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The position and parties of the English church : a pastoral letter to the clergy of the Diocese of Winchester (Volume Talbot Collection online

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Reverend Brethren,

I have not held a visitation this year; first,
because I thought that I had much to learn concern-
ing my new and most extensive Diocese ; and secondly,
because I intended to have asked both clergy and
laity to meet me this autumn in Diocesan Conference.
I have been hindered from making this request by the
rapidity with which the scheme for constituting a new
Bishopric has been carried forward in Parliament. I
have already said much, both in private and public,
about this impending change. Let me speak very briefly
of it now. I have always advocated some increase in the
English Episcopate. When my eminent predecessor.
Bishop Wilberforce, was taken away from us, I at-
tended the first meeting in London for raising a monu-
ment to his memory ; and I then said that I should
have advocated strongly the formation of a See of
South London, but that I found so many of his per-
sonal friends holding the opinion that he himself, if he
had been living, would not have consented to give up
that part of liis jurisdiction. I knew that this was
true ; and so I acquiesced in a different scheme. I
was not then Bishop of Winchester. No sooner was I


2 Pastoral Letter.

publicly named for translatiou tlian persons of weight
and influence in South London communicated with me
on this very subject. Earnest hopes w^ere expressed
that I would make some sacrifice to found a South
London Bishopric, it being urged that no one, even of
superhuman powers, could rightly administer the Dio-
cese of Winchester, with South London at one end of
it, and the Channel Islands on the coast of Normandy
at the other. From that time forth I thought anxiously
how I could promote this wished-for sub-division. I
first proposed to give up Farnham Castle, hoping that
its sale would realize a sum of money equal, or nearly
equal, to the founding of a Bishopric, I was diverted
from this thought, first, by being assured that Farn-
ham would not produce nearly so large a sum as I had
expected ; secondly, by the thought that it was built
700 years ago by the then Bishop, Henry de Blois,
brother of King Stephen, and had been the Episcopal
residence ever since ; and thirdly, by the unexpected
discovery that property in St. James's Square had in-
creased so greatly in value as to make Winchester
House worth, perhaps, £70,000 or £80,000.

I wished originally for a Bishopric of South Lon-
don only, with St. Saviour's, Southwark, as its Cathe-
dral.^ It would be long to tell how many different
schemes were thought of and discussed in Committee
and in conference with the Secretary of State, to whose

' I have still the conviction that \vhat we want is two London
dioceses ; but the Thames should not be the line of demarcation.
The difficulty of effecting this is very great, for it is important that
the ancient See of London should embrace not only St. Paul's and
the Mansion House, but Buckingham Palace and the Houses of
Parliament, which form the true centre of the present metropolis.

% J

Pastoral Letter. 3

kindness the whole Church owes much. At last it
was thought that the scheme, finally brouglit into Par-
liament, though not perfect in itself, was the best that
could now be devised. The result is that, when money
enough is raised, South London, with its suburbs in
East and Mid-Surrey, and the portion of the present
Diocese of Eochester (a very small portion) now lying
in Kent, will become a separate Diocese, considerable in
population, but territorially very small, and so, pro-
bably, one of the most workable Dioceses in England.
I cannot leave this subject without saying once more,
what I have often said before, how deeply I shall feel —
if I ever live to see and experience it — my separation
from the portion of my present Diocese which I
shall then lose. I knew little or nothing of it when I
first thought of the division. I know a great deal of
it now ; and I have experienced so much of kindness
and co-operation, both from laymen and clergymen
belonging to it, that I am sometimes almost tempted to
regret that I sacrificed personal friendships to public
interests. But I w^ill rather hope and pray that what-
ever seems privately painful may be blessed to public

And now let me turn from important matters, as
affecting a single and more than a single Diocese, to
matters still more important, as affecting the whole
Church and the religious interests of millions now living
and yet unborn.

We are standing, it can scarcely be doubted, on the
threshold of a future history full of change in Chiu-ch
and State, in politics and religion. All Christendom is
moved ; and, strange to say, even religions outside of
Christendom are moved too. It seems as if a wave of

B 2

4 Pastoral Letter.

new thought and excited action were passing over the
world. Men who live in snch a time have much need
of wisdom and self-control and disinterestedness, if they
are to do their part towards making the future blessed
and prosperous, instead of disastrous and evil ; and
none can need these qualities so much as the clergy,
who should be the pilots and directors of religious
thought in a troubled sea of change and doubt. If,
at similar crises in history — theEeformation, for instance
— all those who thought and acted on either side had
been more candid, and more temperate, and more true,
there would be far less danger now, and a far brighter
horizon for the future. No one can read wisely and
thoughtfully the records of such times without many a
pang of sorrow that men's passions checked improve-
ments on the one hand, and marred them on the other.
Are we not by such examples forewarned ? and should
we not be forearmed?

The Church of Christ from the earliest times has
had in many w^ays the same elements of good and evil,
so the same dangers and the same hopes as now. That
Church, from its first foundation, was in one sense an
absolute monarchy, because Christ is its King, and the
reign of the Omnipotent must be unlimited. But, as
regards its human organisation, it was so constructed
as to combine order and united action with all just
freedom of thought and will. If these two elements
of orderly union and fair freedom had been allowed to
work harmoniously together, the Church would have
been, what its Founder willed it to be — a kingdom sub-
ordinate to its King and wisely regulating its citizens.
But the Church had a strange struggle from the first.
Its victories were its dangers. It took captive the

Pastoral Letter. 5

worlds of Judaism and of heathenism and of heathen
philosophy around it ; and they in their turn tried to
corrupt the Cliristianity which had subdued them.
Jews and heathens and philosophers assumed the name
and profession of Christians, witliout renouncing either
the opinions or the practices of the past. Freedom of
thought ran riot, and order and unity seemed likely to
be lost. When Gnostics and Ebionites and Manicheans
and Arians, claiming to be Christians, were subverting
Christianity, we cannot wonder that the rulers of the
Church magnified, and even exaggerated, the import-
ance of unity and order and discipline, and that, in their
fears of sucli heresy as, in fact, meant heathenism, they
should have encouraged the growth of powers incon-
sistent with constitutional freedom. At one time even
the greatest fathers of the Church called in the strono-
hand of the Emperor to control the heretics ; and then,
finding the sword two-edged and quite as likely to be
directed against truth as against error, they turned
towards another authority, which was apparently spi-
ritual, which had never sympathised with undue
license of thought, and which seemed able to unite all
true believers round one common centre, and to offer
a powerful resistance to the common enemy. Human
wisdom could scarcely have foreseen the danger of
this course. At all events, more pressing dangers were
at hand. It is hard to picture to ourselves, in its full
colours, the condition of Christianity in the fifth cen-
tury from Christ. It had, perhaps, established itself in
the convictions of the civilized world as the true reli-
gion ; but it had not interpenetrated society with its
principles. The Eoman Empire was not even half
converted. It had followed the lead of its Emperor

f) Pastoral Letter.

and placed the cross upon the crown ; but the cruelty
and the violence and tlie lust and the luxur}- of the
Lower Empire seemed unabated, if not actually on the
increase. The light which had streamed into it made
only the darkness visible. Then came the Gothic tribes,
with all the fiei'ceness of a rude race overwhelming an
effeminate civilization. And it looked as if the Church
coidd only hold its own, and win its Master's way, by
forming itself into the closest possible corporation,
organising itself under a human head, and fostering
those societies of ascetic devotees, who, themselves
fighting against all the evils of a corrupt nature within,
could offer a refuo;e in their secluded homes from the
lust and the tyranny and the cruelty of the world
without; nay, even fi-om the worldly conformity of the
Church itself in the profligate city and the Imperial
Court. It is difficult now to see how all the evils of
the Middle Ages could have been encountered by Chris-
tianity if we could eliminate from history monasticism
and the Pope ; and yet they appear, even in their
earhest development, excrescences upon the Church,
inconsistent with its truest principles, and naturally
productive of dangers and corruptions. He, who guides
all things, permits many tilings not wholly accordant
with His wiU, and yet guides them still — guides them to
good — until at length, through the fidler development
of evil within them, they, perhaps, become only instru-
ments of ill. The Papacy and the monastic orders
seemed to promise security for order and orthodoxy
and Christian union. In the end they subverted all.
Pressing to excess the claims of order, they suppressed
to excess the claims of free thought. It was inevitable
that free thought so bound down should at length burst

Pastoral Letter. 7

its bonds; hence all those divisions of Christendom, to
which the Church of Eome points as the disgrace of
the Eeformation, but which are in truth the fruits of
the Papacy. I must apologise for seeming to write an
historical essay, when I am professing to offer words of
counsel and warning. I am inchned to think that a
general survey of the past may help towards the
solution of questions for the future.

The Papacy, even of the Middle Ages, was the
extreme development of one important element of the
Church of Christ — the element of unity and order. I
will not linger on the many efforts to resist this extreme
development, which, made from time to time by states-
men and Churchmen alike, finally culminated in what
is called the Eeformation. The Eeformation was the
consequence of a common feeling of wrong, a common
yearning for freedom and truth; but it was multiform
in its development. The Lutheran and the Anglican
Eeformations were conceived in a conservative spirit ;
the one assuming the attitude of protest when unable
to effect reform ; the other reforming without subvert-
ing the national Church, which had existed even before
the nation itself. The Swiss Eeformation was of a
widely different character — Zwinglius throwing down all
ancient landmarks and rejecting all ancient institutions ;
and then the genius of Calvin, building up a wholly new
edifice, based on new principles and hedged in with
new fences. The distinction is so important to our-
selves that I dwell on it for a moment. The Lutherans
desired to reform the German Church, eradicating its
corruptions, but retaining its constitution. If they
could have carried tlieir princes and their bishops with
them, they would probably, under the guidance of

8 Paatoral Letter.

Melauchtbon, have effected a true Reformation. As it
was, they seceded, with the thought of remaining sepa-
rate till such reformation might be possible, and, at the
same time, they put forth a solemn Protest against the
corruptions which they could not remove. The Eng-
lish was a true Reformation. Some may think it defec-
tive and others excessive ; but it was not secession, it
was not destruction, it was not revolution — it was reform.
It took a long time to effect. Its work went through
many reigns, beginning with Henry VIII., and certainly
not perfected till Charles II. It retained all funda-
mental doctrines, it respected all ancient formularies,
it changed no ancient constitution. It had the same
creeds, the same clergy, even the same services — trans-
lated and purged, but not abolished — the same Church
courts, the same Church laws. There was but one
thing which it absolutely swept away, viz. the usurped
supremacy of the Pope, and its natural consequences.
I am not asserting that the work was all well done, and
that there were no defects and no excesses — different
men will take differing views of this — I merely maiijtain
that this was the principle of Eeformation in England.
So it was viewed by the bishops and clergy of the time,
whom we commonly call Eeformers ; so it was viewed and
treated by the statesmen, by the sovereigns, by the laws
of the land ^ ; so even was it viewed by the Pope him-

^ 'It is certain that no English ruler, no English Parliament,
thought of setting up a new Church, but simply of reforming the
existing English Church. Nothing was further from the mind of
either Henry VIII. or of Elizabeth than the thought that either of
them was doing anything new. Neither of them ever thought for a
moment of establishing a ncAv Church, or of establishing anything
at all. In their own eyes they were not establishing, but reforming ;
ihey were neither pulling down nor setting up, but simply putting

Padoral Letter. 9

self, who would have tolerated the changes in faith and
worship in the reign of Elizabeth, if only the Queen
and people would have acknowledged his supremacy.

The Swiss Eeformation, though called by the same
name as the English, was essentially unlike it. It was
probably a blessing to England, though it has been cast
as a reproach, that there was no one great master-mind
among her reforming clergy, such as Luther or Calvin.
Matters, therefore, worked here more slowly and more
safely. Calvin saw clearly the difficulty of the Swiss
position. He was prepared for radical changes ; but
he was not ready to go all lengths with the rationalism
of Zwinglius, and he knew that no religion could stand
without close organisation and strong restraints. The
organisation of the Ancient Church was not possible to
him, as it was to the Enghsh. The rejection of the
Papal absolutism had left the restraints of law feeble
and helpless. So Calvin elaborated from his own fertile
brain a new system, which was to be the substitute for
and the rival of the old Cathohc system, whether cor-
rupted or reformed. He organised a great repubhc,
binding it together by a strong republican government,
and restraining — I had almost said enslaving — con-
sciences, not by the power of the priest, not merely by a
belief in the unlimited sovereignty of God, but by a blind
submission to that sovereignty, though exercised so as

to rights. . . . There was uo one act called " The Reforma-
tion " ; the Reformation was the gradual result of a long scries of
acts. There was no one moment, no one Act of Parliament, when
and by which a Church was " established " ; still less was there any
act by which one Church was "disestablished," and another Church
" established " in its place.' — Disestablishment and Disendowment,
by E. A. Freeman, D.C.L., LL.D. — a learned and interesting

10 Padoral Letter.

to be apparently (though, of course, only apparently)
arbitrary, tyrannical, and unjust. There can be no real
question but that Calvinism, whether as a system of
theology or as a system of Church government, was
utterly unknown in early times. No trace of anything
like it can be found in the first foiu- centimes after Christ.
In the fifth century a great tliinker introduced from
heathen into Christian philosophy a behef in the irre-
spective predestination of souls to eternal bliss or to
eternal woe ; but this belief in the hands of St. Augustine
was subordinated to Church teaching and to Church
authority. Thenceforth, indeed, Predestinariauism
became popular among Christians ; and men who, in
modern phraseology, w^ere among the highest Church-
men of the Middle Ages, were Angus tinians of the
straitest sect. Calvin made this special doctrine the foun-
dation of his elaborate system, squared everything to fit
it, and rejected everything that would not square with
it. And along with it he established a system of Pres-
byterian government, though he himself acknowledged
that he would have had bishops if it had been possible.
It was a great experiment, a masterpiece of ecclesias-
tical policy ; and to a marvellous degree it has succeeded.
Doubtless, the Calvinistic ' Eeformation ' was a move,
and a very extensive move, in the direction of free
thought; but it was clear to Calvin that free thought
required strong curbs and heavy restraints ; and so the
system of Calvinism was, and still is, as exclusive, and
in some respects as restrictive, as the system of Eo-
manism itself. It was, probably, the rebomid from its
exclusiveness which caused the Socinianism and the
Eationalism whicli first arose in Switzerland, and which
still extensively prevail there.

Pastoral Letter. 1 1

We well know how much this system influenced
earnest men in England in the reigns of Edward, Eliza-
beth, and the first Stuarts. It was apparently the
strongest, boldest countermove to Popery. At first all
(or almost all) who aimed at Eeformation naturally
sympathised with all the opponents of Eome. Eoman-
ism, the power of the Pope, and the rising powers of the
Jesuits, constituted the common danger ; and all who
opposed the common danger seemed to be friends.
Then the Marian exiles taking refuge among the Swiss
brought back to England Swiss theology, and sowed it
broadcast among the people, at a time when horror of
the Marian persecutions, dread of Philip's invasions,
and indignation against Papal conspiracies, had created
a panic — cruel, alas, as it was timid — on the subject of
Eomanism. The Puritans, who owe their origin to
this, well deserve our respectful remembrance. There
was much that was noble and spirited in tlieir sturdy
independence ; in their resistance to tyranny, whether
civil or ecclesiastical ; in their stern, simple habits of
life and faith. But they were as intolerant as those to
whom they were opposed, whether Papists or Anglicans.
People had not learned at that time that it was possible
to tolerate either doctrines or practices, without wholly
agreeing with them. The question really was, in the
reigns of Ehzabeth, James I., and Charles I., whether
the English Church, reformed but preserved, should
continue the Church of the nation, or whether it sliould
be rejected in favour of Puritanism {i.e. Calvinistic
Presbyterianism) on the one hand, or Eomanism on the

The Eebellion and the Eevolution were the results
of this fierce struggle. Since those great events the

12 PaaLoral Letter.

English Church has had professedly within its bosom,
what it had always had with less formal acknowledg-
ment, two great schools of religious thought. They
have been permitted to work side by side, not struggling
for the absolute supremacy of the one to the utter ex-
tinction of the other, but acknowledged as necessary
factors of the great National Church, It may be diffi-
cult to define exactly the relative positions of the two
schools in all cases, for the various ' revivals ' in the one
direction or the other have been marked by various
characteristics ; but we may say generally, though not
universally, that the one school has taken the side of
order, the other craved for greater fireedom of action ;
that the one has upheld Episcopal, the other has at
least sympathised with Presbyterian, government ; that
the one has esteemed highly the Christian Sacraments,
the other has laid most stress upon preaching the
Word ; that the one has been favourable to the higher
adornment of Divine service, the other has been con-
tent with barer walls and simpler ceremonies ; that the
one has given more thought to the training of the
young, the other has relied most on converting the
adult smner ; that the one has been more devoted to
pastoral labom', the other more zealous for public
preaching and for foreign missions ; that the one has
produced nearly all our theological hterature, the other
has contributed chiefly to devotional and practical
writings ; that the one has made much of corporate
life, the other has given its chief thoughts to personal
religion ; that the one looks back -svith sympathy and
respect to Christian antiquity, feeling that in all its
changes the Church has still had one stream of life
running through its history, the other has, for the most

Pastoral Letter. 1 3

part, shrunk from identifying the present with the
former conditions of Christianity, beheving that for
centuries it existed only in the Bible, and could be
scarcely found in the organised societies of the world ;
that, once more, the one has dwelt much on repentance
for sin and striving after holiness, the other has more
cheered the penitent with the thought of pardon pur-
chased and blessedness assured.

I am aware that the above does not characterise
all members of either school, and that there are many
other distinctions and differences which have frequently
arisen ; but I believe that the two chief schools in the
English Church have generally, though not universally,
exhibited these distinguishing characteristics. We may
have our closest sympathies with one or with the other ;
but no one who thinks seriously can doubt that, when
they have worked quietly together, the presence of both
has been a blessing to the Church. The mistake of the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was the determi-
nation of those in power, on whichever side they
might be, that only one school should exist, or at all
events should prevail, and that the other must succumb
or secede. The true principle of a Church should be
that union of order and free thought of which I spoke
at first, permitting within all reasonable limits differ-
ences of sentiment such as must exist wliere men truly
think at all ; not breaking unity of communion because
of variety of thought or even of usage, but yet main-
taining in all cases fundamental truth, and that out-
ward order without which no human society can
prevail and prosper. So permitted, variety rather con-
tributes to strength than engenders weakness ; the
variety itself stirs up, not to hatred, but to emulation

14 Pastoral Letter.

in good works ; and the danger of stagnation, immi-
nent where all think exactly alike, is warded off by
the watchfulness of one school over the deficiencies or
excesses of the other. Unhappily, in such a state of
things, stagnation is too often the only home for peace,
and whenever zeal revives conflict revives with it.
There are, indeed, those who say that the English
Church holds within its bosom two different religions,
two different faiths. Surely this is untrue. If we look
back on our past history, and at the tenets and prac-
tices of both schools, there may have been, perhaps,
in each of them some things to deplore, erat quod
tollere velles, but in both of them there has been much
to esteem ; and though there may be at times points of
important difference, surely they cannot be compared
with the many points of agreement, or rather with the
great fundamental agreement in the deep verities of
the Christian faith. Can men be said to belong to two
different religions, when both classes accept the same
Scriptures as the authoritative rule of faitli ; both be-
lieve in the same mysterious, infinitely holy, infinitely
merciful Triune God, loving Father, redeeming Saviour,
sanctifying Spirit ; both acknowledge the same corrup-
tion of our nature, the same redemption and restoration,

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Online LibraryChurch of England. Diocese of Winchester. Bishop (The position and parties of the English church : a pastoral letter to the clergy of the Diocese of Winchester (Volume Talbot Collection → online text (page 1 of 5)