FAITH AND ORDER OF THE CHURCH.
[EXTRACT FROM THE JOURNAL: 108TH ANNUAL CONVENTION OF THE DIOCESE OF NEW YORK. SECOND DAY, October 1st, 1891.]
"The Rev. Dr. Dix offered the following resolution: Resolved, That two thousand copies of the Charge delivered by the Bishop of the Diocese on the opening of this Convention be printed and distributed under the direction of the Secretary. Which was adopted unanimously."
THE RELATION OF THE CLERGY TO THE
FAITH AND ORDER OF THE CHURCH.
THIRD TRIENNIAL CHARGE OF THE BISHOP OF NEW YORK.
Brethren of the Clergy and Laity:--
Though, under the provisions of the canon prescribing that duty, it is competent to the Ordinary to deliver a charge to the clergy of his diocese at his discretion, it is not usual to do so oftener than once in three years. I might well be excused, therefore, from undertaking, and you from being called on to listen to, a form of address so extended, were it not that, in the first place, such a charge is declared to be proper "at least once in three years," whereas I have thus spoken already but twice in an episcopate of eight years; and in the second place, because it is plainly my duty to be governed by the far more important consideration of the exigency of any particular emergency in the life and work of the Church in this diocese.
Such an exigency, in my judgment, exists at present; and I shall therefore ask your attention at this time to some observations on the Relation of the Clergy to the Faith and Order of the Church.
The relation, you will observe, of the clergy. For the relations of the clergy and of the laity to the Church's Faith and Order are not identical. It is a very common misapprehension to suppose that they are; and out of this misapprehension, I would remark at the outset, has come a large share of the confusion which to-day exists in men's minds with regard to the whole subject.
If we are to determine what are the relations of a layman to the faith and order of the Church, it would be proper, I should suppose, to turn to the offices of baptism, confirmation and the Holy Communion, and to the catechism. When we do so, we find that the [5/6] language which defines those relations, and determines the measure of one's obligations, is of a very general character. How great is the liberty for the indulgence of what, in the phrase of the Roman obedience, are called "pious opinions," it is not my province now to attempt to define; but I presume it would not be denied, for instance, that one could not be excluded from the Holy Communion because he did not accept ex animo Article XVII., nor because he confounded the doctrine of the Real Presence, as this Church holds and teaches the same, with the Lutheran doctrine of Consubstantiation. Certainly, there is nothing, either in the teaching of the Church or in her silence, to encourage, on the part of the faithful laity, indifference or ignorance concerning matters of Christian doctrine or ecclesiastical order; but just as certainly she has, as had her divine Lord and Head, a large and tender charity for an imperfect or halting faith. As the witness in the world of Him who so graciously welcomed one who could say no more than "Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief," even so, to-day it is her duty to welcome, and not to repel, those who have only a feeble grasp of the primary truths of her creeds, even though they may very inadequately apprehend the significance of some of the phrases in which those truths are couched.
But the relation of the clergy to the faith and order of the Church is very different. It is much less indefinite, and, in one sense, its liberty is much more restricted. For the terms of that relation are to be learned not only from the sources to which I have just referred, but also in the more precise and specific language of the questions and answers contained in the various offices of the Ordinal. To take a single instance as illustrative of the difference between the two classes. When an adult comes to Holy Baptism he is asked, "Do you believe all the articles of the Christian Faith as contained in the Apostles' Creed?" Now if such an one, having answered "I do," as the office provides, should further be interrogated by a minister whose zeal led him to import his personal opinions into the offices of the Church, "Do you accept unreservedly and literally, as scientifically true, the Biblical account of the six days of creation?" or, "Do you not reject the doctrine of a tactual succession in the ministry as a vain superstition?" it would be entirely proper for the candidate for Holy Baptism to decline to answer questions which, under such circumstances, would be simply a bald impertinence; even as it would be the duty of the Ordinary [6/7] promptly to call to account a priest who, under such circumstances, should most unwarrantably refuse to administer Holy Baptism.
(I) But if, on the other hand, a person who has been ordained to the diaconate, the priesthood, or the episcopate, should deny the miraculous element in the four Gospels, or the authority of Holy Scripture in matters of faith, or the respect and submission due to the godly judgment of the bishop, then the assertion by such an one of his liberty under the promises of his baptism would be entirely irrelevant; since to these promises have been added the further and more definite and specific obligations which are imposed and accepted in the office by which he has been admitted to the sacred ministry. For instance, when one is ordained to the diaconate, he makes a declaration as to his belief in the "Canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments," which does not bind him to any particular theory of inspiration nor prevent him from recognizing in those books both a human and divine element, but does most assuredly bind him to accept them as "Canonical Scriptures" set forth by the authority of the Church for the edification of its people, so that while it is entirely competent to him to consider them both as a literature and part of a revelation, it is not competent to him to deal with them as if they were committed to him merely as a literature.
Again, in the case of one ordained to the priesthood, it is demanded, "Will you give your faithful diligence so to minister the doctrine and sacraments, and the discipline of Christ, as the Lord hath commanded, and as this Church hath received the same?" An assent to this demand creates at once a new and specific obligation, not only to minister doctrine, sacraments and discipline, but also to minister them as--i.e., in the same sense as that in which--"this Church hath received the same." If the sense in which this Church has received them is set forth not alone in the two creeds, but elsewhere in other offices and formularies of equal authority and obligation, then it would seem to be plain that the Church's construction of the doctrine was of equal, and equally binding, obligation on the priesthood; and that, so far as holding or teaching any other construction of them is concerned, a man who is under the obligation of a priest's ordination vow has parted with his individual discretion.
Yet again, one who is consecrated to the office of a bishop is required to take an oath of "conformity and obedience to the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Protestant Episcopal [7/8] Church in the United States of America," and this engagement plainly excludes the liberty to deny or disown such doctrine, discipline, or worship in any particular. All these obligations are peculiar not to the laity but to the clergy. They belong to a separate class of vows, and they bind those who have made them in a way which is much farther-reaching and more precise than the elementary vows and conditions of ordinary Christian discipleship.
The distinction is fundamental; and if it is only held in mind, it ought at once and finally to dispose of a popular form of criticism and protest widely prevalent. In commenting upon discussions which have lately obtained elsewhere than within the Church, concerning the recasting of inherited formularies and confessions, it has recently been said that there are men who admit that the formularies of theology should be recast in order to bring them into closer harmony with modern life and thought, and who, nevertheless, oppose and persecute all who attempt to recast any particular formula.
But plainly the question must be who are they who are adducing arguments against the traditional authority or the traditional order of the Church? What shall be the bounds of the liberty to be conceded to Christian scholarship and learning, outside of the ministry in this matter, I am not now called upon to define, but as to the metes and bounds of the liberty of men in Holy Orders there ought to be no doubt. The Church, for example, affirms of her divine Lord and Head that He was "conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, crucified, dead and buried, and that the third day He rose again from the dead," and how this Church hath received the same doctrine she makes plain beyond a peradventure by her language in the collect and proper preface for Christmas Day, and in other formulas which she sets forth in connection, e.g., with the special offices for Good Friday, Easter Even, Easter, and Ascension Days, and the like. Whatever indefiniteness there may seem to have been, in any particular article of the creeds, these other formularies must be accepted by one who deals honestly with his ordination vows as explicitly interpreting them. And while even these do not shut out a certain latitude of construction, e.g., of the nature of the resurrection body, concerning which a great deal of so-called Christian and Churchly teaching has been so grossly material as to make one wonder if those who were responsible for it had ever heard of chapter xv of St. [8/9] Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians--yet, unless those formularies may rightfully be subjected to a treatment which a candid mind, unacquainted with theological controversies, would unhesitatingly pronounce to be sophistical and disingenuous, they would seem to require from those who are pledged to hold and teach them, so long as they are willing to remain so pledged, an assent and acceptance in that sense, and in that sense only, in which universally and without question, this Church hath received the same.
I know very well to what in this age we are indebted for a very different view of ecclesiastical formularies; and we are having just now a very interesting and suggestive illustration of the way in which the theological acumen of one school and of one generation may return in another to plague its authors, when once it has been adopted by their antagonists. Among the most significant and pregnant incidents in the theological history of this century was the publication by John Henry Newman, of "Tract XC." As a method of dealing with questions of doctrine raised by the Thirty-nine Articles, it had certainly the distinction of novelty; for, turning aside from the question of the authority of the Articles, it raised the very different question of their construction, in order to show how they were susceptible of an interpretation of which it may with truth be said that it largely dismissed from those formularies the meaning which until then had been popularly, and with virtual unanimity, understood to be the reason for their existence. In other words, the Articles had been supposed to be designed to set forth the essential distinction, in respect of the doctrines of which they treated, between Anglican and Roman teaching. It remained for Dr. Newman to show to an astonished communion that the apparently contradictory positions of the two communions could be reconciled.
It was the remarkable intellectual feat of an extraordinary mind,--a mind of which a great archbishop who was contemporaneous with Newman wrote, many years afterwards, "I have always regarded Newman as having a strange duality of mind. On the one side is a wonderfully strong and subtile reasoning faculty, on the other a...faith, ruled almost entirely by his emotions. It seems to me that, in all matters of belief, he first acts on his emotions, and then he brings the subtilty of his reason to bear, till he has ingeniously persuaded himself that he is logically right." [* Life of Archbishop Tait, vol. i., p. 89.]
 But in Newman's case it did not take a great while for the brilliant author of Tract XC to find that such methods as it illustrated brought with them no rest to a perplexed conscience; and the originator of them ere long withdrew from a ministry whose obligations he could no longer reconcile with the change in his own beliefs. It was the most honorable, as it was doubtless the most painful, act of his life.
The results of a man's acts reach, however, a great way beyond his practical repudiation of them; and to-day there are persons who have never read Tract XC.--if they ever heard of it--who have come to regard it as an admitted principle that one may accept an ecclesiastical formula and hold an ecclesiastical position while he uses the latter in order to read into the former meanings which in all the history of its formation and development have been wholly foreign to the mind of the authority by which it was set forth.
And this it is which has created in candid and ingenuous minds, whatever their religious beliefs, the gravest apprehensions. If it is supposed that those apprehensions are shared only by those who are tenaciously conservative of old and long-accepted beliefs, such an impression is quite erroneous. There are a great many people who are not so much concerned for the security of this or that belief as alarmed at the way in which some of its accepted guardians deal with it. A secular critic has lately said: "We do not need to say that all our sympathies are with the men in various communions who are open-minded enough to see how the new wine of modern research is hopelessly bursting the old ecclesiastical wine-skins...One position, however, assumed by some persons of this class is...that a minister may honorably remain in the service of a Church, though repudiating leading articles of its creed....It is acknowledged that no man rejecting the articles in question could obtain admission to the ministry of the particular body in the first instance. Still it is maintained that, once in, he may rightfully stay; in fact, that it is his duty to stay and reform the creed according to his notions...The defence put forward for this position," continues the secular authority from which I am quoting, "will not bear examination. It consists, in the first place, in saying that it is monstrously absurd for the creed-makers of one age to bind the thinkers of the next. This is the worst form of the 'dead-hand' we are told. But all this is aside from the point. The 'dead-hand' system is a fact in [10/11] ecclesiastical organizations, whether we like it or not. Its legal sanctions are admitted; that is unquestionable. It is the only way a communion has of maintaining its integrity...And no man is called upon to submit himself to it with his eyes shut. The minister has the situation clearly put before him at his ordination, and accepts it. After thus deliberately accepting the 'dead-hand' system, what sort of a spectacle does a man present railing at its hardships? He has put the yoke on his own neck; if it galls let him throw it off; but let him not deny the existence of the yoke...If men belong to a Church which has officially and publicly declared that the historical symbols are not regarded seriously any longer, even though nominally retained, we must absolve the ministers, while condemning the Church. But if they have seriously accepted the creed of a religious body which continues to take its creed seriously, and think they can flout it while still serving under it, we can only say that the mass of men will regard that as an immoral thing to do,"
I beg to remind you again, dear brethren that these are the words of a purely secular observer of the present theological situation, given to the world in a purely secular organ of public opinion. I believe that they reflect the judgments of sober and honest minds with respect to the specific and exceptional obligations of the ministry in the matter of the Church's faith, and they do so because they are judgments and convictions imbedded in the moral consciousness of all honest men. In another hemisphere a very eminent authority in the world of letters, looking at the same question from another point of view, has lately said: "Supposing a trust fund had been created for the purpose of expounding the beauties of Wordsworth, should we quite approve of a lecturer who accepted the stipend and devoted a good deal of energy to the skilful depreciation of Wordsworth?...We believe that the ground idea of revelation is absolutely true, and has been the security for the only mental and moral freedom the race has enjoyed. And we must say that we think the opposite view, if it is to be urged with sincerity and consistency at all, should be urged by men who are not continually using liturgies which imply the very creeds they are denouncing, and offering up prayers which are pure mockeries unless God has really manifested Himself specially in Jewish history, and become incarnate in one human career equally majestic and submissive. Some day the close of this century will be described as the time when the heterodox thinkers began to fulminate [11/12] against the orthodox, and Christians were almost treated as ex-communicate, not because they believed less than they said, but because they did not regard their worship as a mere form of words of which the significance had to be carefully watered down until it became hardly significance at all." [* The Spectator, London, August 15, 1891.]
But at this point it may be asked, is, then, one who is honestly perplexed concerning the fundamental verities of the faith to stifle his perplexities, and to go on teaching or affirming as truth positions concerning which he is no longer fully persuaded that they are the truth, but is rather, it may be, profoundly persuaded that they are not the truth? Is uniformity of teaching to be maintained at the cost of honest inquiry? Is a past pledge to bind a present conscience? Can any obligation of consistency warrant the maintenance of an attitude, outwardly, which is the expression of no inmost conviction?
These are entirely reasonable questions, but it is the misfortune of our time that, in the case of those who ask them, they are assumed to be susceptible of only one answer, and that an answer which justifies a line of action that accepts and uses the formulary in one breath and then, while retaining the office which imposes it, disowns its authority with the other. It would seem that any candid mind, dealing with the subject without predisposing prejudice, must admit such a conclusion to be simply grotesque.
But what, then, it may be further demanded, is the duty of one in Holy Orders who can no longer accept the faith, or conform to the order of the Church whose minister he is? Is he to throw up his commission, retire from his office, and abandon the communion of the Church of which he is a member? I am by no means prepared to say that any such constraint is laid upon him, or, if it is, that it is a course which should be resorted to, save in the last, most sorrowful extremity. But I am no less clear that in such a case, in the case, e.g. (for I have a strong desire to be as precise and specific as I can in this matter), of one who has parted with a faith in the supernatural element in the Holy Scriptures or in the person and work of Christ, there is no honest or honorable alternative left but to suspend his ministrations, and temporarily, at any rate, to retire from the exercise of his sacred office, and address himself with prayer and abstinence, and most searching and candid inquiry, to an examination of the question or questions [12/13] at issue. And I maintain, further, that it is pre-eminently his duty, at every step of such inquiry, to bring his impressions or conclusions to the bar of the Church's consistent and unvarying teaching, and to try and test what disturbs him by her clear voice, as that voice has spoken unfalteringly from the beginning. There is a large contempt in our time for patristic teaching, but we need not exaggerate the value of that teaching in order to demonstrate that, while much of it was undoubtedly local and temporary in its character, there runs through it a clear and consistent stream of testimony to the person and work of Jesus Christ and to the divine order of the Holy Catholic Church, which no wise man will hastily disesteem.
But, if neither this nor any other voice can answer the questions or relieve the perplexities of such an one as I have imagined, then I am unable to see how his office and he can do otherwise than part company. It is competent to anyone in the ministry of the Church to ask from her councils an interpretation of her teaching. But, so long as that teaching remains so plainly what it is, one's liberty while in the ministry ends there. If anyone among us thinks otherwise--if any class of men in Holy Orders shall ever be seen with one hand pulling down the very pillars of the temple, while with the other they are seeking to grasp every honor, dignity, and emolument which pertain to their office--and if the Church, whose servants they are, were to tolerate so monstrous an inconsistency, then the one and the other would equally deserve the scorn and contempt of all honorable men. Again, let me say that I do not forget the ecclesiastical sophistry in which this very prevalent misconception began; but when it is considered that much that is heard in the way of a destructive criticism would have little or no weight were it not for the surroundings amid which it is uttered--and when it is further considered that the present is a situation which has almost more than any other given the enemy occasion to blaspheme--it cannot be wondered that such facts provoked not alone profound grief and dismay, but keen and righteous resentment.
But, dear brethren, we who would defend the Church's faith and order must see to it that in doing so we are not provoked to either extravagance or unreason. It is not uncommon, nowadays, to hear the statement deliberately uttered that the minds of a large proportion of the clergy are honeycombed with error, and corrupted with false doctrines. It is by no means unusual to hear [13/14] it affirmed that the presence of prevalent disesteem for the order and ministry of the Church is exhibited in the conduct of her services and the practice of her clergy.
Well, I presume that while I cannot at all venture to speak for those who are beyond my own jurisdiction, I may venture to speak for those who are within it. For much of the larger part of ten years I have been constantly going in and out among them under conditions which I presume the great majority of them will bear me out in saying are conditions of considerable and habitual unreserve. If anybody knows what is going on in the parishes of the Diocese of New York, whatever might be the adroitness of occasional or individual concealments, I presume that I do; and I beg to say that such general imputations as I have referred to are absolutely and utterly unwarranted. Individual eccentricities, extravagances, irregularities, undoubtedly there are, and always will be. Occurring in and about a great centre, they will always attract notice and receive extensive and wholly gratuitous advertisement--on which last, it may incidentally be observed, such things largely subsist. But it is one thing to note this or that extravagance or eccentricity, whether in teaching or worship, and quite another to treat it as in any wise representative, or other than the isolated and exceptional thing that it is. I remember very vividly the growing surprise with which, when I began going about in the diocese eight years ago, I took note of the almost universal conservatism both in doctrine and in order which I encountered. It is distinctly the prevalent note in our diocesan situation to-day, as I believe it to be in that American Church of which the diocese is a part.
The present is not, therefore, in my judgment, a time for alarm, much less is it a time for an illustration of that reactionary spirit, which, in its almost passionate desire to cling to certain traditions that are purely the fruit of a very modern Protestantism, forgets its Catholic heritage and its Catholic liberty. A very modern Protestantism, observe, I say, for I do not know anything that is more important for those who believe, as I certainly believe, that the Reformation contained something good, than to distinguish, for instance, in the matter of the authority of Holy Scripture, between the Protestantism of Milton and Luther, and that of their modern heirs who are in turn the inheritors of American Puritan theology. How far that theology has affected the minds of Churchmen (many of them the descendants of a Puritan ancestry) and [14/15] has expressed itself in the teaching of our clergy in regard, e.g., to the Bible, I should not like to undertake to say. But it is time that it was distinctly affirmed that the Bible includes both a human element and a divine element, and that it is entirely competent for anyone in Holy Orders, whether bishop, priest or deacon, to say so, and, since it is so, to inquire how the two elements may be distinguished and to avail himself of every adequate aid in the conduct of such an inquiry. There are those on the one hand who maintain that the volume of literature which we call the Bible contains no divine element, and there are those on the other who maintain that it contains no human element. It is high time that it should be said that neither of these positions is the position of the Church. If it is, then it behooves those who say so to point out where this Church has said so. But as a matter of fact, as surely I need not remind those to whom I now speak, this is simply and utterly impossible. The Church has not committed herself to any dogmatic definition of the meaning of inspiration, and whatever particular sects or schools may have attempted to do in this direction is wholly aside from the question. Indeed, as has lately been forcibly pointed out, "It is remarkable that Origen's almost reckless mysticism [* Origen, De Principiis iv. 15, 16, 17.] and his accompanying repudiation of large parts of the narrative of the Old Testament and of some parts of the New, though it did not gain acceptance, and indeed had no right to it (for it had no sound basis); on the other hand never aroused the Church to contrary definitions. Nor is it only Origen who disputed the historical character of parts of the narrative of Holy Scripture. Clement before him in Alexandria, and the mediaeval Anselm in the West, treat the seven days of creation as an allegory and not history. Athanasius speaks of paradise as 'a figure,' and a mediaeval Greek writer, who had more of Irenaeus than remains to us, declares that he did not know how those who kept to the letter and took the account of the Temptation historically rather than allegorically could meet the arguments of Irenaeus against them.
"The Church, then, is not tied by any existing definition of inspiration. We cannot make any exact claim upon anyone's belief in regard to inspiration, simply because we have no authoritative definition to bring to bear upon him. Those of us who believe most in the inspiration of the Church will see a divine providence [15/16] in this absence of dogma, because we shall perceive that only now is the state of knowledge such as admits of the question being legitimately raised." [* Gore, The Holy Spirit and Inspiration, pp 357, 358.]
And meantime, it ought to comfort those to whom such discussions are most alarming because so entirely unfamiliar, to be reminded that, after all, the true object of much of modern criticism, that does not aim simply to be destructive, was equally the aim of those fathers of the Church whose teachings we are taught to hold in reverent estimation. "Thus St. Gregory of Nazianzus," as the writer whom I have already quoted points out, "speaking of God's dealings with the Jews of old, describes how, in order to gain the co-operation of man's good will in working for his recovery, He dealt after the manner of a school-master or physician, and, while curtailing part of their ancestral customs, tolerated the rest, making some concession to their tastes, just as physicians make their medicines palatable that they may be taken by their patients...Hence the first law, while it abolished their sacrifices, allowed them to be circumcised; then, when once they had accepted the removal of what was taken from them, they went further and gave up what had been conceded to them--in the first case, their sacrifices, and in the second their practice of circumcision--and they became instead of heathens, Jews, instead of Jews, Christians, being betrayed, as it were, by gradual changes into acceptance of the Gospel. [* Gregory Nazianzus, Orat. xxx. 25.] Again, St. Chrysostom explains how it is the very merit of the Old Testament that it has taught us to think things intolerable which under it were tolerated. 'Do not ask,' he says, 'how these Old Testament precepts can be good now when the need for them is past; ask how they were good when the period required them. Or, rather, if you wish, do inquire into their merit, even now. It is still conspicuous, and lies in nothing so much as what now enables us to find fault with them. Their highest praise is that we now see them to be defective.' " [* Chrys. in Matth. Homil.]
And plainly, if it was competent for patristic criticism thus to discriminate between the temporary and the permanent, the human and divine elements in the substance of Holy Scripture, it is competent for a reverent criticism to do the same thing as to the letter of it now. "Inspiration," it has pertinently been declared, "means the illumination of the judgment of the recorder." [16/17] "By the contact of the Holy Spirit," says Origen, "they became clearer in their mental perception, and their souls were filled with a brighter light." [* Origen contra Celsum, vii. 4.] "But have we any reason," asks Mr. Gore, "to believe that inspiration means over and above this, the miraculous communication of facts not otherwise to be known, a miraculous communication such as would make the recorder independent of the ordinary processes of historical tradition? Certainly neither St. Luke's preface to his Gospel, nor the evidence of any inspired record justifies this assertion," and just as certainly "the Church repudiated the Montanist conception of inspiration according to which the inspired man speaks as the passive instrument of the Spirit"; to which it may be added, as pointed out by Epiphanius in an earlier age, and by Westcott and Mason in our own, that "metaphors which describe the Holy Spirit as acting upon a man 'like a flute player breathing into his flute,' or 'a plectrum striking a lyre,' have always a suspicion attaching to their use of heresy." [* Gore, Holy Spirit and Inspiration, p. 343.]
And, if so, then another view of the Bible, at once more catholic and more defensible, cannot be denied to those who find in it their surest road to an intelligent and impregnable position with reference to the Holy Scripture. Nay, more, it needs, I think, with much plainness to be said that those who are striving with a loyalty to Catholic tradition and with a tenderness and reverence for Holy Scripture, which is only greater than their tenderness and consideration for their fellow-believers, to find a basis of reconciliation between historic criticism and the inherited faith of the Church are doing a work for which they greatly deserve to be had in lasting and grateful remembrance. The want of our time, we are told, is for something which, amid the vagueness, the uncertainty, the contradictoriness of the thousand voices which assail us shall speak with definiteness. Yes, it is, but it is no less, nay, even more, I think, something which shall speak with discrimination. One of the small but courageous and reverent group of men to whom I have already referred observes with singular pertinency, just here, "In the truths which the Church teaches, we may distinguish two classes: First there are the central truths to which it bears absolute witness, such as the Fatherhood of God, the person and work of Jesus Christ, the redemption of all mankind, [17/18] the origin and purpose of human life. These it teaches authoritatively. Its conduct is exactly analogous to a parent teaching the moral law to its children; teaching the commandments at first, till the child can be educated to understand the reason of them. So the Church says to her children, or to those who are seeking after truth, there is an absolute truth in religion as well as in morality: we have tested it; generations of the saints have found it true. It is a truth independent of individual teachers; independent of the shifting moods of opinion at any particular period, and you must accept it on our authority first. Further, these truths affect life, and they cannot be apprehended merely by the intellect. You must commit yourself to them; act upon them; there is a certain time when the seeker after truth sees where it lies; then it must cease to be an open question." You must, in the words of Tertullian, "seek till you find, but, when you have once found truth, you must commit yourself to it." [* Tertullian Praescr. 9: Quaerendum est donec inventus et credendum ubi inveneris.] You must believe that you may understand, but it is that you may understand! The dogma is authoritatively taught that the individual may be kept safe from mere individual caprice and fancifulness, but also that he himself may come to a rational understanding of his belief. No doubt the truth is so wide that, to the end of our lives, we shall still feel the need of guidance and of teaching...Like St. Ignatius on his way to martyrdom, the Christian may feel at his dying day, "Now I begin to be a disciple," but the aim of the Church is to make each member have a rational hold upon his faith. When we are young we accept a doctrine because the Church teaches it to us; when we are grown up, we love the Church because it taught us the doctrine. "The Churchman," as Principal Hawkins has said in his sermons on the Church, [*Page 77] "never surrenders his individual responsibility. But he may and must surrender some portion at least of his independence and he benefits greatly by the surrender." "Submission to the authority of the Church is the merging of our mere individualism in the whole historic life of the great Christian brotherhood; it is making ourselves at one with the one religion in its most permanent and least mere local form. It is surrendering our individuality only to empty it of its narrowness." [* C. Gore, Roman Catholic Claims, p. 51.]
"Secondly, there are other truths which are rather deductions [18/19] from these central points, or statements of them in accordance with the needs of the age; such as the mode of the relation of the divine and human nature in Christ, or free-will, or predestination, or the method of the Atonement, or the nature of the inspiration of Holy Scripture. If, in any case, a point of this kind has consciously come before the whole Church and been reasoned out and been decided upon, such a decision raises it to the higher class of truths which are taught authoritatively: but if this is not so, the matter remains an open question. It remains a question for theologians, it is not imposed on individuals, though it may at any time become ripe for decision. The very fixity of the great central doctrines allows the Church to give a remarkable freedom to individual opinion on all other points. Practically how much wider is the summary of the rule of faith as given in Irenaeus (III. 4) or Tertullian (Praescr. 13) or Origen ("De Principiis") or in the Apostles' or Nicene Creed, than the tests of orthodoxy that would be imposed in a modern religious circle.
"St. Vincent of Lerins is the great champion of antiquity as the test of truth, yet it is he who also insists on the duty of development, of growth, within the lines of the central truths... 'As the time goes on,' he says, 'it is right that the old truths should be elaborated, polished, filed down...They should be made clear, have light thrown upon them, be marked off from each other, but they must not lose their fulness, their entirety, their essential character.' " [* St. Vincent of Lerins, Communitorium ix. and xxiii.]
"So it has happened in the course of the Christian history; doctrines like that of the Atonement have been restated afresh to meet the needs of the age. So it is happening still; doctrines like that of the method of creation, or the limits of inspiration, are still before the Church. The Church is slow to decide, to formulate, it stands aside, it reiterates its central truths, it says that whatever claims to be discovered must ultimately fit in with the central truths; Creation must remain God's work; the Bible must remain God's revelation of Himself; but for a time it is content to wait, loyal to fact, from whatever side it comes; confident alike in the many-sidedness and in the unity of the truth. While he accepts and while he searches, the Churchman can enjoy alike the inquiry of truth, which is the wooing of it, the knowledge of the truth, which is the presence of it, and the belief of truth, which [19/20] is the enjoying of it, and all these together, says Lord Bacon, [* Bacon, Essay on Truth.] are the sovereign good of human nature." [* The Rev. Walter Locke, The Church, pp. 387-9.]
(2) And as of the Church's faith so of the Church's order, and of the relation of those who are her ministers to the observance of that order. As to the institution of the order, government and ministry of the Church, there has not in all ages been one opinion, nor is it likely that there ever will be. The language which in the Ordinal prefaces the offices of ordination declares that "It is evident unto all men diligently reading Holy Scripture and ancient authors, that from the apostles' time there have been these three orders of ministers in Christ's Church--bishops, priests, and deacons: which offices were evermore held in such reverent estimation that no man might presume to execute any of them, except he were first called, tried, examined, and known to have such qualities as are requisite for the same, and also by public prayer, with imposition of hands, were approved and admitted thereunto by lawful authority."
You and I, dear brethren, most of us, know what we understand by these words and what may with strictest truth be said to have been the prevalent understanding of them in all ages of the Church. Despite the ridicule which has been widely cast upon the doctrine of the Apostolic Succession (a ridicule, it must be owned, often provoked by the arrogance of those pretensions which have too frequently accompanied it, and by the want of Christian courtesy or charity with which its claims have been urged), the great mass of Churchmen, I am disposed to think, accept the authority of an apostolic ministry, with a due and substantially unbroken succession and continuity, as in accordance with the facts of history and the wants of men. They are not greatly disturbed by the crimes of popes, or the corruptions of councils. They have seen the power of the Church in one part, if not in every part, to purge itself of error and to return humbly and reverently to the purity and simplicity of primitive doctrine and of primitive order. And as in nature one has seen the electric current overleap a break in the twisted wire along which it flashes, and fly onwards on its swift and enkindling errand, through further reaches of the same far-travelling agency, so they have seen the primitive and apostolic graces pierce their way through glooms of error and shame, and overleap the gaps in neglected order or discipline, and speed on [20/21] those heavenly errands of healing and light on which the Church, Catholic and Apostolic, now, as of old, is hastening. That those gifts and graces manifest themselves nowhere else and under no other conditions than within her fold, who are they that shall presume to affirm? "In those ever open portals" (of the kingdom of God), says Dr. Pusey in his "Responsibility of the Intellect in Matters of Faith"--"In those ever open portals there enter that countless multitude whom the Church knew not how to win, or, alas! neglected to win them." But the question is simply whether the ministry has not always "advanced upon the principle of succession, so that whatever functions a man held at any time were simply those that had been committed to him by some one among his predecessors who held the authority to give orders by regular devolution from the apostles." [* Gore, The Christian Ministry, p. 343.]
There are many of us, and I am free to say that I find myself among them, who are quite sufficiently clear for all practical purposes on this point. "It was," says Stanton, in his work on the "Christian Ministry Historically Considered," "a law, as it were, of the being of the Church that it should put on this (the three-fold or episcopal) form of organization--a law which worked as surely as the growth of a particular kind of plant from a particular kind of seed. Everywhere there was a development which made unerringly for the same goal. This seems to speak of divine institution almost as plainly as if our Lord had in so many words prescribed this form of Church government. He, the Founder, the Creator of the Church, would seem to have impressed upon it this nature."
Says Mr. Gore, referring to this language, "Mr. Darwin, writing about his theory of the process of evolution in nature, uses these words, 'I fully admit that there are very many difficulties not satisfactorily explained by my theory of descent with modification; but I cannot possibly believe that a false theory would explain so many classes of facts as I think this certainly does explain. On these grounds I drop my anchor, and believe that the difficulties will slowly disappear.' " [* Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, ii., p. 217.] "It is interesting to notice," continues Mr. Gore, "what grounds of evidence a great scientific teacher thinks adequate to support a far-reaching doctrine; and it is impossible not to perceive what infinitely higher grounds we have for our theory of the Apostolic Succession. It not only explains many classes of facts, but it, and it only (though of course the cogency of the positive evidence for it is different at different stages), appears to explain all the phenomena of the Christian ministry from the beginning. We, then, have better cause to drop our anchor." [* Gore, The Christian Ministry, pp. 343-4.] For one, I profoundly believe that we have, and I am glad of the opportunity to relieve the possible apprehensions of some perturbed brethren by saying so.
But when I have, there is something more that still remains. There is a view of the ministry which is held by some of the clergy, and by more, I presume, of the laity of this Church, which is quite a different one. It explains its threefold character as the result of circumstances,--providential circumstances, most surely, since, as a matter of fact, to a Christian mind there can be no other,--rather than as a matter of specific divine purpose and institution. It holds the episcopate to be necessary indeed to the completeness of the Church, but not, certainly, to its existence; or, to put it in a familiar way, as necessary to its well-being, but not, absolutely, to its being. It holds the episcopate to be distinguishable from the presbyterate, rather by a law of convenience than by any higher law. And it carries out these opinions more or less explicitly to their logical conclusions, in its judgments of the divisions of Christendom, and in its relations to those who represent them.
I am not one of those who have been able to find in such views any sufficient warrant in Holy Scripture or in Christian history; and I am quite free to say that the latest effort to enforce them, in the very able and brilliant lectures of Dr. Hatch, seems to me to involve the grave peril of proving a great deal too much. It is difficult, in other words, to see how an argument which derives the organic form of the Church from the coincidence of local circumstances, and largely, if not completely, eliminates the element of a divine and prevenient ordering and purpose, might not with equal appropriateness be applied to matters of doctrine as well as of orders. But, on the other hand, that it is not competent for one in Holy Orders in this Church to hold and affirm views of the origin and character of its threefold ministry such as I have just indicated, can only be alleged by one who is grossly ignorant, whether of the history of the Church of England or of our own, or deliberately determined to misrepresent both. The [22/23] effort which we have lately seen in this Church to defeat the confirmation of an eminent presbyter elected to the episcopate, and to defeat it by methods which, in the judgment of all decent people, ought to redound to the lasting dishonor of those who employ them, was an effort ostensibly to compass that defeat on grounds of theological unsoundness, but really, so far as it had any respectable championship, because the Bishop-elect did not happen to hold the prevalent view of the Apostolic Succession. It does not seem to have occurred to objectors that a different view from this was long held by the venerated and saintly man who, for the first fifty years of its history, was the presiding bishop of this Church, and that William White was by no means the only presiding bishop who has held such a view. It seems quite as little to have occurred to them that, if such a view be a positive disqualification for the episcopate, it would have excluded scores of men from the House of Bishops, some of whom have lent to it much of the noblest lustre with which it has ever shone. It does not seem to have occurred to them, either, that what is true of the American is quite as true of the Anglican Church. Least of all does it seem to have occurred to them that this endeavor to force the view of one party or school as a finality upon the whole Church is simply so much partisan intolerance. But it would seem that it ought to have occurred to them. We may regret, dear brethren, as I am quite free to say I do, that any man called to a high and sacred office does not see its sanctions and trace its authority along the lines that seem so clear to us. But an intelligent recognition of the relations of the clergy to questions of ecclesiastical order in our time demands that we must recognize the liberty, as well as the limitations, which pertain to every man among them.
And here I desire to say that I do not forget those limitations as they are indicated in the canonical legislation of this Church, and that I am glad of the opportunity to say to the clergy of this diocese that the Church's law in this particular is on the whole, in my judgment, both wise and timely. That law, as you will remember, is stated in Canon 14 and in Canon 22 of Title I. of the Digest, and its object, plainly enough, is to protect the people committed to our charge from unauthorized or erroneous teaching. Undoubtedly there are times when its rigid application may seem to some of us to deny to Church people too much, and to deprive us of the edification of teachers who make no claim to hold the orders of this Church, but who have nevertheless won wide [23/24] and respectful recognition as being in the true spiritual succession of the prophets of an elder time. I can very well understand that feeling, though I have never at any period in my own ministry found myself seriously tempted to yield to it, being persuaded, I must own, that it was open to the suspicion of being of scant courtesy to those to whom it seemed to extend courtesy, and,--quite apart from the question of its canonical irregularity,--of doubtful edification to those for whose benefit it was designed. I can very well understand, also, how, for example, the spectacle of the appearance of one who made no claim to any ministerial ordination or commission whatever, and whose fellowship denied to all infants the saving grace of Holy Baptism, as a public teacher, in the cathedral church of another diocese than our own, might create a good deal of confusion in the minds of well-meaning and kindly disposed clergy, eager to reach out a brotherly hand to Christians of other names around us. But even a spectacle resembling this, sporadic, exceptional, and wholly unlikely to provoke general or even occasional imitation, has not seemed to me a sufficient reason for invoking the penalties of the law of the Church.
If, however, in this I shall hereafter see reason--as I have not yet seen--to believe myself mistaken, it is proper that I should say here publicly, what I have had occasion already to say privately, that if the prohibitions of Canon 14 of Title I. are to be invoked in one direction, they could not with any propriety be withheld from application in another. We have had Greeks and Armenians and Old Catholics, not only preaching from the pulpits, but celebrating at the altars of some of our most venerable churches and chapels. No one of these persons was "licensed or ordained according to" our canons, nor were all of them (as, for example, those of the Greek or Russian Church) in any sense "communicants of this Church." Nay, more, the hospitable and charitable invitations to such persons to perform their services in our sanctuaries,--invitations which the Catholic heart of the whole Church has applauded, fall, and that by the strictest and most liberal construction, within the express prohibitions, not of one, but of two, canons of the Church. Such ecclesiastics were not, as I have said, "licensed or ordained to minister in this Church," and, unhappily, they could not be called "communicants of this Church," yet they were invited to "officiate" and "minister" in unequivocal "acts of sacerdotal function,"--and not only so, but, "in performing such service" they were expected and intended to [24/25] use, "other prayers than those prescribed by the Book of Common Prayer." I do not see how, under a rigid rule of construction, the conclusion can be avoided that these most charitable invitations were in direct contravention of the plain prohibitions of Canon 14 of Title I. and also of Section I of Canon 22 of the same Title. And it must be obvious that, if the penal machinery of the Church is to be set in operation for the punishment of one class of offences, under the canons above referred to, it cannot stop this side of its application to another (and in one aspect of them) more flagrant set of offences under the same canons, simply because they who have invoked the canon do not wish it to punish offenders with whom they themselves happen to be in sympathy.
Nay, more, dear brethren, it is my duty to remind you that all these things belong to a still larger class of things done by the clergy of various schools and tendencies, which men of other schools hold to be contrary to the order of this Church. If we are to enter upon a course of discipline toward one class, we must not linger to initiate it toward another, and, just as plainly, we must persist in attempting to accomplish by the application of penal discipline what, in the long run, can only be accomplished by lifting the standard of personal loyalty and deepening in the individual consciences of the clergy a reverence for the Church's voice of authority. [* See Note A]
But in saying this let me not be misunderstood. It is commonly supposed,--at least I am often told so,--that I am keenly averse to ecclesiastical trials. I am quite free to say that, under the present law of this Church, I shall very reluctantly initiate one; for I confess that to expect, as in some particulars our present canons do seem to contemplate, that the Ordinary shall serve as grand jury, prosecuting attorney, and judge, all in one, is simply a legal absurdity. But if the clergy want their brethren tried, let me say plainly that they must be willing in each case to get behind the indictment and shoulder the responsibility of bringing accusations against their brethren,--accusations which too many are ready enough to repeat, but a little more ready to disown when they are called to account for them. When they do that, they will discover, as some of them have already discovered, that the machinery of the law will be set in motion quite as promptly as they could desire.
But indeed, as I have already implied, whether it is set in motion [25/26] or not, is, as our canon law stands at present, a matter of very little consequence. When a diocesan court has done its utmost to punish an offender, it is only a diocesan court after all. What is heterodoxy to-day in one jurisdiction may to-morrow be pronounced by some other court in another to be orthodoxy, and until the Church provides some ultimate Court of Appeal in matters of Faith and Order, diocesan decisions upon either subject will absolutely determine nothing.
"Very well, then," it may be said, "if the law cannot help us, there is left at least the refuge of petition, of protest, of remonstrance." Yes, and it is a most sacred refuge. Palsied be the hand that would seek to rob even the feeblest of us of it! But when it is invoked it would be well, as I think you will agree with me, that it should be so employed as at least to recognize the laws of good breeding. "I find it sometimes easier," said a great French archbishop, "to make my clergy proficient in theology than in filial and fraternal courtesy." I am glad to believe, dear brethren, that in these latter graces no one of us would willingly be deficient. [* See Note B]
But in the matter of the relations of the clergy to the faith and order of the Church there is one thing in which we all need instruction, and with a reference to that, I may well close this discussion. It is a very natural instinct of human nature, and it has been, alas, a very pre-eminent distinction of people who have supremely arrogated to themselves the title of theologians, to crush out opinions that, upon whatever question, do not happen to accord with their own. But it is an instinct as ignoble as it is common, and, more than that, it is one the triumph of which would be scarcely less fatal to the true life and growth of the Church than the widest prevalence of error. In a body which, while, as we rejoice to believe, under divine guidance and inspiration, is still made up of very frail and faulty members, led by very fallible and often very imperfectly formed guides, no graver or more perilous situation could come to pass than that in which the due proportion of the faith and the due balance of opposite aspects of the one truth were no longer maintained by the differing and sometimes apparently dissonant voices of its teachers. The moment that we have affirmed a truth we are bound to admit that there are, and rightly ought to be, various standpoints from which to look at it. There are those to whom, constitutionally, such a statement [26/27] is intolerable; but that does not alter the fact. And, because it is the fact, the Church's duty in our time is clear. We want defenders of the Church's liberty, as well as of the Church's orthodoxy, and we want on this point, and especially on the part of the episcopate, a candor in leadership which honest men have a right to look for from those who are over them. There is a divine doctrine, but let us take care that in defining it we do not make it narrower than Christ Himself has made it! There is a divine order, but let us not seek only so inexorably to enforce it that, like those iron images of the middle ages, it shall crush the life out of the victim whom it embraces. The question for us who are ministers of this Church is how the two sides of its truth are to be united in that kind of Churchmanship which shall stand for all the sanctities of the individual soul in the sanctity of the Church itself, as the very institution of sacredness,--holy in its government, in its rites, in its creeds, because only in and by these can the very idea of holiness, or wholeness, be maintained; and therefore, insisting on this supreme holiness in its unity, its hierarchy, its worship and its faith, while never losing sight of the fact that the ground of all holiness is in reason, and that reason must be respected in its freedom, lest truth shall be untruly believed, and loyalty be disloyally given, and worship be paid by an unworshipping heart. Authority is not its own end. Parentage is not for the sake of parentage. The end of parentage is that the child may be a man. The end of authority is spiritual freedom. To-day the Church and civilization by the Church have reached the period where the child is nearing manhood, where authority must justify itself, where the reason of man must find itself in the reason of the Church, and so feel free while obeying that reason as, in the truest sense, its own. Authority and reason, order and freedom, spirit and form, this is the true definition of the Catholic Church, and of the Churchmanship which our times want--because all times want it. Under the dominion of such a spirit self-will will distrust itself, and the reason of one be qualified and ennobled by the larger reason of the whole; and under it most of all, our ministry--yours and mine, my reverend brethren--will become a ministry of reconciliation, reconciling the past and the present, the Church and the individual; the soul and God. May God hasten that day!
 NOTE A.
In his Essay on State, Church, and the Synods of the Future, Prebendary Irons has recalled, in this connection, the history of Canonical Discipline as illustrated in the eighty-five "Canons Apostolical," which, after many centuries of growth and development, became the celebrated "Decretum" of Gratian, and is now the substance of the Roman Canon Law. He justly remarks of this attempt in the Latin Church to construct a vast, minute, consistent and rigid body of Canon Law, "It is a gigantic monument of self-confessed failure," and he adds, "Nowhere is the discipline of the Canon law obeyed or in a condition to be obeyed." For a further discussion of this subject I would refer to a Charge delivered to the Convention of the Diocese of New York on St. Michael and All Angels' Day, 1886, on "Law and Loyalty."
 NOTE B.
Those who heard this Charge delivered will remember that it contained, in this connection, a particular reference to action concerning which I have since received from a sufficiently responsible source an explicit disclaimer of any intended discourtesy. The particular reference therefore disappears from the Charge, and I am glad to have an assurance which enables me to dismiss it from these pages. At the same time it is necessary to say that the communication to a Bishop, whether in his personal or official character, of a document addressed exclusively to himself, in the form of a printed circular, is not a proper or sufficient communication of it; and still further, that it is not competent, if one is governed by the ordinary and recognized canons of courtesy, for an individual, or any number of individuals, to make public such a document until its receipt by the person to whom it has been addressed has been definitely ascertained, and a reasonable opportunity has been afforded for its acknowledgment. That such acknowledgment may not be desired, is, in such a case, wholly aside from the point; and precipitancy of this sort exposes those who have excluded the opportunity for a reply to the imputation of motives which they themselves would be the first to disown.