Billeder på siden

purpose which it never was designed to serve. We are not now discussing the effects of a wrong kind of test; we are only here insisting on initial clearness, and protesting against the assumed right of making a thing one thing because it is another, putting something to one use because its proper use is something else, serenely assuming the functions of a creed to be those of a test because it is not in its own nature a test but a creed. On a question that may in the future bulk so largely, and is always vital, let us preserve ourselves from unseen entanglements by ridding ourselves of present confusions. I am quite willing to have it said that I am making much out of little, if only the little that is awry be thereby set right; but if we muddle our thinking at the fountainhead, what is the practical issue likely to be? We know enough of what it has been in the past in just this case we are considering, for we have the history of the first Christian Church behind us. If our beginnings in that bad way are as yet small, there are not wanting signs that there are such beginnings, this little piping innocent of a test converted from a creed being witness.

This brings up our second point-our attitude in relation to tests implicitly contains a reassertion, and is openly a perpetuation, of an Old Church falsity, viz. the rightness and necessity of doctrinal tests in matters of religion and church fellowship, based on the assumption that religion and religious associations are of the intellect and of faith alone. We do not believe that the Church is of faith alone? No, but that is the parentage of our doctrinal tests as the basis of fellowship; and one has not yet heard that we are clear about foregoing these beloved safeguards of Solifidian warfare.

We are willing, provisionally, to adhere to the principle of the test; so that no one will be able to say that it is its abrogation we now seek. But perhaps our very retention of that principle may need a word of justification to some.

It is certain that men animated by a like spirit and purpose wish, and rightly wish, not to be deteriorated from their common standard of feeling and life by an incongruous adhesion to their society of those not in harmony with its tone and intention, and whose fellowship would be destructive of that intention. But it is right to add that any safeguard whatever would be a failure against hypocrisy, and that the natural laws of human affinity would inevitably work out their own assortments—facts which might warrant an objector to tests of all kinds in considering any formation of them a sectarian narrowness. Still, it does hold good that so far as the associating men are concerned the wish to preserve intact the purposes of their community is a lawful wish ; or, at any rate, it has that air of soothing reasonable plausibility about it which we like so much, which answers a temporary purpose, and which we are not here gainsaying, but accepting ; and, indeed, if a test will keep a determined thief from the company of honest men, it is surely better for all parties that he should be tested to the other side of the door, providing always there are no other means of effecting that desirable conclusion. Leastways we are not going here to assume any such possibilities, lest we should be called upon to work them out, but accept provisionally the principle of the test as an accommodation to halting thought.

So far so good ; but why then do we object to doctrinal tests in matters of the religious life? One might as well be asked the reason for objecting to measure the spiritual world with an earthly draper's yard-stick, or for rejecting the suggestion to restrain a drunkard by the moral efficacy of the multiplication-table, or for refusing to attempt any effect whatever by utterly incommensurate means, especially any moral effect by intellectual or doctrinal machinery. We know its failure in the past; why should we perpetuate that failure? Our own experience has demonstrated its utter inadequacy to make or to keep our Societies pure; why continue the myth? But we might have known by now, and we may easily perceive, the innate worthlessness of this progeny of faith alone; why adopt and dress in New Church raiment the bad moral issue of such a parent?

Religion is moral, but creeds as tests of belief go upon the supposition of its being intellectual; and it really matters not how fractional the creed is, for the principle is manifestly the same though you reduce your creedal test to the mere ghost of a credo. The New Church cannot, even in such a case, escape the imputation of following blindly in the wake of the Old Church falsity. We know theoretically that the religious life of the Church or of our Societies is not founded on the intellect or on faith alone ; and yet we retain, and propose as a test of religious disposition and fellowship, an intellectual proposition as to whether we believe such and such doctrines. In time, no doubt, we may be able to see that we should address ourselves to the affection and desire rather than to the intellectual apprehension, but meanwhile we have not yet adopted that course; we address candidates on their beliefs, making thus our appeal directly to the intellect (whatever heart-sympathies we may be supposed to reach indirectly through such appeal), not having yet fairly shaken ourselves free of the delusion that the doctrinal belief is a possible basis of communion, or that the fellowship of the saints may be based on the common apprehension of a creed of the old falsity, i.e. of an intellectual or doctrinal basis for a distinctively moral association. The ship of the Old Church struck on that rock, and in the end has split into the thousand fragments of sectarian difference which characterize her wreck; what hope is there that if we begin with the same insidious smallness of falsity we shall not also end in a similar breadth of organic destruction ? Small things have in the long run a decided faculty for awakening the inattentive mind with a portentous sense of their capacity for growth.

The defence here again is that inasmuch as the Church is based on both truth and good, on doctrine and life, and we have no other means of reaching the heart than through the intellect, our questions must necessarily take a doctrinal form, but that by that means they reach the heart also, which they have no other means of reaching; and the difference between the Old Church and ourselves is that she addressed the doctrinal beliefs alone, while we address the whole Church in man-both intellect and desire, both faith and life.

The answer is, and is conclusive : 1st, as to the question of fact, the Old Church never did address the doctrinal belief alone, but did precisely in this as we do, only on a larger scale ; 2nd, that you need not address the doctrinal belief in order to reach the heart, but can question the desires quite as readily as you can the beliefs, the form of your question being all; and 3rd, though the Church is based on both good and truth, the question here is not the basis of the Church in man the individual (which is that of good and truth in union), but the basis of an external, provisional organization—the Church visible ; and that while beliefs and desires are alike necessary for the expanding individual growth, the cementing bond, on the other hand, of the external, stationary, perennial organization, continual in its sameness, is its common abiding affection and desire, its charity towards God and man while precisely its separating element is its thoughts, or the doctrinal expression of its beliefs

. Charity unites, and faith divides, communities ; which of these, then, is the basis of the external Church? Choose, for both you cannot have; their union is the individual crown and privilege, which no extemporized, external community can take from him. Nay, we may boldly add that the collective Church is charity, and as such has no beliefs ; these belong to the individuals composing it; and the common emotion pertaining to each, and cementing all

, is the thread upon which the beliefs are run. Therefore the New Church, judging the Old, is inexcusable ; " for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doeth the same things. But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them who do such things” as change the centre of Christian unity.

But to give the matter definiteness and bring it home, let us find an illustration in the instance already noted—the “Introductory Service” passed at last Conference. Here the creed (and a little more than the creed) is openly converted into a test for candidates. They are told, “You are now assembled, my young friends, before the Lord to affirm your belief in ese Heavenly Doctrines” (the primary object of their assembling, i.e. to say, is the doctrinal affirmation of a creed) * of the New Jerusalem and your desire to live a life in

'conformity with them.” They are then asked, “Do you believe” (or, as it will run, “ You believe?”) in the Lord Jesus Christ as the only God and Saviour ? You believe in the holiness of the Word of God, which is the Divine Truth itself, etc. You believe that in order to be saved you must have faith, etc. You will search the Scriptures that you may know, etc.”. To all of which questions the candidate is required to answer “I do” and “I will ” respectively.

Here is a case in which the principle of a doctrinal basis of fellowship is not only tacitly assumed to be right, but openly carried out by the conversion of a creed into a test, and that on the pure ground apparently that, the creed being a creed, the Church has authority to make a test of it for that sufficient reason. Now the point-blank question I have to ask is, Why should we put any such questions to candidates, or any questions at all to such candidates ? 1

Why is the necessity for questioning, especially for doctrinal questioning, presupposed? Let any body point out to us the good of it. Do we think why we put such questions at all, or do we put them from any other basis than the fag-end of an Old Church prejudice? I dare affirm that the secret prompting to their insertion is the lingering notion that we must somehow be the protectors of the truth, and so, like Uzzah, put forth our hands to steady the ark of God, lest without our upholding it should come to grief. But we know what came to Uzzah for his pains. We do not wish to make more of this thing than it demands, but we would ask sober men, who may not have thought of the matter before, but who are not inclined to call every change a revolution, to pause over the question as here put, and endeavour to estimate this whole test business at its own value ; let them inquire where the need lies for such doctrinal tests; the ground on which such tests are a necessity; their right, and on what that right is established, to be the testers, together with the parentage of the custom; the amount of good that is likely to accrue from putting such tests, and especially how much is likely to be gained by them that could not be better gained by other means'; and what of harm may really result from these well-meant but Úzzah-like endeavours to protect the truth and upbuild the Church. If the New Church spirit of the matter be not as yet in us (or what at least we venture to deem such), let us at any rate look at it in the dry light of reason, and call to our aid the examples in high places of the power and the sting in the tail with which atheism has been invested of late, through no other cause than the insistance on formal tests after every freed spirit of the time knows that they have been weighed in the balance and found wanting, and perceives that their days are numbered ; and then let us realize that it is actually New Churchmen who, with the utmost sense of complacence that what they do in this is right, are perpetuating the folly of effete ages at the spiritual centre of Christendom. Some at least will thus be able to see that there can be no justification for our course other than our own thoughtlessness of the principle we infringe, and of the moral and ecclesiastical consequences of the infringement, and that we are not only reaffirming the Old Church falsity, but sustaining a precedent for its perpetuation and extension.

Moral consequences have been indicated. Apart from the question on its merits it does not seem to be thought that any real injury can accrue to young minds—to revert still to the Introductory Service-by doctrinal tests. To young minds who are perfectly self-centred and comfortably wrapped in the outward obliviousness of the possibility that there is anything else worth knowing than what they already know-possibly not. We have met such of old; it may be that some other ministers have met them too; and—who knows? Influences are subtle and far-reaching; it may be that we are indebted for the questions of this Service to the unconscious sense in the compiler's mind of the confidence with which they would be answered—a vicarious confidence on his part intimately related to much experience that way. Is this, too, the ground from which the objection to these questions is considered a “sentimental grievance"? For our part, you may test such experienced young persons to your heart's content and we should not greatly care, but thank God that the true, living, spiritually-sensitive Church is not made up of these. To young minds, again, who are prepared to say Yes or No to anything simply because it happens to be asked them and is thought the necessary step to the end in view—meaning for them little or nothing in its own right and beyond a question to be answered in the prescribed way—to such young minds also possibly not. Clearly “all things come alike to all” these, whether self-assured or thoughtless; and the point of the test, striking against their self-assurance or their

1 The matter of any questions to any candidates is reserved.

thoughtlessness, is turned aside and falls useless to the ground. In plain words, What good does your test do here? Its very object (if it have one) is defeated ; nay, it becomes the means of positive mischief by advancing the self-assurance of the assured and the thoughtlessness of the thoughtless.

But suppose your questioning is to do good, to whom may it be supposed to be of use? Surely to those who will seriously endeavour to weigh your words and try to answer you as before God; either these or the whole thing is a mere show and form. And are they, at fifteen years of age, in any condition to tell themselves that they really understand and dare to reply without doubting to the unspeakable things you ask them of? Now see the position. If your question presupposes any amount of independent thought in the questioned, and the possibility of answering from that thought, it presupposes also in that very fact the terrible correlative possibility of the knowledge of its ignorance, and with that consciousness of ignorance the entrance of doubt; and doubt at that age is death. If, on the other hand, the candidates are not supposed to be able to answer from some amount of independent thought, why are the questions put? And if the questions are supposed to appeal to nothing in the candidate but the faith of his ancestors, will any mortal tell us what good your questioning will do to such faith that is not already done by his having it? If he has it, he speaks his answer from it automatically, and neither he nor the Church is one whit the better; if he has it not, then are you the instrument of compelling him to a public declaration of an untruth. The element of independent thought, then, by the nature of the case eliminated, to whom does such questioning do good? Certainly not to the candidate, for he is without that one element of self-reflection to which all questions by necessity make their appeal, from which they derive their value, and which is the ground for their being asked. Such questions have validity only where there exists the freedom of intellectual choice and of self-decision ; but these powers the candidate has not yet attained; and if he could by supposition have them at such an age, the accompanying consciousness of ignorance would create a contest wholly preju. dicial to his moral health, for the reason that his poor and insufficient store of experience is not an armoury from which the fitting weapons for such a warfare could be obtained. In a word, theological questioning at fifteen is so much delusion and posturing and empty sound and show. Surely we can do our candidates good without such utterably inapplicable means as these. Still such questions might perhaps be of benefit to the special Society or to the Church? It will be for those who think so to show where such good will fall. Can it be good for a thoughtful onlooker to know that these young people are being made to answer questions of the import of which they have no such estimate as would warrant the questions being put to them; and that their answer at best is from some merely persuasive affection, or even “from the teeth outward”? And can it possibly be good for the Church in general to know that it is causing to be repeated the solemn falsity of the so-called orthodox denominations in the application of doctrinal tests to what, if they exist at all, are purely moral and religious states? Let the Church answer that question and the whole difficulty is solved.


(To be continued.)



THE DANGERS OF THE TIMES, AND HOW remarks, are open to the discussion of

all sides of the questions raised ; if they

convey the poison, they supply the The Archbishop of Canterbury, in his antidote ; but as he shrewdly suggests, recent charge to the clergy, has stepped obviously there are two sides to this out of the usual course of bishops' argument, and it may be the system of charges and entered into a statement which we are speaking has a tendency of current opinion on modern religious to lead the uninformed to regard all doctrine and teaching, and into an questions as open, and truth as doubtelaborate argument in support of the ful.” popular Christian faith.

i. There can

The Archbishop has not overstated be no doubt," says the Archbishop, the question as to the prevalence of " that the aspect of Christian society at sceptical opinion. Much of this the present day is somewhat troubled; opinion is a protest against religious that the Church of Christ and the faith misconceptions, but much also arises of Christ is passing through a great from a dislike of the restraints of relitrial in all regions of the civilized world, gious truth. Its prevalence is matter and not least among ourselves. There of common observation, and has long are dark clouds on the horizon already exercised the minds of serious Christian breaking, which may speedily burst workers. The popular faith makes into a violent storm." In the prospect scarcely any impression on the dense of this threatened affliction, the Arch- mass of hostile sentiment and antibishop, like a true watchman, utters the christian practice which prevails in our cry of caution and attention to the large cities and populous communities. officers of the camp.

“What would be What is the remedy proposed by the said,” he says, “ if we, through our Archbishop? It is, in brief, an elaboweakness, should give to those who rate statement of old arguments, “which are banded together to resist or ignore have never been refuted,” in reply to Christianity the encouragement always old objections which are presented in secured to an advancing foe, when those new aspects. The solidity of many of who have to repel the onset are blind these arguments is unquestionable, but to the real danger, and occupied with it is equally unquestionable that somefrivolous discussions amongst themselves how or other they fall dead upon the on minor matters ?" The most formid- minds of those to whom they are adable danger before the Church is the dressed. If religious truth is to profitspread of atheistic sentiments and infidel ably affect the minds of highest culture, practices. “To judge,” says the Arch- the doctrines of the Church must interbishop, “ by the loud and unscrupulous pret the Word in harmony with intellecttalk of some, you might think that we cal thought and the moral teaching of were fast being prepared for acquiescence the Bible. And if religion is to reach in a materialistic atheism.

It is the masses of the people, both its doc. indeed a frightful thought that numbers trines and practices must tend to their of our intelligent mechanics seem to be moral and social elevation. It is a alienated from all religious ordinances, practical religion only that can reach that our secularist halls are well filled, the lower strata of society, and a rational that there is an active propagandism at system of doctrine which can adapt rework for shaking belief in all creeds. .

ligious instruction to the whole body of It is a peculiarity of our time that in the people. every household in England that cultivates an acquaintance with the literature of the day, we find lying everywhere ADDRESSES TO AND FROM THE GENERAL for the use of our sons and daughters,

CONFERENCE. and have placed in our hands at all the railway stations, magazines, in the pages The following complete these addresses of which the doctrines both of natural which, as stated in our last number, the and revealed religion are

assailed.” Conference has this year ordered to be These periodicals, as the Archbishop printed in the Magazine .-

« ForrigeFortsæt »