could not rebuke error, because, as had been abundantly proved, there was no such thing as truth or error, and no possibility of distinguishing between them even if they existed. The Protestant theory ingeniously suppressed all heresy, by suppressing the authority, the rejection of which constituted heresy. Treason could have no existence where there was no magistrate to rebel against. In the same way, the fallible Church invented by the Reformers was simply a Club for speculative religionists, who were determined to enjoy every privilege of heresy, without incurring the odium of it. If, therefore, the Christian Church were not infallible, he could not resist the logical conclusion that there was no God; for that God was no true God who could send a Teacher to the nations, and an interpreter [59/60] of His own revelation, as human, as earthly, and as fallible as that House of Convocation itself. (Sensation.)
DR. CANDOUR ventured to solicit the attention of his colleagues while he attempted to reply to the discourse which they had just heard. It was known to most of them that he belonged neither to the High nor the Low-Church party; and on this account he could speak impartially of both. In addressing himself to his task, he would endeavor, by every effort of which he was capable, to clear his mind of the feelings of amazement and stupefaction which the speech of the Archdeacon had created. It was not an easy thing to do, but he would honestly make the attempt.
He respected every sincere conviction, and therefore he respected a conscientious Roman Catholic; but it really seemed to him that for a Protestant to talk about infallibility was an event as wonderful and unexpected as if a Catholic should appeal to the Court of Arches, or an Algerian marabout should submit his conscience to the guidance of an English quaker. However, since they must needs talk of infallibility, let them see what they could make of it.
Now, he must confess, at the outset, that the doctrine "once infallible, always infallible," appeared to him one of the most certain conclusions of common sense. If it was difficult to believe that a Church should begin to be infallible which had not been so before, it was impossible to admit that a Church should cease to be infallible which had ever been so, even for a moment. Such a gift could only come from God, and, therefore, man could not assume it; it could only be imparted because necessary to the Church, and, therefore, God could not withdraw it. But it was demonstrable, according to the Archdeacon, that the Primitive Church was infallible; therefore she was infallible at the time of the Reformation, and therefore the Reformers were children of Satan, and rebels against the Most High. His venerable friend, if he interpreted his looks rightly, appeared to concur in that statement.
But the Archdeacon had assured them that this magnificent gift of infallibility, though lost to the world for the present, might some day be recovered. Before they permitted themselves to contemplate its recovery, let them unite in deploring its loss. It was a hard lot to live in an age when the infallible had become the fallible. He did not know what the existing generation had done to deserve it. He [59/60] could not help thinking it was a defective arrangement that infallibility should have existed in the purest ages, when Christians were of "one heart and one mind," and, consequently, had less need of it; and that it should be withdrawn at a period of general strife and confusion, when its presence would be so very useful. But, as the Archdeacon had observed, it was their lot to be surrounded by difficulties.
One consolation, however, he was willing to allow them,--the hope that this gift might be recovered. When the Roman, Greek, and Anglican communities should all become one, the Church would be once more infallible. Three spurious and defective Christianities fused together, if anybody could persuade them to coalesce, would make one true and perfect Christianity. The giving up what each believed specially true, and the uniting in what each believed specially false, was that travail in the womb of Christendom which would give birth to the new infallibility. He would only say, as the Professor of Theology had disposed of that point, that this was an obstetrical phenomenon which he did not think any one present would live long enough to witness.
But, he would now approach another aspect of the question, to which the Archdeacon had attracted their attention. The Low-Church theory, he had told them, and the language of their Articles and Homilies, which assumed the defection of the Catholic Church, "made void the promises of God." Was the Archdeacon quite sure that Low-Churchmen were the real or sole offenders? He thought not. Let him ask his friend whether even the "Diabolical Millennium" of the English Reformers, that dismal interval between the sixth and sixteenth centuries, was a conception more insolently subversive of the promises of God, more fatal to the Catholic idea, of a divine, indefectible, and "Teaching Church," than the well-known Anglican conceit, that the Early Church was wholly pure, the Mediaeval much less pure, and the Modern quite unworthy of their obedience? Was it really so very respectful to the Catholic idea, of which the Archdeacon claimed to be the advocate, to assert, as he and his party did in every act of their lives, that, in spite of the "promises of God," the only really perfect Church at this hour, protesting at once against Protestant heresies and Popish [60/61] corruptions, was the little group of Puseyites and Ritualists within the National Establishment? (Great laughter.)
The Archdeacon had reproached the Low-Church school, and the founders of Anglicanism, with making void the promises of God. Let the House consider how the High-Church party interpreted those promises for themselves. According to their theory, the promise to be "always" with the Church applied only to the beginning and the end of her career, but not to the long interval between the two, during which the whole of Christendom was hopelessly sunk in error and corruption. It was curious to see that the High-Church party cordially agreed with ultra-Protestants, that the Catholic Church during long ages had been teaching falsehoods! This was their reverence for "the promises of God!"
Again. The promise to guide the Church into "all truth" had reference only to the integrity of truth, before the mission of St. Augustine to England, and after the publication of the "Tracts for the Times." The twelve hundred years between them, rather a long period in the life of the Church, during which all Christians obstinately believed the supremacy of the Pope, the office of the Mother of God, and the Mystery of Transubstantiation,--doctrines highly offensive to Puseyites, were merely an unfortunate parenthesis in the faithfulness of God, during which the Catholic idea was lamentably obscured, and God forgot His "promises."
Once more. The promise that the "gates of hell" should "never" prevail against the Church meant only, according to the same school, that the principalities of evil, doing active work under the father of lies, should certainly prevail for a good many centuries, but that finally a little sect should rise up in the Church of England, able to discriminate with precision the errors of the Anglican, the Greek, and the Roman Churches, and peacefully to conduct them all to the perfect truth which they had lost, to the unity which they had forfeited, and to a very remarkable and final triumph over the "gates of hell."
Perhaps the House would now be disposed to admit that, in point of vigorous and unflinching Protestantism, there was not much difference between High and Low-Churchmen. (General marks of approval.) Indeed, he was inclined to agree with the learned Professor, that in deliberate and self-conscious hostility to Catholic principles, and especially to the doctrine of a Teaching [61/62] Church, High-Churchmen outstripped their rivals of every other Protestant community, and left both English Puritans and Scotch Covenanters far in the rear. There was a certain steadfast malice in their warfare against the Catholic Church, which they seemed to treat as a personal enemy, and a certain cold and reflecting abhorrence of her claims, of which the ordinary Protestant was perfectly incapable; and while the Puseyites used language about the glories of "the Bride of Christ," and the "Communion of Saints," which no other Protestants could use, they always ended by making cruel havoc of both, and declining to have any communion whatever with any one but themselves. The Christian Church was certainly infallible, Archdeacon Chasuble assured them, for this was her most essential quality; but somehow it had come to pass, in the lapse of ages, that they, the Puseyites, found it necessary to judge the Church, deny her claims, reprove her errors, and offer to reconstruct her on a new basis. God had failed, but they had come to His assistance. The infallibility of the Universal Church, which was at least an imposing idea, had dwindled by degrees to the infallibility of a few dozen English clergymen, which, he would take leave to say, was simply comical.
But his venerable friend had also informed them that he was a "Catholic." Now, let them compare the definition of this term by the High and Low-Church schools respectively, and say which was the most worthy of their applause. In the Low-Church philosophy, to be a Catholic was to be in communion with all with whom you professed to differ; in the High-Church philosophy, it was to be out of communion with all with whom you claimed to agree. In the one, it was the harmony of universal differences; in the other, it was the unity of three opposing Churches, two of which despised the third, while each anathematised the other. In the Roman sense, which, at least, was rational and intelligible, it meant the absolute oneness in doctrine and discipline of all the Churches which composed the Catholic communion; in the Puseyite sense, which was irrational and absurd, it was simply the arbitrary classification of a hundred different objects under one name. The Catholicity of Rome might be compared to a Tree, which had its roots in every land, and displayed in all the same fruits and the same foliage; the Catholicity of Puseyism was at best an artificial bouquet of [62/63] incongruous vegetable forms, composed of a rose, a cabbage, a tulip, and an onion, tied together by a shoe-string. (Much laughter.)
Resuming the three points to which he had referred,--the promises of God, the infallibility of the Church, and the title of Catholic,--he would say, without hesitation, that if he must accept all three together, it was only in the Roman Church that he should look for such a combination. For if Infallibility were the essential prerogative of a Teaching Church, it could only exist in that Institution which alone had always claimed it, both as her gift by promise, and the sole explanation of her triumphs and her perpetuity. It would be the idlest of dreams to search for it in a fractional part of a modern community, which had always disowned and scoffed at it, and which could only account for its own existence on the very rational plea, that the Promises of God had signally failed, and that it alone was able to correct the failure.
It only remained for him, in order to exhaust the topics of the Archdeacon's address, to examine, if the House would permit him, that very remarkable doctrine which was generally known as "the Branch-theory." He thought it would not be difficult to show, that if the Archdeacon was a Catholic without Catholicity, he was also a Branch without a Trunk.
His venerable friend, if he might construct a speech for one who was so well able to speak for himself, might be supposed to address the Roman Church as follows:--"I admit that my Church is not, and cannot be, the Church Catholic. I admit, further, that she is not a Church at all, except in a political or national sense. But I contend that, in spite of her defects, she is a branch of the Universal Communion, however earnestly you may repudiate the connection; and I insist that I am not excluded from your pale, because I do not recognise your right to exclude me. I claim to determine that point for myself. I choose to belong to you, whether you consent or not. I will not resign my communion with Rome, though I know that you rank me with the aliens outside; and I must positively refuse to enter her communion, though you affectionately entreat me to do so. In a word, I will belong to you, in spite of your rejection; and I will not obey you in spite of your invitation."
This was the way in which the branch spoke to the trunk. [63/64] Well, was it really a branch, and if so, on what part of the trunk was it grafted? At what point did the vivifying sap flow from the one to the other? It was easy, of course, to understand the metaphor in the case of a French, a Spanish, or an Austrian clergyman, who believed every doctrine of the Catholic Church, and was in filial subjection to her Head, from whom alone he professed to derive his mission and jurisdiction. Such men were, doubtless, in a very real sense, "branches" of the Roman trunk. But an Anglican, by whatever fancy names he might seek to disguise himself, was simply a child of the Reformation, without which his Church would never have come into existence; and, moreover, that Church began its career by informing the world, through the mouth of all its master-builders, that the Catholic Church was the Babylon of the Apocalypse. How then, once more, could he be a branch of the Roman trunk?
He had heard, indeed, of a well-known clergyman, lately deceased, who said to a friend, in answer to the inquiry how they were to establish their connection with the Catholic Church, "May there not be underground suckers?" This was all which the author of the "Christian Year" could suggest to dissuade a brother minister from going over to Rome! But, surely, such idle words could hardly satisfy a man who believed he had a soul. Branches were not connected with a tree by invisible and imaginary suckers, but grew bodily out of its substance. And, moreover, they were always of the same material. He would ask his venerable friend if ever he saw a tree with one branch of oak, another of cypress, and a third of ebony? Did he ever see thistles growing on a vine, or olives on a fig tree? Yet even such a vegetable combination would, in his judgment, be a far less curious lusus naturae than a theological reproduction of the Siamese twins, in the shape of a disciple of the Thirty-Nine Articles locked in the embrace of a pupil of Cardinal Bellarmine.
The only true test of a theory was the result to which it led in practice. The branch-theory did not look well on paper, but perhaps it redeemed itself in its practical evolution? He would suppose, then, that the Archdeacon, resolving to try his theory, set out on a foreign tour. Did he leave Dover an Anglican, and disembark at Calais a Roman Catholic? If so, at what particular spot in the Channel did he drop the Anglican Articles and take up [64/65] the Roman Missal? Was it marked by a buoy? or was the transformation a gradual process, like the changes of temperature? On leaving Dover he carried with him only two sacraments, which had grown into seven by the time he landed at Calais. Supposing the distance to be twenty-five miles, did he take up a new sacrament,--he was going to say at every fifth milestone, but the sea knew not such measures of distance. Were there fixed points at which he began to believe that Transubstantiation was a holy mystery, and not a "blasphemous fable;" that Confirmation and Extreme Unction were divine sacraments, and not, as he had believed while breakfasting at Dover, a mere "corrupt following of the Apostles?" Did he, in spite of the injunction with which they were all familiar, "not to speak to the man at the wheel," anxiously interrogate that individual as to the precise longitude in which it behoved him to cast away some Anglican delusion, and take up some Catholic truth? At what point of the voyage did the Pope's supremacy begin to dawn upon him? And, finally, did the process of transformation, to which all Branch-Christians were inevitably subject when they went to foreign lands, depend in any degree upon the weather? Was it quicker or slower in a heavy sea? or did sea-sickness in any way affect its development?
But he would now suppose that, instead of visiting France or Belgium, or any other Catholic land, his friend should allow himself the recreation of a voyage to the Baltic, and disembark on the banks of the Neva. They were all aware that the "Holy Eastern Church" was just now spoken of with a comically exaggerated reverence by a certain section of the English clergy, whose raptures did not seem to be checked by the discouraging fact that the "Holy Anglican Church" was an institution totally ignored by Greek and Muscovite alike. Mr. Curzon had been asked, a few years ago, by the Patriarch of Constantinople, "who the Archbishop of Canterbury was?" The head of the Greek Church had never even heard of him! Now, their friend, the Archdeacon, would carry with him to Russia his principle of branch-churches, which, by hypothesis, would make him everywhere at home; and he would be as much imbued with Russian theology on arriving at St. Petersburg, as he was with Roman on arriving at Calais. He would now consider the "Orthodox" religion at least as good as the "Catholic," if not a great deal better. The Papal supremacy, equally odious to him [65/66] and to the Russian, would become once more a "usurpation," and the Czar would henceforth be his Pontiff, not the Pope. Imperial maxims would penetrate his mind; and the violent destruction of Catholic interests in Poland and in Lithuania would claim his warm approval, as in Calais it excited his horror and disgust. The transformation of this Branch-Christian would be once more radical and complete! He changed his religion with as much facility as he changed his coat. The fact that English, Roman, and Russian creeds were so distinct as to involve perpetual and deadly schism, only rendered his conversion to all three by turns a greater stretch of Christian charity. If they did not know how to agree with one another, he knew how to agree with all of them; so that the Archdeacon appeared to have adopted this new theological formula, that "the impartial distribution of mutual anathemas was the truest condition of mutual communion."
One difficulty, however, would await him at St. Petersburg, from which he was exempt at Calais. It was true that neither at Calais nor at St. Petersburg would he meet a single priest who would regard him as anything but a heretic and a schismatic. In Russia, as in France, none would consent to join him in the simple act of worship, in spite of his provisional assumption of the Russian Creed. But, then, it was a fact well-known in Russia, that the Greek Church had been often reconciled to Rome, and always upon terms imposed upon her by the latter; and had often admitted, as at the Council of Florence, that the Pope was the Vicar of God. So that the Archdeacon would have changed his doctrine, and changed again, only to find at last that the truth which he had abhorred at Dover, and confessed at Calais, and abhorred once more in Russia, in order to enjoy everywhere the privilege of being a "Branch-Christian," was just as well appreciated in Russia as in Rome, was actually enshrined in her liturgies, and only denied by the former, at the present day, on political grounds, because it presented the most formidable obstacle to Slavonic national unity. Was it worth while, then, to maintain a theory which would not secure for him the faintest recognition by any Church throughout the world; which required its advocate to show even less respect for positive truth than the Mormon or the Kaffir; and which far from attracting the sympathy of the Greek or Roman Churches, which it was [66/67] foolishly designed to conciliate, only united them both in common and undisguised contempt?
And here he would briefly narrate an incident which occurred not many years ago, in illustration of the folly of the branch-religion. An Anglican clergyman desired to receive the sacrament at St. Petersburg. He was told, among other things, that he must first anathematise the Thirty-Nine Articles. He replied, as Archdeacon Chasuble might do, that he was quite prepared to do so. On this his Russian friends, who thought Branch-Christians simply a nuisance, and only wanted to get rid of him, observed that more was necessary, and that he must bring a solemn declaration from all the Anglican bishops, that they also anathematised the Articles. It would certainly be a remarkable day on which the collective Anglican Episcopate should declare their own Church accursed, as these Russians politely proposed; and as the clergyman in question was not sanguine that he could persuade them to do so, he gave it up, and went to Constantinople to be admitted into the Greek Church. But there they rudely informed him that he must be re-baptized, to which he strongly objected. Once more he travelled to St. Petersburg, where they told him the ecclesiastics at Constantinople were ignorant boobies, at which he opened his eyes very wide indeed, and finished by becoming a Roman Catholic; in which condition he wished him all possible felicity.
But he would detain the House no longer; and as the Archdeacon had concluded his discourse by showing how, on his principles, Dr. Easy's principles should be answered, he would beg permission to follow his example. It was his opinion, then, that if the Branch-idea be true, there must be three Gods, and not one; and each of them on such deplorable terms with the other two, that it was a marvel how Olympus could contain them without a general celestial catastrophe.
DEAN. PRIMITIVE must really protest against such unbecoming levity.
DR. CANDOUR could assure the Dean that he never was more serious in his life. If there was any touch of levity or comedy in the discussion, it was in the subject and not in his treatment of [67/68] it. He would go farther, and say that either indignation or contempt must be provoked in every honest mind by the modern theory which he had attempted to refute. He insisted that that theory required the existence of three distinct and hostile gods, an Anglican, a Greek, and a Roman; and that on any disputed point of doctrine an English clergyman would only have to say which of the three he proposed to serve, in order effectually to puzzle the Privy Council, and keep himself safe from the imputation of heresy. He was brought, therefore, to the same conclusion as his venerable friend. If to deny the infallibility of the Church, as he maintained, was the same with denying the existence of a God,--because God could not possibly establish a fallible Church,--it was equally certain that to suppose three warring and wrangling Churches, all teaching different doctrines, yet all protected and commissioned by one common Founder, and regarded by him with equal complacency, was to admit that there were three Gods; and this was the same with saying that there was no God at all. And thus, by different roads, he and his friend the Archdeacon arrived at precisely the same conclusion.
THE PROLOCUTOR of the House here rose, with an air of dignity becoming his official character, and expressed his conviction that the general feeling of the House was that the debate should now close. (Hear, hear.) That debate had proved a variety of things, which were more or less destructive to the National Church, but nothing perhaps more clearly than this, that the public was right in regarding their discussions as very unprofitable to the interests of religion, either in their own land or in any other. He did not see what was gained by showing the world that no two of them were of the same mind, and that Convocation had no more authority to lead men to the truth than the Church which it was supposed to represent. He thought, indeed, the time had come when Convocation should cease to meet as a representative body, affecting to deal with interests which it had no power to promote, and to serve a cause which it was only able to compromise. Its deliberations,--which might have a certain value if they pretended to no official character, were now regarded by everybody as a sham, and probably their own convictions were in harmony with that view. He proposed, therefore, that this should be the last official [68/69] meeting of Convocation,--(Loud cheers,)--and that henceforth they should assemble in the house of one of their colleagues, where they could converse together freely, like any other private company, without the risk of exciting public animadversion. He really thought that a few more meetings of Convocation would destroy the Church of England altogether, since the only dogma which that body could be said to have defined was this, that "Christianity, from first to last, was entirely a matter of opinion;" whereas, in their private capacity, they could discuss every point of Christian doctrine, without suggesting the idea to thoughtful minds that the primary object of the Christian revelation was to make it impossible for any man to know the truth. If the House shared his opinion, it only remained to determine what should be the place of their future meeting. (Applause.)
DR. EASY was delighted to be able to offer hospitality to his reverend friends. He lived, as they knew, in the immediate neighbourhood of their fine old historical abbey, and his apartments were sufficiently spacious to afford a convenient place of meeting. He proposed, therefore, on the understanding that Convocation was now happily extinct, that they should meet at his residence on that day week, when they could either resume the debate that had hitherto occupied them, or turn their attention to any other topic which might promise greater profit or amusement. (Loud cries of "Agreed.")