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SEP 19 1929

BR 44 .A7 P65

Arnold, Thomas, 1795-1842

Fragment on the church
















The following pages, chiefly composed in 1839,40,
41, are a part of a much longer work which Dr.
Arnold contemplated, but which was interrupted
by his early death.

The executors having kindly allowed me to
fulfil my wishes as to this fragment, I have felt it
a duty not to withhold what remains from his
pen on the subject which so greatly occupied his

The earlier approaches to the same subject it
has been thought desirable, even at the risk of
some inconvenience to the purchasers of the first
edition, to publish in the form of Appendices to
the fragment of 1839, 40. The brief sketches of
1827, 1833, and 1840, may be useful in showing
how very small a portion of the Author's design
was actually accomplished in the following pages,
whilst the fragments of 1833, may illustrate a
portion of the argument which accidentally he had


treated of more fully in his earlier than his later
MSS. on the subject.

I have been entirely indebted to Mr. Stanley
for the whole arrangement and revision of the
]}resent volume.

Fox How, March 25, 1845.



The language of prophecy leads us to hope for
more than the salvation of a certain number of
individuals through the gospel. It speaks of a
general restoration, so complete as to repair al-
together the mischief which had been introduced
into the world by sin. And the language of St.
Paul, when declaring the great mystery of his
preaching, namely, the admission of the Gentiles
into the kingdom of God, seems also to go be-
yond the redemption of a few individuals, com-
paratively speaking, out of the multitude of all
nations. Christ was to present unto himself a
Church holy and without blemish ; and the dis-
tinction made by some between the visible and
invisible Church, seems only a later refinement
of interpretation, suggested by the fact that the
Church, in the obvious sense of the term, was not
pure and spotless. Now ought we to low^er the
language of prophecy, in order to make it agree
with the existing state of things ? or to be anxious
to amend the existing state of things, for the


very reason that it does not correspond with the
promises of Scripture ?

The spread of Christianity, speaking of the
geographical extent of its mere nominal dominion,
has been partial ; — its real moral effects have been
still more partial. The largest part of the world
does not acknowledge Christ so much as in name ;
and where he is acknowledged in name, he is yet
denied in many instances in works. The perfect
work of the Gospel has been seen only in in-
dividuals : Christ has laid his hands on a few sick
folk and healed them ; but he has done no mighty
work of spiritual healing on a whole church. It
is still most true, that we see not yet all things
put under him.

Now are we prepared to say that, whereas the
world was lost by one man's sin, it was only to be
in a small part recovered by one man's righteous-
ness? — that, whereas through Adam all died, only
a very small number were through Christ to be
made alive? This is directly contrary to the
language of Scripture, which represents the re-
demption as designed to be a full reparation of
the evil occasioned by the fall.

Or are we prepared to say that God's purposes
have been defeated by the greater power of God's
enemy? — that sin has been stronger than grace,
Satan mightier than Christ? — that the Church
with its divine Head and its indwelling Spirit


has been unable to overcome the powers of evil?
— that the medicine was too weak to overcome
the disease ?

If neither of these alternatives be true ; if the
Scripture will not allow us to doubt of God's
gracious will towards us all ; and if to doubt his
power be blasphemy, — what remains, but that we
have weakened and corrupted that medicine, which
was in itself sufficient to heal us ? — that we have
not tried, and are not trying Christianity, such as
Christ willed it to be? — that the Church, against
which the powers of hell have so long maintained
an advantageous conflict, cannot be that same
Church against which Christ declared that they
should not prevail ?

Now here it is necessary, in order to prevent
much confusion and very much uncharitableness,
to distinguish carefully between what I may be
allowed to call Christian religion and the Christian

By Christian religion, I mean that knowledge
of God and of Christ, and that communion of the
Holy Spirit, by which an individual is led through
life, in all holiness, and dies with the confident
hope of rising again through Christ at the last
day. This knowledge being derived, or derivable
at any rate, from the Scriptures alone, and this
communion being the answer to our earnest

* [See Serm. xxxix. in vol. iv. ; Lect. on Modern Hist, vi.]

B 2


prayers, it is perfectly possible that Christian
religion may work its full work on an individual
living alone, or living amongst unbelieving or un-
godly men, — that here, where the business rests
only with God and the individual soul, God's
glory may be exalted and the man's salvation
effected, whatever may be the state of the Church
at large.

But, by the Christian Church, I mean that pro-
vision for the communicating, maintaining, and
enforcing of this knowledge by which it was to
be made influential, not on individuals, but on
masses of men. This provision consisted in the
formation of a society, w4iich by its constitution
should be capable of acting both wdthin itself and
without ; having, so to speak, a twofold move-
ment, the one for its outward advance, the other for
its inward life and purification ; so that Christ-
ianity should be at once spread widely, and pre-
served the while in its proper truth and vigour,
till Christian knowledge should be not only com-
municated to the whole world, but be embraced
also in its original purity, and bring forth its
practical fruit. Thus Christian religion and the
Christian Church being two distinct things, the one
acting upon individuals, the other upon masses ;
it is very possible for the former to continue to
do its work, although the latter be perverted or
disabled. But then the consequence will be such


as we see before us, that Christianity, being de-
signed to remedy the intensity of the evil of the
fall by its religion, and the universality of the evil
by its Church, has succeeded in the first,' because
its religion has been retained as God gave it, but
has failed in the second, because its Church has
been greatly corrupted.

Christianity, then, contains on the one hand a
divine philosophy, which we may call its religion,
and a divine polity, which is its Church.

But it is precisely from an acknowledgment of
this last truth, accompanied with a misunder-
standing of its real nature, that the greatest part
of the actual mischief has arisen. When we say,
therefore, that Christianity contains a divine polity,
namely, its Church, it is of the utmost importance
that we have a clear notion of the Christian
Church, according to what we may gather from
the Scripture to have been the mind of its divine

Now, that religion should be a social as well
as an individual concern, is nothing peculiar to
Christianity, if by religion we mean the outward
and visible worship of God. The act of sacrifice,
almost of necessity, involves the cooperation of
more than a single person; — festivals and solemn
processions, even hymns of thanksgiving and praise,
can scarcely be performed by one alone. Religion,
then, in that sense in which the ancient world


generally understood it, that is, public and visible
worship, has always been, and must always be, the
business of several persons together ; — the religion
of a single individual must, in this sense, be some-
thing imperfect, and only in a very small degree

But the peculiarity of Christianity consists in
this, that while it takes religion in another sense,
and means by it, not the visible worship of God,
but the service of the heart towards him; and whilst
it would thus appear that religion could exist
perfectly in one single individual, and required no
cooperation of more persons, yet still it is made
the business of a number or multitude, and our
spiritual relations to God are represented as
matters of a joint interest, no less than that visible
worship which, in its very nature, must be more
than individual.

Now it is seen and generally acknowledged,
that men's physical welfare has been greatly
promoted by the cooperation of a number of
persons endowed with unlike powers and resources.
One man having what another wants, and wanting
what another has, there is an obvious wisdom in
so combining their efforts, as that the strength of
one should supply the weakness of another, and
so the weakness should in no case be perceptible.

This cooperative principle, founded on the great
dissimilarity which prevails amongst men, was by


Christianity to be applied to moral purposes, as
it had long been to physical*; each man was to
regard his intellectual and moral gifts as a means
of advancing the intellectual and moral good of
society ; what he himself wanted was to be sup-
plied out of the abundance of his neighbour ; — and
thus the moral no less than the physical weak-
nesses of each individual, were to be strengthened
and remedied, till they should vanish as to their
enfeebling effects both with respect to himself and
to the community.

Nothing could be more general than such a
system of cooperation. It extended to every part
of life ; not only going far beyond that cooperation
for ritual purposes, which was the social part of
the old religions, but, so far as men's physical
well-being had been the sole object of existing
civil societies, it went far beyond them also. For
though it is possible, and unhappily too easy, to
exclude moral considerations from our notions of
physical good, and from our notions of ritual re-
ligion, yet it is not easy, in looking to the moral
good of man, to exclude considerations of his
physical well-being. Every outward thing having
a tendency to affect his moral character, either for
the better or for the worse, and this especially
holding good with respect to riches or poverty,

^ [^See Introduction to Sermons on Christian Life, its
Course, its Hindrances, and its Helps, p. xlviii.]


economical questions, in all their wide extent, fall
directly under the cognizance of those whose
object is to promote man's moral welfare.

But while thus general, the object of Christian
co-operation was not to be vague. When men
combined to offer sacrifice, or to keep festival,
there was a definite object of their union ; but
the promotion of man's moral welfare might seem
indistinct and lost in distance. Something nearer
and more personal w^as therefore to be mixed up
with that whicli was indistinct from its very vast-
ness. The direct object of Christian cooperation
was to bring Christ into every part of common
life ; in scriptural language, to make human society
one living body, closely joined in communion with
Christ, its head. And for this purpose, one of
the very simplest acts of natural necessity w^as
connected with the very deepest things of religion :
— the meal of an assembly of Christians was made
the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ.
And the early church well entered into the spirit
of this ordinance, when it began every day by a
partaking of the holy communion. For when
Christ was thus brought into one of the com-
monest acts of nature and of common society, it
w^as a lively lesson, that in every other act through
the day he should be made present also : if
Christians at their very social meal could enter
into the highest spiritual communion, it taught


them that in all matters of life, even when sepa-
rated from one another bodily, that same commu-
nion should be preserved inviolate; that in all
things they were working for and with one another,
with and to Christ and God.

Such appears, even from the meagre account of
a stranger, to have been the manner of living of
the Christians of Bithynia, about a hundred years
after the birth of our Lord, and about seventy
therefore from the first preaching of Christianity.
They met before day, and sang together a hymn to
Christ : then they bound themselves to one another
by oath, — according to Pliny's expression, " Sacra-
mento," but in reality, we may be sure, by their
joint partaking of the communion of Christ's body
and blood, — that they would neither steal, nor
rob, nor commit adultery, nor break faith, nor
refuse to restore what had been entrusted to
them. Then they went to their day's work, and
met again to partake their meal together; wdiich
they probably hallowed, either by making it a
direct communion, or by some prayers, or hymns,
which reminded them of their Christian fellowship.

Now in this account, short as it is, we see the
two great principles of the Christian Church : first,
cooperation for general moral improvement, for
doing the duties of life better ; and secondly, the
brinsfinof Christ as it were into their communion,
by beginning the day with him, and deriving their


principle of virtuous living directly from liis sacra-
ment. The church of Bithynia existed on a small
scale, in a remote province ; but here are precisely
those leading principles of the Christian Church
exemplified, which were fitted for all circum-
stances and all places, and which contain in them
that essential virtue which the Church was to em-
body and to diffuse.

It is obvious, also, that the object of Christian
society being thus extensive, and relating not to
ritual observances, but to the improvement of the
whole of our life, the natural and fit state of the
Church is, that it should be a sovereign society
or commonwealth ; as long as it is subordinate and
municipal, it cannot fully carry its purposes into
effect. This will be evident, if we consider that
law and government are the sovereign influences
on human society ; that they in the last resort
shape and control it at their pleasure; that in-
stitutions depend on them, and are by them
formed and modified ; that what they sanction
will ever be generally considered innocent ; that
what they condemn is thereby made a crime, and
if persisted in becomes rebellion ; and that those
who hold in their hands the power of life and
death must be able greatly to obstruct the pro-
gress of whatever they disapprove of, and those
who dispose of all the honours and rewards of so-
ciety must, in the same way, be greatly able to


advance whatever they think excellent. So long,
then, as the sovereign society is not Christian, and
the Church is not sovereign, we have two powers
alike designed to act upon the whole of our be-
ing, but acting often in opposition to one another.
Of these powers, the one has wisdom, the other
external force and influence ; and from the divi-
sion of these things, which ought ever to go to-
gether, the wisdom of the Church cannot carry
into effect the truths which it sees and loves;
whilst the power of government, not being guided
by wisdom, influences society for evil rather than
for good*.

The natural and true state of things then is,
that this power and this wisdom should be united ;
that human life should not be pulled to pieces
between two claimants, each pretending to exer-
cise control over it, not in some particular portion,
but universally; that wisdom should be armed
with power, power guided by wisdom ; that the
Christian Church should have no external force to
thwart its beneficent purposes ; that government
should not be poisoned by its internal ignorance
or wickedness, and thus advance the cause of God's
enemy, rather than perform the part of God's

This is the perfect notion of a Christian Church,

a [[See Lectures on Modern History (Inaug. Lect. and Ap-


that it should be a sovereign society, operating
therefore with full power for raising its condi-
tion, first morally, and then physically ; operating
through the fullest developement of the varied
faculties and qualities of its several members, and
keeping up continually, as the bond of its union,
the fellowship of all its people with one another
through Christ, and their communion with him as
their common head.

With this notion of a perfect Church two things
are utterly inconsistent : — first, the destroying of
the principle of cooperation through the varied
talents and habits of the several members of the
society, and substituting in the place of it a sys-
tem in which a very few should be active and the
great mass passive* ; a system in which vital heat
w^as to be maintained, not by the even circula-
tion of the blood through every limb, through the
healthy cooperation of the arteries and veins of
every part, but by external rubbing and chafing,
when the limbs, from a suspension of their inward
activity, had become cold and paralyzed.

Secondly, the taking of any part or parts of hu-
man life out of its control, by a pretended dis-
tinction betw^een S2:>iritual things and secular; a
distinction utterly without foundation, for in one
sense all things are secular, for they are done in

^ [[Intiod. to Sermons on Christian Life, its Course, its Hin-
drances, and its Helps, pp. xlviii, xlix.]


time and on earth ; in another, all things are spi-
ritual, for they affect us morally either for the
better or the worse, and so tend to make our
spirits fitter for the society of God or of his ene-
mies. The division rests entirely on principles of
heathenism, and tends to make Christianity, like
the religions of the old world, not a sovereign
discipline for every part and act of life, but a
system for communicating certain abstract truths,
and for the performance of certain visible rites
and ceremonies.

These two notions, both utterly inconsistent
with the idea of a true Christian Church, have
been prevalent alternately or conjointly almost
from the very beginning of Christianity. To the
first we owe Popery in all its shapes, Romanist or
Protestant ; the second is the more open form of
Antichrist, which, by its utter dissoluteness, has
gone far to reduce countries nominally Christian
to a state of lawlessness and want of principle
w^orse than the worst heathenism.

But these two Antichrists have ever prepared
the way for each other ; and the falsehood of the
one has led directly to the falsehood of its appa-
rent opposite, but real ally and cooperator.

I begin, then, with the first of these two evils :
the substitution of the activity of some in place
of the activity of all ; the distinction of the grand
characteristic of the Christian Church, the co-


operation, namely, of society through the several
faculties and qualities of its members, for the at-
tainment of the highest moral good of all.

This life, as it may well be called, of the Church,
may be injured by an extreme predominance of
the activity of some members, by which the others
are necessarily rendered less active. A mere ex-
aggeration of the principles of government may
effect this, and it may arise out of the most bene-
volent feelings. Kind and earnest teachers com-
mit this very mistake when they assist their pupil
too much ; they feel that they can do the work
better than he can, and that their assistance will
enable him to accomplish his task in a shorter
time, and more effectually. But they really injure
him ; because the greater completeness and clear-
ness of any one particular piece of knowledge is
a far less benefit than the strengthening of his
own faculties by exercise: the knowledge thus
given is not power, but is gained at the cost of
power, and is a hindrance rather than a help to
the wholesome acquisition of knowledge hereafter.
Even so benevolent governments, seeing the ig-
norance and mistaken notions of their people, are
eager to fence them in on every side by their
own care, and to act for them, because they
were likely of themselves to act wrong. But
unhappily with the tares they thus pluck up the
good seed also ; the people get accustomed to let


the government act for them ; they thus may ac-
quire the innocence of infancy or death, but they
acquire also the incapacity of those states for
good ; and the result is not a living spirit but a
lifeless corpse.

Still, it must not be forgotten that with go-
vernment the error is only in the excess or in
the unseasonableness of its activity. In itself it
is beneficent and necessary. Its abuses are no
argument against its existence; it is founded on
truth, and is indispensable in every state of so-
ciety. But the life of the Church was impaired
far more fatally by the introduction of another
principle very distinct from that of government,
the principle of priesthood. Persons unaccus-
tomed to examine the subject thoroughly have
often very confused ideas about priesthood ; they
profess utterly to disclaim it, while in fact they
are zealously maintaining it. But the essential
point in the notion of a priest is this, that he is
a person made necessary to our intercourse with
God, without being necessary or beneficial to us
morally. His interference makes the worshipper
neither a wiser man nor a holier than he would
have been without it ; and yet it is held to be in-
dispensable. This unreasonable, unmoral, unspi-
ritual necessity is the essence of the idea of priest-

Priesthood, then, is properly mediation, taking


this last word in its etymological rather than in
its common meaning. When the act on the wor-
shipper's part is already complete, whether the
worship be ritual or spiritual, the presence or in-
terference of a priest is made a necessary medium
through which alone the act can be presented to
God. For instance, suppose that the worshipper
has a right belief concerning God, and knows
what he desires to ask of God, the act of prayer
on his part is complete ; but if it be said that
his prayer must be offered to God by another, and
that otherwise God will not accept it, then here is
the exact notion of priesthood. It ceases to be
priesthood, and becomes teaching or assistance, if
the act on the worshipper's part cannot be morally
or reasonably complete without the aid of another.
He who knows not what to j^ray for, cannot by
himself complete the act of prayer, but requires
to be taught in order to do it. This teachino-,
however, is not priesthood, because the necessity
for its interposition is reasonable, moral, and spi-

A priest, therefore, as he does not make the
worshipper more fit to worship in himself, implies
necessarily that man cannot approach God. The
necessity for his mediation arises out of this : man
cannot approach God, but he may approach to
some other being, and this other being may ap-
proach God. Thus this intermediate being stands


to man in the place of God, and man's direct re-
lations towards God himself are declared to be an

We have arrived at a great and divine truth ;
the very foundation stone, indeed, of Christianity.
We cannot come to God directly ; we require one
to be to us in the place of God. But one in the
place of God and not God, is as it were a false-
hood ; it is the mother falsehood from which all
idolatry is derived. The mystery of Christianity
has met this necessity of our nature, and at the
same time has avoided the evil of the falsehood.
We have one who is to us in the place of God,
but who is also God trulv ; — we have one whom
we may approach, although we cannot approach
God, for he is also truly man.

It has been well said, that no error is mere
error ; something there is of truth ever mixed
with it. So the error of human priesthoods does
indeed but express a great truth, that man cannot
come to God without a mediator. But this truth
is to man, when left to his own devices, either

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