The Conflict of Ideals in the English Church
By W. H. Griffith Thomas.
The substance of an Address delivered at a Meeting of the Wycliffe Association, Wycliffe College, Toronto, November, 1910, and also at the Annual Meeting of the National Church League, at the Church House, Westminster, London, England, July, 1910.
A CONFLICT OF IDEALS.
Mr. President and Gentlemen:–
When the President of your Wycliffe Association called me up about four weeks ago and wished to have a talk on the subject of this evening’s address, I suggested to him the possibility of taking for consideration some of the aspects of the Church in the Old Country, and some of the lessons that might possibly be drawn from those aspects for ourselves in Canada. Of course I am well aware that in many ways the conditions in England are altogether different from those in Canada, but at the same time I think it worth our while to study them, and then to endeavour our utmost to see what they mean for us over here.
Well, gentlemen, I am, of course, not concerned tonight with those ordinary, matter-of-fact matters that relate to parochial life. The everyday and every-week work of a parish in the Old Country is pretty much the same as it is here. There are the Sunday services and the weekday meetings, there is the preaching of the Gospel, the teaching in Sunday School, there are Bible Classes and so on. There is a great deal going on in hundreds and thousands of Parishes of which the world knows nothing, though God Himself knows a great deal. But what I am concerned with tonight, and what really concerns us as members of the Canadian Church, is to consider some of the things that stand out in English Church life, things that are seen in our papers, that are being considered by the authorities, that exercise a marked influence one way or another, and certainly cause a great deal of anxiety. Some twenty years ago, Canon Knox Little, a well-known member of the extreme section of the Church of England, wrote a book entitled, “The Conflict of Ideals in the Church of England,” and he endeavored to state as plainly as he could the different sets of ideals that actuate Churchmen, by whatever names they are known. That conflict of ideals has not decreased during the years since the book was written. On the contrary, I believe it is more acute than ever, and it is this in particular that I wish to mention tonight, to illustrate and prove it to you, and then, if I may, to draw a few morals for ourselves.
Without going unduly into Church history, I would like to remark that up to the time of the Tractarian Movement, the Oxford Movement as it is called, about the year 1833, there had been parties in the Church of England known as High Churchmen, Evangelical Churchmen, and, in a way, Broad Churchmen, and yet notwithstanding the differences in those parties there was a great deal of essential unity among them all. Caroline Divines like Andrewes, Jeremy Taylor, and others who are regarded as High Churchmen, were as anti-Roman as anyone could wish. Broad Churchmen of the Tillotson type were earnest, true-hearted men, and would, of course, be regarded as legitimately within the English Church. Evangelical Churchmen, as represented by men like Hooper, and Latimer, and to some extent Cranmer and Ridley, and later on by men at the time of the Commonwealth and right on into the eighteenth century, were also pronounced Churchmen, and on essential matters did not really disagree with those who were called High or Broad. But the Tractarian Movement, associated with Newman, Pusey, and others, introduced into the Church of England an entirely new set of ideas and an entirely new set of methods, and from that time forward influences have been at work in our Church which have brought about great differences, involving this conflict of ideals, and the chasm today between the two parties in the Old Country is wider than ever. In order that I may not merely state this in a sweeping way without proof, I will call your attention to some of the points in which this conflict is seen.
In the first place, there is a great difference between these two sets of Churchmen as to Episcopacy. The men represented by the Bishop of Birmingham and others say in so many words, “No Bishop, no Church,” that you cannot possibly have a proper branch of the Church of Christ unless you have Episcopacy, that is, Bishops consecrated in the line of what is called The Apostolic Succession. Bishop Gore, at the Cambridge Church Congress at the end of September, said that proposals for reunion among Christians based upon anything else than Episcopacy would rend the Church of England in twain. Many of us were exceedingly glad to read this candour and frankness. It is always well to know where we are, and these statements show that his view is “No Bishop, no Church.” Still more recently he spoke in similar terms and said he was quite prepared to fraternize with Nonconformists as much as possible, but that he would never go to any meeting where the different denominations were regarded as different branches of the Church of Christ, and were prayed for accordingly as though there were no essential differences between them. This again shows that in Bishop Gore’s view and in the view of men like him it is a case of “No Bishop, no Church.”
But the Evangelical view is wholly different. We hold with all our hearts to what we believe to be primitive, historical Episcopacy, but we do not believe that it is necessary to the existence of the Church. We believe that if all the Bishops from every part of the world were taken to heaven tonight, there would still be a Church of Christ left in Canada and in the other parts of the world; and, as our great Hooker has said, if the time came it would be quite possible for the Presbyters of the Church to appoint a Bishop and consecrate him themselves. This has actually been done. In the Church of Alexandria there was no Bishop for at least 200 years; and when a Bishop was first appointed to that church, the clergy did not send to other churches to obtain consecration for him, but consecrated him themselves. And the man was regarded as in the Succession from that time forward. This, then, is one great difference between us, on the question of the Episcopate.
Of course we Evangelicals are very often charged – I am speaking of England, for you have no term like “Nonconformist” over here – we are often charged over in the Old Country if we take this line, with being “Bad Churchmen,” and some people seem uncommonly nervous about being regarded as “Bad Churchmen”. And yet it is the fact, emphasized by representative scholars, that this position about the absolute necessity of Bishops finds no warrant in the Church of England until the time of the Tractarian movement. They are the true Churchmen who believe with all their hearts in maintaining Episcopacy for themselves, but who do not intend to insist upon it as an absolute necessity for others who feel, conscientiously, as Presbyterians do, that their own method of Church government is a scriptural one. I cannot now enter into the historical side of this, although it would be of great interest. I will only say that it can be proved beyond a shadow of doubt that for at least one hundred years, from 1552 to 1662, men were admitted to benefices in the Church of England, became Rectors of Church, and exercised all the functions of our Ministry, who had only received Presbyterian orders. And what is more, it is a fact that Queen Alexandra, whom we all honour and love, has never been confirmed by a Bishop. She came over from Denmark from the Lutheran Church and received foreign confirmation. In the eyes of the High Churchmen that is no confirmation at all; but she has never been reconfirmed, and Archbishops and Bishops have, of course, given her Communion again and again. There is not a single member of the Royal Family confirmed with Lutheran confirmation who has been required to be reconfirmed by a Bishop. These are facts which are well worthy of our attention and should be kept in mind.
As another illustration of the same conflict of ideals on the subject of the Church, let me call your attention to the following facts. The Archbishop of Canterbury addressed the members of the Edinburgh Missionary Conference in June last as “Fellow workers in the Church Militant, the Society of Christ on Earth.” Soon afterwards a letter appeared in the Guardian from Mr. Athelstan Riley, a well-known extreme Anglican, referring to the Archbishop’s words: – “With all respect to his Grace,” wrote Mr. Riley, “I am obliged to say that this is not my view of the Catholic Church; that there are such things as heresy and schism; and that if I thought the Church of England really taught that the Lutheran, Calvinist, and Baptist bodies, not to mention the infinite variety of sects, were all parts of the Church Militant, the Society of Christ on earth, I should very soon cease to belong to her.” On the same page of the Guardian there was a quotation from a sermon preached before the University of Cambridge by the Master of Magdalene College, Dr. Donaldson, in which he said: “I have received, with a request for my signature, a remonstrance protesting against the official recognition of the Conference by a well-known Church of England Society. I cannot refrain from expressing my earnest regret that any such document should be issued, or any such action contemplated, for if the signatories had their wish, it would be the death knell of the venerable S. P. G., and would also stay the progress and maim the influence of the Church of England indefinitely. The only possible justification of the action proposed would be the belief that all Protestant bodies in England who are outside the Church of England do not belong to the Church of Christ, and are not members of the Body of Christ. Is there any sane man who can maintain so outrageous a proposition?” I would just add that in view of these and other similar aspects of the conflict, it is absolutely impossible for the opposing sides to make common cause. Certainly it is impossible for both sides to be regarded as “sane”; it must be either one or the other.
I pass to something still more important: there is a great difference between Churchmen in regard to the Ministry. The High Churchman says that every Minister is a Priest in the sense of a sacrificial or sacrificing Priesthood. Evangelicals deny this, and say that the term “Priest” is the shortened form of the word “Presbyter,” which means Minister or Elder. Now between these two ideas of Priest and Presbyter there is a great gulf fixed. The Priest is a man by whose consecrating word and act the Presence of Christ becomes associated with the bread and wine. The Priest is a man who absolves after auricular confession. We say that is not the view of the New Testament or of the Prayer Book, and that the Ministry in the Church of England is not that of a sacrificing Priesthood, but the Ministry of Eldership, a Presbyterial ministry.
Let me give you a quotation I have made use of pretty freely lately, and probably shall do so again. About a couple of years ago a well-known scholar, Dr. Figgis, delivered a course of lectures at Cambridge. His father is a Nonconformist Minister in Brighton, one of the finest, truest, noblest, and most spiritual of men. Dr. Figgis is a man of decidedly different views, and is one of the Mirfield Fathers, as we call them in England, a very extreme type. Among other things he said this: “Nothing is more cruel than the way in which some despise and disparage what to many of us is the only reasonable hope of overcoming temptation – sacramental confession.” Just think of that for a moment. When I read it, I looked at it again and again. Here is a man brought up in Nonconformist circles who tells us that to him and many others sacramental confession is the only reasonable hope of overcoming temptation; that you and I, gentlemen, with temptations within us and around us, can only reasonably expect to overcome temptation if we go to a Priest and confess our sins. When you read a statement like that, you naturally think, as I did, “Is it not a curious thing that St. Paul has never said a word about this reasonable hope of overcoming temptation?” There are at least three chapters in his Epistles where he deals with this very subject, and yet he never once mentions such a thing as confession to a Priest. Imagine practically what it means, that the only reasonable hope for you and me to overcome sin is that we should go to our Clergyman from time to time, once a week, or as often as we can, and confess our sins! Why, it is almost unthinkable with the New Testament in our hands, to say nothing of the Prayer Book, that any man should have uttered those words. And yet this is being taught over and over again in our Churches in England, that we must come to Confession. This will show the length to which men go. It is a conflict if ideals. If those men are right, you and I are wrong. It is not merely a question of High Church or Evangelical, it is not a question of this or that liturgical color, it is not a question of surpliced or non-surpliced choir, it is a question of truth, and if they are right, we are wrong, while if we are right, they are wrong. This is the problem: Is the Minister a Priest, or is he a Presbyter in the New Testament sense?
Then, there is a profound difference between us in connection with the sacraments. I will not say very much about baptism, though there is a difference here of very real meaning. This is the difference between us: When does the Christian life begin? Miss Maynard, a well-known lady educationalist in London, who was over here last spring, wrote an article in the Record, giving some Canadian impression, and said she would stake the whole difference between Church parties on the answer to two questions, What is the Church? and What is the beginning of the Divine life in the soul of man? She added with regard to the latter, that those who answer “Baptism” are High Churchmen, while those who answer “Conversion” are Evangelical.
But it is the other sacrament I want specially to mention. A young man came to me about a year and a half ago in Oxford and said, “I am living with a very strong High Churchman who wants to discuss and argue about Holy Communion. Would you mind telling me in a word or two what you think is the fundamental difference between the High Churches and the Evangelical?” I said, “The difference is this: the High Churchman believes that through the words of consecration the presence of the Lord becomes attached to the elements, that in some way or other the presence of the Lord is in or under the veils of bread and wine. The Evangelical believes the Lord is present all through the service from beginning to end, that the presence of the Lord is not to be sought in the elements but through the whole service, and through faith in the heart of the believer, and that Consecration attaches to the elements, as Archbishop Temple said, ‘not a presence but a promise.’ If you believe the words of consecration bring down from heaven the presence of the Lord, you are a High Churchman; but if you believe the words of consecration set the bread and wine apart as sacred symbols of our Lord’s body and blood you are an Evangelical.” This is the difference in the Church of England today. You will find men who teach that the Lord Jesus Christ comes into the bread and wine when the Priest says the words “This is my Body.”
I know of one Church, and there are many more of the same sort, where about ten to twenty minutes past twelve on Sunday mornings a bell is rung three times, followed by a moment of silence, and then by three more rings. What does it mean? It is the moment of consecration of the elements in that Church, and when the bell rings three times, it means that the Lord has come down. It is called the Sanctus Bell, and they signalize the coming by ringing the bell three times for the bread and three times for the wine. This is the belief in that and many other Churches; and again I say, this, as between High Churchmen and Evangelicals, is not a question of difference of degree; it is a difference in kind; if they are right, we are wrong. Since I left England two months ago, no less than five men have gone over to the Church of Rome from Brighton Churches, and at least two of them have been teaching the undiluted Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation for ten or fifteen or twenty years unhindered. And when they were brought to book by the Bishop of Chichester, they found there was nothing for it but to resign; and only yesterday I saw in the paper that they had had an audience with the Pope, and were welcomed by him. I am glad they have gone to their own place, and I am only sorry they did not go long before. Since then, no less than seventy of the laity of these Churches have been received into the Roman Church. This is no mere question of party spirit; it is a difference of right or wrong. I say again, if they are right we are wrong; it is a conflict of ideals.
Another point is this: there is a great difference between the two parties as to the place of the Church in relation to individual salvation. I am fond of referring to a statement made by a leading Roman Catholic at the Eucharistic Congress in London three years ago. Mgr. Moyes said that the fundamental difference between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism is this: Roman Catholicism says that the order of salvation is Christ, the Church, the Soul. Protestantism changes the order and says Christ, the Soul, the Church. When I read those words, I was glad to have the position so clearly stated. I believe it to be absolutely correct. Rome says “Through the Church to Christ”; we say “Through Christ to the Church.” The New Testament says, “The Lord adds to the Church.” Rome says, “The Church adds to the Lord.” It is either one or the other, whichever you believe to be true. In the Church of England there are those who are teaching what is virtual Romanism on this subject, and they say that it is through the Church we come to Christ. We, on the other hand, say that it is through Christ we come to the Church, that Christ is first, the individual next, and the Church third. If, then, these things are so, it is impossible to bridge over the gulf. If I have in one hand a piece of light blue glass, I can think of Cambridge; if I have in the other hand a piece of dark blue, I naturally think of Oxford. You see the difference between the two; they are both blue. It is a difference of tint, not of color. But if a man produced two glasses, one green and the other red, that would not be a difference of tint but of color. And I maintain that up to the time of the Tractarian Movement, the difference between High Church and Evangelical was a difference of tint only, not of color. But since the Tractarian Movement there has been a profound difference of color between the two parties, and this profound difference is being realized today as never before.
Let me ask your attention to this, to show you by way of summary, a little of what is going on. A London Parish Magazine had this only a few months ago: “On the Thursday after Trinity Sunday we shall keep our Feast in honour of the Blessed Sacrament. Personally we think of it as Corpus Christi; officially we eschew the name with a grudging obedience.” The writer knew that our Church deliberately dropped out Corpus Christi day from the Calendar at the time of the Reformation, and that it is illegal to put it in or to have services on that day, but he said “We shall keep it. Personally we think of it as Corpus Christi, officially we eschew the name with grudging obedience.” This does not sound much like loyalty to the English Church.
Some months ago a well-known Congregational Minister, Dr. Horton of Hampstead, London, was summoned for libel because he happened to say in the Daily News that a certain weekly paper was used in the interests of Roman Catholicism. Dr. Horton was summoned for libel for making out that paper to be Roman Catholic when it was not. The Doctor founded his opinion upon the statement of a regular contributor, and when he read it he took it for granted that the paper must be Roman Catholic. He was proved to be erroneous, that it only represented the extreme men of the English Church. Dr. Horton was not fined; he was technically in the wrong, but was awarded the case. Well, now, this was the part of the paper on which Dr. Horton founded his judgment. This is the article, or part of the article by the regular contributor: “I cursed the Protestant Reformation then with heart and soul, and still do I curse it and hate it and detest it with all its works and in all its abominable operations, internal and external. I loathe it, abhor it, as the most hideous blasphemy, the greatest woe, the most monstrous horror which has fallen upon the hapless race of mortals since the foundation of the world.” When the editor was asked in Court about it, he said he “did not regard it as offensive.” I would ask you to consider whether you think it was not pretty natural that Dr. Horton should assume that it came from Rome. I am not surprised that he made a mistake. I should have thought that a man who allowed himself to say those words was pretty far gone in the Roman direction, but he claimed to be a member of the Church of England. That shows the extent of the conflict of ideals on the subject. I have in my possession a manual called “A Book for the Children of God,” a little book of instruction for young people, and they are taught almost in these very words: The Holy Ghost makes his home in the Catholic Church, He does not make His home with dissenters; He may visit them from time to time, but they never know when He is coming. It is a serious fact, gentlemen, that this is being taught to scores and hundreds and thousands of young children in the Church of England today; and no wonder people are saying it is impossible for both High Churchmen and Evangelicals to be right.
Now, I want to draw one or two morals. People will say, “Yes, but this is England, it is not Canada.” Although I am speaking only from two months’ personal knowledge, I wonder whether there may not be at least the possibilities of something like this in Canada, if not today, at any rate in a little while. For there are men (I have read their statements in Canadian papers) who hold essentially and fundamentally what I have been bringing before you tonight, and, therefore, if they are right, Wycliffe College must be wrong. And on the other hand, if Wycliffe College in its teaching during the last twenty-five or thirty years is right, these man are wrong. It is impossible for both to be right. And though, of course, we have not anything like the same extent of divergence in Canada, I believe these divergences are here and are being seen. I purposely avoided saying a word last time on the subject which was then mainly before you, the question of Wycliffe and Trinity; I felt that coming here as a stranger, a new man in connection with the College, it was not fitting that I should take any part in it. And I do not know that I should have said anything at all except in the matter of private conversation, but for the fact that I read an interesting statement published by the representatives of Trinity College last week in which they expressed their regret that Wycliffe would not unite, and also their own willingness for this union. It occurred to me as I came along tonight that the question of the union between Wycliffe and Trinity could be settled in a quarter of an hour in a very simple way. This is what I would suggest. I would put on one side of a table Dr. O’Meara and Archdeacon Cody, and I would put on the other side Provost Macklem and Vice-Provost Llwyd, and I would get Dr. O’Meara and Dr. Cody as representing Wycliffe to ask the other two gentlemen to give categorical answers to about six questions, and on those categorical answers I would stake everything as to the possibility of union between Wycliffe and Trinity. I would ask these questions on the lines I have suggested tonight: “What is your view of the relation of the Bishop to the Church?” “What is your view of the Ministry?” “Is it a Priesthood or is it a Presbyterate?” “What is your view of the consecration of the elements?: “Does the presence of the Lord come into the elements as the result of consecration?” “What is your view of the place of the Church in relation to the individual?” I will undertake to say that if those answers were given definitely and categorically from what is generally understood to be the standpoint of Trinity, it would soon be seen by everybody how utterly incompatible are the essential positions of the two places. That is a simple way, and I believe it would be an effective and effectual way, of settling the question.
Now, although, as I say, the conditions in England are altogether different in intensity and degree from those that we find in Canada, yet there are some problems that we have to face and some influences from the Old Country which are at work here; and for these reasons we have to consider the position and to ask ourselves, where we are and what we are to do. No one can doubt that our Church in the Old Land is divided, that this division is a source of weakness, and that it assuredly prevents us from exerting influence and bearing our testimony as we ought. Remember that in England we are about half the Church-going population; and if only our Church were united today and could speak with one voice, the power, the blessing, and the influence would be unmistakable. But as long as this division exists which is being accentuated every day, so long will there be a weakness, and failure to glorify God both at home and abroad. We thank God with all our hearts for all the work associated with societies like the Church Missionary Society, the Church Pastoral Aid Society (our Home Missionary Society) and kindred organizations; we thank God for thousands of Parishes in which there is Evangelical, spiritual work going on from week to week known, as I say, only to God. And yet, notwithstanding all this, there is this great fact, the awful gulf which divides Churchman from Churchman, causing trouble and anxiety and weakness on every hand. As I read the English papers every week, and especially as I see the Times with letters on subjects now before the Church, I observe the differences are becoming still more acute. Only yesterday I read a letter from the Dean of Canterbury, Dr. Wace, in which he deplored the way things were going, and prophesied that in a very short time things would take on a still graver aspect. Gentlemen, we have our difficulties over here, and I venture to say that even in the Church of Canada we should be all the stronger if we were united, that in the face of materialism and in the presence of all other Churches, we should be able to witness more definitely to the national life of this land if we were of one mind and of one heart in the Lord. As long as this difference exists, there will be weakness and difficulty.
This brings me to what I want to suggest. What are we to do? This is for ourselves in connection with Church life. Our first need is that of knowledge. I plead with you that we should know our position as Evangelical Churchmen; we ought to know it as it stands in the New Testament; we ought to know it as it is embodied in the Prayer Book. Nothing can make up for knowledge. A man who does not know where he is in regard to these matters is liable to be carried about with every wind of doctrine, is liable to be led astray by a man of charming personality who happens to be a High Churchman of pronounced type. But if he knows where he is from the point of view of the New Testament and of the Prayer Book, he will stand four square to all the winds that blow. And so I would urge that in one way or another, individually for ourselves, and through our clergy from the pulpit and in all classes, we must get knowledge of why we are what we are, from the standpoint of the Prayer Book.
And the second thing I suggest is courage; we ought to have the courage of our convictions. There is no reason why an Evangelical Churchman should ever feel the slightest degree of nervousness about his position; we have everything to gain and nothing to lose by fearlessness and courage. With the New Testament on our side and the Prayer Book on our side, with everything that we know of history from the Reformation on our side, why should we be nervous? I believe that whatever leaps to light in the way of facts that we do not now know, nothing will ever come to light to make an Evangelical Churchman ashamed of his position. Everything that has been discovered connected with the Reformation, and the story of Edward and Mary and Elizabeth, has gone to support and confirm the Evangelical position, and we have nothing to be nervous or fearful about. We ought to be courageous and to believe in our cause, and the man who does that will find himself on the winning side.
The third need is unity. We must act together. It will never do for individual Evangelical Churchmen to think that they need only work individually; they must work individually, but they must also work together. You remember what the American said, “Brethren, if we do not hang together, we shall hang separately.” This is true of Evangelical Churchmen, we must “hang together,” we must pull together, we must go together, there must be a united front in all the matters that we believe to be fundamental, and with unity will come strength and power and blessing.
Lastly, there must be service, individual service and corporate service. I have rejoiced in this Wycliffe Association from the moment I first heard of it; and after a conversation with your President telling me all about its history and its work, I rejoiced still more because it seems to me that it has in it splendid possibilities along the line of united and individual service in our parishes. Let every man from every parish represented here tonight determine that he will do his very best for the cause of Evangelical Churchmanship. He can do a great deal in the way of circulating literature. In the Old Country we have been very far behind in this respect. The Evangelicals have allowed the other side to do most of the writing and to issue most of the works of handbooks and tracts and papers of recent years. But this weakness has in some degree been met, and there are now some English Church Manuals which can be had over here for about three or four cents, and although they are called “English Church Manuals,” most of them are equally suited to the Canadian Church. They represent some of our best Evangelical Church writers in the Old Country, and they are full of useful information, positive, noncontroversial, just the very information that thoughtful young people need. I feel sure if each of you would circulate these Manuals, you would be doing a great work for Evangelicalism. I may, perhaps, mention another thing. Some of us have tried during the past three or four years to provide a series of little books called “Anglican Church Handbooks”. While they are called “Anglican Handbooks,” they give the positive, intellectual aspects of Evangelical Churchmanship for the guidance and information of the thoughtful young people, for theological students, and for the junior clergy of our Church. They are having a good circulation. They include books from the Bishop of Ossory, Mr. Harrington Lees, Dr. Eugene Stock, Mr. Joynt, Dr. Chadwick, and several others.
There are still other ways in which our cause may be helped. I should rejoice very much if we could be more thoroughly represented in the Canadian Church press in some way or other. Coming over from the Old Country with Evangelical weekly papers and monthly magazines, I cannot help feeling the lack of something like this over here, for I believe with all my heart in periodical Church literature. If we can circulate magazines and papers and manuals and books, we shall spread the light, and we shall do more in this way than perhaps in any other to give people information, and so provide a reason for the hope that is in us and for the hope that we wish to be in them. Let us think of these things, and though, as I say, the conditions in the Old Country are in many ways different from those that obtain here, there is sufficient similarity to put us on our guard, and to lead us to watch against those tendencies which sever men from one another, which put a gulf between different types of churchmanship, and which call for all the work and prayer and effort we can give. Let us think of these four needs: knowledge, courage, unity, and service; and with the power of God’s grace and the blessing of God’s Spirit we shall be on His side, as He will be on our side: His truth in us, which is mighty, will prevail, and in all things He will be glorified.