To the Reverend Clergy of the
Diocese of New York
the Proposed Ordination of the Rev. Charles A. Briggs, D.D.
By Frank Montrose Clendenin.
New York: no publisher, 1899.
Providential circumstances having
required me to read carefully the book lately published by the Rev.
Charles A. Briggs, D.D., I have been requested by a number of the
clergy to submit full and accurate extracts from this book with such
comments as may seem proper to the case. In reply to that request I
have printed the pages which follow, asking for them that serious
consideration which they deserve.
F. M. Clendenin.
New York, May, 1899.
EXTRACTS FROM A BOOK ENTITLED “GENERAL
INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY OF
HOLY SCRIPTURE, BY CHARLES AUGUSTUS BRIGGS, D.D., PROFESSOR OF BIBLICAL
THEOLOGY IN UNION THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY, NEW YORK CITY. NEW YORK,
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS, 1890."
THE CANON IN GENERAL
“The work of historical criticism, of Holy Scripture has only begun its
career. It has given us a new biblical history illuminated with new
light and enriched with the colouring of Bible times. The work will go
on until it fulfils its entire task.
"Ancient Jerusalem lies buried beneath the rubbish of more than
eighteen centuries. It is covered over by the blood-stained dust of
myriads of warriors, who have battled heroically under its walls and in
its towers and streets. Its valleys are filled with the debris of
palaces, churches, and temples. But the Holy Place of three great
religions is still there, and thither countless multitudes turn in holy
reverence and pious pilgrimage. In recent times this rubbish has in a
measure been explored; and by digging to the rock-bed and the ancient
foundations bearing the marks of the Phoenician workmen, the ancient
city of the holy times has been recovered, and may now be constructed
in our minds by the artist and the historian with essential accuracy.
Just so the Holy Scripture, as given by divine inspiration to holy
prophets, lies buried beneath the rubbish of centuries. It is covered
over with the debris of the traditional interpretations of the
multitudinous schools and sects. The intellectual and moral [5/6]
conflicts which have raged about it have been vastly more costly than
all the battles of armed men. For this conflict has never ceased. This
battle has taxed and strained all the highest energies of our race. It
has been a struggle in the midst of nations and of families, and has
torn many a man's inmost soul with agony and groanings.
“The valleys of biblical truth have been filled up with the debris of
human dogmas, ecclesiastical institutions, liturgical formulas,
priestly ceremonies, and casuistic practices. Historical criticism is
digging through this mass of rubbish. Historical criticism is searching
for the rock-bed of divine truth and for the massive foundations of the
Divine Word, in order to recover the real Bible. Historical criticism
is sifting all this rubbish."—531.
So then the Bible which our fathers and forefathers read with m much
comfort and confidence, was not, after all, the real Bible, but some
travesty which formal priests and other evil ecclesiastics had palmed
off, upon them. Our dear old mothers now in Paradise, how memory
pictures their quiet, peaceful faces, as they read that Holy Book! How
"real" it seemed to them; but good, gentle souls, how deluded they were
if modern "scholarship" be true.
And these men who are digging through the "rubbish" at Jerusalem—has it
ever occurred to Dr. Briggs to ask exactly what these grave diggers
will some day find—the Holy Place? Yes; but the Holy Place from which
the Divine Presence has departed; and, therefore, no longer Holy. Will
Higher Criticism ever find us anything better than a Grave and an
"Criticism takes from every denomination of Christians and from
tradition and from the theologians their spurious claims to determine
the Canon of Holy Scripture for all men; but it does not give that
authority to any individual man. It puts the authority to determine His
Holy Word in God Himself. It teaches us to look for the divine evidence
in the Holy [6/7] Scriptures themselves. It tells us to open our minds
and hearts and submit ourselves to the message of the Divine Spirit and
accept (he Bible God has made for us. But it does tell every man to
make up his own mind as to the authority of the writings which are said
to belong to Holy Scripture. It endorses the right of private judgment
in this matter as in all others. It makes the divine authority of the
Canon, and of every writing in the Canon, a question between every man
and his God."—161 and 162.
“Thus the extent of the Canon is not to be determined by the consensus
of the Church, or by the citation and reverent use of Scriptures in the
Fathers, or by their recognition by the earliest standard authorities,
for these historical evidences, so important in Historical Theology,
have no value in the Study of the Holy Scripture."—21 and 22.
Holding views like these, why does Dr. Briggs want to become a
Churchman? A Churchman believes in the Church—in its Divine origin,
character, and permanence, and that upon so vital a subject as the Holy
Scriptures, it has something to say worth hearing and worth heeding.
“We have shown that the questions of Higher Criticism have not been
determined by the ecclesiastical authority of creeds or the consensus
of tradition. And it is a merciful Providence that this has not been
the case. For it would have committed the Church and Christians to many
errors which have been exposed by a century of progress in the Higher
Criticism."—272 and 273.
“We are obliged to admit that there are scientific errors in the Bible,
errors of astronomy, of geology, of zoölogy, of botany, and of
anthropology. In all these respects there is no evidence that the
author of these sacred writings had any other knowledge than that
possessed by their cotemporaries. [7/8] They were not in fact taught by
the Holy Spirit any higher knowledge of these subjects than others of
“It is a most remarkable fact that the original autographs of the holy
men and prophets, from whom the Holy Scriptures came, were edited and
changed with so much freedom by the later editors from whom our Bible
“One would suppose that no original autograph that ever was written
could be so holy, inerrant, and safe from change as the Logia of Jesus
by the apostle Matthew. And yet the Logia was used, in part, in quite
drastic ways by both our Matthew and Luke, and then neglected and
ultimately lost. The only way in which we can recover it is by the
process of criticism. The most precious words in the Old Testament are
those of the Psalter. Our Psalter, as it has been used in Jewish and
Christian worship for two thousand years, is the work of editors as
much as authors; and he who would seek the original autographs of the
original poets has a long and difficult road to travel, and one in
which no certainty can be attained. Criticism can find no errorless
scribe, no inerrant person."—620.
“All of our studies of the Bible, thus far, have led us to the
threshold of the inquiry how far Holy Scripture is credible and of
divine authority. The deeper study of Holy Scripture in our day has
made this a question of far greater seriousness than it has been in any
previous generation of Jews or Christians. The prevalent dogmatic
theories of the inspiration and infallibility of the Bible have been
undermined in the entire range of Biblical Study, and it is a question
in many minds whether they can ever be so reconstructed as to give
satisfaction to Christian scholars."—607.
Language utterly fails to express the assumption, the effrontery, the
swagger of the words "to give satisfaction to Christian scholars."
THE OLD TESTAMENT
“There can be little doubt that there is a strong mythological element
at the basis of Biblical History as well as of other ancient histories.
The myth is indeed the most primitive historic form and mould in which
that which is most ancient is transmitted from primitive peoples. There
are such myths in the stories of the book of Genesis, and in the poetry
of Job, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah, and not a. few of the Psalms."—555.
“Legends constitute the form in which historical material is handed
down from generation to generation in oral transmission, especially in
times prior to written literature. Holy Scripture uses a great
abundance of these legends."—557.
"THE HISTORIC IMAGINATION"
“After all has been said as to the use of the sources of the biblical
historians, there can be no doubt that they also used their historical
imagination. This is not a fault. It is an excellence."—564.
“We have to take into account the point of view of those priests who
wrote the priestly section of the Hexateuch and the work of the
Chronicler. Their priestly interest determined their choice of
material, the use they made of it, and the colours and shading which
their imagination put upon it. There can be no doubt that they idealize
the history in the interests of the priesthood and the temple and the
 “So the point of view of the Deuteronomic writers is the
Deuteronomic Law, and they judge the history by that Law, and they
idealize Moses and the entire previous history in the light of that
Law. Even the earlier prophets, who wrote the Ephraimitic and Judaic
narratives, wrote in the prophetic interests of their times.
"We may say with reference to them all that they did not, and could
not, distinguish between truth and the fiction in any of the older
legends and historic documents at their disposal. They could not
separate the bare fact from its mythical, legendary, and poetic
embellishment. Indeed, they preferred it as thus embellished, for it
was more appropriate in this form for their purpose of instruction.
Furthermore, it is evident that they did not hesitate to indulge
themselves in historical fiction where they had not sufficient historic
information and the lessons had yet to be taught. Midrashim of this
sort are incorporated here and there throughout the history. It is only
by the use of the Higher Criticism assisted by historical criticism
that they can be eliminated."—505 and 566.
We doubt if anything Mr. Ingersoll has written can compare with this.
Mr. Ingersoll has smiled at, and held up to public ridicule, what he
calls "the Mistakes of Moses"; but it has been reserved for Dr. Briggs
to tell us that the deception was cool and deliberate in order to
advance their "priestly interest."
To advance a man holding such a belief to the Priesthood of the
Anglican Church would be to insult the honour of the English Race.
Quite lately Mr. Ingersoll was asked why, to some extent, he had
discontinued his lectures against the Bible, and he answered: “There is
no need of such lectures—the clergy of New York are doing my work
better than I can do it." To whom did Mr. Ingersoll refer?
 "THE BOOK OF RUTH AN IDYLL"
"The book of Ruth is written in prose with two little snatches of
poetry. It has appended to it a genealogical table which did not belong
to the original document. The story is a simple and graceful domestic
story. It is a charming idyll. No historian would ever think of writing
such a domestic story as Ruth, as an episode in the history of such a
period." —342 and 343.
“Some have sought a reason in the fact that she was an ancestress of
David. But there is nothing in the character of the monarchs of the
Davidic dynasty that would lead us to suppose that they would encourage
a writer to trace their descent from a poor and homeless Moabitess,
however excellent her character."—343.
“THE STORY OF JONAH”
"If the book of Jonah were history, its place ought to have been among
the historical books. It is among the prophetical writings with
propriety only so far as the story which is contained in it was pointed
with prophetic lessons. For this prophetic purpose it is immaterial
whether the story is real history or an ideal of the imagination, or
whether it is history idealized and embellished by the imagination.
"It was not the aim of the writer to write history."
* * * * * * *
“The two miracles reported in Jonah are marvels rather than miracles.
There is nothing at all resembling them in the miracle-working of the
Old Testament or the New Testament. They are more like the wonders of
the Arabian Nights than the miracles of Moses, of Elijah, of Elisha, or
of Jesus or His apostles. It is true that there are great sharks
[11/12] in the Mediterranean Sea which are said to have swallowed men
and horses and afterwards to have cast them up. But this being so, the
chief difficulty remains. How can we explain the suspended digestion of
the fish, and the self-consciousness of Jonah as indicated by his
“The repentance of Nineveh, from the king on his throne to the humblest
citizen, the extent of it, the sincerity of it, the depth of it, is
still more marvellous. Nineveh was at that time the capital of the
greatest empire of the world. It was a proud and conquering nation,
least likely of all to repent. The history of the times is quite well
known, and this history seems to make such an event incredible. Some
have endeavoured to minimize the repentance as a mere official one,
such as were ordered by monarchs during the Middle Ages. But these
apologists of traditional theory forget that according to the story God
recognizes the sincerity and the extraordinary character of the
repentance. God granted His mercy, and recalled His decree of
destruction on that account. This repentance is a marvellous event.
Nothing like it meets us in the history of Israel or in the history of
the Church. It is an ideal of the imagination."—345, 34G, and 347.
Our Lord bases the truth of His Resurrection upon the truth of the
history of Jonah. (S. Matt. 12-40.) The Higher Critics, however, do
wisely to doubt the story, for it was for their kind of unbelief that
our Lord said, "the men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment."
"THE STORIES OF DANIEL"
“The book of Daniel also belongs to the group of prose literature which
may be called historical fiction."
"The writer is evidently familiar with the Greek period of history, but
unfamiliarity with Babylonian and Persian [12/13] periods leads him
into grave historical blunders. The Hebrew sections seem to imply the
troublous times of Antiochus Epiphanes. The angelology, eschatology,
and Messianic ideas of the book are nearer to those of the book of
Enoch and the New Testament than they are to those of other writings of
the Old Testament. The religious ideas are nearer those of the late
Greek period. The evidence from all these sources leads ns to the
opinion that the book of Daniel was written as historic fiction in
168-165 B.C, with the use of various earlier documents, as an
encouragement to heroic courage and fidelity to the national
religion."—351, 352, and 353.
"The stories of the book of Daniel, as written in a book that bears the
name of Daniel as a pseudonym, raises the question whether the author
meant to deceive his readers by forging unhistorical tales. It is a
fact that the stories bear upon their faces the characteristics of
historical fiction, and were doubtless so received in the times when
they were written."—519.
"THE STORY OF ESTHER"
“The sole redeeming feature of the book is its patriotism."—350.
THE NEW TESTAMENT
“The original Logia of St. Matthew and the sources of the Gospel of the
Infancy, and possibly the original Gospel of St. John, were written in
Hebrew. But in whatever way the disciples of the apostles received the
teaching of Jesus, they gave it to the world in Greek, and it remains
for the world in the Greek language alone. It is evident therefore that
we have the teaching of Jesus as it passed from the Aramaic, in part,
at least, through the Hebraic conceptions of those who gave the primary
oral and written sources, and the whole of it through the Hellenistic
conceptions of the writers of our present Gospels. The words of Jesus
have been coloured and paraphrased by the minds and characters of those
who were guided by the Divine Spirit to report them."—69.
"The Gospel of Matthew is a compilation, using the Gospel of Mark and
the Logia of Matthew as the chief sources. The Gospel of Luke is a
compilation, using the same Gospel of Mark and the Logia of Matthew,
and also other Hebraic sources for its gospel of the infancy, and,
possibly also, another source for the Perean ministry. The book of Acts
is a compilation, using a Hebraic narrative of the early Jerusalem
Church, and the "We" narrative of a co-traveller with Paul, and
probably other sources. The Gospel of John is also partly a
compilation, using an earlier Gospel of John in the Hebrew language,
and the Hymn to the Logos in the Prologue.
“The Apocalypse is a compilation of a n umber of apocalypses of
"The earliest effort among the disciples of Jesus was to collect the
words of the Lord. This was done by St. Matthew in his Logia. This
collection was used in our Gospels [14/15] of Mark, Matthew, and Luke,
as a primary authority, very much as the Book of the Covenant was used
in the several documents of the Hexateuch.
"The story of Our Lord's life early received attention. Mark gives the
most primitive conception of the life of Jesus. The gospel of Mark was
used by our Matthew and Luke. Our gospel of John is probably based upon
an original gospel of the apostle John, very much as our gospel of
Matthew is based on the primitive Matthew."—133 and 134.
“THE SPEAKING WITH TONGUES AT
“The great importance of this phase of historical criticism justifies
another illustration taken from the book of Acts; namely, the story of
the speaking with tongues at Pentecost.”
“The speaking in many different languages unknown before is not only
psychologically and physically incredible, but it has little historic
support in the later and unsupported interpretation of the ancient
documents by the author of out' book of Acts."—517 and 519.
See Prayer Book. Proper Preface to Angelic Song for Whitsun Day.
Then shall the Priest say,
It is very meet, right, and our bounden duty, that we should at all
times, and in all places, give thanks unto thee, O Lord, Holy Father,
Almighty, Everlasting God, through Jesus Christ our Lord; according to
whose most true promise, the Holy Ghost came down as at this time from
heaven, with a sudden great sound, as it had been a mighty wind, in the
likeness of fiery tongues, lighting upon the Apostles, to teach them,
and to lead them to all truth; giving them both the gift of divers
languages, and also boldness with fervent zeal constantly to preach the
Gospel [15/16] unto all nations; whereby we have been brought out of
darkness and error into the clear light and true knowledge of Thee, and
of Thy Son Jesus Christ.
Therefore with Angels and Archangels, and with all the company of
heaven, we laud and magnify thy glorious Name; evermore praising thee,
and saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts, heaven and earth are
full of thy glory: Glory be to thee, O Lord Most High. Amen.
THE "IMAGINATION" OF OUR LORD
"No human imagination has ever equalled the imagination of the Lord
Jesus in story-telling. The Prodigal Son, Dives and Lazarus, the Good
Samaritan, the Wise and Foolish Virgins, the Talents, are masterpieces
of art. No historic incident, no individual experience, could ever have
such power over the souls of men as these pictures of the imagination
of our Lord."—341.
THE INTERPRETATION OF HOLY SCRIPTURE
"The mediaeval exegesis reached its culmination at the Council of
Trent, where Roman Catholic interpretation was limited by the four
rules: that it must be conformed to the rule of faith, the mind of the
Church, the consent of the Fathers, and the decisions of the councils.
But the seeds of a new exegesis had been planted by Lyra and Wicklif,
which burst forth into fruitful life in the Protestant
"The principles of interpretation of the Puritans worked mightily
during the seventeenth century in Great Britain, and produced
exegetical works that ought to be the pride of the Anglo-Saxon churches
in all time."—467.
 THE CREDIBILITY OF HOLY SCRIPTURE
'"We are obliged as biblical critics after we have determined all these
preliminary questions of the Higher Criticism to face the most serious
question of credibility. Literary critics are compelled to ask these
questions in their study of the world's literature. Is the writing
reliable? Do its statements accord with the truth, or are they coloured
and warped by prejudice, superstition, or reliance upon insufficient or
unworthy testimony? What character does the author bear as to prudence,
good judgment, fairness, integrity, and critical sagacity? Biblical
critics cannot shut their eyes to these questions of criticism.
Whatever may be their reverence of Holy Scripture they must ask these
questions of it."—95.
"That there are errors in the present text of our Bible, and
inconsistencies, it is vain to deny. There are chronological,
geographical, and other circumstantial inconsistencies and errors which
we should not hesitate to acknowledge."—627.
"The Higher Criticism recognizes faults of grammar and rhetoric, and of
logic in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures. The biblical authors used
the language with which they were familiar; some of them classic
Hebrew, others of them dialectic and corrupted Hebrew. Some of them
have a good prose style; others of them have a dull, tedious, pedantic
style. Some of them are poets of the highest rank; others of them write
such inferior poetry that one is surprised that they did not use,
prose. Some of them reason clearly, profoundly, and convincingly;
others of them reason in a loose, obscure, and unconvincing manner.
Some of them present the truth like intuitions of light; others labour
with it, and eventually deliver it in a crude and undeveloped
"The question whether there are errors is a question of [17/18] fact to
which all theories and doctrines must yield. It cannot be determined by
a priori definitions and statements on either side. Indeed the original
autographs have been lost for ages and can never be recovered. How can
we determine whether they were absolutely errorless or not?"—629.
"We have seen that there are historical mistakes in Holy Scripture,
mistakes of chronology and geography, errors as to historical events
and persons, discrepancies and inconsistencies in the histories which
cannot be removed by any legitimate method of interpretation."—631.
Where are we going to draw the line as
to these "mistakes,” "errors,"
and "inconsistencies?" Let us suppose that when the present school of
Higher Criticism is through with its work that half the Bible is left.
What proof is there but a still Higher Criticism in ten years from now
may decide to out in half the remaining half? Why may not the rare
scholarship of the twentieth century pronounce its distinguished
censure upon the whole Book? The Bible is the sacred heritage of
Christians of every name and age, but none the loss should it fail to
commend itself "to the satisfaction" of coming "scholarship," what is
to prevent these illustrious men from declaring, as some have already
done, that the whole Book is a mistake from end to end? Give up the
Church which existed and lived for man and God long before there was a
Bible—give up the authority and consensus of that Church, and your
Bible will fall, sooner or later, into the hands of men who will tear
out every page, and leave not even the memory of its sacred character.
 THE RELATION OF CHRISTIANITY TO
“These faults of advocates and polemic divines have greatly injured the
cause of Christianity in its relation to other religions, and have
greatly retarded the influence of the Bible upon men of other faiths.
But a large number of scholars have been studying the science of
religion with, industry and abundant fruit; they have not hesitated to
discern the true excellences of other religious books, and to point out
the defects of Holy Scripture, as a result of the comparative study of
the sacred books of the world.
"The Christian religion has been influenced much more by Buddhism than
Buddhism has been influenced by Christianity."—611.
Why waste any more life and money
sending missionaries to India and to
The Prayer "Our Father," the Beatitudes, the fourteenth chapter of St.
John—these are words we thought our dear Lord had spoken; but now,
perhaps, we are to be shown it was Buddha, and those clever Boston
people who started a Buddhist society last winter were, maybe, right.
"Dogmatic Theology will not satisfy the demands of the age if she
appear in the worn-out armour or antiquated costume of former
generations. She must beat out for herself a new suit of armour from
biblical material which is ever [19/20] new; she must weave to herself
a fresh and sacred costume of doctrine from the Scriptures which never
disappoint the requirements of mankind.”—13.
“Experience shows us that no body of divinity can answer fur more than
its generation. Every catechism and confession of faith will in time
become obsolete and powerless. Liturgies are more persistent, but even
these are changed and adapted in the process of their use by successive
generations. All these symbols of Christian Worship and Christian Truth
remain as historical monuments and symbols, as the worn and tattered
banners that our veterans or honoured sires have carried victoriously
through the campaigns of the past; but they are not suited entirely for
their descendants. Each age has its own peculiar work and needs, and it
is not too much to say, that not even the Bible could devote itself to
the entire satisfaction of the wants of any particular age, without
thereby sacrificing its value as the book of all ages. It is sufficient
that the Bible gives us the material for all ages, and leaves to man
the noble task of shaping that material so as to suit the wants of his
“Tradition is the bastard of history and should be resorted to only
when we have no history, and then with caution and suspicion as to its
origin. History is to help, not rule."—170.
“The doctrine of Jesus must be drawn chiefly from the discourses in
Matthew, yet these not in their present form, as given in our Greek
Gospel, but in their original form, to be determined by sound
“Higher Criticism comes into conflict with the authority of Scripture
when it finds that its doctrinal statements are not authoritative and
its revelations are not credible. If the credibility of a book is
impeached, its divine authority and inspiration are also
 This is a clear and definite work.
No waste of life heeding the
"bastard tradition,” nor parleying with trifling matters like an
ecumenical council, nor stopping even for that somewhat, larger affair
called the Consensus of the Church; but, instead, Higher Criticism is
to decide for us when “doctrinal statements" are "authoritative," and
"revelations" are "credible."
DR. BRIGGS' DOCTRINE OF DEVELOPMENT
“The Bible is not a field whose treasures have beer, exhausted, for
they are inexhaustible. As in the past Athanasius, Augustine, Anselm,
Luther, and Calvin, have derived therefrom new doctrines that have
given shape not only to the Church, but to the world; so it is not too
much to expect. that even greater saints than these may yet go forth
from their retirement, where they have been alone in communion with God
through His Word, holding up before the world some new doctrine,
freshly derived from the ancient writings, which, although hitherto
overlooked, will prove to be the necessary complement of all the
previous knowledge of the Church, no less essential to its life,
growth, and progress than the Athanasian doctrine of the Trinity, the
Augustinian doctrine of sin, and the Lutheran doctrine of justification
So then the Faith was not once for all
delivered to the Saints; but is
yet, by Higher Criticism, to be held up before a wondering world, and
we are to contend earnestly, not for something settled and lasting, but
for "some new doctrine freshly derived," which is to be no less
essential to the life of the Church than the Athanasian doctrine of the
Blessed Trinity. O ye Priests of the Lord, O ye holy and humble men of
heart, weep and beat your breasts and pray for such a man, for lie is
mad, and knoweth no longer whereof he speaketh!
 THE BIRTH OF HIGHER CRITICISM
“The free-born spirit of the Reformation was repressed hi the age of
Protestant scholasticism, which built up the systems of Protestant
dogmatics and ecclesiastic-ism over against Roman Catholic dogmatics
and ecclesiasticism. Put a terrible retribution came upon unfaithful
Protestantism in the outbreak of free thought in Deism, Atheism, and
Rationalism, "which laid violent hands upon everything that was deemed
sacred in Christianity, and forced Protestantism from a dogmatic into
an apologetic position. It was the serious conflicts in this age of
apologetics which brought to birth the age of modern scientific
criticism. Criticism sprang forth a youthful giant to solve the
problems of the modern age of the world.”—77.
This last statement we quote is full of fearful truth. It gives the
parentage of Scientific Criticism. Its father was "unfaithful," not
faithful Protestantism. Its mother was the hydra-headed monster, Deism,
Atheism, and nationalism. From out the womb of this terrible mother
sprang forth the giant child of modern unbelief called Higher Criticism.
 Throughout the book from which these extracts have been taken are
found statements which express great reverence and respect for Holy
Scripture; but what good are such statements? If you say a man is a
thief and a liar, what matters it how many kind things you say of him
after? You have destroyed his reputation if your word is worth
anything—it is not in your power by any counterstatement to make it
It is very difficult to understand why Dr. Briggs should desire to
enter the Priesthood of the Anglican Church. The history, the theology,
the consensus, the very atmosphere of that Church is plainly against
what he quite as plainly has written. He may be confused by the open,
and as yet, unchallenged, heresy taught elsewhere in the Diocese; but
it is a great mistake to judge the Anglican Communion of this land by
the few marked departures from it in New York, and in some other high
quarters. Nine-tenths of the Bishops, Priests, Deacons, and laity of
the Anglican Church in America would to-morrow vote solidly against the
man who has so ruthlessly attacked the sacred character of the Holy
Scriptures, and the Church, which gave us those Scriptures.
Throughout Dr. Briggs' book one is struck with his strong expressions
of dislike, if not hatred, for those who have opposed him, however
honestly. Not since the days of Milton has there likely been such a
free use of epithets. "Hypocritical and traitorous companions,"
“Theological Bourbons" (10), "enemies of the truth" (9), "blind guides"
(162), and "Pharisees" (5), are some of his words of respect for those
who have obstructed "faithful biblical scholars."
These expressions against the brave men who rightfully turned him from
their ranks for disloyalty to their accepted standards, taken together
with the fact that he holds so little in common with the Anglican
Communion, leave the uncomfortable impression that we are being "used."
Can we afford to involve our good name in every part of the land in
order that Dr. Briggs may "even up" with our Presbyterian brothers with
whom, upon this subject, we can have no rightful difference?
What, indeed, will be our relation to the great Protestant world if Dr.
Briggs enters our Priesthood? If there is anything [23/24] a devout
Protestant reveres and respects, it is his Bible. Following humbly its
teaching, and living in its spiritual atmosphere, Protestantism has
given to the world some of the most beautiful lives the ages have known.
What can our Bishop, or any one else say to a devout Protestant, if,
among our spiritual leaders, we place one whose theories of Holy
Scripture leave nothing of it but the paper upon which it is printed?
Have our own laity no rights to be considered in such a tremendous
issue? Are our standards to be so lowered that when a Vestry call a
Priest they may find, when too late, they have chosen one whose "views"
undermine all that the ages of Christianity have held sacred?
And if Dr. Briggs is received, what a royal good time, at our expense,
our brothers will have in the great sister Church of Rome.
If there is anything many have been saying for years it is that Rome
takes the Bible away from her people. Such a statement is not strictly
true; but that, just the same, is the general impression. Well, now,
what are we going to say to our Roman brother if there is found in our
Priesthood men whose teaching takes the Bible not from our people only,
but from the whole world; yea, which makes the Bible a fraud and,
therefore, an immoral book? What are we going to say to Rome about
having a settled Faith? If there is one thing the Anglican Church has
claimed, more than another, it is that we hold the Faith once for all
delivered to the Saints—that no man nor church has a right to take from
that Faith, and that no man nor church has a right to add to it. Now it
is proposed to order to our Priesthood a man teaching a system which is
not only going to decide whether our doctrinal statements are
authoritative, and Revelation credible, but which openly advises us
that it may yet propose to Faith "some new doctrine," no less essential
than the doctrine of the Trinity. If we bring such a catastrophe upon
our own heads, with what sort of grace, or significance, can we refer
again to the events of 1854 and 1870?
 Finally, what about "the men of weight"? We have been told that
"everyone knows the men of weight are on Dr. Briggs' side."
What did the Rector of St. George's mean exactly by that expression? He
did not mean, I suppose, men of knowledge. The highest knowledge is
that of God, and man's relation to God commonly called Theology; but no
one ever charged Dr. Rainsford and his friends with any special
knowledge of theology—it is likely, indeed, that the humblest Curate in
Trinity Parish has forgotten more theology than our English friend even
cared to know. As for the great Rector of Trinity himself, he simply
pulverizes "High Criticism," “Advanced thought," and other broad
tendencies. He does this not only in his magnificent sermons, but from
time to time in conversation—just for mental exercise.
If we pass from one man to a group of men, there is the corps of the
General Theological Seminary. Beginning with the honoured Dean there is
not to be found in the land a more learned and distinguished group of
men, but I venture to say not one of them believes in the teachings of
Dr. Briggs' book.
Dr. Rainsford did not mean knowledge then when he said "men of weight."
What did Dr. Rainsford mean? Well, most of us know, and know also that
the Rector of St. George's is not a brave enough man to tell the public
just what he did mean. He meant there was a group of powerful men here
in the East, backed by godless wealth, which had lowered the standard
of faith and morals in the Anglican Church. These men, in guarded ways,
have ordered poor Missionary Bishops and. Priests and other defenceless
people what they must do, and what they must not do. These men have
opened the flood gates for unbelief to pour in upon the pure faith and
morality of the historic Church of the English-speaking people, and
these men are looking to the ordination of Charles Augustus Briggs to
vindicate their disloyal course.
Yes, those men of weight are against us, and, what is more, we are
And when, in after years, this issue, now fully opened, is closed,
these things will have changed or "the men of weight" will have left
the Anglican Communion.
F. M. CLENDENIN.