Reality by the Reverend Frederick S. Arnold, A.M., S.T.B.
Rector of St. John's Church, Auburn, N. Y., Associate
Editor of the American Church Monthly.
American Congress Booklets, No. 4.
HISTORY is a crowd gathered round a moment in space and time. All the past looks up toward the Advent and all later history looks back to the Incarnation of the Son of God. Yet the gathering of the ages round the central hearth of man's story, which is Bethlehem, is with this difference: While sin reigned, in the ages before the great coming, all was shadowy, prescient, symbolical, and prophetic. Since Christ came, we have experienced reality. This is the reality of which what men thought and felt before the Advent was always a type.
Even the ancient mythology and folklore was a type. The commonest cult of the Mediterranean world was the mourning for a god who died and the hope of a resurrection. Of course it was only a myth, but it displayed the natural longing of men's hearts. Also this popular folk-mythology produced the mysteries, like those of Eleusis and Samothrace. Whatever the mysteries were, and they actually appear more like the rites of secret and fraternal orders than like any phase of Christian worship, they did leave a framework in the customary life of antiquity which could be fitted to the Christian sacraments. So the whole popular religious background anticipated the Gospel and the Church. Everything about this old mythology, however, was empty. There really was no god like Adonis, Osiris, Attis. He was a myth. There was really nothing to the mysteries. They were rites of secret societies, often primitive and frivolous. The whole thing was empty. Few believed in it except peasants and they took it rather as a harvest game. Nevertheless, the mythology was a great background of antique poetry and fancy, whereby men longed for something like the Gospel and played at something like the Church. It was a type, though perhaps a rather dim and perverted type.
Three high phases of the inner and higher life of the old world anticipated the Advent: the poets, the philosophers, and the Hebrew prophets. It is not in plain terms so much as in the whole spirit and breath of poetry, philosophy, and prophecy, that the ancient world, on this the inner and higher side of human life, anticipated, foretold, or saw in vision the coming of the divine Manhood. One feels it throughout any and every study of the antique past. Nevertheless, one can cite three writings in particular, wherein that great solution of mysterious foresight and of typical fancy, which is the very medium that bathed all the ancient thinkers and authors, is crystallized in sparkling anticipation of the Advent. Such a flash of poetic insight is Vergil's Fourth Eclogue. In that poem, written only a few years before the holy Nativity, Vergil sings of the birth of a Child whose Father is God and who will redeem and save mankind in a new golden age. Plato, the greatest Greek philosopher, who discussed God, reality, immortality, and morality with wonderful power, spoke of the Righteous Man, in the second book of the Republic. He told how the Righteous Man must be scourged, bound, and crucified. Then we have the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, which tells us that the Messiah must die for the sin of the world.
What Jesus did was to realize all the types and fill up with reality all the prophecies. Before Him it was all prescient fancy. In Him it was all immediate reality. Jesus is the God-man who saves the world. He is the Infant conceived by Deity, to bring back a better world. He did suffer because He was, as Plato foresaw, the perfectly Righteous Man. He, even as Isaiah prophesied, bore our sins and saves our souls. All at once, in Jesus, reality fills all the old world-forms, realizes every type, lives and thrills in fulfilment of poetry and prophecy. Crowding round the manger-cradle at Bethlehem, come Vergil, Plato, Isaiah, and many, many more, back to Heraclitus and, I suppose, back to Musteus and Orpheus. All, like the three kings, bring their gifts: types, forms, foretelling, all empty. Then Jesus rises and, fills all the world's emptiness with experience, thrills every prophecy and type with reality.
That is what the Advent did, what the Gospel is. It is reality filling all the theretofore empty forms of the higher life of man.
Christianity has always been a religion of experience. The mystic thrill is conscious. The inner reality is known and felt. It is not quite adequate to say with Karl Earth that we are simply to accept the witness of Scripture or to say with some ultramontanes that we are simply to accept the authority of the Church. Faith is personal. Of course, Scripture and the Church tell us what our experiences mean, but we do actually have religious experience. All the forms of the Church are throbbing with reality. Jesus fulfils the creeds. He is the Gospel. We thrill with His communion in the blessed Sacrament. Reality, experience, sacramental communion, mystical realization, the power and faith of reality: this is what the Catholic religion has always been. That is why men love and rejoice in our religion, why they strive and suffer for our religion. It is because Jesus is in His Church, effective in His Sacraments. Fullness, Experience, Reality: these have always been the quality of the Catholic and orthodox religion. The reality of experience and power in the Catholic Church is the continuing demonstration of the truth and promise in the orthodox faith. Reality has always been a high quality of the Church and of the Gospel. The saints have known and experienced. All Christians have shared in the testimony, as in the prayers, of the saints and have partly, according as God gave them grace, entered into the saints' experience. That is Emanuel, God with us. That is the life and power of the Catholic Church.
This reality, life, and power has been immensely effective in human history. Of course, if it is real, one would expect that to be so. One illustration may stand by eminence for all the rest. The barbarians, the Teutons, destroyed the Roman empire. The Mongol barbarians destroyed the Chinese empire. The only thing to do in China, in the thirteenth century, was somehow to patch up the broken remnants of civilization and to stumble along for some ages, maimed, but unchanging. It was not so in the fall of the Roman empire in the fifth and sixth centuries. A great deal more than the patching up of the ruins of culture happened in the West. Embraced in the Roman empire was the Catholic Church. The Church then and there proved the mystical reality of her sacramental life by creating, on the site of the Roman world, a new Christian culture and a great new civilization. Nothing like that happened after the Mongol scourge in China, where the Ming or the Ching is only a weaker or more decrepit case of the Han or the Tang. Not so in the West; the France of St. Louis, the England of Chaucer, the Italy of Cimabue, St. Francis, Dante, are not a case of the empire of the Antonines, but a new creation of God the Holy Spirit, indwelling in the Catholic Church. The miracle of history was wrought. After civilization had been destroyed the Church breathed on the ruins and the new Christian civilization of the thirteenth century arose. Incidentally that Christian revival of culture is the answer to Oswald Spengler's gloomy fears of the end of our civilization. Spengler leaves out, as Karl Adam says, man's free will and God's real presence in the Catholic Church. Our civilization may, indeed, decline, but so long as the Church endures there endures also the power of resurrection and of newer and higher culture. That was what was manifested in the ages from the fifth to the thirteenth centuries. The hope and the only hope for enduring and reviving civilization is the real Catholic Church.
That the Church of England and the Anglican communion is a living part of the reality of the Catholic Church is apparent, because Anglicanism always strangely and mysteriously exhibits the effective power of Catholic reality. A great proof of this is the ever reviving power of Anglo-Catholicism. In this respect Anglicanism is different from all the other denominations that were deeply involved and influenced in the Protestant sense during the Reformation period. It is very noticeable that Presbyterians do not have Catholic revivals; that there was no Caroline age and no Oxford Movement in Germany, Holland, or Switzerland; that Methodists and Baptists do not hold Catholic Congresses. On the contrary, the logic of Protestantism develops Liberalism, Secularism, and materialistic Naturalism in all the Protestant sects. They always grow less orthodox. Such orthodoxy as they retain is unphilosophical and unreasoned, like American Fundamentalism or like the arbitrary emphasis on the Bible alone, by Karl Barth in Germany. The logic of Protestantism is Liberalism; which, when it succeeds, brings disintegration. Where Secularism and materialistic Naturalism are supreme, there is no religion left. Such disintegration is evident in the Liberal American sects, such as Hicksite Quakerism, and Unitarianism. They are dying out, not because they failed, but because they succeeded. When men are convinced that Unitarianism is true, they quit it. Religiously it offers them nothing in particular. Notwithstanding the efforts of Karl Barth and of the Fundamentalists, Unitarianism, or some such form of Liberalism, is the destiny, because it is the logic, of all Protestantism.
One religious body, among those influenced by the Protestant Reformation, not only preserves a reasonable orthodoxy, but contains within itself a party, or section, that is zealous for orthodoxy and freshly enthusiastic for the Catholic faith. This is Anglicanism and the section zealous for the faith is Anglo-Catholicism. The evident reason why there has always been this fuller and fresher orthodoxy and zeal in Anglicanism is that Anglicanism has preserved the bishops of apostolic succession, the Christian priesthood, and the sacraments. Hence Anglicanism shares in the mystical reality of Catholic religion.
As a national Church, Anglicanism has indeed suffered many things. In this respect, Anglicanism is like the Eastern communions, under the heel of the Turk. Much of Anglican history was also under the heel of Whigs and Latitudinarians. In the reign of Elizabeth, the fear of Roman Catholic Spain caused the Queen's government, otherwise rather inclined to Anglo-Catholicism, to favor the more moderate Puritans. It was felt that the Puritans could be trusted, as no other party, in the war with Spain. Under Cromwell, of course, Anglicanism was suppressed and persecuted. At the revolution of 1688, the schism from the national Church of the non-jurors, on what we must today denominate political grounds, greatly weakened Anglo-Catholicism. Thereafter the long reign of the Whigs and Latitudinarians in the eighteenth century and the pronouncedly Broad Church opinions of the influential Plutocracy in the nineteenth century have been a tyrannical curb on the Anglican communion. It is this secular and external restraint that accounts for most of the defects and for most of the weakness of Anglicanism. Whenever the restraint of force and power has weakened or been withdrawn, Anglicanism has experienced the joy and vigor of a Catholic revival. Anglo-Catholicism is the irrepressible reality within the Anglican communion.
The necessities and the policy of revolution may be observed and understood by the study of the crises occurring during the last four centuries. It must not be overlooked that the politics of crisis is different from the normal. Hence conduct and policy in a period of revolution is not to be judged as though nothing out of the way were occurring. Especially we must not forget the real influence of the great silent conservative body of the people. Compromises are, in the last analysis, made between the radicals and the silent majority. In England the changes of the sixteenth century occurred in the midst of a European revolution. Foreign complications were always a part of the situation. Under Elizabeth, until after the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, and the defeat of the Armada, in 1588, there was always the imminent danger of the great power of Spain. The situation meant that the leaders in Church and State must largely be chosen from among the radicals. It is not right to interpret the Prayer Book, the Ordinal, and the constitution of the Church in the sixteenth century by the writings of Cranmer and other of the then leaders of the Anglican Church. Conservative as these men were in comparison with the Protestant leaders of the Continent, they were the radical party chiefs in England. What they did represented not what they wanted but what they could get. The constitution of the Anglican Church, the Prayer Book, and the Ordinal is a compromise between Cranmer and Hooper and the men of the Left wing and the great, silent, Conservative majority. It must be judged by what it is in itself, not by the opinions otherwhere expressed of Cranmer and others. These men did not prevail. They won concessions. The great outlines of Church and Prayer Book, however, represent the Conservative majority rather than the Radical leaders. Of course, one reason why this is not always realized is that Protestantism kept marching on. Puritanism toward the end of Elizabeth's reign was to afford a radicalism at which Archbishop Cranmer would have stood aghast. Archbishop Whitgift was less conservative than Cranmer. Nevertheless, Whitgift persecuted the Puritans cruelly.
Protestantism was showing then, what is much more clear today, that the logic of Protestantism is Unitarianism, Liberalism, Secularism, and materialistic Naturalism. Every generation of Puritans was more radical than the last. This made the Anglican leaders, like Cranmer, Parker, and Whit-gift, appear Conservative. They were not really Conservative. They were radical chiefs of party. The great, silent body of the Church was conservative, Catholic and orthodox, in heart and soul. Unless we are to think that no one, but the men high in place, counts in the Church, we must recognize Anglicanism in this conservative bulk of the Church of England. We must interpret the formularies in the conservative sense of the great majority. The radicals only had their way to a very limited extent. The constitution and Prayer Book of the Church of England represent, not what the Protestant party wanted, but what they could get. Despite great concessions, in a bad sense, to the evil times, concessions such as the removal of prayers for the dead and of intercessions to the saints, the Prayer Book and the Church remained essentially orthodox and Catholic, because the great majority of the nation were essentially so. The bishops, the priests, the sacraments, the liturgy, the Bible, and the creeds were preserved. That was done, but the high places in Church and State went to the radicals. It could not well be otherwise in the face of the danger from Spain. Men must be put in power who hated Spain and Rome. So it was. Naturally these men restrained the Catholic life of the Church. Under Grindal, the bad Puritan Archbishop, the Church verged on complete disorganization. Puritan misbelievers, in her orders, were allowed to profane her altars and to speak heresy from her pulpits. All assertion of Catholic life was suppressed. The first thirty years of Elizabeth's reign, and especially the term of Archbishop Grindal (1575-1583), was a period of violent Puritan oppression of the Church. The plain reason for it was the fear of Spain. As against Rome and Spain, the Puritan radicals were the soundest reliance. It was the age of revolution.
The thing to notice is that the moment this fear of Spain was withdrawn the Catholic reaction within the Anglican Church began. The Spanish Armada was defeated and destroyed in July and August, 1588. On February 9, 1589, Dr. J. Bancroft, afterward (1604-1610) Archbishop of Canterbury, preached his celebrated sermon at Paul's Cross. Here Bancroft gave a warning against the Puritan false prophets and charged the folk to obey their bishops. Bancroft came out with the definite teaching that bishops were jure divino, a rank of the ministry superior to the priesthood. The apostolic origin of the episcopate is taught by Richard Hooker (Ý 1600), especially in the seventh book of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity. It seems to have been Hooker's belief, indeed, that, should the Church be so moved of the Spirit, the Church Universal could alter the ministry. Unless the Universal Church did this, Hooker teaches, episcopacy must always be necessary. Sir Francis Knollys, the Queen's treasurer, was so angry at Bancroft that he tried to have proceedings initiated in court against him. He claimed that Bancroft's assertion of the divine right of episcopacy opposed, as we must see that it certainly did oppose, the Queen's supreme power over the Church. Elizabeth approved Bancroft's doctrine, however, and restrained Knollys. James I in 1604 made Bancroft Archbishop of Canterbury. Lancelot Andrewes (who died in 1626), at Cambridge University, as Dean of Westminster, and, eventually, as Bishop of Winchester, restored the ceremonial which logically and properly, as historically, belongs to the Prayer Book service. It was his work to liberalize the narrow and heretical Calvinist theology, as much as to beautify the service. The saintly life of Bishop Andrewes was one force, as the solid learning of Richard Hooker was another which advanced the Catholic revival. This growing revival of Anglo-Catholicism leads up to Archbishop Laud and King Charles I and the group of saints and scholars who surrounded these men and gave us the Caroline age. This, then, was the immediate reaction within Anglicanism, when the fear of Spain was withdrawn. A great outburst of Anglo-Catholicism, beginning with Bancroft's sermon at Paul's Cross immediately after the defeat of the Armada, grew and increased rapidly, through the reigns of James I and Charles I. Anglicanism had indeed regained the Catholic ceremonial, the confessional, the orthodox theology. Even a beginning had been made, at Little Gidding, in the monastic life. Men like Hadrian Saravia and Isaac Casaubon, great Continental scholars, had been attracted to the Anglo-Catholic position. It was now apparent that Anglo-Catholicism was a form of Christianity, like the Eastern Orthodox Church, and at least as distinct from Protestantism as from Romanism.
The terrible set-back of the Great Rebellion followed upon this first Anglo-Catholic revival. On the political side the Puritans were a party of rich landowners who sought to free their lands from all dues to the state and to steal the common lands from the poor besides. In the Middle Ages the land was responsible for the expense of government, poor relief, and religion. This was just. Land is distinct from other forms of wealth. It is the natural opportunity to labor. It was made by God for all. Those who use it should pay for its use to the whole community. The feudal payments might perhaps have been wisely commuted by a rental value tax, but to abolish the feudal dues, without any commutation, was simply to give the landlords, who were already rich, the property of the State. Likewise the enclosure acts simply gave to these wealthy landlords the property of the laboring class. Puritanism on the political side, then, was the robbery of the State and of the poor in the interest of Landlordism. On the religious side, Puritanism meant the destruction of Christianity. The Church and the Sacraments were swept away in the seventeenth century. The logic of Protestant private judgment resulted, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, in Liberalism and materialistic Naturalism. All this dreadful tyranny of Landlordism, Plutocracy, and Unbelief was represented by Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans. They were, like the Bolshevists of today, the Anti-Christ for their age. They fought and conquered. The sainted King and the holy Archbishop, Charles Stuart and William Laud, met martyrs' deaths. Both of them were slain by the sword. The bishops and priests, to the number of over two thousand, were driven from their cures to beggary and exile. It was made a crime to use the Book of Common Prayer. The landlords abolished the feudal dues, that is to say the land tax, such as it was, and enclosed the commons. That is, they stole the lands of the poor. Henceforth, the Church might, of course, return, but the landlords would hold on to their lands, free from all control by the community. England was to become a nation of the very rich and of the oppressed and very poor.
The Church did return after twenty years. From 1660 to 1714, from the Restoration to the accession of the House of Hanover, the Anglo-Catholic faith prevailed. It was the time of great scholars such as Pearson, Patrick, Stillingfleet, and of saintly bishops such as Juxon, Ken, Sheldon, and Sancroft. The ceremonial, the uses, and the teaching of the Church were distinctly Anglo-Catholic.
The clouds, however, were gathering. The schism of the non-jurors, prelates, and priests who would not take the oaths to King William, deprived the Church of its leaders at the critical moment of the revolution and for a reason merely political. These men relinquished their places in the Church, simply because they sided with the Stuart line of kings. This was, of course, a political opinion, to which the non-juring clergy sacrificed the Church. With the schism of the non-jurors came the rule of Whigs and Latitudinarians. These were the days of Walpole, Pulteney, Henry Pelham, and the Duke of Newcastle. For a hundred years all great places in the Church went to Broad Churchmen, while High Churchmanship lingered on in country rectories and in Oxford colleges.
The eighteenth century was indeed the period when the secular power of the rich men and the English landlords oppressed and ground the Church down. All through that age there were individuals, like Dr. Samuel Johnson, who maintained their High Church principles. Yet for just about one hundred years the liberty of the Church was restrained, and unworthy men like the infamous Hoadly, Bishop of Bangor, were given all her preferments. It was unfortunate that this eighteenth century was exactly the time when the American colonies were becoming populous and prosperous. No bishops were sent to America until after the Revolution. The Church here was neglected, except for the efforts of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. The beginnings of America were handed over to Puritanism. It has taken the American Church a long while to catch up with that bad beginning.
In 1832 the Reform of Parliament was passed into law. In 1833, Keble, at Oxford, preached his Assize Sermon on the Apostasy of the National Church. This sermon has always been taken as the beginning of the Oxford Movement. The two dates are significant. They mean the same thing as the destruction of the Armada in 1588 followed immediately by Bancroft's sermon at Paul's Cross in 1589. Remove the fear of Spain and immediately there begins the Anglo-Catholic revival of the Caroline age. Break the political hold of the Plutocratic landlords on England, and immediately there begins the Anglo-Catholic revival of the Oxford Movement. Whenever the Church is free there is a Catholic revival. The soul of Anglicanism is Anglo-Catholicism.
So here is the proof of a great, buoyant, spiritual reality within Anglicanism. Anglicanism has always been somewhat subdued and often terribly restrained and oppressed by the secular power of place and wealth. Nevertheless, Anglicanism has always been ready to burst forth into an Anglo-Catholic revival, whenever the oppression abated enough to make this possible. The inner soul of Anglicanism is Anglo-Catholicism. The reality within is God in the Church and the sacraments, Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. He is forever living with the power of His risen life, within the ministry and sacraments of Anglicanism. He is forever present, seeking to throw off the yoke of wicked men; of Cromwell, Walpole, Hoadly, or the oppressors of today. Within Anglicanism the great Catholic revival is forever going on, against all the wicked and persecuting power of this world. The Catholic revival is itself a proof of the spiritual reality of our sacraments and our ministry. It is Jesus still filling all the forms with life. It is the strong, upward-rushing current, within our history, of God, the Holy Ghost.