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consideration. Even in regard of the separation of truth from error, it is presumptuous to assume that no progress can have been made since the period of the Reformation. And waiving this possibility, it cannot at any rate be doubted that the forms of dissent, and the notions which it most emphatically reiterates, demonstrate in what particulars the Church fails to engage the sympathies and satisfy the wants of those for whose good it exists. We rejoice to see that under this last aspect the phenomena of dissent are constantly engaging the thoughtful consideration of good men in every school and section of the Church, and suggesting useful measures of improvement. A supplementary order of ministers, of lower social rank (professional emissaries at least, if not actually ordained), the employment and organisation of voluntary lay agency, a freer and more elastic system of preaching, more attractive services, a larger infusion of the musical element into our worship, and the increase of Church inflences upon social amelioration, — not only on the charities but on the comforts also and even the amusements of life,—all these are points to which attention is everywhere awakened, and the importance of which is now almost universally acknowledged. In all these points the Church of England must develope her resources, and amend her machinery, if she would make good her position as a National Church. And hardly less obvious, certainly not less important, is the necessity which exists for amendment in the laws of clerical discipline, Church patronage, and diocesan administration, to say nothing of the still unsettled question of Church rates.
But these are points which we cannot profess so much as to enumerate fully. The point to which we desire to invite atten- , tion now is one which is not so readily entertained by the great body of the clergy, yet without which we are persuaded that any great advance of Church comprehensiveness is absolutely impossible: we mean the revision of the Liturgy.
We say the Liturgy rather than the Articles. For it is not by the latter that the communion of the Church is restricted to its present limits. And surely it is a fact, as encouraging as it is remarkable, that the documents which set forth most fully and most deliberately the doctrines of the Church of England, are hardly less acceptable, and hardly less dear, to the great body of orthodox Dissenters, than to the Church itself. Whether even here it might not be desirable to qualify dogmatic assertions on some abstruse or disputed points, is a question which may very reasonably be raised. We do not conceal our sympathy with those who think so, and who demand a larger Christian liberty of thought; whether such demands proceed from the
High Church school, or from other quarters. Still it is not our province, nor do we presume, to suggest or recommend any changes purely doctrinal. And as far as the Articles are concerned, we believe that little is needed but an alteration in the terms of subscription to them. They are a monument, as they now stand, of the large-minded wisdom of the Reformers ; a noble confession put forth by the Church of England before all Christendom; an invaluable bond of union and of toleration within the Church itself. Only let the subscription to them be made deferential, not rigidly affirmative. For what can be more unfair, and what more injurious, than to expect that a young man shall form a deliberate judgment on every particular in a long series of abstract propositions; and, while expecting this, to demand also that his judgment shall in every case coincide exactly with the ready-made results that are set before him ? Yet this is what the Church of England does at the very entrance to the ministry, thereby repelling some of the noblest who wish to serve her, stunting the mental growth of others, perplexing and burdening all. Surely the right use of such documents is to establish a fixed rule of doctrine; of which the ministers of the Church, in their official capacity, shall accept the guidance and admit the authority. Under such an aspect, the Articles would become what is simply good and desirable, a stay for the humble and the undecided, a check to the rash and speculative, and for all alike a recognised standard by which ministers were bound to regulate their teaching, and bishops to limit their interference with it.
What we have said of subscription to the Articles, applies, we think, with double force to a subscription required to the Liturgy. It is a refinement of ecclesiastical tyranny, due to the counter-reformation party of the 17th century, to turn forms of devotion into engines of inquisitorial stringency, by requiring plenary assent and consent to all and everything contained in them. But in the case of the Liturgy, we cannot but think that more is wanted than a mere alteration in the terms of ministerial subscription. Forms of prayer are essentially different from doctrinal aphorisms; and to dwell upon points by which disputations are provoked, is in them a supererogatory offence. Moreover, they belong to the laity, at least as much as to the clergy; and, unlike a code of doctrine which is only occasionally referred to, they necessarily challenge attention. Hence the peculiar importance we attach to revision of the Liturgy.
And here it will be seen of course that we are not speaking merely of such things as the abbreviation of the Sunday Services, the better arrangement of its component parts, the avoidance of wearisome repetitions, the removal of obsolete terms, nor even of the reform of the calendar, and the clearing up of the rubrics. All these things
, desirable, nay, needful as they are, come more properly under the heads which we have glanced at already. We speak now of the weightier matters which concern conscience and truth. It will be comparatively useless for the purposes of comprehension to improve the machinery of the Church, and even to remove moral blemishes from her administration, so long as forms are imposed and language is forced upon her ministers and her lay members also, to which the best of the Nonconformists have always pointed in justification of their position, and against which the judgment and conscience of growing multitudes within her communion are loudly
declaring themselves. For be it observed, that it is not from Dissenters only, or even chiefly, that the complaints and urgent remonstrances proceed, whch we have now to consider, but from loyal and attached members of the Church, both lay and clerical. This fact gives the question of Revision a very grave and pressing importance. The issue now pending is not so much the attraction of new members to her communion, as the preservation of those limits of doctrinal comprehensiveness which hitherto she has practically maintained.
But if these limits have been maintained hitherto, why (it may be asked) should not things go on as before? why not be satisfied with the practical licence hitherto allowed, with the compromise of which the Prayer-book itself is the monument and the pledge? Because, we answer, that compromise has never been sufficiently defined: because, indeed, it has been based on false assumptions; and it is in the very nature of such a compromise to end either in an avowed rupture, or in a more satisfactory adjustment. We have long foreseen the crisis which is now precipitating itself. We have long complained of those expressions in the Liturgy which jarred three centuries ago, and
still jar the convictions of thoughtful men.'* As long ago as 1834 the language held by this journal was as follows:- The “ reformation of the Liturgy has long been called for loudly by
the worthiest members of the English Church. Archbishop • Tillotson, Archdeacon Paley, Bishop Watson, and many others
have long demanded an alteration in various parts of the service. • But no, the clergy will not. There must be no change: the
more things are shown to be wrong, -- the better the men be * that call for an amendment—the more obstinately it is to be
* refused. This cannot last much longer; and our hope and • trust is that the correction of the abuses will save the Church • in spite of itself.'* This language was perhaps somewhat too strong, and savoured a little too much of impatience: but it pointed out an inconsistency between the professed toleration of the Church, and the actual language of her devotional formularies, which a sense of truthfulness could not long suffer to remain. And various circumstances since that time have combined to bring out that inconsistency into stronger light. On the one hand, the earnest labours of the Oxford Tract writers confirmed in this respect by the no less earnest conclusions of their strongest opponents, have established beyond a doubt the true meaning of expressions in the Prayer-book, over which a convenient veil had long been suffered to hang. While on the other hand, the • Gorham decision' has legalised the position of those clergymen who cannot accept some of these expressions in their true and obvious meaning; the Privy Council justifying that decision by the impossibility of reconciling the various Church formularies, the doubtful intention of the compilers of the Liturgy, and the long existence within the Church of a recognised licence of interpretation.
The present state of things, then, involves this glaring inconsistency. The law compels the use of certain formularies, and even insists upon a profession of unreserved adherence to them on the part of the ministers of the Church; while at the same time the Church tribunals authorise, and custom encourages, those ministers to evade the plain meaning of the formularies by expedients manifestly sophistical. Such a state of things cannot be maintained. It cannot be called a compromise in any honest sense. And there are but two solutions of the difficulty. Either reduce the Church to limits narrower than those which it has already sunk to; or do what is asked for by the revisionists, --adapt the Liturgy to a larger comprehensiveness, a comprehensiveness already established by the Articles, allowed by the practice of centuries, required by the best interests of the country, demanded by public opinion, solemnly sanctioned by the ecclesiastical courts.
But before we touch further on this subject, we will notice some of the works which are enumerated at the head of this article.
The principal spokesman in Parliament of the revisionist cause--the experience of last session would almost lead us to say, the only one—is Lord Ebury. Beginning some years ago
* Ed. Rev., No. cxviii. p. 506.
with the advocacy of those smaller and merely structural alterations to which we have already alluded, he has gradually been led to pay more and more attention to the graver points upon which the crisis must ultimately turn. Lord Ebury has long stood high in general estimation, on public as well as private grounds; and the perseverance and quiet resolution with which he has encountered overwhelming opposition and chilling indifference within the walls of Parliament, as well as obloquy and ridicule from without, in maintaining an unpopular cause, have conciliated the respect of all good men who differ from him, while winning the gratitude of those for whom he pleads. His speech delivered last May in the House of Lords, under the most discouraging circumstances, sets forth ably, temperately, and as we think unanswerably, many of the reasons why liturgical reform is urgently needed and ought no longer to be delayed. We say unanswerably: for certainly the answers of the bishops turned almost wholly on the dangers and difficulties which they foresaw in the course he was recommending; and, in as far as they touched upon the fundamental question, either conceded the justice of his case, or repeated the excuses and palliations which have been proved again and again to be utterly unavailing. How profound and how strong is the movement of thought and conscience which they are opposing, is shown by the stream of pamphlets and larger works which the press is pouring forth upon this subject, not to speak of the many influential journals and periodicals which have declared themselves on the same side. Lord Ebury, at the end of his printed speech, enumerates twenty-six publications which had appeared in favour of revision during the few preceding months-a period which had only produced four on the opposite side; and the months which have since elapsed have added considerably to the number. Of these we have enumerated at the head of this article those which seem to us to be the most noteworthy; though not by any means all which deserve commendation.*
Of those which we have mentioned, Mr. Fisher's book is entitled to the first rank. The second edition, here announced, has long been looked for and demanded; the delay having been caused by the careful recension to which it has been subjected by its author. The book first appeared in 1857, and at once gave a new impulse to the revisional movement. No one had yet handled the subject with such
* Of the smaller pamphlets, we would especially notice one by the Rev. G. Venables of Friezeland, Manchester ; and one by the Rev. D. Mountfield, of Oxon, Salop..