THE BISHOP OF CAPETOWN AND THE LIBERATION SOCIETY.
To THE EDITOR OF THE "SPECTATOR."
the month of January of this year the Bishop of Cape- town delivered a charge to the clergy of his diocese. I have not seen it noticed in your columns,—perhaps it has not fallen in your way. My own knowledge of it is derived from a report in the South African Advertiser, one which must, I think, have been taken from the Bishop's own manuscript.
It is a document worthy of all the attention which can be given to it. If the Bishop falls into some inevitable sophisms when he assumes to be a champion of liberty and even law against pre- rogative, the part of his charge in which he deliberately throws aside the law of the land and claims an independent position is able and vigorous, and will secure the sympathy of a number of Dissenters as well as High Churchmen. Take one sentence, which is the key-note to most of the others. "What the Church of Eng- land would be, were the views of the Liberation Society carried out, that we are: He denies indeed that he has chosen this position for himself. He casts the responsibility of it upon the English State. "It is the State, not the Church, which has declined to extend the support afforded to the Church at home to the colonies." Be this as it may, he accepts frankly and with few reservations the condition into which he says that he has been forced. He is prepared for all the consequences of an adverse decision in the Committee of Privy Council. He does not care for the Com- mittee of Privy Council. It is no Court of Appeal for him. Ile believes that his Church, nay, the Church in the colonies generally, is apart from the English Nation, however closely it may be in communion with the English Church. And though at present he can only vindicate this freedom for the Church over which he presides, he evidently thinks that he has a mission to rescue us as well as himself. The English Church is hindered by various complications from throwing off the yoke of national tri- bunals and governing itself by its own synods. But its good time is coming. By the help of the Bishop of Capetown and the Liberation Society together, it also will be emancipated from its fetters.
You will perceive that this statement overrides the masterly argument of Mr. Stephen in a recent number of Fraser's Magazine. That argument was not heard in Court, because the Court ac- cepted the doctrine of it as not requiring proof. Mr. Stephen shows that the tribunals of the nation can only regard the Church through the law ; for them it has no antecedent powers, no functions save what the law gives it. The powers may be there, the functions may be those from which the Church derives its meaning. Then let them be exercised, but do not ask the ad- ministrator of the law to take account of them or pay them any respect,—he cannot. Be it so, says the Bishop of Capetown, speaking in his own ecclesiastical person, whatever Sir -Hugh Cairns and Dr. Phillimore may speak on his behalf, I do not ask you to take account of me. On the whole, I should be rather troubled than pleased by a recognition from you. The world is not my friend, nor the world's law. Let us be enemies then.
These are not his words, like those which I quoted just now, but they express very fairly his meaning, and it is a meaning to which there will be a response in various portions of English religious society. Mr. Stephen, looking at the subject from a lawyer's point of view, may treat that response with indifference or contempt ; no one with the responsibilities of a statesman can afford to do so. Sir James Graham and Lord Aberdeen made a fatal mistake about the sentiments of Scotland, which the latter at least should have understood better, at the time when the Free Church broke loose from the Establishment. It cannot be safe to repeat that mistake in England or her colonies. The convic- tions and beliefs of men cannot be measured or confuted by the most irrefragable logic. The bond may be most clearly expressed, but you cannot exact the penalty and forfeit of it, for the old reason that when you take a pound of flesh from any human subject there is a quantity of blood strangely mixed with it to which the contract does not allude. If the question between the Bishop of Capetown and his opponents is simply one of legal en- actments, the conscience of men will say there is iomething deeper and stronger than legal enactments, whether that itomething can be defined or not ; if the question is one about property, the man who can give up property will carry the greatest amount of respect with him.
Do I think, then, that the Bishop of Capetown and the Libera- tion Society have hold of the power which is mightier than law, more sacred than property, and that they can wield it at their pleasure and for their purposes? I do not, and for this reason. It is not against the most acute lawyers, it is not against the most established maxims of English jurisprudence that they are fight- lag; they are fighting against the sacredness of national life. They are saying that the Bishop in the glory of his Apostolical deriva- tion, that the sect in the glory of its religious opinions, has a right to look down upon the nation as a merely-secular and earthly thing. Here is a safe and tenable ground from which we can encounter this ill-compacted and unholy alliance. Each party is confuted by its own loudest professions, by its own most venerable traditions. What is the complaint of the Bishop of Capetown against the Bishop of Natal? That he is undermining the autho- rity of the Old Testament. But any one who says that a nation is not a divine society called into existence by God, resting on His name, any one who says that a corporation of priests can lift itself against the law, and the Sovereign ruling by law, strikes such a blow at the Old Testament, at its fundamental maxim, at its entire his- tory, as no criticism on the Pentateuch can possibly strike. He is at war with the whole principle of the Old Covenant ; he is solemnly declaring that it is contrary in its very essence to the New. So of the Liberation Society. There is not a Covenanter, there is not an old Puritan of the Commonwealth, who would not cry traitor and apostate to the descendants that should say the nation was not God's nation ; that it was not, like the Jewish nation, specially and expressly the witness for the unseen God, the destroyer of idols. This belief was not an accidental graft upon the rest of the Puritan's belief ; it was the root, the essence of his belief ; all his love of the Old Testament, all his hatred of Romauisun, was involved in it. Coming into contact with the old English belief in the Sovereign as the representative of the nation's distinctness against foreign usurpation, he saved that belief from degenerating into mere idolatry of the Sovereign's personi the_ strife of the Anglican and the Puritan connected the Sovereign inseparably with the law and order of the land. But the Anglican and Puritan equally forsake what was strongest and most precious in their old convictions—the practical, if not the con- troversial, defence of their theology against Romanism—when they use the language about the nation which is now common to them both.
I may be very confident that a time has come when the national faith either of the old Puritan or the old Anglican is inadequate, when there must be a recognition of a Church for all nations - and kindreds and peoples, a Church which shall bear witness for the Head of all mankind. I may believe that only the pro- clamation of such a Church will really overthrow its Latin counterfeit, or prevent it or some gigantic form of imperialism, from crushing the weak, disjointed religions of this land. But such a Church must stand on the old ground. It must assert the dignity of the family and of the nation, on both of which the Latin usurper has trampled. We can only sustain the best struggles of the best patriots of the day, who are asking for some foundation on which the assertion of national freedom may rest-4e can only resist the worst and most aggressive tyrannies of the day—by recovering that old English belief, the last relics of which the Bishop of Capetown and the Liberation Society are combining to destroy. Certainly we want a Catholic Church ; let the Bishop proclaim that need as loudly as he will. The louder his cry for it, the less shall we bear that exclusive Church—so far narrower than any , nation—which he would substitute for it. He professes to accept a Baptism for all nations in the eternal, all-embracing Name ; he wishes to reduce the Church into an Episcopal sect, which will vainly try by synods and decrees to maintain a uniformity when the secret of unity has been lost to it. Let the Liberation Society say as loudly as it will that no one sect, be it Episcopalian or what it may, has any right to call itself the Church of Christ. But if all it can do is to uphold a multitude of sects, it may succeed in spreading the doctrine abroad that the nation is a secular and godless society ; it will only canonize with the name of a Church what is the direct contradiction of a Church in spirit and in form.
And will there be no other result ? Read and meditate these words of the charge :—" How do I know for certain that the Eible is the Word of God, what the true Canon is, in what light I am to regard the sacred Scriptures, except through the voice of the
Church? How do I know that the Creeds contain all essential fundamental truth except through the same voice which assures me that they are in strictest accordance with Holy Writ?" What is this / , t saying that God does not reveal Himself, that the Churcli ,/ veals Him ? What is it but maintaining the Creed by reversing // the order and so changing the substance of the Creed? The Bishop much teach his catechumens to say first, "I believe in the Holy Catholic Church," and then, "I believe in God the Father Almighty."
Of course in his heart of hearts he would repudiate this blas- phemous inversion. But it is the inevitable deduction from his theory ; it is the fearful confusion into which he and those who are allied with him must lead us. The Bible or the Church is, one or other, or they are both together, to be exalted above the living God. There is a Word of God, yet He does not speak, or cannot make Himself heard. There is a Church of God, which is our only warrant for believing that He is !
It is no conflict, then, about an alliance between Church and State—an alliance which took place no one knows when, or where, or what are the terms of it—on which we are entering. We are not fighting to ascertain whether a certain amount of property shall be given by some one or other to the ministers of Christ, or who shall have that property and who shall be deprived of it. These are not and cannot be our watchwords. The question is whether there is a living Lord of the Nation and of human beings, or whether His dominion has passed into the hands of a caste of priests or a tribe of warring sects. In that controversy I believe the freedom and progress of our own nation and of every other are involved.—Your obedient servant, F. D. MAmucE.