Page images



JUL 2 7 1938 2145 GANA


At a time when all human things are in a state of solution, it is not surprising that the Anglican Church should be showing many signs of unrest and change. Her position in the Christian world is essentially central. Impatient spirits may dislike the via media and seek other paths, but it remains true that, like every art, the art of life is most perfectly practised by those who follow the golden rule of moderation. If there is anything our age needs it is the re-discovery of the old Greek principle of undè åyav—nothing in excess. It is an age of shrieking partisans, and of revolutionaries who are prepared to destroy everything in the hope that something else may turn up,

At such a time an institution which steadfastly holds the middle path is of inestimable value to mankind.

In spite of certain causes of apprehension, there are two signs which indicate that the Anglican Church is not likely to depart from the course which her history and genius have marked out for her. First, the Report of the Lambeth Conference of 1920, and especially the

Appeal to all Christian People," dealing with the subject of reunion, show that the Episcopate of the whole Communion is not only true to the great Anglican tradition but is also seeking to promote the unity of Christendom by taking full advantage of the central position of their Church. It is not too much to say that never before in the history of Anglicanism was the value of its mediating position so evident.

Secondly, it is to be observed that, while one very

active party is seeking to draw the Church towards mediaevalism, there is an equally active, though not perhaps so numerous, section which is moving towards a position which is wholly irreconcilable with mediaeval methods of thought. The aim of the former is to produce an obedient laity, disciplined through the confessional, and satisfied with the sacramental ministrations of the Church. The aim of the latter is to give full play to scientific criticism in its dealing with the sacred texts, and to make the search for truth the task of a perfectly liberated intellect. It is impossible to combine two such opposite purposes in one system.

Meanwhile the great body of the Church, both clerical and lay, keeps to the old historical middle path, “ clinging to all that is valuable in the old and welcoming all that is true in the new.” The main desire of the Christian soul to-day is to make sure of the essentials of the Faith and to find in those essentials guidance amid the perplexities of the modern world. And more and more it is being realised that the essentials of the Faith are summed up in Jesus Christ. Fidelity to Him is to-day, as of old, the rock on which the Church must be built.

If the Church finds the continual source of her inspiration in Christ, she cannot go wrong. For, in Him, she has not only a personal object of Faith, but also a principle which will keep her ever in the true path. Also in Him, she will find that which overcomes the opposition between Faith and Freedom ; for He is, at once, the unchanging Word of God and the prophet of spiritual liberty.

Only in the strength of a Faith which is thus centred in Christ, can the Anglican Church use her great central position so as to become the means of drawing together into one the scattered elements of Christian Faith and Life. If she is true to her trust and capable of a large faith, she may, in the providence of God, be called to a very glorious destiny.


Of late years there has been a marked growth of the spirit of toleration with a corresponding dislike of religious controversy.

This has been especially noticeable among the great body of sound Anglicans who are averse from extremes. They have been very reticent amid the conflict of opinions, though others of their fellow-Church people have not. Meanwhile the Roman Catholics have been carrying on an active propaganda, and the Church of Rome has taken full advantage of the opportunities afforded it through the Press of putting itself in a favourable light before the British public. The consequence is that there has grown up in this country a generation less accurately informed than any that has preceded it about the great religious issues which were at stake in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

All along, till within the last thirty years or so, it has been customary for teaching to be given, in accordance with the 66th Canon, on the points of difference between the Church of England and the Church of Rome. That teaching has practically ceased, and it has therefore seemed that it might be timely and useful if a volume of essays were issued setting forth historically and otherwise the principles which formed the basis of the Reformation Settlement in England, and the opportunities of extended influence which lie before the Anglican Communion as Catholic and Reformed.

The writers of the Essays have all of them had in view the great end of the ultimate reunion of Christendom, so that the whole Catholic Church might confront its task of Christianising the world as visibly and co-operatively one Body. Yet there can be no reunion between us and a great and venerable part of the Western Church till, to quote Archbishop Laud's words, “ Rome is other than she is.” Nothing is more earnestly to be longed for than that the members of the Roman Church, and more particularly its leaders, should become cognisant of the obstacles to reunion which arise from its persistence in its unreformed methods of teaching and influence. It is in no mere spirit of censoriousness that the errors of Rome are brought to light anew in this volume, but rather with a view to suggesting a reconsideration on all hands of the old difficulties which in that quarter obstruct the fulfilment of the Master's Great Design for the unity of His Church.

The Essays have been arranged, as far as possible, in a consecutive order, though they may be read independently of one another. The writers of the Essays have been of one mind as to the general aim and purpose of the book; but they have been placed under no limitations of self-expression, and, ranging as they do separately over a wide area of detail, each can be held responsible only for what he himself has written.

« PreviousContinue »