CLERGYMEN IN DIFFICULTIES.
1 T would seem that there are not a few clergymen who are 1 so much excited by the prospect of losing the Church's manclat impe'ratif to recite the Damn atory Clauses of the Atha- nasian Creed at Christmas, and on other joyous and suitable occasions of that kind, that they declare they must lay down their office as clergymen, even if they do not leave the Communion, in case this mandat imperatif be with-
drawn. They won't be satisfied with the right to recite it if they please,—that, they say, would be throwing on them an individual responsibility of which there is no pre- vious trace in the Anglican system, and would be conse- quently a slight to the Creed itself, which would no longer be spoken with the voice of the Church, but only with the voice of the clergyman who makes his option in its favour. Mr. Capes, who has himself been converted both to and from Roman Catholicism in the course of his clerical experience, having now returned to the communion in which he was born, has made in this week's Guardian a strong appeal to Dr. Pusey and others of like mind to pause before they commit themselves to regard the projected change in relation to the Athan- asian Creed as compelling them to retire from the clerical
office. He says with great force, in effect something of this kind :—" Either this proposed change would warrant an absolute secession from the Church, or it would not war- rant what you are about to do. If the proposed change is a disloyalty to the orthodox faith, and in your opinion to God and Christ, so great as to amount to treachery, you ought to wash your hands of the Church which is guilty of it ; as a lay communicant, you would still be participator in the guilt, for you could not be a lay communicant without admitting that the clergyman who gives you the sacraments is still a channel of sacramental grace, and not one whom you ought to excommunicate. But if the proposed change is not either treachery or disloyalty of this kind, then there can be no more reason why you should not hold to your clerical office, than why you should not decline to communicate with those who do." We confess that seems to us all but unanswerable, and we go on with Mr. Capes to infer that practically what most of the High-Church clergy who retire from their offices on this account are likely to do, is first to give up communion with the English Church altogether, and next probably to enter into communion with Rome. Against this alter- native Mr. Capes has a great deal to say, and says it very well. He asks if the Church of England is half as likely to trouble them by new shocks of the kind from which they are now recoiling as is the Church of Rome I If giving up a public recitation of the Athanasian Creed be a breaking with the past, what is accepting a new dogma like Papal Infallibility ? You may
break with the past either by loss or by gain. If you lose what you love, you break with the past. But if you gain what you hate, you break with the past still more. Therefore Dr. Pasey and his friends should pause before they commit themselves to any rash move. The dwindling dogmatic authoritativeness of the English Church may be a trial to them, but the growing dogmatic authoritativeness of the Roman Church would be a much greater trial. Let them keep where they will have least grief to bear, and not take a first step which is most likely to precipitate them into further and more anxious steps.
We admit entirely that the force of this argument is very strong. Only we do not think Mr. Capes, who, in his desire to keep anxious minds quiet, prudently avoids all but soothing consider- ations, has put quite forcibly enough the real drift of his argu- ment. It may be true that the Church of England, slow and cautious as she is, will not be likely to give men of Dr. Pasey's advanced age any farther shock more trying than the modifica- tion of the Athanasian Creed. Oar National Church is one of deliberate mind, Conservative before all things, and one which, as becomes an Establishment, takes counsel of the most cautious of men in religious matters,—statesmen. Bat it would be absurd for any man to imagine that the modification proposed in the Athanasian Creed will not be followed by other modi- fications in the tests imposed on the clergy. The opinion which is tending so strongly against the embodiment of this formula in our public worship, is an opinion hostile to all ecclesiastical authority in matters of deep religious conviction. Ecclesias- tical authority is challenged now every day to justify itself by appeal to moral and spiritual truths, and It is only because the denunciation of eternal punishments against men of heretical creed, seems the most obviously despotic and creel of the feats of ecclesiastical authority, that the set is made against it first. What Revelation can bring clearly home to the individual soul will remain, and that alone will remain, as the creed of those who determine the standards of our National Church in future. There are already several of the Articles which are quite as difficult to justify intellectually as the Damnatory Clauses of the Athanasian Creed, and -these only remain unassailed because there is a point so much more exposed to moral objection. But the authority of the Church, once thoroughly broken down, —and no one can pretend that the English Church has, even now, more than the merest shadow of ecclesiastical authority, that any one believes any point in her Creeds only because the English Church says it, —it will be simply impossible to prevent further simplifications of Articles of faith accepted in an age when authority did stand for a good deal, though no one exactly knew for how much. Every- thing tends to the destruction of ecclesiastical authority on dogmatic subjects in Protestant communions. There will soon remain only the great authoritative Church of Rome, and a number of other bodies conceiving divine truth differ- ently, but which accept no authority except the light
of divine truth itself. And it is only fair to those who have fancied that they had in the Church of England a real ecclesiastical authority, to admit to them that the modifi- cation of the Athanasian Creed, if it be modified, is a sign of greater changes coming in the direction of spiritual indi- vidualism in matters of faith,—by which we do not mean any diminution of the binding power of tree faiths, but the admis- sion that Churches are nothing but human bodies of men who have learned to combine on the ground of large common elements in their conception of worship.
This is the undeniable drift of things in all Churches. The old symbols on the basis of which even the Free Churches were originally founded are losing their power, and the members of them claiming their individual freedom,—witness, for instance, the brave and, we should say, successful fight which Mr. Knight is making in Dundee for emancipation from the bondage of cer- tain half-obsolete conceptions for which no better ecclesiastical authority than a certain amount of concurrence in the founders of the Church, was ever claimed. 'Ecclesiastical authority' in matters of faith must mean a great deal indeed, or it mast mean nothing at all. Authority does mean a great deal at Rome. Elsewhere, as far as we can see, it is beginning to mean very little, and will soon mean nothing at all. Dr. Piney and his friends have in truth to choose between a Church. of great and
V ancient authority on the one hand, and surrendering the con- ception of human authority in matters of dogmatic faith alto- gether, on the other. It would be unfair to conceal this from them. Spiritual individualism and Rome are the two great antagonists of the future.