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The primitive church and reunion : papers reprinted from the Contemporary review online

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I HAVE been encouraged to think that the papers
which follow may be worth reprinting, partly as
a brief record of progress in the movement towards
Christian Keunion during the two not uneventful
years which their composition happens to have
covered, and partly perhaps for the sake of a few
lessons and suggestions that have been gathered on
the way. The gap that was interposed in the middle
of the series was caused by the postponement of
the publication of the first volume of The Cambridge
Mediaeval History. This postponement, however, has
brought more material under consideration ; it has
given time to show what parts of the movement are
advancing and what are retreating ; and it has given
some opportunity to see which of the seeds sown
are most likely to ripen. The papers as they were
written reflected the feelings of the moment ; but
I have not thought that they would be less interest-
ing for that reason, and I have ventured to leave
them very much as they stood. It has occurred to
me that stray copies may perhaps reach a more
distant public than that which was originally con-
templated ; and as one knows that our episcopal
titles are liable to change and are apt to be confusing
to those to whom they are not familiar, I have
substituted personal names which will be more
easily remembered. I have also added in square


6 Prefatory Note

brackets a few new notes and cross-references. My
best thanks are due to the editors of the Con-
temporary Review for their kind permission to reprint
these articles.

These few words of preface had been dated
'Christmas, 1912', when the copy was sent to
the Press. But at the last stage of re-printing,
when the proofs were ready for final correction,
progress was suddenly interrupted by the not very
serious, but prolonged and disabling illness of the
writer. In this way the spring season was missed,
and publication has been unavoidably postponed
until the autumn. In the meantime many impor-
tant events have happened, especially the meeting
of the two Scottish Assemblies in May, ratifying
the work of the Committees and authorizing them
to proceed, Mr. J. E. Mott's tour in the East, with
the systematic series of Conferences that took place
in connexion with it, and the quiet but steady
preparations for the great American Conference, of
which the date is still (wisely) left open. It would
be tempting to comment further on these events ;
but the little book bears already too many marks
of the different strata in its composition, and the
temptation must be resisted. Suffice it to say, that
the general movement of things is, the writer hopes
and believes, wholesome and hopeful even beyond

his more sanguine expectations.

W. S.

Christ Church, Oxford.
August, 1913.



The Movement towards Reunion . . 9


The Primitive Model . . . . . 49


The Primitive Model {continued} . . . 83


The Prospects of Christian Reunion in 1912 113

Epilogue ....... 136

Index ........ 139


1509 B

[April, 1911 J

The times demand a solution, or at least some
nearer approach to a solution, of the perennial
problem of the Constitution of the Primitive Church
and the Origins of the Christian Ministry. There
is at this moment a conjunction of forces pressing
home this demand such as has never existed

First from the side of scholarship. For some
time past — in a more marked degree, we may say,
for the last thirty years — the little company of
scholars, ' sitting by their studious lamps,' has been
working, intermittently but with some insistence,
at this problem. Really the series begins further
back still, with Bishop Lightfoot's famous disserta-
tion on the ' Christian Ministry ' in his commentary
on the Epistle to the Philippians (published in
1868). But if I mention for this country. Hatch's
Bampton Lectures, delivered in 1880, with the
controversy which followed upon them. Gore's The
Church and the Ministry (1888), Hort's Christian
Ecclesia (1897), Moberly's Ministerial Priesthood (1897),
Wordsworth's Ministry of Grace (1901), T. M. Lind-

12 The Primitive Church and Reunion

say's The Church and the Ministry (1902), and Gore
again, Orders and Unity (1909) ; and if I recall in
Germany (to name only a few of the more important
books) Harnack's Analecta to his translation of Hatch
(1883), Loening, Gemeindeverfassung (1889), vSohm,
Kirchenrecht, vol. i (1892), Harnack again, art. * Ver-
fassung (kirchliche) ' in Hauck-Herzog, Real-Encyhlo-
pddie (1908), since reprinted and translated — it will
be seen that the subject has been occupying the
minds of leading theologians. ^ But all that has
been in what may be called the normal course of
scholarly activity. The discussions have been fol-
lowed with interest by the outside public ; but that
interest has not had about it anything specially
urgent and compelling.

Alongside of this work upon the theoretic problem
— a branch of Christian archaeology — practical states-
men have had in view the practical side of the
question of Keunion. Five successive Lambeth
Conferences — High Councils, as they might be
called, of the whole Anglican Communion — -in 1867,
1878, 1888, 1897, and 1908, have had it before
them; and in particular the Conference of 1888
pronounced upon it deliberately. It laid down the
four broad conditions on which the question of
reunion with other Christian bodies would be enter-
tained. Many of us will remember the movement
which went on in the years 1894-6 towards

^ [Some of these works are referred to in more detail on
pp. 51 ff. below.]

The 3Iovement towui^ds Reunion 13

a better understanding between the English Church
and the Church of Rome. It began with the active
fraternization between some leading French clergy
and prominent members of the Church of England.
Negotiations were opened at Rome, and for a time
seemed hopeful, but ended in disappointment. One
is glad to recall these memories, because they showed
the more chivalrous side of a section of the English
Church which has sometimes appeared in a different
character. We must take one thing with another,
and must be content if we can understand what it
may not be so easy to approve. The same year
(1896) which saw the defeat of the Anglican advances
towards Rome, saw the first fully constituted Con-
gress of the Federation of the Free Churches at
Nottingham. This is another prominent landmark.
Reunion is sure to be accomplished piecemeal. First
one group combines and then another; and com-
bination will take place in different degrees. Federa-
tion is a step, and may be a large step, towards
a closer union. The amalgamation of the Free
Church and the United Presbyterians in Scotland
(1900) was an example of such closer union ; and
the holding back of a portion of the former body
was less important in itself than in the financial
disturbance caused by the judgement in the House
of Lords. In 1907 three of the Methodist bodies
combined together under the shelter of an Act of
Parliament. And I believe that at the present
time some negotiations are going on between the

14 Jlie P?imitwe Church and Reunion

Established Church of Scotland and the United Free

All these have been more or less movements
from above, though of course they could not have
been carried out without the full consent of the
community. The Pan-Anglican Congress was in
like manner initiated from above ; but the fact that
it could not end, and was not intended to end, in
any definite practical result, perhaps enhanced its
effect in generating popular feeling. I am speaking
of course of the Congress as distinct from the Con-
ference of Bishops. The organization of this Congress
was in its way a new thing. No assembly of the
kind had ever (to the best of my belief) been pre-
pared for so long beforehand or on so large a scale,
and with such effective measures for reaching con-
siderable masses of people. The example thus set
was very soon followed, and in some respects bettered
in the following, by the World's Missionary Con-
ference held at Edinburgh in the summer of 1910.
These two events together, the Pan- Anglican Con-
gress and the Edinburgh Conference, from the vast
numbers represented, from the wide public to which
the interest of the meetings extended, as well as
from the magnitude and thoroughness of the pre-
parations, constitute (I must needs think) a new
epoch in the history of Christian assemblies.

^ [See below, pp. 118 ff., and also p. 6.] My attention has
been drawn to a useful book, McCrie's The Church of Scotland; her
Bivisims and Unions (Macniven & Wallace, 1901). I am also

The 31ovement towards Reunion 15

And then the Edinburgh Conference has this
further significance, that it has not (so to speak)
ended with itself; it has not been wound up and
done with like most gatherings of the kind, even
(in a certain sense) the Pan-Anglican Congress.
But, in the first place, its history has been written
by Mr. W. H. T. Gairdner, in his book called ' Edin-
hurgh, 1910' (Oliphant), in a way well calculated
to spread and keep alive the interest. It is easy to
be wise after the event, but one can see now that
this is just what should have been done after the
Pan- Anglican gathering. And beside this, it has
also set in motion a train of events which seems
likely to develop still further. My readers may
not all be aware of the events to which I refer, as
they have happened for the most part on the other
side of the Atlantic. But I will give some account
of them before I have done.

In the meantime I will take my start from the
new period which seems to me to have been in-
augurated in 1908. And I will consider the trans-
actions of this period especially in their bearing
upon the question of Christian Keunion. I will
take the two great gatherings together, because they
really hang together and bear testimony to the same
state of things. There was only this difference of
degree : in the Pan-Anglican Congress the question
of Reunion was only one subject among many ; and

informed that in Canada for some time back there has been
only one body of Presbyterians and one body of Methodists.

16 The Primitive Chmxh and Reunion

nominally at Edinburgh it was only one subject
among a number ; but really at Edinburgh it domi-
nated the whole assembly. I was not there myself,
and cannot speak from experience ; but I gather
from all the accounts that have reached me that the
interest in Reunion absorbed every other ; it was in
the background of men's thoughts all the time.

This is the first point that I have to bring out,
the depth and strength of the desire for unity which
ran all through the Conference. It is a saying
attributed to Bishop Westcott, that reunion, when
it comes, will come from the circumference rather
than from the centre. And there is evidence on all
hands that the desire for unity is strongest in the
mission field and in the more thinly peopled districts
of our Colonies and of America. It is only another
example of a theoretic question being brought to
the front and emphasized by practical needs. The
nature of these needs will be illustrated shortly ;
but I must begin by speaking of the state of feeling
in the field of Missions. The growth of the spirit
of unity within this field is a very conspicuous
phenomenon. It is clear that in recent years this
spirit has advanced, it would be no exaggeration to
say, by leaps and bounds. The Secretary of the

The Movement toway^ds Rcunioii 17

London Missionary Society, who had just been taking
a long journey throughout the Empire of China and
visiting not only the missions of his own Society
but a very large number of the missions of other
societies, reported to the Edinburgh Conference that
in all the missionary communities with which he
came in contact he found that this question of unity
was one of the most burning and one of the most
prominent, and also, from the point of view of those
who were joined with him in that deputation, one
of the most hopeful {Beport of Commission VIII,
p. 200). And the same kind of testmiony came
from many other quarters.

The missionaries who flocked to Edinburgh came
with their minds full of this spirit. And the con-
tagious effect of meeting and comparing notes with
others like themselves fanned it into flame. Even
one who does but read the accounts at a distance
cannot but see that the whole Conference soon
caught the glow. It was a unique experience in
the lives of those who took part in it.

What might be called the moral effect of the
Conference was summed up in felicitous language
by Sir Andrew Eraser, Chairman of the Commission
that was specially charged with the subject of
Co-operation and Unity :

We in our Commission and you in this Con-
ference have surely had before you the vision of
unity, a vision fair and beautiful, far better and far
higher than anything we have dreamt of before.

1609 C

18 The Piimitive Church and Reunion

We have had that vision before us, a vision of that
which is perhaps afar off, and which is certainly
indistinct in its outline, but which has laid hold of
our hearts, and we will never get rid of it. . . .
Even now it seems that the Spirit of God is pre-
paring men in all sections of the Church for the
answer to that prayer [the prayer of St. John xvii].
We will await that answer patiently. It may be
that it will be long delayed, but meanwhile we will
keep this ideal before our minds constantly and
never forget it. We will endeavour in all our fellow-
ship with our brethren of all sections of the Church
to be animated by brotherly love and forbearance
and never to be intolerant and arrogant ; we will
endeavour in every respect gradually to seize every
opportunity of conference and co-operation, that we
may be brought in our work closer to one another,
and so closer to our Lord. — Report of Comm. VIII,
p. 190 f.

Nothing could be more admirable than the spirit
of mutual consideration shown on this Commission.
There was evidently the fullest desire to respect the
scruples of those who were hampered by reserves in
regard to it. Great as the Conference was, and vast
as were the numbers represented by it outside
(estimated at 150,000,000), it should be remembered
that it still did not include the whole of Christendom,
but only the smaller Protestant half of it. The
Anglican Communion (including some 20,000,000)
should perhaps be considered apart as accepting that
designation only with qualifications.

Of its own natural impulse the Conference leaned
towards unity, and the visible feeling for unity was

The Movement toxvards Reunion 19

manifest all through its deliberations. But even if
it had not been so minded of itself, the presence
of members of the native Churches would have
impelled it in that direction. One notable and
very encouraging feature in the Reports of the Con-
ference was the excellence of the contributions made
by these native speakers. They certainly seemed to
have mastered the art of seven minutes' speeches
better than many Eurojieans. Here is a specimen.
Mr. Cheng Ching-Yi (the name is differently spelt),
of the London Missionary Society, said :

I count as one of the most gracious blessings that
God has bestowed upon the Church in China in recent
years the spirit of unity. Something has already
been done in the way of Christian federation, and
the result is at once practical and remarkable. It
is a great blessing for the Church in China to-day,
and it will be a much greater blessing for the Church
in the days to come. As a representative of the
Chinese Church, I speak entirely from the Chinese
standpoint. We may, and we may not, all agree,
but I feel it my duty to present before you the mind
of the Chinese Church as frankly as possible. The
Christian federation movement occupies a chief place
in the hearts of our leading Christian men in China,
and they welcome every effort that is made towards
that end. This is notably in the provinces of
Szechwan, Honan, Shantung, and Chihli. In edu-
cational work, evangelistic work, and so on, the
Churches joined hand in hand, and the result of
this is most encouraging. Since the Chinese Chris-
tians have enjoyed the sweetness of such a unity,
they long for more, and look for yet greater things.
They are watching with keen eyes, and listening

20 The Primitive Church and Reunion

with attentive ears, what this Conference will show
and say to them concerning this all-important ques-
tion. I am sure they will not be disappointed.
Speaking plainly, we hope to see, in the near future,
a united Christian Church without any denomina-
tional distinctions. . . . Such a union is needed for
these reasons : [a) Things that really help the grow-
ing movement of the self-support and self-govern-
ment of the Church in China are welcomed. A
united effort both spiritual and physical is absolutely
necessary, {b) Speaking generally, denominational-
ism has never interested the Chinese mind. He
finds no delight in it, but sometimes he suffers from
it. (c) Owing to the powerful force of heathenism
from without, and the feebleness of the Church from
within, the Christians are compelled to unite in
building up a defence of the Church.

From the Chinese standpoint there is nothing
impossible about such a union. Such difficulties
as may be experienced will be due to our Western
friends and not ourselves. ... In China, and for the
Chinese, such a union is certainly desirable. China,
with all her imperfections, is a country that loves
unity both in national and family life. — Report of
Comm. VIII, p. 195 f.

It would seem to be the same speaker, who, in
another debate, after again urging that ' the problem
in China is the independence of the Chinese Church ',
adds the important qualification, * really there is
no independence of the Church. All Churches of
Christ are dependent first upon God and then upon
each other' {Comm. II, p. 352). It is interesting
to note that the native Chinese leaders are them-
selves conscious of this. To have reached that point

The 3Iovement toxvards Reunion 21

is to have travelled far on the road of Christian
experience and knowledge. And the foreign (Non-
conformist) missionaries are also conscious of it.
For instance, the Rev. W. Nelson Bitton (of the
London Missionary Society), on the one hand, tells
us explicitly that :

Wherever Chinese young men are gathered to-
gether and are talking concerning the things which
make for their national progress, you will find them
keenly interested in this question of the growth and
independence of the Chinese Church. They have
frankly stated their ideal to be a united Chinese
Christian Church, and it is idle for us to ignore,
and it would be foolish for us to oppose, that
national sentiment within the Christian Church,
because it is our duty as Christians to stand in line
with it.

But, on the other hand, he too goes on to add :

We do not want to see rising in China, or in a far
Eastern land, a far Eastern Church separated in
sympathy and in aim from the Catholic Church of
the Christian world. The danger which I have
spoken of is not one that is in the air or is remote ;
it is near, and it is pressing for immediate attention
[op. cit, p. 351).

Compare with this the very important warning
delivered on the same occasion by Bishop Gore
(p. 355). I shall have to refer to this again later, as
it goes to the root of the main question before us.

It is a tribute to the solidity of character of the
Chinese that they are to the front in this matter of

22 The Primitive Church and Reunion

the organizing of a united native Christian Church.
At the large and representative Centenary Missionary
Conference at Shanghai, in 1907, it was unanimously
resolved that * in planting the Church of Christ on
Chinese soil, we desire only to plant one Church
under the sole control of the Lord Jesus Christ,
governed by the Word of the living God, and led
by His guiding Spirit '. Next to China comes Japan ;
and here one is glad to think that the Anglican
Communion as a whole (American as well as British)
is already represented by a united native Church
with a native name (Nippon Sei Kokwai, ' Holy
Catholic Church of Japan '), which appears to have
been in existence since the year 1887 {Comm. VIII,
p. 97 ; cf. II, p. 289). The Presbyterians have also a
complete organization, not only in China and Japan
but in India, where other partial attempts towards
union have been made, and where the national feel-
ing is rapidly gaining strength.

Federations on a larger or smaller scale in con-
nexion with Mission work are fast springing up all
over the world. The largest of all seems to be the
Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America,
which held its first meeting in the city of Phila-
delphia in December 1908, and includes within its
membership thirty-three Christian denominations
with a communicant membership of 17,000,000,
representing fully 50,000,000 of the population
{Comm. VIII, p. 210). I gather that a similar or-
ganization exists in Canada. In any case the federa-

The Movement iovoards Reunion 23

tive spirit receives great support in the United
States and in the Colonies. In more than one
direction the vigour and energy of our American
and Colonial kindred seems inclined to sweep all
obstacles before it. A Canadian delegate, the Rev.
W. T. Stackhouse, D.D., a Baptist from Western
Canada, who caused some amusement by describing
himself as ' the longest man in the Convention ',
spoke in a breezy way of what he called real
Christian union :

The Christian laymen of Canada and the United
States are doing more to bring together the different
religious bodies than can be done by all the eccle-
siastical Conferences that could be held during the
next hundred years. We are not simply talking
about union, we are actually doing the work in our
miited relationship. I have been in the campaign
extending from the Pacific to the Atlantic, covering
something like one hundred places. Here we have
the various laymen representing the various deno-
minations and the various Board Secretaries in
co-operation, and when these men speak from the
public platform you cannot tell one from the other
[op. ciL, p. 227).

Mr. Gairdner tells us of one ' well-known delegate
from America ' who was prepared to go beyond this
and ' thought that all the differences that divide the
denominations were so unutterably unimportant
that they might be made up into a mere appendix
to some handbook of common Christian teaching ;
and then [added] : "I suggest we follow the example
of modern science — cut out the appendix " ' (' Edin-

24 The Primitive Church and Reunion

hurgh, 1910,' p. 207). I have not been able to identify
this speaker in the Beport ; and it would not be fair
to take him as typical of more than the tendency
that exists among his countrymen. I cannot help
rather wondering what sort of figure this delegate
and his Canadian brother just quoted would make
if they were to undergo an examination in Church
history, or what they would say if they were to
extend their experiences from the New World to
the Old and to different circles in the Old. They
would there come in contact with types of Christi-
anity far removed from their own, where it would
be only too easy to tell one from the other.

At the same time I am well aware that there is
a real and very natural foundation for the zeal of
men so situated in throwing off what they conceive
to be superfluous trappings. One of the best illus-
trations of this was in a paper read at the Pan-
Anglican Congress by the Rev. H. J. Rose, of
the diocese of Sydney, Australia. Speaking of the
problem of Reunion, he said :

In this great continent of Australia, with its sparse
population and its vast areas of settlement, the
question is really crucial. I don't think this is
recognized either within or without the Church.
One goes to a little bush township, and this is the

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Online LibraryW. (William) SandayThe primitive church and reunion : papers reprinted from the Contemporary review → online text (page 1 of 8)