THE WIDENING CHASM BETWEEN THE CLERGY AND LAITY.
IS the Dean of Cape Town a fair representative of the standard orthodoxy of our Established Church ? It seems to us that he fairly and apparently ably represents at least that side of ortho- doxy which Dr. Wordsworth upholds in England. And how- ever consistent such orthodoxy may be with the sincerest practical piety, it is, to our minds, an organized dogmatic sys- tem, interposing a net-work of idolatries between Christ and Man. We confess that we should look with the gloomiest eyes on the future of the English Church, if the amazing spider- web of theories with which the Dean seeks to envelope the spirit of Man and set the strictest bounds to his free converse with the self-revealing God, be really rceeptable to the majority of our English clergy. Were it not for the few solitary voices which here and there plead from our pulpits against the blinding power of "schemes" of divinity,—such voices as that of Mr. Maurice, who still preaches to thinking men a gospel which both touches their conscience as immediately divine, and opens out the full depth of purpose which is contained for us in the stream of revelation and the life of the Word made flesh,—were it not that at least from one of our bishops (perhaps the only one whose learning is original and wide), and now we may say from the Deans of both the great Metropolitan Cathedrals, we hear solemn warnings against supposing that the Church is at war with the new science and the human intellect,--were it not for these more hopeful signs, we should read such expositions of Christian doctrine as proceed from Dr. Wordsworth at home and the Dean of Cape Town abroad, with the melancholy belief that the most earnest thought of the English laity is reject- ing, and ought to reject, the burden of clerical orthodoxy, and will have either to find itself new teachers, or to study theology as best it may for itself. We are sure that the greatest deficiency in critical learning is often a less obstruction to a true theology than the unconscious sacerdotalism—whether of the High-Church or the Calvinistic type—which seems instinctively to insist on the privilege of cluing some technical passport between Man and God. At all events, it is only at the peril of its own intellect and conscience that the laity of England can any longer even try to give credence to doctrinal statements which make the human conscience a fiction or a falsehood, which bind up Christ in the Bible while degrading the Bible itself into a record of preter- natural events instead of regarding it as the supernatural key to all human histories, and which make prayer an arrow shot at random into the darkness of the past, instead of the natural communion between living men and the living God. The Dean of Cape Town's confutation of Dr. Colenso's heterodoxy seems to us a stupendous mass of pseudo-orthodox dogma that might have been expressly invented to alienate the laity from our Church. There is scarcely a point on which its tendency is not to divide God and Christ from Man ; there is scarcely a point on which a layman who desires, above all things, to find his way through the living Word, and the written word which He alone interprets, to the Rock of Ages, does not find some dead incredible technicality thrust in his way, which he would as soon become a Christian Pharisee at once as accept.
Let us briefly mark the heads of this marvellous defensio fidei, which seems to us a most complete offensio fulei,—one of those stones over which any simple man is sure to fall and be broken, and which we have, therefore, good authority for saying would be better em- ployed if it were tied round its author's neck to drown him in the depth of the sea. Not that we wish anything but good to the zealous Dean; only that a due experience of the suffocating effect of his own ponderous dogmatism to one striving to swim on the ocean of divine wisdom and love,—a due apprehension of the fact that a man may so burden his own conscience with a stony " scheme " that it will make even God's love and wisdom itself
rush into eyes, and ears, and lungs, like a destroying, instead of a sustaining agency,—might rob the Dean for a time of his theo- logical consciousness only to restore him to a milder and more trustful faith in future.
In the first place, the Dean of Cape Town is exceedingly emphatic on the so-called doctrine of vicarious propitiation,—asserting that a transaction was needful "within the Godhead "to " appease " the Father for the sinfulness of man, and this quite apart from the puri- fying power which removes and obliterates that sinfulness. " It is true," says the Dean, " that the propitiation goes on within the divine nature, emanating from God the Father, brought about by God the Son, and that God loves His Son, even while He is angry with him for our sakes. But we cannot allow it to be said that God was not angry and was not appeased by punishment." We assert this to be pure heathenism, importing a theatrical anger into the Godhead which has not even a vestige of support in Scripture, and attributing to God a species of insincerity which He has forbidden to man. God " angry with Christ for our sakes, even while He loves Him for His own ! " It is one of those degrading fictions which, if it could be true, would change the very meaning of the word " God " from the Father of infinite righteous- ness into a being who has put higher thoughts into the human conscience than He has realized in His own life. Thinking men may try to believe this, but it must be at their peril. The Scrip- ture which speaks of the Son of God as bearing the stripes by which we are healed,—not by which we are bought off without being healed,—and which contains nowhere a hint of God's " anger with His Son for our sakes," is at least guiltless of giving any excuse to this first step in the sacerdotal passport system by which the com- munication between Man and God is made into a matter of technical negotiation.
Next, the Dean of Cape Town goes down very deep indeed, and comes up, we must say, in a much more deplorable metaphysical confusion than the Bishop whom he is accusing, on the subject of faith and justification. This is a subject on which the Bible cer- tainly does not encourage us to analyze the states of our own minds, but on which the sacerdotal theology of almost every school becomes passionately emphatic. The Gospels present " to Man as Man,"—though the Dean is reluctant to admit it,—the great fountain of new life, the Vine into which we may if we will be grafted, the Light which gives us " power to become sons of God." Few practical laymen who value their own sincerity will dive into their own psychology to define what faith is, but will be content to know it is practically a kind of moral and spiritual leaning on a power which cannot fail us, and that the sustaining influence is not in the act of leaning, but in the arm on which we lean,—that the purifying influence is not in the grafted branch, but in the eternal Vine. The Bishop of Cape Town, however, is horrified at so simple and Scriptural a mode of dealing with the most technical arcana of sacerdotal theology. He insists on the fact that faith "is an in- tellectual virtue," and that it is the sine qua non of "the applica- tion of the atoning work of Christ " to the human heart. In other words, the Dean maintains expressly that the " Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world " really lights only those who have gone through the " intellectual " process of belief, and that the Son of God did not die for " Man as Man," but only for the few who have mastered and signed the Dean's narrow little creed. Even one of the Judges was staggered at this wonderful announcement, for the Dean certainly seemed to assert that while the fallen nature of man was forced upon him by Adam's single sin, the renovating grace of the Redeemer is only offered at best to a few, and that on condition of a strictly "intel- lectual act." The Bishop of Grahamstown was evidently shocked to hear that the bad nature was given to "man as man," but that the healing grace was only given to a select circle of men on particular conditions. And that which shocked the Bishop of Grahamstown will, we trust, be found much more shocking to the laity at large. They, at least, cannot believe in a God who makes the hereditary penalty of a single sin infinitely wider in extent and more certain of its aim than the grace and love which are to deliver us from it. They, at least, will not cling to the sad while they give up the joyful half of the apostle's gospel, " For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." It is not the laity of this generation who can believe in a God who expressly ordains a universal and in- evitable malady and only a very exclusive and partial remedy. If we are to believe in a gospel of redemption we shall, at least, ask to believe that God's redeeming power is as universal as man's need of redemption, and not accept the Dean's sacerdotal sug- gestion that the shadow is far vaster and intenser than the light, and needs a priest to show you the way out of it.
Again, the Dean was very emphatic in the doctrine of ever- .?
enduring torments for all who have once passed the moment of _- without repentance and justification. That this doctrine of a she* meridian line dividing the hemispheres of perfect bliss and absolute torment is a part of the priestly system which is intended to increase the power (though now, thank God, it really saps the power) of the hierophants who hold the true creed, scarcely needs pointing out, and we need not dwell on its unscriptural nature, or its absolute in- compatibility with either a healthy State or a healthy Church after Mr. Maurice's remarkable letter in these columns last week.
But the last great link in the chain of this technical dogmatic system on which we have space to comment is, perhaps, the most intolerable of all to thinking laymen in the present day. The Dean actually claims for the Bible,—that most wonderful of books, which the more you idolize it and set it up in the place of God more and more helps to darken the very revelation it was intended to give,—he claims for the Bible that it is a perfect penetration of the human by the divine, free from human passions, free from human error, free from human ignorance, in the same mysterious sense in which he claims the same thing for the union of the divine and human natures in Christ. He charges Dr. Colenso with the same heresy for saying that the Bible contains but is not the word of God, with which the Nestorians were charged for saying that the human nature in Christ could be so far personally separated from the divine nature as to render it right to say that Mary was the mother of the human nature but not of the Son of God. In other words, the Dean of Cape Town wants to identify the person of God with the words of a miscel- laneous collection of literary, historical, and prophetic books of all kinds and degrees of inspiration from broken traditions to authentic letters,—front the words attributed to a quadruped generations at least after the period to which they referred, to the divine words of the incarnate Son. We doubt if a grosser piece of literary idolatry has ever been seriously perpetrated even by a pagan. To tell us,—for that is literally what the Dean tells us, —that every word in the Bible is penetrated by the Spirit of God, in a sense as intimate as that in which the Son of Man was pene- trated by the Spirit of God, is to fall down and worship a Bible instead of worshipping God. " Oh daughter of Babylon, wasted with misery, happy shall he be that taketh thy little ones and dasheth them against the stones I " said a grand but vindictive Psalmist. " Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you," said our Lord. Both these sentiments are equally interpenetrated by divine truth and infalli- bility, says the Dean of Cape Town, and no man, at his peril, shall dispute the absolute divinity of either. If this is to be our clergy's doctrine,—intellect, conscience, faith, sincerity even, are all sacri- ficed at once to the horrible claims of this new fetishism. "In the name of God let us proclaim "—that is the real meaning of this atrocious creed, " that the ' Light which lighteth every man which cometh into the world' has been shut up in the dark lanthorn of a book full of sublime teaching, but full also of critical errors and difficulties, and that we are to worship the dark lan- thorn, not the living light. Let us pray to our bibles, believe in our bibles, be justified by our bibles, sanctified by our bibles, judged, condemned, and everlastingly tormented by our bibles, for the living word of God has abandoned the human heart, and is shut up and hermetically sealed between the covers of that book,—skipping the Apocrypha." Such is the Dean's fetishism ; and such, English laymen will say, is the true way to kill the spirit of the Bible, and turn it into a dead burden, which neither we nor our children shall be able to bear.