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revival of spiritual life, like the revival of letters in the thirteenth century, took place, and that this section of the Church of England, in common with other sections, partook of its quickening influence; but it is that the Evangelical School, taking its rise in the middle of the eighteenth century in the persons of a few men-not powerful from their wealth and social position, not remarkable for special intellectual genius or for vast erudition, not giving expression to the secret thought of their times or of their Church, but standing in opposition to it, and struggling against obloquy and reproach-has yet permeated and interpenetrated with its own spiritual force the heart and mind and conscience of the Church of Christ in this country for a period of more than a hundred years. In the face of such a fact despondency and timidity in the maintenance of our principles should be for ever discarded.
The mind naturally inquires about the source of this power, and the elements that have composed it. Two answers have been given, and it would seem that two answers only are possible. The one attributes the result to the character of the men themselves, principally of its first founders, and subsequently of those who have received their mantle, and inherited their spirit; the other attributes it to the doctrines embodied in the School—that is, to the vital power of the truth which formed the substance and communicated the quickening energy to their teaching.
“The points," Mr. Gladstone says, “ in which the Evangelical School permanently differed from the older and traditional Anglicanism were those of the Church, the Sacraments, and the forensic idea of Justification. They are not, in my view, the strong points, and I do not wish to dwell upon them." Accordingly, in contrast with them, he proceeds to place what he assumes to be the primary points of difference. Its main characteristic was of a higher order. It was a strong, systematic, outspoken, and determined reaction against the pervading standards both of life and preaching. It aimed at bringing back on a large scale, and by an aggressive movement, the Cross, and all that the Cross essentially implies, both in the teaching of the clergy, and into the lives as well of the clergy as of the laity.” In this effort it is admitted that they succeeded; “ the pith and life of the Evangelical teaching, as it consists in the reintroduction of Christ our Lord to be the woof and warp of teaching, was the great gift of the movement to the teaching church, and has now penetrated and possessed it on a scale so general, that it may be considered as pervading the whole mass.” Let the statement be accepted ; but how did the Evangelical Fathers succeed in reintroducing Christ the Lord as the woof and warp of teaching, but by inculcating those very doctrines which Mr. Gladstone professes to put on one side as questions of
inferior importance. What is the “preaching of the Gospel" which the Evangelical fathers are stated to have restored, but the doctrines relative to the person and work of Christ. There are few of these doctrines more crucial than the very three which are deemed not to be strong points of the Evangelical School. They are the doctrines of all doctrines. Let it be said that the soul derives spiritual life by membership with the Church; that the body and blood of Christ are in, with, or under the consecrated bread and wine; that justifying righteousness is inherent and not imputed — and in every case our Lord is pushed into the background, and other objects interposed between Him and the sinner. Yet it is implied (p. 14) that these doctrines are negative, not positive. The Evangelical teaching is but the echo of the eleventh, the nineteenth, and the twenty-fifth Articles, and in all these Articles the language is not negative, but affirmative and didactic to the utmost degree.
The statement, therefore, that the great obligation conferred by the Evangelical School upon the Church of England consists in “having roused her from her slumbers and set her vigorously to work” (p. 10) is scarcely consistent with the admission that the revival of Gospel preaching was due to it, or with the statement in another place (p. 24) that the function of the School is to keep alive “the vigour and activity in the Anglican body of those ' doctrines of grace,' without which the salt of Christianity soon loses all its savour” (p. 24). It may, however, possibly be thought that the spiritual force of the School is due not to the doctrines they preached, but to the depth of conviction and fervency of zeal with which they were preached. It would be not only foolish, but ungrateful, to overlook the service rendered to the Church by the personal qualities of the Evangelical Fathers. Their profound convictions, their intense earnestness, their selfsacrificed devotedness, their self-abnegation, their heroic courage, their lofty faith and spirit of devotion, were worthy of all admiration. It is scarcely possible to exalt them too highly. Nevertheless, no force of personal qualities can adequately account for the work that has been accomplished. For personal qualities only act upon the circle of those who are brought into personal contact, and this circle is, after all, a narrow one. It was so especially with men who, like Newton, Scott, Romaine, Cecil, and Simeon, were pastors of congregations, or incumbents of parishes, which taxed all their energies, and from which the most vexatious and trying opposition was sometimes encountered, as with Newton and Scott at Olney, and Simeon at Cambridge. No doubt the itinerancy maintained during the earliest stages of the revival extended the sphere of personal influence. The immense labours of Wesley and Whitefield, within the sphere of Methodism, and of Grimshaw of Howarth, and Berridge of Everton, outside of it, must have acted over a very considerable area. It has been computed that Whitefield preached from forty to sixty hours every week, and ten or even twenty thousand hearers at a time would hang breathlessly on his words. Grimshaw itinerated throughout the Northern counties, Berridge in the Eastern, Toplady and Walker in Devon and Cornwall, and all of them with a burning zeal that knew no weariness. By these labours, the seeds of truth must have been sown broadcast throughout the land, and men's minds have been brought into a receptive condition. But the impression produced by the personal earnestness of the preachers, valuable as it must have been in establishing what Aristotle calls the hos of the speakers, must have been in itself too superficial to have lived, still less to have worked, without some solid basis of doctrinal truth to support it. By the very necessities of the human constitution, strong and permanent affections can only be excited and maintained by equally strong and permanent convictions. Every human emotion has its root in some truth apprehended by the understanding. It is certainly conceivable that a general sentiment of reverence and desire may have been aroused by such preaching and such preachers in persons who understood but little of the truths presented and impersonated; but such a sentiment can have had no vitality. It must have been too nerveless to act upon others; too deficient in backbone to be able to stand by itself. The holy enthusiasm of the Evangelical Fathers was a powerful instrument for exciting attention ; but the spiritual force of the movement must be sought in something much more inward, more constraining, and more abiding.
Moreover, if it be admitted that the Evangelical School has been distinguished for peculiar earnestness—and to use a Scriptural as well as a popular word, “unction”-in preaching the doctrines of grace, the question occurs, whence this earnestness has been derived. It cannot have been a personal attribute if it has descended in the succession of a School. Unity of spirit maintained for a hundred years would be an abiding miracle if there were no underlying cause to which it is to be attributed. That the common characteristics of a School should hold no relation to the peculiar system of belief which constitutes it into a School is absolutely incredible. Men die, but truth lives.
This leads to another aspect in which the whole question may be considered. It has already been observed that the admissions of the various writers, who have discussed the rise and progress of the Evangelical School, involve the existence of a spiritual force peculiar to the School, and not possessed by other Schools of religious opinion. This force must exist in that which distinguishes it from other Schools, that by which
it is differentiated. What are the specific marks by which it is to be identified? There are three possible answers—by the personal holiness of its members; by its outward system of worship; by its inward principles of truth.
Of the personal qualities of its members little more need be added. It would ill become an Evangelical writer to assert any monopoly of holiness, or of earnestness and zeal, for the members of his own School; and was he conceited enough to advance the claim, certainly none of the writers mentioned at the head of this Article would admit of it for a moment. The claim has, indeed, been advanced on the other side. Few things have been more prominently pleaded in Episcopal Charges and the columns of the press than the peculiar holiness and self-devotedness of English sacerdotalists. Those who would not for a moment advance such a claim on their own behalf may be pardoned for demurring to its justice when advanced on behalf of others. Such a comparison should be not only unspoken, but unthought. The operations of the Holy Spirit upon the human heart are no special prerogative of
In the absolute freedom of His sovereignty He divides to every man severally as He will.
Is the secret of Evangelical influence to be found in the system to which it has given rise, and the modes of worship in which it has embodied itself? This needs to be carefully considered, the more carefully, because of the confessed, and perhaps the growing similarity of practice which exists between Evangelical Clergymen on one side, and High Churchmen and even Ritualists on the other. Some view this approximation with the greatest alarm; some with exultation and loud-expressed triumph. Both of these parties widely mistake the facts of the case, and exaggerate the results. One broad distinction which lies at the threshold of the inquiry, and which must be jealously kept in mind throughout, may perhaps tend to allay the alarm of one section, and to moderate the triumph of another. A line, broad and deep as it can possibly be drawn, separates ritual practices which are symbolical of doctrine, and ritual practices which are matters of æsthetic taste, and which vary with the varying constitutions of men.
That ritual may have a symbolical meaning was openly asserted at an early period of the ritualistic history by the Rev. F. Lee, in his « Directorium Anglicanum," and has been constantly repeated since, as, for instance, by the Rev. W. J. Bennett in his “ Plea for Toleration,” and very recently by the Lord Bishop of Colombo in his correspondence with the agents of the Church Missionary Society. One quotation may suffice for all. “Ritual and Ceremonial,” says the Preface to the “ Directorium,” “are the expressions of doctrine, and witness to the sacramental truth of the
Catholic religion. With practices of this character, ritual or otherwise, no man of Evangelical belief can have anything whatever to do. To adopt them would be to deny the fundamental principles of his own creed. He must not only shrink with jealous vigilance from the slightest complicity with them on his own part, but must protest against their introduction into the Church of his forefathers. He must regard them with an abhorrence not measured by the trivial nature of the acts, but by the importance of the doctrines they are employed to symbolize. His attitude towards them must ever be an attitude of indignant protest and uncompromising opposition.
There is one matter not strictly belonging to the class of practices just mentioned, which may be noticed in this place more properly than in any other. I refer to the habitual disrespect exhibited by Ritualists towards their Bishops, when they happen to disagree with them. It furnishes a curious illustration of the genealogical descent of modern sacerdotalists, for it would be unfair to the great body of English High Churchmen to involve them in the charge, from the Ultra Churchmen of the .eighteenth century. The latter are described by Mr. Lecky in a passage which might be adopted as an accurate portraiture of the modern Ritualist. The passage is worth quotation, in spite of its length, so precisely and exactly true are the particulars of the portrait :
The writers of this school taught that Episcopalian clergymen were as literally priests as were the Jewish priests, though they belonged not to the order of Aaron, but to the higher order of Melchizedek ; that the Communion was literally, and not metaphorically, a sacrifice; that properly-constituted clergymen had the power of uttering words over the sacred elements which produced the most wonderful, though, unfortunately, the most imperceptible of miracles; that the right of the clergy to tithes was of direct Divine origin, antecedent to, and independent of, all secular legislation ; that the sentence of excommunication involved an exclusion from heaven; that the Romish practice of prayers for the dead was highly commendable; that all non-episcopal communities who dissented from the Anglican Church were schismatics, guilty of the sin, and reserved for the fate of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. Aiming especially at sacerdotal power, these theologians had naturally a strong leaning towards the communities in which that power had been most successfully claimed, and negotiations were accordingly at one time opened for union with the Gallican, at another with the Eastern Church. Sorne of them contended that all baptisms except those of Episcopalian clergymen were not only irregular, but invalid, and that, therefore, Dissenters had no kind of title to be regarded as Christians. Brett, some time before he joined the sect, preached and published a sermon maintaining that repentance itself was useless unless it were tollowed by priestly absolution, which could only be administered by an Episcopalian clergyman; and both Dodwell and Lesley were of opinion that such absolution was essential to salvation.