Images de page
PDF
ePub

feeling that I was right in doing whatever the new interpretation authorized me to do. Nay, to tell you the truth, there were one or two advantages which, according to my unassisted light, I did not believe that the lease had given me. But the judgment was explicit; these advantages I was authorized to take. I took them. Was I wrong?"

“It somewhat depends on what those advantages were, and on the terms of the lease as compared with the terms of the judgment; but I see whither you are leading me.”

“Of course you do, Frere. Now, I know that Bristow Wilson has been terribly mauled by all the reviews for his dictum that in this matter of ecclesiastical right and position the legal is the measure of the moral obligation. But what does the man mean, save this, that in disputed points of interpretation, the law must define whether, where, and how the Prayer Book and Articleswhich constitute our lease, remember-have been transgressed, and that a clergyman has no more business to set up his private interpretation of a clause in the Liturgy than I have to set up my private interpretation of a clause in the lease. Such and such are the conditions of the clergyman's tenure. Has he kept them or not? Ashley says to poor Oriel Moss, the clergyman of the next parish,

You have broken the covenant, for you talk about the Real Presence, and have old women to auricular confession. Moss retaliates on Ashley, 'You are the violator, for you don't believe in baptismal regeneration. Then they both together set upon their neighbour Macmaurice, armed with Dr. Pusey's letters to the Record, and denounce him as unfaithful to his vows. Now, my dear Frere, I ask you seriously, who is to decide in all this confusion? What else can be done but that Ashley, Moss, and Macmaurice should go to the competent authority and have their ' lease' interpreted, and henceforth act upon the interpretation without fear and without reproach ?”

“Should you like me to analyze your fallacies, my dear Arnold, before you go any further?”

" By no means, old fellow. The fact is, you see, I am in a humour just now for talking, and I want to make my case clear. You know you can expound at any time.”

“Well,” I added, with a smile, “ go on. Only take notice, I very decidedly object, first, to the applicability of your analogy all through ; and, secondly, to your competent authority' which you say is to decide.”

“Don't object, pray, till I have done. I was just coming to that latter point. Here, then, I say, are the parties in the Church. They all confess that the Church is that of the nation, therefore for the nation, and in covenant with the nation. Now, when any of these sections unchurches the rest, what better thing can it do than appeal to the nation, in its supreme central authority ?

“Meaning the Queen, in Privy Council ? This is what it must do, you know. Henry the Eighth, from the day when he beheaded Sir Thomas More, left it no alternative. L'eglise c'est moi.

"Never mind that, must or ought, it is all one. Remember, I am pursuing the idea of a National Church; and in this controversy as to its limits the true thing is to get at the mind of the nation, through its supreme ruler.”

" Seriously, my dear Arnold, I would rather hear you talk of a Christian Church, and of the appeal to 'the mind of Christ' as its limiting authority.”

“You know me better, Frere, than to suppose that I forget this. But we want the conditions—at least I do—under which the Christian Church may be realized in outward form in this land of ours—and it is because I think we have found them, and have succeeded, in a way undreamed of by any previous generation, in making our highest national life coincident with our Church life, that I am so earnest. For the thing has been brought to three distinct issues. We have among the Christian people of this land just three main divisions—I hardly care what you call them.”

“Nothing can be better than Conybeare's classification into High, Evangelical, and Broad, Churchmen.

“Nothing worse I should say, than such use of the word Evangelical,' as the badge of a sect. Besides, I believe that Conybeare's word was Recordite. However, there the three parties are;—the patristic, the puritan, and the progressionist.”

“Better say at once, the attitudinarians, the platitudinarians, and the latitudinarians.'”

“Unfair again, though neat enough. However, every one of the three parties has been brought to book, and a status formally assured to it in the Church. First, the Gorham case decided that the ‘Evangelical' puritan party had a right to minister at the national altars. Secondly, the Denison case, although it went off upon a collateral point, vindicated the same liberty for the ‘Anglo Catholics, as they are absurdly called : and now, thirdly, the advocates of free thought are let in by the decision on “Essays and Reviews.' There is no Christian thinker in England, therefore, who may not come within our ecclesiastical system. 'Unity and variety' is our motto now, undisputed and indefeasible; the unity of a Christian nation, and the variety of individual belief."

“Notwithstanding the Prayer Book,” I could not help again suggesting.

"No, but by virtue of the Prayer Book, thus asserted to be the charter of English spiritual freedom. It was all very well to call the Gorham decision 'the charter of the Evangelicals ;' but now the other two parties have their charter too, and I say it is unbecoming for Archdeacon Denison and the Record to rage against a legal decision which equally protects them all.”

“But, after all, Arnold, you draw a strange picture of a Church bound together in unity, with its sections 'raging against' each other. So have I seen three hounds in a leash forcibly united, but snarling none the less !”.

"Don't be sarcastic, Frere, mon frère. Don't you see that all this disputing is but a transient thing, the result of recent irritation ? Already the wisest, most far-seeing members of each section are seeing that their policy is to accept their position, and to fraternize with all the rest, at least in worship and in Church order ? So I take Archdeacon Allen's significant citation, ‘In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.' Look at our secular community. The Whigs and Tories abuse each other heartily enough sometimes, say that their opponents are unworthy the name of Englishmen, and so on, but you don't find any of them proposing either to expatriate themselves or to banish the opposite faction. No, they all live together, rejoicing in the common name of Briton; with views' and theories of life and notions of government wide as the poles asunder, but when a common danger threatens, united in an instant, as one man, to protect their country. This, too, is a picture of our Church, as the successive decisions we are talking about have declared it to be. It is not a sect, but a holy nation. If a sect, it would believe something special, say baptismal regeneration, or personal election, or verbal inspiration, and excommunicate everybody who believed the opposite. There was a time, too, when it seemed likely to become just this. Mr. Maurice shows plainly enough in this letter of his, that the Convocation, if it had possessed the power, would have brought it into this position half-a-dozen times over. But, thank Heaven ! the power of deciding is in wiser heads, and their decision has at last declared the Church truly national.”

“The secular, then, is above the spiritual, in pronouncing on the concerns of the kingdom of Christ?”.

“In such a matter as this, yes. If you have a creed, as I suppose you have, inserted in your chapel trust deed, and the question arises whether you are faithful to all its clauses, whom would you ask to decide ?”.

“A committee of Christian men, fairly chosen.”

“Then I wouldn't. I would have the dry light' and the passionless eye of the law directed even to a matter like that. But in the case of the Church of England the issues are vastly more important. And, begging pardon of your cloth, I would rather entrust the decision to the judicial than to the clerical mind. Were they Churchmen or Dissenters who called in the civil courts in the case of Lady Hewley's Trust, to determine whether Unitarians were or were not 'ministers of Christ's holy Gospel'? Did not the Baptists go before the Court of Chancery with the Norwich chapel case?"

"Yes; in both instances to determine questions of fact and usage, not to declare the limits of a creed. But I grant most fully that, while the Church of England enjoys the national ecclesiastical revenues, the supreme civil power must always decide on the conditions of tenure. Dr. Pusey may argue as cogently as he knows how to do on the indefeasible rights of a spiritual body like the Church, but he forgets that your Church has surrendered these rights by its unspiritual alliance with the State.”

"Oh, if you are going now to bring in the ‘Liberation ' question, I cry you mercy. Let us leave that alone for to-night.”

" That is not so easy, seeing the points you raise take us to the very heart of it.”

"Perhaps they do, by some short cut or other, but I confess, my dear Frere, I do want your honest opinion upon the effect of these three judgments. Do you not think that they have made the Church of England incalculably stronger ?”

“Yes, I do, frankly, provided two things further can be attained.”

“And what are these?

“Why, first, that the parties now included by authority within the pale of the Establishment can be kept from quarrelling with one another.”

“And have I not shown "

“Stop a minute. You have expressed your belief that the present irritation will pass away. Very likely it may. But can you seriously believe that the national feeling will ever so prevail over the theological that the clergy will quietly agree to differ' on questions which many of them at least regard as vital to Christianity? How, again, will you regulate the conduct of bishops in the matter of ordination? One will refuse orders to the believer in baptismal regeneration, and another will decline to admit the unbeliever. Colensos will be inhibited' from preaching charity sermons, and Jowetts will be robbed of their rightful wages. To my mind, the strife is only beginning, and the judgments of which you are so proud will have to be followed by an Episcopal Riot Act.”

"Well, we shall see. You confess that our Church has become all the stronger, provided these disputes can be made to cease. I believe they will,' in the fellowship of a common worship, as Maurice says.”

“But you forget that I had a second point. Your Church, I say, will have become the stronger, provided, again, the conscience of the community can reconcile itself to the broad interpretations of the Liturgy and Articles. I confess that I do not think it will. Notwithstanding your clever argument about the lease and its conditions, I do not believe that the people of England will ever be got to hold that, in such a matter as this, 'the legal is the measure of the moral obligation. They will judge for themselves every time they read the Prayer Book; and in spite of the Gorham decision, and Lord Westbury's moderate and dignified' words ".

“Don't be sarcastic, my dear fellow.” “Am I not quoting Mr. Maurice ?"

“Oh no; all that he says is, that the late decision is conceived in a temper of excellent modesty.'”

“Well, I say that it will be hard work to persuade the millions of people who read the Prayer Book, that the Church of England does not require from its clergy an explicit assent to the doctrine of baptismal regeneration; or that a denial of the truth of Scripture, or of the doctrine of everlasting punishment, is consistent with clerical subscription. Witness the immense success of Mr. Spurgeon's late sermons.”

"You don't mean to say, Frere, that you quote Mr. Spurgeon seriously, in a theological argument ?"

“I presume you have discovered from the Saturday Review, or from Dr. Goode, that he knows nothing of theology ?"

“ The Saturday Review! nonsense : but who is Dr. Goode ?"

“Really, my dear Arnold, you should be better 'up' in the literature of your own Church. Have you forgotten the Dean of Ripon,—the great authority for the ‘Evangelical’interpretation of the baptismal passages ? No doubt Mr. Ashley would lend you his works. But I quoted Mr. Spurgeon just now, not because he is a theologian (which he is, after all-sneers notwithstanding), but because he hits more than any other living man the popular common-sense way of looking at religious questions. And when he says, 'Don't tell me of Gorham judgments, there are the words of the Prayer Book,' and so on, he only gives expression to the unsophisticated feeling of the masses.”

“Well, I must confess that is very much as if one of our old opponents in the Brewery estate question should come to me and say, 'Don't tell me of the Chancery judgment; look at the clauses in the lease.'”

“No, Arnold, the two things are different different as a

« PrécédentContinuer »