Abbildungen der Seite

of doctrine or ritual, will sweep away one most important reason for the continuance of the Union, the Church's present comprehensiveness. Up to a very recent period the supporters of the Union comprised one compact body, composed at least of all Churchmen. But a change has taken place latterly. There have appeared some Churchmen who advocate disestablishment They may not be very numerous or influential, but they exist, and their existence may give point and strength to the arguments of the Liberationists.

Be it observed that the majority of English Churchmen cling to Church truth, to Catholic dogma, far more closely than to the Union. If we believed that one consequence of the Union were to weaken the Church of England's hold of Catholic truth, we should say, “Perish the Establishment rather than that we should give up one jot or one tittle of that faith which was once for all delivered to the saints, which was handed down to us by our forefathers, which we have received to hold and hand on to our children intact.” But we maintain that no such attempt has as yet been made by the State ; that if it should be made we should know how to act; but meanwhile we consider it our duty to support the Union, as beneficial upon the whole both to Church and State, but most of all to the State.

The opponents within the Church to the Union may be divided into two classes :

I. Those who while they would prefer the present state of things, still consider that disestablishment is inevitable, and that by forcing it on we may obtain better terms for ourselves from a less exasperated foe. They have an eye to the Church's endowments mainly.

II. Those who are impatient of the action of the State, and above all of a parliament of all religions, in matters of Church doctrine and Church discipline.

i. If these men think that by forcing on disestablishment they may save Church endowments, they are grievously mistaken. Rather we should say that disestablishment would be accompanied by such a plunder of Church property as England has not seen since the Reformation. Not only has all experience shown that disestablishment and disendowment walk together hand in hand, but it has also shown the utter futility of any endeavour to meet the opponents of the Church halfway. During the last twenty years or so numberless concessions have 'een made to Dissent. Has hostility been thus disarmed ?


Putting aside those measures, most righteous in themselves, whereby all political and municipal privileges have been conferred upon all Englishmen alike, without distinction of creed, there are those other surrenders by the Church of her own undoubted rights. Church rates have been given up, for the Gladstonian compromise was one in name only, on the “you give all and I take principle.” The universities have been given up; endowed schools have been given up; even the schools for the poor, built and largely supported by the liberality of Churchmen of the present century, for the benefit of the nation at large, have been all but given up, not to religious Dissent, but to a godless secularism backed and supported by Dissent, and it may be feared that their annihilation by starvation is a question of time only. And what is the result ? Still the cry of political Dissent, like that of the horse-leech's daughter is, “Give, give !" Every concession by the Church has been met with fresh demands, more imperiously made. It does not therefore follow that if we concede disestablishment we shall save the greater part of our endowments,-endowments even now insufficient for the work that the Church is undertaking, much more for that which lies before her. On the other hand, by such a course of action we should justly incur the charge of a mean cowardice, which did not avail to obtain what it cringed for.

“ They struggle vainly to preserve a part,

Who have not courage to contend for all." Even if we were to make the attempt, would it be liberally and generously met? It has always appeared to us that the Church of Ireland met with hard treatment with respect to her endowments by the Act of 1869, but we are now told that in the

eyes of our modern Church revolutionists that Church was too liberally and gently dealt with, and the example will not be repeated. There appeared a few months ago in one of the papers a letter declaring that the Church, when disestablished and disendowed, ought to be deprived of the exclusive possession of (that is, of any property in) her old cathedral churches, in order to break off her connection with the past, and destroy her social supremacy over Nonconformity; and latterly the Liberation Society has proposed to ally itself with secularism pure and simple, to “lend active combination to moral and political forces, including elements with which they have no sympathy; in other words, to call up the aid of the world, the flesh, and the devil, against the Church, as religious Dissent has proved powerless to overthrow her.

“Flectere si nequeo superos, Acheronta movebo.” And they are appealing to the selfish principle in men, the desire of plunder, and declare plainly that they will not repeat the mistake that they made in the case of the Irish Church. If matters were thus brought to a crisis, the bait of relief to the local rates, the education rate, or the poor rate, would most certainly take.

ii. There are those others within the Church who are captivated by the title, “Liberation of religion from State control," and therefore advocate disestablishment. Some are led away by the desire to obtain more freedom of ritual observance than they think likely to be allowed them in the Established Church of the future. But what pettiness of mind does it not display to be willing to promote so tremendous a revolution for so trifling a cause! Moreover they do but cherish a vain hope if they expect to obtain more liberty in a disestablished Church. (Rather the bonds of discipline will in all probability be drawn tighter, so that if they wish to enjoy their liberty they will have to form a small sect by themselves ; and though like the Donatists of old, and some of the strange Russian Dissenters, they may call themselves the only true Catholic Church, their calling them. selves so will not make them such. Others, who really wish the Church to be free to develop herself without the hampering action of the State, have been already partially answered in this series. Let them also reflect what serious consequences in all probability follow from such a course.

Many of the gains mentioned in the August and September numbers of this magazine would cease.

But in a matter of so grave importance it would be as well to look to the experience of other countries where the experiment has been tried for the experience of the past is the guide and often the warning for the future; and that which has been, it is that which shall be. The Irish Disestablishment Act is still of too recent occurrence for us to draw any safe conclusions as to its consequences

, and in Ireland the case is further complicated by the previous existence of a large compact and well-organized religious com. munion which had already won the hearts of a large majority of the people. There is, moreover, an essential difference between the Celtic and the Teutonic mind.

But we have an example and a warning in a nation, a near kindred of our own, whose character, with some peculiarities of its own, displays ours exaggerated; whose circumstances


[ocr errors]


position are, with some very great differences, curiously like our own; in which at least in some of its States the Church was once established; in which, although it has been violently disestablished, the Church still exists in full communion with the Church of England, the United States of America.

The first act of the American Church, after the ending of the war and the establishment of its episcopate, was to revise its formularies, and that not only just so far as altered circumstances made such revision necessary, or by providing additional services but by making grave changes in the existing offices. It is true that no serious result' followed, but in those days of deadness, party spirit, religious earnestness, theological learning, and spiritual life were about equally feeble. Such was the stagnation that there was not energy to create a schism. How different is the state of things now in England, so inflamed with active religious life! If the Church were disestablished, there can be little doubt that some attempt would be made to revise and alter her existing formularies of worship, and at once the apple of discord would be thrown down in what at present constitutes a happy family. High Churchmen would be made furious by any attempt to eliminate or suppress from the Prayer Book anything that bore the marks of antiquity, and certain of their number would press for the restoration of the first Prayer Book of Edward, and thus band the Broad Church and Low Church schools against them in fierce hostility. It is certain that an attempt would be made by the latitudinarians to weaken the force of dogma in the Church formularies. Whether they succeeded or not, they would thus unite against them every one of the High Church school, and many of the more thoughtful and moderate of Low Churchmen.

The consequence would be a mutual exasperation of parties, and possibly three if not more distinct religious communities would be formed, each-likethe Montanists, the Novatians, and the Donatists of old, and the Cameronians and Non-jurors of more recent times-claiming to be the only true Church. By such a waste of power what a blow would be given to religion, not only in England, but in every place whither English influence extends, for the state of the mother Church would react upon that of the colonies! Be it remembered that the Church of England is only a branch of the Church Catholic, and therefore, notwithstanding the promise of a perpetual divine Presence

, she is no more exempt from schism than the mother Church of Jerusalem. But what do we see there? The Jews


It may be said that

we may add that

and Turks are edified by the sight of a Latin Patriarch, a Greek Orthodox Patriarch, a Jacobite, we believe a Nestorian, and an except perhaps the last, claiming to be the only lawful successor Anglican bishop, each sitting upon the chair of St. James, each, of that apostle. So we might come to see in England, in the same city or town, a High Church, a Moderate Church, an and a Liberal Church, and it may be, if Bishop Ellicott's strange Evangelical Church, an Anglican Church, a Ritualistic Church, counsel is followed—not that it is likely,—an English Old Catholic one visible body, but who would then be as distinct from each other as the Primitive Methodists, the Wesleyan Vethodists, and the New Connexion Methodists. Such a result of dises. tablishment would be more than possible, considering the ness which is now so strong in the land. tendency of Englishmen to individualize, and the real earnestbesides what has been said already (page 110), the American Church has not been so split up. No; but the American Church had the Church of England to fall back upon; and further, disestablishment, such as it was, was forced upon American Churchmen from without: we are now dealing with English Church men who would effect the same by their own act. We may well believe that the good providence of God would protect the Church in the first instance; in the second that protection would be justly forfeited.

And are Church matters so very prosperous in America ? The Church is no doubt prospering; every year gives an increased account of efficiency and progress. But what of the nation of the United States? There are vast fields of labour unoccupied, the reason being that instead of the Church seeking selves. The whole of England is spiritually provided for aller the people, as it is with us, the people draw the Church to them. a fashion ; and if in any part the population exceeds the means already existing a remedy is provided, not by the spiritually destitute people, but by the Church. Individual Churchmen subscribe, diocesan and other societies help, the vicar of the old parish takes an active part in the movement ; the Ecclesiastical Commission or Queen Anne's Bounty partially, often very partially, endow; and in most cases it is only in the last instance, if at all, that the people of the new district are called upon to lend their aid. The gain of such a course can hardly be over-estimated, for in such places, where the light of religion is

« ZurückWeiter »