Page images
[ocr errors]

“National Church," since it exactly reflects all the religious and irreligious feelings or opinions of the nation. It affords "a home to every one whatever his religious (or otherwise) opinions may be. Such is its universal toleration that nobody has an excuse for not belonging to it, unless, of course, he believes that the Church has a united and unvarying message to deliver through all time, in which case it would be no place for him. It is an institution to be proud of, partly on account of its universal comprehensiveness and partly because it is unique. There has been nothing like it before, and it is safe to prophecy that there never will be again. And the institution would work well were it not for the intolerant on both sides.

Extreme “Protestants” try to exclude extreme “ Ritualists” from its all embracing fold, and, though the Ritualists do not adopt sach tactics, they claim in theory the whole Church as their own. They claim indeed, in the teeth of history, of present-day facts, and of past Anglican traditions, that they are nothing less than “ the Catholic Church in England.” It is such novel claims as these that Catholics, in order to keep that position wbich is theirs, and which they have never ceased to maintain, must refuse to recognise. So long as they should content themselves with the locus standi they have, with praiseworthy labour and against great odds, won for themselves in the national Pantheon, they would be within their rights. In a communion where, since the Gorham decision, every clergyman is allowed to teach just what he likes, it would be absurd to deny that liberty to one set of opinions which was extended to all others. It is the same in the field of ceremonial, and the Pablic Worship Regulation Act was foredoomed to failure.

But the Ritualists having fought a good fight and won their niche in the Pantheon are not satisfied with mere toleration ; they claim the whole Temple as their property, which is hardly fair. According to their own account, the object they set before themselves is the “Catholicising” of the Church of England. Well, time will show whether they are able to accomplish it or not. At present it seems a long way off The number of clergy who hold what they would describe as “orthodox” views of "the Mass,” of “Penance," &c. &c., who in fact hold the chief part of the body of Catholic doctrine, is at present a small minority. But they make up for the smallness of their numbers by extra activity. They have a definite object in view, which is always an advantage, and they set about the matter in a very methodical way.

They have organised themselves into various societies, the more active members of which serve on the councils of all and thus manage to pull a variety of strings at any crisis, and to direct the policy of the Moderate High Charchmen by ingenious appeals to such motives as are common to all. By these and like

means they secure a good deal more influence than their numbers warrant. Perhaps one of the most ingenious things they have done is to secure some kind of common historical ground against the advance of the Catholic Church in this land. They could not help seeing that this was necessary to their position and claims. The attack upon tithes gave them their opportunity. Some of them have been most active in scouring the country giving lectures for the Church Defence Institution on Church history, parporting to show that the present Church of England and the pre-Reformation Church are one, and therefore that the tithes belong to the present Church of England. Here was common ground discovered at last on which *mon of all parties” (the clergy at least) could agree. The lecturers illustrated their lectures with magic lantern slides. It was very instructive to notice how the same slides, depicting scenes in the critical “Reformation” period, might be combined with opposite teaching as to the meaning of the events portrayed, according to the “ views of the lecturer or of the parish in which he found himself.

Thus the present writer remembers using a slide out of a set supplied by the Church Defence Institution, representing the burning of the copies of Tyndale's Bible, on which obviously a Protestant harangue might have been hung, to illustrate the reverence of Catholics for the Scriptures, as shown in the destruction of heretical translations.

If the above facts are true, and that they are so in the main the present writer knows well, none but the most sanguine Ritualist could venture to predict that it is among future probabilities that even the majority of the Anglican body should be won to his views. In fact, the writer has heard some Ritualists lament that the development is now rather in the direction of “ornate services” than of definite dogma.

But there are other reasons which make this consummation even less likely than might appear on the surface.

Ritualism is a movement which has sprung up within the last fifty years.

It bas become more or less fashionable in certain quarters. But it is acknowledged by all, except those few directly interested in it, to be contrary to the whole past traditions and to the formularies of the Church of England. In the nature of things, then, it is more transitory even than the great Evangelical movement which has long been on the wane. It is more so, indeed, even than those “ devotions” of the Catholic Church, which, though not an essential part of her system, are yet in complete harmony with it. In fact, the very nature of the Church of England, where all doctrine has long been in a state of flux (the only thing, indeed, which has made "advanced” teaching possible), seems to preclude the possibility of stereotyping one set of doctrines within her fold. When the present men who

[ocr errors]

hold these “views pass away there is no guarantee that the next generation will be imbued with the same, rather the contrary if the formularies of the Church of England are over to make their influence paramount. Nor is there any guarantee at the present moment that those few isolated parishes, where “full Catholic teaching" is given and “fall Catholic ceremonial ” used, will continue in the future to reflect some scattered rays of truth as pools in a desert. Separated from the ocean of the Catholic Church, from which all truth has come and to which all must return, these little pools will dry up. Even in those parishes where a certain “ Catholic” tradition has been kept up for more than a generation by successive appointments, of which by this time there are a few, the views of the future nominees depend entirely upon those of the patron at the time. Some of the Bishops are more favourably inclined towards Ritualism than they used to be. One has even gone so far lately as to declare a service at which“ chasuble" was worn to be in accordance with the Prayer-Book. Such an unusual episcopal utterance (probably unique) was, of course, at once seized upon by the ritualistic press with great jubilation. But whether even the good-humoured tolerance which is now extended to the Ritaalists by some occupants of the Bench in the stead of their former hostility will be continued or not depends entirely in the future upon the opinions of the Premiers her Majesty may be pleased to appoint. The whole ritualistic position is thus seen to be shaky at the foundation and totally uncertain in the future.

It has indeed some advantages peculiar to itself, which, however, from another point of view, might be ranked as disadvantages.

First, the proverbial elasticity of its use of terms is no doubt a controversial advantage. As one illustration of this may be cited the use of the term “Ritualistic" party, or “Catholic,” as they would

” prefer to call it. When the object is to show the numbers and influence of that party, this title is stretched to include all those who indulge in what is known as “glorified Matins” and “the bright and hearty” type of service. When, however, orthodoxy is in question with “the Romans," or still more with the beloved “Greeks,"

, then it is the views of the small and active"


advanced ” party that are put forward as the faith of the Church of England. It is well known that on more than one occasion when foreign ecclesiastics have visited these shores, they have been taken in hand by this party and shown round. Needless to say they were not taken to any services but those of one section in the Church of England.

A second and obvious advantage is that the ritualistic ministers andoubtedly have the ear of the people in a way that Catholics have not at present. Their “bishops ” occupy the buildings and endowments of the old sees, the ministers those of the old parishes of the


country. This gives their claim to be the old Church of the land a certain outward appearance of plausibility. They have opportunities of teaching the people which Catholic priests do not enjoy. In fact this is one of the chief arguments commonly urged by them against joining the Church of God. It is not the part of the present writer to enter into controversy in this article, so it need only be remarked in this regard that such a position could not be maintained for a moment, however advantageous, if conviction of the truth demanded its surrender.

Another advantage which the Anglican Church possesses, if advantage it can be reckoned, lies in the elasticity of her creed. She cannot be accused of holding any corrupt" doctrine, since there is always some defender ready to spring up and maintain that she does not teach it at all in her formularies. On the other hand, if she be accused by those who believe in it of denying that same doctrine, there will always be some one ready on the other side to prove that she holds it. It is part of her tradition to use words in controversy which are capable of opposite interpretations. Her Thirty Nine Articles are one of the best instances, which though they had always been taken in their obvious Protestant sense till fifty years ago have now been seized upon by the Ritualists and claimed as their own. Another famous instance of this method is the late answer of the Archbishops to his Holiness Leo XIII.'s Encyclical.* Thus the Anglican controversialist, like the cuttle-fish, when hard pressed covers his retreat with & cloud of ink. The Church of England in this way presents no point of attack to any adversary, and has the unique distinction as a religious bɔdy of being able at once to affirm and deny the same proposition. A remarkable instance of this may be cited which happened quito recently. While the two “ Archbishops" were declaring in answer to the Cardinal that the Church of England rejected totidem verbis the doctrine of " Transubstantiation,” the incumbent of a prominent church in a southern diocese was preaching that identical doctrine. Both facts were published in the same issue of a church newspaper, without comment, as if it were the most natural thing in the world, as indeed it is in the Anglican Communion. +

Similar tactics have been used with advantage by a certain ecclesiastical newspaper which, when an individual clergyman was bold enough to strike out some new line in the way of ritual, was in the habit of frowning upon him till success was assured, after which it would give the practice the benefit of its advocacy without a word of acknowledgment to the unfortunate man it had abused, and who had been the first to borrow the notion from the Catholic Church. That same paper used to keep its hold over its heterogeneous mass of readers by clever and judicious trimming. One favourite method was to keep in stock a certain number of mental lay figures of very extreme opinions——thorough “Romanisers,” in fact. Upon these the paper in question was never tired of pouring all the vials of its wrath, much to the edification of the men of various views who subscribed to it, and who all naturally saw themselves in the description of the loyal “ moderates," as contrasted with men of more "advanced” opinions than themselves, in whom they recognised the dangerous “Romanisers." By this ingenious device all sections of High Churchmen were pleased, except a very few “extreme men whom it did not matter about offending.*

* It is interesting to note in this connection the latest pronouncement of the bishops on the subject of the Eucbarist, in which they suggest that the wine may be diluted with water to any extent that may be necessary” to meet the requirements of total abstainers ; thus not only allowing “ Communion in one kind,” but actually “consecratior " in one kind, a thing unknown to the Catholic Church of all ages.

+ Church Review, March 17, 1898.

And now as to disadvantages. It is obvious that, with clergy and laity of such various religious opinions and aims, it is very difficult to get them to act as one body, even where common interests are concerned.

Paradoxical as it may seem to say it, religion so far from being a bond in the Established Church is simply a cause of disunion. The further her members get away from religion the more likely are they to unite and act together in concert. In aims purely temporal or moral, such as tithes or temperance work, she can bring a most powerful organisation to bear on public opinion. It is when the religious question is allowed to come to the front at all, as in the case of Voluntary schools, that her want of influence in proportion to her size becomes manifest. Yet men who have common objects must combine, and so the extreme section of the ritualistic school has endeavoured to form a sort of Church within a Church, which regularly holds its local councils and general assemblies, which issues its own "Ordo," though of course it is unable to act with authority and does not pretend to do so. This naturally brings to mind another great weakness of the Anglican communion-viz., its total lack of living authority. It is manifest that a dead or written authority is no authority at all, since it can be interpreted in an infinite variety of ways. This is what has happened to Anglicans in their individual appeal to the Fathers and interpretations of their own formularies. It is, indeed, inevitable in their communion.

They have repudiated the State court as the final court of appeal, which was appointed as such in the place of the Pope at the “Reformation.” They took care to point out, when the Archbishop

The paper in question has recently changed its tone towards extreme High Churchmen. But it still trims.

« PreviousContinue »