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Religion of the Church

Manual of Membership


*Bishop of Oxford



Bishop of Oxford


And Other Addresses. Second Edition.
Cloth, 1/6 net.


An Open Letter to the Clergy of the
Diocese of Oxford. Fifth Impression,
with new Prefaci. 6d. net.


6d. net.


The Religion of
the Church


A Manual of Membership


Bishop of Oxford

LONDON : 28 Margaret Street, Oxford Circus, W.

OXFORD: 9 High Street

First impression, September, 1916
New impression, October, 1916


THIS little book is intended as a sum-
mary statement of the religion of the
catholic church. It is intended to meet
a need, which is just now clamorous the
provision of a manual of instruction for
the members of the Church of England.
It has been rapidly written, and, from the
nature of the case, can supply little in
the way of proofs or justifications of its
statements. But I can truthfully plead
that there is nothing here written down
that has not behind it the meditation and
study of a lifetime ; and in other books
I have sought to supply the grounds, or
a great part of the grounds, on which the
statements of this book repose. I hope my
critics will remember this.

My little book has had the advantage of
the very careful criticisms and suggestions
of Father Paul Bull, C.R. I have not seen
my way to accept all his suggestions, and
he has no responsibility for what appears
in the book. But the help he has given

vi Preface

me has been invaluable. I owe to the
Rev. Wilfrid Cooper, my chaplain, the
short index to the topics treated in the


Michaelmas, 1916.


I have been several times asked why I do not print
such words as Church, Sacrament, Precious Blood, etc.,
with a capital. There are, I suppose, two principles
on which capitals may be used. One principle, which
seems to be dominant, is to use them, even in the
case of adjectives, to express sacredness or dignity or
importance. The other principle, the principle of the
English Bible, is to use them only for proper names.
I greatly prefer this principle, and seek to adhere to it,
save that I have not dared (except in quotations from
the Bible) to print the personal pronouns referring
to God without the capitals. Otherwise, I desire to
adhere to the principle of the English Bible. I suppose
' ' Church of England," " Church of Rome," "the Pope,"
" the Archbishop of Canterbury" to be proper names
requiring capitals. Otherwise, I print church, bishop,
etc., without a capital. It does not seem to me to
matter much. But one likes to have some principle
to adhere to, and I think the best principle is, as far as
possible, to reserve capitals for proper names.


Membership in the Church - - 1

The Catholic Faith. Preliminaries - 9

The Doctrine of God and of His Creatures - 16


The Church and the Sacraments - - 39

The Last Things and the Commmunion of Saints 73

Christian Morality ... - 101

Prayer . - - - - - 128

The Bible its truth, its inspiration, and its use - 141

The Church of England in the Larger World - 165

Index 195


Membership in the Church

CHRISTIANITY is a certain kind of
v> personal belief and a certain kind
of personal life ; but it is not a merely
individual religion, "a private matter
between a man's soul and God." It is
membership, with all the responsibility
of membership, in a society or brother-
hood which Jesus Christ our Lord founded
to bind together in one men of all classes
and races and kinds. This society is the
Holy Catholic Church, and the Church
of England is a part of the catholic

Read the Gospels, and you will read of
Jesus Christ founding His church and
giving to it and to its officers authority

The religion of the church

over all its members, authority to " bind "
and "loose" 1 that is to prohibit this and
to allow that with a divine sanction ; and
authority to "remit" and "retain" sins 2
with divine ratification that is to admit
men into its fellowship or to exclude
them if they are unworthy, and to readmit
them when they show themselves penitent.
Years before our present Gospels were
written down, the Christian church was
acting on this commission. Read the First
Epistle of S. Paul to the Corinthians and
you will find a vivid account of one of
the first Christian churches. There is
plenty of sin and wilfulness to be found
there, but there is no mistaking the
intense sense of membership. They had
been brought at their baptism by the one
Spirit into the one body, and they cele-
brated together the Holy Communion, the
sacrament of continual membership. The
authority of the whole body and of the
apostle is asserted and acknowledged over
every member. Any plainly unworthy
member is to be judged and excluded
from their company " in the name of
the Lord Jesus," and one so excluded,
when he is penitent, can be received back
into communion or forgiven "in the

1 S. Matt. xvi. 19 ; xviii 18.
1 S. John xx. 23.


person of Christ." 1 Every member is
expected to take a part and interest in
the affairs of the church, its discipline,
and its worship. For a "member " means
a limb, and every limb of the body has
to do part of the work of the body. And
as they had learned from Christ the
infinite worth of every human soul, so
in their fellowship they recognized that
the need of each is the care of all, and
that " if one member suffer, all the
members suffer with it." The great salva-
tion in which they all rejoiced was a
gift of God for all which bound them
into brotherhood : and they acted on the
principle of all true brotherhood "from
each according to his capacity : to each
according to his need." Many things pro-
moted the growth of the church in early
days the steadfast faith of Christians, the
high moral level of their lives, the courage
and joy with which they faced trouble or
death ; but, perhaps more than all else, it
was the intense sense of membership, the
spirit of mutual love, which drew men
to them. And every local church in every
age has been either an effective or an
ineffective part of the body of Christ,
just in proportion as the sense of member-

1 See for the whole of this paragraph 1 Cor. xii ;
1 Cor. x. 15-22; 1 Cor. v ; 2 Cor. ii. 5-11, etc.

The religion of the church

ship and the responsibility of membership
has been strong or weak.

When you come down the history of
the church to the Church of England,
as it was re-ordered at the Reformation,
and read its Book of Common Prayer,
you will see that it meant to maintain at
a very high level the responsibility of
membership. Those who are to be bap-
tized are to recognize publicly before
the congregation assembled their respon-
sibility for renouncing what Christ forbids,
for believing the common faith of the
church, and for obeying the laws of
discipleship. They are embarking, and
that publicly, on a great adventure, and
they must know what they are doing. If
infants are to be baptized, then sponsors
must be provided as sureties, to guarantee
that the infants, as they grow to years of
discretion, shall know the meaning of their
religion. And they are to renew the vows
of baptism through their own lips before
they can be confirmed, by the laying-on
of the bishop's hand, and so enter upon
full membership in the strength of the
Holy Spirit. The Lord's Supper or Holy
Communion is the sacrament in which
their membership is to be constantly
renewed and reinvigorated, and it is to
be guarded by the officers of the church


from unworthy partaking. Those whose
lives cause public scandal are to be
warned or, if need be, excommunicated,
or put out of fellowship, till they have
shown themselves of a better mind, and
"been openly reconciled by penance,"
and so can be readmitted to fellowship.
And private confession and absolution is
provided for those whose conscience is
troubled by secret sins. And the needs
of the poor and sick are to be relieved
by the alms of the whole community.
And the law of indissoluble marriage
is to set its consecration upon the home.
And the sick and dying are to be dealt
with as responsible members who must
be brought to a right faith and peni-
tence, and make their peace with God
and man, that, if they die, the words
of confident hope, such as belong rightly
to the holy fellowship of the church,
may be spoken over their graves.

All this is natural and right. Every
union or society which exists for any
worthy object must maintain a high sense
of the responsibility of membership ; and
all its members must recognize that, if
they fail to keep its obligatory rules, they
must fall out of membership and lose its
advantages. A nominal membership is the
curse of any union. What trade union

The religion of the church

could last if a large percentage of its
members never obeyed its rules or ful-
filled their obligations ?

But if this is true, then indeed we know
wherein lies the present weakness of the
Church of England. It has cheapened
membership till it has come to mean
almost nothing. Of our soldiers we are
told seventy per cent, recognize them-
selves as members of the Church of
England, but it is only a small number
whose membership has meant much in
their lives. The sacrament of continual
fellowship has been ignored. They have
taken no interest in the affairs of the
church. They have never been led to
think of the management of the church
as if it was their business. They have
not felt it as a fellowship. It has not
led them to expect that if they were
wronged or unjustly treated, it would be
the duty and privilege of the church to
see them righted. They have the vaguest
idea of the church's faith, and a very
weak sense of either the joy or the
responsibility of common worship. They
have no idea that they wrong the church
by evil living, or that the church has
anything to do with the matter. For
old associations' sake they like to be
married in church, and to bring their

Membership 7

children to be christened, and to send
their children to the Sunday school, and
they wish to be buried with the church's
service. But for the rest, membership
in the church means almost nothing.
Now I have no doubt at all that the
reform which is the most fundamental and
necessary, if there is to be any effectual
revival of religion in our old Church
of England, is to recover the feeling of
the obligations of membership. What we
want first of all is not more Christians but
better Christians, not more Churchmen
but better Churchmen. Every one must
understand that he or she cannot become
or remain a member of the church with-
out fulfilling the elementary responsibilities
of membership. All Christians are called
"kings and priests "in the New Testament,
and they should exercise their kingship and
priesthood by active participation in the
affairs and worship of the church. Both
their duties and their rights need to be
much more fully recognized. A vast
change is needed in this direction. But
the first step is to revive the sense of
membership ; and because I believe this to
be the most fundamental and necessary of
all reforms, I have called this book, which
attempts to explain the religion of the
church according to the use and practice

8 The religion of the church

of the Church of England, a "manual of

The church has lately had it brought
home to it how small a proportion of " the
workers" are practising Churchmen. At
the same time the ideas and aspirations
of brotherhood that is, the spirit of
mutual membership are stirring the world
of labour to its depths. There is, I am
persuaded, only one way in which the
church can commend its message to labour.
It is not by lowering its doctrine or cheapen-
ing its claim. It is by making the spirit of
brotherhood, the spirit of mutual member-
ship, once again real and effective in the
church, which indeed was founded to
carry into every corner of the earth the
witness of Christ to the worth and dignity
of every human being for whom Christ

The Catholic Faith

THREE preliminaries must first be

1. The religion of the church is based upon
a word (or revelation) of God. The people
of Israel was called by God among ancient
peoples to be His people and to reveal His
" name " and purpose among men. In the
words of a great Christian father the Jews
were, through their prophets, "the sacred
school of the knowledge of God and of the
spiritual life for all mankind." The Jews
were thus the ancient and preparatory
church of God. The church of Jesus
Christ took its origin out of this ancient
church, but it is catholic or universal, a
super-national fellowship, based upon the
fuller revelation of God which is given us in
Jesus Christ. But the Jewish church and
the church of Christ are really one church,
and are alike based on the word of God
that is, on God's revelation of Himself
given first through His prophets and then
finally through His Son : and to become,
9 c

10 The catholic faith

or remain rightly, a member of the
church each one must accept the message
of the church its fundamental faith as
being truly "the word of God." There
are solemn words of our Lord which sound
strangely in our ears: "Ithankthee, Father,
Lord of heaven and earth, that thou didst
hide these things (that is, His message)
from the wise and understanding, and didst
reveal them unto babes : yea, Father, for
so it was well-pleasing in thy sight. All
things have been delivered unto me of
my Father : and no one knoweth the Son
save the Father, neither doth any know
the Father save the Son and he to whom-
soever the Son willeth to reveal him." 1
In this wonderful saying our Lord asserts
His own community of nature with God
His Father, and His unique claim to reveal
God to men ; and He expresses a positive
joy in the fact that while the learned refuse
His message the simple accept it. He sees
in this the fulfilment of a divine purpose,
and S. Paul after Him, in different words,
does the same thing. A little thought will
enable us to understand our Lord's joy in
what would at first sight seem to us to have
been a grave disaster. It is that only so
could a really broad and enduring church

1 S. Matt. xi. 25-27 ; S. Luke x. 21, 22 ; 1 Cor. i.

Preliminaries 11

be founded or propagated. The learned,
the intellectuals, of every age, instinctively
claim the prerogative of their learning.
They are, in this respect, like rich men
who also instinctively expect a prerogative
position because they are rich ; whom,
therefore, our Lord similarly treated as
being under a special disadvantage in their
approach to His kingdom. What is the
claim made commonly by a learned class ?
It is that they will only accept as true
what commends itself to them as the con-
clusion of their own reasonings. But
the intellectual methods and principles
of learned men are not commonly intel-
ligible to the mass of ordinary men, and
also vary considerably, even profoundly,
from age to age and nation to nation.
Thus a religion which in any age should
approve itself to the learned class as the
conclusion of its own reasoning would be
a narrow religion, unacceptable to the mass
of men and still more unacceptable to men
of another nation or another civilization.
If there is to be a catholic church, a religion
for the common man, all the world over
and in every generation, it must be based
not on human reasoning but on divine
revelation, on God's disclosure of Himself,
and must be received by men in simple
faith as God's own word. Our religion

12 The catholic faith

is not to be an evolution from within, but
a bestowal from above ; not a conclusion
of logic, but a gift of God ; to be welcomed
on authority and then verified in experi-
ence our own experience fortified and
supported by the experience of the whole
church. That is what the Bible says,
and truly, both Old Testament and New :
"Canst thou by searching find out God?
Canst thou find out the Almighty unto
perfection ? It is high as heaven ; what
canst thou do ? Deeper than the grave ;
what canst thou know ? " "In the wisdom
of God the world through its wisdom knew
not God." "Hath not God made foolish
the wisdom of the world?" 1 That is the
claim of the Christian faith. A brilliant
scientist, like Louis Pasteur, may be a
devout Christian, but that is because, like
Pasteur, he has been content in the first
instance to receive his faith, like the most
ignorant person, as the word of God from
the church which is commissioned to
bear it.

2. The purpose of this book is to expound
this word of God. To receive the message
of Christ from His church in simple
docility a man must be convinced that
Jesus Christ really is the Son of God, and
has really sent His church into the world.

1 Job xi. 7, 8 ; 1 Cor. i. 20, 21.

Preliminaries 13

In one who comes from outside this con-
viction will be brought about in one case
mostly by intellectual, in another case
mostly by moral considerations, in another
case by personal influence. To produce
this preliminary intellectual conviction is
the work of what is called "apologetics"
that is, the reasoned expression of the
grounds of Christian belief. In this book
I am not concerned with that. I assume
in my readers that they are so far con-
vinced, or willing to be convinced, about
Christ either by tradition from their
fathers, or by intellectual reasonings, or
by their moral needs, as to be ready to
listen with docile hearts to the message
of "grace and truth which came by Jesus
Christ." My duty is to make it plain that
the message claims to be based, not on
human reason, but on a divine revelation
given us finally in Jesus Christ ; and my
business is to explain the points and articles
of this message, as the church, which is
Christ's commissioned agent, delivered it
from the first. Personal faith is a gift
a priceless gift wrought in the heart by
the Spirit of God: "No man can say,
Jesus is Lord, but in the Holy Spirit."
But an important part of the preparation
of our hearts for this gift is to be ready
to listen attentively and patiently to what

14 The catholic faith

the message is. To reject it or despise it
without having really been at pains to
understand what it is, after all that the
message of the Gospel has done for the
world, is a sort of insolence.

3. The word of God must be looked for
in the first instance from the church. The
church was at work perhaps some twenty
years before any of the books of the New
Testament, as we now have them, were
written, and some seventy years before
they were all written. It will not sur-
prise us, therefore, to find out that no
one of the books of the New Testament
was written to give to any one his first
instruction in the Christian religion.
"That thou mayest know the certainty of
those things in which thou wast instructed"
is the object with which St. Luke wrote
his Gospel. And when S. Paul writes
in his Epistle to the Corinthians about the
resurrection or the eucharist it is to
remind them of "the gospel which I
preached unto you, which also ye received."
"For I delivered unto you first of all that
which also I received." That is the tone
of the whole New Testament. It assumes
and takes for granted the rudimentary
instruction which had been already given
to the converts to the church. Speaking
generally, we may say that all that is con-

Preliminaries 15

tained in our catechism is, in the New
Testament, taken for granted as already
familiar ground among the Christians.
And the different books of the New
Testament were written as occasion arose
by the apostles or their companions to
record the tradition in its best form, or
to reinforce and explain and defend the
fundamental faith. It is thus the function
of "the church to teach and of the Bible
to prove " and confirm the faith. And so
complete are the books of Scripture taken
together, and so full the inspiration of the
Spirit of God under which they were
believed to have been written, that it
became the accepted principle of the
catholic church from the first, as it still
is of the Church of England, that nothing
could be part of the necessary faith but
what can be verified and proved in
Scripture. "Do not believe what I say
simply," says a great teacher of the early
church to his scholars preparing for bap-
tism, "unless you receive the proof of
what I tell you from the Holy Scriptures." '
With these preliminaries I propose to
give a summary of the faith of the church,
which is also the faith of the New Testa-
ment Scriptures.

1 S. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Ltcturei, iv. 17.


The Doctrine of God and of His

THE centre and root of the catholic
faith is the revelation of the Father-
hood of God the doctrine that the one
power which made and preserves and
guides the whole universe is the almighty
will of a perfectly good God, who creates
and knows and loves not only all but


Welcome as it is to the hearts of men,
this is perhaps the hardest of all Christian
doctrines to the speculative intellect. It is
so hard to reconcile with the facts of suffer-
ing and injustice and cruelty, and with
the seeming moral indifference of nature.
The intellect of man would never have
attained securely to this position by mere in-
quiry and investigation. It rests on God's
own revelation of Himself a revelation
given specially through a long succession

The fatherhood of God 17

of Jewish prophets who were inspired to
proclaim as the word of God the goodness
of the Almighty, 1 and it received its final
expression through the lips of one who
was more than a prophet, who was the
Son of God who therefore not only
proclaimed the truth, and claimed the right
to declare it with infallible certitude, but
also, as incarnate in our manhood, dis-
closed to us the real character and mind
of God in the intelligible terms of a
human life.

Our Lord was always bringing home to
the minds and hearts of men the truth of
God's fatherhood, His universal and in-
dividual love. Consider the following
characteristic sayings: "It is not the will
of your Father which is in heaven that one
of these little ones should perish." "Not
a sparrow shall fall on the ground without
your Father: fear ye not therefore, ye
are of more value than many sparrows."
' Your Father knoweth what things ye
have need of before ye ask him." " Your
heavenly Father knoweth that ye have
need of all these things." And He claims
to speak with infallible assurance "No
one knoweth the Father save the Son,

1 The word "Almighty" or "omnipotent" means
properly not so much "able to do all things" as
" powerful in and over all things" the all-ruler.

18 The catholic faith

and he to whomsoever the Son willeth
to reveal Him " and not only to reveal
in words, but in His own person to express
God. "He that hath seen me hath seen
the Father." Such sayings abound in the
Gospels, and are the centre of our Lord's
teaching. They are best summarized in
the great sentence of S. John, "God is

It is an amazing paradox. And there is
no question that what made it believable
was that it was revealed in full view of all
the experience which makes it seem so
paradoxical. The Old Testament revela-
tion of the one good God was given in a
blood-stained world that was being trampled
by the feet of fierce conquering armies
Assyrians and Egyptians, Babylonians and
Persians, who neither showed nor ex-
pected any mercy. It was given to a
weak and enslaved people the Israelites
in captivity who knew all that bitter
experience can teach. And when the
Lord Jesus Christ expressed and deepened
and expanded the doctrine, it was as " the
man of sorrows and acquainted with
grief," who in His own person endured
everything that has ever been an argu-
ment against the divine love, everything
that in slow and embittering experience
has ever soured the hearts of men, and

The attributes of God 19

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Online LibraryCharles GoreThe religion of the church, as presented in the Church of England : a manual of membership → online text (page 1 of 10)