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gave them full credit for sincerity, and for aiming at a purpose the nobleness of which disposed us to be tolerant of some of the defects and excesses which were justly open to criticism, perhaps to censure. We have said that they have met with eminent success in their main object. What was that object ? As we understand it, it was to demand the recognition within the folds of the English Church Establishment — by its university professors, its scholars, its divines, and also by its laymen --of those advanced, even if not yet fully certified, methods of criticism and investigation which are compelling so many honest and independent minds in all other sections of Christendom to examine anew the grounds and contents of their Christian belief. It was high time that the Church of England had been roused to a sense of its duty and responsibility in this matter. Monopolizing the religious endowments of the realm, gathered mainly in the interests of a faith quite unlike that set forth in its own formulas, with the prestige and dignity of its Parliamentary relations and its connection with the peerage, holding such an amount of patronage and of exclusive influence, that Church had within the last few years exhibited a most commendable increase of energy in parochial and educational work. We recognize with all candor and respect the recent manifestations of zeal in the practical works of religion in and by that communion. But all the more were we surprised and annoyed by the reticence, or at least the tameness of the utterances, of the leading minds of that Church in reference to the most interesting matters of agitation in the higher provinces of religious thought and inquiry in other communions, and among those who stand outside of all Christian fellowships. It seemed as if the Establishment either wished it to be understood that its own formulas and the unshaken faith and loyalty of its clerical and lay members furnished it with some inviolable safeguard against the rushing tide of unbelief, or as if its pride or its timidity persuaded it that it might presume to be indifferent to all the agitations and scepticisms
Under the lead of the one or the other of these comfortable self-assurances, the Church of England seemed not at all to recognize that the new thought, science, and philosophy of the age were assailing the foundations common to the
of the age.
faith of all religious believers. Under the name of “ German theology," — the generic title for all disagreeable novelties of speculation which concerned the authentication, the criticism, and the interpretation of Scripture, — bishops and clerical examiners were content to treat with ghostly prohibition or with sanctimonious disdain all the annoying tokens of an increasing boldness or recklessness of dealing with things accounted sacred. Few, if any, even of the more scholarly men in the Universities, seem to have been aware of the fact that Germany learned some of its first lessons in “ infidelity” from the writings of English unbelievers, and that, after running the free course of rationalistic speculations and theorizings, it was furnishing some self-corrective securities for faith in the highest ranges of a spiritual philosophy, and in many works of a most conservative character and tone in Scriptural criticism. The superciliousness and self-satisfaction which are the unmistakable characteristics of Englishmen in all their political and social relations, presented themselves by no means in their least contemptuous form within the charmed sheep-fold of the national Church. Infidelity” was a matter of concern only for outsiders. Church formulas, Church moderation, and the Church's traditional inheritances furnished a perfect protection and security against those influences of extreme individualism and sectarian restlessness to which, much to the relief of Churchmen, all religious and irreligious distractions might be referred. The contributors to the “ Essays and Reviews," whatever else they did or intended to do, did this, — they made public the fact that the so-called infidelity of the age, so far from being a matter external to the Church, and unknown in her Universities, was an indigenous product, and had reached its full maturity within her own sacred enclosures. This avowal was made with all boldness by men who represented a constituency large enough and strong enough to assure them that they ran no risk in attaching their own names to it with their full academic and professional titles. Unless we are greatly in error, we are justified in our inference that the Essayists had no other leading object than this, - to demand that methods, and to some extent results, of inquiry which had fairly been reached and which might honestly be applied to the
most searching re-examination of the grounds and contents of Christian belief, should be recognized as asserting their claims for scholarly treatment within the Church, as well as outside of it. We do not believe that any other object than this furnished a bond of sympathy and an occasion for uniting their labors to the Essayists. It is because they have accomplished this object so effectually, that we have asserted for them such triumphant success in their undertaking. They have compelled the Church, of which, with one exception, they are the ordained ministers and academic teachers, to entertain discussions and debates which heretofore it had been too timid or too scornful to acknowledge as having claims upon its attention.
We have laid emphasis on this point with good reason, and for a purpose which affords us an explanation of the whole course of the many very interesting results which have followed from this publication. The writers have been misrepresented, their book as a whole has been misjudged, and they and their expressed opinions have been subjected to much ill-advised ill-treatment because some other object than that which we have defined has been attributed to them. No one can read their volume with ordinary candor, and imagine for one moment that they were influenced by any covert, still less any sinister design. They did not write in the interest of any phase of infidelity. Nor could they have proposed to themselves the bringing before any circle of readers, such as alone they expected to address, any new and definitely bounded and decided or self-consistent set of opinions. Nothing is more remarkable in their book than its simply tentative and experimental spirit. It advances no fixed conclusions positively set forth as reached by themselves, still less any exactly measured terms under which the contents of the old creeds should be modified, and an indefinite amount of speculative novelty should be introduced. The book, as a whole, asserted the liberty of free utterance, from those within the Church, and desirous of serving the Church, of the influences which had wrought on their own minds, as those minds had been open to a candid recognition of matters under discussion all around them. We insist upon it, that such avowals as these writers make, directly or by implication, indicate in them more of
honesty, in spite of their existing obligations through their subscription to the formulas of the Church and their enjoyment of emoluments from it, than would have been indicated by a suppression or concealment of their state of mind on account of their lying under such bonds.
Nor, under all the circumstances of the case, should it be with us a matter of surprise, still less a reason for moral condemnation, if some divines and university professors of the Church of England, - itself a Protestant and Parliamentary creation, — before hastily deciding upon their obligation to leave its communion, pause to debate with themselves some preliminary matters. They may be conscious of having reached some advanced heretical position ; but, while it is not an extreme position, disabling their faith and zeal and power of religious service to men, they may feel stronger and abler for their Christian work as heretics, in such a generation as ours, than as pattern conformists to the terms of the old creeds. Men who know and feel that, whatever they may have been compelled to surrender, they can still make use of the essential Gospel of Jesus Christ as the material of a Divine power in pleading for God and truth and righteousness, will always have a better warranty for their ministry than a mere subscription to any number of articles and formulas will secure to them. Both the studies and the practical labors of Christian ministers tend to make them realize in their mature years that the sacred energy of their office goes not with the verbal definitions, nor yet with the doctrinal formulas under which they inherit their faith, but with the living truths and the substantial convictions of those truths with which their souls are furnished. We have neither such a veneration for the historic processes of Erastianism and compromise through which the English Church was established, nor such a confidence in its present composition and administration, as to regard the heretical Essayists adhering to its communion as its chief offenders. Besides, it is to be considered that those of its ordained and subscribing ministers who debate with themselves what precise shade and amount of heresy ought to compel them to leave its comfortable shelter, have not only to consider the possible elasticity of the bonds which bind them,
but also to dread the stringency of the penalties to which they subject themselves if they renounce their ministry. Their ordination assigns to them — by the law
by the law of the realm, not by any law of Christ - an indelible official character. A clergyman surrendering that official character becomes a disabled man, and henceforward is deprived of some of the privileges and rights attaching to common citizenship in a free country. The only occupation or means of livelihood legally remaining open to him is that of a schoolmaster. He is not eligible for Parliament, as dissenting ministers and laymen are ; the courts and chambers of the law are shut against him; and if he should preach in a dissenting place of worship, -i. e. in an “unconsecrated” building, - there is an unrepealed statute which makes him liable to imprisonment. It is in view of the large number of the former ministers of the English Establishment, and of large probable additions to them who are now laboring under these disabilities, that Mr. Bouverie has introduced a bill into the House of Commons for their relief. Our last advices indicate that, when this bill reaches the House of Lords, some of the spiritual peers — the bishops — are prepared either to oppose it, or to fetter and obstruct its designed operation.
It has seemed to us that sufficient allowance has not been made, in view of these circumstances, for the possible straining of conscience practised by some heretically disposed ministers of the Church, to justify their still adhering to its communion, while they also contemplate the legal penalties awaiting them the moment they dissolve their ties. Of course, as we so plainly declared in our article on the “ Essays and Reviews," such bald sophistry as that of Mr. Wilson, so far from commending his special case to us, is a manifest outrage upon principles far more essential to common honesty than they are available for casuistical discussion. But Mr. Wilson, it is understood, represented only himself in his tortuous plea.
Under these circumstances, then, we insist that what we understand to have been the main design of the Essayists and Reviewers was reasonable in itself, and has been eminently successful. They were ready honestly to proclaim that the Church itself was not unconscious of the revolutionizing and VOL. LXXIII. - 5TH S. VOL. XI. NO. I.