FROM the philosophical, we pass to the practical aspects of national churchmanship, as these disclose themselves in our own land.
The moment we do this, we are confronted by a startling spectacle,--a vision which seems to negative all hope; which looks to be, so far as any prospect of unity is concerned, a veritable apocalypse of despair. I know of no book which an intelligent American who is both a lover of his country and a believer in the teachings of Jesus Christ, is under a more solemn obligation to study than that volume of the United States Census of 1890 which deals with the statistics of religion. Conveniently summarized in The Religious Forces of the United States. By H. K. Carroll, LL.D., in charge of the Division of Churches, Eleventh Census. New York: The Christian Literature Co.] Aside from all ecclesiastical interests, the work is worthy of attention on its own merits. Merely as a sociological achievement, it ranks with such monumental achievements as Charles Booth's Enquiry into the Industrial Condition of the London Poor.
Whether as respects ingenuity of method, fairness of treatment, or thoroughness of detail, Dr. Carroll's conduct of the exceedingly delicate task intrusted to him has been beyond praise. It is doubtful whether in any language there exists a conspectus of the religious statistics of a people so complete as that which he and his able helpers have succeeded in putting before us. In English there is nothing that approaches it. Not only are the figures with respect to denominational strength marshalled and re-marshalled in almost all possible combinations; not only are we told all there is to be known as to number of communicants, number of clergy, number of church edifices, value of property, and the like; but by a most suggestive, I had almost said amusing, employment of graphic symbols, the condition of things, both in the Union as a whole and in the separate States, is made vividly evident to the eye. We look, for instance, at a circle entitled Maryland (I choose my example at random), and we find it divided by radii into eight sectors, each with a color of its own, and variously named as follows: "Catholic," "Methodist," "Lutheran," "Episcopalian," "Baptist," "Presbyterian," "Reformed," "All Other,"--the "All Other" sector being in the case of this particular State, Maryland, about one-thirteenth portion of the whole area of the circle, while the Catholic and the Methodist sectors cover, each of them, about one-third of the space enclosed. If, again, we take the case of Ohio, we see the circle divided into nine sectors, entitled respectively: "Catholic," "Methodist," "Presbyterian," "Lutheran," "Baptist," "Disciples of Christ," "United Brethren," "Reformed," "All Other." In this circle the "Catholic" sector covers one-quarter of the area, instead of one-third as in the case of Maryland; the "Methodist" sector suffers similar shrinkage; the "Baptist" sector (and, by the way, how admirably this word "sector" seems to harmonize with the whole business!) remains about what it was in the older State, while the "Episcopalian" sector suffers the mortification of being merged in the sad promiscuity of the quadrant known as "All Other." If, now, we pass Mason and Dixon's line and go down into the Gulf States, we find in the case of Georgia a circle with only three sectors, respectively entitled "Baptist," "Methodist," and "All Other." This is balanced, and more than balanced, at the far West, by New Mexico, where the "All Other" sector covers only one-fourteenth portion of the area, the entire remainder of the circle being marked "Catholic."
Among the most interesting circles by way of suggestion and reminiscence are Massachusetts and Virginia; Massachusetts, the Puritan Commonwealth, showing a space of two-thirds marked "Catholic," and another of one-tenth marked "Congregationalist;" while in the home of the Cavaliers we have one full half "Baptist," one full quarter "Methodist," and a little less than one-twentieth "Episcopalian." If, last of all, we turn our attention to the great circle which represents the entire Republic, we note that the "Catholic" sector covers a little more than one-third of the whole area, the "Methodist" a little more than one-fourth, the "Baptist" something less than one-fifth, the "Presbyterian" about one-fifteenth, and the "Protestant Episcopalian" almost exactly one thirty-ninth.
But this is a cheerful showing for unity compared with what we have to face when we turn from the graphic method of circles to the numerical method of tables. In the device of the circle all kinds of Presbyterians are massed in a single sector, and all kinds of Methodists in another single sector, and all kinds of Baptists in another single sector; but as a matter of fact there are twelve different denominations of Presbyterians, thirteen varieties of Baptists, and seventeen sorts of Methodists.
In the case of the circles, the cumulative in contrast with the particularist method was forced upon Dr. Carroll by the exigencies of the situation; for had he undertaken to intersect the sectors by radii numerous enough to represent all of these distinctions, and the sub-dichotomies covered by the vague phrase "All Other" as well, the eye of the student would have been hopelessly confused and the intent of the graphic device defeated. Moreover, in the matter of tints and shading, chromo-lithography -would have been utterly unequal to the task.
But let us face the worst at once. The tables show that there are in the United States one hundred and forty-three distinct religious denominations. It should be noted, however, that this generous figure includes Jews, Theosophists, Ethical Culturists, and some thirty organizations that number fewer than one thousand adherents apiece. Of professedly Christian denominations claiming, severally, upwards of ten thousand members, there are sixty-three, ranging from the Roman Catholics with their six millions to the Danish Lutherans with their ten thousand one hundred and eighty-one. The scandal of the situation is somewhat further relieved, when we find, as we do find if we look into the matter, that the most of these organizations fall easily into families, the bond of kinship being either a common doctrine or a common polity.
If we classify the denominations according to this affinity-scheme, as we may call it, and agree to recognize as important only such families as lay claim to a quarter of a million of members, we shall find that we have reduced the number of our varieties to ten, which ten comprise almost, if not quite, nineteen-twentieths of all communicants, of whatever name, within our borders.
So, then, here lies the practical question with which we have to grapple: Is there discoverable any persuasive or conciliatory method of bringing these ten types of Christian life and thought, these ten tribes as we may call them, into such a relation with one another, that as Americans we may look forward not merely to a retention of our common Christianity, but to the gradual emergence of a national Church really worthy of the name? At first we are disposed to say, "No. These great buildings scare us." Great buildings always do have a tendency to enslave the imagination. And yet, I confess, I can think of no loftier employment for the ecclesiastical mind, nay, for the patriotic mind, of the coming century than a thorough study of this question would afford.
Surely the time has come for a turn of the tida The reductio ad absurdum of sectarianism, as a philosophy of Christianity, is complete. It has been wittily said that the Kansas farmer of to-day, when the crops fail, instead of trying, as his father would have done, to improve the quality or the quantity of the fertilizers, lets his hair grow long and starts a new political party; but few indeed are they who, with our present light, would dream of seeking to improve the ratio of wheat to tares in the ecclesiastical harvest field by organizing to-morrow a new split. [By Professor Peck, of Columbia University.] As a people we have ceased to believe any longer in sectarianism; but the task of doing away with the thing, now that it has been saddled upon us, looms so large as almost to incapacitate us for effort. ["There can be no doubt that the reason why many minds abandon the doctrine of unity, as it was believed by Christendom for fifteen hundred years, is that they are at a loss how to square it with the anomalies of the last three centuries. But for the unhappy rending of the Western Church, no man would have any more dreamed of gainsaying the mystery of the visible Church than of the visible sacraments. Men's minds have been bribed by their wishes, or perplexed by their difficulties, into lower and looser conceptions of unity."--Manning's Unity of the Church, p. 302, Am. ed.] We see clearly enough that this jumble of fragments has no proper claim to be called a national Church, and yet we have mournfully to confess that, taken in its entirety, it is the nearest approach to a national Church that we can show.
Almost all are ready to admit that we have had disintegration enough, and that what we want now is construction. The thing that takes the heart out of us is the immensity of the undertaking. We feel as a tribe of savages might feel if shown the "Teutonic" or the "Campania," and told to substitute that type of boat for their dug-outs and canoes. And yet the ocean liner is but the final term in a long process of evolution from the dug-out. With God all things are possible; and with man, God helping him, more things are possible than we dare dream.
Weary of squabbles over tariffs and inter-state commerce acts, we need in this country the inspiration of some splendid purpose. It may be asked, has many times been asked, will often be asked again: What would your national Church accomplish, supposing it came about, which the present conglomerate of sects cannot already do for us fairly well?
For an answer to this question we should look both abroad and at home. Briefly put, the answer is, that abroad we should be saved the spectacle of half a dozen competing divinity schools in Tokyo; and that at home the maintenance of religion in our villages and towns would cease to be dependent on the uncertainties of "pink teas" and the doubtful aid of amateur theatricals. When dignity wholly disappears from the administration of religion, reverence presently takes wing. It is perfectly possible for worship to be dignified, even in dens and caves of the earth; it is not possible for dignity to coexist with a scramble; and who will deny that in small communities where every man and every dollar tells, the sectarian principle, from its very nature, necessarily entails a scramble. Moreover, the impression made upon the mind of the young by the spectacle of a splintered Christianity is the reverse of favorable. Accustomed to see law presenting itself in the courts with a united front, the young man learns to respect law. Were there as many competing temples of justice in an American city as there are rival temples of religion, the young man would be as quick to unlearn civic virtue as he is now disposed to throw up Christian faith. I shall never forget the impression made upon my mind in early life by my first sight of a Roman Catholic village with its great Church overtopping all roofs. Visible unity inspires respect, visible disintegration genders contempt.
The Colonies would never have become The United States had the patriots of that day reasoned with respect to civil nationality after the fashion in which too many of us reason about ecclesiastical nationality. Most certainly, after having lumped together a republic in Massachusetts, a democracy in Rhode Island, a monarchy in New York, and an aristocracy in New Jersey, they would have declined to call the resulting amorphous mass a nation. The conveners of the Continental Congress knew too much for that. You tell me that those men had physical force at their disposal and felt no scruple about using it. That is very true; but it does not annul my contention that the unity which hopes to escape ridicule and to challenge respect must be an evident and palpable thing, not one that has to be continually explaining away appearances that make it seem the very opposite of what it claims to be. A national Church would be, if nothing else, a great evidence of religion.
The child who in a New England village of two hundred years ago saw, or in a South German village of to-day habitually sees, all the people passing on the Lord's Day through one porch into the Lord's House, grew up and grows up taking religion for granted. The American child of the present generation who sees his playmates, on six days of the week, go through the one school-house door, and on the one day of the week sees six differently labelled church doors crying out to the same boys and girls "Come in," inevitably conceives of religion as a matter in debate. "When I grow up," he says to himself, "I will find out what all this means. Somehow it looks as if our fathers and mothers did not feel about praying as they do about schooling." Yes, these things tell. Doubtless in the triumvirate of evil, the world and the flesh are the predominant partners as respects the number of souls enticed away from God; but, in any fair reckoning, the third member of the group, the devil of division, should have his due.
Is it then my hope, you ask, that at some future census, say two hundred years from now (a short time in the life of the Christian Church), the great circle which will then probably be named North America may show the same unbroken disc of color that in the Census of 1890 distinguishes New Mexico? I will not resent being shoved into this corner, but will boldly venture to answer, Yes, I do. For however strenuously I may disbelieve in the method by which ecclesiastical unity has been secured in New Mexico, I do not see how I can disparage the thing itself without by the same token censuring the Founder of the Church. New Mexico may be, and in my judgment is, most unfortunate in its type of Christianity, but in so far as it is at one with respect to what it has, New Mexico is to be congratulated.
Consider the characteristics, the notes, of a possible national Church of the United States. Such a structure would, first of all, possess as a matter of course, a basis of dogma. This foundation would be built, however, not of small bricks, but rather of huge, rough-hewn blocks of the sort that can be counted upon to stay put without cement; solid masses of fact, that is to say, as distinguished from speculation; basaltic rock which critics and controversialists might chip away at, as long as they pleased, without any very serious results. The primitive Creeds, the Apostles' and the Nicene, answer fairly well to this description. To be sure, they are deficient in "anthropology," but, on the other hand, it is to be remembered that they are running over with "Christ his lore." Not that I would speak disrespectfully of the great fabrics of theological thought which solitary thinkers like Aquinas and Calvin or grave assemblies of learned men have, in former or in recent times, framed and lifted. It is far easier to sneer at such architects than it is to rival their architecture. But the truth is, we need have no fear at all that the Church will ever lack for labored explanations of the full purport of the Christian revelation. That more treasures of knowledge are wrapped up, undiscovered, in the articles of the Creed than have ever yet been dug out of them, is certain. To lay an interdict upon the search after this hidden wealth would be absurd; but, for the very reason that this search is going on continually and with success, a national Church is bound carefully to avoid confusing with the temporary "system" the everlasting Faith. The fact that our "little systems," as the late Laureate contemptuously called them, "have their day and cease to be," is no evidence that in their day, and before they ceased to be, they were not of considerable worth. The "systems" of the alchemists were as much more elaborate than the systems of modern chemistry as the theology of Anselm is more intricate than the theology of Coleridge; and yet it is doubtful whether without Paracelsus and Raymond Lully we should ever have had Faraday and Dumas. The really urgent question is, What is the special need of our day, this present, this modern day that we are living through? And to that inquiry the ancient Creeds make answer by simply holding up before our eyes the person Christ. So much for theology; is it not enough?
And what of ethics? Well, ethics is a form of dogma, and would be sure to be recognized as such if men could only be persuaded to look deep enough. The words "Thou shalt not steal," if we begin to philosophize about them, are found to appeal to faith quite as strongly as the words "God is One." The fact that the former saying is cast in the imperative mood and the latter in the indicative mood makes no difference; it is in the believing mood that you and I receive them. Well, then, let us apply the same reasoning to ethics that we applied to dogma. A national Church must have an ethical Creed, not voluminous, but clearly legible; not necessarily a code, but most assuredly a standard. We need not postulate a national Church of teetotallers, for instance; but we might as well have no Church at all as one that would admit the drunkard to its privileges. A national Church must not attempt to prove itself such by obliterating all the state-lines of morality. It must not, in a good-natured endeavor to be all things to all men, forget its obligation to be something to some men. There would have to be discipline, not minute, indeed, but real. It would mean a definite thing to be in full communion, and another definite thing not to be in full communion, with the Catholic Church. In a word, to change our figure of speech, as St. Paul when on this subject so easily does his, from stone and mortar to flesh and blood, we must remember that the mystical body of our Lord Jesus Christ, though mystical, is not invertebrate. So much for ethics. Is it not enough? Well, and what of polity? First of all, let polity, whatever else it is, be frankly American. I say this in no Jingo spirit. I loathe and detest Jingoism in all its varieties. I know not which is worse, the native or the foreign brand; I abhor them equally. And yet I am not ashamed of being an American. I should not be running on in this way about national Churches did I not believe in my heart that America, sect-ridden aa it is thought to be, offers a better field for the upbuilding of a Church truly national than any other country the world over. Yes, I would see the Church American in its length and breadth. Some people are so nervously afraid of bigness. "Don't let us allow the thing to get too large," they say, "lest we should be unable to manage it." Manage it? And shall not God have care for his elect? "Pray," said the Warden, or Elder (it does not matter which) of an old, ancestral parish somewhere on the North River, to the young minister who was about starting a mission Sunday-school, "Pray, don't introduce a novelty of this sort. What we 've always had up here, and what we want to continue to have, is a nice, snug little Zion of our own." It is this "snug little Zion" idea that has got to be torn up by the roots, if we are ever to know an American Catholic Church. The English ivy is a beautiful plant, and nothing is one-half so becoming to church walls; but unfortunately the English ivy does not flourish in all climates, and to insist that it shall be "Ivy or nothing" in a land where the woodbine and other fairly presentable vines are indigenous is a mistake.
It was Mr. Ruskin who said that he would not visit America, because he could not imagine himself content to live three months in a country where there were no castles. That was pardonable enough in Mr. Ruskin, but does his having said it lay any obligation on you and me to try to make good our country's deficiencies by reproducing on a small scale Stirling or Warwick? No, you and I must take America as we find it; comforting ourselves with the thought that Time, as a greater than Ruskin puts it, has a worthier task than merely
"To make old bareness picturesque,
And tuft with grass a feudal tower." '
Doubtless Americanism may be pushed too far. The demand for a distinctively American doctrine of Church unity is as fatuous as the demand for an American poetry and an American sculpture. Good poetry and good sculpture are what they are, quite independently of national lines. And so with Catholicity; the law of it is as fixed and definite as are the laws of light. It is only when we come to the application of the law that Americanism gets a standing in the court. So then, by all means, let Anglican influences and Anglican precedents be treated with all proper respect, it is but just and right that so it should be; only let us waste no room-rent on the fools' paradise of those who fancy that American Christianity in its entirety can be Anglified. This people is not English, though we owe more to England than to all other countries put together; but this people is not English, it is a composite people, now in the course of being kneaded, as a woman kneads the materials of bread, into a homogeneous nationality. To assume that we are dealing with a pure English stock and to base our ecclesiastical polity upon that notion, is to invite collapse. The foundations of an enduring Catholicism lie deeper down.
Even the Church of England is not national in the sense of comprising the great bulk of the people of England. It is justly called national, in that it was the core about which the nation, as a matter of historical fact, grew into being. It is national in that it is inwrought, as the late Lord Selborne so conclusively proved, not by the mere letter of a statute, but by a thousand unnoticed ties, into the constitution of the realm. [A Defence of the Church of England against Disestablishment, by Roundell, Earl of Selborne, pp. 28-31.] But no one alleges that it has the sympathy or can command the allegiance of the nation as a whole. One may be an Englishman and a loyal Englishman without being an Anglican. Her Majesty herself, the Head of the Church, is a Presbyterian in Edinburgh. And if the American people is far from being English, still farther is the religious portion of the American people from being Anglican. We must remember this in all our reasonings about unity, or we shall go astray.
But there is another feature of the Church of England that entitles her to be called national besides the two which I just mentioned, and this other feature is one in which any Church that in any country aspires to become national must resemble her. The Church of England is national, because she lays stress upon territory as such, and counts her children not per capita merely, but also in connection with the soil on which their homes are built. There is not a square league of England which is not -within the borders of some one or another parish. This is the right principle. If the spiritual interests of a whole people are to be looked after systematically, if they are to be shepherded with thoroughness, there must be a recognition of metes and bounds. The names of St. Paul's Epistles are evidence that he looked at the matter in this light. He did not write out his theological views essay-fashion; what he had to say he put into the form of a letter to the people living in a particular place with a recognized geographical position. The truth taught in the letter may have been one of universal interest; he may even have been setting forth, as in the case of the Colossians, a cos-mical theology as wide as the universe; all the same, he addresses himself to "the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse," a town with town limits, a definite unit among the units which in their aggregate make up the Empire.
I am assuming, of course, that the territory in question is both habitable and inhabited. Pretentious paper-schemes which cover deserts and proclaim jurisdiction over wildernesses richly deserve the ridicule they receive. But where a territory has a population, the Christian Church should aim at dealing with that population territorially, holding some person or persons answerable for the spiritual well-being of all souls within the boundary lines. This is the theory of the parish system, and it is a good theory. That it is nowhere carried out to perfection is no argument against it. Even the fishermen of the Gospel were under the necessity of mending their nets now and again. In a reticulation that covers a whole country, some meshes, here and there, are bound to get torn and to let through part of the catch.
In this Republic, the obvious territorial units of structure are three in number,--the Union itself, the State, and the County. It is true that a certain portion of the national domain has not yet attained to what, in our political parlance, is known as "statehood;" and it is also true that in Louisiana the divisions elsewhere known as counties are called parishes. But these exceptions are not of a sort to encumber or embarrass the argument. That the Territories are destined, first or last, to be parcelled out into States, is generally acknowledged; while, as for Louisiana, the fact of its having chosen to abide by the old nomenclature of its French period makes no real difference.
Of these three units, the Republic, the State, and the County, the county is, historically speaking, by far the most ancient. In fact, with the exception of the city, there is perhaps no politico-geographical unit that can show an older lineage than the county. As its name indicates, the county originally made the jurisdiction of a comes, or count, so called because the "companion" in administration of the still higher official to whom the government of the province or prefecture as the case might be, had been intrusted. "With that tendency to division and subdivision," says a recent writer on this subject, "which is the mark of thorough government, the provincial empire, at any rate in Western Europe, gradually assumed the shape of a mass of small districts, each administrated by its own comes." [Mr. Edward Jenks.] From continental Europe this county-system passed over into England, and from England was transmitted to America, where it has proved itself so well adapted to our civil needs as to have secured what is practically an universal acceptance. It should be observed, in passing, that organization by counties includes cities, inasmuch as every city is either by itself a county, or else is a constituent portion of some county. If, therefore, the Christian Church in this land is seeking for a self-consistent, easily understood territorial basis of organization, it cannot do better than accept for such a purpose the scheme which Americans in their political capacity have already fastened upon as the best; namely, the Republic, the State, and the County.
But what form shall the polity take on, supposing the territorial scheme to have been adopted? Do not hastily charge me with Erastianism if I invite a return to the Census as a means of finding light. Upon consulting such of the tables as bear upon this point we make the cheerful discovery that, as respects polity, there is among our Ten Tribes a far nearer approach to unanimity than one who had been contemplating exclusively their doctrinal divergences would have expected to find. Ecclesiastical polity in this country, it appears, takes on one or other of three forms, according as it inclines to emphasize the principle of home-rule, the principle of counsel and advice, or the principle of a strong executive.
With a view of getting out of the rut, I use these phrases to indicate, respectively, what are commonly known as Congregationalism, Presbyterianism, and Episcopacy. We will waive, for the time being, all jure divino points, and look at the whole thing simply as a question of method.
The Congregationalists believe with all their heart in a method which makes much of the local flock looked after by the local shepherd. This, they say, is the true unit, this group of souls, large enough fully to engage the energies of one pastor, and not too large to be gathered within four walls. They remind us that St. Paul speaks of being burdened with the care of all the "Churches," not of "all the Church," and they urge that when he does speak of "the Church" in the singular number, what he has in mind is the choir invisible of faithful souls rather than any hard-and-fast general society by which the whole earth is to be overspread.
The Presbyterians are of opinion that this view of the matter is too loose. They deprecate the isolation of the single flock. They favor consultation among the shepherds, and more concert of action in the matter of tending and feeding the sheep; for after all the flock is one;--that various reading about "the fold" in St. John's tenth chapter does not really work any serious amendment of Christ's parable: the flock is one; we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.
The Episcopalians urge, with a good deal of insistency, the value of headship in everything that has the character of an enterprise. Jesus Christ, they argue, has essayed the spiritual conquest of the world. The task which He has laid upon his followers is a militant task. He sanctioned leadership when He enrolled the Twelve and placed Himself at their head. He sanctioned it again, and for all time, when after his resurrection He said of these same companions of his who had known his mind and become sharers of his purpose, "Go. Preach. Absolve. Baptize." That the Episcopalians would be found so arguing, their very name might have forewarned us. Episcopacy is nothing if not executive, a bishop meaningless save as a leader.
If now we turn to the Census Tables with a view to finding how the religious mind of America stands affected towards these various principles of polity, we discover that of the twenty millions of communicants (I speak in round numbers) nearly six millions are for home-rule, something more than three millions for recognition of a Church universal administered by the conciliar method, and almost twelve millions for the leadership principle; in other words, the friends of a polity of oversight outnumber all others by a clear majority of well-nigh three millions,--a striking fact, but one that is robbed of much of its apparent significance when we are told that under this head have been congregated three such dissonant and apparently irreconcilable elements as the Roman Catholics, the Methodists, and the Anglicans.
In quoting these comparative statistics, I am as far as possible from wishing to suggest that the method of arriving at a conclusion in this 'matter is by count of heads or show of hands; God forbid. Rather my purpose is to argue that since each one of the three methods has so many adherents, the probability is that there must be much good in each; and that better than the victory of any one would be the prevalence of some wise combination of them all. Why need it be thought a thing impossible that in the course of the next century this should be brought to pass?
Imagine a county Church. The centre of administration is the county-town. Here dwells the chief pastor of the Christians of the county. His position, although one of dignity, is not one of splendor. His duties are far more urgent than his honors are conspicuous. He is simply the master-missionary of the region, which, although large enough to keep him busy, is not so large as to make the personal care of souls impossible.
From time to time, at stated intervals, there gather about this leader his counsellors, clerical and lay. He and they consult together for the good of religion in the county, talk over the spiritual needs of the various towns and villages, plan anew the ever-shifting campaign, and make provision for the sinews of war. It is not necessary to suppose that all the nominal Christians in the County have given in their adhesion to this arrangement; for the purposes of our "iridescent dream" it will suffice if the great bulk of them have done so.
Well, then, have we not here a microcosm of the United Church? What is lacking? Anything? The home-rule principle has justice done to it; for the local Church of each town, each village, is, as respects the management of its affairs, the choice of its pastor, the handling of its revenues, autonomous. The synodal and conciliar principle has justice done to it; for, instead of each little group of disciples living by itself and for itself, as if no other group existed, we see the representatives of the groups coming together once a year, or as much oftener as may be found desirable, to exchange ideas, and incite one another to better things. The principle of leadership has justice done to it; for, convinced that what is everybody's business is nobody's business, the Christian people of the County have seated at the heart of things one whom they hold in a special sense responsible for the efficient conduct of their affairs. What is there inherently absurd or chimerical in such a picture as this?
The very same three principles work together happily enough in civil polity; what is to prevent their doing so in ecclesiastical polity?
Take a step further. Imagine the overseers of the various counties, together with representative pastors and representative laymen from each county, meeting together once in three years, or oftener if necessary, in the capital city of the State. There are religious interests that people have in common as citizens of the same State other and larger than those which they share as dwellers in the same county; such interests, for example, as those that pertain to marriage and divorce, the education of the young, and the tenure of Church property. The presidency of this larger Council would naturally fall to one of the county overseers, either because of his seniority in office, or because of the relative importance of the town or city which might happen to be the centre of his activities. Again, what is there intrinsically absurd or chimerical in this picture of a council representative of the religion of a whole State? Is any violence done to the principle of home-rule? Are not the value of conference and the importance of headship as fully recognized in this instance as in the other?
Take one more step. Imagine a bi-cameral assembly convened, we will say, once in nine or ten years, and representative of all the States of the Union, the smaller of the two Houses made up of representative chief-pastors, one, or at most two, for each State; and the larger composed of pastors and laymen in numbers proportionate to the populations of the States from which they come.
As in the case of the State Council, the presidency of this national body might be determined either by seniority or by such other consideration as experience should show to be the most urgent. Neither of the two Houses composing the National Council would be so large as to be cumbersome, for the number of our States is not likely ever to exceed one hundred; and with the two branches of a bi-cameral legislature standing to each other in the ratio of one hundred to three hundred, no serious difficulties of procedure would emerge.
There remains to be considered the question of worship. As there are three leading types of polity, so are there three marked varieties of divine service; to wit, the unliturgical, the elaborately liturgical, and what may be called the intermediate variety. What are we to do with these in the interest of American Catholicity? Abolish two out of the three? That would be rather an arduous undertaking. Jumble all three of them together, making a quartum quid, the like of which never was seen before? That would seem to be an endeavor less promising still. But what is there foolish in the suggestion that a single building, by the simple device of a greater frequency in the hours of service than is common among Protestants, might be made to meet the devotional needs alike of those who love a formal and of those who prefer, I will not say an informal, but a less formal method of publicly worshipping Almighty God? The Roman Church recognizes and acts upon a similar principle in its classification of Masses into Low Masses and High Masses. It is incumbent upon every good Romanist that he go to Mass, and he neglects the duty at the peril of his soul; but it is not exacted of him that he attend High Mass if he prefers Low. The English Church scores a good point against the Roman by insisting, as it does, upon having the public services rendered in "a tongue understanded of the people;" but the Roman Church scores a good point against the English in providing that within the walls of one and the same consecrated building widely different types of service shall at different hours find recognition.
It is true that I am pleading for a larger application of this principle than the Roman Church allows, since there is undoubtedly a wider gulf between the non-liturgical and the liturgical celebration of the divine mysteries than between High Mass and Low Mass; but even if the people of an American town felt that they must needs "build three tabernacles," so that each type of worship might have its own separate and distinctive home, there would still be fewer competing altars in that town by some six or seven than there are to-day. There may be, there probably are, Anglicans and Roman Catholics among us sanguine enough to suppose that the rising tide of liturgical interest, so noticeable in the religious life of America just now, is destined to continue rising until it shall hare swept everything before it. "Be patient," they say. "Much has been accomplished; more is coming. Wait a little, and presently you shall hear all American Christians singing their prayers on one note." I doubt it. We Americans are not all of us musical, and the unmusical ones are likely, in "this free country," to go on saying, instead of singing, their prayers to the end of the chapter. At the epoch of the Reformation, worship had become a fine art. Let it be practised as a fine art still for the benefit of those who are edified thereby; but let us bear in mind the fact that there are artisans in the world as well as artists, and not stupidly attempt to force a high esthetic standard upon souls not yet cultivated to the point of being able to apprehend it. The impact of Protestant thought upon the institute of worship may not, it is true, have produced all the effect that was anticipated; but it is unlikely that it will prove to have been wholly resultless. Some things have been learned that will not be unlearned, some franchises secured that will not be relinquished.
If liturgical worship really does possess that supreme excellence which many of us associate with it, we may safely trust to the workings of the law of natural selection to bring things out right in the end.
It may be objected to what I have been recommending, that to carry it out would complicate matters, and rob us of that simplicity which is one of religion's chiefest charms. But let us not suffer ourselves to be beguiled by words. Doubtless simplicity is of the very highest value, where it may be had. We marvel at, and are often disposed to covet, the simplicity of apostolic days. The Lady Ecclesia of that era made out to live and thrive, yes, and show a very fair and comely countenance, amid surroundings of a most unelaborate sort. Just as the queen, born a peasant girl, whom some King Cophetua had loved and wedded, might look back half sorrowfully from her throne-room in the palace with its weight of embroidered hangings, its wealth of gems and gold, to the old days when she walked barefoot, pitcher in hand, along the grassy path that led from the cottage' to the spring, so it is not unnatural for the modern Church, with all its inherited treasures, its great burden of memories, traditions, usages, its councils and canons, its ecclesiastical jurisprudence and ecclesio-logical wealth, to look back, now and then, with something like regret to those crisp morning hours when it was enough that there should be an upper room to meet in, a little bread and wine, a "hymn to Christ as God," and a few prayers. But to a great extent we must, in matters where evolution has had play, take things as we find them. Growths that have come to maturity cannot be spirited out of existence at a word. It is folly to suppose that the so-called simplicity of the seeding-time, a simplicity even at that stage of affairs more apparent than real, can be reinstated at will, or be depended upon to reproduce itself if only we can muster courage enough to cut down the existing tree. The cloud-giant of the Arabian tale was with difficulty coaxed back into his casket; vastly more formidable would be the task of compelling an oak to retire into an acorn. In a society which undertakes to embrace within its limits all sorts and conditions of men, and to meet the spiritual needs of every one of them, we must expect the administration of worship to prove itself a somewhat complex undertaking, and must not be discouraged at finding it necessary to tolerate, within the same ecclesiastical bounds, rites and usages strikingly diverse. Why should it be for me any greater hardship to dwell in the same Church with a man who dotes upon candles and incense, than to dwell in the same town with him? It is I who have to be "tolerated" as well as he.
We have now come into possession of three watchwords of unity. In the field of Dogma, theological and ethical, the watchword is Condensation; in the field of Polity, the watchword is Co-ordination; in the field of Worship, the watchword is Classification.
It will be said, and with much show of reason, that I have managed to get over the ground by jumping the pitfalls. But really it has been no part of my purpose to dodge the difficulties of the subject. I own to having made as sanguine a showing as I could; but that has been because I believe in the practice of hope, as a Christian virtue, and because I refuse to believe that the clearly defined purpose of Jesus Christ is destined to suffer defeat.
That in each one of the three fields we have been traversing there stands a crux, I have no desire to deny.
In the region of dogma, the crux is the sacramental theology. Unless the philosophy of grace can be declared neutral ground, and honestly dealt with as such, there is no hope for Christian unity, either in the near future or in the far.
In the region of polity, the crux is the value of historicity in connection with Holy Orders. Unless those who care nothing for the continuity of the sacred ministry can persuade themselves that it is worth while to conserve that continuity for the sake of those who do care very much about it, there is no hope for Christian unity either in the near future or in the far.
In the region of worship, the crux is again the sacramental element. Unless those who believe and those who do not believe in such a mystical presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist as differences that service intrinsically from all other exercises of worship, can be persuaded to bear with each other's ways in practice, there is no hope for Christian unity either in the near future or in the far, and our vision of a national Church is but a will-o-the-wisp.
It all turns upon whether the Tory, mystical, romanticist disposition which loves to take its light through stained glass, and the Whig, non-mystical, common-sense disposition which thinks to save the world by founding Useful Knowledge Societies can live together peaceably in the same house. The thing would seem to be impossible;--and yet the Book of Proverbs and the Book of Psalms rub shoulders in the one Bible; and the Christ of the Synoptists and the Christ of the Fourth Gospel are one Christ.
At any rate, I beseech you to acquit me of the slightest desire to minimize these difficulties. They are not to be disposed of by an airy wave of the hand, or conjured away by the magic of a few glib sentences. They lie deep; they are triple-walled; they frown. If I have shunned discussing them in detail, it has not been from any lack of appreciation of their magnitude, but simply because of a conviction that my time might be better bestowed upon obstacles which could be shown to be removable. In the enchanted forest that surrounds the palace where the sleeping princess lies, there is much wood-cutting of a manageable sort to be done before we reach the densest thicket of all. For the present, those students of the subject do most to help forward national churchmanship who concentrate their strength on the task of finding where the line runs between the difficulties which are imaginary and the difficulties which are real. In the minds of most persons the two sorts of barriers loom equally large. To teach men to discriminate is to help them on their way. Stuffed lions and live lions at a little distance look alike, but they are not equally to be feared.
I have spoken throughout from the view-point of a member of the Episcopal Church. There are hopeful signs, not a few, that that body is beginning to discern the pettiness of its old denominationalism, and is awaking to a sense of what true catholicity demands. It is no longer seriously contended that the momentous issues of national churchmanship are to be settled by ascertaining which discoverer first sighted land on what is now the territory of the United States, or by proving that the first baby christened within the colonies was baptized into this faith or that. It has come to be discerned that the roots of the question strike much deeper and spread much further.
Moreover, what is better still, kindliness and sympathy are coming to the fore in unexampled plenitude. We are discovering how many of our old alienations were founded upon strifes of words rather than on strifes of fact. A little of the oil of gladness goes a long way as a lubricant. What we need now is to get near each other. When the picket-guards of bivouacking armies find themselves within speaking distance, they are very apt to acknowledge one another not such bad fellows after all.
Then, again, there is that advice of St. Paul's about looking, not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Slowly we are learning to grow mutually appreciative. Even in the case of that widest, deepest, and apparently most hopeless of all the gulfs that yawn across Christendom, I mean that which sunders Roman Catholics from Protestants, when we consider that northern Europe is almost wholly of the one complexion and southern Europe almost wholly of the other, there is much to be said in favor of a partition of awards. It does seem absurd, upon the face of it, does it not? to suppose that all the goodness and all the truth are with the northern nations, and all the badness and all the error with the southern ones.
Moreover, it behooves all of us to be modest. The more confident a man is of the soundness of his position, the less need has he to bluster about it. The Hebrew people in the times before Christ had the strongest possible grounds for ecclesiastical self-confidence. They knew themselves to be in a true and a deep sense the people of God; theirs were the promises, theirs the tables of the Law, theirs the Scriptures of truth. All the same, when some of them took to boasting rather noisily about it, and exclaimed with vexatious iteration, as if once were not enough, "The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are we," God sent his prophet to give them fair warning that if they went on talking in that supercilious way He would quickly put them on a level, in the matter of privilege, with the "out-landers" whom they despised. "The true policy for every denomination that is among us is to begin at the other end, and, frankly recognizing as bona fide members of Christ's Holy Church Universal all who have been baptized with water into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, to see whether it cannot modestly contribute something that shall help this sacramental host to realize in outward form and shape its already latent oneness.
The Episcopal Church in this new world stands, at the present moment, at the parting of the way. After a century of infancy, a century of childhood, and a century of adolescence, she has come at last to her majority, and reports for duty. "For duty," and towards whom? Towards all, no doubt, whom her voice can reach or her hand help, but in a special sense towards those twenty millions of believers who among our sixty or seventy millions of population have with their own mouth and consent openly acknowledged Christ. Her errand to these is the errand of the reconciler and the peacemaker.
Leadership is what is wanted. The land cries out for it,--'Wise, sympathetic, modest, clear-eyed, fearless leadership. Gladly, in the present temper of our American Christendom, gladly would this leadership be conceded to the historic Church of the English-speaking peoples, were she only to show a willingness to meet half-way with friendly concessions and just acknowledgments that could in no wise harm her claims, those who read the same Bible, honor the same Sacraments, and love the same Lord Jesus Christ.
Surely an American Catholic Church worthy of the name ought to have some goodlier words for those whom it is her duty to gather and include, than the cold, hard, stolid Non possumus of absolutism, or the sharp apothegm, This people which knoweth not the rubrics is accursed.
If we would enlist the strong minds, the warm hearts, the strenuous souls of our day in the service of the Church of Christ, the Church of Christ must be attractively presented. Her grandeur must be appreciated, the wide reach of her comprehensiveness displayed. The trouble is that we too often identify the Church of God with all manner of trifling details that are no part of its essence, and then lift up hands of holy horror if one whom we are trying to win retorts contemptuously, "Is that the society, that the spiritual commonwealth, that the fellowship of souls, in behalf of which you would have me work myself up into a fine enthusiasm? No, I have better things to do; loftier aims absorb me, and larger hopes. Build your little city. I go my way."
But would you turn this haughty critic's slur into a humble prayer for guidance? Show him the true picture of the Church of God. Let him see the length and breadth and height and depth of it. Open his eyes to behold that innumerable company of faithful men who even now, to-day, in all climates, under all skies, are making the imitation of Christ their persistent aim. When the Kingdom is thus conceived of, when it is recognized as gathering up into itself all that has been most precious in the past, and all that makes for greater spiritual achievement in days to come, we cease to wonder at a saying attributed to one of the worthies of the primitive days, "He that hath God for his Father hath the Church for his Mother;" for this ministration to the ideal side of our nature, of which I have been speaking, is the very sort of mothering we want. We are tempted to grow hard, we are tempted to grow bitter, we are tempted to grow cynical; for human life, as we see it, has much that is repellent to show, much that is despicable, much that is sordid. Is there, we ask, can there be any hope for such a world as this? The vision of the city that is at unity with itself is God's reply. For that, it is worth one's while to live. For that, some, peradventure, might even dare to die.