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It might have been imagined from the solemnity of the ordination vow, and from the peculiar sanctity supposed to attach to the clerical profession, that clergymen would be distinguished from lawyers, soldiers, and members of other secular professions, by their deference and obedience to their superiors. It might have been imagined that this would be especially true of men who were continually preaching the duty of passive obedience in the sphere of politics, and the transcendent and almost divine prerogatives of Episcopacy in the sphere of religion. As a matter of fact, however, this has not been the case.
If the most constant, contemptuous, and ostentatious defiance, both of civil and ecclesiastical authorities, be a result of the Protestant principle of private judgment, it may be truly said that the extreme High Church party in more than one period of its history has shown itself, in this respect at least, the most Protestant of sects. While idolizing Episcopacy in the abstract, its members have made it a main object of their policy to bring most existing Bishops into contempt, and their polemical writings have been conspicuous, even in theological literature, for their feminine spitefulness and for their recklessness of assertion. The last days of Tillotson were altogether embittered by the stream of calumny, invective, and lampoons, of which he was the object. One favourite falsehood, repeated in spite of the clearest disproof, was that he had never been baptised.-Lecky's History of the Eighteenth Century, vol. i. pp. 86-88.
. For the Sacerdotalists of the eighteenth century take the Sacerdotalists of the nineteenth; for Archbishop Tillotson substitute Archbishop Tait, and de te fabula narratur. Caustic, however, as Mr. Lecky is, he has failed to trace this common likeness to its common source in the two centuries. The cause is probably to be found in the conception formed of the Church by the Sacerdotal School of the two periods. To their imaginations she has stood ever in the front, an august and majestic figure bearing on her crowned brow the words, Quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus. Such a conception has been a pure work of imagination. It has had no existence in fact. It is but a great name given to an abstraction of the mind; a vague, shapeless shadow beneath the majesty of which each man may idolize his own private judgment and stamp it with an ideal Catholicism. But with such a conception in view it is not surprising that the actual claims of practical authority should be disregarded, and treated with contempt in face of a supreme authority, which, were not the conception as utterly baseless in fact as it is imposing in theory, would naturally overshadow particular persons, however high their office, into insignificance. If the curious accuracy of Mr. Lecky's portraiture be doubted, or its application to some moderns be called into question, we have only to refer the doubter to the Church Herald of July 15, 1874.
But while there can be no truce between the Evangelical
School and practices, which are the unwritten language of doctrines offensive to all our deepest convictions, there is another class of devotional practices which are common to more parties than one, and which, consequently, furnish no line of distinction between the Evangelical School and other Schools with which we stand in conflict. I refer to practices relative to the solemnity of public worship, to the honourable beauty of the outward structure, to the office of the Christian ministry, as being of Divine appointment, and not of Ecclesiastical convenience, and to the authority of the Church as an organised society, with“ power to decree rites or ceremonies, and authority in controversies of faith” (Art. xx.).
No candid mind will claim perfection for the Evangelical School, or be ashamed of admitting that in modern times it has learned something from its opponents. It is probabl true that higher conceptions of the functions of the Church, and of the value of the sacraments now prevail than were common among Evangelicals fifty years ago; but this change, if it be a fact, has only brought the School back to the standpoint of its most eminent founders. In those practices which are distinctive of Sacerdotal doctrine there has been no approximation between the Schools; no, not a single hair's breadth. There is, however, a tendency in the human mind in avoiding one extreme to approach rashly towards another. There is danger lest, in getting as far as possible from a given error, the simple standard of revelation should be overstepped, and some corrective truths overlooked in the very vehemence of the rebound. It is not given to any human mind to embrace with equal clearness and force every section of the Divine circle of truth. We cannot yet see things as God sees them. The Great Master governs His Church in a great degree by the action of contraries. Each man sees with peculiar vividness some truth or class of truths, and for that truth he must contend with all his might. He sees a part, where God sees the whole ; grasps a part, while God holds in His mighty hands all the converging lines in one perfect and harmonious unity. That in their strong revulsion from Romish or Romanizing teaching some ardent minds should trench too far towards the other side is no more than natural. Richard Cecil saw and lamented the tendency in his own day.
Man is a creature of extremes—the middle path is generally the wise path, but there are few wise enough to find it. Because Papists have made too much of some things, Protestants have made too little of them : the Papists treat man as all sense; some Protestants would treat him as all spirit. Because one party has exalted the Virgin into a divinity, the other can scarcely think of that “most highly-favoured among women” with respect. The Papist puts the Apocrypha into his
canon; the Protestant will scarcely regard it as an ancient record. The Popish heresy of human merit in justification drove Luther on the other side into most unwarrantable and unscriptural statements of that doctrine. The Papist considers grace as inseparable from the participation of the Sacraments; the Protestants too often lose sight of them as instituted means of conveying grace. — Remains, p. 168.
The attitude of the Evangelical Fathers, adjusted to the parties of our own day, may be aptly described by the phrase
Protestant Evangelical Churchmen.” Mr. Overton, in his sketch of the Evangelical Revival, states that the early Evangelicals were as firmly attached to the Church and to parochial order as the highest of High Churchmen. Dr. Stoughton states that while “ Newton and Scott were friendly with Methodists, and were not shocked at the Ecclesiastical irregularities of their fellow-labourers, Cecil and others were Churchmen to the backbone, and intensely disliked the doings of the itinerants."
Cecil says of himself, “ I never choose to forget that I am a priest, because I would not deprive myself of the right to dictate in my ministerial capacity.” Newton in his “ Theologia” expresses himself thus—“Though the Bishop who ordained me laid me under no restrictions, I would not have applied to him for ordination if I had not previously determined to submit to his authority and to the rules of the Church."-Works, vol. v. pp. 44, 45.
It is true that Venn, of Huddersfield, did himself itinerate. But his son writes, “Induced by the hope of doing good, my father, in certain instances, preached in unconsecrated places. But having ackowledged this, it becomes my pleasing duty to state that he was no advocate for irregularity in others ; that when he afterwards considered it in its different bearings and connections, he lamented that he had given way to it; and restrained several other persons from such acts by the most urgent arguments.”—The English Church, vol. ii. p. 184.
Thomas Scott's loyal attachment to the Church was attested by the publication of his “Seven Letters on the Evils of Separation from the Church of England.” Simeon, as already stated elsewhere, was charged by the writers of his day with being more of a Churchman than a Gospel-man. And in the discussions of the Eclectic Society it appears that the unanimous opinion of the brethren held schism to be a sin. Firm attachment to the Church of England, therefore, and a devout recognition of her claims on the obedience of her ministers, and of the Divine appointment of the ministerial office, furnish no line of demarcation by which the Evangelical School can be distinguished from the Anglican School, either of the eighteenth or of the nineteenth centuries.
Nor did there exist in the Evangelical Fathers any lack of re
verence for the Sacraments, or any tendency to depreciate baptism, or to neglect the Lord's Supper. Any such accusation would be most untrue. Simeon protested against being misrepresented, as if he thought meanly of the Sacrament. “All penitent adults have in baptism the remission of their sins sealed to them, and the Spirit in a more abundant measure communicated. Infants dedicated to God in baptism may, and often do (though in a way not discoverable by us save by its fruits), receive a new nature from the Spirit of God in and with and by that ordinance;" and he prefaces the statement thus: “We are no more disposed to detract from the honour of that sacred ordinance than our adversaries themselves.” At a later period he expressed himself somewhat more cautiously. We have not, indeed, very ample materials for ascertaining the views of the Evangelical Fathers on the Sacraments, because it was not this side of doctrine which had been forgotten in their day, or consequently which they had need to revive and to confirm. Their work lay in the vivid proclamation of those “doctrines of grace” which all writers admit had nearly disappeared from the pulpits of the Church of England in the first half of the eighteenth century. But we have intimations here and there in the story of their lives and labours, from which their views may be not obscurely gathered. We know, for instance, that Thomas Scott administered a weekly communion at Lothbury. And earlier in the movement we read of such immense numbers of communicants thronging to the ordinance as to prove that “mad Grimshaw” himself had no low estimate of that blessed Sacrament. Three thousand persons are recorded to have received the consecrated memorials of the Body and Blood of Christ at one time, and no less than thirty bottles of wine to have been used in a single administration. Neglect of the Sacraments was, therefore, no characteristic of their system.
Neither, again, is the specific characteristic of the Evangelical School to be found in the careless performance of Church ordinances, or the disrespectful neglect of the sacred buildings appropriated to public worship. This has been a common charge ; but it unjustly shifts on to the shoulders of the Evangelicals what was the general fault of the Anglicans of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and especially of that section popularly known as the “high and dry !” That the services of the Church were wretchedly conducted, the congregations irreverent in the extreme, and the churches themselves neglected and mean, can scarcely be denied. Archbishop Secker, in 1750, thus described the condition of the churches of his day: “Some, I fear, have scarcely been kept in necessary present repair, and others by no means duly cleared from annoyances, which must gradually bring them to decay; water undermining and rotting the foun
dations, earth heaped up against the outside, weeds and shrubs growing upon them. Too frequently the floors are meanly paved, or the walls dirty or patched, or the windows ill-glazed, and it may be, in fact, stopped up or they are damp, offensive, and unwholesome." So much for the structures. Dr. Stoughton draws a picture of the same general character. “In country villages, where no exemplary minister was found, where the rector or curate lived a free and easy life, and liked to drink a dish of tea with the landlady, and afterwards a bowl of punch with the landlord of the inn, not much attention would be paid either to spiritual necessities, or to the decencies of religious service. Buildings were neglected; chancel and nave fell into decay ; the communion-table presented a shabby appearance; surplices were dirty; the singing was miserable; the preaching no better; and, from beginning to end, everything presented a slovenly aspect” (I. p. 286). He tells a story, that the high-backed pews which have only of late years been ejected from our churches originated in the reign of Queen Anne, and were occasioned by complaints that the maids of honour and the gentlemen of the Court at Whitehall and elsewhere spent their time in looking at one another, instead of attending to their religious duties. All accounts concur in representing the irreverence of the age as absolutely shocking during the early part of the century. Addison thus describes the demeanour of a friend of Will Honeycomb: “He seldom comes in till the prayers are about half over, and when he has entered his seat (instead of joining with the congregation) he devoutly holds his hat before his face for three or four moments, then bows to all his acquaintances, sits down, takes a pinch of snuff, and spends the remaining time in surveying the congregation.” When all allowances are made for exaggeration, the picture that remains is equally melancholy and offensive.
Now, on what section of the Church must rest the responsibility of this state of things ? Surely, on that party which had a predominant influence, and yet allowed the evil to grow unchecked. This party was High Church, and its prevalence at that time is unquestionable. An attempt has been made to call this predominance into question, and so to relieve the School of the responsibility of the unhappy state of things that has been described. But the more closely the matter is examined the more firmly does the odium rest on the shoulders of High Churchmen. Mr. Lecky establishes the fact with his usual abundance of evidence in the first volume of his History (pp. 53-57 and pp. 7380); and that the High Churchmen of the eighteenth century were the legitimate progenitors of the Sacerdotalists of the nineteenth has been illustrated in a passage already quoted in this Paper. That this irreverent slovenliness in the services and in