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VI. By far the ablest of these seven Essays is from the pen of the “Rev. Mark Pattison, B.D., Rector of Lincoln College, Oxford.” It purports to be an Essay on the “Tendencies of Religious Thought in England, 1688-1760;” but it can hardly be said to correspond with that description. In the concluding paragraph, the learned writer gives to his work a different name. It is declared to be “The past History of the Theory of Belief in the Church of England129129 p. 329..” But neither the title at the head, nor the title at the tail of the Essay, gives any adequate notion of the Author’s purpose.
Had we met with this production, isolated, in the pages of a Review, we should have probably passed it by as the work of a clever man, who, after amusing himself to some extent with the Theological literature of the last century, had desired to preserve some record of his reading; and had here thrown his random jottings into connected form. There is a racy freshness in a few of Mr. Pattison’s sketches, (as in his account of Bentley’s controversy with Collins130130 pp. 307-309.,) which forcibly cxiiisuggests the image of an artist whose pencil cannot rest amid scenery which stimulates his imagination. To be candid, we are inclined to suspect that, in the first instance, something of this sort was in reality all that the learned author had in view. But we are reluctantly precluded from putting so friendly a construction on these seventy-six pages. Not only does Mr. Pattison’s Essay stand between Mr. Goodwin’s open endeavour to destroy confidence in the writings of Moses, and Professor Jowett’s laborious insinuations that the Bible is only an ordinary book; but it claims a common purpose and intention with both those writers. Mr. Pattison’s avowed object is “to illustrate the advantage derivable to the cause of religious and moral truth, from a free handling, in a becoming spirit, of subjects peculiarly liable to suffer by the repetition of conventional language, and from traditional methods of treatment131131 Notice prefixed to Essays and Reviews..” We proceed therefore to examine his labours by the aid of the clue which he has himself supplied. For when nine editions of a book appear in quick succession, prefaced by a description of the spirit in which “it is hoped that the volume will be received,”—it seems a pity that the author should not be judged by the standard of his own choosing.
We are surprised then to find how slightly Mr. Pattison’s Essay fulfils its avowed purpose.. The learned author does not, in fact, directly “handle” the class of subjects referred to, at all: or if he does, it is achieved in a couple of pages. And yet it is not difficult to point out the part which his Essay performs in the general scheme of this guilty volume. With whatever absence of “concert or comparison” the cxivauthors may have severally written, the fatal effect of their combined endeavours is not more apparent than the part sustained by each Essay singly in promoting it.
While Mr. Goodwin demolishes the Law, and Dr. Williams disbelieves the Prophets; while Professor Powell denies the truth of Miracles, and Professor Jowett evacuates the authority of Holy Scripture altogether,—while Dr. Temple substitutes the inner light of Conscience for an external Revelation; and Mr. Wilson teaches men how they may turn the substance of Holy Scripture into a shadow, evade the plain force of language, and play fast and loose with those safeguards which it has been ever thought that words supply;—Mr. Pattison, reviewing the last century and a half of our own Theological history, labours hard to produce an impression that, here also “all is vanity and vexation of spirit.” He calls off our attention from the Bible, and bids us contemplate the unlovely aspect of the English “religious world” from the Revolution of 1688 down to the publication of the ‘Tracts for the Times,’ in 1833132132 p. 255.. “Be content for a while, (he seems to say,) to disregard the prize; and observe the combatants instead. Listen to the historian of moral and religious progress,” while he depicts “decay of religion, licentiousness of morals, public corruption, profaneness of language, a day of rebuke and blasphemy.” Come attend to me; and I will draw the likeness of “au age destitute of depth or earnestness; an age whose poetry was without romance, whose philosophy was without insight, and whose public men were without character; an age of ‘light without love,’ whose ‘very merits were of the cxvearth, earthy.’” (p. 254.) “If we would understand our own position in the Church, and that of the Church in the age; if we would hold any clue through the maze of religious pretension which surrounds us; we cannot neglect those immediate agencies in the production of the present, which had their origin towards the beginning of the eighteenth century.” (p. 256.) Let us then “trace the descent of religious thought, and the practical working of the religious ideas,” (p. 255,) through some of the phases they have more recently assumed. You shall see the Apostles tried on a charge “of giving false witness in the case of the Resurrection of Jesus;” (p. 303;) and pronounced “not guilty,” by one whose “name once commanded universal homage among us;” but who now, (!) with South (!!) and Barrow, (!!!) “excites perhaps only a smile of pity.” (p. 265.) You shall be shewn Bentley in his attack on Collins the freethinker, enjoying “rare sport,”—“rat-hunting in an old rick;” and “laying about him in high glee, braining an authority at every blow.” (p. 308.) “Coarse, arrogant, and abusive, with all Bentley’s worst faults of style and temper, this masterly critique is decisive.” (p. 307.) And yet, you are not to rejoice! “The ‘Discourse of Freethinking’ was a small tract published in 1713 by Anthony Collins, a gentleman whose high personal character and general respectability seemed to give a weight to his words, which assuredly they do not carry of themselves.” (p. 307.) [Why, the man ought to have been an Essayist and Reviewer!] . . . “By freethinking” he does but “mean liberty of thought,—the right of bringing all received opinions whatsoever to the touchstone of reason:” (p. 307:) [a liberty which has evidently disappeared from English Literature: cxvia right which no man dares any longer exercise under pain of excommunication!] “Collins was not a sharper, and would have disdained practices to which Bentley stooped for the sake of a professorship.” (p. 310.) [O high-minded Collins!] “The dirt endeavoured to be thrown on Collins will cleave to the hand that throws it.” (p. 309.) [O dirty Bentley!] And though “Collins’s mistakes, mistranslations, misconceptions, and distortions are so monstrous, that it is difficult for us now, forgetful how low classical learning had sunk, to believe that they are mistakes, and not wilful errors,” (p. 308,)—yet “Addison, the pride of Oxford, had done no better. In his ‘Essay on the Evidences of Christianity,’ Addison ‘assigns as grounds for his religious belief, stories as absurd as that of the Cock-lane ghost, and forgeries as rank as Ireland’s ‘Vortigern;’ puts faith in the lie about the thundering legion; is convinced that Tiberius moved the Senate to admit Jesus among the gods; and pronounces the letter of Agbarus, King of Edessa, to be a record of great authority.’” (p. 307, quoting Macaulay’s Essays.) All this and much more you shall see. Remember that it is the history of your immediate forefathers which you will be contemplating,—the morality of the professors of religion during the last century,—“the past history of the theory of Belief in the Church of England!” (p. 329.)
The curtain falls; and now, pray how do you like it? I invite you, in conclusion, to “take the religious literature of the present day, as a whole; and endeavour to make out clearly on what basis Revelation is supposed by it to rest; whether on Authority, on the Inward Light, on Reason, on self-evidencing Scripture, or on the combination of the cxviifour, or some of them, and in what proportions.” (p. 329.) . . . . After this, you are at liberty to proceed to read ‘Jowett on Inspiration,’—with what appetite you may!
Such is the impression which Mr. Pattison’s Essay is calculated to leave behind. That he had no wicked intention in writing it, no one who knows him could for an instant suppose: but the effect of what he has done is certainly to set his reader adrift on a dreary sea of doubt. Discomfort and dissatisfaction, confusion and dismay, are the prevailing sentiments with which a religious mind, unfortified with learning, will rise from the perusal of the present Essay: while the irreligious man will study it with a sneer of ill-concealed satisfaction. The marks of Mr. Pattison’s own better knowledge, (sufficiently evident to the quick eye of one who is aware of the writer’s high theological attainments;)—the indications of a truer individual judgment, (discoverable throughout by one who knows the author’s private worth, and is himself happily in possession of the clue by which to escape from this tangled labyrinth:)—these escape the common reader. To him, all is dreary doubt.
I must perforce deal with Mr. Pattison’s labours in a very summary manner. The chief complaint I have to make against him is that he has altogether omitted what, to you and to me, is the most important feature of the century which he professes to describe,—namely, the vast amount of lofty Churchmanship, the unbroken Catholic tradition, which, with no small amount of general short-coming, is to be traced throughout the eighteenth century. To insinuate that the return to Catholic principles began with the publication of the ‘Tracts for the Times,’ (p. 259,) in 1833, cxviiiis simply to insinuate what is not true. But Mr. Pattison does more than ‘insinuate.’ He states it openly. “In constructing Catenæ Patrum,” (he says,) “the Anglican closes his list with Waterland or Brett, and leaps at once to 1833.” (p. 255.)—Now, since Waterland died in 1740 and Brett in 1743, it is clear that, (according to Mr. Pattison,) a hundred years and upwards have to be cleared per saltum: during which the lamp of Religion in these kingdoms had gone fairly out. But bow stands the truth? At least four “Catenæ Patrum” are given in the “Tracts for the Times133133 Nos. 74, 76, 78, 81.;” not one of which is closed with Waterland or Brett. On the contrary, in the two former Catenæ (beginning with Jewel and Hooker) the names of these supposed ‘ultimi Romanorum’ occur little more than half way! . . . “Les faits,” therefore, (as usual with ‘Essayists and Reviewers,’)—“les faits sont contraires.”—It would be enough to cite Bethell’s ‘General View of the Doctrine of Regeneration in Baptism,’ which appeared in 1822; and Hugh James Rose’s ‘Discourses on the Commission and Duties of the Clergy,’ which were preached in 1826. But the case against Mr. Pattison, as I shall presently shew, is abundantly stronger.
In short, to exclude from sight, as this author so laboriously endeavours to do, the Catholic element of the last century and the early part of the present, is extremely unfair. There had never failed in the Church of England a succession of illustrious men, who transmitted the Divine fire unimpaired, down to yesterday. Quenched in some places, the flame burned up brightly and beautifully in others. As for the ‘Tracts for the Times,’ they speedily assumed cxixa party character: and by the time that ninety-seven of them had appeared, the series was discontinued by the desire of the Diocesan,—who was yet the friend of its authors. The Tracts do not all, by any means, represent Anglican (i.e. Catholic) Theology. They were written by a very few men; while the greatest of those who had materially promoted the Catholic movement out of which they sprang, (not which they occasioned,) were dissatisfied with them; would not write in them; kept aloof; and foresaw and foretold what would be the issue of such teaching134134 I allude particularly to the late Hugh James Rose, B.D.. And yet, ‘Tracts for the Times’ did more good than evil, I suppose, on the whole.
The truth is, that in every age, (and the last century forms no exception to the rule,) the history of the Church on Earth has been a warfare. Mr. Pattison says contemptuously,—“The current phrases of ‘the bulwarks of our faith,’ ‘dangerous to Christianity,’ are but instances of the habitual position in which we assume ourselves to stand. Even more philosophic minds cannot get rid of the idea that Theology is polemical.” (p. 301.) And pray, whom have we to thank, but such writers as Mr. Pattison, that it is so? I am one of the many who at this hour are (unwillingly) neglecting constructive tasks in order to be destructive with Mr. Pattison and his colleagues So long as Infidelity abounds, our service must be a warfare. ‘The Prince of Peace’ foretold as much, when He prophesied to His Disciples that it would be found that He had “brought on earth, a sword.” As much was typically adumbrated, I suspect, (begging Mr. Jowett’s pardon,) when, at the rebuilding of the walls of the Holy City, “they which builded on the wall, and they that bare cxxburdens, with those that laded, every one with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon. For the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side, and so builded135135 Neh. iv. 17, 18..” May I not add that the unique position which the Church of England has occupied, ever since her great Reformation in respect both of Doctrine and of Discipline three centuries ago,—is of a nature which must inevitably subject her to constant storms? An object of envy to ‘Protestant Europe,’—and of hatred to Rome;—exposed to the hostility of the State, (which would trample her under foot, if it dared,)—and viewed with ill-concealed animosity by Dissenters of every class;—admitting into her Ministry men of very diverse views,—and restraining them by scarcely any discipline;—allowing perfect freedom, aye, licentiousness of discussion,—and tolerating the expression of almost any opinions,—except those of Essayists and Reviewers:—how shall the Church of England fail to adopt ‘the bulwarks of the faith’ for one of her current phrases? how not, many a time, deem ‘dangerous to Christianity’ the speculations of her sons? . . . . Nay, polemics must prevail; if only because, in a certain place, the Divine Speaker already quoted foretells the partial, (if not the entire,) obscuration even of true Doctrine, in that pathetic exclamation of his,—“When the Son of Man cometh, shall He find the faith upon the Earth136136 St. Luke xviii. 8.?” . . . . In the face of all this, it is to confuse and mystify the ordinary reader to draw such a picture of the last century as Mr. Pattison has drawn here. As dismal a view might be easily taken of the first, of the second, of the third, of the fourth, of the fifth century. What Mr. Newman cxxionce designated as “ancient, holy, and happy times,” might very easily indeed be so exhibited as to seem times of confusion and discord, blasphemy and rebuke. A. discouraging picture might be drawn, (I suppose,) of every age of the Church’s history. But in, and by itself, it would never be quite a true picture. For to the eye of Faith there is ever to be descried, amid the hurly-burly of the storm, the Ark of Christ’s Church floating peacefully over the troubled waters, and making steadily for that Heavenly haven “where it would be.” . . . . Yes, there is ever some blessed trace discoverable, that this Life of ours is watched over by One whose Name is Love; whether we con the chequered page of History, Ecclesiastical or Civil; or summon to our aid the story of our own narrow experience. From the fierce and fiery opposition, Good is ever found to have resulted; and that Good was abiding. Out of the weary conflict ever has issued Peace; and that Peace was of the kind which passeth all understanding a Peace which the world cannot give,—no, nor take away. There are abundant traces that in all that has happened to the Church of Clams; from first to last, there has been a purpose and a plan! . . . . No one knows this better than Mr. Pattison. No man in Oxford could have drawn out what I have been saying into a convincing reality, better than he, had he yielded to the instincts of a good heart, and directed his fine abilities to their lawful scope.
The character of the last dismal century, Mr. Pattison has drawn with sufficient vividness: but that century armed the Church, (as we shall be presently reminded,) on the side of the “Evidences of Religion;” and if it taught her the insufficiency of such cxxiia method, the eighteenth century did its work. Above all, it produced Bishop Butler.—The previous century, (the seventeenth,) witnessed the supremacy of fanaticism. It saw the monarchy laid prostrate, and the Church trampled under foot, and the use of the Liturgy prohibited by Act of Parliament. The “Sufferings of the Clergy” fill a folio volume. But this was the century which produced our great Caroline Divines! From Bp. Andrewes to Bp. Pearson,—what a galaxy of names! Moreover, on the side of the Romish controversy, the seventeenth century supplied the Church’s armoury for ever,—Stillingfleet, who died in the year 1699, in a manner closing the strife.—The sixteenth century witnessed the Reformation of Religion, with all its inevitably attendant evils an unsettled faith,—gross public and private injustice,—an illiterate parochial clergy:—yet how goodly a body of sound Divinity did the controversies of that age call forth! The same century witnessed the rise of Puritanism but then, it produced Richard Hooker!—What was the character of the century which immediately preceded the Reformation,—the fifteenth? . . . . A tangled web of good and evil has been the Church’s history from the very first. The counterpart of what we read of in Eusebius and Socrates is to be witnessed among ourselves at the present day, and will doubtless be witnessed to the end! But then, in days of deepest discouragement, faithful men have never been found wanting to the English Church, (no, nor God helping her, ever will!) who, like the late Hugh James Rose, cc when hearts were failing, bade us stir up the gift that was in us, and betake ourselves to our true Mother.” Meanwile, such names as George Herbert and Nicholas Farrar, Ken and Nelson, Leighton and cxxiiiBishop Wilson, shine through the gloom like a constellation of quiet stars; to which the pilgrim lifts his weary eye, and feels that he is looking up to Heaven
When the spirit of the Age comes into collision with the spirit of the Gospel, the result is sometimes (as in the earliest centuries,) portentous;—sometimes, (as in the last,) simply deplorable and grievous. The battle which seems to be at present waging is of a different nature. Physical Science has undertaken the perilous task of hardening herself against the God of Nature. We shall probably see this unnatural strife prolonged for many years to come;—to be succeeded by some fresh form of irreligion. Somewhat thus, I apprehend, will it be to the end: and the men of every age will in those conflicts find their best probation; and it will still be the office of the Creator, in this way to separate the Light from the Darkness,—until the dawn of the everlasting Morning!
It is not proposed to enter into the Rationalism of the last century, therefore; or to inquire into the causes of the barren lifeless shape into which Theology then, for the most part, threw itself. I have never made that department of Ecclesiastical History my study: and who does not turn away from what is joyless and dreary, to greener meadows, and more fertile fields? It shall only be remarked that when the Credibility of Religion is the thing generally denied, Evidences will of necessity be the form which much of the Theological writing of the Day will assume. Let it not be imagined for an instant that one is the apologist of what Mr. Pattison has characterized as “an age of Light without Love.” (p. 254.) But I insist that the theological picture of the last century cxxivis incomplete, until attention has been called to the many redeeming features which it presents, and which are all of a re-assuring kind.
Thus, in the department of sacred scholarship, who can forget that our learned John Mill, in 1707, gave to the world that famous edition of the New Testament which bears his name, after thirty years of patient toil? Who can forget our obligations in Hebrew, to Kennicott? (1718-1783.) Humphrey Hody’s great work on the Text, and older Versions of Holy Scripture, was published in 1705.—Bingham’s immortal ‘Origines’ began to appear in 1708; and William Cave lived till 1714.
In the same connexion should be mentioned Bp. Gibson, who died in 1748, and Humphrey Prideaux, whose ‘Connexion’ is dated 1715. Pococke died on the eve of the commencement of the last century (1691); but so great a name casts a bright beam through the darkness which Mr. Pattison describes so forcibly. Archbishop Wake died in 1737. Warton, the author of ‘Anglia Sacra,’ died at the age of 35 in 1695.
Survey next the field of Divinity, properly so called; and in the face of Mr. Pattison’s rash statement that “we have no classical Theology since 1660,” (p. 265,) take notice that Bp. Bull, one of the greatest Divines which the Church of Christ ever bred, did not begin to write until 1669, and lived to the year 1709. This was the man, remember, who received the thanks of the whole Gallivan Church for his ‘Judicium Ecclesiæ Catholicæ,’ (i. e. his learned assertion of our Saviour’s Godhead137137 See Nelson’s Life of Bull, p. 329, &c.;)—the man whose writings would have won him time reverence and affection of Athanasius and cxxvAugustine and Basil, had he lived in their day; for he had a mind like theirs. Bp. Pearson did not die till 1686. Bp. Beveridge wrote till his death in 1707. Fell, the learned editor of Cyprian, died in 1686: Stillingfleet lived till 1699. Wall’s History of Infant Baptism appeared in 1705. Wheatly, who led the way in liturgical inquiry, was alive till 1742; and Bp. Patrick was a prolific writer till his death in 1707. May we not also claim the excellent and learned Grabe as altogether one of ourselves?
Such names do not require special comment. They are their own best eulogium, and present a high title to their country’s gratitude. The name of Prebendary Lowth, (the author of an excellent commentary on the prophets,) reminds us that there was living till 1732 one who fully appreciated the calling of an Interpreter of God’s Word138138 See his admirable Preface.. Bishop Lowth his son, in his great work, (1753,) recovered the forgotten principle of Hebrew poetry. To convince ourselves what a spirit existed in some quarters, (notwithstanding the general spread of the very opinions which ‘Essayists and Reviewers’ have been so industriously reproducing in our own day,) it is only necessary to transcribe the title-page of S. Parker’s excellent ‘Bibliotheca Biblica,’ a Commentary on the Pentateuch, 1720-1735; ‘gathered out of the genuine writings of Fathers, Ecclesiastical Historians, and Acts of Councils down to the year of our Lord 451, being that of the fourth General Council; and lower, as occasion may require.’—That learned man designed to achieve a Commentary on the whole Bible on the same laborious plan; but his labours and his life, (at the age of 50,) were brought to an end in 1730.—Dr. Waterland, cxxviborn in 1683, and Dr. Jackson, born in 1686,—two great names!—died respectively in 1740 and 1763.—In 1778, appeared Dr. Townson’s admirable ‘Discourses on the Gospels.’ The author lived till 1792. Pious Bp. Horne (1730-1792) has left the best evidence of his ability as a Divine in the Introduction to his Commentary on the Psalms. Jones of Nayland is found to have lived till 1800. Bp. Horsley, a great champion of orthodoxy of belief, as well as an excellent commentator, critic, and Sermon writer, lived till 1806. Not seven years have elapsed since there was to be seen among ourselves a venerable Divine, who was declared in 1838, by the chief promoter of the ‘Tracts for the Times,’ to have “been reserved to report to a forgetful generation what was the Theology of their Fathers139139 Newman’s dedication of his ‘Lectures on Romanism and popular Protestantism.’.” Martin Joseph Routh, died in 1864, after completing a century of years. In 1832 appeared his ’Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Opuscula.’ His ‘Reliquæe Sacræ’ had appeared in 1814. The work was undertaken so far back as 1788. The last volume appeared in 1848, and concluded with a Catena of authorities on the great question which was denied by the unbelievers of the last century, and is denied by the ‘Essayists and Reviewers’ of this140140 See the ‘Monitum’ prefixed to Dr. Routh’s Testimonia De Auctoritate S. Scripturæ Ante-Nicæna.—Reliqq. Sacræ, vol. v. p. 335.. Here then was one who had borne steady witness in the Church of England to what is her genuine Catholic teaching from a period dating long before the birth of any one who was concerned with the ‘Tracts for the Times.’cxxvii
More ancient names present themselves as furnishing exceptions to Mr. Pattison’s dreary sentence. From Abp. Potter and Leslie, down to Abp. Laurence and Van Mildert,—how many might yet be specified! We have not hitherto mentioned Abp. Leighton, who died in 1684: Hickes, Johnson, and Brett, who survived respectively till 1715, 1725, and 1743: the truly apostolic Wilson, Bishop of Sodor and Man (1663-1755,)—a name, by the way, which deserves far more distinct and emphatic notice than can here be bestowed upon it; and Nelson, the pious author of ‘Fasts and Festivals,’ who died in 1715. We had good Iz. Walton, till 1683, and holy Ken till 1711. Richard Hole, author of ’Select Offices,’ (which appeared in 1717,) is a name not forgotten in Heaven certainly, though little known on Earth; while Kettlewell and Scandret begin a Catena of which good Bishop Jolly would be only one of the later links. Meanwhile, the reader is requested to take notice that there were many other excellent Divines of the period under consideration, (as Long and Horbery;) men who made no great figure indeed, but who were evidently persons of great piety and sound judgment; while their learning puts that of ‘Essayists and Reviewers’ altogether to the blush.
But I have reserved for the last, a truly noble name,—which Mr. Pattison, (with singular bad taste, to say no worse,) mentions only to disparage. I allude to Dr. Joseph Butler, Bishop of Durham; whose ‘Analogy of Religion, Natural and Revealed, to the Constitution and Course of Nature,’—remains, at the end of a century, unanswerable as an Apology,—unrivalled as a text-book,—unexhausted as a mine of suggestive thought. It may be convenient for an cxxviii‘Essayist and Reviewer’ to declare that “the merit of the Analogy lies in its want of originality.” (p. 286.) There was not much originality perhaps in the remark that an apple falls to the ground. Whatever the faults of the Analogy, that work, under God, saved the Church. However “depressing to the soul” (p. 293.) of Mr. Pattison, it is nevertheless a book which will invigorate Faith, and brighten Hope, and comfort Charity herself,—long after the spot where he and I shall sleep has been forgotten: long after our very names will be hard to find.
Let me turn from this illustrious individual, to one whose very name is perhaps unknown. One loves to think that there are at all times plenty of good men, who are doing God’s work in the world, in quiet corners; but whose names do not perhaps rise to the surface and emerge into notice, throughout the whole of a long life. Conversely, how many must there be, the blessing of whose example and influence has extended down from the surface, (where perhaps it was acknowledged and appreciated by all,) until it made itself felt by the humblest units of a lowly country parish! . . . The obscure village of Finmere, (in Oxfordshire,) was so happy as to enjoy for its Rector, from 1734 to 1771, the Rev. Thomas Long, M.A.,—“a man,” (says the Register,) “of the most exemplary piety and charity.” He presented to the church twelve acres of land, “charging it with a yearly payment of fifteen shillings to the Clerk, as a recompense to him for attending on the Fasts and Festivals; and ordering sixpence to be deducted from the payment, for each time the Clerk failed to attend on those days,—unless let by sickness.” About ten years ago, there was found in the hands of a labouring man at Finmere, a solitary cxxixcopy of a printed “Lecture,” by this individual, “addressed to the young persons” of the village, (1762,) which begins as follows:—“I have usually, once every three years, gone through a course of Lectures upon the Catechism; but considering my age and great infirmities, it is not very probable I should continue this practice any longer. I am willing therefore, as a small monument of my care and affection for you, to print the last of these Lectures,” &c. . . . . What heart so dull as not to admit that men like this, (and there were many of them!) are quite good enough to redeem an age from indiscriminate opprobrium and unmitigated contempt?
Shall we omit, after this enumeration, to notice the singular fact that Discipline still lingered on,—even the discipline of public penance,—until within the memory of aged persons yet living? Merchants in the city of London wore mourning during Lent, within the present century. It is only within the last thirty years that formula expressive of reliance on the Divine blessing have been expunged from bills-of-lading, and similar printed documents. In the beginning of the period discoursed of by Mr. Pattison, (viz. in the year 1714,) the excellent Robert Nelson, in “An Address to Persons of Quality and Estate,” proposed as objects for the generosity of the affluent, such institutions as the following:—“the creating of Charity Schools,”—of “Parochial Libraries in the meanly endowed Cures throughout England,”—of “a superior School for training up Schoolmasters and Schoolmistresses,”—and of “Colleges or Seminaries for the Candidates of Holy Orders.” He suggested that there should be “Houses of Hospitality for entertaining Strangers;” “Suffragan Bishops, both at home and in the Western Plantations;” cxxx“Colleges for receiving Converts from Popery.” Some of Nelson’s suggestions read like vaticinations. He points out the need of Ladies’ Colleges,—of a Hospital for Incurables,—of Ragged Schools, (for what else is a school “for the distressed children called the Black-guard?”),—and of Houses of Mercy for the reception of penitent fallen women.—Is it right to speak of a century which could freely contemplate such works as these and carry into execution many of them141141 “In 1781, the first Sunday School was established in England by Robert Raikes, a publisher and bookseller in Gloucester.”—National Society’s Circular., without some allusion to the leaven which was at work beneath the dry crust of Society? the living Catholic energy which neither the average dulness of the pulpit could quench, nor the lifeless morality which had been popularly substituted for Divinity could destroy?
We are abundantly prepared therefore for Mr. Pattison’s admission that “public opinion was throughout on the side of the defenders of Christianity:” (p. 313:)—that, “however a loose kind of Deism might be the tone of fashionable circles, it is clear that distinct disbelief of Christianity was by no means the general state of the public mind. The leaders of the Low-Church and Whig party were quite aware of this. Notwithstanding the universal complaints of the High-Church party of the prevalence of infidelity, it is obvious that this mode of thinking was confined to a very small section of society.” (p. 313.)
And surely it should not escape us that the peculiar form which unbelief assumed during the period under discussion, resulted in a benefit to the Church. “The eighteenth century,” (says our author)) “enforced the cxxxitruths of Natural Morality with a solidity of argument and variety of proof which they have not received since the Stoical epoch, if then.” (p. 296.) “The career of the Evidential School, its success and its failure, has enriched the history of Doctrine,” not indeed “with a complete refutation of that method as an instrument of theological investigation,” (p. 297,) (witness the immortal ‘Analogy’ of Bishop Butler!)—but, certainly with very precious experience. That age has bequeathed to the Church a vast body of controversial writing which she could ill afford to part with at the present day.
So far, we have little to complain of in Mr. Pattison’s Essay, except on the side of omission. But for the fatal circumstance of the company in which the learned writer comes abroad, and the avowed purpose with which he is found there, a charitable construction might have been put upon most of the present performance. The following sentences, on the other hand, are not excusable.
“In the present day when a godless orthodoxy threatens, as in the fifteenth century, to extinguish religious thought (!) altogether, and nothing is allowed in the Church of England but the formulae of past thinkings, which have long lost all sense of any kind, (!) it may seem out of season to be bringing forward a misapplication of common-sense in a bygone age.” (p. 297.)
The “orthodoxy” of the fifteenth century is something new to us. So is the prospect “in the present day,” of an “extinction of religious thought,”—the result of “godless orthodoxy.” The fault, or the misfortune of the Church of England then, is, that she retains “the formulæ of past thinkings, which have long cxxxiilost all sense of any kind.” (p. 297.) If this does not mean the English Book of Common Prayer, what does it mean? And if it means the English Prayer-Book, how can Mr. Pattison retain his commission in the Church of England, and exclusively employ a Book which he presumes so to characterize?
But this is ad hominem. The learned writer proceeds:—“There are times and circumstances when religious ideas will be greatly benefited by being submitted to the rough and ready tests by which busy men try what comes in their way; by being made to stand their trial, and be fully canvassed, coram populo. As Poetry is not for the critics, so Religion is not for the Theologians.” (p. 297.)
No doubt. But does Mr. Pattison then really mean to tell us that the proper tribunal before which the Creeds, (for example,) of the Catholic Church,—our Communion and Baptismal offices,—the structure of our Calendar, and so forth, should “stand their trial, and be freely canvassed,” is, “coram populo?” A “rough and ready test,” this, of Truth, I grant; aye, a very “rough” one. But was it ever,—can it ever be,—a fair test? Let us hear Mr. Pattison out, on the subject of Religion:—
“When it is stiffened into phrases, and these phrases are declared to be objects of reverence but not of intelligence, it is on the way to become a useless encumbrance; the rubbish of the past; blocking the road. Theology then retires into the position it occupies in the Church of Rome at present, an unmeaning frost-work of dogma, out of all relation to the actual history of Man.” (pp. 297-8.)
It cannot be necessary to discuss such sentiments. With Mr. Pattison personally, I will not condescend cxxxiiito discuss them,—until he has divested himself of that “useless encumbrance,” and ceased to employ daily “that rubbish of the past,” which yet the two letters he subjoins to his name indicate, in the most solemn manner, his reverence for and which alone make him Reverendus.
But speaking to others,—speaking to you, my friends,—let me point out that “the tendencies of irreligious thought in England, 1860-1861,” are indeed in a direction where the Prayer-Book is found to be effectually “blocking up the road.” (pp. 297-8.) Mr. Pattison is simply dreaming,—haunted by the phantoms of his own brain, and talking the language of the den,—when he complains that “the Philosophy, now petrified into tradition, may once have been a vital Faith; but now that” it is “withdrawn from public life,” has ceased to be a “social influence.” (p. 298.) And when he would exalt the last century at the expence of the present, (pp. 298-9,) he shews nothing so much as the morbid state of his own imagination,—the disordered condition of his own mind. He has blinded himself; and he will not or he cannot see in the healthier tone of our popular Divinity,—in the increased attention to the study of Holy Scripture,—in the impulse which Liturgical inquiries have received since Wheatly’s useful volume appeared;—or again, in the immense number of Schools and Churches which have been recently built,—in the marvellous change for the better which has come over the Clergy of the Church of England within the present century,—in the vast development of our Colonial Episcopate within the last few years,—in the rapid increase of Institutions connected more or less directly with the Church,—and I will add, in the conspicuous cxxxivloyalty of the nation;—a practical refutation of his own injurious insinuations; a blessed earnest that God has not forsaken us; and that we shall yet be a blessing to the World! The people of England, I am persuaded, are in the main very sincerely attached to their Prayer-Book. To them, it is not “a useless encumbrance, the rubbish of the past, blocking the road.” Nay, there is a “rough and ready test” of what is the current temper of the age in things religious, to which I appeal with infinite satisfaction. I mean, the general burst of execration with which “Essays and Reviews” have been received, from one end of the kingdom to the other. The censure of all the Bishops, and of both Houses of Convocation; re-echoed, as it has been, through all ranks of the community, is a great fact; a fact which I cordially recommend to Mr. Pattison’s attention, when he would philosophize on the religious tendencies of his countrymen.
The age we live in, (Heaven knows!) has many drawbacks. What age of the Church has not had them? The fatal disposition which prevails to relax all the ancient safeguards,—the desire to tamper yet further with the Law of Marriage, and to desecrate the Christian Sabbath,—these are grievous features of the times; which may well occasion alarm and create perplexity. But nothing of the kind should ever make us despond; much less despair. There is One above “who is over all, God blessed for ever.” Shall we not rather seek to employ these advantages which we have, with a single heart, a single eye to God’s glory; and leave the issue, with a generous confidence, to Him? . . . . It was thus that the great philosophic Divine of the last century comforted himself, amid darker days than we shall ever experience. cxxxv“As different ages have been distinguished by different sorts of particular errors and vices, the deplorable distinction of ours,” (he said,) “is an avowed scorn of Religion in some, and a growing disregard to it in the generality.” “It is impossible for me, my brethren,”—(Butler is still addressing the clergy of his Diocese, 1751,)—“to forbear lamenting with you the general decay of Religion in this nation; which is now observed by every one, and has been for some time the complaint of all serious persons. The influence of it is more and mote wearing out of the minds of men;” while “the number of those who profess themselves unbelievers, increases, and with their number their zeal. Zeal, it is natural to ask,—for what? Why truly for nothing, but against everything that is sacred and good among us142142 Primary Charge, at the end of his Sermons..” And yet, in days dark as those, Piety could suggest that “no Christian should possibly despair;” and Faith could assign as the reason of this blessed confidence,—“For He who hath all power in Heaven and Earth, hath promised that He will be with us to the end of the world.”
It is time to dismiss Mr. Pattison’s Essay. In doing so, I will not waste my time and yours by carping at the many errors of detail into which he has (not inexcusably) fallen. These are the accidents,—not the essence of his paper. The root of bitterness with the Author is, clearly enough, the Theory of Religious Belief in the Church of England. His concluding words shew this plainly. The sting of the Essay is in the tail:—
“In the Catholic theory the feebleness of Reason is met half-way, and made good by the authority of the Church. When the Protestants threw off this authority, cxxxvithey did not assign to Reason what they took from the Church, but to Scripture. Calvin did not shrink from saying that Scripture ’shone sufficiently by its own light.’ As long as this could be kept to, the Protestant theory of belief was whole and sound. At least it was as sound as the Catholic. In both, Reason, aided by spiritual illumination, performs the subordinate function of recognising the supreme authority of the Church, and of the Bible, respectively. Time, learned controversy, and abatement of zeal, drove the Protestants generally from the hardy but irrational assertion of Calvin. Every foot of ground that Scripture lost was gained by one or other of the three substitutes: Church-authority, the Spirit, or Reason. Church-authority was essayed by the Laudian divines, but was soon found untenable, for on that footing it was found impossible to justify the Reformation and the breach with Rome.” [O shame!] “The Spirit then came into favour along with Independency. But it was still more quickly discovered that on such a basis only discord and disunion could be reared. There remained to be tried Common Reason, carefully distinguished from recondite learning, and not based on metaphysical assumptions. To apply this instrument to the contents of Revelation was the occupation of the early half of the eighteenth century; with what success has been seen. In the latter part of the century the same Common Reason was applied to the external evidences. But here the method fails in a first requisite,—universality; for even the shallowest array of historical proof requires some book-learning to apprehend.”—(pp. 328-9.)
Now all this is discreditable to Mr. Pattison as a Philosopher and as a Divine. When did Protestant cxxxviiEngland “throw off the authority” of the Church?—What are Calvin’s opinions to her?—How does Independency,” ‘Rationalism,’ or any other unsound principle, affect us? Look at our Prayer-Book. Is it not the same which it was from the beginning? The Sarum Use, reformed and revised, has been our unbroken heritage as Christian men, from the first. Essentially remodelled in the days of Edward VI., the recension of our “Laudian Divines” is, (by God’s great mercy!) still ours. What other teaching but that of the Book of Common Prayer, is, to this hour, the authoritative teaching of the Church of England? Why insinuate there has been vicissitude of Theory, where notoriously there has been none? Why imply that the storms which periodically sweep over the citadel of our Zion are effectual to remove the old foundations and to substitute new? What but a hollow heartless Scepticism can be the result of such an abominable passage as the foregoing?
“Whoever will take the religious literature of the present day as a whole, and endeavour to make out clearly on what basis Revelation is supposed by it to rest, whether on Authority, on the Inward Light, on Reason, on self-evidencing Scripture, or on the combination of the four, or some of them, and in what proportions; would probably find that he had undertaken a perplexing but not altogether profitless inquiry.”—(p. 329.) And so the Essay ends.
With a short comment on the proposed problem, I also shall conclude.
No one but a fool would set about the task which Mr. Pattison here proposes. The current “religious literature of the day” cannot be supposed, for an instant, to be an adequate exponent of the mind of the Church of England,—or of any other Church. Revelation cxxxviiirests, at this hour, on exactly the same basis on which it has always rested, and on which it will rest, to the end of time; let the age be faithful, or faithless,—learned or unlearned,—rationalizing or scientific,—sceptical or superstitious,—or whatever else you will. And if I am asked to explain myself, I would humbly say,—(always submitting my own statements in such a matter to the judgment of the Bishops and Doctors of the Church of England,)—that we receive the Bible on the authority of the Church. The Church teaches us by the concurrent voices of many Fathers, Doctors, Saints, how to interpret the Bible; and convinces us that the three Creeds which she delivers to us as her own independent tradition, may be proved thereby; being in entire conformity with Holy Scripture, though not originally deduced from it. “Self-evidencing” is hardly a correct epithet to bestow upon Scripture. And yet, from the evidence which the New Testament supplies to the Old, and from the interpretation which it puts upon its teaching, we should not despair of proving the Truth of Revelation, to one who had neither darkened the inward Light, nor perverted his Reason.
In truth, however, it is idle thus to speculate. We have been born into the world during the nineteenth Century, whether we wish it or not. We have been nourished, (God be thanked!) in the bosom of the Christian Church, whether we would or no. The glory of the Gospel has informed our natural reason, and we cannot undo the blessed process, strive we as much as we will. The “inward Light,” (as we call it,) is the lingering twilight of the Day of Creation, in the case of the heathen,—the reflected ray of the noontide of the Gospel, even in the case of the modern unbeliever. cxxxixWe cannot escape from these conditions of our being, although we may affect to ignore them, or pretend to turn our eyes the other way. No help however is to be rejected. No faculty of the soul need be denied the privilege of assisting to convince the doubting heart. The inward Light may not be disparagingly spoken of: for what if it should prove to be a ray sent down from the Father of Lights, to illumine the dark places of the soul? The aid of Reason is not to be excluded; for what is Faith but the highest dictate of the Reason? Faith, (let us ever remember,) being opposed not to Reason, but to Sight! . . . And who for a moment supposes that we disparage the office of Reason, because we speak of the authority of the Church, in controversies of Faith? We simply proclaim the Church to be the appointed witness and keeper of Holy Writ; and when we are invited “to make out clearly on what basis Revelation is supposed to rest,” (p. 329,) we point,—where else should we point?—unhesitatingly to her unwavering witness from the beginning.
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