27 OCTOBER 1866, Page 16


[To THE EDITOR OF THE " SPECTATOR."] SIR, —I read with much interest the article in the Spectator of the 13th inst., headed "The Dean of Emily's Alleged Heresy," and with much sympathy your brief remarks on the same subject in your "News of the Week ;" but I felt, with the writer of the article, the great probability that the sentence on which he grounded his strictures, would on a fuller report of the Dean's paper, prove to be materially qualified by the context, even if its actual meaning were not considerably modified by a more reliable statement of its precise wording. We have this fuller report now in the publication of the paper in extenso in the Guar- dian ; and I conclude, also, a more reliable statement of its very words. I will, therefore, with your permission, transcribe from this report into your columns the actual sentence said to have elicited so much applause at the York Congress, with the con- textual portion of the paper, which seems to me to determine its exact meaning ; while I would contend that the bare sentence, as thus reported, conveys a far less exceptional meaning than the Standard reporters supposed equivalent, " There is something worse than religion without morality, and that is morality with- out religion," on which your contributor commented. The extract from the Guardian is as follows :—" There are credenda as well as agenda. Apostolic practice must be founded on Apostolic faith. A moral man, a farm servant in a country parish, expressed this well. When invited to join some sect, upon the plea that it had no creeds, he replied, ' Never. If you have no creeds this year, you will have no commandments next year.' Of Christian morality there are two great characteristics. It is authoritative. It comes to the dullest hearer not as a speculation, but as a voice from the oracle of God, and those clouds that encompass His presence. It is pervasive. It is not partial and successive in its effects. It is not like the sculptor, who can work upon only one portion of his statue at a time ; it is like nature, at work in every portion of the plant a t once with a simultaneous operation. Christianity, turned into a morality without dogma, a popular commentary upon the law of duty, loses these characteristics. Dogmatic poverty starves moral teaching. Let us suppose, for instance, a preacher taking advan- tage of the Epistle for last Sunday to speak of ' corrupt com- munication.' No subject might well seem to be less linked with dogma. Yet unless the preacher be possessed with the idea of the personality of the Holy Spirit, he cannot use with his people the very arguments of St. Paul, And grieve not the Holy Spirit.' So is it round the whole circle of duty. So is it all along the history of the Church. Abrogation of dogma in the supposed interest of morality has always ended in the abrogation of morality. A free handling of dogma in any age has always ended in a very free and easy handling of the moral law. Like the serpent whose sting is followed after a season by paralysis setting in from the opposite aide to that upon which it has been inflicted, the anti-dogmatic spirit strikes Christianity upon its speculative side, but death sets in from the moral side. Had the Saviour only taught ' earthly things,' not ' heavenly things,' He would have been a greater Socrates, not the Saviour of the world. Had this [ ? His] Gospel been a morality without a dogma, it would have gone the way of other moralities. There is one thing more worthless than a religion without a morality, and that is a morality without a religion."

I have emphasized this last sentence, as being that on which the charge of heresy against the Dean of Emly is founded ; but surely as thus expressed it gives no countenance whatever to religion without morality, but rather declares its utter worthlessness, to be exceeded only by a system of morals entirely divorced from religious principle. And I think it will be seen from the context preceding the sentence why so strong an assertion is made, viz., because the Dean believes he sees from history that morals without a religious basis will soon die out altogether, whereas religious faith, however nearly allied in certain cases to mere superstition, may survive a life of immorality and hypocrisy, and promote in the end both a. moral reformation and a clearer and purer view of religion itself. Solomon and Voltaire may in some measure illustrate this anti- thetical statement of the Dean of Emly, and assuming the repent- ance of the one and the abiding infidelity of the other, the history of their lives will confirm the truth of his assertion.

The subject of the Dean of Emly's paper is " Dogmatic Teach- ing from the Pulpit." Sach an account of the subject is very un- fortunate, owing to the prejudice immediately excited by the word " dogmatic ;" it may, therefore, be of use to secure wider attention to his valuable and eloquent essay, both from clergy and laity, to observe that he opens it with a definition of the word " dogma," which he restrains to formal statements of positive religious truths accepted by the Church, i. e., " of those things which are most surely believed among us." To dogma such as this no one can [We have not the slightest wish to exaggerate the Dean of Emily's error, which, however, we still regard as grave, in spite of our sincere general admiration for him as a preacher and a divine. Nothing seems to us more dangerous than to assert that to share the nature of God without acknowledging Him, is in any degree worthless, and especially more worthless than to acknowledge Him without sharing His nature.—ED. Spectator.]