Page images

Not so, however, the practical English nation. The intolerable evil lay not in the election, but in the deliberations and quarrels of Convocation, and if these be stopt the election is believed to be a harmless formality. We have no objection to the Clergy loading the blunderbuss as often as they please, provided we are sure it is in our power to prevent them from letting it off. In this, however, we may have somewhat miscalculated. It is better that those who are not intended to use fire-arms should not constantly be in the habit of seeing and handling them, and if we are resolved that the Clergy shall not meet in Convocation, it were better to relieve them from the trouble of an ineffective election, which only serves to remind them of duties they are not destined to perform. We are too busy and too practical a people to indulge in idle ceremonies. There is work to be done in all directions, and when we have been at the trouble of constructing a body, it naturally recalcitrates against the sentence of compulsory idleness. For these reasons it would seem that our present course is indefensible on any principle. If Convocation be elected it ought to be suffered to meet, and if it is never to meet it ought on every reasonable principle never to be elected. The present practice is in either view really indefensible.

• There are not, however, wanting reasons which supersede the necessity of arguing the matter in the alternative, and which seem to show pretty conclusively, if not to the Clergy, at least to the laity, that Convocation ought never to meet again. It is argued—and plausibly argued—that in proportion as the assistance of the State is withdrawn from the Church of England, it ought to seek an indemnification of its losses in greater internal efficacy and more complete organization. It is said that the Church should seek from within that support which is not conceded her from without, and that if she be placed more nearly on a level with dissenters, she ought to be allowed a freedom of action and power of self-government, such as their separation from the State enables them to enjoy. Enthusiastic men sigh for the vigour and self-regulating power of the voluntary system, and believe that these advantages are consistent with the retention of the temporal advantages and preeminent political position of the Church of England.

• We bave endeavoured to state these arguments fairly, and we believe they admit of a ready and conclusive answer. All religious bodies which have been able efficiently to organize themselves do this by virtue of the unity of their belief. They not merely call themselves by the same name, but they hold the same creed and profess the same doctrines. As long as the infinite varieties of human judgment occasion a decided difference of opinion a schism takes place, the advocates of a new doctrine separate from those of the old, a fresh unit is formed, and a new society, regularly graduated and articulated, and carrying within itself the same germ of present self-government and future division, is formed. In these bodies compromise is unknown; unity of opinion is the condition of their existence; and they rather weaken themselves by eternal subdivision than admit the possibility of allowing discordant opinions to grow up side by side in the same sect.

• How different is the case of the Church of England! Moulded into her present shape—not by her own internal energy acting from within, but by Parliament pressing on her from without-she possesses every attribute, every advantage, and every disadvantage of a compromise. Her Articles and authorized formularies are so drawn as to admit within her pale per. sons differing as widely as it is possible for the professors of the Christian religion to differ from each other. The object was evidently not to give predominance to any particular set of opinions, but to include as large a number of persons as the then feelings of the nation would permit within the precincts of the Church. Unity was neither sought nor obtained, but comprehension was aimed at and accomplished. Therefore we have within the pale of the Church of England persons differing not merely in their particular tenets, but in the rule and ground of their belief, the one party seeking religion in the Bible with the help of the Spirit, the other in the Church by the means of tradition. This being the true state of the case, what would be gained by calling together an assembly in which these irreconcilable differences would meet each other face to face? Is there any one who seriously thinks that the basis on which the Church of England is constructed is too wide and comprehensive, and that we have anything to gain, either in point of permanence or of justice, in narrowing down her temporal privileges and immunities to a smaller portion of her Majesty's subjects than at present-in increasing the number of dissenters, and, therefore, of persons inimical to any establishment whatever? Or do they suppose that the effect of bringing Low and High Church into contact on the benches of Convocation will be that the one will convince the other, and a difference directly referable to principles as indestructible as the human mind itself, be abolished by argument or be overpowered by clamour? If none of these things are possible, what result can we expect, except that differences will be embittered and magnified by argument and juxtaposition, and a compromise always more defensible in practice than in theory, and rather commendable for its good fruits than for its speculative and logical perfection, be cast to the winds? The same power of freely meeting and deliberating, of discussing and altering, which is essential to the existence of a voluntary church, is destructive to a compromise entered into and carried out under the sanction and by the authority of the State. It is the nature of a compromise, not that people should agree in opinion, but agree to avoid the discussion of points on which they differ. Thus, in America, North and South cannot agree on the slave question, and so they agree not to discuss it at all. To violate this understanding would be fatal to the Union, and to discuss the discordant creeds included within the Church of England would be to destroy the Church. Let those wbo are pressing on towards this consummation reflect that when, by the indulgence of the restless spirit of innovation, they have destroyed our present Church Establishment, it will be impossible for them, considering the temper of men's minds, and the direction in which the current of men's ideas is setting, ever to recon. struct another equally effective and equally comprehensive.'

Such is the view taken by "The Times,' to which "The Guardian’ably answers in the following article :

. Among the many conveniences which are furnished to the world by “The Times” newspaper, there is one which is not so much felt as it deserves to be. It supplies a means of joining issue with public opinion. The office of that newspaper is to divine and represent with ability what are, or in the course of a month or two are likely to be, the opinions of that undefinable part of the English nation which goes by the name of the “ public" -a curious and formidable compound of shallowness with shrewdnessjustice with prejudice-public spirit with selfishness-conceit with good sense—and generosity with vulgar tyranny. “ The Times” gives a tangible and reasonable shape to the feelings and ideas which actuate this huge floating mass, and thus, while it gives them, so far as the case admits of it, the force arising from clearness and coherency, affords an opportunity for direct attack which they would not offer while they were merely unrecognised sentiments, infecting the whole body, but distinctly stated only by a few obscure writers, not claiming to represent any but themselves or their comparatively small party.

• Now, “ The Times” has taken up the subject of Convocation, and has distinctly adopted a line of argument which indistinctly actuates more, perhaps, than any other the mass of half thinkers, who have a large share in governing this country, and who, so far as they care about the matter, would resist any approach to free action on the part of the Church. It contrasts with most convenient sharpness with the argument which Churchmen use on the other side.

• The Church of England, it is said, on the one hand is a religious body, founded on a certain religious belief. It must have an organic and constitutional mode of expressing that belief. In theory, Convocation is such a mode, and circumstances now force upon us the necessity of reducing that theory to practice. The Church of England, replies “ The Times, "-for this is the real substance of the answer, is not a religious body; she has no religious opinions of her own, therefore she does not need a voice to express any. To give her such a voice would be merely to furnish her members with an opportunity of wrangling on a large scale, certain to be used while men are what they are, but wholly destructive to the very law of her existence.

We shall not attempt to argne this question, but shall merely place the two views in contrast.

• Churchmen consider that the Bible, whether interpreted by individuals, by the early ages, or by the existing Church, contains an immense mass of truth of which part is distinct, part indistinct; part, in theological phrase, " necessary to salvation,”-an integral portion of that Christian truth by the knowledge of which the buman soul is trained for eternal life, part not tbus necessary. Real and professed Churches have differed to the utmost extent as what is distinct and what indistinct, what material, and what comparatively immaterial, but on the principle all are agreed. All unite in admitting that a line must be drawn somewhere. No body of Christians would allow Mahometanism to be taught in their churches as the religion of the Bible-none would compel all their members to believe precisely alike on the nature of the heavenly joys. But till now it has been considered that, whatever questions might be left open, a certain amount of religious belief was necessary to the existence of a religious body ; that the Church of England was such a body, and that her very definite belief was to be found in her Prayer-Book and Articles, which exclude from her body, not only Roman Catholics (though this alone would be sufficient for our argument), but whole masses of so-called heretics, too mumerous to be counted by any but a thcologian. And we may perhaps remark, in passing, that till within the last ten or twelve years the popular charge against the Church of England has been, not that her formularies and practice were too lax in this respect, but that they were intolerably rigid, and she herself jealous and intolerant in her enforcement of them. And finally, this dogmatism of hers has been distinc ly accepted by the State, which inter alia has retained to the present day for its Sovereign the title of Defender of the Faith.

• The fact that the Church of England has spoken ambiguously on some points, be they ever so important, does not in any degree interfere with, or modify the fact that she has spoken with all the clearness of which language is capable on others, and those others constitute her religious belief. Whether her definitions are too many or too few, there they are, shaped by her divines, adopted by her ecclesiastical authorities, recognised and enforced by the laws of her country, and forming a basis on which is built a superstructure, comprising some 15,000 Clergy and the laity in communion with them. Whatever differences may exist within that body, no reasonable man can pretend to believe that if Unitarianism were proclaimed to-morrow as the national religion, that body would either cease to exist or become Socinian. In such an event the i hurch would at once lose all that she holds as organ of the State ; she would, in all probability, be speedily robbed NO. LXXVIII.-N.S.




of what she possesses as her own, and a considerable number of her members would follow the emoluments. Further consequences would follow, on which it would be trifling to speculate, since they are among those which the Almighty directs in ways and for reasons which are most peculiarly His own, and which are proportionably inscrutable to us His creatures. But, humanly speaking--and it is possible to speak humanly on such a subjectit cannot be doubted that the old religious body would survive, and would be recognised by all the world as surviving on the basis of that religious truth with which it had previously been identified. 'Now, what

says " The Times?” “ All religious bodies which have been able efficiently to organize themselves do this by virtue of the unity of their belief. They do not merely call themselves by the same name; but they hold the same creed and profess the same doctrine." True. So far we are agreed. A creed is necessary to an organized religious body. And such we say is the Church of England. But not so proceeds “ The Times :"

" " How different is the case of the Church of England! Moulded into her present shape-not by her own internal energy acting from withi.,, but by Parliament pressing on her from without-she possesses every attribute, every advantage, and every disadvantage of a compromise. Her Articles and authorized formularies are so drawn as to admit within her pale persons differing as widely as it is possible for the professors of the Christian religion to differ from each other. The object was evidently not to give predominance to any particular set of opinions, but to include as large a number of persons as the then feelings of the nation would permit within the precincts of the Church."

• According to this view, to say that the English Church is not a religious body is even less than the truth. It might almost be called anti-religious; it does not even represent, but is framed in order to stifle and delude the religious feeling of the nation. The object was “ to include as large a number of persons as the then feelings of the nation would permit within the precincts of the Church,” or in other words, to exclude from the creed every doctrine which the nation with its then feelings did not insist upon retaining. What exists in the Church of religious belief was forced upon it from without, contrary to its own policy and intention. And it is on behalf of this policy that “ The Times" affects to protest-affects, we say, because we find an insuperable difficulty in believing that any clever person (which the writer evidently is) could advance such an argument unless he desired the destruction either of religion in general or of the Church of England in particular. We can imagine a conscious infidel endeavouring by such a course of argument to habituate the popular mind to the idea of a creedless establishment as a sure, though indirect, mode of depriving it of any Christian belief. We can imagine a Roman Catholic overacting the part of a Liberal in his anxiety to urge against the English Church his favourite reproach of Parliamentarianism. We could imagine a German sentimen. talist (though not a writer in the English “ Times”) imagining the possibility of fraternising in some so-called religious appreciation of some indefinite infinite apart from any distinct belief of any actual supernatural truth. But we cannot imagine a man seriously—though ever so coldlybelieving in anything that deserves to be called Christianity, and seriously arguing for the maintenance of the status quo of the English Church on the ground that she does not lay down religious truth on any point "on which it is possible for the professors of the Christian religion to differ from each other,"—that she has no religious creed, and consequently is not a religious body, but some indescribable and inconceivable entity, a function of Government, an exponent of opinion, a financial arrangement or a compromise.'

[ocr errors]


Art. IV.— The Monthly Packet of Ecening Readings, 1852 ;

A Garland for the Year. It would be an inquiry, equally curious and profitable, which should investigate that which we may call the domestic influence of the Mediaval Church. How ecclesiastical festivals became seasons of home enjoyment; how holy days were turned into holidays; how the Church's children learnt, in private life, to think and to speak in the Church's way; how, ascending higher, the powers of this world, the governors of the state, fell almost unconsciously into the times and the seasons of her who is not of this world; how, for example, sheriffs were pricked on the morrow of S. Martin; how lawyers reckoned by Hilary or Trinity term; how every class was subject to the same moulding influence; how boys went a Midlenting, and peasants hunted the wren on S. Stephen's day, and kings held their Maundy. Merchants, over their ledgers, spoke the language, at least, of religion ; till very lately, bills of lading always commenced with the words, Ī, A. B. do send greeting in the Lord God ererlasting;' nor are the formulæ quite obsolete, • The ship C. whereof D.E. under God is master;' nor yet that, “To sail with the first fair wind that God shall send.' Gems were invested with a thousand mystical significations in the eyes of the jeweller ; the country simpler had his Lent Lilies, his Herb Trinity, his Our Lord and Lady, his Alleluia Flower, his Star of Bethlehem. Children began their Alphabet with a Criscross; countrymen saw in the ass the token of our Lord's entry into Jerusalem; suicides were buried in a cross way. It was the same influence always and everywhere at work; sometimes beautifully, sometimes amusingly, sometimes extravagantly, but always most really. The Church, whatever her language, was herself vernacular.

We propose to give a few of the national and provincial terms which have been impressed on Ecclesiastical Holydays. It



The Church names of flowers are most ably given in the series of papers which stands at the head of this Article. We know not where we have read a series combining so much of ecclesiastical research, with such a sense of the picturesque, and so much love for English landscape ; in fact, every way so perfectly delightful. We recommend it very strongly to our readers, and we trust that the labours of the Author (or perhaps Authoress), will be extended to other parts of nature, when the present set shall conclude with the year. Birds and insects would afford a large scope. To give an instance from the latter :—The Lady-bird, or Lady-cow, (of course called from Our Lady,) is in Spanish the Vaquilla de Dios (God's little Cow); in German, the May-Lady; in French, the Bête à bon Dieu ; in Russ, Boja Korovka (God's Cow).

« PreviousContinue »