27 OCTOBER 1866, Page 10


AGAINST whom is the war to be, the soldiers or their tailors ? The Church of England has to make up its mind upon that, of all questions on earth, and shows, we regret to say, a strong disposition to confine the fight to the much weaker opponent. The Times, though it has lost its old sensitiveness to public opinion, has not yet lost all its power of discerning a coming storm, and its recent conduct shows pretty clearly that a commo- tion is at hand. The average English Churchman, who represents much more nearly than the Union would allow, or than Dissenting ministers suppose, the average Englishman, is slowly making up his mind that he objects to the prominence assumed by the "Ritualists," that persons in green and violet and purple, in chasuble and amice and dalmatic, and other " outlandish cos- tumes," performing ceremonials at his expense in churches which belong to him and for the benefit of his soul, are offensive, and must clear themselves out of the way. Consequently, in some more or less cumbrous and blundering manner, at vast expense either of money or of civilization, by ecclesiastical suits or by a succession of eineutes successfully carried out by boys and roughs, clerical garments other than black or white will have to disappear from the churches. There will be no martyrs and no autos da fe, no hymns of triumph except such as the Telegraph and the Record can sing,—both of which will greatly resemble stump oratory set to slow and bad music—and no wailing except over wasted tailors' bills or useless legal costs, but the end is certain. The green waistcoats will have to go. Their wearers are silly people, unprotected either by an idea, or a prejudice, or a conviction, and they and their tailors must yield and seek notoriety in some form less inconsistent with the position, they assume before men. Public prejudice, so far as it exists, is dead against them ; genuine conviction in the matter of clothes is either impossible, or possible only to a class too small and too narrow to have any iufiuence on this generation ; and as for an idea, they have got hold of one too shadowy to serve even for an apparent-cloak to their true aspect. Admitting for a moment that their faith is sound, and is the faith of the Church of England, that she believes in transubstantiation, and in a mystic caste with supernatural powers, the " priests " of St. Alban's are still both silly and offensive persons. They are fighting average Churchmen, that is, the mass of those whose-souls they desire either to illumine or to save, about things which, their own principles being conceded, are absolutely non-e.ssential. They have only two arguments, and of these one has no bearing on the matter, and the other is entirely wrong. They plead that they have a right, according to the Robric, i. e., according to a law authoritative only because it was accepted by Parliament, to wear anything that was worn in the time of Edward VI. Well, suppose they have, and suppose that they have hit on the proper ecclesiastical costume of their pet period—two enormous concessions—what do those things matter? Suppose their dress to be very old and as well arranged as any one of Nathan's best masque- rade suits, they surely are not going to plead that an old dress is therefore a fitting one, or that a legal dress is therefore the one most convenient to wear, or that souls can be better saved by priests clad in one garment than in another? If they are, their function is gone, for Englishmen will simply laugh at them, and Parliament will quietly insert in the Rubric a more modern costume ; but we do them the justice to say they are not. They argue that their dress is the fitting uni- form of their service, that it is the outward expression of the glorious function to which they conceive themselves called. Well, why is it? Because the ancient "depositary of truth," the Church of Rome, which they think the corrupted but still living exponent of Christian verity, attaches to symbolical vestments the importance with which they are striving in the face of worldly re- sistance to invest them. The Church of Rome just doesn't. The central ideas of that great organization are infinitely loftier, deeper, and wider than those of her boyish imitators. That Church holds as her central dogma that a mystic caste, descend- ing through the imposition of hands direct from Christ Himself, has received in the mysterious providence of the Almighty a super- natural power to renew at will the sacrifice of the Redeemer in all its saving efficacy. Consequently she holds it well that all who witness and benefit by that transcendent ceremonial should have their minds fitted and prepared for it by the stimulus of a system of symbols of which the sacrificer's dress is part. But she has never dreamt of raising the symbols into essentials, never descended to the infinite meanness of .declaring her powers limited by clothes, never hesitated for a moment to set aside the symbols when they ceased to excite the influence she desired. All over the world her priests have performed their rites in every costume— in armour, in menial disguise, in the semi-nakedness of Indian Brahmins and the yellow cloaks of Buddhist teachers, as. gromns, as footmen, as soldiers, in vestments changed and modified to every national whim. There are priests of her faith even now offering the Eucharist in every costume known among man, from the cardinal's robe, " stained with the blood of Christ," to the Chinaman's white jacket, typical of nothing except the resolve of the Church to be all things to all men, so that at least she may win some. Could she win England back to-morrow by the con- cession, her priests in England might be dressed in any costume the national fancy might devise,—in cardinals' robes, or Geneva gowns, or the red livery of the State, or even that wonderful costume which it pleases some Nonconformists, in defiance of their own principles, to think " ministers " ought to wear. Whatever is bad in her, whatever is good in her, her ambition and her zeal, her spirit of intrigue and her fixed belief that she is the medium of salvation, all alike would revolt utterly from any pedantry of millinery, any inflexibility of tailoring, any utterance of the non possumus as to breeches and shirt collars. The power to bind and to loose was, and is with St. Peter's successor, whether he wore the tiara of 1847 or the footman's buttons of 1848,—for the power, being divine, was unaffected by the accidents of earthly need. All that is offensive in that claim, all that drove England to revolt, all that is now driving the educated of Europe into Deism, the Ritualists are stealing,—forgetting that if „Rome, is right they are schismatics against knowledge, men. who, ntust.,be damned even if Geneva escapes,—and they reject only that which is noble and universal. They claim to be priests, but not Of man- kind, to be sacrificers provided they have gilt knives, to be soldiers who will fight magnificently, if only their uniforms are not discoloured and their pipeclay fresh. Even from -their own point of view they are utterly contemptible, holiday warriors, to whom glittering accoutrements are necessary, ecolesiastical.dandies, who think modes as important as morals, snobs, who cannot con- ceive a gentleman in frieze, or recognize kingship except when dressed in ermine and advertised by a crown. In_ a congregation of the blind they would stickle for the colour of a preacher's gown, and hesitate to grant the communion to the dying because the band-box with the vestments had not arrived.

Is the Church of England really going at this time of day seriously to fight men who believe clothes sacred? Is it really true that she cannot get rid of a little millinery out of place with- out putting in motion an organization intended to secure that.her teachers should in faith, and morals, and outward bearing be alike worthy of their commission and acceptable, teachers of the ignorant ? It looks very like it ; we see no sign that the assailants are rising to the level of their true circumstances; but it may not yet be too late. For the sake of the future of the Church, if we are to have this wretched fight, if we are to make it an offence to wear absurd garments and a scandal to put on green silk, if we must pass a canon about millinery, and an Act of Parliament to restrain clergymen's tailors, if we must have Courts expounding the theory of semi-divine capes, and great judges laying down the unholiness of all-go-rounders, if our papers are to be all ecclesiastical Les Follets, and society to be distracted with bitterness about bands, let us strike once for all at the root of the matter. Let us have a decision once for all whether a minister of the Church of England is a "priest" or not, whether a clergyman of the Church.of England is a member of a sacred caste invested by God with supernatural power, or is a gentleman specially trained to expound the Christian faith and lead in Christian worship. Both of those descriptions cannot be true, yet both are supposed to be included within the doctrine of the Church, and they affect the very root of the matter. If the clergyman is, as Liberal Churchmen believe, simply a layman with special functions and duties, able to resign one and be relieved of the other, then clearly the entire system of ritualism falls to the ground, or becomes merely an unpopular and somewhat silly mode of worship. If, on the other hand, he is a real priest, a sacrificing Levite, then he is beyond lay control, and can obey even Parlia- ment only under a protest that he yields to external compul- sion. The origin of all the vagaries which distract parishes are due entirely to- the operation of this ancient idea, one entirely foreign to the spirit of the Reformation, hostile alike to-the views of the framers of the Established Church and to the language of the Articles. It is at the same time sanctioned by the language of the Ordination Service, and it is to- that point that the serious attack should be directed. What is the use of punishing clergy- men for wearing coloured vestments, and burning candles, and 1 waving censers, and intoning prayers, when we sanction a service which raises in the mind of every one ordained a belief that some mysterious or supernatural power has passed into him with the imposition of hands, that he is thenceforward member of a body which is ex necessitate rei nearer to the Lord than the remainder of mankind ? Imbued with that idea, what can he do but plead his "divine right" to guide the people whom he sanctifies, to control the people whom he helps to save, and to wear any waistcoats he likes? He is simply in the right in despising the opinion of green- grocers about the Athanasian Creed, not because-he is educated and they are not, but because he is priest and they are laymen ; he the authorized expositor of the faith, they the bounden recipients of his exposition. This, and not any weak deduction from an an- tiquated formula, is the true justification of the ritualists, though this, as Rome shows them, does not justify the silliness with which they postpone essential to indifferent things ; and it is this on which Parliament should be compelled to pronounce a final opinion, in the first place in the shape of an Act declaring ordination in the Church of England as dissoluble as any other diploma. Then it must be decided, either by the Courts or by Parliament, that the Church of England means by priests laymen set aside for spiritual functions, and not men invested with divine authority beyond any other class of teachers or workers for good. Till that is done, till sacerdotalism is struck at its root, the Church of England will never be free of men whose central idea is to exalt the priesthood, to obtain reverence instead of leading worship, to -confer privileges instead of guiding equals towards the foot-stool of the Almighty; who will, as they are now doing, declare by their acts that no amount of offence to the Church, to their own con- gregations, or to weak brethren generally, will weigh for a moment in their minds against the pre-eminent claims of caste. Let the Sudra suffer, so that the Brahmin be respected. We have said nothing of the third point involved, the legality of preaching transubstantiation from the pulpit of an English church, for two, as it seems to us, sufficient reasons. Failing a Levite, there can be no sacrifice, and the opinion of the English Church is not on this point open to serious question. If she does not deny transub- stantiation she denies nothing but the Church, which Rome accepts as vital, the Reformation was a delusion, and she herself, instead of a Church, is a local organization, without spirit or purpose, save to remain isolated from the external unity of Christendom.