TOPICS OF THE DAY.
TTIF, CHURCH AND HER RIVA LS.
Nor to move, seems to be the resolve of the Church of England collectively, according to the judgment of her authorized mana- gers ; not to move, although every other religious body around her is not only moving but making way. It might almost be said, with the bitterness of despairing regret, that our Church has adopted as an oracular doom the common sneering quotation, "Quern Deus volt perdere." Compare with the deliberate supineness of the Church of Eng- land the movements elsewhere ; take those which manifest them- selves this very week. Look at the Roman Catholics and their multitudinous meeting in Dublin. The Prime Minister of Eng- land has declared that he contends with the Romanist move- ment in England as connected with a vast " conspiracy" on the Continent against "civil and religious liberty." We always distrust such general expressions, especially when they remain unelucidated by even a specimen of the threatened destruction. But any observer must be aware that there is some foundation in fact for presuming an alliance between Ultramontane and Ultra- regal views. Austria and Rome are allied ; the priests of France have some influence to dispose of at the next Presidential election ; Catholicism and Absolutism view the threatened struggle in Eu- rope not without apprehension, and think to carry on their defence better in concert. The " conspiracy " can enter but little within the confines of England—only so far as priestly influence can ex- tend itself ; and such influence would then be chiefly available to the conspiracy in deadening any action of the English Government abroad : but that is already done to its hand. As a fact, however, priestly influence is making way amongst us in the aggrandize- ment of the Roman Church. It has its high alliances abroad; it is developing its episcopal and social organization here ; it is making proselytes ; it is preparing a great movement—the only movement now uniting England and Ireland ; it is acquiring an extensive, vigorous, and obvious political influence ; it has solid growth, ac- tion, vitality. Passing by the endless variety of sects to that which may per- haps be deemed in some respects the opposite extreme—the Swe- denborgians : look at the striking display which they make this week, in the united meeting of " the Church of the New Jeru- salem." They object to the exclusive elevation of " faith," which gives to sectarianism its power ; they offer the hand of bro- therhood to the Christian of every denomination, to the Jew, and even to the Pagan. This spirit of liberal charity meets a feeling of the time : the Church of the New Jerusalem is only a fraction of the great spiritual movement without the pale of recognized churches ; but still it has life in it.
So has the Church of England in its several members ; but its Corporate head refuses to permit the action of a living body moving as a whole. The life is of the convulsive kind, exhibited in eternal controversy and dissension. The desire to restore a general incor- poration exhibits itself in several parts,—as in the statesmanlike Archbishop Whately ; in the High Church " Unions" ; in the diocese of Exeter, which has assembled in Synod ; and in some attempts to restore the Synod in other sees, London included. If Synods were to be restored, or Convocation, they might be rendered very valuable, though they were to exercise no more than consul- tative powers, by using them as courts of appeal in matters of church discipline and management, as well as doctrine. The want of such an appeal daily exhibits itself in some discreditable con- tention, which is rendered doubly discreditable by being left un- settled. Witness the correspondence between the Archdeacon of Cardigan and his diocesan, the Bishop of St. David's. It is notorious that in Wales the machinery of the Church of England is in a very imperfect and feeble state ; and the friends of the Church have some right to hold that the conquest of Wales by the influences of Dissent is ascribable, at least in great part, to that feebleness of the Church. It was under these circumstances that Archdeacon Williams proposed, in 1843, to convert his hono- rary office into a real one, by holding an archidiaconal visitation. There were legal difficulties in the way. The Archdeacon says that the Bishop implied a promise to procure the removal of those difficulties, and the Bishop does not repudiate the promise—he only fails to remember it : but to this day the difficulties remain untouched. Sir Benjamin Hall stated in Parliament, on the author- ity of Archdeacon Williams, that he could not obtain the sanction of his Bishop for the performance of his duties. Accounting this to be an inaccurate representation,—the real impediment being the absence of legal provision and machinery for the performance of the duties in question,—the Bishop writes to the Archdeacon, asking whether he had given his authority for the statement? The Archdeacon replies by holding a correspondence with Sir Benjamin Hall, and transmitting that correspondence to the Bishop : it com- prises a recapitulation of the main facts, and some anti-episcopal strictures in Sir Benjamin Hall's usual style. The controversy between Bishop and Archdeacon goes on, and in the course of it the Archdeacon puts three plain questions, asking, whether there is any
legal hinderance to the performance of his archidiaconal duties ; if any such does exist, what is it ; if it does not, does the Bishop de- sire that he should make his visitation ? The Bishop replies by making a distinction which he had already drawn, between the services which an Archdeacon may perform in using his official authority and influence to correct what is amiss in the parishes under his care, and the periodical assemblage of his clergy for the
delivery of a charge setting forth the views of the Archdeacon ; " the part of the archidiaconal duties," says the Bishop, " about which I am least interested." This is a view of the duties which seems to be above the level of Archdeacon Williams's literalizing mechanical notion of clerical activity ; but as a reply to the Arch- deacon's specific questions, it may too truly be called an evasive answer. The Archdeacon is demanding a development of the Church machinery which is deemed essential to its action else- where ; the Bishop has promised to aid in that development ; but eight years have passed without his doing so. In the absence of the desired reform, the Archdeacon puts a very specific request for instructions from his superior officer ; the Bishop replies with generalities. It is a false position on both sides. The Archdeacon is hostile in animus, uncourteous in manner : the Bishop is seen treating the organization of his church with slight, his Archdeacon with contempt ; which, however refined in its expression, cannot but be detrimental to discipline. Had there been a Synod, pro- bably this matter would have come before that body ; and then the personality would have been merged in the collective view of a subject not so unimportant in its bearings as Dr. Thirlwall seems to think.
To pass from the remote province to the centre. Some years back, it was thought necessary to reform the organization of the Church by redistributing its vast wealth, so as to multiply and strengthen the minor offices, which were too few for the increased numbers of the people, and had sunk to a state of more than spi- ritual mortification. An Ecclesiastical Commission was formed for that purpose ; but it has worked with so much deliberation and over-nicety, that we are still wearied with the cry of " spiritual destitution," and scandalized at the spectacle of Bishops squabbling over money matters, each in defence of his own profit. The proper function of Convocation, it may be said, is the regulation of doc- trine; it is Parliament ihat must make the laws to command obe- dience in the temporal part of Weirs. But it cannot be denied that Convocation would be very properly employed in deliberating on subjects so essential to the highest interests and proper influence of the Church as the sound and thorough adjustment of its finance, or the effective development of its organization: and if Convoca- tion were to give authoritative voice to the wants and wishes of the Church, Parliament would at least have a more trustworthy guide than it now possesses in acrimonious and invidious "Re- formers," in Bishops trembling for their profits, and in Ministers of State trimming between the two.