Prolonged suspension of the controversy with Rome--Controversy on civil allegiance--The "Bangorian controversy"--The great controversy with the Deists, Bishop Berkeley, Bishop Butler--Warburton's Divine Legation--Paley--The controversy with Arianism and Socinianism--Waterland--The Eucharistic theories of the non-jurors--Their views as to the invalidity of Lay-Baptism--Biblical criticism and exegesis in the eighteenth century--Ecclesiastical history--Conclusion.
IT remains for us now to make a rapid general survey of the theological literature of the Church of England in the eighteenth century. The subject deserves careful study; and, did time permit, one might well bestow on it a larger consideration than is here possible. It is no doubt true, that as the general literature of England, to whatever cause it may be attributed, showed a singular decline in works of distinctive power and creative energy, so the theological literature of the same period contrasts unfavourably with the works of the earlier writers. Yet having made this acknowledgment, one cannot but regret that there has been a tendency to unduly underrate the labours of the eighteenth century, and to regard contemptuously an epoch that did much valuable, if not very brilliant work.
The most noticeable feature of the theology of this period, when contrasted with that which preceded it, lies in the fact that our divines were no longer directly concerned in polemics with Rome. They were mainly engaged in a yet more momentous conflict--the struggle with various forms of unbelief, and more particularly disbelief in a supernatural revelation.
The Revolution settlement had removed the more pressing and urgent fears of Romish aggression upon our liberties, civil and religious. On its literary side the controversy with Rome seemed, as it were, suddenly extinguished. The engagement had been long, and of varied fortune; but political events practically closed the campaign on its literary side. As it turned out, the band of Anglican pamphleteers in the reign of James II. fired the last volley; and for a century and a half the old enemy made no appearance in the field of Anglican controversy. If I may trust my memory, there was not produced during the whole of the eighteenth century so much as even one considerable treatise directed against the ecclesiastical pretensions or dogmatic errors of Rome. The civil government passed several stringent, and even harsh, legislative enactments against "Papists"; and the mass of the English people settled down to a contented and, very generally, unintelligent Protestantism, mostly quiescent, but occasionally roused into passion, when stirred by some dread of political change. The clergy, whether "high-church" or "low-church," whether members of the ecclesiastical establishment or non-jurors, were all united in their strong and steady aversion from Rome and Romanism.
For many years after the flight of James II. the clergy were much distracted by controversies arising out of questions of conscience connected with the subject of political allegiance. It is only unthinking persons who can make light of the difficult moral problems which originated in the imposition of the oath of allegiance and, afterwards, of the oath of abjuration. Good and able men solved the problems in different ways; and it would be a mistake to assume that the noble self-sacrifice of those who declined the oaths makes any presumption in favour of the soundness of their judgment. With the unreasoning the man who suffers for his convictions is too often reckoned to be necessarily in the right. But the combination of honest convictions with stupidity, or with erroneous theories, is common enough. And the political conceptions of the non-jurors, if examined in the light of modern thought, would perhaps scarcely stand the test of sound reason. At any rate, to make a belief in the indefeasible rights of hereditary monarchy an article of ecclesiastical communion was a melancholy and fatal mistake.
On the controversies arising out of the question of civil allegiance and the position of the deprived bishops a vast quantity of pamphlet literature issued from the press. It was often marked by much embittered feeling, and for a time distracted many good men from more profitable studies.
The Sacheverell sermon and its political consequences further accentuated differences which had arisen within the bounds of the Church established, and a few years later the flood-gates of party animosity were flung wide in the "Bangorian controversy." This acrimonious strife originated in the extreme and dangerous latitudinarian notions as to the character and constitution of "the Kingdom of Christ," propounded in a sermon published (1717) by Hoadly, Bishop of Bangor. Feeling ran high and was largely intensified by the jealousies of the political parties of the day. A crowd of pamphleteers engaged in the literary fray, and it is said that some two hundred publications on the questions in debate have been counted. On the side of Church principles no one distinguished himself more than William Law, whose Serious Call and Christian Perfection continue to be highly esteemed among works of a practical and devotional kind. "In mere dialectical skill," writes one whose sympathies and violent prejudices are not on the side of William Law, "he had very few superiors. That he was more than once victorious over Hoadly no candid Whig can deny." [Lord Macaulay.] This controversy, though now forgotten, was not idle or frivolous. It concerned principles of essential and permanent importance.
But the main intellectual force of the Church was concerned with a controversy that cut far deeper into life than questions as to civil allegiance, and the permissible measures of ecclesiastical latitude. A succession of writers, some of whom were men of no mean ability, attempted openly or, as was more common, under a thin disguise of professed orthodoxy, to undermine the very foundations of the Christian faith. In the preceding century the writings of Hobbes, as we have seen, had been rightly measured as distinctly anti-christian, if not really atheistic, in their tendency. And, earlier than Hobbes, Lord Herbert of Cherbury, in works of much ability, had sounded the keynote which ruled all the deistical writings of the eighteenth century, viz. the sufficiency of natural religion. [The divergence of the faith of Lord Edward Herbert from that of his brother George, the saintly poet, reminds one of the similar phenomenon of our own time in the religious histories of the brothers Newman, and the brothers Froude.]
Towards the close of the seventeenth century the need of an apologetic literature was distinctly felt. The pious Charles Leslie, formerly Chancellor of Connor Cathedral, and afterwards a non-juror, published in 1694 his Short and easy method with the Deists, a work which attained great popularity. He was followed on the other side by a fellow-countryman of much ability, John Toland, whose Christianity not mysterious appeared in 1696. And, as time went by, the positive thesis of the sufficiency of natural religion was accompanied, as was absolutely necessary if the thesis were to be maintained, by attacks on the authenticity of the Scripture histories, and more particularly on the miraculous element in them. In truth in the deistical controversy of the last century, we have an anticipation of one of the most important controversies of our own age. New aspects of the debate have been presented, some new features have come into view; but any one who desires to face the attack of our nineteenth-century unbelief should familiarize himself with both the attack and defence of the preceding age.
Among any considerable body of writers engaged in a controversy that interests the public there will always be some who are silly and incompetent. Whether the writers pose as the antagonists, or as the champions of orthodoxy, it is inevitable that some will be pretentious weaklings; and it is probable that the party will be attended by one or more buffoons. But by these its strength must not be measured. And there can be no greater mistake than to depreciate the ability of the leading writers among the English deists. The splendid powers of the great sceptics of a later generation, Hume and Gibbon, none can venture to despise; but even such writers as Toland and Tindal, Collins, Morgan, Shaftesbury, and Bolingbroke, cannot be lightly dismissed. Nor did the Church of England in their day lightly dismiss them. In fact there is scarcely a writer of any distinction for the first fifty years of the century who did not contribute something, whether essay or sermon, pamphlet or elaborate treatise, to the controversy with the deists. To one or other of Toland's works replies were made, among others, by Dr. Samuel Clarke, Bishop Peter Brown, the metaphysician, and Thomas Brett, the learned non-juror. Anthony Collins was answered, directly or indirectly, by Bishop Chandler, Bishop Gastrell, Bishop Hoadly, Bishop Sherlock, and, with incomparable learning and; wit, by Richard Bentley under the guise of Phileleutherus Lipsiensis. [Bentley, as a young man, had won his spurs by his Boyle Lectures (the first of that long series) on The folly of atheism and (what is now called) deism, 1692.] The coarse attack of Woolston on the miracles of our Lord received replies from Bishop Gibson, Bishop Smalbroke, and Bishop Zachary Pearce. Tindal's Christianity as old as the Creation was met by Waterland, Law, and Conybeare (then Rector of Exeter College), Bishop of Bristol; and the other minor deistical writers were not disregarded. [See Leland's View of the principal deistical writers . . . and some account of the answers, etc., 4th edition, 1764, 2 vols. 8vo.]
The general questions at issue were discussed with much power and exquisite grace and freshness in a work composed on the western side of the Atlantic, in his "alcove" near Newport, in Rhode Island, by George Berkeley, shortly afterwards to be elevated to the see of Cloyne. [Beside Leland's well-known View the student may consult Lecture III. in Dr. John Cairns' excellent work on Unbelief in the Eighteenth Century (1881) and Lechler's Geschichte des Englischen Deismus (1841). From the side sympathetic with unbelief the subject is treated in Leslie Stephen's History of English Thought in the Eighteenth Century, 2nd edit., 1881.] It is of no common interest to observe that in this work, Alciphron or the Minute Philosopher, written on American soil, we have "the germ of the whole argument" of the greatest of all Christian Apologetics, Butler's immortal Analogy of Religion, natural and revealed, to the constitution and course of Nature (1736). [According to a most competent judge, the late Bishop (W. Fitzgerald) of Killaloe. See his life of Butler prefixed to his admirable edition of the Analogy, p. xxxvii.]
The Analogy was the outcome of years of quiet meditation in a country parsonage. The great controversy had long occupied the author's thoughts; but it was probably Tindal's Christianity as old as the Creation (1730) that had the high distinction of being the immediate occasion that called it forth. It was not of Butler's method to name the authors whose principles he contests, but it is certain that upon this book Butler constantly keeps his eye. [Bishop Fitzgerald, ut supr. p. xxxvi.]
But our obligations to Butler do not end with the Analogy. His services to Christian ethics in his Sermons are of the highest order. Nowhere else do we find so complete, so convincing, and, let me add, so stimulating and inspiring a demonstration of that cardinal truth of practical religion, the supremacy of conscience in the system of human nature. Apart, too, from their intellectual force, the Sermons reveal to us what we should not have otherwise guessed, that Butler possessed a depth and ardour of feeling which is not always combined with great powers of close and accurate reasoning. When one has read Butler's two wonderful sermons on The Love of God he is tempted to apply to him words used (I shall not venture to say how truly) of Goethe--"His heart, which few know, was as great as his intellect, which all know."
It is wholly impossible to present in a few words any just estimate of the extraordinary work upon which the reputation of Warburton chiefly rests--The Divine Legation of Moses. No writing of the century attracted such general attention, or roused more conflicting sentiments. To base the supernatural character of the Mosaic legislation on the assumption, or, if you will, the fact, that it ignored the sanctions of a future state of rewards and punishments, was as offensive to many Christians as it was startling and perplexing to unbelievers. The work is disfigured indeed by much intellectual arrogance. But despite the malevolent detraction of some and the, scarcely less injurious, extravagant laudations of others, The Divine Legation must always remain a monument of the extraordinary abilities of the author. Whatever may now be thought of the paradox which it so ingeniously maintained, none can fail to wonder at the striking originality, the wide and curious, if not always very accurate, learning, the power of imaginative prognostic, and ' the dialectical skill so bountifully exhibited.
The closing years of the century brought into prominence the name of Paley. His Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy (1785), based on utilitarian doctrine, was in its day extremely popular. [In 1803 the 14th edition made its appearance.] The Horæ Paulinæ (1790) was, in my judgment, his greatest work. It is an argument conducted in the true spirit of historical criticism; and whatever may be thought of some few details, the general effect is with reasonable minds convincing and final. The View of the Evidences of Christianity (1794) attained an even greater popular success. Its real merits are unquestionable; but in several parts it lies much more open to hostile criticism than the Horæ Paulinæ. Paley's last important work, his Natural Theology (1802), brings us within the confines of the present century. Its characteristic merit is the force and lucidity with which it exhibits, in particular examples, the argument from design in nature. Recent speculations as to the doctrine of Evolution and the Origin of Species may demand a new setting (so to speak) of the argument, and a readjustment of certain positions; but the argument itself must remain potent and convincing as long as man remains a rational creature.
The eighteenth century has been styled the ævum rationalisticum; [By Cave.] and the Church may accept the designation without fear of reproach, for, discarding appeals to authority, she feared not to meet her opponents on their own ground. After all has been said, human reason, understanding thereby the whole complex nature of man's spiritual being, must of necessity be for man the ultimate arbiter of truth and falsehood. The century began with Samuel Clarke's Being and Attributes of God (1704) and his Discourse concerning the unchangeable obligations of natural religion and the truth and certainty of the Christian Revelation (1705); it ended with Paley's treatises on the same subjects. The eighteenth century was in England the age of the Christian Apologists. [One must gratefully remember the services done for Christian apologetics by divines who were not members of the Church of England, such as Leland, Samuel Chandler, Doddridge, and, above all, Nathaniel Lardner, whose Credibility of the Gospel History is acknowledged on all hands as a work of distinguished excellence. It acquired a high reputation in Germany and France as well as at home.]
Turning now to lesser, though yet most vital controversies, the lapse in the beginning of the century of some of the leading clergy of the Church into Arianism called out the learning and masculine powers of Waterland; at a later period William Jones, of Nayland, did useful work; and towards the close of the century Bishop Horsley, a master of clear and powerful reasoning, triumphantly encountered Priestley, the able leader of the Socinians.
In the beginning of the century Waterland was the most considerable theologian. His Review of the Doctrine of the Eucharist as laid down in Scripture and Antiquity is commonly reckoned among the classics of English theology; and certainly no one is entitled to pretend to a knowledge of what can be said on behalf of the teaching of the best-known of our divines on this subject, who has not thoroughly mastered Waterland. Another admirable specimen of Waterland's scholarly method will be found in his Critical History of the Athanasian Creed; and though there have been several interesting contributions in our own day towards the historical inquiry into the origin of this Creed, it may be questioned whether any of these have seriously affected Waterland's conclusions.
It was about this time that a certain school of divines, chiefly non-jurors, gave currency to views upon the Eucharist differing very considerably from the more generally accepted doctrine. The chief exponent of these views was one who was not himself a non-juror, John Johnson (1662-1725), Vicar of Cranbrook in Kent. In 1714 (and Part, 1717) appeared his elaborate treatise, The unbloody sacrifice, and altar unveiled and supported. The views here expressed were advocated with, occasionally, unimportant variations by the leading non-jurors, English and Scottish, among whom may be named the non-juring Bishops, Hickes (deprived Dean of Worcester), Archibald Campbell, Jeremy Collier, Thomas Brett (editor of the Collection of the Principal Liturgies . . . particularly the ancient, viz. the Clementine, etc., 1720), Thomas Deacon, Thomas Rattray (editor of The Ancient Liturgy of the Church of Jerusalem, 1744), and Robert Forbes. Substantially the same doctrinal views were maintained by Samuel Seabury (1729-1796), first Bishop of the Church in the United States of America, and in the States are still, it would seem, largely prevalent. [Seabury was ordained Deacon and Priest (1753) by the Bishop of Carlisle, at Fulham, and consecrated Bishop in 1784, at Aberdeen. His teaching on the Eucharist may be gathered from his Discourses and, particularly, his Earnest Persuasive to Frequent Communion, 1789.] It is only the grossest ignorance that can confound the doctrine of the non-juring school with the Roman dogma. Its main characteristic is the emphasis it lays on the bread and wine, after they have been made, by the words of Institution," authoritative symbols or representations of Christ's crucified Body and shed Blood," being offered in the Eucharist to God the Father. After this has been done it was proper and (according to some) essential that there should be an expressed prayer of Invocation that God would send the Holy Spirit upon the bread and wine, that, "to all spiritual interests and purposes," they may become, "in power and effect," the Body and Blood of Christ. The bread and wine remain what they were in themselves,' but "in power and effect" they are the Body and Blood of Christ, that is, "they are full and authentic substitutes for them," and for spiritual purposes are their "equivalents." The Body and Blood of Christ are not in or under the forms of bread and wine; the bread and wine are "the sacramental Body and Blood of Christ," because they convey the benefits of the natural Body and Blood to those who worthily receive it.
These views met with little acceptance in the Church of England, partly, no doubt, because the non-juring theory of consecration required an express epiklesis, or verbal invocation of the Holy Spirit, which is certainly absent from the authorized form of the English Prayer-book. [When the American Church framed its Liturgy, it to a large extent followed the Scottish Communion Office and the majority of the ancient Liturgies, where the words of Institution come first, then the Oblation, and lastly the Invocation.] The influence of Waterland was also thrown into the scale against the non-juring school. [His very acute, if not conclusive criticism of Johnson will be found in the Appendix to The Christian sacrifice explained in his Works, V., pp. 150-184. The best succinct account of the non-jurors' doctrine will be found in the Shorter Catechism, contained in Deacon's Full, true, and comprehensive view of Christianity (1734).] In our own day the eucharistic doctrine of the non-jurors has been scornfully denounced, by some who arrogate to themselves the name of "Catholics," as teaching the doctrine of the "Real Absence."
A minor controversy, carried on with no small acrimony, broke out in the early part of the century on the subject of the validity of lay-baptism. It seems to have been originated by two distinguished Irishmen, both non-jurors, Charles Leslie and Henry Dodwell. The latter, a learned layman, who had been a Fellow of Trinity College, Dublin, and afterwards Camden Professor at Oxford, propounded (1706) the extraordinary notion that the souls of men are naturally mortal and are "immortalized" through baptism, but only when that baptism is administered by persons episcopally ordained. In this extravagant view Dodwell appears to have been singular. But the non-jurors generally accepted the view that the rite administered by any not episcopally ordained was not Christian baptism, or, otherwise expressed, was invalid.
Up to this period there was no question among the leading divines of the Church of England as to the validity of lay-baptism. Down to the revision of the Prayer-book in 1604 lay-baptism was distinctly recognized. After that date, while regarded as irregular, it was not judged to be invalid. The well-known principle, fieri non debet, sed factum valet, was supposed to apply to such cases. The study of the Offices for Private Baptism (text and rubrics) as now used in the Churches of England, Ireland, Scotland, the United States, and the British colonies, will probably be regarded as leaving little doubt that this is the mind of the Anglican Communion. In the case of the Church of England the decisions of the Ecclesiastical Courts have for practical purposes set the matter at rest. [The Scottish Church, while in the last century following the rigorist view of the non-jurors, has in the present century followed other counsels. And her judgment on the subject may be sufficiently gathered from the following words of her present Code of Canons (1890)--"When a person who applies to be admitted into the Communion of this Church shall express a doubt of the validity of the baptism which he has received, the Clergyman to whom the application is made shall, unless he be satisfied that the proper matter and form of words have been used at such baptism, baptize the person in the form of words prescribed in the Book of Common Prayer in cases of doubt: 'If thou art not already baptized,' etc." (Canon xxxviii. § 4). See also Lay-Baptism valid--the doctrine of the Episcopal Church in Scotland: a Charge delivered to the clergy of the Diocese of Edinburgh (1888).]
In the beginning of the last century the views entertained by the non-jurors were adopted by some of the clergy of the Established Church. Some of the Tory clergy, filled with dread at "comprehensive" schemes, hailed this doctrine as a new weapon against their enemies, the dissenters. Bingham with great learning supported the validity of lay-baptism. Waterland, with greater argumentative power, lent his aid to the newer view. A number of less distinguished writers engaged in the fray. But after some years of struggle the matter came to be practically settled by the non-jurors generally adopting the view of the invalidity of lay-baptism, and the clergy of the Church of England retaining the view of her earlier theologians, and of the Church generally both Eastern and Western. [Roger Laurence, then a non-juring layman, wrote a treatise on "Lay-Baptism invalid" (1710), which was at the time much esteemed. On the other side may be mentioned the admirable treatise of Bishop Fleetwood. An account of the general controversy (useful though not altogether impartial) may be found in Mr. Elwin's The Minister of Baptism (1889), pp. 224-241.]
A few words must be said, before concluding, of the services done during the century for sacred and ecclesiastical learning outside the circles of apologetics and doctrinal controversy.
In biblical criticism and exegesis comparatively little was done. But there were honourable exceptions to the prevailing want of interest on this subject. The labours of some thirty years, concluded only fourteen days before his death, gave the world in 1707 the critical edition of the text of the New Testament by John Mill, Principal of St. Edmund's Hall, Oxford. The greatest living authority on the textual criticism of the New Testament, Bishop Westcott, declares that this work "marks an epoch in the history of the New Testament text," and, "when every drawback has been made . . . remains a splendid monument of the labours of a life." Not unlike the case of Brian Walton, the various readings collected by Mill (said to be 30,000 in number) were treated by Whitby (himself a man of ability and learning) as unsettling the text of Scripture, and, in another quarter, were made much of by the Deists for the purpose of discrediting the authority of the Scriptures. Bentley, as Phileleutherus Lipsiensis, made a brilliant reply. He himself indeed had made considerable preparations for the restoration of the text "exactly as it was in the best examples at the time of the Council of Nice." But this prince of textual critics was forced by the miserable distractions of his life to abandon his design. Nothing more in this region of inquiry was effected in England till our own time. [Whitby's Examen variantium lectionum J. Millii is generally found at the end of his Commentary.]
In biblical exegesis the century had little to boast. Whitby's Commentaries on the Gospels, Acts, and Epistles, continued during the last century, and indeed for many years of the present century, to be held in much esteem; but they have been since superseded.
It may be questioned whether we are entitled to reckon John Ernest Grabe, a learned German settled in England, as an Anglican divine; but, at any rate, he contributed to our theological learning an edition of the Septuagint from the text of the Codex Alexandrinus (Oxon., 1707, 4 vols. folio). Two years before the publication of these volumes Humphrey Hody's learned work, De Bibliorum textibus originalibus, etc., had appeared, dealing largely with questions connected with the Septuagint.
In Hebrew scholarship the impression made by Bishop Lowth's Prælectiones de sacra poesi Hebræorum (1753) was considerable. It was soon after (1758) reprinted at Goettingen, with additions by J. D. Mictuelis. This work has gone through several editions, both in Latin and in an English translation.
Dean Humphrey Prideaux's Connection of the Old and New Testaments (1716-1718) went through many editions, the 25th (edited by Dr. McCaul) appearing as late as 1858. It is both learned and interesting.
The published results of patristic studies were few, and are confined almost wholly to the early part of the century. Fell's Cyprian (1682) belongs to the previous age. But we may mention Potter's fine edition of Clement of Alexandria (1715), a work that has commanded the respect of scholars both at home and abroad. Grabe edited Irenaeus (1702), and, afterwards, some fragments attributed to this Father (1715). Thirlby's Justin Martyr (1722), the Oxford edition of Ephraem Syrus (1709), and Reading's issue of Valesius' edition of the Greek Ecclesiastical Historians (1720) may also be mentioned. But the study of Christian antiquity had already begun to languish.
It would be indeed ungrateful not to recognize the merits of Joseph Bingham's invaluable Origines Ecclesiasticae, or the Antiquities of the Christian Church (1708-1722), an admirable piece of work, executed under such difficulties as attend remoteness from great libraries, narrow means, and infirm health. Though much has been done in our own day in the study of Christian Antiquities, Bingham's volumes are still essential in the library of every clergyman. Nor should one forget the elaborate History of infant baptism (1705) by William Wall and his Defence of his History (1720), in which the belief and practice of the ancient Church are exhibited with great fullness. [The best edition is Cotton's (1836), 4 vols.]
To the study of the history of the Church in Great Britain and Ireland a splendid contribution was made in David Wilkins' monumental work, the Concilia Magnae Britanniae et Hiberniae (4 vols. folio, 1737), which has been superseded, but only for the early period, by the, unfortunately, incompleted work of Haddan and Stubbs. In this connection may be mentioned Gibson's useful Codex juris ecclesiastici Anglicani (1713) [The second edition, 2 vols. folio, 1761, is much enlarged and improved.]
The pre-Reformation history of the Church of England had been illustrated by Henry Wharton in his Anglia Sacra (1691), and a valuable and, for the time, highly creditable attempt to cover the whole field of English Church history down to the end of the reign of Charles II. was made by Jeremy Collier in his Ecclesiastical History of Great Britain (1708-1714). [The best edition is that edited by Lathbury, 9 vols. 8vo., 1852.] The period of the Reformation was dealt with by Gilbert Burnet, who, whatever were his prejudices (and they have been often made too much of), left in the third volume of his History of the Reformation of the Church of England, a valuable body of documents from authentic sources. [The first vol. appeared in 1679, the second in 1681, and the third in 1715.] Another worthy labourer in the same field was his contemporary, John Strype, whose numerous historical works contain a great collection of materials relating to the Church and its eminent men from the Reformation to the reign of James I.
In bringing to a close this rapid survey of a great literature, extending over two centuries and a half, the lecturer feels like one who has undertaken to act as cicerone of a six-hours tour around and through some large historic city. The multitude of details cannot but be somewhat confusing to one who is new to the place; but the sights of interest, it is hoped, may tempt him to prolong his stay and make a closer acquaintance with what he has seen. We have viewed the encircling line of the town's defensive works, and noticed the frowning fronts of the great fortresses that have been erected from time to time, and have again and again resisted the assaults of hostile armies. We have passed rapidly through the main avenues and principal streets, and observed the more striking features of the city's architecture,--royal palaces, courts of law, houses of legislature, museums, galleries, churches. Here and there a passing glimpse has been obtained of pleasant parks and gardens bright with flowers. Have we not seen enough to satisfy us that here is indeed a goodly heritage?--And this goodly heritage is ours. May I not hope that some, at least, of my younger brethren may be tempted to return, and make a fuller and more leisurely acquaintance with its wonders and its treasures. I can promise them delight as well as instruction. Even the very lanes and alleys, which we have not entered, conceal many an historic monument that will repay their research.
But you will ask--"Do such studies bear upon the life and the questions of to-day?" I answer emphatically "Yes." There is no large question of current interest, no matter of present debate in the religious world which has not, in essence and principle, been dealt with by the great masters of the past. Look how, even in the field of physical contests, where the conditions of warfare have of late been really and materially altered, our great generals devote their time and energies to study the strategy of the campaigns of Caesar, of Marlborough, of Wellington, of Napoleon. Much more will the advantage of such studies be apparent in the warfare of the world of intellect. Here there has been no discovery of new agencies of destruction, or of new arms of precision. Ambitious ecclesiastical pretensions, untruth, false doctrine, heresy, unbelief have forged no weapon which was not known to our forefathers. There may here and there be some shifting in the line of attack, or some new formation of troops; but those who know the masters of the past will, I am confident, have no difficulty in meeting the altered tactics.
"The Lord hath done great things for us." It was in the wisdom He imparted and the courage He inspired that the walls of our city were rebuilded in troublous times, when the great men and our fathers with one hand wrought in the work and with one hand held a weapon. It was in the courage He inspired and the wisdom He imparted that the four walls of the city were fortified without, and within the temple was builded. It was in His wisdom and strength that the battles of former times were fought and won. "Yea, the Lord hath done great things for us already, whereof we rejoice." And the knowledge of the past will help us to look forward with hope, nay rather with confidence, to the future.