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‘to think over these things; to discuss them with one another reverently and patiently; to seek to understand and not to silence their adversaries; to win for themselves the truth which gives to error what permanence it has ; to remember that bold and sweeping statements come more commonly from doubt or ignorance than from just conviction.’ As might have been foreseen, the part of this counsel which has secured most attention from the ‘younger clergy’ of the Christian Social Union is that which they have misunderstood to authorize their abandonment of the unpopular studies to which the Christian ministry is believed to devote itself. A cursory inspection of the heterogeneous collection of essays issued under the sounding title “Vox Clamantium,’ will immediately reveal the wide gulf which parts the anxious caution and sober sympathy of Dr. Westcott from the ‘Stalwarts’ of the organization which his Lordship's great reputation mainly commends to the regard of the public. A London clergyman of pronounced Christian Socialist opinions, who contributes to the volume we have just mentioned an essay which purports to set forward the “Social Teaching of the early Fathers,’ recently boasted that he had abused the opportunity of giving religious instruction in an elementary school in order to teach the children that “wicked men' had ‘robbed” them of the land of England, which God had promised in the fifth commandment to give them Grotesque as this is, we have but too good reason for thinking that Mr. Marson does by no means stand by himself either in the theories he advocates, or the methods of his advocacy. The social duty of the clergy is the principal subject of a small volume by the Head Master of Berkhamstead School. This book is dedicated “with much sympathy’ to Mr. G. W. E. Russell, M.P., and its general drift coincides very well with what are understood to be the sentiments of that advanced politician. Dr. Fry proposes the Irish priest as the model of what a clergyman should be. To do the extreme Christian Socialists justice, they seem not less ready than the priests of Ireland to purchase influence with the multitude by frankly adopting its aspirations, regardless of their character. The assumption is tacitly made that the aspirations of the multitude must be right; their democratic origin sufficiently assures their goodness. To oppose the democracy is to be guided by political motives; to go with the multitude is to fulfil the “social mission' of the Church. There is a refreshing simplicity about this view of things.
‘How much might be done even by a trades-union gathering at Lambeth; a strong manifesto on long hours in shops from Fulham ; an occasional address to railway men decisively in favour of shorter hours
hours! Surely these things would be possible and not unepiscopal; they would certainly evoke, by but a slight effort, a great deal of enthusiasm.' *
The tendency to accept the vor populi as the Vor Dei is one of the principal dangers to which the Christian Socialists expose themselves. It brings discredit on a sacred cause ; it lays them open to a charge which, in its more familiar historical manifestations, they repudiate with abhorrence. The worship of political power has been the besetting sin of the Christian Church from the earliest times, and will continue to be so, as long as the Christian Church is composed of eager, shortsighted, ambitious mortals. It is from this evil root that the memorable scandals of ecclesiastical history have arisen. What is persecution, but adopting into the service of religion the physical force which belongs to the State alone? The worldly prelates, whose continual journeys to and from the imperial court scandalized the heathen, the astute diplomatists who governed the counsels of the Teutonic kings, the intriguing ecclesiastics who hung about the presence-chamber of the Bourbons and our own Hanoverians, the politic enthusiasts for the people, when the people is supreme, are all types of the same spiritual disease, manifested under various conditions. The political force of the community no longer centres in an absolute Caesar, or a practically absolute king. The nobility of feudal Europe is politically extinct : here in England the oncepowerful middle class, territorial and commercial, is ceasing to be politically important. The dangerous possession of political force has passed from monarchs and classes to the multitude of manual workers: the ancient temptation accordingly alters its direction. The Church, therefore, now inclines to transfer her homage from the ancient idols of the Court and the grove, to the brazen image of the market-place. Let it not be supposed that we accuse the individual members of the Christian Social Union of any conscious servility to the latest possessors of political power. We believe that the highest motives have led, and do lead, the best of men to the most doubtful of policies. It is a commonplace that the mischief of error has ever mainly arisen from the virtues of its advocates. All we are here concerned to urge is the essential identity in moral worth of the latest with the oldest methods of ‘seeking the strength of Pharaoh,’ and ‘putting trust in the shadow of Egypt.” Apart, however, from these general considerations, what qualifications do the clergy possess for this leadership of social reform to which the Christian Socialists would commit them 2 They have little, if any, practical experience with commercial life, and the presence of laymen at their deliberations cannot afford any adequate compensation for this important deficiency. It might, indeed, be suggested that a sufficient knowledge of the economics of trade, and the peculiar conditions of each form of commercial undertaking, might be acquired. But for the clerical members of the Union, an obstacle is interposed by that Ordination vow which pledges every priest of the English Church to be ‘diligent in reading of the Holy Scriptures and in such studies as help to the knowledge of the same, laying aside the study of the world and the flesh.” Whatever merits the literature of economists, old and new, may possess, not even the most ardent student will claim that it “helps to the knowledge of the Holy Scripture.’ This, however, rather concerns the consciences of the clergy than their competence to reform society. It still remains to be shown what evidence of such competence they can offer to the public they aspire to guide. It is allowed that they have no experience; it is asserted that they have no leisure; it might be thought that they can have little knowledge. In the same breath we are bidden to credit the clergy with spiritual overwork, and to entrust them with the practical solution of the most complex and momentous of problems. But it is urged that the clergy know the wants of the poor, and have access to the rich; that they can therefore present the former before the latter, and ought to do so. This plea may be so far allowed that in the circumstances of modern life many of the clergy have been forced into the position of perennial mendicants, soliciting the wealthy for the sinews of the spiritual conflict which they wage among the indigent. It may further be allowed that some of the clergy possess a very considerable knowledge of the conditions of artisan life, and are therefore serviceable beyond other men as the agents and organizers of philanthropy. But neither the necessity of mendicancy nor their familiarity with social distress qualifies them to decide the difficult questions of economic science, or to determine the tights and wrongs of grave industrial conflicts. Indeed it may be plausibly maintained that for such purposes the very virtues of the clergy constitute great disqualifications. They are tempted to bring to the task of arbitration the distorting sympathies of common life. It is interesting to remember that the late Archbishop Magee did not hesitate to advise the working men of the North against having recourse to the clergy in their trade disputes. To his vigorous sense it seemed nothing less than grotesque to refer to probably ignorant and
* “A Social Policy for the Church, p. 46. reform
certainly certainly inexperienced men questions which cannot usefully be discussed apart from knowledge and personal experience. k . . Still more serious misgivings arise when we turn from economics to religion, from the market to the Church. After all, it will not yet be disputed, that the primary duties of the clergy are not easily consistent with a regular, active, and prominent share in the controversies of the hour. The due performance of those primary duties is, nevertheless, in our judgment the special contribution to the life of society which the clergy, as such, are required to make, and are alone competent to make. Nor do we sympathize with the common impatience (of which indeed the clergy themselves are presenting the most impressive examples) of the distinctly spiritual and ‘other-worldly' character of those duties. The besetting sin of modern civilization is its contempt for the highest aspects and ends of life: its enthusiasms are ‘of the earth, earthy’; and being itself grossly materialized, it covets a religion conformed to the same material type. From every side voices cry to the Church to ‘divide’ among eager claimants the “inheritance' of secular well-being. The duty of the Church is to repeat the refusal of her Founder, and to echo His protest, “A man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.’ The high task of the Church, and notably of the clergy, is to rebuke and resist the prevailing Materialism, whether it be in the ranks of the wealthy, evidenced by the lust for vast accumulations of property and by the taste for extravagant and sensual indulgences, or in the ranks of the poor, not less clearly evidenced by the unscrupulous eagerness of labour conflicts, and the habitual grossness of common life. Upon the clergy, especially, this task is laid; and their competence to perform it depends upon their own superiority to the dominant temper. It is a task which requires for its fulfilment that habitual devotion to spiritual things, which the Church has ever proposed to the clergy as the necessary corollary of the priestly commission. . With deep respect for their undoubted single-mindedness, with real admiration for their generous enthusiasm, we venture to commend to the leaders of the Christian Social Union (which we have the authority of Dr. Fry for saying is mainly a society of clergymen) the solemn
words addressed to all who present themselves for Ordination. The explanation of this impatience to endow spiritual persons with economic functions must be sought in the theology and not merely in the politics of the movement. It is indeed the cardinal objection which lies against Christian Socialism that it assumes a radical misconception as to the character and purpose purpose of Christianity. It must be remembered that Christian Socialism claims to be emphatically the ‘Gospel of the Incarnation.” Speculation as to the secular meaning of that mysterious doctrine of Christianity constitutes the most promiment theology of the movement; while the doctrine of the Atonement, which fills so large a place in the theological thought of the Western Church, is relegated to comparative obscurity. This is, perhaps, inevitable: for the doctrine of the Atonement assumes the moral degradation of fallen man, and his incompetence to rise without supernatural help. The fons malorum is recognized not in his misfortunes, but in his guilt; not his circumstances must be reformed, but himself. We do not for a moment suggest that the Christian Socialists have lost faith in these truths, or, so far as they are theologians, have ceased to emphasize them. But their semi-Christian allies are more logical in proportion as they are less Christian, and openly denounce the “ignoble dream' of the Atonement as injurious to humanity. The fact of the Incarnation is apparently made to justify the claim of Christianity, as such, to control directly the entire secular life. We say, apparently, for the vagueness of the language employed makes an exact appreciation of its meaning extremely difficult. Politics and trade, international relations and economic systems, not less than individual morality, are the subjects upon which it is claimed that the Gospel provides true guidance. If nothing more was meant than that individual morality must necessarily express itself in the wider life of society, this language would only express a truth upon which all Christians are agreed. But the followers, if not the leaders, of the Social Union mean more than this, and advance the idea of a perfect terrestrial society.
‘Has not God sent a message to men, as well as to each man, asks Mr. J. Adderley, “to society at large for the great body of men to adopt and assimilate 2 Does not God look for a “saved society” as well as a number of isolated “saved souls”? Is there no social Gospel? I venture to think there is such a Gospel . . . delivered to and to be applied by great bodies of men, by nations, corporations, classes, masses, societies, and neighbourhoods.’ “
This language is generous in tone, and expresses, though very imperfectly, the Catholic claim of the Gospel. If it only means that the same moral principles which control the lives of individuals must also govern the conduct of Societies, it states an incontrovertible proposition. But it goes beyond